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Superhero movies

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

The Snyder Cut to me feels like very much the same movie, but more of it. The episodic chapter breaks help, because this isn’t paced ANYTHING like a normal film.

Ever see that episode of Family Guy where Brian meets George RR Martin? There’s a line where Martin tells him “You just got high and slapped together a bunch of sci-fi and fantasy tropes!”
“You could tell I was on drugs when I made this????”Brian asked, shocked.
“Oh yeah,” Martian relies. “thing is, Drugs don’t make you write good, they just make you write LOTS.”

Special Director cuts are kinda thier own drug….

But like I said, It really helps (me anyhow) to see it broken up and almost presented as a mini series rather than a film. You can definitely see the path Snyder is taking. I will say this – it kept me watching, the whole time through. A five min pause here or there to hit the bathroom or refill my cup. Some chatting online with others watching it at the same time and jotting down my thoughts in a FB thread, but no real distractions. No painting and building a costume while I watched (I was going to finish the BvS helmet while I screened the film, but ended up never touching it), no fast forwarding, no folding laundry, no stopping it and picking up a couple hours later. It kept me engaged enough to do the whole thing in one shot.

I think my great frustration with justice league has very little to do with the Snyder cut itself, it’s that people didn’t give The theatrical cut more of a chance. I’m more than four years old. I remember the whole of fandom hating on Snyder, calling him a hack, saying he didn’t know what to do with these characters, and rejoicing (I mean it. Cheering and celebrating) when he left the DC movie scene. Those same people are calling this the greatest epic in….ever! A different movie! It makes me angry that Whedon’s cut was ever released! (all actual comments I’ve heard).

I didn’t hate the original. I thought it was fine… just not spectacular (which is really what everyone expects). The CG erasing Henry Cavill’s mustache never bothered me (I can’t even really see it unless it’s pointed out to me), and you know what? I still stand by my defense of the Martha moment and BvS as a whole. A lot of people who hated the original however, seem to love this one – which is what I find perplexing, because all the things I hear people saying they see in the Snyder cut, I saw in the original. Affleck is still an amazing Batman, Cyborg was always the heart of this team ( I didn’t even care about Cyborg in the run up to the movie. The actual theatrical film MADE me care about him because he was done so well)… And a brilliant representation of the character. The theatrical cut was still epic, still had tones of 300 in it. But I genuinely believe people went into the theatrical cut expecting and intending to hate it (in the wake of Batman versus superman) as well as comparing it to much better films. All the criticism that I saw though, too dark, mischaracterizations, overblown, it’s all still here in this Snyder cut. All the good, and all the bad from the theatrical cut. Clownfish TV made a good point – the Snyder cut is still a mess, just like the Whedon cut, it’s just that this mess makes a little more sense.

It’s not the praise for the Snyder cut the bothers me. It’s the trashing of the theatrical. Both have the same DNA and far more in common than difference. It’s kind of like the outsized praise Wonder Woman got. That’s a good movie. But it’s not the ultimate triumph it was lauded as (In equal parts because it was female led and directed, and because it was the first DC movie that was better than “okay”). It feels like the Snyder cut is being given outsized praise because of all the good will that went into getting it released, not necessarily because of the film’s merits in of themselves.

Steppenwolf is still a lame villain, and I got to say, I absolutely hate everything that they did with the apocalypse characters. I hate the design. But that’s nothing new, I hated it In the original one too. I also seriously do not care for CGI barbarian Darkseid….fortunately his appearance improves greatly later in the film. On of my friends objects to my characterization of Steppenwolf as a wierd choice for the villian.
“You obviously don’t know much about the Fourth World.”
I have a passing familiarity with it but no, I’m not steeped in the lore – and that’s kind of my point. If I’m not completely up on Kirby’s New Gods saga, the general public DEFINITELY isn’t! That’s what makes it an odd choice to me. Loki was a good choice for Avengers since he’d already appeared in Thor and was an integral part of his mythos (Like say, if Lex Luthor or the Joker were a villian in JLA). Steppenwolf though….The Projection Booth podcast had a good observation. Marvel took 20+ movies before they got into the crazy, out-there stuff like Thanos and infinity stones and gauntlets and such. DC gets four movies in and throws Jack Kirby’s wildest creations right at you. This is advanced DC lore, not the entry level stuff we should be seeing at this stage in the game.

As the movie went on, this thing just stopped dead in its tracks right in the middle while they come up with a backstory for cyborg and flash (I will say this about the flash, I agree with him… I too, am a black hole for snacks – a true snack hole). I understand they had to do that, because then established in the previous films, but man it just kills all momentum. I remember always being perplexed that they didn’t use the CW shows as a jumping off point. They already had a universe built, which would have made a great foundation here, even with the tonal difference. They also had a far less annoying Barry Allen. like there’s this scene when Barry was trying on different hats, and asking Aquaman what he thought, I really wanted to see Arthur just backhand him and tell him to get in the truck. I was also kind of waiting for them to say “run Barry run” just before he activated the mother box.

I really do like this version of Commissioner Gordon, and wish we had gotten More of it. (of course I really wanted more of everything with Affleck’s Batman!). However, this movie really does get laden down With having to produce an enormous amount of backstory. I can see why so much of this got cut. The episodic format here actually works in his favor with all this extra stuff. Definately a better ending yes, and I really needed more Darkseid. I’m glad we got him. But I think Batman’s always been done well in these (I don’t get why people never saw that before), and I honestly don’t see how flash and Cyborg got shortchanged in the theatrical or how they were better here, there was just more backstory – all of which ground the movie to a screeching halt and should have happened elsewhere. I’d also say the only difference between this Leto Joker and the other was the lack of tattoos and gold teeth. Yes, I realize that it’s tough to look past that misguided appearance and actually watch the performance, but that performance in JL was EXACTLY the same one I praised in Suicide Squad.

All of this brings me back to my original impression. This really is the same movie. just more of it. And by the way, that’s not an insult. All the way back at the beginning, remember, I said, I liked the theatrical. It was fine. This is too. But I still have all the problems that I did with the original – the darker tones, and the general feeling of “I waited all my life for a Justice League movie – it’s a shame, this dark and gritty version is the one we ended up getting”. Gary at Nerdrotic actually had a great take on this – in the tradition of DC, this is an Elseworlds story. And it’s a spectacular Elseworlds tale, an imaginary story much like the stack of injustice trades I’ve been reading lately, but it’s not what I’d prefer as the prime timeline. that would look a lot more like the CW shows, but without the Social Justice. Indeed, I remember looking forward to the arrowverse crossovers like World’s Finest even more than BvS or JL. I recall thinking, “This FEELS more like the real JLA than the movies – and isn’t that kind of a shame?”

I’m also not thrilled with where things would go. According to the Projection Booth podcast, Snyder is on record as saying the next installment would be the Knightmare film – Batman would have fallen in love with Lois Lane, but would be unable to sacrifice himself for her and she dies at the hands of Darkseid, causing the dictator like Superman we see in the dreams. The next film would be him trying to turn back time and set things back to normal. That’s right. It gets darker. That’s not really what I wanted.

but at the same time being glad just to get it and being especially glad that for once, the film industry heard the cries of the fans, and finally gave them what they wanted.


PatMan

Oh for #$%&s sake, didn’t we JUST do this???

It’s probably time for me to weigh in on the whole Batman thing. Funny, this photo came up in my feed today. When Ben Affleck was announced, I vociferously defended him

Batman_Affleck

when the rest of fandom was taking a steaming dump on the casting, and created this image to visualize him in the role
.

I also defended Pattinson . He’s well past his Twilight days and has done some GREAT work since then. Heck, he did some good work in Harry Potter BEFORE Twilight. I’m not holding that against him.

I’ve seen the trailer. I hate the suit. I see nothing in it I haven’t seen done before… and better. I’ve got NO problem with Pattinson as an actor, but I don’t buy what I’ve seen of him as Batman. My first impression from these trailers is a hard pass. Not because Pattinson used to sparkle, but rather because I’ve seen it done better. Way better.

 

I’m actually glad I’m getting more batfleck in the Snyder cut and the theroetical Flash movie (I’ll still plotz if it ever actually comes out). Ben has managed to become y favorite cinematic Batman despite being saddled with somewhat lackluster films.

Maybe I’ll watch Pattinson on cable.

 


The Crow : Wicked Prayer

wicked_prayer_posterFor years I have been told that the Crow Wicked Prayer is the absolute bottom of the barrel. It’s the worst of all of the crow sequels. For that reason I’ve never actively sought it out, I haven’t exactly avoided it but I never gone out of my way to find the film either. If I would catch the start of the film and cable, I probably would’ve watched it all the way through or at least grabbed the VCR to record it and watch later. As it is, I’m only now getting around to it – the fact that it was included in this set was one of my reasons for buying. It’s  a convenient way to finely encounter this film.

The big problem with any of the crow sequels is that they are… Well, sequels that in their sequels to the sort of film that is impossible the follow-up that it wasn’t designed to be a franchise.with his graphic novel, James O’Barr managed to elevate both the revenge movie and the superhero story, fusing them into 13615076_1222796694431418_7220889427768388005_nsomething that was extremely appealing to comic fans and to open minded literary types. When the story went to film, the director managed to keep the soul of the story while stylizing a look and managed to turn it into a genuine success, a box office phenomenon on that appealed not only to the comic book faithful but that was also embraced by mainstream audiences bringing entirely new fan base. The original didn’t chase after fashion or pop culture, but rather inspired it. It didn’t seek popular music but rather popularized the music that was in The film – there are very few soundtracks I can think of that are quite as influential as the Crow. So the problem comes when trying to make a sequel to it – just distilling the elements that worked while holding onto the heart and soul of the film. A sequel is generally going to manage to get one of these parts right but fails in the others.

One of the big problems in city of angels is that the villains are all just a little bit too freaky. The crow wisely kept the eccentric villain down to one – the big bad, where as all the minions were very ordinary, if scummy looking, guys. In city of angels every villain was a hyper realistic comic book looking freak – and when you populate a film with a bunch of people in funny costumes, it  immediately erodes the suspension of disbelief. I like salvation better, because it tries to get back to basics – not nearly as many strange looking people running around. The crooked cops storyline though in the end it was a downer– it doesn’t help my sympathy with the Leads. Still it was all a step in the right direction

Wicked Prayer actually works better then as the previous sequels and I love the Southwest setting, it actually feels like the mysticism of the crow. You can see that somebody really put their heart and soul into this, they really wanted to do something different, something original. The motif of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a fascinating twist, but it’s under used – I would’ve liked to have seen more depth to this. Without real exploring, it almost feels like a label slapped on at the last minute. This time the bad guys are Satanic coven led by a charismatic leader who is swaying them by promising revenge against the men trying to close the mines where their families make their living. There is a surprising amount of Star power in this film as well. Edward Furlong, Tara Ried, and David Boreanaz are all in the ensemble – but Dennis Hopper also makes a cameo, actually a fairly significant supporting character and possibly my favorite part of the plot. Even Tito Ortiz and Danny Trejo get in on the action. The idea of using a Satanic cult – once again it’s a great idea although in some ways it feels underused.  It’s really a set up to empower our big bad at the very end of the film, but I would like to see more… David Boreanaz is arguably the weakest part of this bill. I don’t know what he’s doing here… He can give a much better performance than this, but he insists on being happy and goofy through the whole thing. I don’t understand why he’s playing this for comedy, it drags the whole thing down and undermines the very serious performances that everybody else is trying to give.   Tara Ried – this poor girl gets a lot of criticism, rightly so, She’s one of those same characters in every role she gets. Here you can see in her performance that she is trying really hard – and there’s moments when the role is just a little bit beyond her, but with a little bit more time to frame and push and edit it a little better she could’ve pulled this role off. She’s not miscast, which is the common criticism here. I think people were expecting her to be a carbon copy of Bai Ling’s role in the original – I don’t think that’s her purpose here all. I do think she is playing a bit of a dark sexpot, with momentary flashes of power. It’s a good role for her, and a good chance to scratch, but again she is undermined by Boreanaz’s poor choices.

Edward Furlong is an interesting choice for this. I’m not a fan, I’ve never seen the brilliance in his performance that everybody else seems to have admired – not even in his T2 role.  At times I almost feel like he looks too young for the part that but honestly that’s not the real problem here, the biggest issue facing his character is that the character has such a chip on his shoulder from the word go- it makes it very hard to sympathize with him. indeed, I think the producers realized that it was hard for the audience to connect with him, and they spent a lot of time playing getting-to-know-you. We do not see the appearance of the Crow in full make-up until nearly half way through this film – and that’s way too long to wait got in the Crow. Edward is a sort of angel with the dirty face. We never get an impression that he is anything but in all honestly a generally good guy. In fact killing seems unusual for him – a step too far. He’s got a troubled past, with an assault on his record, everybody in the town hates him and he’s ostracized – the only friend he’s got the lead person who cares for him at all is the girlfriend. I suppose setting him up as an outsider it’s not a bad thing, but he resents it – almost to the end. Perhaps we were supposed to side with him, but really it does not endear him to me. Still, as the Crow Furlong actually works. I didn’t think it would, but the more you look at it the more it becomes comfortable. I love the Indian feathers on the costume and those kind of touches to it – the fact that he drives around in a hearse though, is perhaps just a little bit too on the nose. It’s a symptom of the film trying a little bit too hard to be relevant to pop culture. Really, that seems to be the motive between a lot of this casting with people like David Boreanaz , Tara Reid, and Tito Ortiz. Let’s get young and hip and relevant – and I don’t think their presence there really manages to for fill that purpose.

The fight scenes and choreography are great. The director has a tendency to throw in a slo-mo shot here and there in a lot of these fights, I’m not sure if this is covering up something or if it’s just an attempt at an artistic flair. It doesn’t really do anything for the look of the film, but it doesn’t attract trouble either – I suppose it’s as much as we can ask for. Despite a rather slow first half, once I get into the second half of this film – it really does start to feel like Crow, and actually possibly more so than the other sequels. I’m really enjoying this film and I’m not sure that it deserves the vitriol that’s been heaped on it. I can absolutely see myself revisiting this film, and I wish that it had occurred earlier in the cycle. If this had been the first sequel to this series, I think it would be held in high regard. I may be starting at halfway through the film though – the origin story does take a little bit too long, but that’s a common problem in superhero films and it seems it’s produces were just following the trend of the day. I like Wicked Prayer. In my opinion this actually maybe the strongest of the sequels, not the weakest – and definitely worth the two dollars that I plunked down for this box set. The next time it’s on sci-fi, grab a bowl of popcorn give this one a chance.


Batman versus Superman and percentages

102597285-Batman-vs-Superman.530x298
I really thought I was done – I thought I had defended the movie sufficiently. But this latest version of criticism is surprisingly persistent – and a little bit annoying.batman_v_superman___dawn_of_justice__poster_by_goxiii-d8xs1x9

I have seen repeated articles now about the terrible and significant drop in ticket sales for Batman versus Superman in its second week. If you read these,  one thing you’ll notice about every one of these articles, they always speak in percentages. 81% drop! It’s over! That’s the thing,  They have to speak in percentages. BvS made $52.4 million in it’s second weekend.  If the critics speak in total dollars, there is no disguising the fact that despite its “Plunging ticket sales “Batman versus Superman is still out-grossing films that are coming out for their first week. How many movies would give their eye teeth for a $52.4 million opening weekend? How many would kill to make that in thier second week? And we’ll just ignore the fact that BvS is rapidly closing in on the $700 million mark.

I had hoped that this particular tactic was done – they tried it first by examining the drop in ticket sales on Sunday… Easter Sunday. Monday and Tuesday Batman versus Superman went back to setting box office records. However, the media is so committed to this narrative, that when Batman versus Superman failed to generate another half billion dollars in it’s second weekend the story is sprung right back up. Sales are plunging!

Notice how everybody is using the same keyword? Ticket sales are “plunging”. It’s in eBvSvery headline, every blog, every editorial. Its evidence of media group think and over reliance on outlets like AP. There’s not a lot of original thought going on here but rather we are seeing a lot of people jumping on the same bandwagon. We’re more used to seeing this kind of bias and consensus in political reporting rather than in entertainment, but it’s fascinating to watch those same principles applied here.  Critics hated Batman v Superman, and a lot more then the fans did. Critics want this movie to fail – to die. The Superhero movie has gotten to uppity, and besides, only Marvel is allowed to do that and they feel compelled to do thier best to put it in it’s place. The general public dosen’t quite seem to agree. More fans seem to like it then hate it and most were smack dab in the middle feeling somewhat ambivalent. What the different numbers in ticket sales this weekend really speaks to, is two things – firstly the obvious. It is no longer opening weekend. This is significant, because Batman versus Superman was an event film. People were going to go see it the first weekend – either that or risk of being spoiled on the Internet.

NEfSZ2ONUM37ji_1_bThe second thing at play here is something I noted in my review – rewatchability. There are some people absolutely love this and are going to see it twice, but I think the vast majority of viewers are only going to be able to handle this film once. This isn’t necessarily a negative, I’ve only ever seen Forrest Gump once – there’s just no rewatchability there for me either. So the drop in ticket sales, while still healthy shows that people are not going to see this two or three or four times. It also shows that everybody without the first weekend, and only a few stragglers remaining.

Why am I so adamant about this? Why do I feel the need to speak out about this? Because the critics are trying to shape public opinion – not report on it. That’s not the job of journalists, and it frustrates me when I see it happening. Batman v Superman is not Oscar fodder (though I think Zach Snyder actually believed he was making high art– someone should probably tell him that he wasn’t) but it’s not worth othe dismal rotten tomatoes score it has –  although I find it interesting just how inverse the relationship between the critical score and the viewer score is.  I’ll stick with the viewers. Unlike the critics, they aren’t trying to sway anybody.

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Final thought – Bad movies just go away. People complain about them and forget about them. Everybody is talking about Batman v Superman, and everybody has seen it. Every person I meet asks me if I saw it and what was my opinion. Compare this to the recent fantastic four – sure we talked about it, we complained about it, but nobody went to see it. Nobody talks about it any more, except to use it as a yardstick for the worst superhero films ever made. Batman versus Superman has sparked discussion and it’s penetrated the public consciousness and is already a success.

No matter what the critics want you to believe.


Batman versus Superman

Movie banner102597285-Batman-vs-Superman.530x298

12814231_1146572888720466_3283450144763849407_nIn order to best discuss issues and elements of the film, vague spoilers are mentioned.proceed at your own discretion.

I took the girls out to Amherst cinema to see Batman v Superman on Saturday. This is the movie event of the summer for us – it’s the one with and waiting for, more than Civil War, more than Deadpool, more than Star Wars. It is the culmination of a dream come true. This is what we have always wanted to see, even more than the joining of the Avengers or the Punisher and Daredevil coming together – this is the ultimate dream for us. We are DC people after all.

There’s a lot of Trolls out there who seemed inclined to hate this movie from the word go – and for those who absolutely wanted to see this fail, those people are going to find as many flaws and as many things they don’t agree with in it as they can. There is plenty of it, so yes, I’m seeing more than enough of them feeling justified in their animosity.  I’ve been defending this movie for quite awhile, with a wait-and-see attitude. I’m not the kind of person to hate something just because it’s cool to hate it. Some of you are sitting out there reading this thinking “I sense a ‘but’ here “.

Well not exactly.

12472805_1148774941833594_3636247074446668501_nLike any film you can divide it into a pile of good things in a pile bad things. Lets start off looking at the good things shall we?

Henry Cavill is perfectly adequate at being superman. That may sound like I’m damning with faint praise, but really this is a difficult role and he manages to blend in, embodying the fundamentals of the character rather than standing out as a particular actor version of it. He’s not the Christopher Reeve Superman, he’s not Dean Cain Superman he simply is… Superman. Cavill does an excellent job portraying a lot of Superman’s inner monologue, that is to say he captures the insecurities of the man, he conveys the inner turmoil without chewing the scenery. The Superman of this era is still on a learning curve and Cavill manages to convey that well. More than anything else, no matter what you have to say about the director, or the writer, or even the critics and fans, you can take absolute certainty on this – Cavill gets Superman. It is clearly evident in his rendition.

perry-white-e1370419014942While we’re on the subject of Superman, (discussing the supporting cast is inevitable) can we talk about how good Perry White is in this movie? I was extremely on the fence about Lawrence Fishbourne in Man of Steel. There is something about his performance that threw me off… Perry is an old school war reporter, ‘Nam and World War II. Fishbourne seemed a little too cool sometimes, man that earring of his is really bugging me! This time around he seemed more grizzled, maybe it’s just the gray showing up on his beard but I don’t think so – he played the character with more maturity and age this time around. He played him crankier and with less patience. That really makes a big difference. I felt more like I was watching Franklin Langella’s (Superman Returns) or John Hamilton’s(Adventures of Superman TV) performance.

And then there is Batman. After all the speculation, we finally get to see Batfleck.Batman_Affleck

(I’m telling you guys! You should have used my design!)

1236840_683654624997566_879480929_nIt’s inevitable that we have to talk about him. You know, the Haters jumped right on top of him as soon as Ben Affleck was cast. I refused to delve into the mass of criticism (You can see my initial reactions on this blog HERE and HERE), particularly amid this group of people who want to hate on him simply because he is Ben Affleck. That was the big argument that I kept hearing, that he’s Ben Affleck and he’s going to suck because of it – or that he is going to suck as Batman because he sucked as Daredevil (curiously enough, the main argument and I’ve heard for why Daredevil is so terrible is that exact same one – it sucks because Ben Affleck sucks). Quite frankly, if I’d heard you utter these words or any variation thereof, I have immediately dismissed your opinion and I’m not interested in talking to you any further about these movies. (and by the way, I happen to like Daredevil – I mean really like it – like I don’t understand why everyone hates it, it’s one of my favorite superhero films). Yeah, harsh, but I’ve put up with it enough.

So how did acquit himself? I think that if you were dead set on hating him, if you were invested enough in that inclination then you’re still going to hate him. For someone who went in with no expectations however, Affleck does a marvelous job. This is a different Batman, it’s not Kilmer it’s not Keaton, it’s not Bale. Some of the characterization feels off sometimes, but it’s intentional. This is a Batman who has grown world-weary. He is so involved in vengeance, that he has very much forgotten how to be a hero that that’s one of the interesting things about this movie, Batman has a definite arc. This film is all about him learning how to become a hero again and it is only in his conflict with Superman, (and moreover seeing his own dark reflection cast by the light of Superman’s inherent nobility) that he realities how lost he is… How far he’s wandered off the path of the hero.

Make no mistake, Superman is the hero of this piece.

I realize that an inflammatory statement, but I think I can back it up. You see, in the final climactic battle between Batman and Superman, Superman comes in, unwilling to kill the Batman, even at the cost of his mother’s life. Batman comes in, solely intent on murdering Superman out of nothing more than a paranoid fear. I’m sorry, but no matter how I look at it, in this situation – Batman is batman-vs-superman-theories-officially-proved-debunked-but-which-are-true-668304the bad guy – and indeed it is the very reason why Batman almost wins here… not because he’s single mindedly willing to do “whatever it takes” to win, but rather because Superman is unwilling to take Batman’s life. Superman truly is the hero here. And that’s really the point of it all isn’t it? We see a remarkable redemption in Batman and this is a tough part to pull out off simply because of all of these elements that have been layered and incorporated into a single role.

Affleck’s body language is straight out of the animated series, and his delivery is pitch perfect from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight returns. For those out there who are complaining it’s not their version of Batman, I’m reminded of something John Byrne once wrote – his reaction to reading The Dark Knight Returns. He said that it wasn’t the Batman he knew, not the one he liked, but he understood how it was the Batman that he knew who had grown into this character – that this was12809688_1148774938500261_4617938668998965604_n a potential future for his Batman and it made sense to him when he looked at it from this perspective. I think there’s a lot of that here. If all you’re looking for is a rehash of Christian Bale’s Batman then you may be in the wrong place. That’s perhaps that’s a bit harsh of me, but I’ve never cared for the Nolan films, and have always felt a little distressed that so many people claim that as their fundamental version of Batman – the purist form, and the only one they wish to recognize. There are better versions out there, believe me. This may or may not be one of them.

The bat suit by the way, is dead on and I really love it. I get glimpse of gold on that belt once in awhile, even though it seems to be rusted over and black. I can see the bat symbol on the chest and it really stands out against the gray. There is nothing about this bat suit that I don’t like – and the Batmobile? I have not liked a Batmobile this much since Anton Furst’s design for the 1989 film, and the Lincoln Futura before it. It’s perfect. It 12143230_1148774935166928_2648198661282546357_nhas the teeth of the tumbler, mixed with the sleek look of the first Batmobile. I was excited from the very first images I laid eyes on, and the final product did not disappoint one bit– it’s sporty and brutal and beautiful

Of course the real performance everyone is talking about here is Wonder Woman. I have heard from more than a few critics fans and moviegoers that she stole the show. That was certainly the case for my kids. They waited almost an entire film just to see her – even when she showed up incognito they understood it, and their excitement was palpable. Wonder Woman does not disappoint here – and that’s quite a task considering how difficult it has been to bring this character back to the screen. Lynda Carter is still very much in the hearts and minds of everyone of my generation, but my kids have12798907_1147789361932152_4407022136592722495_n been exposed to her as well (although they are probably more familiar with the animated version that we saw in the Justice League cartoon). Still this was a brilliant performance, and Gail Godot proved she was absolutely worthy of the role. She is another one of those cases of undue criticism, before a single frame was shot. I really don’t understand why there was so much hatred heaped upon her head from the moment she was cast… long before we ever even saw her in the suit! This woman had an uphill battle and had to fight for every step of the way, and man, does she ever deliver in this movie! They manage not only to make her  compelling, but to make her mysterious – to make her and enigma that we genuinely want to unravel and explore further. When we saw the old photograph that she had infiltrated Lex Luthor’s party to retrieve, we nearly flipped. It’s obviously a shot from the upcoming Wonder Woman solo film and that’s such a great way of integrating her into the DC cinematic universe.  The amount of anticipation that my girls and I have for the upcoming wonder woman Batman-v-Superman-the-best-momentsmovie just shot through the roof!

Really, this is The epitome of what is Zach Snyder faced with this film. He had an impossible task, not only to bring these characters to life but to kick off a franchise and to keep us wanting to come back more. I have long said that Batman versus Superman was a license to print money… But only once. This film was guaranteed to be a success, but it had to be enough of a true success to make us genuinely want to come back for more.

I’m not sold on Cyborg and the Flash, not from the mere glimpses we saw in this film, and I’m still not in love with Snyder’s style, but that Aquaman we saw? Man I want to know more about that! He reminds me a lot of the 90’s Aquaman (the version I really like). and this really intrigues me. I am all about a new wonder woman movie and an Aquaman story. I also honestly do want to see more of Afflecks Batman.

I really want to know what’s up with that ending. My kids cried.

It’s not a perfect movie though, it’s at least 45 minutes too long – and far too much of the movie goes right back to my age old complaint about the Iron man films; we’re not in the suit isn’t nearly enough costume time, especially for Superman. We get a montage and rescue at the beginning and not a lot else until we hit that the third act. Batman is only slightly better. There is a moment in the film where Alfred points out that Bruce Wayne is capable of getting certain information far more easily and efficiently than Batman. I wanna punch Alfred as he says this, because I’m not nearly as interested in watching Bruce Wayne hobnob as I am in watching Batman swing on a rope! Aargh!

Lois Lane is not quite tough enough. Margot Kidder may have taken the hard as nails approach a tad too far, but the current Lois Lane feels just a little too soft and friendly . I’m a bit biased, I think Teri Hatcher was the greatest Lois Lane ever to grace the screen which is curious considering I’m not a fan of the Lois and Clark TV show…(although I’m softening on that stand, I’m almost through season two and actually liking it a bit more than I did when I was a kid)

lex-luthor-inside-details-on-jesse-eisenberg-as-lex-luthor-in-batman-vs-superman-jpeg-26235Perhaps the biggest problem in this film, is Jesse Eisenberg Lex Luthor. This was another casting choice that I defended when it was announced, it was my thought that if he bulked up a little bit this might be an interesting chance for him to stretch is acting ability.  He’s got the range, he just never uses it, instead choosing to rely on his Jesse Eisenberg persona. I even found this image back then – a speculative rendition of what he could be as Lex if he choose to play it straight.

Even when it came out that his Eisenber act was indeed the kind of character he was going to be playing, I assumed that the role had been written for him – with this gawky spaz kind of young Lex Luthor in mind… Now I’m not so sure.

There is nothing in his lines or actions that depends on the hyperactive awkwardness that he displays. In fact, there’s moments in his performance of real menace. It’s batman-vs-superman-poster-lex-luthorenough to make me believe that perhaps there’s something more there than meets the eye. I almost want to believe that the nerdy Eisenberg persona is just a defense mechanism. Just a surface act that masks depths of sinister intent.

The problem is it’s never paid off (unless Snyder thinks that the sullen look on Eisenbergs face as his hair is shaved off is that emotional pay off). We never really get to see this explored the ways should be done. As a result, it just comes up as annoying – a real missed opportunity .

When they were first looking around at casting next Luthor I was vocal in my support of Clancy Brown. He was the actor who voiced the character in the cartoons, though he is probably best known for his role as the Kurgan in Highlander or the mean guard in The Shawshank Redemption. He’s never been out of work. In very recent times, he’s played the Clancy_Brownprincipal in the Nightmare on Elm Street reboot,as well as appearing on Supergirl as General Eiling, and very recently showed up on Daredevil as the Punishers old CO.

Sit back for a moment, and transpose him over Jesse Eisenberg. Imagine Eisenbergs lines, but instead of the nervous sputtering delivery that Jesse gave, imagine Clancy in an expensive pressed suit – perhaps a lab coat, thought less likely. Imagine him delivering those lines confidently with that low,sure voice. Just a touch of menace to it. Imagine Clancy doing the things Luthor did. With Eisenberg, pulling the finger tips off of Zod is icky… With Brown it would’ve been terrifying in it’s genuis and obsession. With Eisenberg you hate him for kidnapping Martha Kent, with Brown you’re terrified of what will happen to her.

‘Seriously, I don’t understand this casting choice. Snyder is hellbent on doing imagessomething different, I understand. Indeed, I think in this determination to do something new, he actually exhibits that single-mindedness that we see in Batman… driving him to do the wrong thing.

The wrong thing. That that’s a bold statement, it’s an absolute and a label that I have not applied any other part of this movie. So why do I say “the wrong thing ” 72340_1146572142053874_2236992969757371517_nwhen it comes to Lex Luthor and stand by it with such certainty?

Because my kids didn’t recognize him.

My girls know who Lex Luthor is. They’ve watched him on the Justice League cartoons, they’ve been around Superman there entire lives, they play hero clixs with me and read the comics themselves and THEY. DID. NOT. RECOGNIZE. HIM. It wasn’t until the end of the movie, where Eisenberg sits in prison, wearing an orange jumpsuit Jesse-Eisenberg-Lex-Luthorand having his head shaved that Maddie’s eyes widened and she pointed at him. It was only in those final minutes of the film that my kids realized that they had been watching some strange incarnation of Lex Luthor all along. When you alter a character so much that he becomes unrecognizable to casual fans, you have absolutely gone the wrong direction with that character.

Zach Snyder is not interested in making fun, popcorn action movies. He’s trying to make a serious epic here, and I’m not sure that’s the right approach. While Batman V Superman is not a bad movie, The heaviness of it severely limits rewatchability. I have the same issue with Winter Soldier, and I especially have this problem with Man of Steel. We all know that Superman Returns is a terrible Versusfilm, and it breaks my heart because the visual design has so much potential. But I’ll tell you what, even though Man of Steel is a better film, I’ve seen Superman Returns way more times that I’ve watched Man of Steel. It’s just an easier watch. Truth is, I don’t think I’ve made it through Man of Steel even one time since I saw in the theatre. Maybe in pieces, but certainly not in its entirety. Batman versus Superman will be the same – I may pop the video in and cue it past the second hour, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never watch this entire thing again. I liked it, and I’m glad I saw it, I just don’t know that I’ll ever be able to sit through this a second time, where as I can see myself watching Batman 89 again and again.  If Iron Man is on cable I’m not going to turn it off. If I see BvS though, I’ll probably sit through it until commercial if it’s a good part and then keep on flipping.

The thing is, Snyder has mistaken heavy and cynical for mature. I have the same response to him that I did to the producers of the Muppets many months ago (you can find that HERE) that Cynical is not batman_v_superman___dawn_of_justice__poster_by_goxiii-d8xs1x9necessarily “adult”, and it’s not what I want to see with these characters. You didn’t “grow up “the Superman film, you just sucked a lot of the joy out of it.

A lot of the joy, but not all of it. Seeing Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman on screen together is something we wanted all our lives and we finally have it. This was a monumental and daunting task and if not ideal, Snyder does manage to pull it off. 3-D and IMAX are going to do nothing for it, but if you haven’t seen it in the theatre you really need to. We went for the cheap seats at Amherst Cinema and paid four dollars for a ticket. It’s  showing on a double bill with Deadpool over at the drive-in near us. The movie is everywhere, and it’s not going anywhere – you have no excuse. If you haven’t seen Batman versus Superman, I’m sorry I spoiled it for you but what are you doing wasting time reading this anyhow? Get out and see the movie!


Suicide Squad – more promos

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will-smith-deadshot-costume-suicide-squad-movieI so, really, REALLY want to like this. Deadshot is all wrong (and was always my favorite character of the squad) but everyone else looks good and the pose is brilliant….It’s like having a loose tooth you know? You keep wiggling it because it hurts and feels good at the same time, and you really want to have it out, but know it’s going to be a mother ripping that thing out of your head.

And that’s really the thing about all of this that bothers me. They did such a good job on so many of these characters. They really did. Even Deadshot actually looks very good…as long as he keeps that mask on, but the thing is, Deadshot is way more than a mask. There’s a huge amount of character there, and it’s not the character type that Will Smith plays. I know, I sound like I’m being picky, oversensitive, overfocusing. You have to understand, I’ve wanted a Deadshot film since 1989. It’s always been that important to me and now that I’m getting one, it has the worst casting since Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze.

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3E2ci5JThen there’s also the Joker. Yeah, I’m one of those guys that can’t get past the tattoos. Actually it’s just the ones on his face.

Now, it’s happened in the past that a person’s performance can get you past all of that. It’s what I’m very much hoping for here, because it’s indicative of there personality we are supposed to be getting from him and it bothers me a bit. The Joker is supposed to be a dandy, impeccable and unflappable in a crazy sort of way. This appearance is a little too gansta thug and it bothers me. It’s like an itch at the very base of my brain that I just can’t quite scratch.

But again, what makes it so frustrating is how good the rest of this film and this cast looks, and how well they seem to have captured the rest of this gang, both in appearance and in swagger.

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008.jpgI dig the look they have for Harley. It’s an evolution on the kind of slutty Harley they’ve been going towards in the comics, but then again, I wouldn’t really look at this as her “costume” but rather just the clothes she basically woke up in . I can get behind that.

Capitan Boomerang. I can’t say enough about how much i love both the look and the casting. If you want to talk about a character that I’m almost as invested in as Deadshot – there it is. Digger is a bright side to look on if there ever was one.

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BronzeTiger.jpgKatana looks great here. A perfect take on the new 52 version, through I can’t for the life of me understand what she’s doing here- she hasn’t been a part of this group in any incarnation ,though I suspect she’s fulfilling Vixen’s comic book role of “trouble heroine looking for redemption”. Indeed, when I look at this picture here and think of her filling the absent Vixen’s dynamic it makes me wonder if Will Smith’s Deadshot isn’t really meant to fill the role of Bronze Tiger, also a troubled hero (once a villain, now trying to make up for his past). The way he’s right over Katana’s shoulder and the warm, almost regretful tone he speaks in the trailer really makes me wonder. Both Bronze Tiger and Vixen were core members of the original team, they were very much it’s heart and it’s conscience. Those roles are essential in a team like this, but those names are even more unknown than a lot of the rest of the team. From a marketing standpoint it would make sense to roll Tiger and Deadshot up into one character (even if it frustrates me to no end…)suicide-squad

Great casting on Croc, and even El Diablo has a very interesting look, again, not sure who is making the choices for the line up, but I’m all for the roster here.

I’m impressed with the marketing here. It looks like DC is taking a page from Marvel’s book and building this up much the same way Marvel did Guardian’s of the Galaxy. I hope it works for them. While both were fairly unknown properties with only minimal name recognition going for them, Guardians had fun and space opera working for them, where as this film has a nihilistic edge and gritty action feel to it – very different kinds of movies. At the time, Marvel also had already proven itself as a studio brand – you knew what kind of film you were going to with a Marvel movie. DC and Legendary pictures hasn’t quite established itself yet, and what little identity it has, is very serious and grim.

I’m on the edge of my seat. I really am. I don’t know whether to cheer or kvetch. But on thing is for sure, I’ll be there to see the movie in August.

 


In Defense of Joel Schumacher

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Schumacher’s name is synonymous with failure. After all, he pretty much destroyed the Batman movie franchise and it took visionary director Christopher Nolan to redeem and reinvent it.

And I don’t believe a word of the above statement.

Truthfully, I think the film Batman and Robin poison everything around them and that’s not fair. Batman Forever was actually a decent film. You have to remember, at the time, the only cinematic version of Batman we had was Burtons, and he had no interest in the source material. Catwoman was interesting, but there’s noting about her that ever remotely resembles Selina Kyle…and the creepy Penguin? I don’t even know what that was.

What Batman Forever gave us were villains much close to their comic book counterparts, and a Bruce Wayne that I actually could believe was the Bruce from the comic series rather than the pointy eye browed, curly haired weirdo that slept hanging upside down (Oh! I get it! LIKE A BAT! um, yeah.)

Sure there was a little more humor…Jim Carey (Who I don’t like that much at the best of times) was being Jim Carey. There was some speculation that Robin Williams should have played the Riddler (and the Joker before that). Can you imagine how hammy THAT would have been? The humor isn’t down to the camp levels of the TV show though. There’s plenty of action, with Schumacher’s flair for zooming shots actually giving it a more comic book feel, and that’s what I loved about it back in 1994. It felt much more like the comics to me and that was a welcome change. I even laughed at the single reference to the old TV show (which I still hate to this day) about Holey rusted metal….

I think however, that some studio exec with warm and fuzzy feelings for that show head that line and a lightbulb went off over his head…

You see, I don’t place most of the blame on Batman and Robin on Schumacher. This was another film (much like Star Trek Five again) rife with studio interference. Not even that. The word “interference” suggests some level creative vision on the directors part. Schumacher walked into a meting, before the script was even written and was handed toys. Cars, costumes and props and was told that these all had to be worked into the film somehow. The original script didn’t even have Bane in it. Ever wonder why the toy looks SO different from the on screen character? It’s because the toy was designed before the role was cast.

Schumacher could have said no. I’ll grant that. He could have breached contract. In retrospect it might have even been good for his career. But back in 1993, I can easily see how quitting this film (Batman films were a license to print money after all) might have looked like career suicide.

This isn’t cockeyed optimism that fuels my devotion to Schumacher. rather it’s he track record. On one hand we have Batman and Robin – a heavily studio controlled film that was an utter disaster on every level. On the other hand we have my favorite vampire film EVER, the Lost Boys. And we have Saint Elmo’s Fire before that. We have Phone Booth and 8MM (both done after B&R, just incase you were about to make the argument that he had talent but then lost it). Phantom of the Opera is another fairly closely controlled property that he was able to make good with.

It drives me mad when I hear him trashed on the basis of (mostly) one film that he had little or not control of, and I’ll stand by my defense of him any day you like.

 

 

 


In Defense of X-Men Origins : Wolverine

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1This is actually a hard Colum to write. The rules are it has to be about a property (mostly movies, but comics and music are fair game too) that everyone in general hates and that conventional wisdom tells us is bad, but that I like. And I mean LIKE. Not just a “meh…that’s not really THAT bad a movie….”

Here’s how I can  tell that Wolverine isn’t a bad movie. I like it – and I don’t like ANY of the X-Men movies. The second one is  the only one I might ever bother to rewatch besides this one (and the way Wolverine cuts through those soldiers in the mansion really bothers me). I actually change the channel if any of these movies come on broadcast TV.

I read the comics, but let’s face it, the cinematic X universe bears little more than a passing resemblance to the comics. That’s actually a good thing too, because I can’t stand Wolverine in the comics. Hugh Jackman however, actually makes me care about the character. he makes me like him. The first three X-Movies are really just all about Wolvie, so why not finally admit it and put his name on the shingle?

The action is good here. It’s a lot of CG, 3but we’ve come to expect that from X-Movies. Wolverine broods a bit, but I think it actually fits the character. I’m hearing a lot of complaing on that same subject for the Days of Future Past film as well, but if you genuinely know the character, you’ll realize he’s more than a hack ’em up brute. It’s a role Jackman plays extraordinarily well.

The lack of continuity with Sabertooth has bugged some people. I get that. I really wish it were Tyler Man again, or that this guy had played him in the first film. It would have helped my suspension of disbelief. However, Sabertooth isn’t just a brute either. In the mid 90’s there was some real development of the character, imprisoned in the mansion and while they were attempting to rehabilitate him, he was 2playing mind games with the crew. There’s aspecial hatred between him and Gambit. It’s a shame that actually never played itself out on screen here. It’s a missed opprutunity, but then again, perhaps one that would have made the plot look too crowded to casual fans.

Gambit by the way, it perfectly realized here. I’m a fan of the character and loved the portrayal in this film. My only complaint is that he’s underused. That’s been the excuse for three previous films as to why they never brought him in by the way – they felt they wouldn’t have a big enough role for him. After waiting so long though, it was good to finally see Remy LeBeau realized on screen.

6Which brings me to the big sticking point for a lot of people.

Deadpool.

For all you haters out there….I’ll give you this one. What they did with deadpol was a real waste. It smacks of studio interference by a group of people who just don’t understand the character. A shame too, because before his transformation into the bizarre weapon X without a mouth. Ryan Reynolds actually does a nice job as Wade Wilson. If anything, it’s a bit underplayed.

Here’s why it didn’t ruin the movie for me. I barely knew ANYTHING abut Deadpool when this came out. He’d shown up in X-Force as a fairly generic Vanilla character and I was completely unfamiliar with the more loony 4characterization he’d grown into (and thanks to Jesse Vining who re-introduced me to the character when I was getting back into Heroclix). I imagine a great deal of the general public was the same way….it was just another bad guy to them. Still, to a fan, I can see how this could poison the film for you. I have similar feelings about Alien 3 (but more on that next month). The fact that we still haven’t gotten a proper Deadpool feature (especially with that script that’s been floating around) makes it even more of a slap in the face.  In this case, I’m genuinely asking you to set aside that and pretend he’s just a random bad guy. This really is a fun film, and there are too few X-films with this kind of rewatchability to just throw this one aside.


Not a review of Guardians of the Galaxy

Movie bannerguardians_poster_via_marvelI was aware of the movie of course, because of all the buzz, but it wasn’t one I was just waiting on pins and needles for.

In many ways I think I’m the target audience for it. People who might have heard something about this, but arn’t really familiar with it. I tried an issue or two of the comic when Bendis rebooted it a couple years ago, but nothing really grabbed me. I like the idea of the talking raccoon (a smart mouth funny animal character is one of my elements for a perfect sitcom formula) and I like Sci-Fi, but had nothing invested here.

There’s a million reviews for Guardians. There’s nothing I can add to those really. I  took my kids, Lydia’s favorite character was Groot – mostly because he spends the entire movie saying nothing but “I am Groot”. And Maddie loved Rocket. Yeah, nothing new here.

What I want to explore is why  this movie is important.

I like this because it’s sci-Fi without being SyFy. It’s not Star Trek or Star Wars. It’s not the gritty or nilistic attitude that we’ve seen in Sci-Fi for the last ten years or so (thanks for nothing Battlestar Galactica). It’s not Gravity or Edge of Tomorrow. It’s fun. It doesn’t take itself to seriously while still going all in to the genre – and this is where you can see Gunn’s Troma roots. Say what you will about Troma, (and I hate ’em) but it’s one of the last places you can go in as nothing and truly advance by merit.  You can start off as a PA or a grip and end up a script supervisor or editor. That’s not an exaggeration, Joe Lynch did JUST that on Terror Firmer. It’s like New York, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Much like Roger Cormans studio, Troma is actually forging a generation of professionals despite (or perhaps because of ) working on drek. Gunn knows where to be serious and where to go completely zany, and if he can make you tear up at the image of a raccoon staring down at the charred branches of a tree – that’s something worth noting. This is original. Like nothing else in film today, because they remembered this is supposed to be a good time. They remembered that they cans still make you feel, when you’re having fun, it doesn’t need to be bleak and heavy to get that reaction.

It’s also a game changer.

There has been much written in reviews of how the Marvel brand is a proven one. Sure it is. But only with Superheroes.

Thor was a Sci-Fi movie, but with Superheros. So was Iron Man. And even though they were second stringers at the time (remember in the 90 and early 2000’s if it wasn’t an X-book or Spider book it was back bench), they were recognizable enough. Guardians is pure Sci-Fi. A shrew eye can catch the comic book dynamic – charismatic leader, sexy girl, smart mouth, a warrior, and a tank. Even so, it’s very Sci-Fi, with more in common with Firefly than the Avengers. It’s proof Marvel can do other things. What could happen next? Marvel Horror? Marvel Mystery? We’re getting a very Crime based set of shows hitting Netflix and it’s obvious Marvel want’s it’s brand to encompass more than just superheros. Guardians is the proof it can do so, and may be the key to surviving when the market gets oversaturated with superhero movies and the bubble inevitably breaks.

It’ll be interesting to see where we go from here.

Over at Violent Blue by the way, Steve took Jen to see the movie. We’ll be exploring their relationship against the backdrop of the film all week. Check it out here!


Days of Future Past

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1Finally got around to seeing Days of Future Past.

Here’s the thing, I’m not into the X-Men movies. I liked the X-Men in the early 90’s when it was over the top superhero action. I’ve never been a fan of Wolverine. At that point, there really isn’t a whole lot in these films for me. Worse yet, they just get more and more depressing every time. One was okay, but frustrating because of how much it deviated from any know continuity. Two was actually okay. Fun. The bit about Wolverine killing soldiers bothered me a little but otherwise okay. X3 was just depressing and grim. I gave up after that. I saw Wolverine Origins, but not in the theatre, and I thought it was okay…but mediocre. I didn’t even bother with the Wolverine or First class.

First class bothers me actually because I really don’t like this version of Xavier and I don’t want a version of Professor X that is unlikable.

Really, the X films are all about Professor X and Wolverine. More importantly, they are all about Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman. The return of Steward and Ian Mackellan on screen with Jackman is a welcome return to form.

It’s interesting, even though I haven’t seen First Class, I can feel it being integrated here, like two different franchises coming together. A real Avengers vibe. The story deviates miles from the comics, but by now we’ve pretty much accepted that the movies are their own continuity and like I said, these films are about Wolverine and Professor X.

We’re pretty much into full costume mode these days (as opposed to the original film when the fashion was still to try as hard as possible to deny you were in a superhero film), so I don’t understand why they don’t just use comic accurate suits, but the look is very cool. Some of the dopey elements like the fans in the sentinels ake sense when you see them on screen.

There’s not much to complain about here. I still don’t like MacAvoy’s Xavier, but I think I actually may enjoy Michael Fastbender’s Magneto more than Ian Mackellans. It’s enough to get me to pull The Wolverine out to watch it and maybe even anticipate the next film a bit! No small feat. It’s still in theatres, so catch it on the big screen while you still can.

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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So yesterday we ran this strip over at Violent Blue.

Amazing Spider-Man 2

I don’t want to hate this movie.

1I really questioned whether I would review it because the problem is this can not possibly stand up on it’s own. This is  the second film in the Amazing cycle and it’s inevitably going to draw comparisons from the Rami cycle. The second Rami movie is the best of all the Spider-man movies ever. More to that point, I have no problem saying it’s one of the greatest Superhero movies ever made. In fact it was just on TV over the weekend (capitalizing on the release of the new film) and it absolutely holds up.

I liked Garfield as Peter Parker in the first film. I thought Toby was a better Spidey though. More light hearted and fun. I hoped Garfield’s Spidy would grow on me, especially since they got the costume right this time. Sadly, it was the opposite. His Peter has gotten more grating and that stupid Bronx accent (is it meant to be queens? It doesn’t sound queens to me) really gets ramped up here and drives me nuts. Not as bad as the Dancin’ Toby sequences in 2 and 3, but not fun.  Peter is too moody. Too brooding. This isn’t Batman. Spider-Man looks best in the sunlight and happy.

2I also don’t buy the Peter/Harry relationship. This needed to be addressed in the first movie. Harry belongs with Peter from the word go, bringing him in cold in the sequel just feels tacked on. What a coincidence Peter just happened to be friends with the richest kid in New York….

Harry’s completely unlikable in this by the way and that’s a shame. The tragedy of Harry Osborne is that he’s not a bad guy, he’s been twisted. If you’re not rooting for him to rise above it, then it doesn’t work. And I’m not. I don’t like this Harry.

He’s not alone though. I HATE Aunt May here. God she’s useless in this series. She’s pathetic…nothing more than a dialogue delivery system. May is supposed to be a dichotomy – old and frail with a shocking amount inner strength that can’t be measured. I mean, they couldn’t even be bothered to put a white WIG on Sally Field!

Look, I have issues with the Rami cycle. I never liked his casting of Kristen Dunst and never really liked his version of Peter Parker. I think his inexplicable need for every villain to have some sort of relational connection with Spidey was ridiculous. But for the most part….for the most part he got it right. Aunt May and J. Jonah Jameson looked like they stepped right off the comic page, and their characterization was so dead on that they stole the show. Even though he didn’t have the right look, everything else about the Green Goblin rung true. Norman and Harry Osborne were perfect updates (and they LOOKED related by the way). Rami got  the relationships right. He understood the characters. Most importantly, he loved the source material. He loved the comics. Everything else comes from that.

3I don’t think the current producers love the comics. I don’t think they get it. In fact, more and more of this feels like film by committee. Everyone has input. This movie in particular drops so many names it’s transparent that it’s just designed to be a springboard to other things…and that fails to entertain.

I want to like this. Remember what I said about them really understanding how to use effects? It’s still true in this entry, but this time it’s par for the course. I don’t see anything that really blows me away. They don’t have the goodwill of everything being shiny and new. They had to deliver a great story, but they are trying to do too much to achieve that.

A lot of what I had a problem with the first time around is still there. Actually most of it has been kicked up a notch, such as treating Spidey like a grim avenger. Instead of repeating it all here, I’ll just refer  you to my post on Amazing here : https://argocitycomics.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/amazing/

 

If you haven’t seen it, wait for it to hit redbox or Netflix. Better yet, just pop in the Raimi films and go from there.


Captian America : The Winter Soldier

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cap1I finally got around to seeing Captain America this weekend. I know I’m lat to this party, but you know me, I don’t visit movie theaters that are less than 70 years old. The Lorain Palace was showing it in 3d for 5.00 (as opposed to a 2d matinée  at a normal theatre for 7.50 at least).

Here’s the thing. The Winter Soldier isn’t a superhero movie. Sure they try to fool you with some big set pieces in the beginning and the end, but make no mistake, this is not a superhero movie. It’s a political thriller – and really, that’s exactly what you would expect from Robert Redford in this role. With SHIELD infiltrated by Hydra, there’s far more intrigue than simple action here. I almost wonder if it’s too elevated for the subject matter.

cap2I was really complementary about the first Cap film. I stand by my opinion that it was the best Superhero film I’d seen in a good decade. I revisited it recently and found it’s not as rewatchable as I had hoped. It’s still as good, but I can’t return to it again and again like I can with The Avengers. It makes me wonder if this film will have a similar feel. It’s an awfully complicated story for casual viewing.

Speaking of The Avengers – I’m having some issues with Scarlet Johansson and the way she plays Black Widow.

It’s not that I don’t like her in the role, I’m perfectly fine with the casting, but it seems like she never plays it the same way twice…does she just forget how the character is played every time? I also wonder if that’s part of the act….that she has so many faces, so many identities that all of them are false. If that’s the case then it really should be a little cleared. perhaps I am just over cap4thinking this, but in her third time out it’s beginning to get to me. In the end she just comes off as really bland.

They also try to play up her dark past in this film. it seems a little late to be getting to this. We kind of acknowledge it in the Avengers, but it’s just in one line. Here it’s far more explicitly stated but feels like it’s too little too late – either tacked on for the fans or an afterthought to try and enhance what has always been a secondary character.

There’s a LOT of Cleveland in this film. This always takes me out of the movie a bit, I’ve spent a lot of time downtown professionally and I recognize so much of what we see here. That is one of the greatest car chases ever, but I know some of those streets. The scene in the mall is crazy. I take my daughters to those fountains. I buy coffee at that stand! I’ve done work in that building cap5they’re keeping the Winter Soldier in….

Falcon is a nice addition in this film by the way. It’s a good origin story for him and he really has chemistry with Cap. I’m actually looking forward to seeing him in the next film…and let’s face it, they telegraphed the sequel. Then again, the commercials really gave away a lot of plot points, and I found myself waiting for stuff to happen. On the other hand it also let me know that I WAS going to see the familiar red white and blue costume for part of this movie and not just the slick blue and silver Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-Cap-Golden-Age-versionone. I was pleased that it was a full third of the film.

Interestingly enough, all the commercials and memes and internet chatter I was sure Nick Fury was going to really die in this. It was interesting that all of the spoilers actually hit me in reverse…

I really liked this film and can’t wait to see the next one.

Well, you know,  after I see Superman vs. Batman.

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By the way, we’ll be spending the whole week over at Violent Blue celebrating the new Cap film. Check it out! the first strip is up here : http://www.violentblue.thecomicseries.com/comics/680

 

 


One last word

With all the hate and vitriol I’ve seen slung towards Ben Affleck in the last twelve hours  there is one thing that really strike me about the vast majority of the detractors.

It’s all hate. It’s all passion. It’s all emotion.

 

Warner bros. ARE YOU FUCKING JOKING? BEN AFFLECK AS THE NEW BATMAN IN BATMAN VS SUPERMAN. NOW THIS MOVIE IS A TOTAL JOKE. NOT EVEN EXCITED ANYMORE. 
Bunch of dumbasses.

I think this is a horrible idea and Daredevil sucked

I don’t want to live on this planet anymore

Thank you, Warner Brothers, for absolutely DESTROYING Batman for all eternity. You freaking IDIOTS.

I don’t want to talk about a guy that aff “lack’s” talent to be any hero.

 its a travesty! Its immoral! Its unholy! I feel like vomiting!

well…. so much for look forward to to the Superman Batman movie………

 

 

There’s not a lot of reason going on. People aren’t THINKING about this, they’re just feeling and the knee-jerk reaction to Affleck is generally negative, no matter what role he plays.

I’m not convinced myself. But I’m also not declaring the end of the world. Sit back, let it sink in. Bale wasn’t coming back even if they drove a Brinks truck up to his door and let him pick out the crispest bills. Moreover, DC/WB can’t afford for this to tank. They didn’t pull this name out of a hat. I’ll admit I don’t have a CLUE what they were thinking, but you can bet they have some reason here. The stakes are far higher than they ever were with say; Batman Forever or Batman and Robin.  It’s two years away and you can bet that WB is going to be immediately releasing some stills and pre production to try and slowly win people over.

Hang out for a while. Seriously. Let’s see where this goes.

Batman_Affleck


The new Batman

ImageSo the news broke, Ben Affleck is Daredevil, and the internet is aflame.

Affleck as Batman, I think I could be okay with this. However, I don’t know about him as Bruce Wayne. The thing is, I LIKED him as Daredevil. I really did, and I think he had a good take on Matt Murdock. I have a much harder time picturing him as Bruce Wayne though…and I really would have preferred a deeper voice.

Those of you hoping the outcry will be enough to get him kicked off the project….well…you remember months ago the news was that he was in talks with Warner Brothers – the rumors were that he was going to be directing Justice league. This casting decision isn’t recent. I’d bet it’s been in place for a good year or so.
They had to know there would be a huge backlash especially in superhero circles, Affleck is damaged goods, and in the mainstream, it’s just conventional wisdom to hate him….in this case I’m kind of the opposite. I thought his Daredevil was good (particuarly to someone who’d been reading the character for twenty years at that point). The director’s cut even more so. In my opinion, most of the people who really hate his Daredevil either already dislike and dismiss the character out of hand or were strictly Frank Miller fans who hadn’t read the title in years- decades even.

I’ll grant Affleck’s Matt Murdock was really just him playing himself -yeah, he does that a lot (so do “respectible” actors like Harrison Ford)….but it worked for me considering Murdock is one of the least responsible lawyers I’ve ever seen. His daredevil fit well enough with what Bendis was writing around the time and had a few callbacks to earlier incarnations. We’re seeing him evolve into a hero in the movie – something that wasn’t always clear enough (Why does everyone complain about him killing Quesada at the beginning but no one has the same complaints about Batman killing the Joker in ’89 – twice if you count dripping Jack in a vat of chemicals or letting Ras die in Begins? At least in Daredevil it’s part of the arc that he grows beyond killing ). It’s a real shame they cut out the sub plot about him trying to solve a case about a dead hooker – we see more development there and a lot more detective work. I never really dug the Bullseye in that film….but that’s got nothgin to do with Batman….perhaps antoher article.

In the end it all makes me wonder what they saw in Affleck that lead them to this casting. Remember how much Michael Keaton was hated when he was announced as Batman as well, and suddenly the 1989 Batman movie was declared “Movie of the Decade!” and to be fair, if we’re going to talk about spotty careers…I still have a hard time disassociating Henry Cavil with the guy that was getting a hummer from a girl with a demonic mask in the eighth (and worst) Hellraiser movie. Superman vs. Batman has a long time before it get’s here. Let’s see what happens next.


Batman this weekend

I’m a huge fan of the ’89 Batman. Now that we’re past the 20th century, time has diluted our memories of just how huge this movie was. At the time, it was bigger than any of the Nolan films are today, it was a total game changer. It’s aged fine, not as well as you may hope, but not as poorly as other movies of the period.

It’s playing this Saturday at the Cedar Lee at midnight. Wear a cape and get a free popcorn! (then head back our site on Monday for a new Violent Blue!)

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Free Comic Book Day 2013

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I started my Free Comic Book Day this year at Midnight. Well, actually a little before, 405895_10151573825462278_1154100036_nheading out to Carol and John’s comic shop for the Midnight release party.The midnight party features free comics, specially brewed drinks and food along with sales and costumes. I went to this a couple of years ago with my friends John and Carl, and remembered not liking it, but didn’t quite remember why.

The two and a half hour wait in line may have had something to do with it. I remember it being crowded, but not this crowded….and we were waiting forever. The young lady in the great Doctor Who shirt (Complete with a button that said “come along Pond!”) that I was in line with was getting a little worried that there might not be much left if we ever go in. (By the way, if your reading this, I owe you an apology. I was in a bad mood and didn’t realize we would be out there so long. I should have talked to you more and been friendlier. I was rude to just stand and read my book as much as I did). On Superman_CustomFacebook I joked with folks that we should have headed to the party and played a game of Heroclix while we waited. Seriously, there was enough time to get in a full game while in line. If I do this party again next year, I’m planning something like that. Cards or heroclix or SOMETHING.

Still, we eventually got in and I got my first selections, including the Cleveland edition of Superman. That was one I definitely wanted, especially since we’re celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the character – or trying to at least.

Madeline had ballet the next morning and we weren’t about to let her take off just to trot around town trolling for comic books with Daddy. We suited Lydia up and were batgirlready when Maddie got home at 11. We tossed her costume on, packed a lunch and headed back to Carol and John’s for the costume contests.

Wow.

We had no idea that half of the places we went for Free Comic Book Day would be OUT by the time we got there. Perhaps we need to start earlier, but it also seemed like there were a bunch more people out this year than before.

600745_569131633131264_696461426_n I saw the  line at Carol and Johns and my heart sank a little. It was as long this afternoon as it was at midnight. Ugh. The girls wouldn’t last an hour or two of waiting like that. Still, we were there in time for the costume contest, so the girls got their numbers and headed up. Maddie and Lydia were in different age categories, so they weren’t competing against each other. I think I’ve very glad for that.

To my great delight (and perhaps a little surprise) both of my girls placed. Lydia got third (and lost out to the cutiest set Power Puff girls EVER) while Maddie got second in her division. I couldn’t be happier.

321454_569132826464478_884028288_n 601916_569130963131331_525149132_n941203_569131093131318_799551964_nNext off, we headed out to Parma to swoop down the Polish corridor. B and L comics  was out, however  he had a few ones from last year and older on the counter to try and still have something for people….my girls and I were at the counter making our purchases (we raided the .50 box) and were asking about which free ones he still had and folks were reaching around us to snatch them away before my two little girls could get anything! How rude!

Traffic was bad enough that we skipped Northcoast Nostalga…a shame too, because 128880_457630_60they always have great discount bins – .25 and .35 bins, and I always rummage through those. York was running out, but the girls got some Strawberry Shortcake there and we bought some Trinity (because they had Wonder Woman on the cover). I also got my Uglydoll comic here. This was just the coolest offering the FCBD! The girls loved looking at the statues and figures. York was running out too, so they pulled stacks of old issues from the back and set them up on the free table so everyone could still get something. Very cool guys. On the way to our next stop, I became aware of Maddie talking in the back seat. Not to me….no she was reading on of the strawberry shortcake comics she had just gotten to her sister.

Thank God for Comics are Go! in Sheffield. They still had a decent stock and had save me one of the FCBD  Iron Man 3 heroclix! You guys saved the day. Seriously. Heroclix_New-300x300The girls had been getting a little discouraged. The other thing Comics Are Go! managed to find for me was a copy of the Walking Dead comic for this year. Not one place we went had that one still in stock. In fact, Mike ran into the back  and dug that and a Judge Dread out for me I wouldn’t have gotten these comics otherwise. Then again, that’s one of the things about having a shop you go to regularly. In fact,  I think next year, we may mostly just do Comics Are Go. (Maybe the midnight party at Carol and Johns, but maybe not).

While we were in Comics are Go! Maddie kept looking around at the toys and other 128886_457754_62comics, and she discovered the My Little Pony comic book. She asked me if we could get that one too, and I said yes (like last year, we want to buy something at every stop to do what little we can to support these places). She was also looking at the figures and discovered the Wonder Woman line – A Circe figure and a special agent Diana Prince figure. She brought those up the Scott, the store owner and asked why the boxes said “Wonder Woman” when it didn’t look like Wonder Woman inside. He smiled and explained who the figures were. It was unbearably cute.

Of course we dressed up. Me too. I tried something different this year, my costume was Perry White, with Maddie as She-Ra and Lydia as Batgirl. Funny, Lydia’s always 21305_569069549804139_1496418892_nrefused to wear masks, but this year she came up to me first thing in the morning and asked me to make her a mask for her costume! Rushed in to the basement to find some foam and elastic, but we got it done!

By the time we got home we were all tired and Maddie was eager to tear into the Lego set she won in the costume contest. The girls asked for a Wonder Woman cartoon so I fired up Netflix and turned on the Wonder-Woman centric episodes of Justice League. We played with Legos and plowed through our piles of comics. We didn’t bring home as many this year. The girls had about seven each. I 935666_569131116464649_793281673_nhad about twenty. I know they were a little disappointed by that, but we still had a fun day out and I still had plans for the evening. After all, what better way to end FCBD than with Iron Man 3 at Amherst Cinemas? I still had a dollar left over from comic book shopping and managed to scrape together two more dollars in change (remember the days when you could still hit a movie using the change you found in you couch or car seats?)

I got to the theatre just before the movie was supposed to start. Just in time to see them put the “Sold Out” sign up.

@#$%&!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Comics shops running out of comics? Comic movie running out of tickets? I’m beginning to see a theme here. Time to pop in the Scott Pilgrim DVD I borrowed from the Library and try again tomorrow.

I did make it in on Sunday. Probably the best Iron Man movie of all of them, I prefer this director. However, while I liked it better than any of the other Iron Man movies, but I still  think it needed 30% more Tony-in-the-suit. It seems like the entire point of these films is to get tony out of the armor….I get that they are trying to make up for it by throwing in War Machine/ Iron Patriot, but honestly, for a film called “Iron Man” Iron man is actually not in it very much. I think we had more screen time with Tony-in-the-suit in Avengers. And poor Tony, he was getting tossed around worse than Bruce Campbell in an old cabin.

I really like the Iron Patriot suit though. I’ve got a bunch of foam in my attic. Wondering if I could make a suit….I think my cosplay for Lake Effect Comic Con might be Tony with just the arm and leg armor from the escape sequence. We’ll see.

We’ll close  this with some photos from the midnight party and FCBD. Some of these are mine, some are culled from around Facebook. And remember, new Violent Blue is up today!

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In Defense of The Punisher

defense

Punisher-FilmsA while back I mentioned that I was a fan of all the Punisher movies, though if I had to pick my favorite, it would be the Thomas Jane movie.

Really the big issue here is I think they are out of order. If you shuffle them around a bit, an arc begins to appear. Let’s do these in my order, starting with the Jane movie.

2_midiI know it’s an origin movie, but much like I do with the first Spider-Man movie, I usually start this guy in about halfway through so we have the origin out of the way. Still, that’s important to what I’m observing. The movie serves to tell us where Frank is coming from. It shows his tragedy and his immediate reaction, a lashing out at the gangsters who killed his family.

This film begins his descent into madness. You see him still in touch with humanity though, through the people in his apartment building, but even then – he’s pulling away. You know when he disappears, he’s gone for good.

10726451_galThis brings us to the Dolph Lundgren film.

Poor Dolph has constantly been blamed for the failure of this film. I couldn’t disagree more. sure, he could be a little more articulate, but then again, her dosen’t really need to be does he? The Punisher speaks rarely, and then only when there ‘s something important to say.

The costume has been blamed as well. This really isn’t a bad costume. I miss the skull. I do. Sometimes you’ll hear people talk about how the clever director shaded Dolph’s face so you could see the skull there. I think that’s overstating it a bit, but I understand. We also tend to forget just HOW different this costume was at the time. The modern Punisher wears a costume very similar to what we see Lundgren in, but back in the 80’s he was still in spandex like every other hero, with white boots and gloves.  This costume was really a bit of a shock to the fanboys. Still it was a time period when it was fashionable to do superhero movies and change the costume completely.

vlcsnap-2010-03-01-02h20m36s5The skull isn’t completely absent either, we do see it on the daggers Frank uses, but ti still would have been nice to see on printed on his T-Shirt – everything else the same.

No, what sinks this movie is the script. The more I watch it, the more i think this wasn’t written to be a Punisher movie, but rather just another low budget action flick, re-written to make it into the Punisher movie.

Having the Yakuza as the villain is a bizarre choice for a movie that’s trying to introduce a character to the public. it’s suited far more for a sequel. The dialogue is clumsy and the disgraced thespian turned alcoholic informant is just annoying.

It’s not all bad though. The “B” story with the Frank’s old partner seeking him out is very well done, probably the best part of the film. Louis Gosset Jr grounds the movie and gives us someone to relate to. I personally imagine he’s the same African American guy from the first movie who did the initial drug bust with Frank  that resulted in Travolta’s son’s death. If you can get your hands on the workprint of this you really ought to. It shows far more range on Lundgrens part – there’s more flashbacks to before Frank became the Punisher, several which are referenced in the final cut. I understand that they mostly make the running time longer and drag the pace a bit but several things make more sense in it too.

Imagine now, that it’s been five years since the first movie. Frank is now living alone in the sewer, completely separated from humanity. his descent into madness is complete and he has little or no human contact. He’s dropped weight, note eating right, never venturing to the surface world except to kill. The sum of his human encounters is that once in a while he pumps an informant for information, but that’s strictly business, not personal. He is singly concentrating on wiping out the mob, and he’s almost succeeded, but his madness is wild, unfocused.

It takes the kidnapping of the mobsters children by the Yakuza to bring him back into the human race. He comes out to rescue them in the process encountering his old partner. He begins to see the need for human contact, for relationships. Perhaps he even sees the benefits tactically. That will lead him to build more contacts and wage his war on crime more effectively. MV5BMTM4OTQyODk0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzQwNDQwMg@@._V1._SY317_CR0,0,214,317_Something we see in full swing in the next film : War Zone.

In War Zone, even more time has passed. The stated body count has increased from the Lundgren film. In this movei we see Frank has built a support structure both in his police contact Soap and his armoror Microchip. Micro’s supplies have helped fortify the sewer that Frank is still linvign in and probably helped him be a more efficiant killing machine. Now with his madness and rage fous insted of wild like the Lundgren movie, we see a more human Punisher, deadlier than ever. Children are still his best connection to humanity thoguh and we see that again here, a theme continued from the Lundgren movie. It fits best this way.

It’s a pity the way War Zone was received. The director has stated being frustrated by the cries of over the top violence in this movie (see my upcoming  article on Judge Dredd for my opinions on what constitutes Ultra-Violence. This movie has a lot of kills, but not a lot of gore) when the critics didn’t understand she was coping most of those scenes almost panel for panel from the comics.

I don’t mind this movie, but I do think Ray Stevenson gets a little too chatty for the Punisher and the mistake of his, killing the undercover agent, which drives a lot of the story just turns me right off. I think it was poor choice. The Punisher doesn’t make those kind of mistakes, and if he dose, he doesn’t get this emo over it.

It was great to see Jigsaw here. I think he should have appeared earlier in the series, but then again, I suppose I understand why he didn’t. It’s a pity they made him so loony. Really a shame. It damages the character a little too much and combined with the other factors just drags the movie down when it could have been so much better. Still it serves as  a good final chapter in this series. As I said, there’s a definite arc here and I could easily consider this an unintentional trilogy.  It’s a pity there no more movies coming our way any time soon, but you can bet that the next time the Punisher hits the Silver screen, I’ll be there watching… and trying to see wher tit will fit in this list.


Amazing

Movie bannerI kind of delebritaly avoided “The Dark Knight Rises” this summer because I’ve never been a fan of where the nolan batman films were headed and this more than most, seemed to be something I wouldn’t enjoy.

amazing-spider-man-movie-poster“The Amazing Spider-man” was a whole other story.  I fully intended to go see it….if it came my way to a cheap theatre. That is to say,  I wasn’t going out of my way to go see it, but  I wouldn’t kick it out of bed if it showed up. It was never my intention to wait until it came out on DVD, but that’s just what happened. I had been adamant that a reboot wasn’t really the way to go and never liked the suit (even though we used it in Violent Blue last year)so I wasn’t anticipating this move the way I had Spider-films of the past.

Part of me wants to say this movie was middle of the road. The problem is that’s not true. middle of the road suggests it never reaches any heights, but never really disappoints either. That’s not the case here. This movie gets some things VERY right, and some things EXTREMELY wrong. It hits middle of the road by averaging, not by keeping a steady pace. Come to  think of it, I believe middle of the road might have been preferable.

What they get right:

Peter Parker.

Absolutely. One of the things I always hated about Raimi’s Spider-Man was Tobey Maguire as Pete. The funny thing is that Tobey was great as Spidey, but not as Peter. His Parker was too much of a loser. I couldn’t really root for him and that bugged me. Of course Raimi’s Peter was based more on the Parker of the late 60’s and early 70’s. I grew up with the Peter of the late 70’s and early 80’s – a more self-assured Peter, in college, with more of a friendship with Flash, and Harry there for comic relief. I loved the Peter of the 90’s He was a wallflower made good. The rejected and put-upon loser who grew into his looks, got a good job  and married a supermodel. that’s the Peter I like. It’s not the one Rami likes. That’s fine. He makes better movies than me anyhow.

Andrew Garfield really gives me a Peter I can root for. he’s not a geek, he’s more like….invisible. Not into sports so that’s a strike against him, and no one cares if he likes to take pictures or not. He’s just a nobody. i like that. It’s more enjoyable to watch someone who’s just awkward than it is to watch someone who’s delebritly playing a character from “Revenge of the Nerds” (a reason I never liked Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent – Brandon Routh was a far better Kent, and George Reeves was the best). This Peter is compelling and I never got tired of watching him.

The other thing this movie gets right is the effects. Raimi is just used to using low tech effects. I understand, but I believe he never really utilized his budget the way he could have effects-wise. His CGI was all really straightforward. There were times when he abandoned them altogether, like when the Green Goblin is talking to Norman Osborne in the mirror (that really should have been a more dynamic greenscreen shot). This movie on the other hand TRIES to impress us with it’s effects – things like the CG door lock and displays, it uses special effects more creatively, and that’s something I credit to it being handled by a different kind of director.

Speaking of better effects, I LOVE the new web shooters. I especially love the flash of light every time he blasts a web out. That’s one of those effects  that’s just inspired. I hope the comics copy this look.

Finally, I love what they did with Gwen Stacy. This was a genuinely good updating of the character. She’s well-realized, likable, and still completely out of Peter’s league. I realize the waste of the character in “Spider-Man 3” was due more to studio interference (at least I assume it was. Critical of him as I am, I give Raimi more credit than that) Raimi still could have portrayed her better. She didn’t need to look like she had stepped right out of 1968….and in Amazing, she doesn’t

What they got wrong :

Spider-Man

That’s a biggie. For a movie called “The Amazing Spider-Man” you really need to get Spidey right. This doesn’t even come close.

For every bit as good as Garfield is at being Peter Parker, that’s how bad he is as Spidey.  It’s a good thing then, as I stated above that I liked his Peter Parker so much. I’d rather see him work out of costume than in it.

The costume is a big part of it. Raimi got the costume right. He just….did. There was no good reason to change it, and the changes they made I think were poorEyes choices.

The eyes especially. They’re dark and foreboding. The colors are muted and darker hues. that’s not who Spidey is. he’s not a dark and gritty avenger of the night, he’s your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  That costume should be bright, and it looks GREAT in the daylight, not shrouded in darkness like we see here. He needs big friendly eyes and quirky elastic movements and a friendly voice that cracks wise when he’s fighting. I see none of that here. You know that one moment in EVERY commercial where Spidey mocks the guy for pulling a knife on him? You know why that’s there? Because it’s the ONLY funny quip we get from Spidey. I need more. When I’d rather watch Peter Parker than Spider-Man, you know we’ve got a problem.

I wasn’t thrilled with the origin either. Maybe that’s a little unfair, and I believe that’s mostly because I’ve seen it done better  in the Rami movies, in the cartoons…even in the God-awful broadway musical. That’s a bit I could take or leave.

may 001Aunt May. Who oh why did they cast Sally Field? You know what she does best? She makes strained, agonized faces and acts helpless. And boy does she do a bunch of that in this movie. Peter once said “One day, they’ll find a way to bottle the strength of Parker women” and that’s the key to understanding Aunt May. She’s frail and old and vulnerable, but under all of that is a strength and a will that just amazes you. That’s missing from Field’s May. Her Aunt May is just….empty and sad. I hate it.

I’m hoping for much better with the sequel. Let’s face it, Sony’s not going to stop making Spider-man movies any time soon. It’s my sincere hope that they understand what doesn’t work from this incarnation and stop trying to make another “Dark Knight”

In the mean time, I’m going to pop in the old movies and punctuate them with a few of the CG cartoon episodes from MTV.

Pages from Amazing Spider-Man 519 and Spider-Man 22

Top Five Marvel movie heros

Time for a top five list I think. The glut of comic book movies hasn’t slowed down yet, though the tone is changing (https://argocitycomics.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/the-future-of-comic-book-movies/) and I decided to think about who my favorite movie heros were. Not from DC, that’s way to narrow a playing field, even if you include the vertigo stuff. Marvel however, has been pushing out every possible character into this new movie universe of thiers, along with the unprecedented move of making it a definitively shared universe (as opposed to a suggested shared universe suchas the hints we get that movies like Soldier and Prometheus are in the same universe as Blade Runner or the tease in Predator 2 about being in the same universe with Aliens) with the Avengers.

Spider-Man2002PosterI was surprised to find a lot of these favorites would be mirrored by my favorite Marvel characters in general and quality of the films has little to do with it…..

Spider-Man

Specifically the Rami version. There were some problems here, I never liked the idea that every villain had to be related to Spidey somehow and I wasn’t always fond of Tobeys Peter Parker – on the other hand it was a perfect 60’s-70-‘s Peter (i preferred the 80’s – 90’s versions) but he made a perfect Spidey and the suit was the best we’ve seen. Andrew Garfield makes a better Peter, but that’s about all he’s got going for him.

2_midiThe Punisher

No real specific one. People like to drag Dolph Lundgren through the mud about this role and blame him largely for the failure of his Punisher film. I find that completely unfair, and pretty inaccurate. He dis a good job on the character in my opinion, probably a better job that  Ray Stevenson even. Really, I actually like all the actors to play this character equally, though if I had to pick one, it would be Thomas Jane simply because he had a better story to be in…..but that’s another whole blog post.

the avengers movie poster ironman tony stark robert downey jr marvel comics new official 2012Iron Man

This character is one I really enjoy DESPITE the movies. I’m not a fan of these films because there’s so little we see of Iron Man in the suit. I’ve complained endlessly about this elsewhere so i don’t need to rehash it here. On the other hand, Robert Downey Jr. inhabits the role. He’s perfect in it and actually, I think Avengers was this Iron Man’s finest hour. The character looks great on screen, and they consistently get him right. I just wish his solo movies were better.

Daredevil

215px-Daredevil_posterI think i’m one of the only people who actually like this movie. I really do, it’s on par with Tim Burton’s Batman to me. It has a similar feel, definitely a first movie, an introduction without getting mired down in an origin story. There’s a fascinating arch wit the character and they keep the tone dark and dirty as the best Daredevil comics are. Sure you can pan it because it’s an Affleck movie, but really, we don’t see much of him in it. He’s always hidden behind glasses or a mask. He dosen’t ACT like Ben Affleck either, no (well, few) T-Shirts and his attitude is kept in check – it’s actually a performance for a change and not him just playing well, Ben Affleck.

Wolverine

wolverinejackmannew3-thumb-504x800Obvious right? Not so much. If you know me, you know I don’t actually like Wolverine. His appeal baffles me. The key here is Hugh Jackman. Jackman has mad this character accessible to me somehow. He turned him into someone I’m actually interested in and that’s no mean trick, especially considering I didn’t enjoy most of the X-Men movies, in fact I never even bothered with First Class. I still have no love for him in the comics, and really didn’t want to put him on this list. Surely someone like Cap or Nick Fury was more deserving right? But when I come down to it, I found I really do like Jackmans Wolverine more than most other Marvel movie heroes.

Time to get back to work on Violent Blue. You know, I suspect that the characters in the strip would have very different lists  than I do too…..something to think about.


The future of Comic Book movies

So blockbuster season is firmly in  the past. I saw what I was going to see, and successfully avoided Dark Knight (not a nolan fan, I’ll get around to it on DVD). and I’m wondering how much longer this can last.

Don’t get me wrong. Comic Book films aren’t going away. They never have. There have been comic book films pretty much as long as there has been cinema. I have old Captain America serials and Superman movies from the 40 and 50s. I think there were a grand total of five Shadow movies. But as you look over history, you can see certian…eras. Especially in the last few decades. Usually it’s started off by a Superhero film that redefines the genre. Superman did it, and that was really the model for a good chunk of the 80s, until Batman in 1989. That redefined things as gritty, dark and rubber suits if you were going to go with a costume like in Captain America – but you weren’t allowed to show the suits too much. No costume? You just went dark and grindhousey like in the Punisher. Oh and the supporting cast didn’t really have to resemble their comic book counterparts. You can toss Judge Dredd, The Crow, Spawn and Blade in there, probably even X-Men though around that time things began to change. Specifically, Spider-Man changed all of that. Now we were looking more at making the costume as closely resemble the source material as possible, like Cap and the Avengers and Thor and Green Lantern and Hellboy ect….and it also defined the Superhero movie as THE blockbuster event of the summer.

And that’s where we’ve been for a while. In fact, we’ve kind of gone from a comic book movie being an event because it’s so rare, to any other kind of blockbuster being an event because it’s so rare. Remember Independence Day? Mission Impossible (two was my favorite)? Godzilla? How about the original Total Recal or Terminator 2? Demolition Man? We don’t see these movies so much now because the Superhero movie has taken their place. Indeed, one of the reasons The Expendables has been such a big deal is because the 80’s action movie has become nearly extinct.

Which brings me to my point. How long can this last? We’ve been on the superhero blockbuster ride for a decade now and what really has me thinking about this is The Avengers. It seems to me that with the Avengers, the comic book blockbuster has reached critical mass. It’s a brilliant achievement in of itself, and really the epitome of everything Avi Avrad was trying to do when he set Marvel down  the path to making movies (his belief was that film was where Marvel would make it’s money and was the future of the company) in the 90’s.

But where do we go from here? Already the landscape is changing again. The Dark Knight seems to be the new template, judging by the look of The Amazing Spider-Man and Man of Steel. If Superhero film is moving in that direction, then the Avengers is already falling behind. And as DC moves forward to try and duplicate the success from the Avengers, the glut of Superhero movies on the market is only going to get worse, making market fatigue inevitable…and quickining it’s progress.

That’s really my fear. That it becomes so common place it breeds contempt. Without some new innovation, a REAL game changer (not just an tonal change like we got from the Dark Knight) that Hollywood will ride this train into the ground, until Superhero movies become box office poison. 

And here’s the really scary thought to me both as a comic fan and as a comic artist on Violent Blue

Because comics these days are so heavily tied to the movie properties to support them, when the Comic Book movie goes back underground or vanishes completely for a while (like it did in the seventies)…what happens to comic books?


Anniversary

Today is my Wedding Anniversary (I know some of you were thinking this would be a Violent Blue anniversary. Nope, more important.)

So why is there a picture of Superman here? Simple. The new film “Man of Steel will come out next summer, durring my 11th year of marriage.

The traditional gift for 11 years is Steel.

Just saying. God is paying attention.


Wonder Woman

This has been sitting on my shelf since I got it at Monster Bash in June. I probably could have located it myself with enough effort but sometimes it’s nice th just let the bootleggers do their work. They gave me a good deal on it too, and bundled it with the Spider-Man musical.

I’ve heard a couple of people tak about how much they wish this series would have gotten made. I certainly can see my following it for at least the frist couple of months and then checking in on it every now and then. I can see myself following it with my daughters (who really liked the scenes with Wonder Woman).

The story is okay, but not the really great kind of narrative you need for a pilot. It feels more like a mid season filler story. Definitely part of the series, but if you missed it, you wouldn’t get lost. I really like that it’s not an origin story. It starts the series with everyone and everything already established. This used to be standard (Star Trek, I’m looking at you.) and in a lot of ways works better. Too many origin stories slow things down instead of moving us into the story.

My biggest problem with this series is Adrianne Palicki herself. I’m not going to go down the tired old road of saying no one can compare to Lynda Carter. Though comparisons are unavoidable, it’s completely beside the point. Palicki ‘s greatest flaw is  that she lacks the strength and confidence to play this character. Her voice is too light…airy. When she gets quippy, it sounds like a 22 year old celebutant, not a strong amazon warrior. Watch the Justice League cartoons. The voice is just a touch deeper, but what it really resonates is gravitas. Even that 19-20 year old Lynda Carter stood and spoke with enough poise that I had no problem believing she was mature, immortal and strong. Palicki  just skews too young. She doesn’t look stable when she stands heroically and she shuffles when she walks, like she doesn’t know how to move in heels (not all women do, not all women need to. But if you’re going to play Wonder Woman, yeah, you really do). The contrast is at it’s most stark during the end confrontation with Elizabeth Hurley (possibly the best thing about this show.) who takes long confident strides and radiates feminity.

By the way, Palicki has a couple of beauty marks that drive me nuts too. One on her jaw and one in between her eyebrows. It’s completely shallow of me and I realize that they make Palicki unique and beautiful, but they don’t belong on Wonder Woman and I just can’t stop staring at them.  $1.00 worth of greaspaint could have solved that problem. Hmmm. That sounds like a good idea for a Violent Blue strip.

The costume is fine with me. It gives the necessary impression and color it needs too and by the way, if you really hate the pants, well they turn into the more familiar bikini bottoms for the final showdown. I think they might have gotten a lot less criticism for the look if they had leaked one of those pictures on the web ahead of time.  Really, the whole look for the series is slick and cool. The fight sequences are stunning. Better than anything even the animateds managed to do. The plane isn’t invisible, but looks cool enough that we forgive it. There’s a fleet of them and it works in the context.

So what’s the final verdict? It’s kind of like the current series of Doctor Who. I don’t hate Matt Smith. He is nowhere near one of my favorites, but I don’t mind him. I’ll watch the series and be happy it’s still on, even though I’d rather be watching David Tennent. That’s how I feel about this Wonder Woman. I would have watched it and been content, while wishing they’d chosen someone else for the role. I’m not happy it got passed on, but perhaps it’s for the best, especially if it results in a better product soon. I suspect it may. DC has seen the success with Marvels Avengers and they know they need to get their tails in gear. I suspect we’ll see Wonder Woman on a screen, either big or small, sooner than you may think.


Robocop!

You know, I used to love the Robocop cartoon on Fox kids (or as they were calling it back then “Fox Action Theater”) but always wondered what they were thinking making a cartoon out of an R Rated movie. Of course I also found myself wondering why they would make a movie that – from the poster art – looked like it would be perfectly geared towards kids and rate it R. I have vivid memories of going to the Avon Lake Theatre (with the marquee all lit up in sparkling moving lights) and staring at the huge cardboard stand up in the lobby – this same image of Robocop getting out of his car, and lamenting the fact that I wouldn’t get to see it.

Of course I caught it on TV years later. Even recorded that TV edited version and watched it over and over through the years. Then my friend Mike got the Criterion cut – the nc17 version. Wow. Talk about over the top violence. The directors commentary on it is really good as well and gives you a much better idea of what was going through Verhoven’s head at the time.

I doubt this will be that criterion cut so it may feel like some things are missing, but I still can’t wait to see this on the big screen. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity since I was 11. If you’ve got five dollars burning a hole in your pocket, come on out to the Cedar lee and join me this Saturday at midnight. And remember,  there will be a new Violent Blue up tomorrow!


Darkman this weekend

I was in my 30s before I saw Darkman. I think I avoided it for so long because it’s really Sam Rami’s consolation prize because he couldn’t do a film version of The Shadow. That’s a shame because you can see the potential here.

I’ve only seen it once ,and that was on DVD. I’ll be heading out to the Cedar Lee this Saturday night to see it properly on the big screen. Feel free to join me!

Don’t forget, there will be a new Violent Blue up tomorrow!