Tag Archives: comic books

Justice League – Review

28 Nov

The DCEU, or the DC Extended Universe, hasn’t quite had the smoothest of runs. Man of Steel was a good debut, but Batman v. Superman was a complete and utter flop and I still can’t get over how they were comfortable releasing that. Suicide Squad was super divisive, and the only one we can all agree was awesome is Wonder Woman. Now we have what is ultimately the culmination of everything we’ve seen so far (except Suicide Squad it seems), Justice League. This was DC’s chance to stand up to Marvel and show that they’re capable of making something that can challenge The Avengers. Well, all I can say is that Justice League is good. It’s a good movie. I just wish I had more of a response to it than that, but I honestly don’t.

After the death of Superman at the hands of Doomsday, the world mourns the loss of their greatest hero. Meanwhile in Gotham, Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) has an encounter with an otherworldly force that prompts him to contact the only other otherworldly force he is familiar with, Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. Diana tells Bruce about three devices called the Mother Boxes which were hidden after a grand battle with Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), who wanted them to take control of the Earth and ultimately destroy it. Now with fear at an all time high on Earth, the Mother Boxes have been reactivated which brings Steppenwolf back yet again to continue his plan. As it becomes clear that Steppenwolf can’t be brought down just by Batman and Wonder Woman, the two set out to contact other metahumans who can lend their assistance. These are the fast talking and fast moving Barry Allen, aka the Flash (Ezra Miller), the cybernetically enhanced Victor Stone aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and a defender of the underwater city of Atlantis Arthur Curry aka Aquaman (Jason Mamoa).

Justice League is a totally serviceable superhero film, but as many people have said, this is a time where superhero movies are judged to a certain standard. When Spawn came out in 1997, the market wasn’t saturated with so many movies to compare it to. Granted, Justice League is far and away a better movie, but I needed an extreme example. What this movie did do very well is the chemistry between the characters. While Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot and some of the other players in this story are characters we’ve seen before, we’ve only seen glimpses of the Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman. These newcomers step up to the plate with relative ease, and all of their characters are welcome additions. Mamoa, especially, had some of the best lines and coolest action sequences in the movie, which I was sort of surprised by. Unfortunately, these characters do feel very new and it takes the movie a while to set them up, and it feels very rushed. This is Zack Snyder pacing in a nutshell. Each of these heroes has a whole history that can be explored but it has to be glazed over to fit in a two hour movie. I felt it very jarring to keep jumping around and I was really itching to be let into the characters’ lives more.

Another part of the movie that is done very well is the action sequences. Yeah, the CGI is way overblown, but everything has that epic superhero feel that I’ve come to know and love. The film starts with a bang with Batman defending Gotham and then transitions to one of the best scenes in the movie of Wonder Woman preventing a terrorist attack. There is one scene on Themyscira which did look very bland and dull, which is a shame because it looked so great in Wonder Woman. Like I said, the CGI does go way overboard at times. Steppenwolf is a CGI mess and the same can be said for Cyborg’s facial features at times. There’s even a scene of Diana walking down a street that was all digitized. Did we really need that scene done in a computer? You couldn’t find a street you liked? Luckily when these effects do get started, we at least see some cool superhero action, and that’s part of what really saves this movie.

Finally, I have to talk about the plot. It’s about as generic as they come with a powerful villain returning to take over/destroy the world. How many times have we seen that one before? A lot of superhero movies do this but add something new to make it work, others don’t take the effort. Justice League does go cool places with this story, but it never feels as developed as it should. It also doesn’t help that so much time is spent introducing characters that should have probably been introduced before this movie was even released. Steppenwolf isn’t even that thrilling of a villain. He works fine, but he’s no General Zod or Ares. He does provide an insanely cool flashback, but he proves not to be all that during the finale.

It may sound like I’m giving Justice League a really hard time, but I did enjoy the movie. It’s a loud, action flick with some great superheroes, but I still expect more from a huge blockbuster like this. There was good humor in the screenplay so it never got overly dark, the action was really cool, and the chemistry between the characters was all there. Unfortunately, the story was weak, the pacing was choppy, and the villain was unremarkable. Justice League is far and away a better movie than Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad. It doesn’t quite meet Wonder Woman, so I’d stick it around where Man of Steel is. This is far from perfect, but it’s still a step in the right direction. DC can learn a thing or two from this and work to improve.

Final Grade: B-

Logan – Review

6 Mar

The X-Men series of movies seems to have been around forever. The beloved team of mutant heroes were shown onscreen in live action for the first time back in 2000, and there are a few of these actors that are still playing the same roles almost two decades later. In this case, I’m talking about Hugh Jackman as Wolverine/Logan and Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier/Professor X. Now, here in 2017, we’re seeing the departure of these two actors from their respective roles in the newest film of this series, Logan. What a movie to go out on. This isn’t just the best X-Men film to date, it may very well reign supreme as the best superhero film ever made.

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In the not so distant future, mutants are on the brink of extinction and have to go into hiding to avoid certain death squads and other forces that want them gone. One of these mutants is a much older Logan (Hugh Jackman) who is working as a limo driver to support his vices while also supporting a sickly Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). A chance encounter with a nurse ends with a little girl, Laura (Dafne Keen), being left with Logan and Charles who are tasked with transporting Laura to a safe haven for mutants. Laura is soon revealed as a mutant test subject known as X-23, who is on the run from the company’s head of security, Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), and his soldiers called the Reavers. Against Logan’s best wishes and attempts to rid himself of the responsibility, he takes both Laura and Charles out of their compound and begin their journey to the haven with Donald and his men hot on their tails.

There’s so much about this movie I want to dive right into that I have to force myself to stay focused. Let’s talk story first. I tried to keep my summary as vague as possible because there are so many layers and feelings that start to peel away as the movie goes on. It would be impossible to try and cover everything that is important in this movie because there isn’t one frame that is unnecessary. The story to Logan isn’t like any other X-Men movie, and it plays out like a very intense character drama as much as it is a graphically violent action film. The main reason this movie worked so well for me is because of how deep the story is and how it explored parts of these characters that were never seen before. The story is about Logan and Charles protecting X-23, but it’s also a story of family, regret, and severe, relentless pain. It’s can be a rough one at times, but I commend writer/director James Mangold and his co-writers for going there.

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The decision to make Logan rated R was a very smart move from 20th Century Fox, especially after the over the top success of Deadpool. This works great for the drama that I’ve already talked about as well as the action sequences. Let’s talk action, now. This is still a superhero movie, and a superhero movie completely devoid of action would be weird. Wolverine has always been viewed as an angry character prone to violent outbursts, and we’ve seen that in previous X-Men movies, but never like what I’ve just witnessed in Logan. This is Wolverine at his most unhinged. Limbs fly, heads roll, and the scenery is often times showered with pieces of whoever got in Logan’s way. What’s cool about it, also, is that it isn’t violence for the sake of violence. There’s a fair amount of action sequences that go heavy on the violence, but it has weight backing it up, and it never gets to a level that’s solely exploitive and gratuitous. It’s very well handled and was never anything less than exciting.

Finally, Logan has an excellent cast of characters and actors who play them to perfection. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart have been playing these parts for years, so it’s pretty clear that they have their roles completely covered. Stewart gives a subtle and often sad performance here, where we see Professor X in ways that I’ve never thought I would. As for Hugh Jackman, this is simply his best performance. It’s controlled while also being ferocious, but the quieter and more contemplative scenes is where Jackman really shines by making Logan so vulnerable and appear so broken. There’s also some great newcomers to the series that are memorable. Dafne Keen, despite her relatively young age, is outstanding as X-23 and can really hold her own in terms of the ferociousness that is expected from the character. I also really enjoyed Boyd Holbrook’s portrayal of Donald Pierce, whose villainy oozed through every scene he was in. It’s exactly how I like my comic book bad guys.

I really wasn’t a fan of X-Men Origins or The Wolverine so I was really hoping that Logan was going to do the character right. Well, it sure does and it does even better than I could have hoped. It’s sad to see Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart bowing out of their roles, but this was the send off that they deserved. This is a powerful film that has some really heavy storytelling that will leave you teary eyed yet incredibly satisfied. This is the best written and executed entry of all the X-Men films and it brings something new and exciting to the superhero genre that can potentially change the game. I absolutely loved Logan.

Final Grade: A+

Suicide Squad – Review

9 Aug

This is a review I’ve been looking forward to writing for a long time since Suicide Squad has been one of my most anticipated movies of 2016. A lot of my hopes for a really good modern DC live action movie was almost completely destroyed after seeing Batman v. Superman earlier this year. It was a muddled mess of a movie that was far too long and didn’t have enough in the ways of story or entertainment. Based on the large majority of reviews I’ve seen about Suicide Squad, I was ready to accept that this was going to be another stinker. Fortunately, and despite what seems to be the popular opinion, I had a really good time with this movie even with all of its glaring, painfully obvious flaws.

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With supernatural beings and metahumans becoming more known, government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) creates a special ops unit called Task Force X, aka the Suicide Squad, to complete missions that are to sensitive and controversial for official branches to handle. This squad is made up of expert assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), the beautifully dangerous psychopath Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the mutated Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Australian thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), former gangster El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), martial artist Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and loyal soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnamen). While hosting a plethora of differences in opinion, technique, and beliefs, this unlikely crew must band together to stop the overwhelmingly powerful abilities of the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), whose main goal is to once again have the human race fear her, while also keeping the anarchic doings of the Joker (Jared Leto) in check.

I want to get the obvious problems with this movie out of the way, because while I liked this movie overall, there are some pretty large mistakes that were made. For one thing, some of the dialogue is beyond stupid. We all understand that the Suicide Squad is made up of villains. The characters didn’t have to refer to themselves as “the bad guys” multiple times throughout the movie. If they did it once, that would’ve been fine, but they said it over and over again. That’s just one example of the writing. A lot of the characters are also extremely underutilized. The little bits we got of Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, and Katana were all really cool, but they never actually end up doing much of anything in the movie, which is very disappointing. How can you make a movie about an entire squad of characters and not give every member their time to shine? Enchantress also doesn’t work too great as a villain, and my main reasoning for this is that she doesn’t really interact with any of the members of the Suicide Squad until the very end. I like a villain that has a very known and active presence, and Enchantress just didn’t command the screen like she should have.

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Now that all that gross stuff is out of the way, I can talk about what made Suicide Squad as fun as it was. The characters that do get attention all knock it out of the park. Viola Davis is menacing as Amanda Waller, and was easily one of the most interesting characters in the entire movie. Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Joel Kinnamen also are spot on with their roles, and I was surprised that these characters actually develop very well individually and also in their relationships with one another. Character development was something Batman v Superman really lacked, so luckily this movie picked up the attention to detail a little bit. Jay Hernandez was surprisingly a really great character and might actually be the most fulfilling character, rivaled only by Smith’s story arc. Finally, everyone was curious what Leto was going to do with the Joker, and I’m relieved to say that he has taken the character and really made it his own. This is a Joker that’s taken lessons from cartel members, while also making Arkham Asylum his getaway of choice. He stole every scene he was in and I can’t wait to see more of him.

One of the most important things a movie can be to me is entertaining. It’s great if a movie looks beautiful, has deep themes and strong characters, but if it fails to draw me into it what’ the point of even watching? More than any of the flaws Suicide Squad had, it had me entertained for most of the run time. There was plenty of action, more humor than the DCEU has yet to see, and an overabundance of energy that kept me into the story and the action. I hate to keep referring back to Batman v Superman, but indulge me. That movie had action and energy at moments, but there was so much muddy stuff to get through that by the time things were starting to pick up that were relevant to the story, I was already tired of it. Suicide Squad was a much more compact movie and every scene had a place and significance. While the middle of the movie got a little slow and drawn out, it soon found its way again and the flow of the plot resumed normally. If a movie can hook me, it’s already done a very important job.

I can see why a lot of people may not like this movie considering it has a lot of obvious problems with the writing and some of the characters. That being said, I can’t really understand all of the hate that being thrown at it. Suicide Squad isn’t a perfect movie, but, to me, it was a whole lot of fun. There’s plenty of action, good humor, and a strong sense of style. Comparing it to Man of Steel and Batman v SupermanSuicide Squad might be my favorite entry in the DCEU to date. If the characters were written better and the story was tweaked a little bit, this movie could have been something great. As it stands, it’s an entertaining summer movie that I’d love to see again.

X-Men: Apocalypse – Review

13 Jun

Ever since X-Men was first released back in 2000, there’s been a slew of movies added to this series to make it one of the biggest superhero franchises of all time. Some of these entries have been outstanding, like X2: X-Men United and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Others have become something of a bad joke, like X-Men 3: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It really seems like the makers had absolutely no idea what to actually do with the material, and what we have left is a storyline filled with time travel, alternate universes, and people dying and coming back to life. It’s all very hard to keep track of. Now we have X-Men: Apocalypse, a film that tries to tie up a lot of loose ends while also introducing some of the most badass characters to the universe to date. This movie may be a bit of a mess, but it’s still a strong installment in the series.

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Thousands of years ago, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), also known as Apocalypse, is betrayed and buried hundreds of feet below ground. Jump to 1983 in what is now Cairo. Apocalypse finally awakens and moves to the surface to start a plan that will rid Earth of the humans who have “destroyed” the planet so that the “strong” can keep living. This presence is soon felt by Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) who is still running the ever growing school for mutants to learn how to harness their abilities. As Xavier tries to pinpoint and identify what’s cause this disturbance he’s feeling, Apocalypse begins recruiting his soldiers including Psylocke (Olivia Munn), a young Ororo Monroe/Storm (Alexandra Shipp), and a completely broken down and hopeless Erik Lensherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender). As the might of Apocalypse is being wrought all throughout the world, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and a group of young mutants find their way to the Professor in order to stop En Sabah Nur from fulfilling his ultimate plan.

While this movie features many of the same actors we’ve seen in First Class and Days of Future Past, there are also a good amount of new faces. I’ve already said that I love James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Xavier and Magneto, and while I don’t like what’s happening to her character, Jennifer Lawrence plays Mystique very well. I’d much rather look at some of the new faces. Sophia Turner is note perfect as a young Jean Grey, as is Tye Sheridan as a young Scott Summers/Cyclops. Alexandra Shipp is also perfectly cast as a young Storm, complete with an accent and back story. Let’s be real though. The stand out of this movie is Apocalypse, himself. Apocalypse is one of the coolest villains Marvel has ever created, and Oscar Isaac is absolutely menacing. He doesn’t even need to be speaking to be terrifying. The looks he gives his enemies is so full of powerful confidence and violence, mixed with the excellent make up that was applied. He steals the show and is one of the stand out characters, for me, in the entire franchise.

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X-Men: Apocalypse has some of the coolest moments in the entire series, which I will most certainly get to later. I also would like to point out that it also has some of the most tedious and pointless moments in the entire series. The movie starts out well enough and there’s more set up that happens than you might expect, but that’s ok. I was going with it for a while. However, there’s a part in the middle that is completely unnecessary to the plot concerning Apocalypse. Anyone who’s seen this movie knows what scene I mean, and it definitely is a cool scene, but I couldn’t help but feel like I got off at the wrong exit and had to turn back around to get back to where I wanted to be. It would’ve been fine, but once that whole section was over it was never discussed again and had no effect on the main story. Plus, I have to say that the X-Men timeline and continuity has gotten so out of control it’s best to just watch these movies and not think too hard about how they all lead into each other.

Now that we got all that garbage out of the way, I’d like to get back to all the awesome stuff. I’ve already mentioned how epic I think Apocalypse is, so let’s move on to more. Evan Peters returns as Quicksilver, and if you thought he was cool in Days of Future Past, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Not only does he get a cooler slow motion scene, but he also gets to do more with the X-Men and has a dramatic arc that brings a lot to his character. I also have to give a huge shout out to the people who worked on the sound and visual effects. Apocalypse’s awakening made the ground rumble and got me so pumped for the rest of the movie. Meanwhile the CGI in the final battle was epic. Things were flying all over the place, buildings were collapsing, and all hell was just breaking loose. This is a really well made movie and acts as further proof that Bryan Singer is the X-Men guy.

X-Men: Apocalypse isn’t the best entry in the series, but it’s also far from being the worst. In fact, it’s a perfectly competent and often times exhilarating exercise in the super hero genre. This series seems to have gone on since the beginning of time, and after seeing this one I’ve realized that I’m nowhere near ready to see these movies cease to exist. They’re just too much fun to forget about.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Review

27 Mar

Well, here we are. I’ve been waiting a very long time for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to be released, as I’m sure many other people have been as well. Before this film we got Man of Steel which I thought was a pretty cool movie despite the pacing to be way off, which made the whole movie feel overly long and slightly disjointed. Going into this movie, I had these problems in mind while I was gauging my expectations. It is a Zack Snyder movie, after all. You really have to approach his films with caution. Now that I’ve seen Batman v Superman I can say that all of my worries and suspicions about the pacing have come true, but in much worse ways than I ever imagined. That being said, there are still some rewarding elements to this movie that made it worth seeing.

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While Superman (Henry Cavill) can easily be called a hero in many regards, it may be hard to say that while watching him destroy a city in order to defeat fellow Kryptonian General Zod (Michael Shannon). This is the conflict suffered by Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), a billionaire playboy who just so happens to be the masked vigilante of Gotham City, Batman. Bruce is very uncomfortable with seeing the power Superman can wield go on without any repercussions, so he makes it his mission to find a way to put that power in check and ultimately get rid of the Man of Steel. Meanwhile, criminal mastermind Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg) begins working on a way to use kryptonite as a deterrent against Superman and other super powerful beings in case the need should arise that the human rase needs protection from the so called protectors. What happens next is a clash of super heroic titans that will pave the way for heroes and villains of the future (at least in terms of the DC cinematic universe).

Where do I even begin? Throughout Snyder’s filmography, it has become quite clear that the pacing of his movies slows them down so much, it literally feels like the plot is stuck in the mud. I knew this was going to be the case in Batman v Superman, so I went into the movie ready for that. Little did I know that it was going to be this horrendously overstuffed, paced out, and edited. Like, honestly, how did this movie get a pass? It has such a sloppy structure that at times makes the story incoherent, which is a huge problem considering that this movie is the start of a much bigger DC universe. Not to mention that there are so many scenes and story arcs that only seemed to be in there so the movie can be over two and a half hours long. There’s one story arc about Lois Lane investigating a prototype bullet being sold to radicals that was SO INSANELY STUPID I couldn’t even handle it.

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While this movie is absolutely infuriating at times, when Batman v Superman gets good, it gets great. The entire political game that Luthor and Senator Finch are involved in along with Superman facing up to the damage he’s caused is very interesting. Bruce Wayne also has some really dark scenes where you can almost see his past excursions as the Dark Knight and how they’ve so negatively affected him. These are the scenes that really stand out, but the action sequences in this movie are also very memorable and exciting. Wether it’s Batman careening through the streets of Gotham in his Batmobile, the duel between Batman and Superman, or the overwhelmingly destructive showdown with Doomsday, this movie has some seriously great looking action that almost makes all the scenes that shouldn’t have existed worth it.

When it was first released that Ben Affleck was cast as Batman/Bruce Wayne, many people seemed to be outraged. I, personally, was more curious to see how he’d play it. Turns out, he gives one of the best performances of the character, and certainly is the darkest Bruce Wayne has ever been on the silver screen. Henry Cavill continues to be fine as Superman/Clark Kent, and pretty much gives the same performance he did in Man of Steel. Jeremy Irons, unsurprisingly, is great as Alfred, who appears just as world weary as his troubled bat companion. Gal Gadot, while not in the movie all that much, was totally badass as Wonder Woman, and I can’t wait to see more of her in future installments. Now we come to Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, a casting choice that shows that a bunch of lunatics were working on this movie. Oddly enough, I didn’t hate Eisenberg as much as I thought I was going to. He played an obsessive compulsive psychopath very well, but really it wasn’t Lex Luthor I was watching. I more so hate what they did to the character, while Eisenberg seemed to play it as best he could.

Calling Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a disappointment is a completely valid and accurate statement. That being said, it isn’t an awful movie. I can’t really say it’s all that good of a movie, either. All I can say is that it’s ok, and I really wish it was more than that. The worst part of it is that I can see a great movie somewhere, but it’s covered by so much garbage and stupid plot arcs and unnecessary scenes. It’s devastating to see a movie with so many great scenes get dragged into mediocrity because of poor directorial choices and a screenplay that doesn’t make much sense. DC certainly has some work to do.

Fantastic Four – Review

3 Sep

I always look at movies at having a certain kind of structure. Every movie I watch has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In that regard I have to hold Fantastic Four as one of the most complex experimental films I have ever seen. I’m kidding, of course. That would be the same as me saying that Fantastic Four is the best comedy of the year. Let’s be honest, though. This is a superhero “movie” released in the year 2015, and this is the best they had to offer. Fantastic Four is one of the most gut wrenchingly awful movies I’ve seen in a long time, if you can even call it a movie.

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Reed Richards (Miles Teller), who along with his close friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), have been working since childhood to perfect a device that could act as a teleporter. This catches the eye of scientist Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) at a high school science fair. They bring Reed and Ben to the Baxter Foundation, along with Franklin’s son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and outcast Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell), to build it on a much grander scale. When the government wants to use their people as its first explorers, Reed leads his team on a rogue trip to another dimension where they accidentally receive superpowers, but also lose von Doom. As the kids are being utilized by the military thanks to their unique powers, the threat of someone now being called Dr. Doom looms in the next dimension waiting for revenge.

I have to give Fantastic Four a lot of credit for being a big budget blockbuster release without actually being a movie. This isn’t a movie, plain and simple. Let’s start at the beginning. We’re introduced to cardboard cutout recreations of the beloved comic book character. Since they seem to be completely devoid of all personality, it goes without saying that there is absolutely no chemistry between any of them. I can’t even blame the cast because they’re all very talented actors. Miles Teller and Toby Kebbell especially seem to be really trying to work with the lackluster material that was given to them. So with all of the characters introduced and all of the exposition given, the movie continues simply because it has to in order to get to the end, without any visible rhyme or reason.

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Now we come to the middle of the “movie.” Whether you like the 2005 version or not, you have to admit that it at least builds up some sort of suspense and relationship between the characters. In this version, there is none of that. After they get their powers, we skip to one year later, and they all have complete control over their abilities. Great. So one of the most fun parts of the “movie” doesn’t even exist. The characters who will later go on to be one of the greatest superhero teams in comic book history don’t even really spend any time together or talk at all, so when they are finally all forced to combine their powers (a scene which I am unfortunately getting to) it doesn’t feel cool because they haven’t been through anything together. It’s like the whole second act of the “movie” was scrapped which made me feel like I was missing a lot.

The third act of Fantastic Four may go down as one of the best punchlines ever put on screen. It so perfectly completes the joke. Instead of seeing a fight between the Fantastic Four and their arch enemy Dr. Doom, we see… I don’t really know what. It’s not a fight certainly. It’s not even a climax since nothing was really building to it. The scene just happens because it’s a “movie” about the Fantastic Four, so we need a final showdown where they all work together as a team. But they still don’t even really do that. What was everyone working on this “movie” thinking? Have they ever watched anything else before? What twilight zone an I in that something this ludicrous, muddled, and nonsensical can be released?

How can this “movie” even be called Fantastic Four when they really aren’t even in it. I saw no evidence of them or Dr. Doom or any of the other characters. This movie was in trouble from the start with the rights to the material, the studios making major changes, and Josh Trank’s apparent behavior on set. Fine, whatever. That’s not what I’m talking about. The fact that it’s 2015 and a superhero movie like this can be released is absolutely ridiculous. I can only hope that this acts as a punch in the face to studios, telling them that just because it has comic book characters in it, doesn’t mean it can’t fail miserably.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Review

3 May

Sure, this is only going to be the biggest movie event of the year. No pressure. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become one of the biggest money makers in the last decade, and you can see why. Because it’s so fantastic, you can’t help but love it. Anyway, it’s time to talk about the movie that I’ve been most excited about for the past year, Avengers: Age of Ultron. After almost completely destroying New York City in the first film, there was a lot that had to happen in this movie to make it really stand out, and of course a lot of people have been saying it’s underwhelming. To those people I ask, what movie were you watching?

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After everything that’s happened since the last film, the Avengers are reassembled to finally reclaim Loki’s scepter from a HYDRA outpost. After calling the mission successful, the team is faced with an entirely new problem. Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) artificial intelligence program that has been in the works becomes fully aware and takes on the form of the arch villain Ultron (James Spader).  After seeing the fallacies of the human race, Ultron begins his plan to enact a mass extinction so the species can hopefully evolve into something better, but that doesn’t sit well with the Avengers, and it’s up to them with the help of a few others to end the Age of Ultron.

I sometimes feel the need to say this, and this is definitely one of those times. That was a very difficult summary to write, and I know for a fact that I didn’t do it justice. Let’s face it, so much happened in this movie. Like a ridiculous amount compared to other movies, but what do you expect? We’ve all come to love these characters and really care about what happens to them, and now they’re all in the same movie once again. This time, however, Joss Whedon takes the characters and gives them more to do and more of a backstory for us all to appreciate. Another big plus that really stands out is that Hawkeye gets way more to do in this movie, and in fact has become one of my favorite characters.

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As with the other film, the writing in this movie is spot on, but it’s also where my only complaint really arises. James Spader does an excellent job as Ultron. They really couldn’t have found a more appropriate voice. The thing is, is that he was too funny. I would have loved to see a much darker villain, but it was almost as if they were substituting him for Loki. Loki was funny and it was appropriate. I can’t really say the same for Ultron. Still, the humor everywhere else was great. All of the characters interacted with each other very well, and you could tell that they’ve been working together for a while. Even secondary characters from other movies were written in and written in well. These additions of other characters makes Age of Ultron feel like the biggest Marvel movie yet.

While this movie is very funny, it also works great with the dramatic aspects. Sure, there’s more than enough action, chases, explosions, and destruction, but what may be even more interesting than that is what happens to the characters. We see more of their private lives and what makes them tick and where they all came from. Even Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch get great backstories which makes the audience actually care about them. If they succeed at their mission, we feel great, but if someone gets injured or dies, we’re going to feel that pain as well. This is what really makes these Marvel movies stand out amongst summer blockbusters. The characters, no matter how fantastic they are, are so three dimensional and solid that we really do care and want to see them succeed.

To put it simply, Age of Ultron may not be as great as the first film, but still it’s an amazing movie. It felt so great seeing all of these characters come together again to duke it out against Ultron. What I want people to take away from this review is that these Marvel movies are about the characters. The action and special effects in this movie are amazing, but what really hits home are the Avengers themselves. I not only loved watching this movie, but I loved the feeling of excitement that came after when I began thinking about what was next. What a great way to start the summer movie season.

Judge Dredd (1995) & Dredd (2012) – Review

1 May

With a summer full of comic book movies, I’m gonna be writing plenty of reviews of our favorite masked heroes. Let’s look at a more out of the way comic series for just a bit, though. In 1977, the British comic book 2000 AD was first published, which provided readers with new stories every week. The most famous recurring character of this series is none other than Judge Dredd himself. Like many comic book characters, movies were eventually made. In 1995 there was Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone, and in 2012 there was Dredd starring Karl Urban. To compare the two, let me just say think Batman and Robin compared to The Dark Knight.

Let’s look at the 1995 version first. Or maybe let’s just try and forget?

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By the latter part of the 21st century, the Earth has been turned into a desert wasteland. Whoever is left alive are forced to reside in giant Mega-Cities where crime runs rampant, as opposed to the alternative, which is getting torn apart in the areas outside the walls. In these cities, the law is upheld by “judges” who act as judge, jury, and executioner. The most feared of these judges is Judge Dredd (Sylvester Stallone), who is recognized for outstanding service and a brutal, no nonsense attitude. When one of his biggest criticizers is murdered, Dredd is framed and is forced to go on the run in order to clear his name and restore justice to the corrupted Mega-City One.

Now, I’m all about silly movies especially when the likes of Sylvester Stallone are involved, but holy hell… What is this? After researching, I’ve found that he production of this movie was nightmarish since director Danny Cannon and his screenwriters had a huge disagreement with Stallone over what this movie was supposed to be. Was it a serious action/sci fi or was it an action/comedy? Stallone preferred the latter which made for some serious rewrites. The outcome is bizarre. The film has a great look to it and the special effects are all really good, but everything else is pretty awful. Rob Schneider’s comedic relief is anything but funny and the plot is so confusing and muddled that I didn’t really care what happened in the end.

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The best way I can sum up Judge Dredd is by saying I was baffled. How could a movie based off such a cool, rough character be this silly? Did they really think the jokes were that funny? Did they know that the plot made barely any sense? I honestly don’t now. The movie starts off cool enough, but once the real story kicked in, I found myself losing interest fast. Stallone looks ridiculous in the he’s always standing ramrod straight and Rob Schneider was just plain awful. I could really only enjoy Armand Assante’s performance as the villainous Rico. He was way over the top and loving it. This film is hated by fans of the comic series, and honestly, even though I haven’t read any of the stories, can see why.

But all was not lost. In 2012, director Pete Travis and screenwriter Alex Garland teamed up to hopefully bring some redemption to the character. The result was Dredd.

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A new plague has struck Mega-City One, and it is the newest, most popular designer drug called Slo-Mo. It’s main draw is that upon inhaling, the brain is tricked into perceiving the world around it as moving at 1% its normal speed. Enter Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and his new trainee, Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a psychic who although she performed poorly at the academy may have special uses with her power. The two arrive at Peach Trees, a 200 story slum, to investigate a triple homicide. What the judges don’t know is that they are working against drug kingpin Ma-Ma’s (Lena Headey) best interests in the production of Slo-Mo. To counteract her situation, Ma-Ma has the entire complex locked down and orders all of the criminals inside to hunt down and kill the judges. What follows is a two man war to the top of the complex to find and judge Ma-Ma, but also just to make it out of there alive.

I said earlier that these two movies can be compared like Batman and Robin to The Dark Knight. While Dredd certainly isn’t as incredible as The Dark Knight, the comparison can still be seen. This is a much darker take on the lore created in the comic books and it succeeds so much more. Karl Urban surprisingly plays a much better, real, and strangely likable Dredd, but that’s just the beginning. Instead of trying to complicate things unnecessarily, Alex Garland kept the story simple and straightforward, resulting in a movie that felt like I was watching a live action graphic novel of the story. Another contributing factor to this is the cinematography of Anthony Dod Mantle, who has done work on Slumdog Millionaire28 Days Later, and Antichrist to name a few.

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Dredd is simply a much better movie than the 1995 original. It’s stylistically beautiful, is loaded with nearly non-stop action, and has a sense of humor that is appropriate to the content. I also can’t help but mention that it reminded me of The Raid more than once, but that’s great considering The Raid is one of the best action films of the decade. While this doesn’t reach the heights of comic book adaptations like The Dark Knight or The Avengers, it’s still a damn entertaining movie and one that I would love to see again and again.

So there you have it. If you haven’t seen these films already, I highly recommend skipping over Judge Dredd and moving right on to Dredd. He may not be the most well known comic book character, Judge Dredd has lasted over 35 years and counting, so much respect should definitely be given.

The Wolverine – Review

2 Aug

Wolverine and the X-Men are some of the most beloved characters in comic book history. Their powers combined with the team work aspect and some great villains have proved to be success for readers and with their more cinematic endeavors (mostly). In 2009, Wolverine got his own movie with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and that was anything but successful. Now it’s four years later and his second attempt at a stand alone movie is aptly titled The Wolverine. With promising trailers and marketing, which include some excellent posters, I thought that nothing could go wrong. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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Taking place after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is living in seclusion in the forest outside of a small American town. Haunted by his past with Xavier’s team of mutants, the loss of his beloved Jean Grey, and the constant struggle of the life that he has been living, he feels the desire to live a normal life. This wish seems to be granted when he is picked up by the mysterious mutant Yukio (Rila Fukushima) and brought Japan to meet with her boss and mentor, Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi). During World War II, Wolverine saved Yashida’s life and now that he is dying, Yanshida wants to return the favor. Unfortunately for Wolverine and Yashida’s grand daughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto) there are people who want Wolverine and his adamantium for mysterious reasons, and they won’t stop until they succeed.

I’m pretty convinced that 20th Century Fox released this movie just so we had something to hold us over until Days of Future Past is released. This does not feel like an X-Men movie at all. It could be argued that it is strictly a Wolverine story, but there are so many tie ins to the trilogy that it still has to be considered part of the canon that the previous movies have established. Jean Grey does pay Logan some visits in his dreams, and that’s pretty cool the first time it happens, but to keep having him get knocked unconscious and fall asleep multiple times just so we can have these scenes feels like overkill of a good idea. That’s a petty complaint, and just the start of a long list of reasons why The Wolverine is a major disappointment.

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I will say that this movie does have some pretty cool scenes, but I’m not saying that it’s a pretty cool movie in the least. A few scenes doesn’t make up for the rest of the movie. The scene on the train is a great action sequence that reminded me a lot of the climax of the first Mission: Impossible movie. The other cool part starts with Wolverine having an issue with a handful of ninjas and ends with a duel with the Silver Samurai (who gets incredibly poor treatment in this movie, and may be as big a disappointment to me as the Mandarin in Iron Man 3). Unfortunately, that’s about it. The first big action sequence that is really supposed to hook the viewer is so shaky that it made me nauseous. There were times when the camera man wasn’t even running after the action, and the camera was still shaking! Come on. That’s just stupid film making.

Finally, let’s talk about the story. So much potential is had here, especially with Wolverine losing his regenerative ability for some time. Nope. Wasted. Wolverine is shot and beaten, and the only thing that really happens is that he needs to chill for a few seconds and maybe take a nap. Great, so all of that potential suspense is totally lost. It would have been great seeing Wolverine try a new approach to taking down his enemies than just doing what he usually does and flail and stab about until they are all dead. It would have been awesome to see him adopt a more ninja-like style, using stealth and surprise. Also, there is a romance in this movie. Why, oh why? It really makes no sense to have it there and it has absolutely no bearing on the story a whole. It just slowed down an already slower than need be movie.

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So all The Wolverine really did was bore me silly. There is a scene during the credits that is absolutely necessary viewing, and is definitely a lot better than the movie itself. Major lore was changed in a way that was really stupid, there was a romance that felt forced, and the story was just wasted. There are other movies out there to see that are infinitely better than The Wolverine. Die hard fans may want to see it because it’s the newest movie in the X-Men universe, but don’t expect anything particularly good. I hate saying this about movies, but this one was just stupid.

Spawn – Review

19 Jul

Even while I was a kid I still loved movies, but there were a select few that I really loved. There was Star WarsMighty Morphing Power Ranger: The Movie, and then there was Spawn. Until recently, I forgot all about Spawn, so I decided to revisit one of my favorite childhood movies and see how it stood up to the test of time.

 

Al Simmons (Michael Jai White) is one of the best assassins in the business, but he’s beginning to realize that he needs to settle down and focus more on his wife and prospects of a family. His boss, Jason Wynn (Martin Sheen), offers him one last job. While on the job, Wynn betrays and murders him. Instead of simply dying, the devil Malebolgia (Frank Welker) and The Violator (John Leguizamo) offer him a deal to lead the hellish army and prepare for the apocalypse. Now Simmons is reborn as Spawn, and must decide who to fight for: good or evil, redemption or revenge.

Cool story, right? I can’t say I know anything about the comic books or the HBO animated series, but I would definitely like to check them out. As of now, all I have is this mess of a movie. I can see the obvious appeal it would have to me as a kid, but now it is borderline horrible. Once I started it, I was ready for it to end.

The problems here are many. For one, Spawn is a great anti/super hero, with a great origin story and powers. These powers and abilities make for some cool scenes in an otherwise bad movie. I feel like we don’t even really get to see him make use of these abilities until towards the end of the movie. That’s fine since this is an origin story, but that would be like having no web in Spider-Man or shield in Captain America. Instead, we get very quick uses of these powers that could have been so much more satisfying.

Let’s talk about the writing. Wow. Movies like this give me confidence in my aspirations of becoming a screen writer. The dialogue and character development is so cliché and generic that there is no possible way it could have been more bland. Martin Sheen is the CEO of a large corporation who talks tough. Surprise! He’s a villain that we’ve seen in hundreds of other movies. Thank goodness there is a nice family backstory that somewhat supports the character, Spawn’s, story arc. The characters and the writing were entirely two dimensional.

 

It’s one thing to talk about the writing in Spawn, but I almost can’t even mention the special effects. Before you say anything: yes, I realize this movie is from 1997 so the effects can’t compare to todays. Fine. But, look at Jurassic Park and The Phantom Menace (the only time I will positively talk about this movie), which only came out three years later. When Spawn is in hell, I could swear that it wasn’t finished. There’s no way that the special effects artists looked at the “finished” product and said, “Yeah, that looks good.” The only really cool effect is making John Leguizamo look like a short, fat clown.

It’s so disappointing to look at a movie that you used to love and have it let you down after years of not seeing it. This is exactly what Spawn did for me. The character and story seems really cool and interesting, but it was certainly not given ANY justice here. I’m going to start finding the comic books and watching the animated series in hopes that it will wash the hellishly bad taste that the live action film left in my mouth.