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I apologize for the lack of updates, but it was getting close to San Diego Comic-Con time and I was expecting house guests so I had to be responsible and clean the house for them otherwise they would have no place to sleep. But in good news related to Comic-Con, Rabid Movie Fan now has a YouTube Channel. The videos are currently all from movie panels from Comic-Con, generously donated by magicinthenumbers. Don’t expect video reviews of movies from me any time soon though as I have no ability whatsoever to record video. Also I don’t like being on film and avoid it whenever possible. 😛

Since I have house guests, still, and it has been nearly two weeks now, it’s been difficult for me to find the time to write up reviews. However, I should have a review up for The Wolverine pretty soon as well as Pacific Rim. And after that perhaps some mini-reviews of This is the End, Monsters University, White House Down, Despicable Me 2 and RED 2. I may also be seeing The Conjuring soon, but my plans are up in the air at this point.

So, quick update today, but plenty of content coming soon. 🙂

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Man of Steel

This film is Highlander.

Essentially, story structure-wise, it is Highlander.

This was all very distracting to me while watching the film. Even the transitions felt like Highlander transitions. He sees a school bus and then he remembers something involving a school bus. And it wasn’t just the flashbacks either. Lois investigating the “mystery man” and all the clues eventually leading her to track him down was all very similar to Brenda’s hunt for Connor in Highlander. I am not reaching for a comparison here. After the film’s second transition to a memory of the past, all I could think was “this is Highlander”.

Obviously it wasn’t all Highlander. The fight scenes didn’t involve any decapitations or Quickenings which is a good thing for a Superman movie. Though, if you accept Highlander 2 as a film that does in fact exist, then the Immortals in those films are from another planet. And so are Superman and Zod. The comparisons are uncanny!!!

But in all seriousness, though Man of Steel was a valiant effort on the part of filmmaker Zack Snyder and scriptwriter David S. Goyer, this was not what I wanted in a Superman movie. Perhaps it’s my fault as I have a lot of baggage with the character. I have been a Superman fan since I was a kid, reading comics from the early 70’s, and watching re-runs of the Superman TV show from the 50’s. So when I saw the Richard Donner film, Superman: The Movie, it was pretty much all I ever wanted in a Superman movie. It is still my favorite Superman movie. Superman should be an amiable fellow, always seeing the good in people, fighting for truth, justice and the American way. Superman: The Movie embodies those elements completely. It’s a perfect Superman movie. It’s the perfect comic book movie.

Man of Steel, however, is not a comic book movie. Every frame of this film is trying to ground the character and the story in reality. That is not Superman. The story is about a superhero from another planet who is powered by our yellow sun. He is weakened and could die from exposure to Kryptonite. He can fly, he has heat vision, he has x-ray vision, and he has super strength. Nothing about this character should be grounded in reality. That is not the point of this character. The filmmakers were trying to do to Superman what Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer did to Batman. The problem with doing this is that Batman was already a very grounded character; he has no superpowers. He’s just a regular dude who has trained himself to be in peak physical condition, he has a genius-level intellect, and has gadgets and tools to help him fight crime. You can take that and make a serious, dark film out of the character. It’s been done in the past in both comic books and film. It’s a valid take on the character. Not so with Superman.

Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, both of whom were sons of immigrants. The character of Superman is essentially an immigrant and he’s supposed to be proud of that. He embraces American life and values and doesn’t care that he’s not from this planet. His parents are Jonathan and Martha Kent. He loves his family. He is not a bitter, angsty, introverted teenager who is afraid of his abilities. To make him this way in the film is a huge disservice to the character. The way the character is when he first learns how to fly in this movie is the way he should have been his whole life, not just for the second half of the script. This was very disappointing to me.

The film wasn’t all bad, however. The opening scene on Krypton was great. It gave some good backstory on Krypton, good character development from Jor-El and Lara( Superman’s parents), and Zod’s introduction was very well done. It definitely set up the story well and it’s too bad the film didn’t have more of that level of writing. In fact, it felt like 50% of the dialogue in the film was all from the first 15 minutes of the movie. It felt almost as if Russell Crowe (Jor-El) has more lines of dialogue than Superman does. Actually, it felt like every major character had more lines of dialogue than Superman did.

Pa Kent is also uncharacteristic as Pa Kent in this film. After young Clark is seen saving some other children, he asks his father “what was I supposed to do? Let them all die?” to which Pa Kent replies “Maybe”. No. Never in a million years would Jonathan Kent tell his son Clark to not save someone if he can. I really hated that scene. That’s not how Clark would be raised. The writers just did that so they can have this powerful emotional scene where Clark has to make a tough decision on whether or not to let someone die or save them and reveal his secret to the world. More angst for a character that should have none. It’s a major disservice to both characters.

If the first half of the movie was mostly character development and drama, the second half was mostly action. A lot of fighting. A lot of punching.  A lot of Kryptonians knocking each other into and through buildings. There are trucks and trains and other vehicles of note thrown around with reckless abandon. There is also a lot of collateral damage done to said buildings and vehicles and people. I’m really curious what the body count ended up being after what felt like an hour of on-screen super-powered fisticuffs. It really did not feel as if Superman saved a lot of people in this movie. He saves the world, obviously, which contains a lot of people, but it really feels like the population count in Metropolis plummeted precariously during the pugilistic pandemonium.

So, in short, this movie was just not what I wanted from a Superman film. Superman shouldn’t be dark in tone, he shouldn’t have regret or angst over not knowing his parents or his inability to come to terms with his abilities. That’s just not the character I grew up reading and watching on television and film. They take too many liberties with the character and the movie suffers for it. One final issue I have with the movie  is also the reuse of Zod. And not only that but with all the Lexcorp logos strewn about on various buildings and trucks, I have a feeling the antagonist for the next film will be Lex Luthor. I am sick of Lex Luthor. I am sick of Zod. Between all five Superman films, we have seen exactly two super villains between them: Lex Luthor and Zod. I am sick of these villains. Superman has a large rogues gallery in which to draw on. They could do movies with Brainiac, Metallo, Bizarro, Solomon Grundy, Mr. Mkyzptlk, Darkseid, Toyman, or Doomsday, for example. The possibilities are endless! Yet, we’re still stuck with the same two super villains over and over and over again.

So, I end this review with a plea for the filmmakers: please don’t make Lex Luthor the villain in the next one. Please use somebody else. Brainiac would be a brilliant villain for Superman on film. The closest we ever got to Brainiac was the super computer designed by Richard Pryor in Superman III. In point of fact, I assume in the original script that computer was supposed to be Braniac but then someone decided to have Richard Pryor build it instead. If there is one positive thing I took away from Man of Steel, it was that at least it was a vastly superior movie to Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Even if this wasn’t the Superman film I wanted, it could have been much much worse.

Now You See Me

Okay, here’s the thing…

If you turn your brain off while watching Now You See Me, you may really enjoy it. It has a fun story, flamboyant characters, some nice visuals, decent action scenes, and a bit of romance as well. However, after the movie is over, eventually your brain will turn back on and the more you think about it, the less the film will hold up under scrutiny. Which, I guess, is part and parcel for a film about magic considering that magic works best when you are deceiving the audience. Just like this movie.

Before I get into that though, a bit about the characters. Jesse Eisenberg plays an egocentric magician. Isla Fisher plays an egocentric magician. Woody Harrelson plays an egocentric mentalist. James Franco’s brother plays an egocentric magician. Morgan Freeman plays an egocentric debunker of magicians. Michael Caine plays an egocentric financier of magicians. Mark Ruffalo plays FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes and Mélanie Laurent plays Interpol Agent Alma Dray. These are all the main characters. None of them are really “supporting actors” unless you consider the whole cast nothing but supporting actors. The bottom line is none of them stand out as the sole protagonist of the story. In fact, if there was one, it would probably be Mélanie Laurent’s character as she is the only person in this story who is even somewhat likable. Every single one of the Four Horsemen (the four previously mentioned egocentric magicians) is a jerk and not likable in any way. Michael Caine’s character isn’t particularly likable. Morgan Freeman’s character is a giant smart-ass. Even Mark Ruffalo’s character, who we are supposed to be somewhat sympathetic towards, is pretty selfish, kind of mean, and yells a lot for no apparent reason. I kept expecting him to turn into The Hulk at some point.

For me, I can’t be interested in a movie if there is no clear protagonist, especially one that’s not likable. It’s the reason I can’t watch Wes Anderson movies. For some reason his films are full of completely unlikable characters, none of whom I want to or can root for. Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman play a couple of completely unlikable jerks fighting over a woman in Rushmore. Normally I would root for the woman in the film to just spurn both these guys and tell them to leave her alone, but no, she’s not particularly likable either. And let’s not forget The Royal Tenenbaums which contains not a single entity that could be considered a decent human being. I couldn’t make it a half-hour into that picture before turning it off in disgust. So clearly if there’s no clear-cut protagonist, it’s difficult for a film to hold my interest. The only reason this one did was mostly because it focused on the FBI and Interpol agents and not the smug magicians and the rest of their ilk. In fact, I was rooting for the police to catch those annoying twerps.

To explain why this film lies to the audience would require me to spoil the movie. And I don’t want to do that. Suffice it to say, when the mystery of the so-called “fifth horseman” is revealed, some people sitting near me in the theater couldn’t believe it. And I couldn’t either. The main reason is because at times the movie showed this character acting just like the character they were portraying and not as the character they were even when said character wasn’t being observed by any other character in the film. Ah, but you see, WE were watching. The audience. And we can’t have a character living a double life act suspiciously or our clever twist at the end will be revealed. So even when this person isn’t in view of the other characters, they were still acting like they were being observed. Magicians would call this misdirection, which is apropos for a film about magic. I suppose the screenwriters thought they were being clever writing a script that is essentially one huge magic trick. Another problem is a lot of the magic they showed was film illusion. One time Isla Fisher’s character throws out a scarf that starts swirling around and getting bigger and bigger until it reveals a magical apparatus. That can’t happen in real life. They needed to use a visual effect to make it look like that. There were these cards that once brought together became translucent and iridescent and even began to glow. Hogwash. Or should I say ‘Hogwarts’, because that is some Harry Potter level sorcery going on right there. So the least they could’ve done is be honest with the audience. But they weren’t and that’s a problem for me.

Overall, I would say the film is entertaining. It tells an extravagant story and is a lot of fun to watch. The problem is just that the film as a whole isn’t as good as a few of its parts. If they had just been a bit more honest about certain character’s motivations, I think it would have worked better. So I can only really give the film a marginal recommendation. It’s worth seeing for the spectacle, just not the story.

Now You Don’t

The Purge

The Purge is based on the ridiculous premise that in order to curtail unemployment, poverty and violent crime America has become a new nation where, once a year, the citizenry is allowed to commit any crime they choose in a 12-hour period, including murder. This notion is just silly. And I think the film knows it because they include commentary in the background on television news programs where some people are against The Purge because it just means those who have money can afford security as well as weapons while the poor, destitute and homeless cannot and they constitute a vast majority of the victims during this night of free crime. Well, duh…

In fact, a few characters later on in the film even explicitly say that one of their intended victims is nothing but a “homeless pig”. That’s pretty telling. So any social commentary you find in this film is bashed over your head constantly in order for them to make their point. However, regardless of the silliness of the premise, the suspense in the film is actually pretty well done even though most of it is the result of characters acting stupidly for no apparent reason. I mentioned lazy writing in an earlier review and said one of the symptoms of lazy writing is that characters will do something completely out of character just so the plot can progress and conflict can ensue. That is par for the course in The Purge.

It’s not all bad however. Like I said earlier, the suspense is good. The acting is great, especially by Ethan Hawke (Gattaca) and Lena Headey (Dredd). And I gotta say, the casting in this film for the antagonists was pretty much perfect. I have a feeling the casting call read something like this: “WANTED: 18-22 year old actors and actresses for suspense thriller. Looking creepy as **** a plus!” The cinematography was good too using security camera footage to increase the suspense at key moments.

Overall, I would say the film is a pretty fun ride. I personally didn’t find it scary, but the primarily teen-to-twenties audience I saw it with did seem to scream a lot and when there was a particularly gory incident the crowd did seem to get a bit unsettled by it. If you’ve read my Evil Dead review you should know that I relish that kind of stuff and though there wasn’t a lot of gore, the gorehound inside of me felt pretty satisfied given the fact that I really wasn’t expecting much of it at all in this film, regardless of the advertised subject matter.

There was also a very fun, darkly comical scene near the end of the movie that was probably my favorite part of the film. In fact, it was after that scene happened where I realized that this film does sort of suffer from a personality disorder. The first act feels like it’s trying to be a social commentary; the second act, a taut suspense thriller; the third act was sort of an action movie with a few bits of dark humor thrown in. If they had just chosen one of those to focus on for the whole film, I think it could’ve ended up as a far better movie. I do think the film is worth seeing, but perhaps not at full price. I would say it’s worth a matinee price or wait for home video.

Monsters University (not a review)

I was lucky enough to see an advanced screening of Disney-Pixar’s Monsters University on Friday May the 24th, a full month before the film comes out. Before the film started, however, a representative from the studio said that they are politely asking us not to write blog reviews until the day the movie comes out. So I will not be reviewing the movie until the movie comes out. We were told, however, that we could say things like “it’s great”, but just not review it because they don’t want spoilers and stuff posted all over the internet. I will comply with their request.

 

It’s great. 🙂

Star Trek: Into Darkness

*** SPOILER WARNING ***

Though I won’t be spoiling the whole movie or even a significant chunk of the plot, I will be revealing the true identity of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character that for some reason J.J. Abrams has decided should be kept secret even though the entire internet knew about it at least two years ago. But still, if you are one of the people who have luckily been spoiler-free up to this point, please wait until you have seen the movie before reading my review. I honestly do not want to spoil anything for anybody.

*** END SPOILER WARNING ***

I will state up front that I hated Star Trek (2009). I have been a Star Trek fan for a long time. Though I’ve always liked Star Wars better, Star Trek filled a different part of my fandom that Star Wars could not. That niche was science fiction. Contrary to seemingly popular opinion, Star Wars isn’t science fiction; it’s fantasy, or science fantasy if you prefer. Just because a story takes place in space or the future, doesn’t automatically make it science fiction. Star Wars has wizards and magic and princesses placing it very squarely in the fantasy category. Just because the backdrop of this tale involves space ships and droids and laser guns doesn’t automatically make it science fiction. That is because science fiction is a way of telling human interest stories against a futuristic backdrop or setting, in order to put those ideas in a different perspective. Star Trek (2009) was not science fiction, it was an action movie in space. There was no allegory, no message, nothing of substance whatsoever. It was simply a film with a lot of exciting action scenes tied together by a completely nonsensical story that didn’t even make sense within the context of the film itself. However, going into Star Trek: Into Darkness, I did try to keep an open mind. Because who knows? Perhaps the main problem with the script of the first one was all the time it took to set up a new parallel time line so that they can reboot the franchise didn’t give them time to tell an interesting and provocative narrative. Perhaps now that that was behind them, they could focus on telling a good story in their new (but still tied to the original via one character from the other timeline existing in the new timeline) sandbox. However, that is not the case. Instead of trying to tell a new and interesting story of their own, they just retread an old one and did an awful job of it at that.

The film opens up on the “M Class Planet Nibiru” where the crew of the Enterprise are trying to save a primitive species from extinction because a volcano is about to erupt. As a Star Trek fan I was immediately annoyed by this because doing this violates the Prime Directive. The Prime Directive states that Starfleet personnel are prohibited from interfering with the natural development of primitive species and cultures. Saving a species from extinction due to a naturally occurring volcanic eruption is a pretty clear violation of this edict. The script writers themselves even point this fact out to the audience by having Spock recite the Prime Directive to Captain Kirk, so I am clearly questioning the sanity of the script writers at this point. But then something amazing happens. Kirk gets in trouble for it. Christopher Pike chews him out and he gets stripped of his Captain rank. I was honestly surprised and delighted. I started to get my hopes up. I thought that maybe, just maybe, this would be a good Star Trek movie and for a while it was a reasonable facsimile. That is, until about roughly 40 minutes into the film when the narrative regressed into what I can only describe as a Bizarro World version of The Wrath of Khan.

Which brings me to the “mystery character”, played with a combination of herculean restraint and maniacal glee by the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock). There has been much to-do about the character he plays on the internet and elsewhere. Guesses ranged everywhere from Trelane (“The Squire of Gothos”) to Gary Mitchell (“Where No Man Has Gone Before”) and many even speculated he was a new character entirely. But no, he plays none of those. One of the more popular theories was that he was playing Khan and that’s exactly who he is. I really have no idea why they’ve chosen to keep it a secret. I would think that it would be a lot easier to advertise the movie and what it’s about if people were just told outright. However, the way the line was delivered where his identity is revealed, it certainly seems like they meant to keep it a secret even as far back as the script development process. But there was no surprise whatsoever. Nobody in the theater gasped at the reveal. Nobody clapped or got excited. Just silence. If this non-reaction was in fact due to everybody in the theater knowing who the character was, then it is Paramount’s fault for having the film open in Australia and other parts of the world first because clearly word spread. If they wanted this to be such a big secret so that nobody knew who he was until the day the film opened, then they should have had a global simultaneous launch of the film, similar to how Warner Bros. released The Matrix Revolutions.

Once again, the action scenes are plentiful and in some cases, similar to Star Trek (2009), the plot is only there to provide a reason for the flashy and sometimes silly action sequence. The opening scene is clearly inspired by Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of the early action scenes on Earth is vaguely reminiscent of the opening of Mass Effect 3, (this is probably just a coincidence as even though ME3 was released last year, this film has been in production much longer than that), there’s a chase scene on Qo’noS (spelled incorrectly in the film as Kronos, which is the English transliteration) that takes some cues from the asteroid chase in Empire Strikes Back, and there are a couple of space battles that are extremely brief and quite anti-climactic given the overwhelming difference in firepower between the two ships. Regardless, there is plenty of action to go around and anyone seeing the film purely for the action sequences probably won’t leave disappointed.

The problem with this film, just like the last film, is the utterly stupid and insipid plot. To be fair, the script for this film is better than the first film, but that’s like saying that getting hit in the stomach is better than getting punched in the face. Either way, you’re in for a great deal of pain. As I said earlier, the first 40 minutes of the film is not that bad and it is quite enjoyable. The action is pretty good, there are some great character moments, and it all feels very much like Star Trek. But then something goes wrong; the plot gets overly-convoluted, the motivations of the villains make no sense, and Khan becomes a deus ex machina personified in the hopes of fixing a terrible tragedy that occurs to one of the crew. It’s hard to describe this as anything but lazy writing.

One of the most common aspects of lazy writing, to me, is when a character or characters do something out of character or a seemingly random event happens in order to create conflict. For example, take The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. At one point Aragorn and crew head out to Helm’s Deep to defend against the imminent attack by orcs. On the way there they are attacked by Wargs. This didn’t happen in the book. The only reason they put this scene in the film was to create an action scene to make the trip between Rohan and Helm’s Deep more interesting. It didn’t advance the plot in any meaningful way other than to have another appearance by Arwen and to have an extremely melodramatic scene where everybody thinks Aragorn is dead and then he shows up and everybody is happy.

Things like this occur quite a bit in Into Darkness, as well as Star Trek(2009), especially in the last half of the film with the big reveal of who is pulling everybody’s strings. I don’t want to spoil that so instead I’ll use the opening scene where they need to “freeze” a volcano as an example. They can’t be seen by the indigenous species so they hide the Enterprise in the ocean. Why do they do that? Because the volcano is giving off so much magnetic interference, their transporters don’t work. That one line is the reason why they are doing things the hard way. Kirk is running away from natives that he pissed off and can’t be rescued by transporter so they have to run away and jump off a cliff. They can’t transport Spock’s device into the volcano so he has to be lowered via a cable from a shuttle. If the transporters had worked, this would have been a pretty cut-and-dried mission. But because the writers needed that conflict, needed that exciting opening scene, they came up with a reason why they wouldn’t work. They did the same thing in Star Trek(2009) where they couldn’t transport on the mining platform that was drilling into Vulcan because it was also, if I recall correctly, putting off a lot of magnetic interference. The solution? Let’s parachute from outer space. It’s so stupid it just might work. *sigh*

As a movie, it fails miserably. As a Star Trek movie, it’s even worse. Supposedly one of the screenwriters is a Star Trek fan. And apparently he’s the one throwing in all the easter eggs in order to entertain or appease Star Trek fans. Well, it’s doing nothing but backfiring. As mentioned earlier, they spelled Qo’Nos incorrectly and instead used the English transliteration. Perhaps they could’ve just used the real spelling because the name of the planet was already pronounced a couple times, so it’s not like people would be mystified by the strange word that pops up in the upper right corner of the frame. The other possibility, I suppose, is that the Star Trek fan among the scriptwriters isn’t much of a Star Trek fan and thought it was actually spelled “Kronos”. I hope this is not the case and it is just an oversight on his part.

Math also seems to be a problem for the screenwriters. The film takes place in the year 2259. One character remarks that the cryotubes of Khan’s crew are “ancient” and date back 300 years. What is 2259 minus 300? That would be 1959. So the cryotubes containing genetically engineered super soldiers were shot into space ten years before the Apollo moon landing. Really? In the Trek timeline, Khan and his people were created during the Eugenics wars and he ruled until 1996 when he was overthrown and he and his people escaped into space on board the Botany Bay. That means that in 2259, they would’ve been in space 263 years, not 300. I’m sure they wanted to use a nice even number rather than to have an actor say “two-hundred and sixty-three” but they could’ve just said “over two hundred years” instead and then there would be no issue.

If I wanted to I could really nitpick the film to death in how many ways it butchers continuity and the rules of physics in the Trek universe, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, the people making these movies are simply not Star Trek fans. To make the kind of movie they want to make they don’t have to be. They made a movie for non-Trek fans and it shows. I never thought I’d say this, but can we get Rick Berman back? At least he tried to be true to the spirit of Gene Roddenberry’s original vision even if he didn’t always succeed.

I did not like this movie. I can only recommend it to those of you who enjoyed the first one and even then you might not like it depending on how you react to the last half of the film.

Iron Man 3

Shane Black is the most underrated writer/director working in the film industry today. A brief synopsis of his resumé follows:

  • Lethal Weapon – Screenplay
  • Monster Squad – Screenplay
  • Lethal Weapon 2 – Story and Characters
  • The Last Boy Scout – Screenplay
  • The Last Action Hero – Screenplay
  • The Long Kiss Goodnight – Screenplay
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – Writer and Director

Not a bad film in the bunch. And now he is the co-writer and director of Iron Man 3, by far the best of the three Iron Man films. (and in some ways makes the second film worse) Though not as good as The Avengers, this is a terrific follow-up to the events of that film. Iron Man 3 takes place one year after the alien invasion in New York and Tony Stark is having difficulty coping with everything he went through during the course of that story.

Once again Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role of Tony Stark, a role he seems to be born to play. Gwyneth Paltrow joins him again as Pepper Potts, who is once again the CEO of Stark Industries and is still in a romantic relationship with Tony Stark. Don Cheadle, who took over the role of James “Rhodey” Rhodes in Iron Man 2 from Terrence Howard, returns as War Machine, though he has been re-branded by the President of the United States (William Sadler) as Iron Patriot. Jon Favreau, who helmed Iron Man 1 and 2, rejoins the cast as Happy Hogan, Tony Stark’s “bodyguard” and friend, and is now the head of security at Stark Industries.

Iron Man 3 introduces a bevy of new characters, not the least of which is “The Mandarin” portrayed in superlative fashion by the amazing Sir Ben Kingsley (Gandhi). Guy Pearce (Memento) plays Aldrich Killian, a character who comic book fans will recognize as the creator of the Extremis virus. Rounding out the new characters is Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) who is a genetic engineer and a former lover of Tony Stark’s from before he became Iron Man.

The film begins with an amazingly well-choreographed and funny scene where Tony is testing out his new Mark XLII armor, a new suit whose components all have their own individual sources of propulsion which are remote controlled via subdermal microchips that Tony implanted into himself. This new suit is reminiscent of the Extremis armor in the comics, though, to be clear, the Mark XLII in the film is not his Extremis armor. The test doesn’t go exactly according to plan and it is here revealed that Tony hasn’t been sleeping well due to the trauma he incurred during the Chitauri invasion of New York in The Avengers.

The story of the film centers mostly around Tony and his fight against The Mandarin but at the same time exploring how he copes with his post-traumatic stress disorder (as one character describes it) and the problems it raises in his life, mostly with his relationship with Pepper. However, don’t think the film is just about Tony and his “drama”. Oh no, there is plenty of action to go around and this is where Shane Black and his action expertise comes into full focus.

Shane has a strong background in action as you can see from the repertoire of films I mentioned previously. He even portrayed Hawkins in the film Predator, one of the greatest action films of all time. His first film, Lethal Weapon, is cited by many as one of the best “buddy cop” films of all time. The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight are two of the most underrated action movies ever and have some of the best dialogue in action movie history. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Shane Black’s directorial debut, is one of his most critical successes, though it was over-looked by many movie-goers and made a paltry $4M at the U.S. box office though it found many new fans once the film hit home video. It also just so happened to star Robert Downey Jr., coincidentally or not-so-coincidentally enough. So, after Jon Favreau decided to move on to other films, including his upcoming Magic Kingdom with Disney, Shane Black just seems like a perfect fit and the results speak for themselves.

The action scenes in Iron Man 3 range from the comedic (Mark XLII armor opening sequence) to the balletic (the mid-air rescue) to the brutal (a rough-and-tumble brawl with two super-powered enemies while the Mark XLII armor is temporarily out of commission). Director Shane Black shows his penchant for action as well as his ability to write great dialogue all while telling a personal story where Tony has to fight some of his own personal demons. It’s a fantastic film all around. The only blemish on my movie-going experience was seeing it in 3D. It’s not that the 3D was particularly bad, but it certainly didn’t add anything to the experience. If you have a choice, I would definitely recommend seeing it in 2D as the extra expense for a 3D ticket is absolutely not worth it.

I must also advise those of you who see the movie to stay through the credits. Not only is the closing credit sequence one of the best I’ve ever seen, but the post-credit scene has a hilarious cameo performance involving a character from another Marvel film.

It has been rumored that this could be Robert Downey Jr.’s last appearance as Tony Stark as his contract with Disney expires after Iron Man 3. If Disney isn’t able to bring him back, I would be very disappointed as RDJ has truly embraced the character and made him his own over the four films in which he appears as Tony Stark. Iron Man just wouldn’t be the same without him. In fact, when he was initially cast as Iron Man, I personally thought it was an inspired choice and really the only one that made sense. As it stands now, I’m not sure who else could play Tony with as much aplomb and energy as Robert Downey Jr. has. However, if Iron Man 3 is his swan song as Tony Stark, he sure picked a great movie to go out on. Iron Man 3 gets my highest possible recommendation.

Trailer Update

Not a particularly big week for trailers, but here are the highlights.

Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World is the sequel to Thor, the Kenneth Branagh film about the Asgardian Marvel super hero from 2011. I really enjoyed the first one. More than I thought I would even. I enjoyed it so much I immediately went to see it again the next day. A couple weeks later while waiting in line for the midnight screening of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, I decided to see it again because much to my surprise nobody else was there at 10am for a midnight screening. (In comparison, for the midnight screening of Pirates 3, there was already a dozen people or so in line at 5am at the same theater. I guess Jack Sparrow’s popularity waned a bit since then.)

This teaser is pretty effective in conveying that the story they’re telling in this one is probably a lot darker than the first film. It gives us a glimpse of the villain of the piece; Malekith, leader of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim, portrayed by Christopher Eccleston(Doctor Who, 28 Days Later). We also get a healthy dose of some characters who are returning from the prior film: Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins), Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sif (Jaimie Alexander). Set piece-wise it looks to be a much bigger scale (and a bigger budget) than the first one. I am really looking forward to this movie. 🙂

Thor: The Dark World releases to theaters on November 8th 2013 in North America.

Monsters University

*sigh*

First of all, let me state that I am sure I will enjoy Monster University. It looks like an entertaining and funny movie, much like most Pixar films. However, telling the story of how Mike and Sully became friends through a Scare Competition in college certainly seems pointless given the end of Monsters Inc., which I won’t spoil here in case some of you haven’t seen it. (If you haven’t seen it, rectify that immediately. One of the best Pixar movies. I would rank it up there with The Incredibles, Up, and Wall-E.)

The good news is John Goodman and Billy Crystal are reprising their roles as Sully and Mike Wazowski respectively. There’s no way this film would work without their talents so I’m glad they came back for this. Also reprising their roles are Steve Buscemi as Randall and Frank Oz as Fungus, Randall’s “assistant”. John Ratzenberger will be in there somewhere too as he is Pixar’s apparent “good luck charm”.

Monsters University releases to theaters on June 21st 2013 in North America.

The Bling Ring

Emma Watson is in this movie.

The movie comes out some time in June. Dunno. *shrug*

Ratchet and Clank: The Movie

The Ratchet and Clank series of video games is one of my favorite series of all time. Though the last couple of entries in the series haven’t been as good as previous games in the series, I’m still hopeful that Insomniac Games will make the games about Ratchet and Clank again, instead of Ratchet or Clank. You see the last couple games (All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault) have been more about co-op rather than a single-player experience with an emphasis on both platforming and shooting. I really hope once Insomniac is done testing the multiplatform game market with their upcoming game Fuse, they will return to the series that really matters most to their fans.

In the meantime, Insomniac Games and Sony have partnered up with Rainmaker Entertainment (formerly Mainframe, creators of Reboot) and Blockade Entertainment to produce a film based on the Ratchet and Clank games. Apparently the first one will be a retelling of sorts of the first game in the series, Ratchet and Clank. The plot of the first game involves Supreme Executive Chairman Drek plotting to create a new planet for his race, the Blarg, after their planet becomes uninhabitable due to excessive pollution. Clank, a robot created by “accident”, seeks to thwart Drek’s evil plan and gets help from his soon-to-be friend and crime-fighting partner Ratchet, a Lombax from the planet of Veldin. They visit various planets and seek help from the most popular hero of the galaxy, Captain Qwark.

The film is being written by T.J. Fixman, the current writer of the Ratchet and Clank video games so it seems as if the story is in good hands at least. The film comes out some time in 2015. I hope this means that we’ll be getting a new Ratchet game, possibly on PlayStation 4, to coincide with the film’s release. Keeping my fingers cross on that one. I really do want a sequel to A Crack in Time, which is pretty much the best game in the series at this point, Up Your Arsenal coming in a close second.

That about wraps it up for this week’s trailer update. Next week Iron Man 3 comes out so I’ll probably have an Iron Man 3 review for you at that point. I’m really looking forward to it. Shane Black is the writer/director so I’m expecting great things. We shall see. 🙂

Oblivion

Aliens have invaded the Earth and we defeated them with nuclear weapons. The Earth is a wasteland and man has packed it up and colonized Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. Meanwhile, one ship (the Tet, which I assume is short for Tetrahedron, because the ship’s physical shape is that of a tetrahedron) stays behind to do clean-up. This involves protecting these large autonomous platforms from the remnants of the alien invaders known as ‘Skavs’. They suck in the Earth’s ocean water to be used by the human colony on Titan. This is the story told to us by Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) via voice-over at the beginning of the film, part of the clean-up crew. Assisting him in this task is his controller Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) with whom he is romantically involved. He will soon come to realize that everything he thought he knew was true is not quite what it seems.

Oblivion_01sm

Oblivion, directed by Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy), is what I would describe as a hard-core science-fiction movie. A lot of people think all movies with spaceships and advanced technology are science-fiction, but this is not the case. Science-fiction is a method of storytelling where you tell human-interest stories (morality plays if you will) among a backdrop of futuristic tech and worlds. Star Trek: The Original Series was science fiction. As an obvious example, the episode ‘Let That Be Your Last Battlefield’ involves two aliens who want to kill each other. Bele is black on the right side and white on the other (the master race) while Lokai is black on the left side and white on the other (the slave race).  Clearly this was a story about racism and hatred. There was even a bit that touched on, in a roundabout way, the Vietnam conflict as well. The writers of that episode took an issue relating to the human condition and wrote a tale that puts the issue in another light. In this case in a future where the Federation was free of racism and could not immediately see the distinction in skin color between Bele and Lokai.

Oblivion uses this method of storytelling to explore the theme of human identity. What is it that makes us who we are? Is it our genetic background, our experiences as a person, or perhaps, metaphorically speaking, our soul? The backdrop might be a planet that has been laid waste due to war and conflict, but the story is that of a human, Jack Harper, and who he is and what makes him human.

There are parts of the film that are intended to make the general public not be bored by such a tale. There are action scenes meant to get the viewer’s adrenaline pumping and to introduce a feeling of conflict as well as some brief nudity to amuse the adolescent audience. However, these events are all necessary in order to show who Jack is and his place in the world. And then when something happens to put his worldview in question, he embarks on a “hero’s journey” to come to terms with how this affects his place in the world and what he is willing to do to save humanity from extinction as well as the person that he loves. Make no mistake, this is definitely a science-fiction film and one of the better ones in recent memory. I highly recommend it.

Trailer Update

Some new trailers hit the web this week. Here’s the ones generating the most excitement with my friends and other movie fans across the internets.

Man of Steel

First up is the third and final trailer for Man of Steel, Zack Snyder‘s reboot of the Superman films. Rumor is this will be a set up for the Justice League movie, but I’m taking those rumors with a massive grain of salt for now. To be honest, previous trailers for the film made it seem a bit too dark to be what I would consider a proper Superman film. But there’s enough awesome in this trailer to at least give me a little hope that it will turn out well. Buzz from some preview events is strong with some people predicting it’s the best movie of the year. So we’ll see how it turns out. I hope it’s as good as everybody thinks it is. I really want a good Superman movie.

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Next up is Star Trek: Into Darkness. I will be completely honest here. I was not a fan of the 2009 Star Trek film by J.J. Abrams. Actually I’m underselling that quite a bit. I HATED that movie. HATED IT! I have been a Star Trek fan since the 70’s and the most important thing about that franchise is that it is science fiction. In fact, many episodes of the original series were written by actual science fiction authors like Harlan Ellison and D.C. Fontana. So what does Paramount do? They give the franchise to someone who had never seen an episode of Star Trek and had it written by the two guys who gave Devastator a scrotum in Transformers 2. No, I was not a fan of that movie at all. And prior trailers for the upcoming Into Darkness had me thinking that I was gonna get more of the same terrible writing in the second one. But this time they have Damon Lindelof helping them out on the script. So maybe it won’t be all bad. Now that they’re done with that whole business of creating an alternate universe for them to make new Star Trek movies in (which they did incorrectly), perhaps they can just focus on telling a good story this time around. This new trailer is quite a bit better than the previous two, but I can tell already there won’t be any science fiction in it. It’s just gonna be an action movie in space like the last one. Except this one has Benedict Cumberbatch who is a terrific actor and absolutely brilliant in Sherlock. Everybody should see that if they haven’t already. Also he’ll be playing Smaug and The Necromancer in the upcoming The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Can’t wait for that one. I hope we get a trailer for it soon.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games surprised me. I am a huge fan of Battle Royale and a lot of people were drawing comparisons between the two, so I was indeed skeptical prior to seeing the film. And you know what? Other than a couple slow parts and some over-dramatization of some character’s deaths, I liked it quite a bit. So I am definitely looking forward to this one. And more Jennifer Lawerence isn’t a bad thing either. 😉

Gatchaman

So there was an anime in Japan called Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. It was originally brought over to America as the show Battle of the Planets. They butchered the original show in order for it to air as children’s programming. They also added a couple new characters in 7-Zark-7 and 1-Rover-1. These segments were done not just to add cute lovable robots to the show, but to explain to the kids that all the explosions and people screaming didn’t involve people dying. No, instead, the early warning system detected the invasion and everybody was evacuated safely. Yeah, no. In the original anime they showed people being ripped apart by carnivorous plants and blood and body parts being thrown all over the place.

So awesome.

Anyway, now they’re dong a live-action movie in Japan. I hope it’s good. I don’t expect it to be as violent as the original anime, but definitely not as tame as the Battle of the Planets version.

Also, bit of trivia. The animation studio that did the 7-Zark-7 and 1-Rover-1 segments was the same studio that did the animated Tony the Tiger in the Frosted Flakes commercials of the 70’s.

And now you know…