Season one of Netflix’s Daredevil was a revelation. I was blown away by that gritty, intense, adult take on Marvel’s blind super-hero. Season one of Jessica Jones was just as good if not better: a riveting take on a character whose life was torn apart by a trauma and a chronicle of her achingly slow, step-by-step effort to put her life back together. I also quite enjoyed the second season of Daredevil, with its great take on the Punisher (presented as he should be: not as the hero of his own story but as the complicated villain of Daredevil’s story), though they dropped the ball somewhat with the season’s ending. So I was pumped to watch Luke Cage, Netflix’s third super-hero show and fourth super-hero season.
There is a lot to like about Luke Cage. I love the atmosphere of this show, the characters, the music, the idiosyncratic camerawork. I love that this show, about a proud, strong African-American super-hero, has so many African-Americans involved creatively, both in the cast and behind the scenes. This gives Luke Cage a strikingly different look and feel from the other three Netflix super-hero seasons we’ve seen so far, and I love that.
The problem is that the story-telling here in this first season of Luke Cage is extremely weak. Character-arcs are disjointed and disconnected, and plot twists are either head-scratching obvious or so out of left-field as to be equally frustrating. This show makes the narrative stalling of Lost seem incredibly fast-paced; shockingly little actually happens over the course of these thirteen episodes.
The result is that while I certainly enjoyed watching this season of Luke Cage, this was unquestionably the weakest of the Marvel Netflix shows so far.
Let’s circle back to what’s good. The cast is phenomenal. Mike Colter was immediately amazing and iconic as Luke Cage when he appeared in Jessica Jones, and he easily shoulders the burden of being the lead now in his own series. I love Mr. Colter’s performance as Luke, he absolutely nails this character. He is noble and courageous while never losing the reality of what it would be like to be this man, gifted with bulletproof skin but who doesn’t consider himself a hero.
I have been a fan of Mahershala Ali ever since he appeared in the short-lived sci-fi series The 4400. (Back then he was credited by the even longer and more amazing name of Mahershalalhashbaz Ali.) He was phenomenal back on that show, probably the best thing about it, and I have enjoyed his work in the years since in films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Predators, and the Hunger Games sequels. He’s terrific here … [continued]
So, I assume by now you’ve all seen this:
Who knows whether the final film will be good, but that trailer is spectacular. There is some truly gorgeous imagery (like everyone else, I went crazy for that overhead shot of the enormous toppled statue of a Jedi Knight), which “feels” like Star Wars while also being new and different than what has come before. That is the balance this film needs to strike. As with The Force Awakens, this film’s whole conception is steeped in nostalgia (it’s a prequel, thus allowing us to get more of what we all loved from the original Star Wars: Darth Vader, the Death Star, classic Storm troopers, Tie Fighters and X-Wings, etc.), but for the movie to work it can’t just feel like a retread of movies we’ve already seen and loved (this was the major weakness of the third act of The Force Awakens) but like a new story worth telling. This trailer certainly strikes that balance, hopefully the actual film will as well.
By the way, this trailer’s suggestion that Mads Mikkelson’s character helps create the Death Star in order to protect his daughter (who will grown up to be the film’s main character, played by Felicity Jones), it got me thinking: was the fatal flaw of the original Death Star — that exhaust port that allowed the rebels to blow the whole thing up with just two proton torpedoes — not an accident? Could that weakness have been built into the Death Star on purpose?? I wonder if that is going to be what Rogue One winds up suggesting! That would be a wild recontextualization of the original Star Wars…!!
I’m enjoying Netflix’s latest Marvel show Luke Cage (full review coming soon… I still have five more episodes to go…) and while I wish Netflix would hurry up and get Jessica Jones season two in production (click here for my review of the terrific first season), I’m decently excited for their next Marvel show, Iron Fist. Here is the latest teaser, which is the most substantial look we’ve yet gotten at this show which is coming in March:
We’re only a few days away from Netflix’s resurrection of Black Mirror (click here for my review of the first two short but mind-blowing British seasons), and this trailer suggests that the new episodes will be just as amazing and nightmare-inducing as I had hoped. I cannot frigging wait for this:
Oh! And! Looks like there will also be a FOURTH season of Black Mirror from Netflix! Praise Jebus!
Here is a very, very brief tease for the next Planet of the Apes film:
I absolutely loved … [continued]
The X-Men film franchise began with such promise but it’s been a big mess for quite a while now. Bryan Singer’s 2000 X-Men film launched the golden age of super-hero films that we’re still living in. No one had ever before brought a super-hero team to life on screen. Mr. Singer was able to distill the head-spinningly complicated X-Men mythology into a movie with adult, complex themes that still contained a boat-load of super-hero fun. The near-perfect cast brought the X-Men characters, and their universe, to glorious life. That film was quickly followed up by the 2003 sequel, X2. That film hasn’t aged so well, but at the time many/most saw it as a brilliant expansion of the world of the first film. With its fan-pleasing ending (depicting the death of Jean Grey and final-shot tease of her return/resurrection of the Phoenix), I thought we were on the verge of an epic, multi-film saga that would continue for years. Sadly, that never was. Bryan Singer left to do Superman Returns and Fox, unwilling to wait, hired Brett Ratner to helm the disappointing X-Men: The Last Stand. Rather than continuing with an ongoing series of X-Men films, Fox seemed unwilling or unable to see past that initial trilogy, and it quickly became clear that the studio had no idea what to do with the property. There was talk for a while of a series of individual X-Men: Origins spin-off films, though the only one that actually got made was the dreadful X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Years past, and eventually the planned X-Men Origins: Magneto film morphed into the prequel film X-Men: First Class. I hate prequels and when announced this seemed to me like a bizarre step backwards for the franchise, but I was surprised by how great the film, directed by Matthew Vaughn, wound up being. I would have been happy to follow this fun new cast through a new trilogy helmed by Mr. Vaughn, but once again the series changed tracks as Mr. Vaughn stepped away and Bryan Singer returned to direct X-Men: Days of Future Past. While I would have loved to have seen a more-faithful adaptation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s classic story — one of the defining X-Men stories — I loved the way that film was structured to combine Bryan Singer’s original X-Men cast with Matthew Vaughn’s First Class cast. Days of Future Past was very solid, but what made me love the film was the final five minutes, in which we see that the events of the film have re-set the timeline of the X-Men films, giving a sweet happy ending to the cast and characters who had begun in 2000′s … [continued]
Marvel Studios is on a winning streak the likes of which I am hard-pressed to recall (the last decade of Pixar movies is the only thing I can think of that comes close) and Captain America: Civil War is even better than I had dared hope, an extraordinarily HUGE movie with astounding action and powerful emotional beats that pay off story-lines that have been building through the twelve (count ‘em, TWELVE) previous Marvel Studios movies ever since 2008′s Iron Man started this whole crazy adventure. I am a huge fan of the under-appreciated Avengers: Age of Ultron (click here for my review), but a strong case can be made that Civil War is what The Avengers 2 should gave been, a film that embraces the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, putting the characters through a wrenching emotional trial and eventually shattering the team that had come together in 2012′s The Avengers.
Following the events of Age of Ultron, Cap has been training and leading a team of Avengers consisting of himself, the Falcon, the Black Widow, the Scarlet Witch, and the Vision. As Captain America: Civil War opens, we find that Avengers team hot on the trail of Crossbones (the mangled ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Brock Rumlow from Captain America: The Winter Soldier). As the try to stop Crossbones from obtaining a deadly biological weapon, a fight breaks out in the crowded streets of Nigeria. Though the Avengers successfully stop Crossbones and his mercenaries, a tragic accident leaves a dozen civilians dead. This proves to be the last straw for a world that has suffered from a series of increasingly-escalating super-hero/super-villain battles (as seen in the previous twelve Marvel movies). Over a hundred nations band together to create the Sokovia Accords (named after the nation destroyed by Ultron in the climactic fight of Age of Ultron), declaring that the Avengers will no longer be an autonomous entity but now one governed by a UN-appointed supervising panel. Tony Stark, desperate to find some way to prevent future civilian deaths and ensure that the Avengers remain a force for good across the world, supports the accords. Captain America, worried that the international politics at play might prevent him and other super-heroes from acting whenever they feel it is necessary in order to save lives, opposes them. This philosophical debate becomes more urgent when Cap’s former partner and best friend Bucky Barnes, now the brainwashed hit-man code-named the Winter Soldier (as seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier) resurfaces and is apparently responsible for the murder of hundreds at the signing of the Sokovia Accords. Tony begs Cap to let the world’s governments handle the subsequent manhunt but Cap refuses to … [continued]
Let’s begin today with this: the single best joke told by every president, from Obama to Washington.
Fox has greenlit 12 episodes of a 24 spin-off series, 24: Legacy. It’s hard to imagine my watching that since I didn’t make it past the first two episodes of 2014′s 24 revival mini-series Live Another Day. I watched 24 from episode 1 of season 1, and at first I was evangelical about this amazing, intense serialized show. But truth be told the only seasons I really loved were those first two years (and even those seasons had plenty of problems). I stuck around for years afterwards and while there were some high points, I tended to find myself continually disappointed. I finally bailed before the final season. I had high hopes that Live Another Day would be a return to the show’s original greatness, but those first two hours just felt like more of the same. Oh well.
Far more exciting: Netflix has announced a Wet Hot American Summer sequel! The so-obvious it’s genius Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later will be eight episodes and, you can be assured, high on my must-watch list.
Was this seriously going to originally be the opening shot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens??? Love it!
So this is awesome: the Language Creation Society has just submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in Paramount’s suit attempting to halt production of the Star Trek fan-film Axanar. Seems this Language Creation Society objects to Paramount’s contention that they can copyright the Klingon language. You’ve got to read this article, it is nerdy and hilarious and wonderful. To restate my position, I strongly object to Paramount’s heavy-handed effort to squash this fan-made film. (After creating the amazing fifteen-minute Prelude to Axanar, this group of Trek fans fund-raised on Kickstarter — full disclosure: I have donated — to create a full feature-length film telling the story of the Five Years’ War between the Federation and the Klingons. This is an event that is part of the backstory of Star Trek: The Original Series. The planned film would focus on telling the story of Starfleet Captain Garth of Izar in the years before he became a crazy villain, as seen in the Original Series episode “Whom Gods Destroy.”) To be clear, it is probably true that the Axanar folks are in violation of Paramount’s copyright, but who really cares? These fan films are not a competition with Paramount’s official Star Trek efforts. These fan-made projects are done by Trek fans who love Trek. I absolutely guarantee you that every single Trek fan who donated to Axanar is going to buy a ticket (perhaps many!) to see Star … [continued]
One of my complaints about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was how much of the film was filled with shameless plugs for future DC Universe films. I am all for connectivity between superhero films, thus establishing a shared universe of story-telling. That is, in fact, one of the greatest triumphs of the Marvel cinematic universe! The problem with Batman v Superman was how obvious and awkward and often confusing those connections-to-not-yet-made-future-films were. The ending was a particular problem. The film’s ending (which I won’t spoil) was clearly designed to be a cliffhanger that would make an audience excited for the next DCU adventure. But I felt it landed with a thud. Rather than being excited for the next film, I’m already dreading the time that will need to be wasted in Justice League to undo the events of the end of Batman v Superman.
This got me thinking about great endings to films in a series. There’s something magical about a great ending to a film, particularly a film that is designed to be, not a stand-alone one-and-done entity, but rather an installment in a series. There is a delicate art to being able to satisfactorily bring a film’s story to a close, while also teasing future adventures. I adore that buzzy feeling of walking out of a movie absolutely desperate for the next installment, even if that next installment might be years away.
So what WERE some great endings to franchise films, endings that gave me that thrilled, excited feeling? Well, I’m glad you asked, as I’ve decided to list some of my very favorites.
Now, before we begin, let me clarify that I’m not talking about a movie that ends on a out-and-out “to be continued” cliffhanger. The best example of that would, of course, be:
Back to the Future Part II – This film, gloriously, actually does end with the words “to be continued.” (Well, actually the film ends with the words “to be concluded” which makes sense only when you know that the words “to be continued” were added on to the ending of the original Back to the Future for its home video release, so this ending of Part II now echoes/completes that ending of Part I. Without that “to be continued” ending of Part I, you might expect the ending of Part II to read “to be continued” rather than “to be concluded.” At least, I would! Sadly, all DVD and blu-ray releases of the original Back to the Future restore the original ending and remove that “to be continued.” But I dearly miss that “to be continued” ending, as that’s the ending I grew up with. Why no branching option, Warner brothers, … [continued]
I suspect by now you’ve all watched the first teaser trailer for Rogue One, perhaps (like me!) several times:
That’s a pretty terrific trailer. Not as instantly iconic as any of the magnificent trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but still pretty great. It’s a far more substantial look at the movie than I had expected for a first teaser trailer.
My main question is: why the heck isn’t this film called Star Wars: Rogue One? Because Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a heck of a mouthful. I guess we’re going to be saddled with this “A Star Wars Story” business for all of the non-official-”Episode” spin-off Star Wars films to come. I think that’s a big mistake. Just call all of these films Star Wars: Whatever You Want Your Title To Be. Isn’t that much more simple and direct?
As for the peek at the content of the film itself: well, I am on-record as hating prequels, but while I am absolutely DREADING the in-the-works “young Han Solo” movie, I am sort of taken with the idea of telling the story of the secret mission to steal the Death Star plans that must have happened right before the events of the first Star Wars. That’s a pretty big piece of Star Wars back-story about which we know nothing at all, and it seems like a cool idea for a movie.
And while we all know that you can’t judge a film by its trailer, this first trailer is pretty terrific. I love that, like The Force Awakens, this Star Wars film seems to be anchored by a strong female character in the lead. I really enjoyed Felicity Jones’ work in Like Crazy, and she looks terrific here in the lead as Jyn Erso (I had to look that up on-line). I like the Seven Samurai type feel to the film, of a motley crew of criminals and scum gathered together for a mission. (It’s interesting that Warner Brothers’ next big DC Universe movie, Suicide Squad, is also based on a similar premise. I am curious to see how similar those two films wind up being.)
It’s pretty cool to see those shots of Star Destroyers and the Death Star being assembled. I’ve heard rumors that Darth Vader will be appearing in this film (which would be awesome if done right), but so far they have kept him hidden in this trailer. (There is a shot of a figure in black kneeling before a pillar of light which resembles how Vader would communicate with the Emperor but that figure doesn’t look like Vader to me.)
I’m eager to learn more about the many new characters … [continued]
I thought that the first season of Netflix’s Daredevil was spectacular, dark and complex and very adult, a triumphant declaration of intent for Netflix’s Marvel shows. Jessica Jones, the second Marvel show, was every bit as good, telling a wrenching story of a young woman trying to put her life back together after a terrible assault. (Click here for my review of Daredevil season one and Jessica Jones season one.) Luke Cage (a character introduced so wonderfully in Jessica Jones) is scheduled to be the third Netflix Marvel show, but I was delighted that first we got a second season of Daredevil.
This terrific run of thirteen episodes make Netflix three for three, as they have followed up Daredevil’s terrific first season with an encore that is every bit as compelling and thrilling as season one. I have read some reviews on-line that felt this season didn’t live up to the promise of season one, while others felt that it blew season one out of the water. I didn’t have either reaction — instead, I was impressed with how consistent in style and tone and quality this second season was to season one. (This is particularly impressive because of some behind-the-scenes change-ups that I have read about. At the start of this second season Daredevil was on its third set of show-runners, which is not usually a good sign.) I loved the vast majority of season two, and though I felt they stumbled a little bit at the end, this is still a phenomenal season of television and probably the best superhero TV show I have ever seen.
With the Kingpin off the streets, at the start of season two all seems well for Hell’s Kitchen and Matt Murdock. But that happy status quo is quickly upset by a series of challenges. While the city has begun to embrace the vigilante Daredevil, those tentative good feelings are shattered by the arrival on the scene of another, more violent vigilante, the Punisher, who murders criminals. Daredevil and the Punisher immediately come into violent conflict. Then, Matt’s long-lost love Elektra returns to the city and his life. Elektra is revealed to be involved with the same war against an ancient evil that Matt’s old master Stick has been fighting, and Matt soon finds his city overrun with the vicious ninjas known as the Hand. Will Elektra fight on Matt’s side or will she turn fully to the darkness inside of her?
Daredevil season two is filled with a LOT of plot and a LOT of characters, and I was impressed with how well the show was able to juggle everything. I commented in my review of Jessica Jones… [continued]
I really enjoyed Hayley Atwell’s character, Peggy Carter, in 2011′s Captain America, The First Avenger, and I was thrilled when her character spun off as the lead of a TV miniseries last year, Agent Carter. That first season was solid though not spectacular. Ms. Atwell was terrific, a superb leading lady, and the show was entertaining if not hugely compelling. (Click here for my full review of Agent Carter season one.)
(Quick summary of my thoughts on Marvel’s TV shows: I adored both Daredevil season one and Jessica Jones season one, two dark, adult shows with rich characters and a thrilling intensity. In contrast, I have been very disappointed by CBS’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a show that I feel has been very flat since its beginning. That show has a decent cast but it’s failed to make any of its characters interesting or compelling, and the story-lines have been dull and simplistic. I finally gave up on the show this year.)
Agent Carter season two picks up a few months after season one, and the location has shifted from New York City to Los Angeles. Peggy Carter quickly finds herself in the middle of a situation with a crazy woman infected by a powerful substance from another dimension (“Dark Matter”), and a secret cabal of men working to take control of the United States.
For the most part, I feel that Agent Carter season two is very consistent with season one. That’s good and bad, as the show is certainly enjoyable but it doesn’t elevate into something really great. Compared to the brilliant Marvel Netflix shows, this network effort feels very simplistic. Still, Ms. Atwell is phenomenal, effortlessly shouldering the burden of her leading role. The show is fun, with a fairly light, banter-filled tone. The “pulpy” story-lines keep the audience interested, and once again the show mines great fun from the period setting. (At first I was disappointed when I realized this season would be set in LA rather than New York, but in the end I loved the switch as 1950′s LA proved a fertile ground for the show, and its bright sunny scenery was a good match for the show’s light tone.)
The biggest problem with Agent Carter is that Agent Carter is by far the most interesting character in the show. I wish Ms Atwell was in a better show, surrounded by more interesting characters and more compelling story-lines. While the show didn’t lose my interest at any point, neither was anything that happens in this season all that exciting or gripping. Last season, the show squandered the potential of Leviathan, which was billed as a vast criminal organization that was instead, … [continued]
I was of course excited several months back when news broke that a new Star Trek TV series was in development for CBS All Access. I have loved many of the big-screen Star Trek adventures, of course, but Star Trek belongs on TV. Star Trek began as a TV series, of course, and the vast majority on canon Star Trek adventures, hundreds and hundreds of hours, have been on TV.
We still know nothing about what the TV show will be about, what era it will be in, even what timeline in will be in (the “prime” timeline of all the previous TV shows and movies, or JJ Abrams “nuTrek” timeline from the past two movies). But my excitement raised by many notches when we learned a few weeks ago that Bryan Fuller would be the show-runner of the new show. This is an amazing choice, probably the best possible choice. Mr. Fuller has a lot of actual Trek experience. He was a writer on both Deep Space Nine and Voyager. In the years since, he has become a phenomenal show-runner, helming a number of critically acclaimed shows such as Dead Like Me and Hannibal. This makes Mr. Fuller a seemingly perfect combination of someone who has deep Trek love and Trek experience, while also very much being a new, fresh voice at the helm of a Trek show. I couldn’t be happier.
Or so I thought. Because then last week the news broke that Nicholas Meyer would be joining the writing team of the new show. This is unbelievable, jaw-on-the-floor, earth-shattering news. Mr. Meyer is, in my opinion, the very best writer to have ever worked on Trek in any of it’s many incarnations. He is responsible for the very best Trek, the Trek that most feels to me like my most beloved incarnation of the series. Let me explain. Mr. Meyer wrote and directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He wrote most of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. (He wrote everything that takes place in 1986. Mr. Meyer takes over the story with Spock’s classic line: “judging by the pollution content in the atmosphere, we have arrived in the latter part of the twentieth century.”) He wrote and directed Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Has Trek ever been better than those three films??
Mr. Meyer truly saved Star Trek back in 1982 with The Wrath of Khan. Remember, Star Trek was cancelled after only three seasons on NBC in 1966-1969. It was something of a miracle that the series was resurrected in 1979 with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. But that film didn’t quite get the tone of Star Trek right. … [continued]
Last week I listed by Top Twenty Movies of 2015. (Click here for part one of my list, numbers twenty through sixteen. Click here for part two of my list, numbers fifteen through eleven. Click here for part three of my list, numbers ten through six. Click here for part four of my list, numbers five through one.)
This week I began listing my Top Fifteen Episodes of TV in 2015. (Click here for part one of my list, numbers fifteen through eleven. Click here for part two of my list, numbers ten through six.)
And now, my Top Five Episodes of TV in 2015:
5. Daredevil: “Cut Man” (season one, episode two, released on 4/10/15) – I really, really loved the first season of Netflix’s Daredevil show. It was a bold announcement of the type of Marvel show that Netflix would be creating, something far darker, more complex, and more adult than almost every other super-hero TV show out there. This, the show’s second episode, is filled with greatness. I was particularly taken by the conclusion in this episode of the flashbacks, begun in episode one, of the death of Matt’s dad Battlin’ Jack Burdock, and the repercussions of the accident that blinded Matt but gifted him with super-normal powers. I love this show’s depiction of the relationship between Jack (wonderfully well-played by John Patrick Hayden) and his young son Matt. This enhances the gut-punch of the moment we all know is coming when Jack gets killed. I like that the show takes the time to develop Jack, as his presence will continue as a shadow over Matt Murdock for the rest of the season. I also enjoy the way this episode introduces Claire (Rosario Dawson) and begins to develop her relationship with Matt in the present day. But the reason this episode is on this list is because of the magnificent one-take action sequence that closes the episode. This incredible action set-piece absolutely blew me away. In one long, slow take, the camera slowly glides down a long, dingy corridor, as Matt Murdock battles his way to rescue the young girl being help captive in the room at the end of the hall. The sequence is a triumph of staging and stunts, as Daredevil and an array of bad-guys crash in and out of rooms, in and out of doors, sometimes in view of the camera and sometimes not, as Daredevil fights his way down that hallway. (It’s also a triumph of sound-editing as there are times when we can’t see what’s going on in the rooms beyond the corridor, but the soundtrack tells us everything we need to know.) … [continued]
And so we arrive, at last, at my five favorite movies of 2015. Click here for part one of my list, numbers twenty through sixteen. Click here for part two of my list, numbers fifteen through eleven. Click here for part three of my list, numbers ten through six.
And now, my five favorite movies of 2015!
5. Inside Out – Another triumph from Pixar, this hugely original film explores the inner workings of the mind of an eleven-year-old girl. I am blown away by how magnificently well thought-out the film is, how carefully considered every detail is. The film is a complete fantasy, and yet it’s a remarkably sophisticated presentation of the way the emotions inside a young girl might actually work! This is genius-level filmmaking here, with brilliant philosophical ideas wrapped in a deeply moving adventure tale. The film is elevated into the stratosphere by its magnificent casting, with the absolute perfect actor chosen to represent each of Riley’s five main emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), & Disgust (Mindy Kaling). The film is very funny and also absolutely heart-breaking. (Has the great Richard Kind ever been better than he is here is Bing-Bong?) Inside Out is a master class in the how animation can be best utilized to tell a remarkable story, a story that couldn’t possibly be told any other way. (Click here for my original review.)
4. Avengers: Age of Ultron – I can’t believe how under-rated and under-appreciated is Joss Whedon’s spectacular follow-up to the smash hit that was 2012′s The Avengers. Yes, Age of Ultron doesn’t have the never-been-done-before thrill of that first huge super-hero crossover film, which was the culmination of Marvel Studios’ Phase One, bringing together all the characters from the proceeding individual films. (This was something that had never, ever been done before, a fact easily forgotten now that Marvel’s model is being widely imitated by every studio in Hollywood.) It’s incredible to me that now, only a few short years after The Avengers, the extraordinary achievement that is Age of Ultron is being dismissed as ho-hum. Just look at pretty much any frame of this film and marvel (pun definitely intended) at how amazing is it how Joss Whedon and his team have brought all of these wonderful characters to life on film! Who ever would have thought such a thing would happen? Who ever would have thought we’d ever see the famous comic-book villain Ultron depicted on film (brought so brilliantly to life in the film by James Spader)? Or The Vision??? (Paul Bettany’s performance combined with note-perfect make-up effects and CGI made it feel … [continued]
Yesterday I began my list of the Top Twenty Movies of 2015, listing numbers twenty through sixteen. Now, on with my list!
15. Trainwreck – A perfect vehicle for Amy Schumer (who wrote the film, in addition to starring in it) and a wonderful combination of her very specific comedic sensibilities with those of director Judd Apatow, it’s no surprise that Trainwreck was a breakout hit for Ms. Schumer. That a raunchy comedy can have a woman as the lead shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is. The film is hugely funny and elevated by a spectacular cast including Bill Hader, Colin Quinn, Brie Larson, Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, a who-knew-he-could-be-so-funnt LeBron James, and many more. But the film is Ms. Schumer’s show and she crushes it from start to finish. Trainwreck would be higher on my list if it didn’t fall into a few romantic-comedy cliches in the third act, but it’s hard to criticize a film that is so joyously funny and filthy. (Click here for my original review.)
14. Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation – I still can’t believe how much better this film wound up being that this year’s James Bond installment Spectre. Both films are about our super-spy hero uncovering a super-secret criminal organization that, it turns out, is responsible for most of the acts of terror happening around the world. Both are globe-hopping action-adventure stories, both feature our hero assisted by a small cadre of allies and meeting a woman who shares the adventure. And yet Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation crushes Spectre in every way. I just re-watched Rogue Nation last week, and I was again bowled over by what a fun, thrilling roller-coaster-ride it was. Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie has a perfect command of tone, creating a film that is a ridiculously entertaining romp that also has serious physical and emotional stakes for our heroes. The film is gorgeous to look at and extremely well-edited. The action sequences are spectacular. That Tom Cruise hanging-off-an-airplane stunt that opens the film got everyone’s attention, and rightly so. The sequence is magnificent. (And once again an example of this Mission: Impossible film out-Bonding Bond, as this opening action sequence — a Bond-movie trademark — is far more memorable than anything in Spectre.) But there are so many other amazing action sequences in the film, from the extraordinary opera fight, to the underwater break-in, to that last big shoot-out-and-chase through the streets of London, and don’t forget my favorite: the escalatingly crazy car-and-motorcycle chase in-and-around Morocco. Making great use of the ensemble from the last two M:I films (including Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, and Ving Rhames) … [continued]
I was excited when Netflix announced that Daredevil would be the first of their Marvel universe TV shows. But I was even more excited when Netflix announced that Jessica Jones would be their second. I was also somewhat concerned, since as an enormous fan of the character I was worried about whether she would be faithfully translated to the screen. I adored Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’ twenty-eight-issue series Alias (published from 2001 to 2004) in which Mr. Bendis & Mr. Gaydos introduced the character of Jessica, and I have thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Bendis’ depictions of the character ever since (in his follow-up series The Pulse as well as various issues of The Avengers). Jessica Jones is one of most interesting and complex new characters introduced to the Marvel Universe in the past several decades. The potential of seeing her brought to life on a new TV show was delicious, but I also would have hated to have seen the character not done justice.
Thankfully, Marvel’s Netflix team is two for two as, just like they did with their tremendous first season of Daredevil (click here for my review), they have created in Jessica Jones a show that is thrilling, sophisticated, dark and very adult that is also a huge amount of fun and a delightfully riveting adventure. I loved pretty much every minute of it.
(Please note that I will be discussing this show in some detail. I will try to avoid major spoilers, but there’s no way to discuss the show without also talking about some of its plot twists. If you haven’t yet watched this show I advise you to go watch it immediately — really, it’s excellent, you’ll thank me later! — and then come back to read this review.)
When we are introduced to her, Jessica Jones is private eye in the Marvel Universe. Though not a very successful one. She’s reduced to mostly taking photos of cheating husbands on behalf of their broken-hearted wives. Jessica has super-powers: she’s very strong, able to run fast and jump high. But Jessica is no super-hero. She is gruff and grumpy, short-tempered and hard-drinking. As she tells Like Cage early in the show: “I don’t get asked on a lot of second dates.” But what we gradually learn as the show unfolds is that Jessica has become who she is because she has been deeply broken by a trauma in her past. A trauma with a name: Killgrave, a super-powered individual whose voice gives him absolute command over anyone within earshot. At some point before the show begins, Jessica fell under Killgrave’s control for many long months, and I probably don’t need to go into … [continued]
So, holy shit, I am seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens a week from today! That a new Star Wars film, featuring the cast of the Original Trilogy, is so close to being a real thing that I can see, is incredible. I expected that someday there would be new Star Wars movies, but I never really thought we’d see any of the original main cast back onscreen in their roles. Is the film actually going to be good, or will it be a Kingdom of the Crystal Skull level catastrophe that we’re all going to regret? I’ll know soon!! I’m very excited. I’ve been saying for years that I would love to, in my lifetime, get to see another great new Star Wars movie on the big screen. Let’s see what happens.
In the meanwhile, in Star Wars news, here is a phenomenal short interview with Oscar Isaac, who has become one of my very favorite actors (in killer roles in Inside Llweyn Davis, Ex Machina, A Most Violent Year, and Show Me a Hero) and who plays X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron in the new film. (I have successfully avoided spoilers in learning anything other than that about the character!)
The first trailer for Captain America: Civil War came out a few weeks ago, but I don’t think I’ve written about it yet. For a first teaser, it’s a hell of a thing:
I love that trailer, and I am really pumped for this movie which really seems like it could be called The Avengers 3. But what I love about the trailer is the way that, despite all the huge number of Marvel characters who will be popping up in it, this film really does feel like a Captain America film, with Cap front and center and the Bucky story-line (begun in The Winter Soldier) moving forward. I love how it looks like they’ve taken Bucky/The Winter Soldier and used him as the crux point for the Civil War storyline (from the terrific Marvel Comics mini-series written by Mark Millar and illustrated by Steve McNiven in which Cap and Iron Man split the Marvel universe heroes over their differing opinions on a law requiring that all superheroes give up their secret identities in order to be trained and regulated by the federal government). The trailer looks amazing. It’s yet another way in which we can see the enormous richness and complexity that has developed in the Marvel cinematic universe so many years and movies into it. I continue to be thankful that this incredible cinematic undertaking — a sprawling universe of interconnected films — exists. A film like Civil War can exist … [continued]
This substantive look at the upcoming X-Files revival has me giddy with anticipation. Please don’t let me down, Chris Carter.
I’ve learned over the years not to trust trailers, but holy cow this trailer for the new Coen Brothers film looks AMAZING. Check it out:
I’m loving this new trailer for Season Two of Star Wars: Rebels. Season One was OK, but the episode with Darth Vader that aired over the summer made me a true believer. Can’t wait for what’s next.
This is fun: seven things that you (probably) didn’t know about Who Framed Roger Rabbit. (I love that movie!!)
This is an amazing, in-depth interview with the great Richard Kind, digging deeply into many of the best roles he has played throughout his career, up-to and including Bing Bong in Inside Out. Once you’re done reading that, then may I suggest you clear your schedule and enjoy this two-hour conversation with Mr. Kind from Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show:
Marvel just added another film to Phase III (am I correct that this means that Phase III will consist of TEN films? That is incredible.) — Ant Man and the Wasp! Love that Ant Man (click here for my review) is getting a sequel, and I love that title. (Marvel also has announced three un-named films for release in 2020. Presumably those three films will be the start of Phase Four? I love that Marvel is planning so far ahead.) (And what is to be made of the rumors that Marvel is going to drop The Inhumans from their Phase III slate, as a middle-finger towards the Marvel TV folks, now separated from the film division of Marvel Studios? That is being denied by Marvel, but I wonder. I wrote recently about my concerns that all the recent behind-the-scenes changes at Marvel Studios have not all been for the better. It will probably be several years before we see how this all plays out and we’re able to get a true sense of the repercussions of these moves. I still have faith in Marvel Studios. I don’t want that to change!!)
Brad Bird’s The Incredibles 2 also now has an official release date!! Fifteen years is a long time to wait for a sequel, but I have faith in Brad Bird (despite the stumble that was Tomorrowland) and can’t wait to see what he is cooking up.
This is an interesting short piece on the monologue that Jonathan Nolan wrote for Christian Bale to deliver for use in the first trailer for Batman Begins.
This video is amazing. It’s a nine minute mash-up of clips from lots of great movies to create the notion that there is one bar in which a lot of famous movie characters meet up. Check it out, it is great (despite the mis-spelling in the opening title):
So, what the heck is going on over at Marvel Studios? There’s a lot happening behind the scenes that is starting to get reported. Some of it is exciting, some of it very worrying. The major event is the move of Marvel Studios, run by Kevin Feige, out from under the control of CEO Ike Perlmutter and over to the direct control of Disney (who bought all of Marvel a while back). There have been many reports over the years of Ike Perlmutter’s tight purse-strings — limiting budgets for the Marvel films and leading to tough negotiations over salaries with the films’ stars — and his vindictiveness — directing Marvel’s publishing and merchandising arms to de-emphasize the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, because the rights to those film series are owned by Fox. Although that has been continually denied by Marvel, the last year has seen the FF comic book –which has been published since 1962 — cancelled, and the removal of FF and X-Men characters from t-shirts and other merchandise (posters, toys, etc.). Kevin Feige has been praised by many as the key driving creative force behind the success of Marvel Studios’ films, and so the idea of his having more creative control on his own, away from the supervision of Mr. Perlmutter, and perhaps larger budgets for his films, is very exciting. On the other hand, I think the characterization of Perlmutter as a crazy billionaire is overly simplistic and denies his large role in Marvel’s reinvigoration as a publisher this past decade, and the creation and successes of Marvel Studios in the first place. I’m also mystified by the way the Marvel Creative Committee seems to be being blamed for various Marvel Studios problems, as described in this weird piece by Devin Faraci at Birth.Movies.Death.com. I love Mr. Faraci’s work (and later in this post I will link to some wonderful articles on his site, one of my very favorite web-sites), but his article about the Creative Committee doesn’t make much sense to me. The Creative Committee is a small group of people from Marvel’s publishing arm: Joe Quesada (an artist who rose to the position of Marvel Editor-in-Chief in the aughts and who is one of the major reasons why Marvel was … [continued]
I quite enjoyed the theatrical version of X-Men: Days of Future Past. (Click here for my original review.) Let me be clear, I lament how much of the classic comic-book story, by Chris Claremont & John Byrne, was jettisoned for the film. I would so dearly love to some day see a more direct adaptation of that classic X-Men story for the big screen. But I loved the idea of using the hook of that story-line as a way to merge the original cast of Bryan Singer’s X-Men films from a decade and a half ago with the new, younger First Class versions. That’s a genius idea. I thought the film worked well on its own — not spectacular, but very solid — as a super-hero adventure flick, and I absolutely adored the final few minutes which served as a tremendous course-correction on the mis-steps the franchise took with Brett Ratner’s misguided and flawed X-Men: The Last Stand.
When the film was released, there was a lot written on-line about how Anna Paquin’s Rogue had been cut from the film. Apparently, to keep the film’s run-time at a manageable level, an entire subplot featuring her character was cut from the film, and in the theatrical cut Ms. Paquin only appeared as Rogue for a brief instant in the final moments of the film. That brief appearance was satisfactory for me, but of course I was curious to see what had been cut out.
I am delighted to report that the extended “Rogue Cut” of Days of Future Past that has recently been released to blu-ray is a wonderful enhancement of the film. The Rogue subplot has been restored to the film, but I was surprised by how many other great little bits and moments had also been edited into the film. Pretty much all of these moments are great, and as such I feel pretty confident that this will be my preferred version of the film to watch from now on.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this “Rogue Cut” is not a radical alteration to the theatrical version. The changes are far more subtle than some of the more famous directors cuts that are out there, such as the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings films, or, say, the directors cuts of James Cameron’s Aliens or The Abyss. (By the way, if you’ve never seen those directors cuts, track them down immediately!!) The most dramatic change to the film is, no surprise, the sequences involving Rogue, which are nicely well-woven into the extended version. The main element of this restored subplot is the mid-movie mission that the aged Magneto (Ian McKellan) leads to rescue Rogue … [continued]
I’ve been a fan of the Fantastic Four ever since I first started reading comic books as a kid. The FF was the first super-hero comic book I ever followed monthly, and I’ve been reading it on and off ever since. I long to someday see a faithful adaptation of the FF on-screen. Sadly, Fox’s latest attempt is, for the most part, another mis-fire.
It’s a shame, because there are many good elements to Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four (though maybe I shouldn’t call the film “Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four,” seeing as how the director publicly disassociated himself with the film just days prior to its release). Reacting against Tim Story’s two light and silly (and very unfaithful to the comics) films from a decade ago, this latest version of the FF is a far more serious film. I like that approach. But even what works in the film is hindered for me by its being so far removed from the source material of the comics. There is almost nothing of the familiar Fantastic Four characters in this film. Where Mr. Trank and his team drew from the comics, they drew not from the classic characters but from the “ultimate universe” reboot of the FF from about a decade ago. That’s not actually a bad move, since that rejiggered version of the FF’s origin (written by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar) has a lot of good qualities that make more sense when setting the FF’s origin in the modern era rather than the nineteen sixties. But then the film goes in directions all its own, and although the characters have the names of the familiar FF heroes, the characterizations and look of the characters are way off from what is familiar to readers of the comics. Had we not gotten the last decade of Marvel Studios movies, in which we have seen that these Marvel superheroes can be adapted incredibly faithfully, while still working as films, I might like this version of the FF a lot more. This approach feels more in line with the way Bryan Singer tackled the X-Men back in 2000. (And I’ll note that even that film felt, to me, far more faithful to the comics, even though the costumes were all different.) But now it’s 2015, and we’ve seen that even incredibly “comic-booky” characters and concepts (like Captain America, Thor, and the Guardians of the Galaxy) can be brought to life so faithfully on screen. I dearly wish to someday see the classic FF characters realized in a movie. I want to see those classic FF uniforms, not the ugly “containment suits” of this film. That’s just one example, but it’s a damning … [continued]
This trailer for SPECTRE is pretty great:
I am tremendously excited for the reintroduction of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. and Blofeld to the Bond films — for the first time in four decades!! — and I really hope they don’t blow it. This new trailer looks large-scale, and I am thrilled that this story looks to be combining threads from the first two Daniel Craig films, and the organization that was named as QUANTUM in the second film, with the mythology of SPECTRE. Casting Christoph Waltz as Blofeld is genius. The two things that worry me about the trailer is the re-appearance of the done-to-death idea of Bond going rogue from MI6, and all the hinting that Blofeld is somehow tied to Bond’s past. I hate this oh-so-common trend in movies that the hero and the villain must be intimately connected. The Joker didn’t shoot Bruce Wayne’s parents and I am not excited by the idea that Blofeld and Bond have some long shared history. Well, I will hold my concern in check to see what the filmmakers have come up with. Anyways, this trailer is slickly made and has me very excited to see this film.
The entire Back to the Future trilogy is being re-released back into theatres??? I am there!! (Click here for my review of Back to the Future’s 25th anniversary screening on the big screen…)
As readers of this blog know I have been pretty disappointed by DC’s recent slate of direct-to-DVD animated films. But I’m pleased that DC Animation mastermind Bruce Timm seems to be returning to the fold, and I am quite curious at the idea that he is overseeing an animated adaptation of Alan Moore & Brian Bolland’s violent and disturbing Batman: The Killing Joke. How could that possibly work without having all of its controversial edges shaved completely off? I dunno, but I’ll admit I am curious. And the news that Mark Hamill will be playing the Joker has me delighted. They’d damn well better be casting Kevin Conroy as Batman/Bruce Wayne!!
I can’t wait for Netflix’s Jessica Jones series! Brian Michael Bendis’ Alias was brilliant. I hope this adaptation lives up to the original.
I am impressed by the vibrant, colorful costumes seen in these peeks at Bryan Singer’s upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse film. It’s fun to see these Marvel-movie colors in a Fox X-Men film, which has used mostly far more stripped-down, color-less looks. I felt that X-Men: Days of Future Past was a great conclusion to Mr. Singer’s X-Men films (click here for my review) and I wish this new film was a … [continued]
Marvel’s Ant Man seems to have had the most tumultuous development process of any of the Marvel Studios films so far. Or, at least, its behind-the-scenes dirty laundry has been the most public. Edgar Wright spent years developing the film for Marvel, but then when the project was finally, officially put on Marvel’s Phase Two slate, he walked away from the film. Many wondered if the film was still worth making without Edgar Wright at the helm.
Well, I am pleased to report that director Peyton Reed, working from a screenplay credited to Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish (who were involved with Ant Man’s first iteration) as well as Paul Rudd and Adam McKay (who got involved once Mr. Wright left and Mr. Reed took over), has succeeded in crafting a wonderful addition to the Marvel cinematic universe. It’s a far smaller-scale film than any of the other Phase Two films, but it works. There’s some lovely character work and a nice dollop of humor, some cool concepts and fun visual effects, and a lot of clever nods to the wider Marvel cinematic universe. This is a film that feels very much of a piece with the solo films that kicked off Marvel’s Phase One, films like Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor. Just like with those films, I was originally dubious that those very comic-booky characters could succeed as movies, but once again Marvel Studios has proven me wrong.
The greatest strength of the Marvel movies so far, and the secret to their success, has been the films’ impeccable casting, and Ant Man continues that trend. I love the concept that this film features two characters who have been in costume as the hero Ant Man from the comics — Hank Pym and Scott Lang — with the hook here that Hank Pym was Ant Man many years ago, but has long-since retired. Michael Douglas is perfect as the now-elderly Hank Pym, a man far past his physical prime but someone whose mind is still sharp. He brings wonderful gravitas to the character, and to the film as a whole. His sincerity gives the sometimes-wacky shenanigans of the film an important grounding in reality. Mr. Douglas is tasked with carrying a lot of the film’s exposition, but Mr. Douglas makes those verbose speeches sing the way few others could. And he absolutely nails one of the most important scenes in the film, the flashback that he narrates in which he finally reveals the secret of what happened to Janet van Dyne (an important character from the comics who is missing/presumed dead in the film).
Paul Rudd, meanwhile, is also terrific as the new young hero of … [continued]
It’s Comic-Con in San Diego, and so lots of cool stuff has been popping up all over the web lately. Let’s take a look!
I am a little dubious about Batman v Superman, but damn if this lengthy trailer isn’t pretty cool:
I mean, come on, who ever thought we’d actually see a Batman vs. Superman movie?? I love that this trailer showcases the Man of Steel supporting cast — I’m glad they’re being included in this film. And I do love the liberal usage of imagery from Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns. I just hope this film tells a good solid story and doesn’t waste too much time building up a future DC film universe to compete with Marvel. (I was surprised they included Wonder Woman in this trailer, and I wonder how large a role she plays in the film.)
I cannot wait for Netflix’s Jessica Jones series!! Love this first look. Glad to see Luke Cage is involved.
I can’t quite believe this is real! Here is (a very shaky recorded version of) the profane, violent Comic-Con trailer for Deadpool! Fox is really releasing this?? Wowsers!
I’m also intrigued by this shaky leaked version of the trailer for DC’s Suicide Squad. This movie is either going to be completely lame or unbelievably awesome. I don’t think there’s much chance of a middle ground… I hope we get an official release of this trailer soon so we can get a better look at all of these characters. UPDATE! Here’s a high-rez version:
A trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse was shown but sadly hasn’t yet found its way on-line. Too bad, the trailer sounds cool. (Though I really feel like Days of Future Past was a wonderful conclusion to Bryan Singer’s X-Men films and I think it’s time to re-set these films and start telling new X-Men stories set in the present day (or, as the first-film was so wonderfully captioned, “in the not-too-distant future”…) And Hugh Jackman, please stop teasing me with the possibility of an Old Man Logan film! ’Cuz that would be AMAZING!!!
In other news…
This is a wonderful first article from Birth.Movie.Death’s Devin Faraci from The Jerusalem Film Festival. He makes a fascinating point about the stories of Jerusalem connecting to the stories told in films. It’s a really thoughtful article. I can’t wait to read more about Devin’s experiences at the festival.
I … [continued]
“The date is set!” — The X-Files returns to TV on January 24, 2016! Please don’t disappoint me, Chris Carter!!
This is a great article listing 10 Making-Of Documentaries That Are Better Than The Actual Movie. In many of these cases I don’t actually agree with the “Better Than The Actual Movie” part, but these are certainly ten of the very greatest documentaries about the making of specific movies. These are all essential viewing for movie fans. (The only one of the ten listed that I haven’t seen is Cleopatra: The Epic That Changed Hollywood.) Hearts of Darkness is endlessly fascinating, one of the best movies about movies ever made, period. I wrote about The Sweat Box, the documentary that Disney doesn’t want you to see about the making of what became The Emperor’s New Groove, here. It’s fascinating and heartbreaking. The documentaries on the Alien Quadrilogy are magnificent, particularly the staggeringly no-punches-pulled version on the Alien 3 blu-ray. (The doc on the original DVD release was edited by the studio who felt that some of the behind-the-scenes material was too honest and raw.) I have written endlessly about the amazing Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Appendices (elaborate, hours-long making-of documentaries) on the Extended Edition DVD/blu-ray sets. (Click here for my thoughts on the behind-the-scenes material from An Unexpected Journey and here for my thoughts on The Desolation of Smaug.) And I am glad this list also included two of the many magnificent making-of documentaries on the DVDs and blu-rays of Ridley Scott’s films, all of which was masterminded by Charles de Lauzirika. Dangerous Days is an exhaustive look at the making of Blade Runner, and though Prometheus was a bomb, the four-hour long look at the making of that train wreck, titled Furious Gods, from the Prometheus blu-ray set, is amazing. (By the way, Charles de Lauzirika also masterminded all of the Alien documentaries on the Quadrilogy set, making him the king of this list of making-of documentaries.) I highly recommend all interested film fans track down these documentaries, they are wonderful.
I recently read Jerry Weintraub’s terrific memoir: When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead. Mr. Weintraub was a music producer who worked with Elvis and Sinatra, and in his later years he became a movie producer as well, most notably working with Steven Soderbergh on Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen. The book is terrific — Mr. Weintraub is a wonderful raconteur and, man, does he have some great stories to tell. I highly recommend it. Here’s a link. In a related story, birthmoviesdeath.com recently posted this loving look back at Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy. I never thought too highly … [continued]
Let’s cut right to the chase: Netflix’s thirteen-episode first season of Daredevil is a triumph, a gloriously dark, gritty, adult depiction of The Man Without Fear. Netflix’s Daredevil is the finest super-hero television show I have ever seen. Am I exaggerating? I don’t think so. I am hard-pressed to think of anything that even comes close. Only a few episodes in, my wife asked me: how is this show so good and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so bad? Good question!
When Netflix first announced that they would be producing four Marvel TV shows that would eventually connect together, I was excited. But as the release of Daredevil approached, I must admit that my expectations had dimmed. I was troubled by the departure, mid-production, of original show-runner Drew Goddard, a terrific talent (responsible for The Cabin in the Woods with Joss Whedon). Surely his leaving the show spelled trouble? The early images and trailers for the show also didn’t inspire confidence. What we saw of Daredevil — not in costume, but instead in a rather ordinary-looking black outfit — made me fear that this show was embarrassed by its super-hero content and/or didn’t have the production value to depict super-heroes well. The show looked small and it looked silly.
But holy cow was I wrong. Daredevil is an exceptional piece of work, a confident, bold piece of story-telling. First of all, I was very impressed by how adult the show is. There’s some tough language and a lot of truly brutal violence. This isn’t a kiddy, all-ages show like Marvel’s ABC shows (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter). This is a tough show, one far more inspired by the intensity and adult-content of a show like Game of Thrones. (Though of course Daredevil doesn’t go quite that far — there’s no nudity or sex in this show, and not the same level of gore — but I am complimenting Daredevil by putting it in the same league as GoT.) The adult nature of the show isn’t only the violence and language. The whole approach to the world and the story-telling is very adult. Daredevil is a super-hero show, so there are clear heroes and clear villains, but at the same time the show is nimble at presenting us with a complex world filled with moral grays and difficult decisions for our characters. This is not a show in which the heroes always win by the end of each hour. Our heroes take some tough, tough lumps as the show goes on (both physically and emotionally), and throughout I was impressed by this adult, compelling approach to presenting a super-hero story.
I love the concise, finite format of Netflix’s thirteen-episode … [continued]
Marvel Studios is on a winning streak the likes of which I have rarely seen. (The only recent comparison I can draw is Pixar’s incredible run from Ratatouille in 2007 through Toy Story 3 in 2010.) Right before seeing The Avengers: Age of Ultron, one of my friends sent me a ranking of all of Marvel’s movies. In response I created my own ranking (which I might publish on this site one of these days). The bottom two films on my list were Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk. What’s astonishing is that each of the rest of the eight Marvel films on the list were all pretty great films that I loved a lot — and even those bottom two films were pretty enjoyable! There really isn’t a true failure in the mix! Over the past eight years, since 2008′s Iron Man, Marvel has done what had not only never been done before, but really never even conceived of before: they’ve created a vast cinematic universe of interlocking films, with characters and story-lines flowing from film to film in an epic continuing saga. What’s even more incredible is that, at this point, they make the whole thing look so damn easy! It’s astounding. I know Marvel is going to stumble one of these days, but for now I am sitting back and loving every minute of this ride.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron is an amazing film. I loved it. Watching this film I had a huge grin on my face for the entire run time. There are so many reasons this film could have been bad. Sequels are hard and usually disappoint. In addition to all of the main Avengers characters, this film introduced a number of new characters and we’ve all seen superhero films (particularly sequels — I’m looking at you, Spider-Man 3) collapse under the weight of too many characters. Whereas The Avengers was the culmination of the first run of Marvel films, Age of Ultron needs to set up the next several years of story-lines, and that could easily have made the film feel unwieldy and unsatisfying (the fate that befell Iron Man 2).
But thanks to the incredible skill and talent of writer-director Joss Whedon and his astounding team of collaborators (overseen by Marvel Studios mastermind Kevin Feige, the guiding force behind all of these Marvel movies), Age of Ultron soars. It’s a long-movie but it never drags, it is hugely enjoyable from start to finish. It’s got enormous, staggeringly gigantic action sequences that astound, but it’s also deeply routed in character with some wonderful moments for every one of the film’s sprawling cast. It’s serious and tense but it also … [continued]
Wow, looks like the studios have all started selling their 2015 movies pretty hard lately! This past week has seen a flood of new trailers for some big upcoming films.
It all started, of course, with that look at Star Wars: The Force Awakens. What a great trailer. As I wrote last week, I remain dubious that this film is going to be any good (though I am beginning to dare to hope), but wow, this is a pretty perfectly cut trailer. It’s been very interesting to see how universally loved this trailer seems to have been, across the internet. Let’s watch it again, shall we?
Moving on, soon after the Star Wars trailer dropped we also got our first peek at Batman v Superman:
Unlike the Star Wars trailer, this trailer has been pretty roundly criticized across the interwebs. I think the hate is a little much, personally. This is a not a home-run trailer, but I don’t mind that DC is giving us a more serious, grim version of their super-heroes, in contrast to the Marvel approach. I am glad a main story-point for this film seems to be the public’s questioning perhaps rejection of Superman as a hero. That’s certainly understandable after the carnage that Supes was involved with at the end of Man of Steel. And while I think Batman’s line about making Superman bleed is pretty dumb (and I’m definitely not yet liking the highly-modulated new Bat-voice), I do have a lot of love for the Frank Miller The Dark Knight Returns inspired look of Batman’s anti-Superman armor. I am very intrigued by this film. I can see a lot of ways in which it can stumble, most primarily under the weight of all the announced cameos as Warners seems increasingly desperate to ape Marvel’s success with The Avengers. But boy, wouldn’t it be cool if this Batman/Superman crossover film — something we’ve never seen before — was actually good?? We’ll see…
We also good our first good look at Fox’s upcoming Fantastic Four film:
I’m very uncertain what to make of this film. I love the FF dearly. This might prove to be a great film, and I am certainly hoping it will be. But it feels like it’s a decade too late. After the last few years of Marvel films, in which we’ve seen superhero films that were able to be both compelling and also incredibly faithful to the essence of the characters from the comics, what I want to see on screen is the FF I know from the comics, not this weird un-superhero version. I am not very excited right now for this film. Prove me wrong, … [continued]
Late-breaking update to my last post — take a gander at this new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens!!
WOW that is a hell of a trailer. I love hearing Mark Hamill’s voice-over, echoing his words to Leia in Return of the Jedi. Love the shot of the crashed Star Destroyer… and I love even more seeing the Millenium Falcon fly into what looks like the guts of that ruined Star Destroyer! And that last shot and that last line… wow. It’s very weird seeing a very old Han Solo, but I sort of love it. I still don’t know if this movie is going to be any good, but I have huge love for this trailer. Pure bliss.
This is amazing. Just trust me.
This is a great article on Dune from The New Yorker from a little while back. It is indeed curious that Dune has not penetrated the pop culture the way The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars has. But for those of us who know and love Dune, it is a treasure. (And I do love all of Frank Herbert’s five sequels, even though they are imperfect. Sadly the Dune novels written after Frank Herbert’s death by his son Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson have, for the most part, disappointed.)
Please lord let this be true. Seventeen additional episodes of Arrested Development?? Let’s do this.
Hey, season two of True Detective is coming! Can’t wait:
I’m also fairly eager for the third season of Orange is the New Black:
I was surprised by the glum tone of the first trailer for Marvel’s Ant Man. This new trailer is far stronger, though I’m still a little surprised at how serious they’re making the film look. Is that really the tone? I do love that train gag at the end of the trailer, though.
In other Marvel news, this raised my eyebrows: Marvel can’t make a Hulk stand-alone film because Universal retains the rights to any Hulk solo film? Wow, that is a crazy tangle of legal red-tape. This doesn’t bug me too much because as awesome and perfect as Mark Ruffalo is as Bruce Banner, I think the Hulk functions best in a supporting role rather than carrying his own movie. I do hope, though, to someday see a Guardians of the Galaxy/Planet Hulk crossover story-line movie. I’ve tried to avoid too heavy spoilers for Age of Ultron and the upcoming slate of Marvel films, but various bits and pieces that I have heard and read lead me to suspect that might be coming a few years down the road, and that is awesome.
This new trailer for Terminator: Genisys… [continued]
Don’t tease me, universe! I desperately want this news of a possible resurrection of The X-Files to be true!!
I am thrilled to have three cartoons from Motion Pictures included in JOMIX — Jewish Comics; Art & Derivation, an exhibition currently open in New York City. Click here for more details! I was also delighted to get such a nice mention in this review of The Jewish Comix Anthology! The Anthology is still available for purchase at amazon!
This is an older article, but Rolling Stone’s The Last Days of 30 Rock is a magnificently in-depth look at the life and end of Tina Fey’s wonderful sitcom.
After losing Leonard Nimoy last month, we also lost the great, woefully under-appreciated Harve Bennett. Mr. Bennett was critically involved in the “trilogy” of Trek films: Star Trek II, III, and IV. Most importantly, without Mr. Bennett’s involvement, Star Trek II might never have happened after Star Trek: The Motion Picture underwhelmed. Mr. Bennett and writer/director Nicholas Meyer are the men who saved Star Trek. Harve Bennett is responsible for what, to me, is the greatest iteration of Trek, those three films. Star Trek would not be the franchise that it is today without Harve Bennett. Rest in peace. (You can learn a lot more about Harve Bennett by reading this wonderful eulogy on badassdigest.com.)
We also recently lost Sam Simon, who was one of the key creative voices in the early (and best) seasons of The Simpsons.
On a more upbeat note, watch this:
I am super-duper excited for Captain America: Civil War. The idea of adapting that great comic book story-line for the Marvel cinematic universe is genius. They should probably be calling it The Avengers 3 rather than Cap 3, but whatever. Looking further down the road, I am thrilled that it looks like The Russo Brothers, after directing The Winter Soldier and then Civil War, will be directing the two-part Avengers: Infinity War films. It’s been clear for a long while that Joss Whedon would be stepping aside after Avengers: Age of Ultron, and if it wasn’t going to be Mr. Whedon, I am delighted that the Russo Brothers are taking the lead in guiding Marvel’s Avengers franchise. These next few years of Marvel movies are going to be amazing.
I had high hopes for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when it launched last year. The idea of a Marvel TV show was of course of interest to me, but what really excited me was that, as opposed to the various DC Comics superhero shows over the years, this new Marvel TV show would be set in continuity with the Marvel movie universe. It seems like a total no-brainer of an idea, and yet, nothing like this had ever been done before. I was super-excited.
And yet, right from the pilot, I was underwhelmed. Despite the involvement of some great talent both in front of and behind the camera (particularly the show-runner husband-and-wife team of Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, of whom I have been a far for years), the show seemed surprisingly lifeless. The characters were dull, the writing was flat, and the episodic structure did not engage me. Things picked up a little towards the end of the season, when the series’ story-lines took a major turn in connection with the revelations about S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The first half of this second season has seen the show continue to improve, and I’ve enjoyed the way the show has utilized elements of the mythology of the Inhumans, a classic group of Marvel Comics characters. But I still think the show is surprisingly mediocre, lacking either the fun or the edge-of-your-seat intensity I was hoping for.
I was excited to hear that Marvel would be launching a second TV series (a mini-series of sorts to fill the time-slot during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s mid-season hiatus) that would allow Hayley Atwell to reprise her role as Peggy Carter from Captain America: The First Avenger. I loved everything about that idea. Ms. Atwell was marvelous as Peggy — she was one of the best things about that first Cap film. I felt there was still a lot of life left in that character, and I loved the notion of seeing what happened to her in the years following the loss of Cap. I also loved the idea of a period-piece show; that seemed like a lot of fun, and something unusual for a superhero TV show. And considering the revelations in Captain America: The Winter Soldier about the nature of S.H.I.E.L.D., suddenly a show about the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D. seemed ripe with potential. We’d seen that this premise had juice in the wonderful Peggy Carter one-shot short film attached to the DVD of Iron Man Three. Frankly, the only thing that had me worried was the mediocre quality of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — would Agent Carter be of just as middling a level of quality?
Well, … [continued]
What fun this has been, looking back at all of the amazing movies from 2014! Click here for part one of my list of the Best Movies of 2014, numbers twenty through sixteen. Click here for part two, numbers fifteen through eleven. Click here for part three, numbers ten through six.
And now, at last, it’s time to draw this list to a close with my five favorite films of 2014. Here we go:
5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – I dearly love every film in the Planet of the Apes series, even the terrible ones. (Though the least said about Tim Burton’s disappointing entry, the better.) But I was bowled over by the greatness of Dawn, the eighth Planet of the Apes film and the second in the rebooted prequel series. What a rare thing it is to see a sequel with such ingenuity, such creativity, such narrative power. Director Matt Reaves has come in and crafted an astounding piece of speculative fiction. Ten years after the events of the last Apes film, a plague has wiped out most of humanity. Caesar and his apes have crafted for themselves a utopian civilization, deep in the woods of San Francisco. But when a small group of humans wanders into Caesar’s community, the struggling human community and the developing ape community find themselves on a collision course, and Caesar’s belief that the apes are naturally superior to the flawed humans leads him to the precipice of a disastrous misjudgment. Yes, this is a film that features talking apes, but Dawn is a rich human drama with Shakespearean levels of emotional complexity and power. When everything goes to hell in the third act, it is tragic. Andy Serkis does some of the best work of his career as Caesar, bringing such pathos, such richness of feeling to this ape character. The mad geniuses at Weta Workshop and all the countless visual effects artists and crafts-people who brought the visual effects of this world to life have outdone themselves, creating one of the most impressive visual effects achievements I have ever seen. Those apes look so real it is staggering. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a spectacular achievement, and I can’t wait to see where this series goes from here. (Click here for my original review.)
4. Guardians of the Galaxy – What was it I said back when writing about Captain America: The First Avenger about Marvel Studios making it look easy? They took a comic book team fairly obscure even to comic book fans, one that has not been able to ever support its own comic book series for very … [continued]
2014 was a fantastic year for movies. I had so many films that I wanted to make mention of in my end-of-the-year best-of list, that I’ve decided to expand my usual Top 15 list into a Top 20. Cheating? Perhaps! But it’s all in the service of spreading love for a great group of terrific films, so I hope you’ll forgive me.
Even with a Top Twenty list, there are still plenty of great films that I saw in 2014 that didn’t make this list: They Came Together, Gone Girl, Interstellar, Noah, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, Harmontown, Neighbors, Snowpiercer, Chef, A Million Ways to Die in the West, The Fault in Our Stars, The One I Love, Obvious Child, and lots more.
There were also plenty of 2014 movies that interested me but that I just didn’t have a chance to see. These include, but are by no means limited to: Selma and Inherent Vice (neither of which had yet opened near me when I wrote this list), Whiplash, Foxcatcher, Rosewater, Fury, St. Vincent, Nightcrawler, Laggies, Big Hero 6, The Homesman, Force Majeure, Only Lovers Left Alive, Men Women & Children, and plenty of others.
With those caveats out of the way, let’s begin!
Honorable Mention: Her – This was technically a 2013 film but, like Selma and Inherent Vice this year, it did not open near me until well into 2014, so it wasn’t until late January 2014 that I saw it. Had I been able to see it before writing my Best of 2013 list, it certainly would have been high on that list. I wasn’t sure whether or not I should include it on this year’s list, so I’ve settled for giving it an “Honorable Mention”. This gorgeous, gentle, heartbreaking story from writer/director Spike Jonze is mesmerizing, a fascinating piece of speculative fiction in which we see a vision of a society not very far removed from our own. Joaquin Phoenix is wonderfully affecting as Theodore, a lonely man who has just been divorced from the woman he thought was the love of his life. He purchases a new OS (Operating System), and gradually finds himself falling in love with this A.I. (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) who is with him everywhere he goes. Is Theodore retreating dangerously from real life into fantasy? Or is this a beautiful story of a man and a woman falling in love with the essence of each other’s character, entirely separate from any physical attraction? That’s up to the viewer to decide. Me, I was touched and intrigued by this a beautiful, unique film. (Click here for my original review.)… [continued]
Well, everything I have seen or read so far of the Terminator reboot Terminator: Genisys has looked abysmal (and good lord I hate that ridiculous title more each time I write it). But I have to admit this trailer is intriguing:
I love how the first half looks like it’s the behind-the-scenes of what we already knew happened just prior to the start of the original Terminator film, and then when Sarah Connor crashes that truck through the department store window we see that we’re in some sort of alternate timeline. I am curious how they’ll explain the cause of this alternate timeline, but I like much of what I see so far. She looked ridiculous in the early photos that were released, but here in the trailer I can see why Emilia Clarke was cast — she’s fantastic as Sarah Connor in this glimpse. And while I still think that including an aged Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film was silly, seeing old Arnie and CGI young Arnie and the new Terminator played by Byung-Hun Lee is exciting, they all look pretty great. My biggest concern is how horrible Jai Courtney seems as Kyle Reese. Absolutely none of Michael Biehn’s charm and presence. I still think it’s pretty likely this film will suck, but at least this trailer makes me somewhat excited and curious to see the film, so that’s a big step-forward in terms of T-5′s marketing.
In more important sequel news, the new James Bond film will be called Spectre. Excellent. Ever since The World is Not Enough, I have been dreaming of the return of Blofeld to this series. The first trailer for that film featured a glimpse of a bald Robert Carlyle, and at the time I dared to hope he was playing Blofeld. Not so. That character has been tied up in lawsuits for decades (all stemming from a conflict over who wrote what for Thunderball back in 1965). But finally last year that lawsuit was resolved, and I am thrilled that SPECTRE is finally returning to the Bond series. They’re playing coy, though, as to whether Blofeld will be in the film. It’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t be, unless Bond 24 is a long tease for the villain’s return in the next film, Bond 25. I could see that happening. But for now, I am really hoping that Christoph Waltz (who is starring in the film, reportedly as a character called Oberhauser) will be Blofeld. That would be amazing. I am thrilled the film is called Spectre, I love that return to the old Bond style of the villain’s name being the title. (Ex.: Goldfinger.) The only thing that would have … [continued]
Bill Watterson drew the poster for an international cartoonists’ festival, and it is awesome.
I’ve been really enjoying Kumail Nanjiani’s podcast The X-Files Files. In each episode, Mr. Nanjiani and a guest host analyze two episodes of The X-Files, working their way through the series in order, starting from the very beginning of the show. I’ve only listened to a few episodes, but they’ve all been great. I started with this one, in which Mr. Nanjiani and Devin Faraci from badassdigest.com discuss the two-parter that began season 3, “The Blessing Way” and “Paper Clip.” One of my favorite episodes is the very first podcast, also co-starring Mr. Faraci, in which the two discuss the first two episodes but also share their feelings on the whole series over-all. My favorite part is their hilarious discussion of the dreadful second X-Files movie. (Here are my thoughts after seeing that flick, if you’re interested.) This is a great podcast, I am hooked!
I need to carve out some time to watch this: A recreation of The Empire Strikes Back made by over 500 individual fan-made versions of every shot from the film. Sounds crazy!
This is awesome: what if famous album covers were just a small part of a much larger picture? So funny and so clever.
So last month Marvel Comics killed off Wolverine. Yeah, that’s gonna last. But in the meanwhile, in honor of his “death,” enjoy this hilarious illustrated summary of Wolvie’s convoluted back-story.
Here’s a trailer for Jurassic World:
That’s a pretty solid trailer. I love the use of the classic John Williams theme on piano at the end of the trailer. The visuals are certainly gorgeous, and Chris Pratt is a great choice to anchor the adventure. I don’t love what we glimpse here of the “hybrid dinosaur” angle. One flaw of the original Jurassic Park sequels was the need to keep coming up with new and different dinosaurs. The third film tried to use the Spinosaurus as their bad bad dinosaur and it didn’t work at all. I hope this hybrid idea doesn’t come off as silly.
I like this nostalgia-based trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies:
This is a nice attempt to place this final film within the context of the epic story woven by the previous five. It remains to see if the film delivers on that promise, but there are worse ways to market the new film than showing some of the best moments from the previous ones.
I’m not sure I believe that Blade Runner 2 will ever happen, nor do I think it’s a great idea. Of course I’m … [continued]
Marvel Studios wowed fandom yet again last week with their announcement of a hugely ambitious slate of films leading up to a third and fourth Avengers film in 2018 and 2019. My reaction? Pretty much bliss!!
I still remember the excitement of seeing Iron Man for the first time (click here for my original review), and the glorious post-credits tease regarding “the Avengers initiative.” Very quickly after the opening success of that film, Marvel Studios announced their ambitious, never-been-done-before plan of a series of additional stand-alone super-hero films (Captain America and Thor) that would then lead to a team-up of all the individual heroes in The Avengers. It’s so easy to forget what an unbelievable idea that was at the time, just a few short years ago. True, Iron Man was a success (creatively and financially) but could Captain America and Thor possibly be turned into successful, interesting films? Neither felt like an easy character to adapt to the big-screen. And could these very-different characters possibly be brought together into a crossover film that would feel remotely convincing?
Well, of course, it worked, and it worked like gangbusters. Not only did all the individual films work very well (surprisingly, it was Iron Man 2 that wound up being the weakest of the bunch) and wind up being financially successful, but there were seeds of story-lines that wove through the films that provided lovely connecting tissue between the films. The Avengers wound up feeling like a true culmination of the story-lines begun in each of the individual films, in addition to being a hugely entertaining work all its own. The result is a model of an interconnected cinematic universe that had never been done before, and that now is being desperately imitated by every studio in town.
The films from Iron Man through The Avengers were nicknamed “Phase One.” The post-Avengers films, leading up to this summer’s Avengers sequel, Age of Ultron, are Phase Two. So far, the Phase Two films have been pretty terrific. Iron Man Three, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy have all been pretty great. The final two Phase Two films are this summer’s Age of Ultron, for which I have high hopes, and what feels like the Phase Two epilogue, Ant Man (for which I also have high hopes, though the very public parting-of-ways between Marvel and director Edgar Wright has really shaken my faith in that film, which was Mr. Wright’s baby for so many years). If there’s any criticism to be wielded at the Phase Two films so far, it’s that other than Guardians of the Galaxy, they’ve all been sequels. … [continued]
Ok, ready to lose the rest of your day? You might recall that this past summer, FXX ran a marathon of every single Simpsons episode ever. Well, apparently a bunch of the best writers for Hitfix.com decided to list their favorite episodes of each day of the marathon. Five writers each picked their two favorite Simpsons episodes from that day, and wrote about them. Click here and thank me later. This is a staggeringly wonderful walk down Simpsons memory lane. It’s been way too long since I have revisited some of these classic episodes. Reading those articles makes me want to blow off work for the next week or two of work and just watch old Simpsons DVDs…
Click here for a terrific interview with Nicholas Meyer. Mr. Meyer is pretty much single-handedly responsible for all of the very best Star Trek ever made. He wrote and directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and wrote and directed Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and he wrote the vast majority of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. (He wrote everything that took place on present-day Earth, starting with the immortal Spock line: “Judging from the pollution content of the atmosphere, we have arrived in the latter part of the twentieth century,” all the way through to the escape with the whales.) Nicholas Meyer is the reason for the odd numbered Star Trek curse (in which fans noticed that the even-numbered original Trek movies are far superior to the odd-numbered ones). I had no idea he was involved in this Harry Houdini project for the History Channel, but now I am very interested in seeing it! Mr. Meyer doesn’t work nearly enough to suit me. It’s fascinating that the History Channel film is based on a biography of Houdini that Mr. Meyer’s father wrote. The whole interview with Mr. Meyer is terrific, but I particularly loved his answer, at the very end, when asked his opinion of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek films. ”That’s changing the shape of the bottle.” (Read Mr. Meyer’s comments to understand the context.) That is very well-put, and I 100% agree.
StarWars.com has released animatics for four unmade episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. These are four full-length episodes, with complete voice performances and sound effects, it’s just that the rough blocky animatics were never taken to full animation. These are great episodes, well-worth the time of any fans of the show. Anakin and Obi-Wan investigate the death of a Jedi on Utapau (a key location in Episode III) and discover that General Grievous is about to acquire a terrible weapon with ties to the secret of the construction of Jedi … [continued]
After having so thoroughly enjoyed the second Captain America film, The Winter Soldier (click here for my review), I have been re-reading Ed Brubaker’s lengthy run on the Captain America comic-book series that inspired the film. Click here for part I of my re-read, click here for part 2, click here for part 3, and click here for part 4.
Steve Rogers is dead and Bucky Barnes has assumed the mantle of Captain America. But that doesn’t mean that everyone’s troubles are over…
Time’s Arrow (Captain America #43-45) — following the dramatic conclusion to the eighteen-issue-long The Death of the Dream story-line (in Captain America #25-42), it’s not surprising that the next story-line felt like something of a letdown to me. Having a fill-in artist (Luke Ross) didn’t help either, that seems like a poor choice. When these issues were originally published I was very bored by them, though in hindsight they read much better. I can also now recognize that Mr. Ross does fine work on the artwork. He’s no Steve Epting, but his work feels very much of a fit with that of Mike Perkins & Butch Guice, the other two rotating artists on the book.
This story-line brings back classic Captain America bad-guy Batroc the Leaper, and while Mr. Brubaker & Mr. Ross try their best to take the character seriously, he’s still pretty silly. More interesting is the mystery connected to an old Invaders caper from 1942, in which Bucky and the Torch saved a Chinese boy genius. It seems that, years later, the Winter Soldier killed the man’s wife, and so the now-elderly genius is plotting vengeance on Bucky/Captain America.
At first this three-parter seems like a fairly inconsequential stand-alone story, but things change in the final pages of issue #45 as we see that Batroc’s employers have managed to acquire the remains of the original Human Torch, Cap & Bucky’s former ally in the Invaders during WWII. This leads right into the next three-parter:
Old Friends and Enemies (Captain America #46-48) — Steve Epting finally returns in issue #46, which caused me much rejoicing at the time that issue originally came out. That, along with a kick-ass cover of Cap fighting Namor, made me much more excited about issue #46 when it was originally published than I’d been about the previous three issues. (Though now I know that, sadly, issue #46 would be Mr. Epting’s final issue on the series. I wish he had continued through issue #50, but that was not to be, though he would contribute covers up through issue #49.)
With the remains of the Original Human Torch in the hands of the … [continued]
After having so thoroughly enjoyed the second Captain America film, The Winter Soldier (click here for my review), I have been re-reading Ed Brubaker’s lengthy run on the Captain America comic-book series that inspired the film. Click here for part I of my re-read, click here for part 2, and click here for part 3.
Following the murder of Steve Rogers/Captain America in Captain America #25, the focus of Mr. Brubaker’s Captain America run shifted dramatically. Cap #25 kicked off a long story-arc, The Death of the Dream, that was divided into three parts, each six-issues in length.
The Death of the Dream: Act 1 (Captain America #26-30) — Mr. Brubaker tries a new narrative device in these issues, one which I thought worked really well. He subdivided each issue into chapters, each with its own title, and each following a different character. In this way, each issue follows multiple different story-threads as we follow the chaos that reigned after Steve Rogers’ murder and the many different characters’ responses to that act. We see Bucky Barnes, who blames Tony Stark for Steve’s death and sets out to kill him, even though Tony has now been named the new head of S.H.I.E.L.D. We see Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow, who finds herself working for Tony against Bucky, a man who, we learn, she once loved before Bucky’s life as the Winter Soldier tore them a apart. We see Sam Wilson, the Falcon, mourn Steve’s death both publicly and with Cap’s former allies in the super-hero Civil War, now hiding underground and led by Luke Cage. We see Nick Fury, still hiding from the world, attempting to unravel the mystery of Cap’s death and Aleksander Lukin’s plot. We see Lukin/the Red Skull and their secret machinations, along with Dr. Faustus and Arnim Zola. We see the Red Skull’s daughter, Sin, wreaking havoc across America with her new Serpent Society.
It’s a great story, and I love the way Lukin/the Skull’s machinations have resulted in many heroic characters (Bucky, the Falcon, Sharon Carter, the Black Widow, Nick Fury, Tony Stark, etc.) all operating at cross-purposes. It takes until the end of this six-issue story-line for our heroes to get any sort of clue as to what is going on, and to get onto the same page. Even then, as usual for Mr. Brubaker’s story, they put together the pieces too late and, in the cliffhanger ending of issue #30, the still-brainwashed Sharon winds up taking out most of the good guys.
I love the idea of pairing Bucky and the Black Widow, and I loved the joint backstory that Mr. Brubaker created for the two of them … [continued]
After having so thoroughly enjoyed the second Captain America film, The Winter Soldier (click here for my review), I have been re-reading Ed Brubaker’s lengthy run on the Captain America comic-book series that inspired the film. Click here for part I of my re-read, and click here for part 2.
Civil War (Captain America #22-24) — Captain America #22 represents a dramatic change for the Captain America series as, between the last page of issue #21 and the first page of issue #22, Steve Rogers/Captain America ceased to be the main character in his own comic book series. Instead, Cap’s main story was being told in the big Marvel universe cross-over mini-series Civil War, written by Mark Millar and pencilled by Steve McNiven. In that series, a battle between super-heroes and super-villains winds up killing over 600 civilians, resulting in the passage of the Superhero Registration Act, requiring all super-heroes to reveal their identities and be licensed by the government. Tony Stark leads these efforts, but Captain America opposes them, feeling the law curtains important American freedoms. The super-hero community splits down the middle. S.H.I.E.L.D. and Tony Stark begin hunting down and imprisoning any super-heroes who refuse to register, resulting in Cap and his allies going into hiding. Civil War is a terrific mini-series that would have repercussions for years to come.
In the main Cap title, the story focused on Sharon Carter, who as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent suddenly finds herself on the opposing side of Steve Rogers, the man she loves. This is a great twist in the story, and it’s great to see Mr. Brubaker take the time to explore these ripple effects of the main story being told in Civil War. (Anyone not reading Civil War would find themselves terribly confused, though.) These cross-over issues have a lot of additional goodies as well. In addition to the focus on Sharon, Bucky also steps back into center stage. Bucky is on the run from both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the other super-heroes, but with a powerful ally: Nick Fury, who is also on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. and the rest of the world. Nick was a major player in Mr. Brubaker’s early Captain America issues, but he dropped away between issues as the result of goings-on in other Marvel Universe titles. I love seeing Nick back in play here, and the pairing of him and Bucky/the Winter Soldier is inspired.
In these issues we also spend a lot of time with the bad guys, as we see Lukin/the Red Skull recruit a number of allies, classic Captain America villain characters Dr. Faustus and Arnim Zola. When reading these issues originally I remember thinking that these … [continued]
After enjoying the second Captain America film, The Winter Soldier, I decided to go back and re-read the comic-books that had inspired the film. Click here for my thoughts on the beginning of writer Ed Brubaker’s long run on Captain America, illustrated so gorgeously by Steve Epting.
Those first fourteen issues represent a brilliant reinvention of the Captain America comic-book series, in which Mr. Brubaker figured out exactly how to tell a classic, potent Captain America story for the modern day. I think Mr. Brubaker’s characteriziation of Steve Rogers/Captain America is absolutely perfect, giving us a man who is unceasingly heroic and noble but one who still feels the burden of his past and who remains somewhat not-at-home in the modern-day world. I love how closely Mr. Brubaker tied Cap to S.H.I.E.L.D., giving us a Cap who in many ways was basically the greatest Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who ever was, and allowing Mr. Brubaker to tell super-hero stories that also felt like spy stories, with all the darkness and complexity you’d expect from that type of tale. (This tone, just as much as the plot of the Winter Soldier resurrection arc, was clearly a huge influence on the second Cap film.) I love the way Mr. Brubaker structured his stories, often telling parallel tales between the present-day action and Cap & Bucky’s exploits back in WWII. And, of course, I was impressed by the way Mr. Brubaker pulled off the resurrection of Bucky, the one comic-book character I never ever thought they’d bring back. What could have been cheesy was instead the basis for a complex, thrilling, years-long story.
All of this would have been moot had Mr. Bubaker not been so capably assisted by his partner Steve Epting, who did the best work of his career as the main illustrator for those first 14 issues. I truly don’t think super-hero comic-book illustration gets any better than the work that Mr. Epting did in that initial run. Just gorgeous, staggering work.
I expected this Winter Soldier story to be a fairly contained tale, but after originally reading those first 14 issues, it became clear that although Mr. Brubaker had wrapped up some story-threads, he had a much longer tale in mind. Those early issues were just the tip of the iceberg of a sprawling epic that Mr. Brubaker had planned. It’s been huge fun to re-read. Let’s continue onward, shall we?
Red is the Darkest Color/Collision Course (Captain America #15-17) — Mike Perkins steps in as the artist for these three issues. Issue #15 doesn’t feature Captain America at all, instead focusing solely on the villain Crossbones and his attempt to deprogram a young woman he knew to … [continued]
I had a feeling this one was gonna be good. I’m glad I was right.
With Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios has blown the doors off of their cinematic universe in a big, big way. This is a huge movie, filled with crazy alien planets and creatures and hugely original characters and situations. The opening few minutes takes place on Earth, and then the entire rest of the film takes place in a far-off corner of the galaxy, a one-hundred-percent immersion in fantasy cosmic craziness. (Man, this is what DC’s Green Lantern should have been like.) The film is exciting and funny and it looks gorgeous. I loved pretty much every minute of it.
Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) was born on Earth but was kidnapped and stolen from the planet as a boy. He grew up among a band of thieves and ragamuffins to become something of a Han Solo type, a roguish scoundrel with a heart of gold. When hired to find a priceless orb, Quill decides to double-cross his boss, Yondu (Michael Rooker). But it turns out that the villainous Ronan (Lee Pace) also wants the orb, so he sends his minion Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to obtain it as well. Gamora also double-crosses her boss, and just as she confronts Quill the two run afoul of Rocket and Groot, two alien mercenaries looking to cash in on a good bounty. The four all wind up apprehended by the Nova Corps (an intergalactic peace-keeping force) and thrown in jail. Somehow, these four criminal — soon joined by a fifth, the hulking Drax — find themselves forming a tight bond with one another. And with the fate of the universe at stake, this motley five-some have to do the thing none of them ever expected to do: become heroes.
Guardians of the Galaxy harkens back to the tone of the first Iron Man, a very silly, goofy sensibility crossed with a great fantasy action-adventure. Iron Man had stakes, but it was also a whole heck of a lot of fun, and Guardians is exactly the same way. The film is a riot, but this is not a spoof. The characters are fleshed out, with fully-realized emotional arcs, and there is weight to the story being told.
Anyone who has been watching Parks and Recreation for the past six years knows that Chris Pratt is a star. Now the whole world knows it. Mr. Pratt has been perfectly cast as Peter Quill, the tough space-pirate who is also an innocent boy at heart. Mr. Pratt absolutely dominates this movie, and he’s magnetic in every scene he’s in, even when standing along-side the ridiculously scene-stealing two-some of Rocket and Groot. … [continued]
Hi friends! This past week was the San Diego Comic-Con, and as a result there has been an awesome flood of news about all sorts of geeky things. Let’s review some of the highlights, shall we?
Here’s the first teaser trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. I don’t love that title (is the second “the” really necessary?) and I think the “The Defining Chapter” tag-line they are going with in this trailer and on the posters is silly, but I dig this trailer. These Hobbit films have not lived up to the expectations established by the phenomenal Lord of the Rings films, but I have still enjoyed them a lot and I am eager for the third and final film.
This is a pretty terrific interview with Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige. Interesting stuff covered. Someday the true story of what went down with Ant Man and Edgar Wright is going to be told, and it is going to be fascinating.
This description of footage of Batman v Superman sounds interesting. Are they really using some of Frank Miller’s designs from The Dark Knight Returns? I’d love to see this footage. DC’s plan of stuffing lots of Justice League characters into this Man of Steel sequel seems worrisome to me, but on the other hand this first image of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is pretty great.
People seem to have been bowled over at the footage that screened from Mad Max: Fury Road. (I can’t believe this movie finally got made and is being released!!!) I am very, very curious to see what George Miller has crafted after so much time away from this franchise. This first teaser, made up of some of the footage they showed at Comic-Con, is pretty great:
Here is a teaser trailer for Kevin Smith’s Tusk:
Just what the heck is this film going to be, and could it be any good??? I dunno, I am not hugely optimistic, but I’ll admit I am damn curious and that’s a pretty great trailer…
Ronald D. Moore (one of the best Star Trek writers and creator and show-runner of the modern version of Battlestar Galactica) just did a fantastic Q & A on reddit. Prepare to loose a large amount of your time reading this.
Dr. Julian Bashir will be appearing on Game of Thrones? Awesome!! I grew to love Alexander Siddig’s work on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (my favorite of all the Trek series) and I have often felt that he is a great … [continued]
Ok, I thought the first Guardians of the Galaxy trailer was awesome, but this new one is even better. I cannot wait for this!!
“The only good human…!!” I can’t wait for July 11th!!
I’m also really loving this peek at Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar:
Oy vey, this is what they’ve decided to call the Batman vs. Superman movie? Devin over at badassdigest has it exactly right. (Devin also has some very smart things to say about the state of the Spider-Man film series here.)
For the longest time it seemed like Marvel Studios was doing everything right with their film series, while the Marvel properties at the other studios (like Spider-Man), not to mention Warner Brothers with all their DC Comics properties, were floundering. But the last week has seen quite a lot of alarming news coming out of Marvel. First was word that Drew Goddard was out as show-runner of the Netflix Daredevil show, which was a huge disappointment to me. (I really loved Mr. Goddard’s collaboration with Joss Whedon: The Cabin in the Woods.) Then came the collapse of Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man film. There’s a behind-the-scenes story that none of us know yet, but whatever went down, Edgar Wright has left the film that he’s been planning for literally YEARS. The only reason Marvel is making an Ant-Man movie is because of Mr. Wright’s passion for the character. (Ant-Man isn’t exactly a big name character!) With Edgar Wright (the talented director behind Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim Versus The World, a film that I absolutely adore) directing and Paul Rudd cast in the lead, Ant-Man was a film I was super-excited about. But with Edgar Wright out and word that they have also thrown out the script he co-wrote with Joe Cornish, I don’t know why Marvel is continuing with the film. With the movie’s announced release date just a year away, this looks like a huge train-wreck in the making. Is the golden age of Marvel Studios already over? I hope not, but I am definitely worried.
A new Elmore Leonard adaptation? With an awesome cast? Yes, please:
OK, one more trailer for you, an adaptation of Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons’ comic book series The Secret Service:
I’m not quite sure why the film has been re-titled Kingsman, but whatever. The comic book was awesome and that trailer is promising. I’m loving Colin Firth as the James Bond-esque character. This could be a lot of fun.
This past June 1st marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Wow. Here’s a wonderful retrospective piece on the film… [continued]
Bryan Singer’s first X-Men film, released in 2000, was a revelation, proof to me that the complex, wonderful world of comic book super-heroes could indeed be brought to life on-screen in a fun, serious way. There had been some great comic book movies before X-Men, of course. Richard Donner’s Superman (1978) was and still remains a magnificent interpretation of the character, and I’ve always loved the flawed but still great Superman II (1980). Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) also was a fun film that had a huge cultural impact. But while those films were great, even as a kid they seemed to me like totally different versions of the characters I knew and loved. These were the “movie” versions of those characters. They were fun, but not at all like the “real” characters. I also recognized early-on that, while all of those films had moments of grandeur and lots of visual-effects magic, they were severely constrained by the limits of physical reality. The sprawling stories and epic nature of my favorite comic book series were far beyond the reach of any movie adaption.
Then came Bryan Singer’s X-Men, and suddenly the impossible seemed possible. Mr. Singer and his team (including screenwriter David Hayter and many other uncredited writers who were involved with the finished screenplay) took the X-Men, possibly the most sprawling and epic of all the different comic-book series and universes, and brought them to life in a way that on the one hand preserved their complexity (the film is jam-packed with different characters, each with their own back-story and power-set and motivation) while also boiling down the decades of comic-book story-lines into simplified versions that worked on screen. 2000′s X-Men took the property seriously (more seriously than some of the various bad X-Men spin-off comic-books over the years had done), anchoring the story in Magneto’s past as a survivor of the Holocaust. (The decision to open the film with a prologue set in Auschwitz is an incredibly gutsy move, and is I think a critical key to the film’s success, because that scene gives a weight to Magneto’s point of view.)
Almost a decade-and-a-half later, it’s easy to look back at X-Men and see everything that the film got wrong. We’ve been blessed with some incredibly faithful comic book adaptations lately. Looking at how well the Marvel Studios films have brought their characters to life, we can look back at X-Men and bemoan the dull, Matrix-inspired leather look to all the characters. While the film nailed Wolverine, Professor X, and Magneto, we can complain about the characterizations that missed the mark (Storm, Cyclops). We can comment how small-scale X-Men is, how it lacks in any real crazy … [continued]
It picked up a little bit in the final third, with the episodes set after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but nevertheless it’s hard to characterize the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as anything other than a colossal disappointment.
When the show was first announced, I thought it was a brilliant idea. Any type of TV show based on characters from Marvel Comics would pique my interest, but the notion of setting the show in the same continuity as the Marvel Studios films, and to actually have the show weave around the events of future films as they were released? How cool was that idea! It was such a clever combination of never-been-done-before gall and so-obvious-it-hurts common sense. I wasn’t initially wild about the idea of resurrecting Agent Coulson (so memorably killed off in The Avengers), but I loved Clark Gregg’s performance in the role and was not unhappy to get to see more of him. I’ve loved the work of Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen before, so I was thrilled to see them in place as the show-runners, and with Joss Whedon directing the pilot, the series had a can’t-miss feel.
And yet, right away from the pilot (click here for my initial review) it was clear that something wasn’t altogether right with this show. The writing didn’t have the spark I had expected, and the look of the show seemed surprisingly cheap. Worst of all, the characters were flat as can be. I suppose it’s not fair to compare to compare this show to one of the greatest television shows ever made, but compare this cast of characters to that of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, another fantasy-set motley-band-of-heroes-against-the-world show. By the end of the pilot episode of Firefly, I loved those characters. I wanted to know more about each and every one of them, and I was hooked in and ready to watch many, many more episodes with that crew. (Sadly, that never happened.) But even after 22 episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., even in the final episodes of the season, when the plot was flying fast and furious, I really didn’t care one whit for any of these characters. That’s the sin that most sinks the show for me, because if I don’t really care about the characters, the show doesn’t work.
It’s a shame, because once we got to that final batch of episodes, set after Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we got to see some very cool ideas that the writers had clearly had in mind from the very beginning of the show. They knew that the events of The Winter Soldier were coming, and so the show … [continued]
It’s interesting that the only two network half-hour comedies that I watch these days… happen to be run by the same individual, Mike Schur. He made his bones on The Office (where he also played Mose), and he’s one of the show-runners of both Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Here’s are two wonderfully detailed interviews with Mr. Schur, the first of which looks back at the first season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and the second of which looks back at season seven of Parks and Rec, with a focus on the season finale. These are great interviews and well-worth your time if you’re a fan of either show.
This is a terrific, in-depth interview with Mel Brooks, discussing Blazing Saddles. Get comfy and enjoy.
I was sad to read of the passing of Efrem Zimbalist Jr. He had many great roles but for me he will always be the iconic voice of Alfred from Batman the Animated Series and many subsequent DC animated projects. He was absolutely perfect as Alfred, and when I read the character’s dialogue in any comic book I always hear Mr. Zimbalist’s voice. I am really heartbroken that we’ll never again get to hear him voice Alfred in any future DC animated film or show.
Speaking of Batman, I’ve gotta say, this first official glimpse of Ben Affleck as Batman (in Zack Snyder’s upcoming untitled Superman Vs. Batman film) is pretty great. Love the costume. Love the small bad ears. Love Ben’s Batman chin. Love that classic look of the Batmobile.
So, I bashed The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in my review. I’ve been glad to see that I’m not alone in my disappointment with the film. Click here to read Film Critic Hulk take the film apart. Click here for io9′s very funny list of Amazing Spider-Man 2 FAQs. (Their one-sentence answer to the question “What is The Amazing Spider-Man 2 about?” is hysterical and 100% spot-on.) Finally, this article No One Cares About Peter Parker’s Parents is also 100% spot-on and echoes a point I made in my review.
This is cool: apparently back in the day, Criterion released the first three James Bond films on laserdisc, with commentary tracks featuring candid comments from many of the people involved in the making of the films. When Bond producer Albert Broccoli objected, the discs were recalled from stores. Here’s the full story. Now the commentaries have re-surfaced and are available to download for free here! I have downloaded them all and look forward to giving them a listen soon. Should be fun!
Get comfy, folks, we have a lot to discuss with this one.
When The Amazing Spider-Man 2 works, it works very, very well. There are aspects of this film that are truly amazing (pun very much intended). And when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn’t work, and boy are there a lot of times when it doesn’t work, it is horrendous. If this film was just terrible from start-to-finish I could more easily write it off and ignore it, but there’s enough that is great that the aspects of the film that fail are hugely frustrating, one enormous missed opportunity after another.
To re-cap, Sam Raimi directed a trio of Spider-Man movies (starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst). The first two were incredible, thrilling super-hero films in their own right and, to me, pretty much a note-perfect way of bringing the character of Spider-Man to life on screen. The films had some flaws (for example, in the first film, having the faces of both Spider-Man and the Green Goblin hidden behind inexpressive masks impacted the drama of their scenes together), but in tone they GOT it. In particular, both films have terrific endings. I loved that, in the first film, Peter Parker DOESN’T get the girl. And in the second film, after Peter and Mary Jane are finally brought together, the pain and fear we glimpse in Mary Jane’s eyes in that final shot is spectacular, a wonderfully complex and enigmatic way to end the film. Unfortunately, Spider-Man 3 stunk big-time, as Rami famously fought with the studio, and the result was an over-bloated, nonsensical mess. At that point, the studio decided they didn’t want to continue paying Raimi, Maguire, and Dunst’s big salaries, so they rebooted the series with a new cast and a new origin. I would have preferred for them to not have started over again from zero. Just re-cast the series and tell us some new, great Spider-Man adventures! But that’s not what happened. The result was The Amazing Spider-Man (click here for my review), a very mediocre film that had moments of greatness but over-all was forgettable.
I had been hoping that this sequel would be able to take what worked about The Amazing Spider-Man and and improve about what didn’t, but unfortunately this deeply flawed film only cements this rebooted Spider-Man series as an over-all disappointment. This film is a big-time swing-and-a-miss.
So what works?
Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. Ms. Stone is perfectly cast. She looks the part (and I loved the way her outfits in the film perfectly capture the classic Gwen Stacy look, especially that iconic white overcoat), and more importantly she breathes spectacular life into the character. We can … [continued]
This “Modern Seinfeld” twitter feed is pretty amusing. I guess the premise is these guys are coming up with Seinfeld ideas, if the show was being made today. This one really made me laugh: George gets dumped for being a “toilet texter.” GEORGE: “What else are you supposed to do in there?!” JERRY: “I can think of a couple things.”
This is awesome: A New Yorker’s Tour of Ghostbusters.
Did you catch the second Robot Chicken DC Special earlier this month? So funny. This DC All Access video contains some of the great bits, and a peek behind-the-scenes:
This article about Police Academy sort of makes me want to re-watch it! I haven’t seen any of those films in YEARS, but Police Academy #1-4 were HUGE parts of my childhood!!
How Gravity should have ended:
A new animated Batman short by Bruce Timm (mastermind behind Batman: The Animated Series) in honor of Batman’s 75th anniversary? And it’s a retro pulp adventure? And Kevin Conroy voices Batman? YES PLEASE!
The funniest thing about this new trailer for 24: Live Another Day is the “red-band” text that opens it:
I have absolutely zero interest in the film Sabotage, but this article’s description of star Josh Holloway as “America’s Sean Bean” made me laugh and laugh. HAS Mr. Holloway actually lived to the end of a movie he’s been in…??
I learned about Operation: Paperclip as a kid from The X-Files. It was real, and represents a fascinating (and morally ambiguous) era of American history. I was pleased to see it referenced as part of the fictional S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra back-story in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. More on Operation: Paperclip and the Marvel universe can be found here.… [continued]
As Marvel Studios impresses yet again with another high quality super-hero film, one that honors and respects the source material while also being accessible to newbies and entertaining as a film in its own right, it’s easy to forget what a miracle this is. There are so many ways that a character like Captain America could have been done so wrong. Really, it’s so simple to imagine a million different terrible, pain-inducing versions of a Captain America movie. So once again, bravo to Marvel mastermind Kevine Feige and his huge team of collaborators for giving life to another dynamite film.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not perfect, but it’s a rollickingly entertaining film that I think would be fun for kids and adults alike. After The Avengers (click here for my review), I wondered if I could ever again be satisfied by these heroes’ solo films, but with the one-two-three punch of Iron Man Three (click here for my review), Thor: The Dark World (click here for my review), and now Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I must say with no small degree of admiration that so far Marvel’s Phase Two (the films taking place after The Avengers and leading up to the next Avengers film, The Avengers: Age of Ultron) has been far more consistent than the much-admired Phase One.
Having been awoken in the twenty-first century, Captain America has continued to fight the good fight as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., but the array of cloak-and-dagger missions has left Steve Rogers feeling somewhat dissatisfied. When he learns of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s new plan to use advanced technology and weaponry to take their strategy of eliminating threats before they happen to a whole new level, his dissatisfaction turns to distrust. Soon Captain America finds himself on-the-run, a fugitive from S.H.I.E.L.D., and facing a powerful new enemy in the form of the Winter Soldier, a cybernetically-enhanced mercenary with a shocking tie to Cap’s past.
In a dramatic and savvy tonal shift from Captain America: The First Avenger’s nostalgic, pulp adventure tone, this sequel is a super-hero movie meets political thriller. This is a really smart way to thrown Cap into a whole new kind of adventure in which the character’s inherent honesty and nobility is forced to confront the sticky complexity of twenty-first century threats to our freedom. I loved this aspect of the film, and only wish the script had dug a little deeper into those shades of grey before spelling out for us exactly who the bad guys are.
Chris Evans is again fantastic as Steve Rogers/Captain America. Probably the most important key to the success of all these Marvel movies has been … [continued]
After re-reading Jonathan Hickman’s run on The Fantastic Four, I decided to continue — moving back a step, actually — to re-read Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s 12-issue run on FF that immediately preceded Mr. Hickman’s taking over the series. I didn’t follow Mr. Hickman’s run when it was originally published monthly, but I did buy all 12 issues of Millar/Hitch’s run when it came out. I went into their run with high hopes — the two men had each worked on some of my favorite super-hero comics of the prior few years, and they had collaborated on the incredible first two series of “The Ultimates,” the Ultimate Universe re-boot of The Avengers that wound up proving so influential to the Marvel movie universe. (It was in Millar/Hitch’s Ultimates that they began to use Samuel L. Jackson as the visual model for Nick Fury, which eventually became incredible reality when the real Samuel L. Jackson took on that role at the end of 2008′s Iron Man.) But my recollection is that, in the end, I had wound up being very disappointed with Millar/Hitch’s run on FF. I was eager to re-read their story to see what I thought of it, with a little distance.
Their twelve-issue run was divided into four four-issue story-lines:
World’s Greatest — FF #554-557 – This was a very strong beginning to Millar/Hitch’s run. Their first issue, FF #554, was a bold statement of tone for their run. Mr. Hitch’s jaw-dropping, incredible artwork took center stage, and Mr. Millar gave Mr. Hitch some incredible sequences to illustrate. Mr. Hitch gave each of the FF characters his own individual stamp, making slight tweaks to everyone’s look. I really liked his versions of the FF uniforms, adding some little touches here and there (some ribbing and seams on the costumes; finger-less gloves worn by Reed and Sue) to make their costumes look just a little more realistic and a little less like spandex leotards. Mr. Millar also gave each of the FF characters a slight tweak of characterization. His versions of the classic FF four-some are faithful to their history, but Mr. Millar is able to spin everything just a little bit in order to give the characters a unique feel under his authorship. I was most taken by his version of Reed Richards. Reed is sometimes depicted a a nerdy, awkward almost-recluse. But Mr. Millar writes Reed as, basically, one of the coolest men in the Marvel Universe. He’s got an incredible intellect, amazing tech, a gorgeous wife, and a self-confidence that makes him a leader of men without tipping over into being an arrogant jerk. This is a great version of Reed.
In this first … [continued]
I’ve been having a fantastic time (pun definitely intended!) reading Jonathan Hickman’s epic run on The Fantastic Four. Click here for part one, click here for part two, and click here for part three.
Now, at last, we come to the final issues of Mr. Hickman’s massive story-line. Everything came to a head in Forever, the story-line in Fantastic Four #600-604 (collected in Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four volume 5) and it felt in some ways, like the end of the story.
FF Volume 3 – All Hope Lies in Doom – FF # 12-16 – But, in fact, Mr. Hickman’s story was not yet over. Opening the pages of this collection, I realized that I had forgotten about a huge story-line left hanging by the events of Forever — what the heck had happened to Dr. Doom?? Young Valeria, Franklin, and the other kids of the Future Foundation find themselves trapped in Latveria, along with Nathaniel Richards, Doom, and Kristoff, who are under the sway of the last surviving evil Reed. Together they journey back to the between-universes realm of the destroyed Council of Reeds, where a number of very angry Celestials await them. It is in these issues that Nathaniel’s plan lies revealed — to find a way to change the past and delay the Celestials by just a few minutes from their arrival at Earth (where they will battle Galactus as seen in the pages of Forever). Those few minutes will, Nathaniel & Future Franklin and Val believe, be enough to change a key event and give our heroes a chance for victory. The events in this collection at first feel like a side-bar from the main story, but I love how quickly we understand that these are critical events indeed. I love the multi-sided battle-of-wits between Nathaniel, Doom, the evil Reed, and Valeria, with each character plotting and scheming against the others and the reader rushing to keep up with what is going on. I adore the version of Doom we see in these stories — he’s evil and arrogant, but incredibly smart, a powerful enemy and ally. Sometimes I feel writers write Doom as too much of an egotistical idiot, but this Doom is clearly clever and dangerous. But he’s also noble in a way, and I love the bizarre almost-friendship that we see formed between Doom and young Valeria. I also love the connection we see in these issues between Franklin and Galactus (I LOVE that Future Franklin calls Galactus “Galen”). Great stuff! Reading these issues sheds new light on many of the events of Forever, helping to flesh out the story and to address story-threads I hadn’t even realized had been … [continued]
I have been having a blast reading Jonathan Hickman’s recent run on the Fantastic Four. Click here for my thoughts on the beginning of Mr. Hickman’s run, and click here for part II of my reading of his saga.
Following the death of the Human Torch in Fantastic Four # 587, the series was re-launched with a new number one, now titled just FF. FF of course was an acronym not only for Fantastic Four, but also for the Future Foundation (a creation of Mr. Hickman’s), the organization of brilliant young-people started by Reed Richards. With a new name, a new series, new all-white costumes for the heroes (designs which I quite like — this is one of the bolder re-imaginings of the classic FF costumes that I can recall), and a new member of the team (Spider-Man, replacing the Human Torch), this was a big turning point for the characters and the story-line. FF #1 felt like the series had become what Mr. Hickman had been driving towards all along. It was almost as if the entire first year-plus of his run on the title had all been about putting the pieces in place to create this re-imagining of the FF.
One note to the fine folks at Marvel putting together these trade paperbacks. You guys need to include some sort of guide, in these editions, indicating the order in which this story is supposed to be read! Mr. Hickman’s run is collected in six Fantastic Four collections, numbered volume 1 through volume 6. Except that after volume 4, you’re NOT supposed to move on to volume 5! At that point you’re supposed to read the first twelve issues of FF, in the collections labeled FF volume 1 and FF volume 2. That was not at all obvious to me at first! After finishing Fantastic Four volume 4 I moved right on to volume 5. A few pages in I realized something was wrong, and only then did I remember that the title of the comic had changed from Fantastic Four to FF mid-way through Mr. Hickman’s run. Things only get more complicated later, when after FF #11 the regular Fantastic Four series returned, with Fantastic Four #600. BUT the FF series continued, with the two series (Fantastic Four and FF) telling connected stories for the final year of Mr. Hickman’s run. I had a real devil of a time figuring out what order to read the collections in at that point! Sheesh! But I digress…
FF Volume 1 — Tomorrow — FF #1-5 – Valeria’s secret deal with Doom is revealed — she and her father will help restore Doom’s mind, and in return, … [continued]
Yesterday I began my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2013! Click here for part one.
10. Iron Man Three – Like Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man Three was a fun film that not only served as an effective sequel to its particular series, but also as a follow-up to The Avengers and a further expansion of the over-all Marvel movie universe. More importantly even than that, Iron Man Three told an exciting action/adventure story that was deeply rooted in the stories of the characters, and that (after the somewhat disappointing Iron Man 2) successfully returned to the light, funny-but-still-telling-a-serious-story tone that the first Iron Man film nailed so dramatically. As a fanatical fan of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I was thrilled to see the reunion of Robert Downey Jr. with Shane Black, who directed and co-wrote this film. There seems to be a wonderful magic that occurs when those two men work together. Also, Ben Kingsley’s work as The Mandarin could be one of the best supporting performances in a Marvel Studios movie so far. So great. And the post-credits scene? Perfection. (Click here for my original review.)
9. This is The End – Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared made me fall in love with the work of Paul Feig and Judd Apatow, and with many of the tremendously talented young performers who have appeared over and over again in Mr. Apatow’s work, and also over the years in many other projects of their own. These guys have been in a lot of great films, and also, occasionally, in some lesser films in which they have coasted a bit on the audience’s fondness for their characters. This is The End takes perfect advantage of that fondness, resulting in an absolutely hilarious, madcap story of this group of friends (Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson, all playing themselves) attempting to survive the end of the world. There’s a lot of energy at the start of the film from all of the famous cameos (including but not limited to: Michael Cera, Paul Rudd, Aziz Ansari, David Krumholtz, Mindy Kaling, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Martin Starr), and of course from the fun of watching all of those famous people die horribly. But the film gets even better once we wind up with just this group of boys, trapped together in the ruins of James Franco’s house. These guys have a lot of fun at one another’s expense, and the film continually surprised me with its crazy comedic digressions, from the Be Kind, Rewind-style home-made Pineapple Express 2 trailer to The Exorcism of Jonah Hill. Other than … [continued]
Hello, everyone! I have been working very hard over the past several weeks to prepare all of my annual Best of 2013 lists! First up: my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2013!
I saw a lot of movies in 2013, and in particular, over the past month-or-so I have been scrambling to see not only all of the big end-of-the-year releases, but also to try to catch up on as many 2013 movies that I had missed as possible. Even so, there are still a number of 2013 films that I just wasn’t able to find the time to see, including but not limited to: Saving Mr. Banks, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Only God Forgives, Short Term 12, Stories We Tell, Prince Avalanche, Nebraska, Rush, Under The Skin, and more. I also have yet to see Spike Jonze’s new film Her, which hasn’t been released here in the Boston area as of this writing. (It opened in NYC and LA at the very end of December, but wasn’t released anywhere else until this week. Though many people included Her on their end-of-the-year best-of lists, I sort of feel like, if I enjoy it, it should go on 2014′s list! But we’ll see.) So, anyways, if you loved one of those films and wish it was on my list, my apologies!
There were a lot of movies that I enjoyed in 2013 that didn’t make this list. These include: Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, All is Lost, Man of Steel, The Heat, Elysium, Machete Kills, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Frances Ha, The Kings of Summer, 42, The Bling Ring, and others. (That last bunch of films were among the many movies I watched in the last few weeks, as part of my “Catching Up on 2013″ project. I hope to post reviews of all those films, and more, on the site in the coming weeks.)
But for now, without any further delay, let’s dive into my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2013!
15. Drew: The Man Behind the Poster – This is the very last film I saw, just last week, before making my final decisions about this list. It’s a documentary about the extraordinarily-talented Drew Struzan, one of if not the very best movie poster illustrators who ever lived. Mr. Struzan has illustrated so many iconic movie posters: for all of the Back to the Future films, for all of the Indiana Jones films, and for many of the Star Wars films (one of the posters for the original film, the iconic original Revenge of the Jedi poster, and all of the posters … [continued]
Writer Jonathan Hickman recently wrapped up a very well-received run on the Fantastic Four, which I am reading in collected editions. Click here for my thoughts on the beginning of Mr. Hickman’s run.
Volume 2 — Prime Elements — FF #575-578 – This story collects four stand-alone issues, each of which focus on a different city, clearly picking up onthe mysterious reference to a coming War of Four Cities in volume one (specifically, FF #574). In FF #575, the Mole Man returns and, in classic Mole Man fashion, smashes into the Baxter Building with his weird, huge, subterranean beasts, only to ask the FF for help against another adversary: in this case, the High Evolutionary. Seems that machines left over in an abandoned former base of the High Evolutionary are having a mutating effect on some of the Mole Man’s moloids (the creatures that serve him). There are some extraordinary images in this issue, wonderfully illustrated by Dale Eaglesham. The full-page image of the Mole Man after he emerges in the Baxter Building, bowing down before the FF while standing on the tongue of a huge creature, is worthy of being made into a poster. And the full-page spread of the corpse of Galactus from the future is also a stunning, haunting image. (Though also one that caused me some confusion. That corpse plays a big part in volume 3′s story. I assumed, when reading this originally, that this was the corpse of the huge Galactus that we saw the Council of Reeds fighting in another universe, in volume 1. But I later figured out that in fact this is the Galactus from the future that we saw in Mark Millar’s run, that the super-team from the future used to power their time-machine. That wasn’t at all clear to me at first, and since we saw an alternate-universe Galactus right at the beginning of Mr. Hickman’s run, I think it was a reasonable assumption that it was THAT Galactus whose corpse we were seeing here.)
In FF #576, the team discovers a lost city of Atlantis. This kingdom is different from the under-water realm ruled by Namor, the Sub-Mariner, and has apparently been hidden for countless years. In FF #577, an enormous alien city-spaceship lands on the moon, in response to a summoning by Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans. We, along with the FF, learn that the Inhumans (who have been recurring FF characters since Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s original run) are but one group of a larger circle of Inhumans, all genetically altered by the alien Kree millennia ago. Finally, in FF #578, we see our fourth and final new city. Johnny Storm stumbles into the … [continued]
In one of my earliest posts on the site, I wrote my own follow-up to the famous Comics Journal article “Martin Wagner Owes Me Fifty Bucks,” in which I listed several comic book series that remained tragically never-completed by their authors. At the top of the list was David Lapham’s magnificent series Stray Bullets. This independently published, black-and-white comic book blew me away as a teenager. I still think it stands as a magnificent achievement, which makes the fact that the series stopped publication in the middle of a story tragically painful. Mr. Lapham is still working in the comic book industry, and for years and years I have been hoping that he would some-day return to this series and complete his story. It looks like that day has finally arrived, as Image Comics has listed Stray Bullets on their publication schedule for March, 2014. I hope this is real!!!
Devin Faraci at badassdigest.com has listed his Ten Most Disappointing Films of 2013, and at the top of his list is Star Trek Into Darkness. What Mr. Faraci wrote about the film so perfectly sums up my feelings that I don’t think I ever need to write another word about that terribly disappointing film. Here is Mr. Faraci:
This isn’t technically a ranked list, but I saved this for last on purpose. There were many months leading up to Star Trek Into Darkness that allowed me to roll with the movie’s punch, but even still this broiling heap of nonsense left me deeply despondant. JJ Abrams had totally proven me wrong with Star Trek 2009, a movie that while not great was filled with heart and adventure and managed to work despite extraordinary script flaws. Star Trek Into Darkness brought back both the cast who made the first film live and the script flaws that almost sank it, except this time the script flaws were not going to get upstaged. Into Darkness is dumb, it’s complicated for no reason, it features reveals that are meaningless to the plot and it pisses away Star Trek‘s most name-brand villain in a plotline that disrespects hardcore fans while being meaningless to the coveted new audience. Star Trek Into Darkness is a movie so bad that it fails on almost every conceivable level, including mewling fan service. This isn’t the worst film of the year… but it’s without a doubt the film that squanders the most talent, money and good will.
Love this trailer for Christopher Nolan’s new film, Interstellar. I don’t have a clue what the film is about, and that’s just the way I want … [continued]
I’ve been a huge fan of the Fantastic Four since I was a little kid. One of the first comic books I ever read was John Byrne’s FF # 277, published in 1985. I read it in a doctor’s office, and since I wasn’t finished reading the issue by the time I was called in, my mom — in an extraordinarily rare example of my mom breaking a rule — allowed me to swipe the comic and take it home. The comic blew my mind. Each page of the issue was divided in half, with one story running through the issue on the top of each page, and a separate story running through the issue on the bottom. Both stories were crazy. In the top-of-the-page story, Ben Grimm returns to Earth to find Johnny Storm shacked up with his girlfriend. This personal crisis is happening in the shadow of some sort of apocalyptic alien invasion that threatens to destroy the planet, with all sorts of craziness erupting all over New York City. Meanwhile, on the bottom half of each page, we see that Reed and Sue have apparently died, and are in hell being tortured by the devil (or at least Marvel Comics’ version of the devil, Mephisto). I’d never read anything like this before. The story was incredibly mature and sophisticated, and I was hooked. I read that issue over and over again for years.
But at the time I was too young to buy comics or even to really understand that I could nudge my parents into buying them for me. So it was several years before I started reading comics regularly. When that started to happen, Fantastic Four was one of the first comics that I ever followed monthly. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I started reading about a year after the end of John Byrne’s lengthy run (which I have come to consider the greatest run on FF since Stan and Jack’s original 106 issues). In that first issue I read (issue #307, published in 1987), Reed and Sue had left the team to raise their son, Franklin, and Ben and Johnny were left to form a new FF. I was hugely taken by the series right away, and I continued to read the series every month for years and years. I followed FF right up until the series was cancelled and rebooted by Jim Lee & co. under the “Heroes Reborn” banner in the nineties. I read Heroes Reborn, but my enthusiasm for the FF had dimmed by several years of weaker stories, and though Heroes Reborn started out with great promise, I ultimately found it to be a huge disappointment.
After … [continued]
This is fantastic: The Seinfeld reunion episode from Curb Your Enthusiasm season #7, edited together. Enjoy!
This is a great site that lists the various actors and actresses who played multiple characters in different Bond films. Great fun for the Bond fans out there!
Speaking of Bond, there was BIG NEWS last month that the James Bond movie producers and MGM have finally ended the nearly fifty-year-long legal battle with Kevin McClory, the co-writer of Thunderball. I’ve known about this rights conflict before, of course (it’s what led to another studio being able to make the competing Bond film, Never Say Never Again, that was released the same year as Octopussy), but what I didn’t realize was that this rights situation was what was preventing MGMN’s bond films from using Bloefeld or SPECTRE. My reviews of the Daniel Craig Bond films have been lamenting the absence of those two classic villains, and I am overjoyed at the idea that now the way is open for Bloefeld to be revealed as the head of Quantum, and/or for Quantum to be revealed as a branch of SPECTRE. I desperately hope the next Bond film walks through this now-open door!!
Hey, comic book fans: I’ve recently discovered two comic-book-related tumblrs that I am now obsessed with. First is John Byrne Draws, which is chock-full of absolutely gorgeous scans of Mr. Byrne’s original art from the decades that he has been working in the industry. There was a long, long time during which John Byrne was my very favorite comic book artist (and writer!), so this was a real treat. Then there is comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis’ tumblr, which is a showcase for two things: 1) amazing, extraordinary scans of classic comic book art from across the decades — work by many different artists from many different eras, being linked only by being some of the finest comic book art ever drawn, and 2) Bendis’ incredibly open, honest, funny and insightful Q & As with his fans. Both aspects of the tumblr are equally valuable — together, they’re an irresistible time-suck for me.
This is a fun article on 10 parts of the Indiana Jones films that bother the writer. I hugely agree with numbers 4 and 5. (Don’t worry, the article only focuses on the original Indy trilogy, rightly ignoring The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.)
This Star Trek reference-laden conversation between a Netflix employee and a customer is apparently real, and it is amazing.
This is a great article on two of my very favorite novels: Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun. Oh man do I love those two … [continued]
The sprawling cinematic epic that Marvel Studios has been crafting, ever since 2008′s Iron Man, rolls on with the very strong installment Thor: The Dark World. One might have been forgiven for thinking that perhaps, after the unprecedented movie super-hero crossover that was The Avengers, the return to solo superhero stories might be a letdown. But with the fun Iron Man Three (click here for my review) and now with the confident, bold Thor: The Dark World, Marvel is continuing an impressive streak of successful films, and continuing to expand the canvas of their super-hero universe.
At the start of Thor: The Dark World, Loki has been returned to Asgard in chains (following his defeat in The Avengers) and Thor — accompanied by his stalwart comrades-in-arms the Warriors Three and the lady Sif — has been busy putting down revolts across the nine realms (an apparent result of Loki’s destruction of the bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge that linked Asgard to the other realms, at the end of the first Thor). All is well, except that Thor longs to return to the side of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) on Earth. His father disapproves, but when Jane is put in peril by her discovery of an ancient evil, Thor rushes to her rescue. That doesn’t prove to be as simple as he had hoped, as Jane has become linked to a powerful weapon that the evil Malekith plans to use to destroy the nine realms and return the universe to the state of dark and lifelessness that existed before the universe as we know it was created. After Malekith launches a devastating attack on Asgard itself, Thor is once again put at odds with his father, Odin, and forced to turn to none other than his disgraced, treacherous brother Loki for help.
After the relatively small-scale first Thor movie, which was mostly set in a tiny Midwestern town, I was delighted by how broadly Thor: The Dark World opened up the canvas of the story. We get to explore quite a number of the nine realms in this film, and a huge chunk in the middle is set entirely on Asgard, which is a lot of fun. Veteran TV director Alan Taylor (who, most recently, has helmed some spectacular episodes of Game of Thrones) sure knows how to get the most bang for his buck, because Thor: The Dark World looks HUGE. I was very impressed by the visual effects that brought all of the realms and creatures and space-ships to life. (Yes, I said space-ships. There is a lot of sci-fi cosmic craziness in this film, mixed in with all the fantasy. This feels very true to … [continued]
This is fantastic: Tom Hiddleston (who played Loki in both Thor movies and The Avengers) doing a phneomenal impression of Owen Wilson, had Owen been cast as Loki. Check this out.
West Wing fans! Did you see this clip of Allison Janney performing The Jackal on The Arsenio Hall Show? This is an obscure reference, but one that any die-hard West Wing fan will appreciate:
This blog from Kevin Smith gives an intriguing update on his fast-developed, absolutely bonkers weird-sounding new movie, Tusk. Click here for even more info. Despite being an enormous fan of Kevin Smith, I still haven’t seen Red State. I want to see it, for sure, since I can’t imagine not having seen one of Mr. Smith’s films, but it just doesn’t interest me that much. So far, I am bummed to say that Tusk is trending the same way, but it’s such a loony concept that I am intrigued. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops.
This is a great short little retrospective of Jim Henson’s life and work. I very much want to read Brian Jay Jones’ biography of Jim Henson, it sounds like a really fascinating book.
OK, this is a very geeky link, but I loved this. An enterprising photoshopper has created images showing how awesome the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast would have looked in Original Series uniforms. So great.
There are a lot of stories cropping up about behind-the-scenes issues on the pre-production of Star Wars: Episode VII. Seems Disney is pushing for that 2015 release date, come hell or high water. More info here. I hope it’s all just talk. I don’t have much hope that I will ever again in my lifetime see a great Star Wars film, but that little ember of hope does still exist, deep inside me. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe!
Chris Claremont is, I would argue, single-handedly responsible for the incredible popularity of the X-Men today. Mr. Claremont wrote The Uncanny X-Men comic book, and a truck-load of spinoffs and mini-series and annuals and other special events, for a jaw-dropping seventeen years, from the ’70s into the ’90s. (In one of the great injustices of the medium’s history, he was sort of pushed off of the series when his work began to be overshadowed by the popularity of the superstar artists working at Marvel in those days.) A new documentary about his career — focusing on that incredible seventeen year run on the X-Men — has just been released, and I am dying to see it. This is a fantastic article about a recent screening of the film, followed by a Q & A … [continued]
Want to loose an hour of your life? Spend some time reading through the comments section of this article that poses the question: what is the single best episode of any genre TV show ever? I don’t agree with all the responses, of course, but I agree with a LOT of ‘em… and they all make me want to devote the next year of my life to go-ing back and re-watching all of my favorite sci-fi shows…!!
Can you believe The Simpsons is entering its 25th season??? That is just insane! Here is a great interview with current Simpsons show-runner Al Jean. I have about two years’ worth of Simpsons episodes sitting unwatched in my Tivo queue. I still love The Simpsons but somewhere along the line I just lost my eagerness to see the new episodes as they aired each week… and now it’s been many, many months since I have watched one of the latest episodes. It’s hard for me to believe this has happened! Maybe this will get me excited for the show again: the news that Guillermo del Toro directed the opening couch gag segment of this year’s Treehouse of Horror episode, that aired last night. Cool. I haven’t watched the episode yet, but it just might be time to dip into my queue and check it out! Click here to watch the entire opening segment, and to hear more from Guillermo del Toro about creating that elaborate sequence.
This is interesting: Pixar’s in-development film The Good Dinosaur has had its release date pushed back by A YEAR AND A HALF. Wow. That means that 2014 will be the first year without a new Pixar film since 2005. On the one hand, I am pleased to see a major studio taking the time to get a movie done right, rather than rushing to meet a release date. On the other hand, while I don’t know the full story, I feel badly for the original director, Bob Peterson, who was removed off the film he had helped to create and develop.
From J.W. Rinzler’s upcoming book The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, io9 has collected a fascinating (oops, wrong Star franchise) list of 10 things you probably didn’t know about Return of the Jedi. This is a must-read for all Star Wars fans. Speaking of Star Wars and i09, I also love their list of the 9 least-competent Jedi. I don’t know anything about the expanded universe characters, but they’re certainly right on the money about Qui-Gon Jin. (And Ben Kenobi. And Yoda. And Luke.)
I’ve been very critical of Star Trek Into Darkness on this site. … [continued]
Well, this past week the much-hyped premiere episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally arrived! (That is a lengthy title, and I think for simplicity’s sake I will just be referring to the show as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. from here on in.) I am excited and intrigued by this show, both because of the never-been-done-before conceit of having the show set in the continuity of Marvel’s continuing series of movies, and also because of the pedigree of the men and women behind the show. The pilot was written and directed by Joss Whedon (who wrote and directed The Avengers and will be doing the same for the sequel coming in 2015, not to mention having helmed several brilliant other TV shows you might have heard of), and though he won’t be the show-runner moving forward, that responsibility lies in the incredibly talented husband-and-wife hands of Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen.
So what did I think of the pilot?
In a nutshell, good not great. I wasn’t exactly blown away, but the show was definitely good enough that I am along for the ride for now.
The pilot was a lot of fun, made so primarily by a lot of wonderful Joss Whedon-scripted snappy dialogue. I was quite taken by the light, this-may-be-serious-business-but-we’re-gonna-have-fun-along-the-way tone. It’ll be interesting to see how the Joss-free scripts for the next few episodes turn out.
I love how unabashedly the show is set in the Marvel movie universe, with lots of references to the battle of New York in last summer’s The Avengers (though it is weird that we don’t see any lingering devastation from the carnage of the alien invasion — one line about S.H.I.E.L.D.’s involvement in the clean-up wasn’t really enough for me) and to the Extremis virus from this past summer’s Iron Man 3. There were also plenty of other little winks and nods to the wider Marvel comic-book universe, with mentions of Project Pegasus, a play on the classic Spider-Man “with great power…” line, and more. If done right, this show could be an incredible way to explore many of the nooks and crannies of the Marvel universe that would never be able to make their way into the big movies. I for one am hoping in particular to see a few of the famous S.H.I.E.L.D. agents from the comics (Contessa! Clay Quartermain!) pop up in the show down the line.
It was great seeing Agent Coulson (the magnificent Clark Gregg) back, and I’m intrigued by the mystery of his resurrection. However, while it’s great fun having Coulson back — and at the center of things, now! — there’s no question his resurrection dilutes the power of his death in The Avengers.… [continued]
Let’s begin the day with this phenomenal article from badassdigest.com about how Optimus Prime’s death defined a generation of kids. Do you want to understand the depths of my geeky heart? Then read that article. My parents wouldn’t let me see Transformers: The Movie in theatres, but I was allowed to rent it on video. I didn’t cry, but I was shocked by the brutal deaths of all my beloved characters in the film’s opening minutes. When Optimus Prime bought the farm I was changed forever. I had loved the Transformers before, but one viewing of Transformers: The Movie sealed that flick’s place in my heart forever. “Megatron… must be stopped. No matter the cost.”
Boy, those crazy guys and gals at badassdigest.com have a direct line into my psyche these days, because while the experience of seeing Transformers: The Movie was seminal, so too was my discovery of Voltron. This magnificent article examines the mysterious origins of Voltron, a show that combined and repurposed several different Japanese cartoons. Oh my lord I loved Voltron. The continuity of that show — the way story-lines flowed from one episode to the next — was a staggering discovery to me as a kid, and I fell in love hard. To this day, I have a love for long-running continuing stories in any media (Movies, TV, books, comic books, etc.), and I think that began as a kid when I discovered Voltron and Robotech…
I just discovered Jerry Seinfeld’s web-series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and it is magnificent. I love stand-up comedy and I loved Seinfeld, so no surprise I think this series of shorts of Jerry hanging out with his very funny pals is phenomenal. With this project, Seinfeld has inched even closer to truly having made a show about nothing. Genius. I have already watched them all. If you haven’t seen this, click on the above link immediately.
Want to watch Ewan McGregor tell a hilarious story about filming the Star Wars prequels? Jump to 7:50 below:
So far I am very, very excited for next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. My only cause for worry? The film’s very unimpressive redesign of the Sentinels. I wish they had stuck a lot closer to the classic, iconic original design by John Byrne. The Sentinels aren’t just any robots, they have a very specific look, and this isn’t it.
As for this summer’s X-Men movie, I have already written my review of the good-but-not-great new Wolverine solo film, The Wolverine. Click here for a fascinating interview with Chris Claremont, who shares his thoughts on the film. Chris Claremont didn’t create the X-Men or Wolverine, but in … [continued]
I think if I had never read Wolverine, the classic 1982 mini-series written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Frank Miller & Joe Rubinstein, I would have had a lot more enjoyment from the new film The Wolverine.
I think The Wolverine is a very solid film, an excellent Wolverine solo adventure with some great character beats and some killer action sequences. It’s a film that goes a long way towards righting the “present-day” X-Men film franchise that had so badly stumbled with X3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The problem is that this film is purported to be an adaptation of the Claremont/Miller mini-series. Ever since Hugh Jackman first impressed movie-goers with his portrayal of Logan in Bryan Singer’s first X-Men film, fans have clamored for an adaptation of the character-defining story in which Wolverine goes to Japan, finds love, fights lots of ninjas, and is forced to confront the basic duality of his nature and determine whether he is capable of being more than an animalistic killing machine. It’s a classic story, probably still to this day the greatest Wolverine story.
And although The Wolverine is set in Japan and features characters named Mariko, Yukio, and Shingen, the similarities to the Claremont/Miller story end there. That really bummed me out, because while The Wolverine tells a very interesting story, I didn’t find it nearly as interesting as the comic book story. So I wonder why the filmmakers didn’t just tell that great story from the comic, rather than making up this whole new one?
Putting aside the comparisons, the story told in The Wolverine is a good one. Despite quite a few years having passed since 2006′s X-Men: The Last Stand, The Wolverine is an unabashed sequel to that film, picking up an unspecified number of years later, with Logan still haunted by his killing of Jean Grey. He has tried to swear off violence, but continually finds himself drawn into situations in which he sees wrongs that need to be righted, often at the pointy-ends of his adamantium claws. Into his life enters Yukio, a young woman sent to track him down on behalf of the aged head of clan Yashida. Logan saved his life decades ago, at the end of World War II, and Yashida wants to repay this debt by giving Logan a way to end his immortal life.
Hugh Jackman is still staggeringly impressive as Logan. He brings tremendous physicality to the role (Mr. Jackman has a Shatner-esque ability to constantly find himself without a shirt) and also an ability to almost effortlessly display Logan’s innate nobility and romantic side. That’s a central aspect of the character in the comics — he’s really quite a … [continued]
Lots of cool news coming out of Comic-Con this week!
Let’s begin with the hilarious Game of Thrones “In Memoriam” video:
Look! It’s Caesar and his Ape Council! Awesome.
The Simpsons is going to do a crossover episode with Family Guy? Awesome! Even more exciting? The Simpsons is also going to do a crossover with the cancelled-again Futurama!!! Oh boy I can’t wait for that.
Speaking of crossovers, in news that I found VERY surprising, DC/Warner Brothers have announced that the follow-up to Man of Steel is going to be a Batman/Superman film. As much as I love all the allusions, in the announcement, to the seminal Superman-Batman grudge match in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (and I love the Frank Miller-inspired Batman/Superman logo that you’ll see if you scroll down this article) I must confess to not be so excited that they are rushing into a crossover film. I felt that Man of Steel had a lot of flaws, but it was a terrific reintroduction of Superman. I’d love to see them get a little deeper into exploring this new incarnation of the character, before throwing him into a Batman crossover film. Plus, since it seems clear that Christian Bale will not be reprising the role, wouldn’t it be weird to introduce a new Batman in this crossover film, without a stand-alone film of his own under his belt? The whole thing feels to me that they are rushing things in order to combat Marvel’s success with The Avengers.
Still, if done right, a Batman/Superman film could sure be awesome. I must admit that despite my qualms, there is some geeky excitement there.
I feel similarly about Marvel’s announcement that The Avengers 2 will be called Age of Ultron. The deadly, humanity-hating robot Ultron is a classic Avengers villain, and the thought of seeing him realized on film should be tremendously exciting. And it is, for sure. It’s just that I am really thrown for a loop since after seeing Thanos at the end of The Avengers, and with the cosmic Guardians of the Galaxy set as one of Marvel’s Phase 2 films coming before Avengers 2, it seemed like Marvel was setting the stage for a big cosmic story with Thanos as the main bad-guy. I thought that was such an awesome plan. I am very uncertain, now, as to how Ultron is going to play into all that. Is Thanos going to be held until The Avengers 3? That is a looong way away!
Adding to my uncertainty is the specificity of the subtitle of Age of Ultron. That is actually the title of a Marvel Comics crossover series that … [continued]
New production video for The Hobbit! Yay!
Do you have $275 burning a hole in your pocket? Then why not consider buying yourself (or me!) a print of Drew Struzan’s gorgeous Dark Tower painting (originally featured in Frank Darabont’s vastly underrated adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist)?
Star Trek geek red alert! This is an outstanding, in-depth article about the special effects of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, including a focus on the brilliant redesign of the USS Enterprise for that film (which still stands, in my mind, as the definitive version of the Enterprise).
Speaking of Star Trek, this is an interesting — albeit completely wrong-headed — defense of Star Trek: Voyager. The writer is correct in lamenting the complete absence on TV these days of the type of optimistic, humanistic sci-fi that Star Trek embodied. And he is also correct in praising the strong female characters of Voyager, and the way that, on the show, “female authority was assumed and unquestioned.” That’s still a surprisingly forward-thinking and not-all-that-common point of view for a mainstream TV show. Unfortunately, I wish Voyager was actually the groundbreaking show that writer remembers. I’m afraid to say that Voyager was derivative and boring, a show that totally failed to follow through on any aspect of its strong premise, instead presenting us with rehashed, watered down versions of Trek stories we’d seen done before, and far better. It’s the worst of the Trek series by quite a wide margin, in my opinion.
Boy, I loved Ender’s Game when I first read it a decade or two ago, but the more I learn of Orson Scott Card’s political views, the more disappointed I become. Meredith Borders at badassdigest.com has written a concise and powerful evisceration of Mr. Card’s most recent anti-gay rights statement, and I think it’s worth a read.
As a weirdly connected follow-up piece, allow me to recommend this spotlight on the life of Conrad Veidt. I didn’t think I knew who he was, until I ready the article and realized that I did (and I bet you do too, if you’ve ever seen Casablanca), but I didn’t know about his incredible life. Very cool short article.
Nothing particularly revelatory in this first teaser poster for Captain America 2. I’m excited that they will be adapting Ed Brubaker’s fantastic Winter Soldier storyline — I hope they don’t stray too far from his original story. We’ll see.
Oh, I love this possible premise for a sequel to This is the End! I can’t imagine we’ll ever actually see that, but if they made that movie I’d be there.
Let’s end with the most awesome thing I have seen … [continued]
OK, this is the greatest thing I have seen in a long time (BUT BEWARE SPOILERS IF YOU ARE NOT UP TO DATE WITH GAME OF THRONES!!!)
I love The Princess Bride!
I’ve completely lost faith in M. Night Shyalaman over the past decade, but that being said I still think Unbreakable is his best film, and I would so love for the long-rumored sequel to someday happen. The one flaw with Unbreakable, in my mind, is that the story feels incomplete — it feels like the first act of a larger story. So every time Mr. Shyamalan talks about a possible sequel, I am happy.
So this is interesting: in the months after the success of Skyfall, there was a lot of talk that Bond 24 and 25 (the next two Bond films) would be two connected films. That was denied by the Bond producers. But amidst the recent news that Skyfall Director will be returning for the next Bond film, the 24th, comes this rumor that Mr. Mendes is going to commit to helm the 25th Bond film as well! I love the idea of a two-part Bond film, that would be super-cool if that happens.
Zack Snyder (director of Man of Steel) and Bruce Timm (mastermind behind Batman: The Animated Series) are collaborating on a Superman short film in honor of Superman’s 75th anniversary? Awesome!
I have Superman because of my huge anticipation for The Man of Steel (which I hope to see this weekend!!), so now’s as good a time as any to read this terrific piece looking back at Superman II! That film was a HUGE part of my childhood…!!
There’s been a lot of rumors flying in recent weeks about the inclusion of the character of Quicksilver in both Fox’s upcoming X-Men movie, Days of Future Past, as well as the Disney-owned Marvel Studios’ upcoming Avengers 2. It will be fascinating to see how this all shakes out!
(Speaking of Days of Future Past — Nixon! Love it!)
And with that, my friends, I wish you all a great weekend. I’ll be back next week with my thoughts on Man of Steel, season four of Arrested Development, and cartoons making fun of Star Trek Into Darkness. Hope to see you all back here soon!… [continued]
First of all: Arrested Development. Sadly for me, life has intervened and, despite my years-long anticipation, I have not yet seen a single second of the new Netflix season. But rest assured, friends, that very shortly I will be devouring these new episodes and I will be back here, of course, with my detailed thoughts. Hopefully very soon!!
This will take some time to read, but boy is it worth it: the Onion A.V. Club’s in-depth, career-spanning interview with comedian Patton Oswalt.
I wasn’t nearly as in love with Skyfall as the rest of the world seemed to be (click here for my original review), but I am excited by the news that, contrary to reports from late last year, Sam Mendes just might return to direct the next Bond film. I hope that happens. No let’s bring back QUANTUM and make them a real, SPECTRE-like threat to Bond!
This is hilarious and I have never loved George Takei more. Click here to see Mr. Takei’s written responses to various bigoted anti-gay marriage protesters.
Speaking of Star Trek, I love this piece about a non-Star Trek fan who discovered Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I still feel strongly that the under-loved Deep Space Nine is the strongest of the Star Trek series. Sigh. I miss the days of great new Star Trek on TV every week…!
Still speaking of Star Trek, this is a fantastic piece that dissects crazy, ill-advised efforts that J.J. Abrams went to in order to mislead folks (OK, flat-out lie) about the identity of the character Benedict Cumberbatch was playing in Star Trek Into Darkness. I was tremendously disappointed by the Trek sequel (click here for my review) and this article supports and further fleshes out many of the points I made in my review.
I posted the first teaser for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, but I don’t think I ever posted the longer, three-minute version. Check it out.
Same goes for this deliriously huge trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s new film Pacific Rim. This was released a few weeks ago already, but if you haven’t seen it yet, you should take a look:
I lamented the cancellation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars a few weeks ago, so I am happy to see that many of that show’s key creative players are involved in a new, in-the-works Star Wars animated project, set between Episodes III and IV. I still feel terribly disappointed that the Clone Wars story was cut off unfinished. Dare I hope that this new series will resurrect some unfinished story-threads and characters from the Clone Wars series…?
I’ll leave … [continued]
I’ve enjoyed reading Howard Kurtz’s writing — about politics, and about media — over the years. He screwed up big-time in his reporting about Jason Collins’ coming out as gay. But hoo, boy, this video of him getting mercilessly grilled — on his own CNN show — about the incident is pretty brutal. Click here to see a very uncomfortable fifteen minutes. I was like a deer in the headlights — I couldn’t look away.
Another great season (thank goodness it’s not the last!!) of Parks and Recreation has recently wrapped up, and so once again Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall has another great post-season wrap-up interview with Parks & Rec’s show-runner (who also has been playing Dwight’s cousin Mose on The Office for the better part of a decade). Click here to read the full interview. (Fortunately, soon after that interview was conducted, the news broke that Parks and Rec has indeed been renewed for a sixth season.)
Is Star Wars the most over-rated franchise ever?? Click here for another fantastic opinion piece from Badass Digest’s Devin Faraci. One fantastic film and one very good film out of six? It’s sort of hard to argue with that…
If you’re a comic book fan and you don’t know who Len Wein is, it’s time to learn. Click here for a wonderful interview with the man who had his hand in creating the All-New X-Men back in the ’70s.
I’ve been waiting for Alfonso Cuaron’s next film for a while (I think Children of Men is pretty much a masterpiece), and this first look at Gravity has me drooling:
Jack Bauer might return — but not in the long-talked-about movie, but rather in a new 24 TV series? That is a wild idea! I loved 24 when it began, but the series’ formulaic story-telling caused me to lose patience by the end, and I didn’t actually watch the last season. But with better writing, I definitely think there is still life in the character and the franchise. I am bummed the movie never happened, but I’d definitely check out a new 24 TV series. It’ll be interesting to see if this goes anywhere… UPDATE! It’s happening! 24: Live Another Day will run 12 episodes and premiere next May. Wow. Could it be good? (That spin on the Die Another Day Bond title doesn’t impress me.) Chloe, open a socket!
So they’ve finally made a movie of Ender’s Game? Feels like this … [continued]
Iron Man was a magical film, a movie that caught a very specific, crazy sort of lightning in a bottle. I remember seeing it in a theater that very first time and realizing immediately that it was something special. It was intense and bad-ass but also incredibly funny and light-hearted. The special effects were terrific, the character arcs were compelling, the ending was magnificent and the post-credits epilogue blew my mind, promising a whole new universe of possibilities (one that I still find it hard to believe came to such spectacular fruition with The Avengers). Yes, I remember seeing Iron Man for the first time (click here for my original review), and I also vividly remember seeing it for the second time, about 24 hours later, because it was a movie I just had to see again, immediately.
The filmmakers stumbled with Iron Man 2, a listless film that seemed to re-tread a lot of the same ground the first film had covered, while at the same time promising us hints at other story-lines and characters (S.H.I.E.L.D., the Black Widow, Howard Stark) that would only come to fruition in future films. (Click here for my original review of Iron Man 2.) But I am pleased to report that Iron Man 3 (or Iron Man Three, as written in the closing credits — and good god do I love that) is a triumphant return to form, a thrilling, action-packed romp that is a true sequel to the first film and a rollicking, riveting start to the Marvel movie universe’s Phase Two. It’s not as perfect as Iron Man — there are a bunch of niggling plot holes that bug me, which I’ll discuss at the very end of this review — but it’s a pretty terrific super-hero adventure film, one that I hope to see again very soon.
Although the heroes won the day in The Avengers, Tony Stark is shaken by how close he came to death during the big battle in New York City. Faced with the existence of aliens, not to mention super-soldiers, gamma-irradiated behemoths, and Asgardian deities, Tony has had to face the brutal truth that he’s just a mortal human being in a metal suit. He’s tried to find solace and comfort by building new Iron Man suit after new suit, trying to prepare himself for any eventuality, to give himself some sort of guarantee that he’ll be able to protect himself and Pepper, the woman he loves. When his buddy Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau, returning to the role of Happy even though he’s no longer behind the camera as the film’s director) is injured by a terrorist attack by the mysterious … [continued]
Holy cow, this sneak peek (first shown at Wondercon) of Guillermo del Toro’s new film Pacific Rim is spectacular:
AAAARGH — Futurama has been cancelled AGAIN?? Sad news. I definitely consider myself blessed that Matt Groening’s show has risen from cancellation not once but twice already, but that’s not stopping me from hoping that the still-fantastic sci-fi comedy will somehow resurrect itself yet again.
I was also bummed by the news that Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been cancelled. Not a shocker that the show was a casualty of Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, but still a disappointment. I haven’t been a die-hard fan of the show, but I have watched quite a few episodes, particularly of the later seasons. The show came a LONG way from the embarrassingly terrible animated film released a few years back. The animation has become quite spectacular — the action scenes are out of this world amazing, and even the character animation has become really quite good. I have enjoyed the show’s explorations of the sci-fi universe, and it’s been a pretty adult, action-packed show. Not GREAT Star Wars, but very very good Star Wars. I can understand Disney’s wanting to start fresh, but it seems like a huge wasted opportunity to not allow the show to finish its run and wrap up its stories. After five seasons, it really felt to me that The Clone Wars was building to something — and that the series was cut off mid-stream, with story-lines and character arcs unresolved, means that the show won’t have much of a future life. Who’d want to start watching the show’s hundred-some odd episodes, now, knowing that the show ends unfinished? It seems crazy to me that Disney didn’t allow the show to have at least one more season to complete its story. It’s a shame and a waste, both creatively (because the story is left incomplete) and financially (because wouldn’t Disney be able to make a lot more money off of the show in future years, through syndication, DVD/blu-ray sales, etc., if it had been completed??).
This is a fantastic, well-reasoned article comparing Marvel’s currently-running big crossover series, Age of Ultron, very favorably with what is happening these days with DC’s “New 52.” I agree wholeheartedly.
I also agree wholeheartedly with this piece by Devin Faraci, arguing how wrong-headed the depiction of James T. Kirk’s taking of the Kobayashi Maru test was in 2009′s Star Trek. That film showed Kirk brazenly cheating on the test, which Devin argues is a complete misunderstanding of what was suggested in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I think Devin is 100% correct, and that Kobayashi Maru scene is one of … [continued]
So, OK, bloody disgusting ran an article that Fox doesn’t know what to do with a proposed sequel to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, and that the source of the problem is that when Lost’s Damon Lindelof re-wrote Jon Spaihts’ original Alien prequel script into what became Prometheus, he turned a one-shot film into the start of a trilogy, except now he isn’t returning for film two and so Ridley Scott and Fox are left holding the bag with no idea where to take the story next. The article is pretty fierce in attacking Mr. Lindelof, and no surprise he has responded to defend himself, saying that Ridley Scott and everyone at Fox all wanted Prometheus to be the start of a trilogy and explaining why he isn’t returning for the sequel. I have no reason not to take Mr. Lindelof at his word, but the real story to me, here, is how clear Mr. Lindelof’s comments illustrate the brain-dead decision-making that went into the making of Prometheus. Mr. Lindelof comments that the whole idea was that, if/when they made a sequel to Prometheus, they didn’t want that sequel to be the already-made original Alien. They wanted room to explore the story further, to tell what he describes as a “parallel” story to the events of Alien and its sequels. That’s why instead of making the planet that they find in Prometheus LV-427, the planet where Ripley finds the crashed ship and the alien eggs in Alien, they decided to set Prometheus on a different planet (despite the fact that they kept in the film the Engineer’s ship that looks exactly like the one Ripley found, crashing at the end so it looks exactly like what we saw in Alien. Guess those Engineers just crashed their ships on LOTS of barren planets, huh? So stupid!!). Am I the only one who sees how easily the filmmakers could have had their cake and eaten it too? Had they stuck with Jon Spaihts’ original plan, the events of Prometheus would have beautifully lined up with what we saw in Alien, explaining who the Engineers were and how their ship carrying Alien eggs wound up crashed on that planet… and meanwhile, had the movie ended exactly the way it did, with Dr. Shaw and David’s head surviving the Engineer’s rampage and setting off in search of the Engineer’s home-world, they could have had their “parallel” story-line right there, continuing to explore Shaw’s adventures in future films without connecting any further to Ripley. Am I right or am I crazy?? Once again I am struck by what an enormous, jaw-dropping missed opportunity Prometheus was. (Click here for my original review … [continued]
I am absolutely loving this new Iron Man 3 trailer:
This movie looks fantastic from what we have seen so far. I love seeing Tony really challenged. I love the idea of connecting this film to the Avengers not by featuring other super-heroic characters, but by exploring the psychological ramifications of what Tony went through in that film. I love what we have seen of Ben Kinglsey’s interpretation of the Mandarin as a media-savvy terrorist. I love the teases of what looks to be some great action set-pieces. It’s Shane Black working again with Robert Downey Jr. I am in.
I am intrigued by this announcement of The X-Files Season 10 in comic-book form. And I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Faraci’s statement that the time is ripe for an X-Files revival. I posted a lament when the date for the alien invasion came and went a few months ago, with no sign of the massive X-Files third movie I had been hoping for. I would love to see that remedied someday, before all the actors get too old. A man can hope…
I am always too busy over the summer to watch The Daily Show, a fact which eased my initial dismay when reading this announcement that Jon Stewart is taking 12 weeks off from the show to direct a film. What’s particularly fascinating is that Mr. Stewart isn’t planning on directing a comedy, but rather an adaptation (that he has written) of the book Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival. The book was written by Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy, and tells the true story of the detention and torture of Mr. Bahari, a BBC journalist, for 118 days in Iran. Viewers of The Daily Show might recall Mr. Bahari, as he appeared on the show both before and after his ordeal. One of the pieces of evidence used against him by the Iranians, who accused him of being a spy, was a previous comic appearance he had made on The Daily Show.
The fact that Warner Brothers seems to have no idea what to do with all of the DC Universe super-hero franchises they own, exhibited by their inability to get a Justice League movie off the ground, would be hilarious if it wasn’t so disappointing to folks like me who would love to see a whole slew of kick-ass DC movies. Here’s hoping Zack Snyder’s Superman film doesn’t disappoint. Going back to Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale seems like a desperation move to me. Though I would rather see Christian Bale back in the bat-suit than Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as had been rumored. Look, I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt … [continued]
Yesterday I published part one of my list of the Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012. You can also check out my Top 15 Movies of 2012: click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three.
And now, on to the conclusion of my list of the Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012!
5. Batman: Earth One – A staggeringly entertaining ground-one reinvention of Batman, I can’t believe how much I loved this hardcover graphic novel by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. I don’t have too much patience for creators reworking classic super-hero origins — do they think they know better than the original creators of these long-lived, much-beloved characters? And if you’re going to re-tell Batman’s origin, how could anyone possibly do it better than Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s superlative Batman: Year One from the eighties? While I wouldn’t consider this origin story to be superior to Batman’s established origin, it’s a marvelously entertaining what-if version in which all of the familiar beats play out differently. (And it’s hugely superior to DC’s first “Earth One” graphic novel, J. Michael Straczynski’s woeful Superman: Earth One.) Mr. John’s tweaks to the familiar characters (I particularly love Earth One’s versions of Alfred and Harvey Bullock) plus Mr. Frank’s exquisite art make this a knockout. I hope they make lots more sequels so that I can return to this world for further adventures.
4. America’s Got Powers – This six-issue mini-series (of which four issues have been published so far) has been blowing my socks off. Superstar artist Bryan Hitch (for my money, the very best illustrator of super-hero comic books working today) and Jonathan Ross have teamed up to create this original, powerhouse new series. Something has gifted a whole generation of young people with super-powers. A fearful government has rounded up anyone exhibiting special abilities, but to keep them (and the general population) from focusing on the hideous human rights abuses, they have created a super-powered reality TV show in which the super-powered kids compete for fame and glory. No surprise, the behind-the-scenes reality is far different than the happy, televised spectacle. This series is deft speculative fiction of the very best kind, crossed with a terrific super-hero adventure story. I have loved every single page. I hope this series continues beyond the scheduled six issues.
3. All-New X-Men – The biggest surprise of the year for me has been Brian Michael Bendis’ new X-Men series. The Beast, fearing that his life is nearly over and distraught at the state of the X-Men, the world, and the actions of his former best friend Scott … [continued]
Now let’s jump into my second Best of 2012 list, my list of the Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012!
First up, some honorable mentions. They didn’t make by best-of list, but I really enjoyed The Manhattan Projects, Secret, The Massive, the publication of Alan Moore’s last scripted issue of Supreme, the conclusion of RASL, Ultimate Spider-Man (dropping off my best-of list for the first time since I started doing this, but still a great comic book), Daredevil: End of Days, and Peter David’s X-Factor.
15. Batman Beyond: Unlimited – I am loving this continuation of the world of Bruce Timm’s animated Batman Beyond series. The comic has picked up on many terrific story-lines left hanging by the show’s conclusion, including Terry’s membership in the Justice League, Superman’s return to Metropolis, Terry’s relationship with Dana, the tragic events that befell former Robin Tim Drake (as depicted in the Return of the Joker DVD movie), and at last the introduction of Dick Grayson into Batman Beyond continuity. With the Justice League and the New Gods front-and-center, as well as a revitalized Jokerz gang, the stories feel suitably big and epic. I love that each issue is double-sized, with several serialized stories running concurrently. The art is a little inconsistent on some of the features, but I love Dustin Nguyen’s work, and I am absolutely delighted to see the great Norm Breyfogle once again illustrating a Batman comic.
14. Winter Soldier — Ed Brubaker’s final Captain America story-line has been terrific, returning full-circle to where his Captain America epic began years ago, with a still-alive Bucky Barnes operating on the fringes of the Marvel Universe, trying his best to be a hero in the murky world of spies and shadows. I love the relationship between Barnes and the Black Widow. I love how heavily SHIELD and Nick Fury are involved in the story. I love Butch Guice’s spectacular illustrations, at once retro and very modern. This is a great noirish super-hero story, and I’m going to be sorry to see it end.
13. Batwoman — J.H. Williams III’s lavishly illustrated series continues to impress me. Without question, the main draw is J.H. Williams III’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous art, so creative in terms of page and panel layout, and his use of different artistic styles for different characters/settings. But Mr. Williams has also been doing fine work as the writer, spinning a great mystery yarn that is grounded but not afraid to embrace the supernatural or the super-heroic. The latest story-line, featuring … [continued]
In Part One of my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2012, I listed numbers 15 through 11, and in Part Two I listed numbers 10 through 6. Let’s bring it home with the final installment of my Best Movies of 2012 list!
5. Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino’s fierce, fiery, take-no-prisoners assault on the institution of slavery in America is at once a very serious attempt to look this great evil of American history straight in the eye, while also being a phenomenally entertaining, funny, exciting, action-packed and blood-soaked Spaghetti Western adventure. That Mr. Tarantino’s film succeeds so wildly on both counts is a testament to his enormous skills as a filmmaker. Django Unchained is unquestionably the product of Mr. Tarantino’s wonderfully distinct cinematic vision. The film is filled with astoundingly beautiful dialogue, incredible tension, various (very funny) anachronistic touches, spectacular (and very bloody) action, and a glorious musical score — all of which are Mr. Tarantino’s specialties. Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz are both absolute perfection as the twin anchors of the film, totally commanding in their roles, with each creating iconic, memorable cinematic characters. Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson are both equally spectacular as the film’s abhorrent villains. Django Unchained feels transgressive, it feels dangerous. It is without question fiercely alive and engaging from the very first frame to the very last, and I found it to be one of the most fun, visceral, intense experiences I had in a movie theatre this year. (Click here for my original review.)
4. Zero Dark Thirty – Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal have together created an astonishing cinematic document that powerfully brings to life not only the complex, often seemingly hopeless decade-long search for Osama bin Laden, but also the vast human cost (on all sides) of that pursuit. For almost three full hours, I sat riveted by the drama on-screen as CIA operative Maya (Jessica Chastain), assigned to the U.S. embassy in Pakistan, worked — together with other operatives, interrogators, and analysts — for year after long year, trying to piece together a chain of evidence that would lead U.S. forces to discover the hiding place of Osama bin Laden. This film revels in the details, in the minutia of Maya’s world, without dumbing anything down or over-explaining anything to audiences. This is a film that assumes a lot of its audience: that we are decently well-versed in the historical background, and that we are capable of paying close attention to the film as it unfolds. Jessica Chastain does magnificent, star-making work as the driven but haunted Maya. The action sequences are phenomenal, particularly the climactic assault on bin Landen’s compound in … [continued]
Behold our first glimpse at the post-Avengers Marvel Movie Universe!
How spectacular is that trailer?
It’s visually gorgeous, and it promises a dark, things-go-really-wrong-for-our-hero vibe. Written and directed by Shane Black (go watch his magnificent film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang starring, oh, what a coincidence, Robert Downey Jr., if you want proof of his ginormous talents) I’m sure there will still be a lot of humor in this film, but I love that the trailer teases us with a grim tone.
And at last, after being deliciously teased in the first Iron Man film (and then sadly ignored in Iron Man 2), we’re getting to see Iron Man’s quintessential villain, the Mandarin, on screen! And played by Sir Ben Kingsley, no less. Phenomenal.
After the greatness of The Avengers (click here for my review), the challenge of the next Marvel movie is to not feel like a letdown. A good trailer isn’t proof of anything (exhibit A: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace) but I am very, very excited for April.… [continued]
Arrested Development lives!! This photo of Buster from the upcoming new episodes (I’m hearing Spring 2013?) really made me laugh.
Rumblings of a Dr. Horrible sequel continue to, well, rumble. Could this actually become a reality next year? Hoping hoping hoping.
Yeahbutwha? The star of the new S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series will be the killed-off-in-The Avengers Agent Phil Coulson?? I love Clark Gregg and love the idea of him headlining a new Marvel Universe TV show, but how is this possible? Does this mean the S.H.I.E.L.D. show is set in the past? Very curious…
This is a fascinating article by screenwriter Jon Spaihts on his original ideas for Prometheus, back when the film was without-question an Alien prequel. (Mr. Spaihts apparently wrote five drafts of the film, before handing it over to Damon Lindelof for further revisions into the film that was actually shot.) Hindsight is of course twenty-twenty, but boy Mr. Spaiht’s ideas as he describes them sound far superior to the film we actually got.
I love the idea that Emily Blunt (originally in the running to play the Black Widow in Iron Man 2, and I must say I think she would have been FAR better casting that Scarlett Johansson) is rumored to now be up for a role in Avengers 2. I hope this happens.
I am fascinated by the massive HD remastering project necessary for the release of Star Trek: The Next Generation on blu-ray. (I loved the sample disc, though I haven’t yet shelled out for the complete season one, released a few months ago.) Because Next Gen was edited on videotape, each individual has had to be re-edited from the original film negatives — the scale of the endeavor just boggles my mind. Trekcore has posted a fantastic interview with the re-mastering team. Here also is an interview with the CBS producers overseeing the project.
Speaking of Star Trek: The Next Generation, last month marked the 25th anniversary of the premiere of Next Gen. Here is a fantastic interview with Ronald D. Moore (one of the key writers for Next Gen and then Deep Space Nine, and of course also the creator and show-runner of the re-launched Battlestar Galactica) on the occasion of Next Gen’s 25th anniversary.
Back in 1990, fans went crazy when they noticed an Alien skull hanging as a trophy in the Predator’s ship in Predator 2. Here is a much less-cool sort of inter-sci-fi-movie crossover. (Well, the idea does have a crazy sort of inspiration, I guess, but the problem is it just doesn’t really make any sense…)
Edgar Wright, Nick Frost, and Simon Pegg’s third film together (after … [continued]
Raiders of the Lost Ark is being re-released to theaters!! IN IMAX!!! I am so there. Here’s a trailer!
My mind is reeling with the possibilities of Days of Future Past, the newly-announced upcoming X-Men film. I agree with every suggestion on this list of 10 cameos that would be great to see in the X-Men sequel.
They’re really making Kick Ass 2?? And they’re courting Jim Carrey to appear in the film?? I am so happy.
While I’m on a role with super hero movie sequel news, this is a great idea.
I loved the early seasons of The Office, but I’ve been dissatisfied with the last few years and I finally gave up on the show about halfway through the last season. But with the recent news that this coming season will be the show’s last, I’m considering tuning back in to see how things wrap up. We’ll see… (Here’s some more info on the end of the show.)
Looks like Ron Howard’s proposed TV-and-film adaptation of The Dark Tower has hit another snag. I have nervousness about the idea of Akiva Goldsman being involved in the scripting, but boy would I love to see this incredible property done right. I agree 100% with Devin’s opinions in that piece (both about wishing fervently that Viggo Mortensen would take the title role, and feeling that a cable TV series adaptation is the best way to go, rather than a film trilogy…).
Sad news that actor William Windom, who played Commodore Matt Decker on the Classic Star Trek episode “The Doomsday Machine,” has passed away at age 88.
“Meanwhile, at the Legion of Doom…”
Wow, that is targeted exactly to my funny bone. Can’t wait!… [continued]
For a moment last week it looked like Joe Carnahan was going to direct a new Daredevil movie… and that it would have been a gritty, street-level crime film set in 1973. Now it seems that is not to be. But for a glimpse at the awesomeness that we might have had, take a look at the “sizzle reel” that Mr. Carnahan had put together to promote his proposal for new Daredevil film…
Aw man that is spectacular. Oh well…… [continued]
After reading for the first time the first few years’ worth of stories from the old West Coast Avengers comics (in the handsome new collected editions that Marvel has been publishing for the past few years — click here, here, here and here for my reviews), I decided to complete the story by digging into my longboxes and pulling out John Byrne’s run on the series, which ran from issues #42-57.
Mr. Byrne’s run on West Coast Avengers (the title of which changed to Avengers West Coast with issue #47) was one of the first times, as a kid, that I fell deeply in love with a comic book series. It was also the first time I had my heart broken by something I loved in pop culture. Mr. Byrne’s abrupt departure from the series just as his story seemed to be reaching its climax still remains a deep disappointment to me, even so many years later. But I’ll get back to that later.
Even as a kid, it was obvious to me that Mr. Byrne’s issues on the title were dramatically better than the previous issues, and also dramatically better than pretty much every other comic book I was reading at the time. I still remember being at camp during the summer of 1989, and the feeling of extraordinary delight I had when my parents mailed me an envelope with the next issue of the series. When I hold issue #48 in my hands (in which the Scarlet Witch gets turned to evil by a creepy mysterious black alien force and easily defeats stalwart Avengers Captain America and the She-Hulk), I remember like it was yesterday reading that issue for the first time, and not quite knowing how I’d be able to wait four more weeks for the next issue to arrive!!
Mr. Byrne kicked off his run on the series in issue #42 with “Vision Quest.” This story-line is still shocking to me today. In retaliation for the Vision’s previous take-over of the world’s computers (which happened in an older issue of The Avengers), government agencies from across the globe band together to kidnap and disassemble the android Vision. Although the West Coast Avengers and the Vision’s wife, the Scarlet Witch, quickly discover the abduction and are able to track down the bad-guys, the Vision has essentially been killed. Genius Henry Pym is able to re-assemble the Vision’s body, but without his mind and his memories, the android is once again a soul-less robot. (I will freely admit that I still get a small chill when looking at the opening spread of issue #44, titled “Better a Widow…” in which we see a beautifully-detailed rendering … [continued]
Surprising myself most of all, I’ve been really enjoying Marvel’s recently-published hardcovers collecting the early issues of their Avengers spin-off, The West Cost Avengers. (I wrote about my thoughts on the collection of the original West Coast Avengers mini-series here, and about the first collection of the West Coast Avengers ongoing series here and the second collection here.)
So, when a third collection was released, I eagerly snapped it up. Lost in Space-Time collects West Coast Avengers # 17-24, written by Steve Englehart and illustrated by Al Milgrom and several different inkers. This collection draws its title from the multi-part “Lost in Space-Time” story that ran through those issues. It is, for the most part, a fun romp through Marvel history as the West Coast Avengers find themselves zapped into the past by a super-villain, using Dr. Doom’s old time-machine (first encountered way back in Fantastic Four #5). The time-machone is damaged, so that it can only travel backwards in time, not forwards. Wonder Man hatches a scheme to use the time machine to keep jumping further back in time, all the way back to ancient Egypt, where they know dwells the Pharaoh Rama-Tut, really the time-traveller Kang in disguise (as seen in Fantastic Four #20). Of course, the team encounters one snag after another, and as the story continues the team becomes split amongst several different time-periods. Although the story is quite dated by today’s standards , I thought it was a fun adventure, and I enjoyed the connections with many famous aspects of Marvel universe history. (I also appreciated the collection’s containing the full story of Rama-Tut from Fantastic Four #20, as well as Dr. Strange’s time-travel-trip back to that same period — an adventure also referenced by Mr. Englehart’s story — in Dr. Strange # 53.)
But the most intriguing aspect of the stories in this collection were the two more serious story-lines. Picking up on the last issue in the previous collection, this story begins with Hank Pym contemplating suicide. It’s heavy stuff, though I was impressed at how that development seemed perfectly in keeping with Pym’s character, especially as Mr. Englehart had been writing him. I was quite engaged by the issue (West Coast Avengers #17) that dealt with Mr. Pym’s readying himself for suicide, though I was a bit disappointed that Mr. Englehart seemed to walk Pym back to heroic normalcy pretty quickly. The second serious story-line in this collection concerned Mockingbird. I was particularly interested in this aspect of the story, because it sets the seeds for her divorce from Hawkeye, which occurred in the very first issue of West Coast Avengers that I picked up as a kid. … [continued]
In response to this summer’s lousy Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man (click here for my review), comes this great article on 10 Remakes that Got it Right. There are some really intriguing films on this list that I have never seen, but have been immediately placed on my “to-watch” list…
It’s old news by now, but I haven’t yet waxed poetic on this site about how excited I am that Peter Jackson has expanded his adaptation of The Hobbit from two films to a trilogy! Very exciting. The hints of obscure bits of story from the Lord of the Rings appendices that Mr. Jackson is going to be filming in order to flesh out the story are even more exciting still. The battle of Dol Goldur?? Awesome!!
The new X-Men film is going to be Days of Future Past??? That’s hugely exciting, but also very worrisome. Days of Future Past is one of the greatest X-Men stories (heck, one of the greatest comic book stories) of all time. The idea of that being adapted into a film is extraordinary!! Bravo to Bryan Singer and xx on taking on this iconic story. But the thought of a BAD version of Days of Future Past would be horrifying. I was burned by X3′s brutalization of the Dark Phoenix Saga (probably THE greatest X-Men story of all time), and that’s a pain not easily forgotten… I am crossing my fingers and toes about this one…
Speaking of Bryan Singer, why the heck is he still developing a Battlestar Galactica movie? Do we really need another version of Galactica, after Ron Moore’s fabulous TV series…? The only place to go is down…
I am excited to see DC’s upcoming animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal “Last Batman Story” The Dark Knight Returns. (DKR was a strong source of material for Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, as I noted in my review.) However, this first trailer leaves me underwhelmed in the extreme. This trailer should have been slow, spooky, and reverent, selling us on a world that had moved on without Batman. Instead, it seems to be selling a zippy animated adventure. I hope this doesn’t reflect the tone of the finished product.
In happier news — Larry David, Dave Mandel, Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer (key players on Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland, Paul) are working together on a new movie for HBO? Can’t wait!!… [continued]
I went into the theatre very dubious about the prospects for The Amazing Spider-Man being any good. I adored Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies. I felt they captured the character of Spider-Man absolutely perfectly, and they were a heck of a lot of fun. Spider-Man 3 was a huge mis-step, but I felt there was still plenty of life in the series, so I was disappointed when Mr. Raimi and Sony parted company. I would have liked to have seen him have an opportunity to make a great Spider-Man 4 that would erase the bad memories of the third installment.
But as disappointed as I was to hear that Mr. Raimi wouldn’t be returning to the series, and that Sony planned on re-casting all of the main roles, I was even more disappointed to hear that they planned to start the series over from zero, and re-tell Spidey’s origin. What is the point of that? Why waste half a movie re-telling an origin that everyone knows, and that everyone saw so recently in the wildly successful first Spider-Man film?? I would have vastly preferred had they just re-cast the roles, maybe spent five minutes at the start of the film (maybe during the opening credits) re-establishing the origin, and then gone on to tell a great new Spider-Man story with these new actors.
So I was greatly surprised that I actually quite enjoyed the first hour of The Amazing Spider-Man. This revamped version of Spidey’s origin wasn’t dull or ridiculous, I found myself surprisingly taken by it, and by the family drama we were watching unfold. I don’t think the perfect origin story crafted by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko all those years ago needed all the added drama of making a big deal about the disappearance of Peter Parker’s parents (the movie suggests that they were up to big secret things, and that they left young Peter in the care of his Uncle Ben and Aunt May because they feared for their lives), but as executed in the film I didn’t have a problem with this new version of events. The film totally re-works the chain of events leading to Uncle Ben’s death, changes that were totally unnecessary bordering on baffling, BUT somehow I still felt it all worked. The moment is powerful, and I liked the new way they found to made Peter culpable (in not stopping the criminal, earlier, when he had a chance). It’s a dreadful, horrible moment, and it works.
It’s a shame, then, that the rest of The Amazing Spider-Man is such a disappointing mess!
I have a lot of problems with the film, but they boil down to three main mistakes.
1. … [continued]
I’ve really been enjoying, over the past few months, dipping back into the archives of Mighty Marvel Comics to read some classic stories I’d never read before. As my anticipation for the Avengers theatrical film grew, I found myself drawn to a variety of stories from Avengers history. I do love me a nice handsome collected edition, and it was great fun to read some of these classic tales.
Captain America: The Captain – This lengthy tome collects the story-line that ran for about a year-and-a-half in Captain America back in 1987-89. When the U.S. government tries to exert control over Steve Rogers’ actions as Captain America, Rogers chooses to give up his super-hero identity. He eventually adopts a new identity of “The Captain,” while the government selects another super-human, John Walker, to become Captain America. But when tragedy strikes his family, Walker becomes increasingly unstable, leading to an inevitable confrontation between the two Captain Americas. I was just getting into comics in 1987, and I remember reading references to this story-line in various other Marvel comic books that I was reading at the time. But I’d never actually read the Captain America story, so it was really fun to revisit this lengthy chunk of Captain America continuity, written by Mark Gruenwald. There are aspects to the story-line that are a bit simplistic (the Presidential Commission assigned to oversee Cap’s activities comes off as just a little too evil), but the central story is a great one. I like that Mr. Gruenwald lets us spend a lot of time with John Walker. (After Cap quits in Captain America #332, for the next several issues we don’t see Steve Rogers at all — instead we follow John Walker’s story.) Walker is clearly flawed but also sympathetic, which creates a strong dynamic in the stories. I was pleased that this collection also included Iron Man #228, a key confrontation between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark (from the famous Armor Wars story-line) that takes place in the middle of this Captain America story-line. (That’s a nice attention to detail by the editors.)
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade – While most of these collected editions I’ve been reading have been collecting stories from 20-30 years ago, this handsome hardcover collects the nine issue mini-series that Marvel published last year. This story brings some resolution to story-lines begun by Brian Michael Bendis nearly a decade ago, in the famous Avengers: Disassembled story. After Disassembled and her actions in House of M, Wanda Maximoff (the Scarlet Witch) has been pretty much absent from Marvel Comics, her fate unknown. But with The Children’s Crusade, writer Alan Heinberg set out to bring some closure to Wanda’s story, and … [continued]
Yes, this really is an enormous oil painting depicting The Death of Jennifer Sisko at Wolf 359. Love it.
I’ve really been loving the first season of Lena Dunham’s HBO show Girls. For anyone out there who is similarly digging this weird, funny show, allow me to direct you to this fabulous in-depth interview with Ms. Dunham and her fellow show-runner Jenni Konner.
I agree with pretty much every selection on this list of 15 superheroes who deserve a great reboot. I’d have the Fantastic Four as number one on my personal list.
Speaking of super-heroes: this is old, but somehow I just recently stumbled across this wonderful depiction of Peter Dinklage as Wolverine. Genius.
Parks and Recreation is my favorite comedy on TV right now. The show just wrapped up a great fourth season, and I’m pleased it was renewed for a (short) season 5. Here’s a great interview with show-runner Mike Schur on season 4.
I think it’s super-cool that, to promote the upcoming release of season 1 of Star Trek: The Next Generation on blu-ray, they’re screening two season 1 episodes in theaters around the country. I love that idea, and I wish it was something studios did a lot more of. But why oh why did they choose to show “Datalore” and “Where No One Has Gone Before”??? Urgh, those are two very weak episodes. Ordinarily I would jump at this sort of thing, but I don’t think I’m that interested in seeing those two episodes. Two bad. (For the record, if we’re picking first season Next Gen episodes — which is tough, because that first season is VERY rough — I’d have gone with “Hide and Q” and “Conspiracy.”)
A few weeks ago I wrote about the collected editions I’d ben reading of old, classic Marvel Comics story-lines. Here are some more of the Mighty Marvel collections I’ve been reading lately!
West Coast Avengers: Sins of the Past — Picking up right where the previous West Coast Avengers Premiere Hardcover (which collected West Coast Avengers #1-9, and which I wrote about here), left off, comes this Premiere Hardcover collection of issues #10-16 and a two-part storyline from West Coast Avengers Annual #1 and Avengers Annual #15. The stories in this collection feel like less of a complete story than those in the first volume, but having enjoyed the first collection I didn’t mind as I just enjoyed reading the next series of adventures. (And I’m looking forward to the already-announced third volume which will collect the next batch of West Coast Avengers issues.) I’m not sure why anyone at Marvel feels these issues are significant enough to warrant being collected in these snazzy Premiere Hardcover editions, but I’m enjoying them. Mr. Englehart continues the blend of soap-opera and super-heroics that characterized the stories in the last collection. We get some nice resolution to the Master Pandemonium story-line left hanging by the first collection, as well as to Tigra’s struggles with the two aspects of her personality which were introduced in the previous volume. There’s a weird edge to Tigra’s characterization in these issues that is intriguing. We see her behave as, well, a bit of a slut in these issues, throwing herself at various different men (even the villain, Graviton!). It’s interesting to see this willingness to depict the sexual side of one of the characters — a prelude to some of what you see in many comics today, particularly in the Avengers issues written by Brian Michael Bendis — though I can’t help but feel that there’s something a little sexist in depicting this female character in such an unflattering way (especially when she briefly winds up as a chained love-slave to Graviton — I am not making that up). It’s an interesting tension.
Avengers: The Korvac Saga – Boy I’ve been aware of this famous Avengers story-line for decades, but hadn’t ever read it until now. It was fun to finally read this famous saga! I was very pleased that this collection begins by reprinting Thor Annual #6, which features Thor’s time-traveling battle with Korvac the Machine-Man and also featured the 31st century super-hero group The Guardians of the Galaxy. The story serves as an important prelude to the Korvac Saga that ran through Avengers #167-168 and #170-177, so I was really happy it was included. Those Avengers issues from 1978 were written by Jim … [continued]
Well, here we are at last. The brilliant post-credits scene of 2008′s Iron Man (click here for my original review) promised the beginning of a bold experiment by the fledgeling Marvel Studios — launching stand-alone films starring several of their major characters (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America) which would then be followed by all of those characters teaming up in an Avengers movie. It was a gloriously outrageous idea, one common to comic-books but never before seen in movies. Marvel Studios was actually planning on making a super-hero crossover film, and one featuring all the same actors who starred in the individual films! And not only that, but the individual films would actually connect, with story-points and characters overlapping to create a building momentum for the eventual climax in The Avengers.
It was a bold plan, and I am so happy and relieved to report that Marvel Studios has stuck the landing. Not only does The Avengers work, it works crazily well, and I think it’s the strongest Marvel Studios film since 2008′s Iron Man (and I say that as a big fan of both Thor — click here for my review — and Captain America: The First Avenger — click here for my review). It’s hard to believe that I live in a world in which a film version of The Avengers actually exists!! And that it not only exists but that it kicks so much ass makes the whole thing the stuff of beautiful fantasy.
There is surely a huge list of people who must be given credit for the success of this enterprise, but at the top of the list is co-writer and director Joss Whedon. I am a huge, huge, huge fan of his film Serenity (which he wrote and directed) and that film clearly showed that Mr. Whedon was the perfect man for the job of helming The Avengers. Serenity not only looks amazing, boasting some fantastic visual effects sequences and completely selling the reality of a futuristic, sci-fi world despite being made for a relatively small budget (FAR less than The Avengers). But more importantly, in that film Mr. Whedon was able to balance nine main characters, giving depth and life to every one of them, presenting them as very different people with different goals and different attitudes and different ways of speaking, and also giving each one of them moments to shine in the course of the film, without one character overshadowing the others.
Mr. Whedon brings the same deft touch to The Avengers. The greatest pleasure of the film isn’t just that the characters are all appearing in the same film (though just the … [continued]
I’ve written before about what a sucker I am for the gorgeous Premiere Hardcovers that Marvel Comics has been issuing for the past number of years, collecting seminal story-lines from their long history. I grew up a HUGE fan of Marvel Comics (I have always been more attached to Marvel than DC), and so the opportunity to catch up on some famous runs of Marvel Comics that I’d missed is compelling, and having these stories reprinted in such beautiful hardcover editions is just icing on the cake. Here are some of the hardcover collections from Mighty Marvel that I’ve enjoyed over the past few months:
Avengers: Assault on Olympus – I wrote before about reading the hardcover Under Siege that reprinted the famous Avengers story in which the Masters of Evil invaded Avengers Mansion and brutally beat the Avengers’ butler Jarvis. The stories in that collected edition left a number of plot-lines hanging, so I was pleased to see that Marvel had released a follow-up collection reprinting the next several issues of The Avengers, numbers 278-285 from 1978. These issues were written by Roger Stern and illustrated by John Buscema and Tom Palmer. The look of that Buscema/Palmer art is exactly the look I associate with the Marvel comics that I grew up reading in the ’80s, so it’s nostalgic fun to read these issues I’d never-before-read, drawn by that art team, and presented in such a beautiful way on shiny paper and with re-touched colors. Roger Stern’s story also reminds me of the classic Marvel Comics I grew up with. There’s a lot of rhetorical bombast (and a LOT of expository narration), but also rich characterizations. Pretty much each issue contains a complete adventure, but the issues connect to tell a longer story, and there’s a great deal of continuity from issue-to-issue, with subplots constantly providing intriguing hints at story-lines-to-come. This particular story, which focuses on the Avengers’ conflict with the pantheon of Greek gods (instigated by the grievous injuries suffered by the Avenger Hercules in the previous collection), isn’t exactly the best Avengers story I’ve ever read, nor does it have much larger significance in the over-all history of the Avengers (in the way that the events in Under Siege did). But it’s a perfectly entertaining story, and a great sort-of-epilogue to Under Siege. I also really enjoyed the stand-alone issue #280, included in this collection, that was written by Bob Harras and illustrated by Bob Hall and Kyle Baker. That issue focuses on the hospitalized Jarvis’ struggle to recover physically and mentally from the savage tortures he received at the hands of the Masters of Evil in Under Siege. In many ways it’s a very dated story, … [continued]
If you’ve ever watched an enjoyed Star Trek: The Next Generation, then you must read this short blog post by Wil Wheaton about his e-mail exchange with a former Next Gen castmate. So funny!!
Speaking of Wil Wheaton, this behind-the-scenes pic from Stand By Me is wonderful. Makes me want to go re-watch that spectacular film right now.
I am counting the minutes until The Avengers opens. For all the Marvel Zombies out there, this interview with Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige is full of intriguing hints at the next few years of the Marvel movie universe. It’s a good read. Also a good read: this Q & A with Joss Whedon on reddit.
So, they’re really making a sequel to the 1988 film Twins? And Eddie Murphy will play the newly-discovered third sibling to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito? This is a joke, right? That can’t possibly be real, right??
I had quite a lot to say about Disney’s adaptation of John Carter. (Click here for my review.) I enjoyed the film far more than the horrible reviews and terrible box-office performance would suggest, but the film had some serious problems. I cited the senseless withholding of the tragedy in John Carter’s past until late in the film as an example. It would have FAR strengthened the story and the character had the audience UNDERSTOOD the reasons for John Carter’s behavior right from the beginning. Well, FILM CRITIC HULK over on badassdigest.com had a similar reaction, and he wrote a magnificent (albeit LENGTHY) dissection of John Carter’s story problems that focuses on precisely that example. It’s a great piece about film screen-writing and narrative, and is well worth a look.
My buddy Rabbi Ethan Linden has written a great review of The Hunger Games film, which you can check out here. My review will be posted on Friday!
I really dug the “Franchise Me” (from CHUD.com) look back at the four Lethal Weapon films that just wrapped up. These articles are fantastic. Boy, I loved those Lethal Weapon films as a kid, but I haven’t seen them in years. I just haven’t had any real interest in re-watching them. Mel Gibson’s recent shenanigans haven’t helped. But reading those articles makes me wonder whether I’d still like those films if I watched them today…
Now let’s dig into my list of the Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2011!
10. The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret: Series One – As a huge fan of Arrested Development, this six-episode IFC series that reunited Will Arnett (Gob Bluth) and David Cross (Tobias Funke) was something of a disappointment. More agonizingly awkward than actually funny, it’s on this list because that fact that this weird, short little series exists at all on DVD is one of the reasons that I love this format! I had missed this series when it aired on IFC, so I was so pleased that it was released on DVD. The show isn’t without merit, but it’s nowhere near the genius of the late, great (and now possible resurrected!) Arrested Development.
9. Marvel’s super-hero movie blu-rays: Thor, Captain America: The First Adventure, and X-Men: First Class – I praised these three Marvel super-hero movies in my list of the Top 10 Movies of 2011, and I was equally taken by their blu-ray releases. Not only do all three films look absolutely gorgeous on blu-ray, but all three are accompanied by some fairly in-depth featurettes exploring all aspects of the films’ production. None of these are super-elaborate special editions, and I do wish that, for all of these films, the featurettes had been edited together into one longer, comprehensive making-of documentary. But these are very, very solid releases, with a lot for fans of these films to dig into. Extra props for the wonderful “Marvel One-Shot” shorts included on the Thor and Captain America discs, that further connect the Marvel films leading up to The Avengers.
8. Louie: Season 1 – I’d been reading about this show for a while, and having now finally watched the season one set I can say that this show deserves all the praise it’s been getting, and more. In it’s structure, the show resembles Seinfeld: clips of Louie C. K. performing stand-up are intercut with vignettes of his life. But in other respects the show is the exact opposite of Seinfeld. Whereas on Seinfeld all of the story-lines would wind up beautifully dovetailing by the end, on Louie the individual scenes on the show often have little or nothing to do with one another. We’ll watch a seven-minute sequence of Louie and his buddies playing poker, and then after some more stand-up we’ll shift to an entirely different scene … [continued]
Welcome back to the conclusion of my list of the Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2011! Click here for part one. (And click here for my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2011: part one, part two, and part three.)
5. Moon Knight – I really enjoyed Brian Michael Bendis’ years-long run on Daredevil with Alex Maleev, and their relaunch of Moon Knight has been pretty terrific so far. I love the new conceit that the slightly unhinged Marc Spector is now hearing the voices of Spider-Man, Captain America, and Wolverine in his head. The result is some great comedy as the three super-heroes banter back and forth in Moon Knight’s head. (Comic banter is a Bendis specialty!) Seeing Echo back in a lead role is just icing on the cake. I never thought Moon Knight could be at all interesting, but I guess the character was just the right sort of tabula rasa for an exciting reinvention. I hope this is the start of a long run for Mr. Bendis and Mr. Maleev on the character.
4. RASL – I wish Jeff Smith’s sci-fi opus would come out a little more frequently, but I can’t really fault creator/writer/artist/self-publisher Smith, seeing as how he’s pretty much doing everything himself on this comic. It’s just that the series is so good! I want more!! This adventure/love story is just grounded enough in real scientific theories to anchor all of the fun flights of fancy involving parallel universes, lizard-men, and weird-looking little girls. Jeff Smith’s art is perfection — with a cartoony stylization that is endearing, but also an extraordinary amount of detail to give all of the settings and characters a distinct, “real world” feel. It feels like things are really starting to come together with the story, which is very exciting. The wait between issues is BRUTAL!! If you’re a comic book fan but you’re not reading this self-published gem, do yourself a favor and remedy that immediately.
3. Criminal: The Last of the Innocent – The work that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips do together just keeps getting better and better and better. I love all of their projects, but the crime-comic Criminal has always been my favorite, and The Last of the Innocent might be the very best installment since the first story-line, “Coward.” In this dark tale, we meet young man Riley Richards, who is married to a beautiful, wealthy woman. But he’s tremendously unhappy, and when he returns home and reconnects with his old goof-ball friend and the blonde girl-next-door he used to have a crush on, he realizes that he just might have chosen the wrong girl. … [continued]
15. John Byrne’s Next Men – When Mr. Byrne’s Next Men series was originally released back in the 90′s, it was one of my very favorite comic book series. Mr. Byrne’s illustration skills were at their peak, and the story was just “mature audiences” enough to peak my teenaged interest. I was also very, very taken by the fiendishly clever circular narrative. I was disappointed when the series ended, particularly since it was only supposed to have gone on hiatus for a few months, BUT I thought that, if it had to end, Mr. Byrne had wrapped things up beautifully. I never imagined the series would ever return to the comic book stands, but lo and behold, IDW brought the series back for a nine issue run this year. There were moments when the relaunch approached the greatness I had remembered (I enjoyed the twisted revelations about Bethany in issue 4), but for the most part, I wasn’t quite sure the point of this new story. It sort of muddled the perfect ending of the series, without really enhancing what had gone before. Ultimately, I didn’t quite understand the new time-travel machinations, and so was left a bit underwhelmed. Still, new issues of John Byrne’s Next Men!! How cool is that??
14. Ultimate Spider-Man – I hated the whole Death of Peter Parker story-line, but I am very much enjoying the initial issues with the new Spidey. The focus on this young kid and his classmates reminds me very much — without being derivative — of what attracted me so much to this series when it began, over a decade ago (wow). Ultimate Spidey has been one of the most consistently enjoyable comic book series I have followed ever since it began. Attentive readers will note it has slipped down in the rankings of my end-of-the-year list in the past few years, but it’s still on here as one of the stronger serialized super-hero comic books out there. And god bless Mr. Bendis and his various artistic collaborators (including the very, very talented Sara Pichelli) for their consistency in getting this book out on a regular basis, month after month, year after year!
13. Kick Ass 2 – Mark Millar and John Romita’s sequel is just as gloriously profane and juvenile as the original. Taking the concept of “escalation” (an idea explored in many comic books and also in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight film) to the extreme, the … [continued]
So last year I really struggled to come up with my Top 10 Movies list. I had a hard time finding ten films that I felt were really GREAT. What a difference a year makes! This year there were so many films that I loved that I wanted to include on my list that, for the first time, I decided to expand my Top 10 list to a Top 15 List! AND I cheated even more and made my number 15 a three-way-tie!
I thought 2011 was a really terrific year for movies, and there were a lot of great films that didn’t make it onto this list. I really enjoyed Moneyball, 50/50, The Ides of March, Like Crazy, The Descendants, 30 Minutes or Less, Your Highness, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2, The Rum Diary, The Muppets, Midnight in Paris, and Our Idiot Brother, but they didn’t make the cut in this strong year. (Follow the links to read my reviews of those films.) But, wow, those films could have been on my Top 10 list and that would have been a really strong Top 10 list, one that would have held up quite well in comparison to my previous years’ Top 10 lists! That’s how good a year this was.
I saw a lot of films in 2011, and particularly in the last month I’ve crammed in a lot of movie-watching, trying to catch up on all the 2011 films I wanted to see. There are a lot of films that I saw in the last few weeks that I didn’t think warranted inclusion on this list, but about which I’ll be writing reviews on this site in the coming weeks. These include My Idiot Brother, The Help, Tree of Life, Horrible Bosses, and more. So you can look for those reviews soon.
As I always do, before I dive into my lists I want to mention the films I wanted to see, but never got to: A Dangerous Method, Shame, The Debt, Drive, Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, Larry Crowne, Beginners, The Trip. So if you loved one of those films and want to know why they’re not included on my list — well, now you know. Hopefully I’ll get to track down some/all of those films in the near future. (They’re all on my Netflix queue, so all I need is time!)
15. Marvel’s Summer Movies: Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and X-Men: First Class — I do love me a good super-hero movie, and this summer mighty Marvel gave us three of ‘em, each one a really terrific, fun … [continued]
Last week saw the release of teaser posters for two big super-hero movies coming out in Summer 2012, and they pretty powerfully indicate why I’m far more interested in one of these films than the other.
First is Christopher Nolan’s third (and apparently final) Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises:
What a powerful image. Obviously with Bane (the villain known for crippling Batman during the Knightfall story-line from the comics in the ’90s), the meaning behind the title The Dark Knight Rises begins to take shape. (Is Bats going to struggle to walk again after being broken by Bane?) Christopher Nolan is apparently swearing up and down that this movie represents his final Batman film, and I am really curious to see how much of a “last Batman story” this film is going to be. Just how finale is this finale going to be? I’m intrigued and very excited.
Then there’s this poster, for The Amazing Spider-Man:
It’s actually a pretty cool image, but that tag-line “The Untold Story” just bugs the hell out of me. No, it’s NOT an untold story. Spider-Man’s origin has been told countless times and countless ways, and we saw it really well done on film in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film less than a decade ago! I’m already annoyed enough that they’re rebooting this great franchise. This rather defensive tag-line just irritates me even more. Just tell a great new Spider-Man story! I don’t mind that there’s a whole new cast. Just go tell a great new Spidey story and I’ll be there. I don’t need to sit through another version of the origin story.
So surely you’ve all seen this, right?
That’s a pretty solid trailer, but I find that I have to stop myself from being blase about the fact that they’ve actually gone and made an Avengers movie. I need to remind myself just how amazing and unbelievable it is that they have actually made a super-hero team-up film. I mean, ever since I was a kid, Marvel comic books have always been all about the super-hero team-ups, but to see that realized in a movie, done on this scale, is extraordinary. That they have taken the leads of four films — each huge or potentially huge franchises in their own right (Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America) and brought them together for one film is such a giddily never-been-done-before notion that I still find it hard to believe, even though in less than a year this will all be reality that we’ll get to see projected on theatre screens across the country.
As for the trailer? It’s pretty strong, and we get some fun glimpses of the heroes assembled. There’s a bit of wit on display, which is nice. This film should be tense (after all, the stakes need to be HUGE to warrant the bringing-together of all of these super-heroes), but it should also be fun. The mighty Joss Whedon is not only directing the film but he also wrote the script, so I have hope.
They did cut back to those explosions on a city street a few too many times in the trailer, I thought. The footage looks great, but I hope that whatever is going down on that city street isn’t the only major action sequence in the film. This movie needs to be BIG, and this trailer hasn’t quite sold me on the epic scale of the story. It feels a little small so far. (This might be because the trailer doesn’t really reveal much about the actual story of the film, so I’d imagine they’re still holding back on revealing too much of the good stuff at this early date.)
I’m also not quite sold on the re-worked costumes for Captain America and Thor. I thought the costumes for both characters worked really well in their individual films from last summer, largely because both outfits felt lived-in and had a certain gritty weight to them. But in this trailer (and the terrific teaser at the end of the end-credits of Captain America) both Cap and Thor seem to have shiny new outfits that look a bit too simplistic and “costumey” (for lack of a better word) to me. But I will withhold judgement until getting a better look. … [continued]
Lots of fun geeky goodness has been spilling out onto the nets recently, mostly because of the annual San Diego Comic-Con.
Did you miss the teaser trailer for The Avengers at the end of Captain America? Check it out here. Pretty sweet.
Here’s another teaser for one of next summer’s big films — though this isn’t just a teaser, it’s a full-length trailer for the Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man. The trailer is well put together, but I still can’t muster up too much excitement for this film. I hate that they’re rebooting the series, and that we have to sit through another version of Spidey’s origin. Just re-cast the roles and tell a great new Spider-Man story. Why start over from zero?? Frustrating.
Now this is more intriguing: it’s the much-discussed abandoned introduction sequence to Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, in which Superman explores the ruins of Krypton. I can understand why it’s not in the movie (the whole scene is perfectly summed up in Superman’s one line to Ma Kent, that all he found at the end of his long journey into space was a graveyard), but it’s still a pretty cool sequence. I love Supey’s crystalline Kryptonian ship, and I love the huge S.
Oh, Lost, will you ever stop breaking my heart? If you are (or WERE once, like me) a fan of Lost, this hilarious “lost” scene from season one, that was unveiled at Comic-Con, is a wonderful piece of genius. (But Damon Lindeloff’s comments about why they didn’t answer one of the most annoying, to me, lingering questions from season 5 — just who was shooting at Sawyer and co. from the other boat — makes me CRAZY. CRAZY!!!)
Sooo… is Prometheus an Alien prequel or not??? AAARRGH!!! I’m desperate to know, but either way, a new sci-fi film from the great Ridley Scott has me excited.
We’ll see what people say about the set once it’s released, but for now I stand by my comments that I do not plan on purchasing the blu-ray set of the Star Wars films. Still, I did begin salivating at the report that the set will include never-before-seen deleted scenes from the Original Trilogy, and this teaser trailer for those deleted scenes is pretty awesome:
Speaking of George Lucas, it seems that he and his collaborators have FINALLY finished Red Tails, the film about the Tuskegee Airmen from WWII, about which Mr. Lucas has been talking … [continued]
And so we come to it at last, the final piece in the puzzle before next summer’s unprecedented super-hero cross-over movie, The Avengers. There was Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor, and now we have Captain America: The First Avenger. Captain America is overly simplistic and a little corny at times, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a rollicking good time in a movie theatre.
As with all of the Marvel Studios films so far, the film sets itself up for success with its impeccable casting. Chris Evans was the best thing about the terrible Fantastic Four movies, and he’s found an even better role here in that of Steve Rogers/Captain America. He absolutely looks the part, and more importantly than that he’s able to sell Steve Rogers’ aw-shucks good-hearted nature without coming off as silly. He’s an un-ironic heroic lead, and I found his honest, open-faced portrayal to be quite compelling. This performance is assisted by some wonderful CGI effects that create the 90-pound weakling version of Steve Rogers that we see in the first act. This isn’t The Curious Case of Benjamin Button style photo-realism, not by any stretch. But the effects are convincing, and after a few moments I really did stop thinking about the visual effects and just accepted skinny-Steve as a fully-realized character. It’s a terrific achievement in effects.
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings) creates yet another iconic villain in the role of Johann Schmidt, The Red Skull. Putting on what sounded to me like his best impersonation of Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, Mr. Weaving chews a lot of scenery but never tips over the edge into camp. The Red Skull is a big, bad, totally EVIL comic-book villain, and I thought he was just terrific. (Possibly the best bad-guy in a Marvel Studios film so far.) I loved the look of his make-up effects, and I was pleased that once his fleshy mask comes off, it stays off for the rest of the film.
I was surprised at how large a role Tommy Lee Jones has in the film. I thought this would just be a cameo, but his Colonel Phillips becomes a key character throughout the film, and Jones just kills. He gets many of the film’s best lines, and his gruff, warm presence is a delight. Most of the rest of the film’s best lines go to Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine, the inventor of the super-soldier serum that transforms Steve Rogers into Captain America. This was another surprise for me, and I appreciated that we really got to know Dr. Erskine in the film’s first … [continued]
I was beginning to think I’d never get to see another great X-Men movie!
I’m a big, big fan of Bryan Singer’s first two X-Men films. I think they’re pretty much perfect, the first two steps in what seemed like an epic cinematic saga. When the final shot of X2 tantalized viewers with the promise of the Dark Phoenix saga (probably the single greatest X-Men storyline ever), I was overcome with gleeful anticipation. I think I’m still recovering from the disappointment at how badly the film series fumbled things from there. The studio rushed X-Men 3 into production with another director, as a big up-yours to Bryan Singer, who had been hired to direct Superman: Returns. X-Men 3 has a decent first 45 minutes or so but then things totally collapse, and the brutally awful handling of the Phoenix storyline was crushingly disappointing. And in the years since, the only new X-Men movie we’ve gotten is the abysmally terrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine (share the pain and read my review here).
When I heard that they were finally putting together a new X-Men film, and that it was a prequel, I was not pleased. I really hate prequels, as readers of this blog are probably aware. I think it’s a lazy approach to story-telling, and I’d always rather see a story move FORWARD rather than circle back upon itself. That we’ve been so deluged with prequels these past few years makes me absolutely crazy. Why do I want to see the young versions of characters I love? I want to see the experienced versions of these characters, in their prime, kicking ass and going on new adventures. Why has that seemingly been so difficult for the masterminds behind the X-Men film franchise? Can no one in Hollywood think past a trilogy? X-Men 3 was flawed, but it still made a TON of moola. Hire some new writers and get to work on X-Men 4! Of all the franchises in the world, the X-Men seems like the easiest no-brainer in the bunch. There are SO MANY great characters and story-lines in the comics to choose from. Is Patrick Stewart getting too expensive? No problemo! The comics were constantly writing Professor X out of the stories for long periods of time. Let’s see the films adapt some of the great X-Men stories from the eighties, in which Prof X was gone and Magneto tried to reform and take over the X-Men. That would be awesome! It just seems so simple to me — we should be getting brand new X-Men films every 2-3 years, like clockwork.
But, obviously, that hasn’t happened. Just one god-awful Wolverine solo flick and a prequel. … [continued]
Following up on my review of Source Code, which I posted yesterday, click here for a wonderfully spot-on assessment of all of the myriad problems with the film’s ending. It’s a sweet ending that felt right when I walked out of the theatre, but like the rest of the film, if you think about it for more than five minutes, it totally falls apart.
Here’s another trailer — this is for the very low-budget indie sci-fi movie Another Earth. I don’t know anything about this film, but my curiosity is piqued. It’s always interesting to see sci-fi elements mixed with drama (rather than action).
This is awesome. Lucasfilm Animation’s new building is shaped like a Jawa Sandcrawler.
It’s really happening! The Avengers has begun filming!! Here’s what Joss Whedon had to say on the matter. Funny as always. Boy, The Avengers is happening, The Hobbit is happening… this is all very exciting! Now if we could just get the next James Bond film into production, then I’d be over the moon.
I’ve written before about how I think the way some people defend bad movies by saying “oh, it’s not a movie you’re supposed to think about” is incredibly stupid. Here’s a well-reasoned support of my opinion.
This is a beautiful article but it also made me kind of sad. No matter how much we might try to read all the books we want to read, or watch all the films we want to see, or listen to all the music we want to listen to, the simple mathematical truth is that we’re all going to miss almost everything.
I’ve always thought that the next Star Trek TV show needs to move the story forward (the same way Next Gen did after the original Star Trek), not backwards. Apparently I’m not alone in that thinking. Trekmovie.com has put together a fascinating piece on the pitch for a new Star Trek TV show that Bryan Singer, Chris McQuarrie, and Robert Meyer Burnett put together in 2005-06 put never actually presented to Paramount. I would have watched that show!
This is a great defense by Nordling of AICN on the experience of seeing movies theatrically. I agree with him wholeheartedly, but I wish there were theatres like the Alamo Drafthouse here in Boston. It kills me to go to a movie and have people talking on their cell phones or texting or doing other annoying things that distract from actually watching the movie.
Finally, … [continued]
Although Thor doesn’t come close to equalling some of the amazing super-hero films we’ve been blessed with over the past several years (the first Iron Man, which kicked off this current run of inter-connected Marvel films, The Dark Knight, the first two X-Men films, and the first two Spider-Man films), it is a WAY better film version of the character of Thor and his mythos than I EVER would have imagined possible.
Despite by being a huge comic book fan and a Marvel Zombie since I was a kid, I never read the Thor comic regularly. I always thought Thor was great as part of the ensemble of The Avengers, but his solo title never captured my interest. And when Marvel announced, after the huge success of Iron Man, that they were working on a film version of Thor (as part of a series of films that would build up to The Avengers), I was dubious. The recent Marvel films had worked so well in large part because they were fairly grounded. Sure, Iron Man wound up with two guys in huge metal suits punching each other, but the filmmakers and the actors took pains to ground the story in the real world (and to give the characters human, real-world motivations and emotions). I think that was a big part of the film’s success. Same goes with the Spidey films and the X-Men films (which, for example, cast off most of the more colorful aspects of the comics — like the yellow spandex costumes).
But Thor? The Thor comic books are all about a big guy who is ACTUALLY A NORSE GOD and speaks in archaic language (a lot of “thees” and “thous”) and who has crazy adventures with other gods or god-like characters. How could that possibly be achieved in a film that wouldn’t feel painfully small-scale (without the budget or the resources to properly achieve the epic scale of Thor’s cosmic adventures as seen in the comics) and/or feel totally ridiculously silly.
And yet, somehow, director Kenneth Branagh managed to pull off a film that, for the most part, works really well and is enjoyable both as a film in its own right and as a key stepping-stone towards The Avengers. This is an impressive achievement and a pretty fun time at the movies!
As with Iron Man, the film’s biggest success lies in it’s casting. There are other things that one can pick at about Thor (and I will of course do so momentarily), but I think the casting is pretty much spot-on perfect. Chris Hemsworth (so great as James T. Kirk’s doomed dad in the opening scenes of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek… [continued]
Though I think the quality of his films has dipped considerably in the last decade or two, I remain an enormous Woody Allen fan. So I tip my hat to Juliet Lapidos from Slate Magazine who just watched every single Woody Allen film and summarized what she’s learned. It’s a wonderful piece — well-worth your time. (I’m also pleased that to learn that, after her massive re-watching project, she concurs with my long-held opinion that 1997′s Deconstructing Harry was Mr. Allen’s last truly great film.)
Here’s also a fascinating ranking of Mr. Allen’s films into categories (from the “masterworks” to the “bad”). There’s not too much I can disagree with about this listing! It’s pretty spot-on, I think. A few quibbles: I think Hannah and her Sisters and What’s Up Tiger Lily should be bumped up to “great,” as should Play it Again Sam, Deconstructing Harry, and Zelig. Bananas deserves a spot in the “Masterworks” category, and I’d bump The Purple Rose of Cairo down one notch to the merely “great.” And Scoop definitely needs to be shifted down into the “bad” category. OK, I guess I did have some objections! But still, over-all, a terrific list.
Speaking of obsessive-compulsive types, check this out: a complete guide to every single sneaker Jerry Seinfeld ever wore on Seinfeld. Very cool (and just slightly frightening).
So, Rise of the Apes (which was originally called Caesar) is now Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Wow, the title just became simultaneously way more awesome and also way, way stupider. I can’t wait! (By the way, did you watch the new trailer???)
I’m not sure what makes me happier: that we’re actually getting a new Planet of the Apes movie this summer, or that in New Zealand right now they’re actually, finally, for-real, filming Peter Jackson’s two-film adaptation of The Hobbit. Have you seen the first new production diary? I have tingles. I’m not kidding! Peter Jackson was a true innovator with the video diaries that he posted back in the day, chronicling the making of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and then King Kong, and I have fond memories of devouring those whenever they were released during the pre-production and production of those films. It makes me so happy that they’re finally back, and that The Hobbit is at long last under-way. CAN’T WAIT FOR MORE.
Are we really just a few weeks away from Thor? I really want that movie to be good, but I’m a bit nervous. This very positive early review has me optimistic, though!
I’ll be posting a piece soon with my thoughts on the last few DC animated projects … [continued]
OK, I’m officially excited.… [continued]
Last month I wrote about some of the great Marvel Premiere hardcovers I’d been reading, collecting some classic Marvel comics from days gone bye. I had so much fun reading those that I decided to dive into several other Marvel trade paperbacks that had been sitting on my “to-read” bookshelf. These aren’t quite as snazzy as the premiere hardcovers, but they’re some slick new collections of some great old comics. Here’s what I’ve been reading:
Excalibur Visionaries: Warren Ellis — This three-volume series collects some of Warren Ellis’ earliest work for Marvel comics, helming the continuing adventures of the British X-Men spin-off, Excalibur. Chris Claremont & Alan Davis’ original run on Excalibur was one of the very first comic book series that I ever fell in love with. It was also the series that taught me how sometimes the magic of a comic book is due to it’s creative team, as once Claremont & Davis left the book, the subsequent writers/artists could never capture the spark of their run. Those were some bad comics. Just when I’d about given up on the series, Alan Davis returned (this time as artist and writer) for a lengthy run that tied up many of the loose ends left hanging by his original issues with Mr. Claremont. Those were some GREAT comics! But once Mr. Davis left the book, Excalibur again plunged right into the crapper. It only took a few issues for the follow-up writers/artists to destroy the book (killing Cerise, replacing Captain Britain with the moronic “Brittanic”) and I dropped the title. But I would always keep my eye in the book, and I did occasionally pick up some future issues. Several of them were written by Warren Ellis, and while I didn’t like the direction in which Excalibur had been taken, those Ellis issues weren’t bad.
Cut to present day. I’m a HUGE fan of Mr. Ellis’ work. He initially caught my attention as the writer for Wildstorm’s Stormwatch, The Authority, and the incredibly amazing series Planetary (read my review of the series here), and he’s also written some really top-notch Marvel comics, particularly in the Ultimate universe. (His Ultimate Galactus story ranks among my favorite super-hero comics of the last decade.) So when I saw that Marvel was collecting his early run on Excalibur from 1994-96, I was intrigued. What would I think of those issues, looking back on them today?
All in all, not bad! This is definitely not the Excalibur team that I fell in love with, and these stories don’t hold a candle to Chris Claremont & Alan Davis’ work. Still, it’s interesting to see these sort-of proto-Warren Ellis stories. … [continued]
Over the past few years, Marvel has been reprinting many famous and well-thought-of story-lines from years past in a series of gorgeous Premiere Edition hardcovers. Many of the story-lines being reprinted are ones I’ve already read or own, and there are some that just don’t interest me, but there have been quite a few of these Premiere Editions that have collected old comics that I’ve always wanted to read. The idea of finally having a chance to read those old stories — reprinted in handsome hardcover collections — is very appealing to a hard-core comics fan like myself! Here are some of the ones I’ve read recently:
The Death of Captain Marvel — Despite being a momentous event in the history of the Marvel Universe, and despite my having read and loved quite a lot of Jim Starlin’s cosmic stories from the ’70s and ’80s, I never actually read The Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel (Marvel’s very first graphic novel ever published!). This hardcover not only reprints that famous graphic novel, but also several earlier Captain Marvel comics whose events play a part in the Death of Captain Marvel story. It’s really cool to see those older comics included. They’re certainly not critical to understanding the Death of Captain Marvel, but they’re fun samplings of Captain Marvel’s long history of outer-space adventures. It’s interesting to read them, and compare them to the more mature, somber story-telling of Jim Starlin’s epic The Death of Captain Marvel. It’s easy to forget, today, just how ground-breaking that story was, when it was originally published back in 1982. Not just that a prominent character was being killed off, but also that he would perish not as the result of some super-hero/super-villain slugfest, but as a victim of cancer. I applaud Mr. Starlin’s boldness in incorporating such real-world drama into the stories of his cosmic characters. While this does lead to some narrative silliness, in which Mr. Starlin has to come up with some not-quite convincing reasons for why none of the Marvel Universe’s array of geniuses (Reed Richards, Tony Stark, etc.) can cure or at least staunch the spread of the cancer affecting the Captain, it’s a forgivable sin. I can suspend my disbelief enough to be able to invest in the drama of the story Mr. Starlin was crafted. (Anyways, those scenes aren’t nearly as weird as the one in which the dying Captain Marvel suggests that his womanizing buddy, Eros, “look after” his girlfriend Elysius once he’s gone…) Over-all, the story stands up quite well, and I particularly enjoyed the final fourteen pages, everything that happens after the caption “midnight.” It’s a very clever way to end the story, and … [continued]
This is a pretty funny assemblage of 1980′s movie references. Don’t miss Topher Grace’s dynamite Marty McFly impersonation that comes at around 2:30.
I was sad to read of the passing of famed composer John Barry. He’s responsible for so many pieces of iconic James Bond related music, it’s staggering. He wrote the scores for eleven Bond films, including Goldfinger and From Russia With Love.
In happier Bond news, is it possible that Javier Bardem will be the villain in the next Bond film? James Bond vs. Anton Chigurh? What an inspired idea!
In even-happier-than-that Bond news, comes this casting possibility. I really hope these casting rumors pan out! I’m very excited with the way Bond 23 looks to be shaping up so far…
Click here to read The New Yorker‘s fantastic profile of Guillermo del Toro. It’s a lengthy piece, stuffed full of delicious tidbits of information on the many projects that he has in the hopper (and some — like The Hobbit with him as director — that sadly will never be). I really hope that his adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness actually happens.
I’m a dreamer, and I dare to dream that someday we’ll get another awesome X-Men movie. (I adored X-Men and X2, but was disappointed by X3 and thought X-Men Origins: Wolverine was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.) I’m starting to think it just might be happening when I read articles like this about The Wolverine, the upcoming film directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Black Swan), written by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), and based upon Chris Claremont & Frank Miller’s famous, amazing Wolverine mini-series from 1982, set in Japan. My hopes are VERY high for this one, gentlemen. Please don’t let me down!
The moment I knew was coming has arrived: Brandon Routh is officially not playing Superman in Zack Snyder’s upcoming film. Readers of this site know that I am a fierce defender of Superman Returns, and in particular I thought Mr. Routh was phenomenal as Clark Kent/Superman. I totally understand that Mr. Snyder wants to set his film apart from Bryan Singer’s film, but I’m still really disappointed that we’re not going to get a whole series of films with Mr. Routh in the lead. It’s a big disappointment.
And, I must add, this rumor that Jessica Biel is up for the role of Lois Lane has me VERY worried. Urgh, that’s a terrible idea. But then I read that that Jessica Biel rumor is just that — a rumor. OK, whew, I thought, bullet dodged. But then I read … [continued]
Apparently police officers in Pittsburgh spent eight hours investigating “the most grisly murder scene in 35 years” before discovering it was, in fact, a movie set. Pretty funny.
The breaking news this week, of course, is that Jon Favreau won’t be returning to direct Iron Man 3. I’m somewhat disappointed. I like Mr. Favreau as a director, and I think he was a key component of the first film’s success. And I like it when the creative teams for these super-hero sagas remain consistent from film to film. (Look at what happened to the X-Men franchise once Bryan Singer departed after X2.) On the other hand, as much as I adored the first Iron Man (click here for my original review), I think the second one was pretty mediocre (click here for my review of Iron Man 2). So maybe some fresh blood is in order. I’m a little nervous about just what Marvel has planned following their grand Avengers crossover film in 2012. How does one go back to making Iron Man movies after The Avengers? I hope they find a talented, steady hand to guide this franchise forward. (And psst! The Mandarin would be awesome!!)
Speaking of Marvel, last week they released the first full trailer for Thor, and it’s a much more substantial look at the film than I’d been expecting. I really want this film to work, but I’m still a little dubious as to whether they’re going to be able to pull off all of the Asgardian stuff convincingly. Fingers crossed….!
Speaking of trailers, have you seen the preview for the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, On Stranger Tides? Click here to check it out. Is this going to be any good? So far it certainly looks of a piece with the previous three films, despite Rob Marshall’s taking over from director Gore Verbinski. On the other hand, I was never all that wild about any of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, so it’s difficult to get too excited about the prospect of a fourth (and possibly a fifth and sixth) installment.
Since I’m posting links to trailers, I guess I should also note that, sigh, Paramount has released a trailer for the aren’t-they-missing-a-word-in-that-title third Transformers film, Dark of the Moon. Click here to check it out. It’s actually a pretty clever, well put-together trailer. If I hadn’t seen the first two Transformers films, I’d probably be pretty excited. But I did, so I’m not. (Also, many on-line writers have already noted how the trailer is basically just a souped-up version of the original teaser trailer for … [continued]
The casting announcements have been coming fast and furious for the new Spider-Man film, but I just can’t muster up much excitement. I simply think it’s a terrible idea to re-boot the Spider-Man franchise, which felt to me like it still had a ton of gas in the tank (despite my dislike of Spider-Man 3). Take the recent news that Rhys Ifans will be playing The Lizard in the new film. That should be exciting news — I think the Lizard is a great Spidey villain. But I’m just bummed that they’re finally using The Lizard in a Spidey film and the great Dylan Baker — who appeared as Dr. Curt Connors in ALL THREE previous Spider-Man films — isn’t going to get to play the character.
Speaking of big announcements about which I just can’t muster up too much excitement is the news that George Lucas will be releasing the Star Wars movies back to theatres in 3D, as well as the follow-up announcement that they’re also working on 3-D conversions of the Indiana Jones films. On the one hand, any excuse to see the Star Wars and Indy films back on the big screen is exciting. (After having so much fun seeing Back to the Future back on the big screen, I’ve been hoping that other studios would follow suit and bring some of their best films back to theatres so we can enjoy them as they were meant to be seen.) But I’m not so excited about the 3-D conversions. That has the potential to be cool, but a big part of me would really just rather see a beautifully restored 2-D print of those films. Also, Lucas has unfortunately decided to release the Star Wars films one per year, in order of episode number — which means he’s starting with Episode I, and we won’t get to see The Empire Strikes Back until something like 2016!! That stinks!
I’ve been interested in the upcoming sci-fi film Skyline ever since seeing the trailer. But I’m even more interested now, after reading Mr. Beaks’ great piece at AICN about how Colin & Greg Strause basically made the film independently, free from studio oversight or interference. I can’t wait to see what they’ve put together.
Check out this amazing web-site that contains a treasure trove of footage of Andy Kaufman performing throughout his career, arranged chronologically. Astounding.
I’d never heard of this movie before seeing the trailer, but now I’m intrigued:
The combination of Andy Serkis (who played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films) and Simon Pegg is genius, and it’s exciting to see John Landis directing again!
Like most viewers, … [continued]
Last month I wrote about a number of great comic books that I’d read lately. Here’s some more of the fun stuff I’ve been reading these past few weeks:
The Marvel Art of Joe Quesada — I remember taking note of a young artist named Joe Quesada back when he was illustrating Azrael for DC Comics and a variety of books for Valiant Comics (like Ninjak and, as I recall, a zero issue of X-O Manowar), and I’ve been following his work ever since. These days he’s one of the biggest superstars out there, but not just as an illustrator — Mr. Quesada has been the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics for a decade. This gorgeous oversize hardcover is a comprehensive look back at his work for the House of Ideas. In particular, I love the spotlight given to all of his phenomenal cover work. I wish there was a little more commentary provided along with all the beautiful reproductions of his work (I’ve been spoiled by the way the Cover Run: The Art of Adam Hughes book contained commentary by Mr. Hughes for EVERY IMAGE), but that’s a minor complaint. A stunning collection that sits proudly on my bookshelf.
Baltimore: The Plague Ships — Another winner from Mike Mignola and his team. Written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden (working together to bring the lead character from their novel Baltimore,: or, the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire to the world of comic books) with wonderfully atmospheric art by Ben Stenbeck (and phenomenal coloring by Dave Stewart), the mini-series has me gripped so far. Lord Henry Baltimore hunts vampires across Europe in the early 1900′s. It’s grim and bloody and phenomenally good.
The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects — Speaking of Mike Mignola, I must also heap praise on this wonderfully loony hardcover collection of his one-off story, The Amazing Screw-On Head (about a robotic head that can screw into various elaborate action-figure bodies in order to hunt monsters for Abraham Lincoln) along with a variety of other equally bizarre short-stories (many of which were written and drawn specifically for this collection). Wonderfully off-beat and gorgeously illustrated by the phenomenally talented Mr. Mignola, I am in love with this handsomely-designed collection.
Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories — I was a bit dubious that the characters from Joss Whedon’s triumphant web-series Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (read my rapturous review here) could translate to comics, but this softcover collection (reprinting Dark Horse Comics’ Dr. Horrible one-shot from earlier in the year along with several other short stories spotlighting different characters from the Dr. Horrible universe) but boy was I wrong. Zack Whedon wrote all of … [continued]
I am speeding ahead with Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and loving every page. (Click here if you missed yesterday’s review of Book II: The Drawing of the Three.) Now comes word that Ron Howard and Brian Grazer have acquired the rights to the series, and are planning a trilogy of films AND A SIMULTANEOUS TV SERIES. Here’s the juiciest quote from Deadline.com:
The plan is to start with the feature film, and then create a bridge to the second feature with a season of TV episodes. That means the feature cast—and the big star who’ll play Deschain—also has to appear in the TV series before returning to the second film. After that sequel is done, the TV series picks up again, this time focusing on Deschain as a young gunslinger. Those storylines will be informed by a prequel comic book series that King was heavily involved in plotting. The third film would pick up the mature Deshain as he completes his journey.
WOW. That is an awesomely ambitious idea. I hope this comes to pass, and that Ron Howard is up for tackling this dense, dark saga.
Here’s an intriguing rumor that Judd Apatow might be returning to television! It’s hard to know, at this early stage, just how involved Mr. Apatow would be in this proposed show — surely nowhere near as centrally involved as he was in Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. But nevertheless, this is cool news.
Although my life is as hectic as usual, I did have a little time off after the summer that allowed me to catch up on a whole host of great comic books that had been sitting unread on my shelf! Here’s some of what I’ve been reading lately:
Batman #700 – “Time and the Batman.” Loved this one. It’s a great mind-bender of a story, set in three different eras. This issue had all the Grant Morrison weirdness that I love, but contained in a one-shot story that had a strong resolution. Great art, too, by Tony Daniel, Frank Quitely, Andy Kubert, and David Finch.
Streets of Gotham – I am continuing to love this series. Fun mystery/adventure stories by Paul Dini and great art by Dustin Nguyen equals a winner for me.
The Marvels Project — I caught up with this whole miniseries by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, depicting the early (WWII-era) days of the Marvel Universe. Brubaker and Epting are enormous talents, and great collaborators, but I wasn’t bowled over by this series. It felt like pretty familiar ground (covered pretty thoroughly by Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek’s seminal series Marvels), and while the story was engaging and entertaining I didn’t feel like I learned any dramatic revelations about the origins of the Marvel Universe.
Nemesis — Another hyper-violent series from Mark Millar, but I’m loving every juvenile minute so far. Glorious art by Steve McNiven. I’m really eager to see where this goes.
Powers — Boy, after singing the praises of this long-running (over a decade!) series in the spring, I’m sad to say I’ve been disappointed by the first five issues of volume 3. The issues all seem rushed — the usually stupendous art feels scratchy and unfinished, and the story feels half-baked. (We’ve seen that Walker has been a good guy ever since the dawn of time — yet suddenly we learn he was a prick back in the ’50s? Doesn’t really work for me.) I hope things pick up soon.
Avengers and New Avengers — I know he has his critics (and I just said I’m not loving Powers these days), but I get enormous enjoyment out of the vast majority of Brian Michael Bendis’ writing, and I love how things have kicked off with his re-launches of these two series. In Avengers, he and the phenomenally talented John Romita Junior are telling a big, huge, cosmic time-travel storyline that is rollicking along, while in New Avengers he and the equally phenomenally talented Stuart Immonen are crafting a slightly more down-to-earth tale that nevertheless involves an upheaval in the magical aspects of the Marvel Universe and the possible destruction of … [continued]
Have you heard that they’re making new Looney Tunes cartoons to show theatrically? Check out this glimpse of the first new Road Runner cartoon in far too many years:
Battlestar Galactica lives on! Rumors are that SyFy are working on an on-line BSG spin-off, tentatively titled “Blood and Chrome” that would depict a young Bill Adama during the first Cylon War. I LOVED the glimpse at a young “Husker” Adama that we got in Razor, and would LOVE to see more. I hope this comes to pass!
I’ve been reading for years about the Alamo Drafthouse’s Rolling Roadshow film series, in which famous films are screened in a location connected in some way with the film. It’s always sounded like a cool idea, and these special posters for the upcoming tour are just phenomenal. I love movie posters, and these are about the coolest posters I’ve seen in a long, long while.
If there’s one sliver of a silver lining from MGM’s financial woes forcing Guillermo del Toro to leave the in-development Hobbit films, its the announcement that he’ll next be directing an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness, a project that del Toro has been talking about for years. Should be awesome.
As readers of the site are probably well aware, I am one of the few people on Earth who unabashedly loved Superman Returns. So I wholeheartedly second this plea from CHUD that Brandon Routh be allowed to reprise his role as Clark Kent/Superman in the next Superman film. I thought Routh was pretty much perfect, and I would be thrilled to see him continue.
Speaking of superheroes, I’m sure you’ve all heard about the official announcement of The Avengers‘ cast and line-up at Comic-Con last week. Here are some more details from the panel. Pretty astounding cast, if you ask me, and I think Joss Whedon is a perfect choice as director. Now please please please don’t screw this up, gang!!
Here are some fascinating reports from the Thor panel & footage from Comic-Con, as well as the Captain America panel. I cannot wait to see some actual footage from these two films. I really hope Marvel is able to pull these movies off.
Behold The Infinity Gauntlet!! Awesome.
If they ever actually make another Judge Dredd movie, I love the idea of Karl Urban under the helmet.
There has been some exciting news recently in the world of superhero movies.
EW has premiered the first look at Ryan Reynolds in his Green Lantern costume. I think it looks absolutely terrible, frankly — but I often think that the first time a live-action superhero costume is revealed. I remember really disliking the first glimpse I got of the X-Men costumes, and the Spider-Man costume, but both worked well on film, so I’ve learned not to put too much stock into that first pic. Still, not encouraging.
More encouraging is the word that, following the whole brou-ha-ha over Edward Norton getting booted from the upcoming Avengers movie is word that Mark Ruffalo is being considered for the role of Dr. Bruce Banner. That’s an inspired casting idea, and I really hope this happens.
Is Kevin Bacon going to be the villain in the upcoming X-Men prequel? That’s a sort of weird idea. The casting so far for X-Men: First Class has been superb, so hopefully this isn’t the first wrong turn. (I still think making an X-Men prequel is a dumb idea… Let’s move teh story FORWARD and make X-Men 4 already!!)
Here’s some news on Marvel’s next films: Thor and Captain America. There’s a fun pic of Anthony Hopkins as Odin, but I’m not sure what to think of the idea of converting the two films to 3-D. The jury’s still out, in my opinion, as to whether and of these late-in-the-game 3-D conversions can be done with any decent level of quality. We’ll see…… [continued]
I’m always chasing after that perfect cinematic experience — the rare movie where everything just seems to magically click, and I walk out of the theatre totally jazzed by what just unspooled before my eyes. I felt that way when I saw the first Iron Man. I was really blown away by the confidence with which director Jon Favreau and his team (headlined, of course, by the amazing Robert Downey Jr.) pulled off their exciting, engaging, and all-around FUN first installment.
Best of all, while that first movie was certainly a complete story all its own, it ended on a terrific high-note that promised fertile stories ahead — Tony’s spur-of-the-moment “I am Iron Man” admission in the final scene of the film, and the end-of-the-credits button that introduced Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury (played by Sam Jackson, who was the visual model for the character in Marvel’s “Ultimate” universe created about a decade ago) and made mention of the “Avengers Initiative.” I walked out of that theatre unbelievably pumped for the stories to come, and when Marvel announced, about a week after Iron Man‘s opening, their plans for future films based on Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man 2, all of which would build to a movie-version of Marvel’s super-hero team The Avengers, it was clear that an extraordinary venture was underway.
But that venture was fraught with risk. Both Thor and Captain America seem like characters who work great in comic books but would be fiendishly difficult to pull off believably in a movie version. And while most of the key creative players behind Iron Man were returning for the sequel, well, I probably don’t need to list for you the many, many sequels that have been colossal disappointments, unable to capture the magic of the first installment.
Alright, already, so what did I think of Iron Man 2?
Mr. Favreau and his team have crafted another fun, engaging installment of the adventures of Tony Stark. They haven’t reinvented the wheel. They haven’t turned over the apple-cart in the way that makes some of the truly great movie sequels so notable (The Empire Strikes Back, The Wrath of Khan, The Dark Knight…). I didn’t walk out of the theatre with that same tingle that I had after seeing the first Iron Man. But that doesn’t mean that the film isn’t very good.
Robert Downey Jr. proves that his perfection as Tony Stark in the first installment wasn’t a fluke. He’s once again phenomenal, totally magnetic whenever he’s on screen. I was pleased that the filmmakers resisted the temptation to trim any of Stark’s rough edges — Tony is just as much a … [continued]
I have an extensive series of posts, that will be running over the course of the next month, in which I write about my revisitation of Arthur C. Clarke’s four-novel Odyssey series which began in 1968 with 2001: A Space Odyssey — as well as the two film adaptations (of 2001 and 2010). On Wednesday of this past week, literally moments after I had typed the final words of my review of Mr. Clark’s fourth and final Odyssey novel, 3001: The Final Odyssey, I read the sad news that Mr. Clarke had passed away at the age of 90. What sad news. This detailed obituary from the New York Times is worth a look. Mr. Clarke was a giant in the world of science fiction, and he will be sorely missed by all of his fans world-wide, including this one.
Some big trailers have hit the web recently. Check out this terrific new trailer for Iron Man 2, as well as this intriguing glimpse at the I-can’t-believe-this-actually-got-made sequel to Tron. How great is Bruce Boxleitner in that trailer? How about that glimpse of (newly-minted Oscar winner) Jeff Bridges? Both films look fantastic, and I fervently hope they both can deliver.
Speaking of Jeff Bridges, I wanted to direct your attention to this great recent piece from aintitcoolnews.com, in which Jeff Dowd, the inspiration for “the Dude” in The Big Lebowski, waxes poetic about Mr. Bridges.
And speaking of films I hope will deliver, here’s a sneak peek at Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal’s upcoming movie Predators. Is it possible that we might finally be getting a truly kick-ass Predator film that can hold its own with the Arnold Schwarzenegger original? I am beginning to hope… (At the very least, they have settled on a phenomenal title, one that echoes James Cameron’s Aliens, the sequel to Ridley Scott’s film Alien.)
News broke yesterday that Sam Raimi’s planned Spider-Man 4 has been scrapped, and the studio is going ahead with a total reboot of the series. DeadlineHollywoodDaily broke the story. Personally, I’m bummed by this news. Though Raimi & co. broke my heart with the atrocious Spider-Man 3, the first two Spidey flicks were so great that I really wanted to see him come back and try to return to the greatness of those first two films. I hate that his run on the character is ending on such a low note, and the idea of rebooting a series that is only eight years old and wildly successful just seems insane to me. But hey, I’m the guy who also wants to see Bryan Singer make another Superman film.
I have not read any of the Twilight books, nor seen the movies, nor do I have any intention of doing so. But this piece over at CHUD about why Breaking Bad (the fourth and final Twilight book) MUST be made into a movie is absolutely hysterical.
Behold the weirdest wedding video I have ever seen. This dude had his friends in the wedding party act out scenes from Superman II. I am at once awestruck and disturbed.
Speaking of slightly-insane Superman fans, a few weeks ago I stumbled upon photos of this guy who decorated his office cubicle as the Fortress of Solitude. Check it out:
You can find the full story behind his crazy construction project here.
Then there’s this incredibly bizarre stop-motion animated interview with Fantastic Mr. Fox director Wes Anderson. Except Wes Anderson is played by Jason Schwartzman. You read that right. Check it out.
In case you haven’t seen it yet, a super-cool new trailer for Iron Man 2 came out last month. Take a look. I was an enormous fan of Iron Man (read my review here), and have high hopes for the sequel. Don’t break my heart, Mr. Favreau! (By the way, in re-reading my review of Iron Man, I can see that I was sure that the Mandarin would be a key villain in the sequel. It’s not looking that way… so I’m wondering whether that character factors into the story at all. I certainly hope he does!)
Speaking of trailers, let me lay a few more on you. Here’s a sort of weird new trailer for Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe’s latest collaboration: Robin Hood. Take a look. This seems like familiar ground for Scott and Crowe, and I can’t say that I have been lying awake at nights waiting for a new version of the Robin Hood story. That being said, … [continued]
OK, so this is about the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of — Star Wars fans worldwide are uniting on a project to re-make the original film (A New Hope), 15 seconds at a time. Fans can claim individual 15 second moments of the film, recreate them in whatever for they desire (re-enactments, animation, etc.), and then the whole thing will ultimately be strung together. Wild. Click here for all the details on Star Wars Uncut, or just watch this bizarre trailer below!
After watching Julie & Julia with my wife Steph recently (you can read my review of the film here) I was interested in learning more about Julie Powell, so I tracked down her Julie/Julia Project blog and her current blog (since she ended the Julie/Julia Project blog in 2003, with only one additional post in 2004 after Julia Childs’ death). Both blogs were fun to read through after having seen the film.
Not a week goes by, it seems, that I don’t read about Ridley Scott being attached to yet another movie-in-development. I’m not the only one who’s noticed, it seems. Check out this helpful guide: Know Your Ridley Scott Projects That Will Probably Never Happen.
I am an enormous Beatles fanatic. Thus it is really painful for me that I have not yet had an opportunity to sample the newly remastered versions of all of the Beatles albums that were released last month. Scorekeeper from AICN’s detailed run-down of each Beatles album, and how the new versions match up against the original CD releases from 1987, has only further whetted my appetite.
CHUD (Cinematic Happenings Under Development) has been running a ridiculously entertaining series of posts entitled “Bad For Us, Worse For Them.” What is it about? Let me quote from their intro: This is a list of forty deaths in cinema, twenty of which that have a profound affect on the viewer whether by the sheer tragedy of it, how emotionally impactful it is, or how it is a catalyst for a real descent in the progression of the story. The other twenty are deaths that go beyond the call of duty, not because they’re cool or really well executed FX, but because they are just knee-capping in their immediacy, brutality, or simple visceral impact. Kills that will probably leave a mark. The whole list is fantastic, but I was particularly pleased to see that Spock’s death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan merited inclusion.
Last week I wrote about some of the great comics I’ve read lately. That list was just scratching the surface! Here’s some more fantastic stuff that I’ve been enjoying recently:
Hellboy: The Wild Hunt and BPRD: 1947 – The Hellboy saga continues in these two new wonderful mini-series. In Hellboy: The Wild Hunt, things are coming to a head for the big red guy. Cut off from his old friends and comrades in the BPRD, and hunted by the newly-resurrected Queen of Blood, things are looking grim for our hero! Last month’s issue (#6) was jam-packed with astonishing revelations about Hellboy’s origin that I never saw coming, but that I thought worked absolutely PERFECTLY. Meanwhile, BPRD: 1947 takes us through a rollicking tale of the second year of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense as Professor Bruttenholm struggles against vampires and a lot of other weirdness. The Hellboy universe has really richened and deepened over these last few years, and I am really excited to see where things go from here.
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man — The relaunch of Brian Michael Bendis’ take on Spider-Man (three issues have been published as of this writing) continues just where the previous 133 issues (plus a handful of annuals and other specials) left off. Young Peter Parker must juggle his, um, interesting love-life with a boring job at a fast-food joint (since he lost his job at the Daily Bugle following the devastation of NYC in the truly awful Ultimatum miniseries) with, oh yeah, his crime-fighting escapades as Spider-Man! Mr. Bendis is well-known for his witty, true-to-teenaged-life dialogue, but I think his real strength is the depth of characterization he brings to Peter Parker and all the rest of the extraordinarily numerous cast of this comic. Mary-Jane, Flash Thompson, Aunt May, “Kong,” Kitty Pryde from the X-Men, Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four (and it is almost embarrassing how much more interesting Kitty and Johnny are here than in their “home” comics) and many more characters are all brought to amazingly real life in these pages. I’ve been following Bendis’ run on “Ultimate” Spider-Man and I’ll be with the series until he leaves. Spider-Man has never been done better (in my comic-reading life-time, at least!). My only small complaint: I’m not quite taken with the overly stylized work of new series artist David Lafuente. Let’s see if it grows on me any more after a few more issues…
Stephen King’s The Dark Tower — I fell way behind on this series of mini-series, adapting and expanding upon the back story of Stephen King’s seven-book The Dark Tower opus, but I was finally able to catch up last month. Breathtakingly gorgeous art by … [continued]
Battlestar Galactica vets Hamie Bamber (Lee Apollo) and Tahmoh Penikett (Helo) will be together again on the season 2 premiere of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse! Click here for more details.
Speaking of Dollhouse, any interview with Mr. Whedon is always worth a look, and this piece contains some tantalizing glimpses at the unaired Dollhouse episode “Epitah 1″ (which screened at Comic-Con and sounds super-cool) as well as hints at a sequel to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (one of my favoritest things ever)!!
So wow, Capone over at AICN has a report from Peter Jackson covering about 10,000 upcoming projects, all of them enormously exciting!! Click here to get an update on The Hobbit, District 9, The Lovely Bones, Tintin, and more!
The Sci-Fi channel (urg, I really don’t want to call it Sy-Fy) has posted video from all of its Comic-Con panels. Perhaps, like me, you couldn’t care less to watch video of people talking about Stargate: Universe — but be sure to check out the full hour-long panel about Battlestar Galactica: The Plan and Caprica!
Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill will be lending their vocal talents to The Simpsons? Awesome! Here’s some additional info that came to light at Comic-Con on the season’s upcoming 20th (20 years! Unbelievable!!) season.
I am disappointed, but not terribly surprised, to read that Kevin Smith might have to change the title of his upcoming buddy cop movie (starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan), A Couple of Dicks.
By all accounts, the Iron Man 2 panel was pretty awesome. (Click here for a description.) Why can’t some of this footage be found on-line?? Grrr. But here’s another interesting tidbit of Marvel movie news: some hints about the line-up for the upcoming Avengers movie! Some interesting choices. I really hope that they use Millar/Hitch’s magnificent Ultimates series (which I reviewed here) as the basis for this film.
Since Comic-Con is also a place for news about, you know, comics, I’ll close with a piece of comic-book news that should get any true comic fan very excited: Planetary #27 is finally being released in October!!! Can it possibly live-up to the hype generated by the years-long delay? We’ll see!… [continued]
Yesterday I wrote about three terrific series that told the story of The Ultimates, Marvel Comics’ reinvention of their super-hero team, the Avengers. In addition to those three phenomenal series that I discussed (The Ultimates, The Ultimates 2, and the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy), there have been a number of subsequent mini-series that have carried forward the stories of many of the characters from those series.
Some have been excellent. Others, not so much.
Let’s take a look!
Ultimate Vision, by Mike Carey & Brandon Peterson — Basically an epilogue to Warren Ellis’ Ultimate Galactus storyline, we follow Sam Wilson and the Vision (two characters that Ellis introduced to the Ultimate universe in his series) as they discover that one Galactus module has survived. If they don’t destroy it, bad things will happen! The story is really carried by Brandon Peterson’s magnificently detailed art, which I could look at all day long.
Ultimate Wolverine/Hulk, by Damon Lindeloff and Leinil Francis Yu — The promise of a Wolverine/Hulk battle authored by Lindeloff (one of the masterminds behind Lost) was very tempting, and the first two issues were a lot of fun. Then the series ceased publication. Last month, after more than 3 years, the third issue was finally released (with the assurance that the remaining 3 issues will be coming out monthly). The jury is still out on this one.
Ultimate Power, by Brian Michael Bendis, J. Michael Straczynski, Jeph Loeb, and Greg Lang — This 9 issue crossover started with an intriguing premise: Reed Richards, desperately searching for a cure for his friend Ben Grimm (who was transformed into the Thing in the accident that gave the FF their powers), sends probes into alternate universes. One of them gets contaminated and apparently winds up wreaking incredible devastation upon the Supreme Power universe (from the series Supreme Power, Straczynski’s reinvention of Marvel’s classic Squadron Supreme characters). What followed was an extended super-hero slugfest. Land’s art is beautiful, but the story was extremely choppy. Instead of Bendis, Straczynski, and Loeb collaborating on all nine issues, each one of them scripted three issues. I enjoyed the Bendis and Straczynksi issues, but Loeb didn’t stick the landing. Characters suddenly seemed completely out of character, and in the end it all turned out to be a pretty stupid super-villain plot. Lame.
Ultimate Iron Man, by Orson Scott Card and a variety of artists — I got very excited when it was announced that famed sci-fi novelist Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game) would be writing the origin story for Tony Stark, but sadly the execution left something to be desired. Card’s story had a lot … [continued]
Last month I wrote several posts about my favorite graphic novels. One of the works that I mentioned (saying at the time that a more lengthy review would be coming) was Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates.
In the early 2000′s, Marvel Comics launched their Ultimate line, in which they took several popular, long-running Marvel characters and basically started them over from ground zero. Spearheaded by some of Marvel’s top talent, the idea was to make the characters fresh and dynamic again, and remove the burden of 30-plus years of back-story and continuity. The Ultimate line kicked off with Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley’s Ultimate Spider-Man. This was an amazing, extraordinary piece of work, and it deserves a longer article of its own. Suffice to say, I have never enjoyed a monthly Spider-Man comic as much, and I am still following the series every month.
Today I want to talk to you about Millar and Hitch’s reinvention of Marvel Comics’ premiere super-hero group, the Avengers, in their series The Ultimates that ran from 2002-2004. (The series is available in two softcover collections or in one gorgeous hardcover.)
This is a magnificent, adult piece of work, and one hopes that it will be used as a template for the coming Avengers feature film. The story begins at the end of World War II, as we witness the last mission of Captain America. What might be a short 4-page flashback in another series is a lengthy (taking up almost the entirety of the series’ first issue) tale of gritty combat that sets the series’ tone of brutal intensity and incredible attention to detail.
Then the story jumps forward to the 21st century. It’s a brave new world filled with new wonders and new threats, both at home and abroad. Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD, decides that the only way to protect America is to create a new team of American super-heroes. Unfortunately, no one has been able to re-create the super soldier serum that turned scrawny Steve Rogers into the super-human Captain America. But disparate events are about to come to a head that just might give Fury the elements he needs for his super-human task force: Scientist Bruce Banner injects himself with an experimental formula; brilliant industrialist and drunkard Tony Stark creates an extraordinary suit of armor; an anti-corporate hippie who claims to be Thor, the Norse God of Thunder, has begun to amass a legion of followers; and finally, the frozen body of Captain America is discovered, perfectly preserved in the Arctic.
Mark Millar’s writing is very contemporary — the story really runs with the conceit that all these events are happening in our … [continued]
One of my first articles, when I started this blog, was about great franchises that have fallen on hard times. I was writing about my once-beloved Alien and Predator series, but we can all now safely add the X-Men films to that list. What in the world has happened to this series?? X-Men and X2 were so spectacular — but after X3 and now the rather verbosely titled X-Men Origins: Wolverine I am sad to report that the series is batting only two for four.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a Fantastic Four caliber catastrophe. Some talented actors appear on-screen, there’s some exciting action, some familiar X-Men characters pop up (one in particular really surprised me), and we finally get to hear Wolverine say on-screen, “I’m the best there is at what I do. But what I do best isn’t very nice.” But the scant enjoyment I felt from those moments was short-lived. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a rentlessly dour and joyless affair, one that consistently reveals itself to be a truly B-Grade effort. What do I mean by that? Allow me to elaborate:
The film is filled with plot-holes, but more than that, it doesn’t hold together at all as any sort of coherent narrative. I respect the filmmakers’ ambition in trying to capture a number of different periods in Wolverine’s life, from his birth in the late 1800′s, through his experiences in a variety of wars (captured really well, actually, in an exciting opening credits sequence), through his time with Silver Fox, his involvement in the Weapon X program, and beyond. But none of the bits and pieces hang together. Instead of merging together to form an expansive back-story, each jump in time left me with countless unanswered questions: Why would Logan, a Canadian, fight in so many of America’s wars? Right from the first scene, he is established as a gentler soul than his mean brother Victor — so why would Logan hang around with Victor for so many years? If Stryker and the team were so upset when Wolverine left them, how and why did the whole group disband soon after? And why would Victor, of all people, be the one to remain in Stryker’s service? I could go on.
The film makes a total hash of the X-Men comic continuity. There was a lot of precedent for this, of course, as the previous three X-Men films also mixed and matched characters and story-lines from different periods of the comics with great abandon. But there’s a souless “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to this film as it ties a barrage of random Marvel Comics characters (Gambit! Deadpool! The Blob!) into Wolverine’s origin — and … [continued]
Let’s begin the day by my pointing your attention to two great pieces recently from The Onion A.V. Club: this article about 25 great albums that work best when listened to from start to finish, and a spirited defense of the recent seasons of The Simpsons that lists 10 episodes from the past 5 seasons that stand among the series’ best.
If you haven’t seen it yet, click here to watch the new trailer for Sacha Baron Cohen’s new movie Bruno. For a little more detail on some of the sequences that you get glimpses of in the trailer, click here for a terrific write-up of the 25 minutes of footage that screened a few weeks ago at SXSW, the theatre-owners convention. How is he able to still fool people with this stuff after all the publicity that surrounded Borat?
I am not a big fan of Broadway musicals. That is putting it mildly. So I’m not exactly doing cartwheels at the news that there is a Spider-Man musical in the works. And I was completely befuddled to read that they’re working on a musical based on Groundhog Day! What a bizarre notion.
By the way, speaking of Spider-Man, has director Sam Raimi admitted what was immediately apparent to discerning movie-goers about an hour into the film — that Spider-Man 3 was just terrible? Well, sort-of. Click here to read his interesting comments. Since a Spider-Man 4 seems inevitable, this gives me a smidgen of hope that perhaps we will see a return to the high quality of the first two Spidey films. What could possibly go wrong, right?
Harlan Ellison is a brilliant Sci-Fi author. He’s also responsible for one of the finest hours of Star Trek ever committed to film: the Original Series episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.” He is now suing Paramount and the WGA. You have got to read his hilarious press release all the way to the end.
So there’s going to be a James Bond museum? And I thought Christmas only came once a year.
Finally, did you know that some people are getting all bent out of shape about a Chuck Jones Looney Tunes print that parodies Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper? Well, they are. In these troubled times, aren’t there more important things that we should be worrying about? Like the enormous size of the nacelles on the U.S.S. Enterprise in J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie??… [continued]
Over the past two days I have listed several of my favorite graphic novels. (Click here for part I and here for part II.) You’ll notice that most of them had nothing to do with super-heroes. This was purposeful — although super-hero stories dominate the American comic book scene, there are so many other types of stories that can be told using the comics medium. That’s something I wanted to highlight.
But that’s not to say that I don’t also love a terrific super-hero story, because I certainly do! Here are some of my favorites, that are available in graphic novel or collected-edition formats:
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns — Following the death of Robin, Bruce Wayne retired his Batman persona. It’s been 10 years, and Gotham City has sunk into an urban decay of crime. Bruce Wayne is a broken man, empty and lost. But when something drives him to put on that mask one more time, everything changes. (Although not necessarily for the better!) Along with Watchmen (which was also released in 1986), Frank Miller’s magnus opus changed the comics industry forever, demonstrating without a doubt that it was possible to tell sophisticated, mature stories with super-hero characters. (It also was a tremendous influence on the look and tone of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film.) This story is intense and shockingly brutal. It is also a gorgeous work of art, filled to the brim with overlapping narratives that tell the stories of an enormous cast of characters, all struggling to make their way in the brutal urban jungle that Gotham City has become, and all of them somehow affected by the shadow of the bat. The Dark Knight Returns is also infamous for Miller’s depiction of an almost fascistic Superman, and his battle with the Batman in the series’ final chapter is a show-stopper. (I should also mention that I am quite fond of Miller’s Batman: Year One, illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, from which a great deal of the story of Batman Begins was adapted.)
The New Frontier — Darwyn Cooke’s brilliant series re-tells the origins of many of DC Comics’ most familiar characters, albeit set in the years in which they were originally created. Similar to the way in which The Right Stuff showed how American fighter pilots gradually became our astronauts, The New Frontier tells the story of how the pulp heroes that came out of the second world war gradually became the costumed super-heroes of a brave new age. Cooke’s somewhat retro, simplified art style is stunningly gorgeous and absolutely perfect for the story being told. The New Frontier captures the innocence and wonder, as well as the growing dangers, of the 1950′s and … [continued]
Today we continue my list of the Top 10 Movies of 2008! Scroll down (or click here) to read yesterday’s installment, listing numbers 10-6 and several honorable mentions, if you missed it.
5. Tropic Thunder — Ben Stiller’s evisceration of Hollywood actors and their quest to win Oscars by making “serious” movies is one of the funniest films in recent memory. Somehow Stiller was able to corral an astonishing group of actors and comedians (Jack Black, Nick Nolte, Steve Coogan, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, Bill Hader, Matthew McConaughey, and many more) into the project, creating one of those special films in which every single scene has about ten funny things going on. Special attention must be paid to the brave work by Robert Downey Jr. (as Australian actor Kirk Lazarus, a man so “method” that he dies his skin black to become the Afrian-American character Sgt. Osiris) and Tom Cruise (buried under a hilariously hideous hairy fat-suit as studio head Les Grossman), who turn in two of the best performances of the year. Though not the type that will win Oscars! (Click here for my full review.)
4. Religulous — Comedian Bill Maher partnered with director Larry Charles (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Borat) to create this movie in which Maher travels around asking people questions about religion. You might not agree with Maher’s views, but it is impossible not to respect someone willing to ask straight, tough questions of believers. (Well, not impossible, apparently, as Maher’s film certainly angered some.) Maher speaks with members of various different religions and denominations, both religious leaders and common people. He demonstrates a surprising (to me, at least), gentleness with most of the people he questions. Whatever your faith, the issues that Maher raises are important ones to consider, and it doesn’t hurt that the film is also absolutely hysterical. (Click here for my full review)
3. Man on Wire — This extraordinary documentary looks behind-the-scenes at Philippe Petit’s incredible achievement of walking on a high-wire strung between the roofs of the Twin Towers in NYC back in 1974. The audacity of Petit’s artistic crime is astounding to contemplate, and this film provides an insightful peek into the years that Petit and his friends spent planning the event. It also explores a variety of ideas about art and human accomplishment. Amazing. (Click here for my full review.)
2. Iron Man — Director Jon Favreau and actor Robert Downey Jr. created one of the best, most joyful comic book movies I have ever seen. A fun, funny epic that is also a serious film filled with great character work (as opposed to a camp-fest), Iron Man is everything that a super-hero film should … [continued]
In the weeks before Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk opened this summer, there were a lot of stories on-line and in various entertainment magazines about a dispute over the editing of the film between Marvel and star Edward Norton (who played Bruce Banner). As the tale was told, Norton was fighting for a longer cut of the film that would include more character development, while Marvel wanted a leaner, more action-packed version.
Ultimately, it seems that the latter is what was released to theatres. And while I found the film to be fairly enjoyable, it certainly didn’t blow my skirt up the way Iron Man had the month before. I also found it to be inferior to Ang Lee’s weirder, more cerebral 2003 movie The Hulk.
But I was intrigued to read that the DVD of the new Incredible Hulk movie would include a significant number of deleted scenes (almost 45 minutes worth). That’s not the same as having an extended cut of the film to judge, but I was still very curious to check out all of that additional footage to see if I felt those scenes’ inclusion would have strengthened the film.
Well (and I’m not sure if this is good or bad), with just a few exceptions I must report that they would not have. What we have here is a fascinating study in film-editing. There isn’t one scene, amongst the deleted footage, that is a complete “thank god they cut that” clunker. Everything is good, and interesting. There’s an opening opening to the film in which Bruce Banner tries (unsuccessfully) to kill himself; scenes that show us more of the life Bruce made for himself on the run in Brazil, including how he created the science set-up in his apartment; several additional scenes with Betty’s new boyfriend Leonard (whose presence on-screen suffered the most in the theatrical cut); several scenes with General Ross which shed some more light on why he was so focused on capturing Banner, etc. etc. It’s all decent stuff.
Probably the best scene is a monologue by Ross, in which he describes his awe at having seen a glimpse of god (in his encounters with the Hulk), and he compares himself to those great men throughout history who have dared to grasp such power for the good of mankind. It’s a great moment of acting, and it makes his character a bit less of an evil-for-no-reason villain, while also making him even scarier as we glimpse his passionate dedication to the cause.
And yet, none of these scenes really would have added much of anything to the movie as a whole. Is it sort of neat to see how Bruce made his … [continued]
Here are some of the DVDs that have been spinning recently in the Edelglass abode:
Recount — This HBO film chronicles the tumultuous 36 days that followed the contested 2000 Presidential election. The cast is stupendous across the board: Kevin Spacey plays Ron Klain, Bob Balaban is Ben Ginsberg, Ed Begley Jr. is David Boies, Laura Dern is Katherine Harris, John Hurt is Warren Christopher, Dennis Leary is Michael Whouley, Tom Wilkinson is James Baker, and Mitch Pileggi (A.D. Skinner!!) is Bill Daley. For those of you out there who followed every minute of this political morass, most of those names are probably very familiar to you. I’ll also add that Derek Cecil (Push, Nevada) plays Democratic lawyer and my former camp counselor, Jeremy Bash. Although the film is at times heartbreaking to watch for a Democrat like myself, it is a terrifically well-told tale. There’s a lot of very detailed information covered in its under two hour run-time, but the film never becomes a boring talking-heads history class. Its dramatic and extraordinarily well-paced, bouncing back and forth between the Democratic and Republican camps trying to bring home the election for their candidate.
The Band’s Visit — An Egyptian band (the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra) arrives in Israel to play at a cultural event, but find themselves stranded in the tiny Israeli town of Petach Tikvah. Stuck there for the night, the film follows the different members of the band as they interact (or don’t interact) with the local Jews, and vice versa. This is a quiet film. There is no great action — nor is there loud conflict or histrionics. Instead, its a small, personal story about a group of Egyptians and a group of Israelis, each with their own problems and demons, and their efforts to find common ground for one lonely night. Nobody LEARNS A BIG LESSON or FALLS MADLY IN LOVE and I respect the film for that. This is a movie about ordinary people leading ordinary lives. Occasionally it might be a little TOO slow for some tastes, but its worth a viewing.
The Good German — My wife Steph recently read the book (by Joseph Kanon), so we decided to check out the film. I’d wanted to see the movie when it came out in 2007, but never got to it, so I was excited to give it a try. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment. The film boasts a top-notch cast that includes George Clooney, Tobey Maguire, and Cate Blanchett, but I never engaged with the story being told. Part of the reason for that may be that the film has been molded to the style of a 1940′s film like … [continued]
There’s a great, in-depth interview with Jon Favreau on his plans for Iron Man 2 (and 3!) to be found here. Some really interesting tid-bits to be had. I have a lot of faith in Favreau and am really excited to see what he and his team cook up over the next two years.
I love movie posters, and here’s one I think you might enjoy as well: Kevin Smith has posted the new poster for Zach and Miri Make a Porno, his upcoming movie starring Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks. If you follow that link, be sure to also scroll down a bit to see the poster design that the MPAA rejected. Pretty funny, the both of them!
This is old news, but I’ve mean meaning to mention it: Don LaFontaine passed away earlier this month. Don’t recognize his name? Well I guarantee you’d recognize his voice. He’s the famed “trailer guy,” whose deep tones graced the narration of so many movie trailers over the years. A fascinating trip-down-memory-lane sampling of his work can be found here.
Hope to see everyone back here tomorrow!… [continued]
As an addendum to my list of my five favorite super-hero movies posted at the start of this week, here are three super-hero movies that I consider to be tremendously under-rated:
Superman Returns — I just don’t understand the almost universal apathy or even dislike towards Bryan Singer’s Superman relaunch. I love that this film has a somber, melancholy feel to it. I love that the story creates complicated character conflicts (the Clark-Lois-Superman-Richard love tangle) that aren’t easily resolved by the end of the film. (I was SHOCKED that Richard lived through the movie — and I really respect the filmmakers for not killing him off, thus providing an easy way for Lois and Clark/Superman to get back together.) I also love reverence the filmmakers showed for Richard Donner’s Superman movie — it really tickles me all the times the movie refers to Donner’s films, both visually (the design of the Fortress of Solitude, the use of Brando as Jor-El), and in the echoing of lines of dialogue in the script (such as Superman’s “statistically speaking, its still the safest way to travel,” and the reprise of Jor-El’s message to his son: “You will make my strength your own. You will see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father and the father… the son.”) The film has weaknesses — there’s not enough action, and Lex Luthor’s plot is pretty stupid. But watch again the plane crash sequence in which Superman reveals his return to the world, and tell me that’s not a magnificent moment of pop-fantasy magic. I’d love to get a sequel to this film to see where Singer takes the story from here, so I hope Warner gets around to making one.
Daredevil – Here’s another movie that I seem to be the only one who likes. As with Superman Returns, there are weaknesses to this film, like some embarassingly dodgy CGI effects. But there’s so much that I enjoy about this movie. I love how down-beat it is. I love how the filmmakers differentiate Daredevil from a more selflessly heroic character like Spider-Man. (This is epitomized by the scene on the rooftop between Matt Murdock/Daredevil and Elektra, in which he hears someone in trouble — but when Elektra asks him to stay with her, he does. Peter Parker would never make that choice — and I love that.) Speaking of Murdock/Daredevil, I know that its a popular sport to make fun of Ben Affleck, but I actually find him to be extremely watchable as Matt Murdock. And the rest of the cast is strong as well — Michael Clarke Duncan, Joe Pantoliano, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell, … [continued]
I saw Iron Man tonight.
What follows is as spoiler-free as I could make it. But if you want to go into this flick totally devoid of any knowledge, why don’t you check back in after you see it and let’s see if we agree?
OK, now, let me get right to it: the film is tremendous. Director Jon Favreau was able to create a very intense, serious film (one not aimed just at the little kiddies) that is also quite funny and endearing. There’s a lot of humor, but its not the type of forced “stand back, here comes the wakka-wakka” type of humor that so often makes me cringe in comic book films. Much of the credit for this must go to the man in the lead role.
I’ve already read a number of reviews that emphasize how perfect Robert Downey Jr. is as Tony Stark, and I most vigorously agree with the chorus. Not only is he a visual dead ringer for the character (the goatee is perfect), but he’s able to convey just the type of rich, spoiled, brilliant, cocky bastard that is Tony Stark. As I alluded to above, there’s a tremendous amount of humor is this performance – I love his banter with his “lab assistants,” and with Jarvis – but also a lot of weight. Like most superhero origin stories, this movie centers on “the turn” – when the hero character has to change from the person he was to the more righteous person he will become. That can be a tough moment to play, and not every superhero movie – or ever actor assaying a superhero – can sell that. But Downey Jr. just nails it.
The whole rest of the cast is dynamite as well. The casting of Jarvis was dead-on. Terrence Howard is terrific as Stark’s buddy Jim Rhodes. I love how he’s able to nudge Stark on his behavior without being a total stick-in-the-mud himself. (In the plane-ride scene early in the movie, you can really see why he and Stark are friends!) Gwyneth Paltrow is also very strong as Pepper Potts, Stark’s assistant. She maybe gets a teensy bit too damsel-in-distressy towards the end of the flick, but she is a lot of fun to watch throughout the film. Just as Terrence Howard does in his role, her performance hints at a long shared history with Tony Stark – and that really helps to flesh out the “world” that these characters inhabit.
Jeff Bridges brings a lot of charisma and energy to his role of Obadiah Stane, Stark’s mentor. I just love Jeff Bridges, and it looks like he was having a lot of fun in the … [continued]