Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews’ Category

I love superheroes as far back as I could remember.

Before I could read, I watched a lot of  superheroes cartoon/movies/tv show. That was how I was introduced to them. Lord knows how many times I used to rent this Hulk cartoon on VHS when I was a kid…

I’d watch any version of superheroes. That crap live action Spider-Man show from the ’70’s? I’d a seen it all. That bad Captain America movie?

I’d rented it a dozen times…knowing that it wasn’t that good.

Hell I even own a bootleg copy of the Fantastic Four movie in the early ’90s…

And when I FINALLY started reading comics, oh boy, did it get worse.

But, why? Why do I love this genre so much?

There is the big question right? We’ve been fans for so long, you take for granted that loving superheroes is part of the DNA of our fan culture.

For me, the answer isn’t so easy. It’s not just one reason, it DOZENS of reasons. First you get drawn to the costumes and powers. A power fantasy of looking cool, and having abilities we all wish we had. Then the battles! Screw guns and regular fisticuffs,  nothing gets more epic then seeing Superman fight someone like the Hulk and witness something awe inspiring.

Then, it’s knowing that the superheroes in these stories are doing this to save US. They don’t have the luxury of having a simple day, they have to fight to ensure that everyone else can  survive to have to those days. It’s that superheroes have this incredible self sacrifice that is inspiring, and it makes you want everyone else in the world to have that same ideal.

That’s why I keep reading and watching superhero tales.

I’m inspired to watch heroism at it’s finest, and to see some kick ass throw downs.

That’s part of the reason why I loved last years Captain America: The First Avenger so much. It’s about a man who, even before he got the powers, was a great man who wanted to do what’s right. Plus, he looked cool throwing that shield.

So, you can imagine that watching a film like The Avengers is only going to make me giddy.

The Avengers isn’t just one of the best superhero films ever made, it’s also the first film that truly nails the the blending of comic book storytelling with filmmaking.

The movies opening is a great example of that. The way that writer/director Joss Whedon wrote, shot and his editorial decisions dictated a  tone and pace that is very much a comic book style of story telling. With out spoiling anything, the way the opening scenes uses a narration that overlaps with simple images feels like reading a comics page. It evokes the pacing of seeing a single panel and reading a word box narration.

The action feels the same way.  Let me tell ya, this film will ruin every other Alien Invasion scene in movies for me from this point on (looking at you BATTLESHIP). Its not just enough to see the destruction, I now really want to see some heroes fly in and and fight back. Which brings me to the fights. Oh man, the fights. The one on one battles between the heroes, the sequence on the Hellicarrier and of course the epic finale 20-30 minutes are just breathtaking. Impacts, hits, punches, laser blasts, everything  is seen clear and crisp. Whedon knows exactly when to speed up the action,  and when to slow down. It’s these moments where it felt most like looking a splash page in a comic, or looking a dynamic fight sequence in a 3 page battle. It wasn’t just great action filmmaking, it’s true superhero comic action on screen.

As a Joss Whedon fan going back as far as 1997 , watching this film felt like Whedon’s graduated. He brought it his all, and for the first time, regular audiences can finally “get” Joss’s sensibilities. I guess it needed to be in a context that they where comfortable with, and after watching the Marvel Studio films for the last five years, audiences where ready.  They just needed to enjoy the story that Whedon fashioned. As Whedon fans, we knew he was not only going to bring in the action, but also the story, characters, humor and the drama. Glad the rest of the world can finally see what we always knew.

It’s been forever seen I’ve seen a true crowd-pleaser,  and every time I’ve seen it ( 3 times as of this writing) the audience is there with the film. It’s the kind of filmmaking that audiences love going to the movies as a big group for. The big laughs and the huge applause from the audience is the kind of magic that makes going to a movie theater fun.  It’s the feeling that audiences got when they first saw Stars Wars and Raiders of the Lost Arc for the first time. (Note: Before you go crazy, I’m not saying The Avengers is THAT great, but the elated joy and entertainment the audience got after leaving the theater was just as close.)

But it isn’t just the spectacle that the audiences are eating up in this film, it’s the characters too.  The film is full of great character interaction, great work from the cast from the previous films, and (of course) Whedon’s script getting every single character right. Of course Cap’s ideals and Tony’s ego will clash, but it’s going to be fun to see them learn how to get along. Thor feels responsible for Loki’s action,  yet no matter how crazy his brother gets, he loves him and wants him back home. Black Widow being insanely scared of the Hulk. Tony and Banner being friends because  of their amazing scientific minds.  Agent Caulson’s admiration of Captain America. Hawkeye’s relationship with Black Widow, and the history they share. It’s just a ton of fun seeing this group together. The fact that we take our time seeing this group interact, means when this moment happens in the film….

…it’s earned, and it never fails to give me goosebumps every time I see it in the film.

Going back to that “comic book” feeling, the moment that made me truly realize I’m watching an “AVENGERS” movie is the moment when Captain America faces off with Loki. Seeing Cap talk Loki down and fighting him made my brain go “Oh wow….it’s really happening. This movie really exist!” Why? Because this is the first cross over moment in the film. When the main bad guy from one movie is facing down the main good guy from another.  It would be like if Hans Gruber from DIE HARD is facing Rambo. It only got better when Iron Man flew in!

Ah, and Loki. After the Thor movie, I declared that Loki was the best Marvel studios villain by far. It wasn’t just Tom Hiddleston’s wonderful nuanced performance, but it was the fact that Loki had a strong motivation. His reasons for turning on his family and his fellow gods just made all the sense you when you find out about his backstory. I love were we find him in AVENGERS. I love how much more twisted he got. I love that he actually has a pretty solid plan and for the most part , it’s working…but as Agent Coulson said, Loki’s one weakness is that he has no conviction. Having Loki being too arrogant is a great way to give another layer to the bad guy.

I also loved how Nick Fury was used. Sam Jackson must of had a blast making this, because he wasn’t just used to be a badass (which he was) but he was the one character that had faith for this group. I loved that Fury had to fight for the idea of this group.

Can I also say thank you to Joss for giving me back the real Black Widow? The sexy assistant/ass kicker in Iron Man 2 was ok, but I would like to thank Whedon for giving me back a Natasha that speaks Russian, has a black past, and giving Scarlett Johansson more to do. Whedon gave us a much more rounded character this time, and I thank you.

Is there something I’m missing?…..

Ah…of course….HULK smash.

Ruffalo had a lot to prove here. The poor guy had to come into this film pleasing a group of people still hurt that Ed Norton isn’t coming back (Eric Bana who?). Thankfully, Ruffalo was spot on. I loved his nervous gestures, his sarcastic tone and his “keep to himself” nature. Whedon gave him a lot to do, and when we find out how dark Banners past gets, it’s surprisingly tough.  Also, this movie Hulk is flat out the BEST LOOKING Hulk from any of the movies. Never feeling like he’s made of rubber or plastic like the previous movie Hulks, he’s got a great design, and when he starts fighting (oh the nerdgasam I got when Hulk started fighting Thor…) it’s so damn entertaining.  I also think it’s pretty safe to say that the Hulk STOLE THE SHOW for a lot of people, and for good reason.

Are their issues I have the film? Small ones, to be sure, hell, some are nitpicks. I wished Hawkeye wasn’t in the “state” that he was in for most of the movie since he’s the one member of the cast that I felt we haven’t got a true sense of his character (though in defense of that, he do get little bits here and there that I like.) The plot is too simple and generic, and there are plenty of moments of “well, isn’t THAT convenient”  in the movie. But, WHO CARES! Say the plots to Raiders of the Lost Arc, Star Wars, Die Hard, Jaws, E.T. and many others and they all have their fair amount of issues…but why do we love those movies? The characters, the humor, the earnest drama, and fun.

For me, this was the comic book superhero film I’ve dreamed of seeing since I was a kid. Look back at the videos I posted in the beginning of this review.  See how far we’ve come?

That’s why I kept watching those bad Marvel movies as a kid. It was “enough” till the day they finally got it right.

After watching The Avengers, I wish I can tell the kid 7 year old version of me…dude….they FINALLY did it. And man, your going to LOVE it.

He then will be heartbroken to find out he has to wait 21 years to see it, but….still, I thik it’s well worth the wait.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

If your a comic book fan, most likely your also a film fan. And if your like me, you grew up in a time when Superman and Batman had big budgeted films, yet you knew there was so much more to the comic book world then those two. So you dreamed and dreamed how they would make films out of your other favorite characters. We all had a version of a Spider-Man film, an X-Men film or even a Darkhawk film (ok…so I’m alone in that one, I know I am.) It took years, but eventually  they made those movies, and what a time it’s been for us comic book fans! Some of the adaptations were great and are as close as to what I dreamed of for that character, sometimes they made some twist to the characters and the mythology but work amazingly and sometimes they were GIANT fails. So in a way, Captain America was the last great one for me, and like many fans, I had dreamed up a Captain America film.

I wanted it to be to be in World War II. I wanted to see Cap lead armies. I wanted him to fight crazy, ridiculous , not realistic technology.

I think this image from this 1996 comic by John Bryne explains it all for me…

I wanted to see THAT , but as a movie.

So…you have to imagine my excitement when I was watching the Norway sequence of the film.

Outside of the Church, something huge roles up….A. BIG. ASS. TANK.

I squealed  like a little girl in my seat.

And that almost sums up my feeling about the whole film.

It was the Captain America film that I’ve dreamed of since I was 12. A blast of pure enjoyment. A film with a ton of heart. A film that refreshingly has no cynical bone in the it’s body.

It’s no surprise that the director of this was Joe Johnston. His film The Rocketeer (click here about my previous blog post about that film) had the same energy and tone, but I could tell that  he was able to let loose even more on this film. The film was full of style that fits the era, and I could sense the fun Johnston had with this film. German expressionist films for the Red Skull flashback, the recreation of 1930’s serial films for the Captain America “movies” with in the movie, and musicals for the USO scenes. God, do I love the USO montage. It not only is fun and entertaining, but it also helps build the mythology of Captain America, having him be a great national hero before he even truly fights. The action was also fun to watch, and for the first time I truly do get to see the power Captain America does have, as we see how fast, how strong and how agile he is the fight scenes. It truly is spectacular to see Cap in action.

But what would the director be without a strong cast and good characters? He thankfully had  a strong script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (with some uncredited help from my beloved Joss Whedon) and a fantastic cast.

Chris Evans blew me away here.   The cocky funny guy that Evans is  typically typecast as does not show up. The most important part of the whole film, and my favorite moments in the film, is the first act. Chris is so good in the pre-Cap sequences as Steve Rogers. The film works because how much I love Steve Rogers. Not Captain America mind you, Steve Rogers. The film nailed Steve Rogers as he was note perfect. His good heart, his courage, and his reasons to fight. When Erskine asked him “Do you want to kill Nazis?”, Rogers answer couldn’t have been more perfect.

Ah, and Erskine. Stanley Tucci is so wonderful in this part. His scene with Rogers before the procedure could have been a terribly clunky,filled with exposition. It wasn’t. Tucci played it perfectly, and really selling his relationship with Rogers and his reasoning as to why he picked him, and it makes his eventual faith even more painful when it happens.

Haylee Atwell’s Peggy Carter is…wow. She plays the “Marion” in the film, and she’s  instantly iconic. How could you not fall in love with her? She brings all the appropriate spunk and charisma need for this part, and most important believability.   Her scenes with Pre-Cap Steve were great and you can sense she started to care for him before he got tall and superheroic looking.  Her last scene at the end with Steve over the radio was appropriately heartbreaking and she sells it.

Tommy Lee Jones Col. Phillips is exactly what he needed to be….Tommy Lee Jones as a tough colonel, and he’s great. He’s tough but has a wicked dry sense of humor…the kind of role that Tommy Lee does in his sleep, and it’s perfect for this film. His interrogation scene with Toby Jones Dr.Armin Zola is one of the best uses of Tommy Lee Jones in the film.

The way they used Zola is also fun and unexpected. Zola was portrayed as a brilliant man who was starting to realize he was into deep in something he might not wanted to be in, and Toby Jones brought all the fun and subtle quirks that makes him something a bit more then the main villains toady.

Red Skull may not the most original bad guy, but when your villain is a super Nazi that believes that the Nazis aren’t doing enough then how much character motivation do you need? And for a film that’s as old fashioned as this, you need an old fashion bad guy and Hugo Weaving plays classic bad guy to the “T”. He’s just over the top for this film, and Hugo eats up the scenery with just the right vigor. And my god, the way how the Red Skull LOOKS just like a Jack Kirby drawing is amazing!

There are  times that when I watch a Marvel movie it FEELS like I was watching a MARVEL movie. In Spider-Man 2 when they recreated the SPIDER-MAN NO MORE page. In X-Men when Hugh Jackman first said “Bub.” In Iron Man, seeing him shoot repulsor beams out of his hands. Those are the moments that made me go,”Hey, I AM watching a Marvel movie!” For me it’s seeing the Red Skull perfectly translated from comic to movie that gave me that moment.

Lets not forget the Howling Commandos… though the film DID forget to call them that, hell, the film forgot to even name drop the characters, so there is THAT flaw in the film. That being said, there is a good amount of characterization economy as each actor in the Commandos (Neal McDonough as MOTHERFUCKIN DUM DUM Dugan to Kennith Choi.) does a great job giving each character personality and selling their relationships. My other nitpick is that I would watch a full MOVIE of Captain America and the Howling Commandos, but that’s because I love the montage of them kicking ass so damn much.

One character who IS named is James “Bucky” Barnes.  This is where things get interesting for me. When I used to daydream a Captain America film, I knew I didn’t want to have Bucky in the full costume. I wanted Bucky to be more like Cap’s best friend, not sidekick. No mask, and the name Bucky would be a nickname, not a code name. I didn’t want any Robin comparisons. Well…look what the filmmakers did! Sebastian Stan brings his fair amount charm in the part, and his chemistry with Evans is great. They truly sell that they’ve been friends for years. Also, great seeding of his possible future as the Winter Soldier.

I don’t want leave out Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark. I first saw him in The Devils Double, which he was INCREDIBLE in, and I loved his Howard Stark! It’s fun to see how much Tony Stark must have gotten from his father, and Cooper has fun in the role.

The score by Alan Silvestri  might be one of the best he’s done in years. Evoking all the right emotions, it’s one of the best scores in any of the Marvel Movies thus far, and captures the spirit in all the right ways. Oh, and the Alan Menken’s USO song? Fucking brillant.

I’m going to go into the most spoiler part of the film which is the ending montage.

One of the important things I wanted to see in the film is to see the importance of Captain America to this alternate history. To see the effect of loosing Cap. To sell that there is a bit of tragedy to Captain America’s story.  That montage really nailed it. The way how the Commandos had a toast to their fallen comrade. Howard trying desperately to look for Rogers in the Arctic. Peggy looking at the picture of Steve before he was Cap. That shot of the kid with a homemade Captain America shield. It’s the perfect ending to this film. (Though I do wish the Nick Fury scene was held off AFTER the animated credits)

Simply put, I love this film. I have a huge affection for films that nostalgically look back at this era. I eat this stuff up, and I’m giddy that we got one that I think is so good.

I’m glad the film is doing well in the box office, because it seems like the film is working on the people that want a film about a TRUE hero.

The character in the comics is one of the last real heroes heroes, and he finally has a film that shows us why that can still be a great thing.

Read Full Post »