May 5, 2012

The Avengers

Growing up I collected X-men comics. It wasn’t exclusively X-men, but it was pretty damn close. I had a very narrow view of the Marvel Universe at that time, and anything that wasn’t X-men was crap. Unfortunately this meant that while I was aware of who Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and Nick Fury were, I remained ignorant on their importance and history within the Marvel Universe. So when May 2008 rolled around and a little indie art flick called Iron Man was released, well, I was pleasantly surprised at its quality. Not really being an Iron Man fan I had no idea what to expect. My friends educated me, though: Robert Downy, Jr. was Tony Stark. I had no reason to disagree. In fact, Iron Man, along with The Dark Knight, were my two favorite movies that year.

Unsurprisingly Iron Man made everyone else’s Top 10 lists for that year, ensuring a sequel. Edward Norton’s The Incredible Hulk was also released that year. While it didn’t do Iron Man numbers, it made money for Marvel. And then the whispers started. Iron Man’s success greenlit Thor and Captain America. Then there were more whispers. In the faintest of voices, the comic lovers of geekdom dared to dream: Would Marvel make an Avenger’s movie? All the pieces seemed to be falling into place. Iron Man. Thor. Captain America. Hulk. They were all there. If only someone could pick up the pieces and put them together. Who would have the massive cojones required to pull all these characters together and  tell a good story? Or, a better question to ask, who would be just crazy enough to try?

March 25, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

This review is in regards to the Blu-ray release, as I missed this one in the theater.

David Fincher is a malicious, sadistic director.  He's also bloody brilliant.
The movie begins with an almost gruesome montage of oil and technology.  Lisbeth's nightmares, perhaps?  It's a completely off-the-wall, punch you in the gut visual assault as an industrial version of Immigrant Song booms in the background.  I knew I was in for something special when the beginning credits finished. 

There is a scene in the movie, and if you've seen the movie or read the book you know the scene, that I hoped would just fade to black. A door slams shut and the camera starts to pull back and I think that I'll be spared. Then it flashes inside the room and we see a little more of what goes on, then back to the outside of the door and I, again, think that I'll be spared. Then we go back inside the room. At this point I'm tempted to close my eyes, because I know what's coming, but I can't. There will be no merciful fade-to-black. You witness the whole thing, and then you are treated to its aftermath. It's a horrible, horrible scene, and it's shown with enough detail to make even the most stoic of people squirm. I felt dirty for watching, but I had to watch. Like a train wreck, you just can't tear your eyes away.

Screw you, David Fincher.

March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, directed by Gary Ross, tells the tale of a post-Civil War II United States, now called Panem, broken up into 12 Districts, and ruled over with an iron fist by a very beardy Donald Sutherland.  As punishment for getting all uppity the 12 Districts (the unfortunate losers of Civil War II) are forced to send 24 children (two from each district) between the ages of 12 and 18 to the Hunger Games, where they will battle each other to the death.  

The story begins as a very weary Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) treads through her downtrodden District 12, a broken down mining community where the spirits are as black as the coal.  The audience bares witness to The Reaping, a lottery of sorts where the unfortunate children are chosen.  And that's where the tale begins.  The success or failure of The Hunger Games rests squarely on Katniss' shoulders.  More specifically, it rests on Jennifer Lawrence's ability to pull off a great performance.  So does she?

March 10, 2012

John Carter

I loved John Carter.

I am a sucker for a good adventure movie, and John Carter is a good adventure movie.  It's adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars, telling the tale of a gentleman from Virginia and veteran of the Civil War who finds himself stranded on the red planet.  That, dear reader, is the premise.  What follows is a thrilling adventure and a touching love story.  

Taylor Kitsch has the difficult job of portraying John Carter, a weary veteran, hopeful prospector, and unlikely hero.  There is quite a range required there, and I think Kitsch pulls it off.  While his John Carter isn't exactly what I had pictured in my head while reading the novels, it is pretty damn close.  Kitsch is the anchor that the audience uses to experience the wonders and majesty of Mars.  Or Barsoom, should you ever find yourself exiled to the red planet.  

Dejah Thoris, the titular Princess of Mars, is played wonderfully by Lynn Collins.  She brings an elegance and strength to the role.  Never do you feel like she is the cliched Damsel in Distress.  Rather, she is a strong woman who just happens to be a princess.  A princess who happens to catch the eye of a particular gentleman from Virginia.  The movie hinges on whether or not Kitsch and Collins can pull off a convincing romance.  Do they?

December 19, 2011

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible series has always been one of my guilty pleasures. Even the second one, which is the weakest of the bunch, still benefited from John Woo's crazy style. Prior to this entry it almost seemed as if each of the MI movies existed in their own continuity. Sure, some of the characters are the same, and they all star Dreamy McHawtpants (Tom Cruise), but the stories always seemed to be their own thing. Ghost Protocol is the first one, in my opinion, that is a true "sequel", meaning that it fits in the same universe that JJ "ManGod" Abrams created with the third film. And that's a positive. Abrams' MI seemed more "grounded", as if you could ever accuse a spy flick of being grounded in reality. Perhaps it's because the characters are treated like characters, rather than just a bunch of scenes thrown together that make Ethan Hunt look cool (I'm looking at you, Woo).

Ghost Protocol also represents the first live action flick from another ManGod: Brad Bird. For those of you not in the know, Mr. Bird is the guy who gave us The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. I wouldn't hesitate to put all three of those flicks in my top 20 movies of all time. Does Ghost Protocol make that list? Ummmm not sure yet. Maybe. Ask me again in 2 years. If I've watched MI:GP multiple times then yes, it probably will be. If not, the only criticism I can level at the film is that it is an extremely competent, entertaining, masterfully crafted action flick.

July 17, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is an epic end to an epic series.

The series has been a part of my life for, golly gee, forever. My first experience with the young wizard happened when I worked at a Borders book store (soon to be defunct, btw). I worked behind the coffee counter making delicious cappuccinos, mochas, lattes, and other posh names for coffee. I had heard of the Harry Potter series but had at that point not read any of them. My manager loved it because it was well written and, let’s be honest, padded the store’s margins quite a bit. So, in the winter of double-oh it was beknownst to all that the fourth Harry Potter book, The Goblet of Fire, was to be released. The store got all geared up, I had to come up with a drink analogous to something called “butterbeer”, and we had to put on silly costumes all in preparation for a midnight sale. I wore a robe which on any other night could easily have been mistaken for a dress. With frills.
Now, let me tell you about midnight sales. Imagine, if you will, a thousand screaming children running mad through a bookstore. Add to that two thousand tired and annoyed parents who for some reason or another decided to attend a midnight book sale. Now, put all those tired and cranky adults in one big, never ending line in front of the barista and you have a recipe for a night which would seem like just another steamy day in the 9th level of hell. After that night, as you might guess, I wanted to find this Harry Potter and wring his scrawny wizarding neck.

June 11, 2011

X-men: First Class (with bonus X-rant!)

"I have been at the mercy of those who claimed to be following orders. Never again."

Those words changed the whole X-men dynamic for me. It brought to light a previously overlooked truth to the X-men mythos: Magneto has a very convincing point-of-view.

I grew up collecting X-men comics. I loved the characters, the melodrama, the angst and betrayel, the epic story arcs, and the little character moments that punctuated the series. X-men, X-factor, X-force, and all the other interconnected sagas now gather dust in some forgotten box in the garage. Maybe I should go dig those up.

I remember watching the X-men cartoon as a kid, and being blown away. This was the first time I was introduced to something that wasn't "canon", but still managed to be true to the spirit of a series. The cartoon strayed quite a bit from the books, but was still well executed, and most importantly, entertaining. When the movies were announced I bounced with cheerful glee. Finally, my X-men were going to be realized on the big screen!

The first X-men flick was great, yet marred by a low budget. Comic book movies usually failed miserably at the box office, so the producers got pretty stingy when it came to writing checks. But Bryan Singer did something great: he made an X-men movie that also happened to be a good movie. The reason? The low budget forced Singer to concentrate on the characters. Remember when Rogue asked Wolverine if it hurt when his claws came out? Remember his answer? He looks down at his hand holding the steering wheel, you can tell that he desperately wants to avoid answering, yet the truth must come out: "Every time" he says. In those brief seconds we get to know Wolverine the character, know that he is more than just Hugh Jackman with a nice set of CGI claws. That, in my opinion, is the second best character moment in the entire series. The best moment happens in First Class with the quote above.