Upcoming Movies – Gambit
(Opening Date: November 21, 2012)
Coming up later in 2012 we have Gambit, a Coen Brothers “remake” of a 1960’s Michael Caine film of the same name. This isn’t Fargo Coen Bros., this is Burn After Reading Coen Bros., who are arguably not as succesful. The story follows Colin Firth as he tries to con his boss into buying a forged painting, and for some reason he needs Cameron Diaz to help. See the trailer below!
It’s great to see Colin Firth back, and Alan Rickman is always a welcome prescence. Cameron Diaz actually seems to have picked a somewhat classy movie, which is weird, but she can be very good. It’s a light and airy (if somewhat muddled) trailer, but it certainly peeks my interest. Leave your comments at the bottom!
Tomatometer Rating Guess: 75%
Upcoming Movies – Throwback-Action Double Header
(The Last Stand Opening Date: January 18, 2013)
(Bullet to the Head Opening Date: February 1, 2013)
Studios seem to be trying to capitalize on the release of The Expendables 2 by releasing two trailers for solo efforts by both Arnie and Sly. Is this a new era in their careers, or just a false start to more decline? Only history will tell. We’ll see!
1. First up (in release order) is Arnie’s The Last Stand. Directed by Jee-woon Kim (probably best known to us for The Good, the Bad, and the Weird). This is Schwarzenegger’s first lead role after backing away from politics, and he is back to the kind of movie he loves best. He plays the sheriff of a quiet town which will soon see the arrival of fleeing Mexican drug runners. In a very Gary Copper way, he finds himself rallying the town’s people to defend themselves (or something like that.) Here’s the trailer.
Action movies always stick close to a formula, so it’s perhaps unfair to compare the plot to High Noon, but that flavour is there. Movies of this sort seem to rely on a lead with enough personality, a bit of humour here and there, and good action. Arnold certainly has a distinct personality, and the director has done well before, so I find myself being cautiosly optimistic about this one!
Tomatometer Rating Guess: 67%
2. Next up is Stallone’s Bullet to the Head. Stallone is a lone wolf-type who is recruited by a young cop t hunt down the man who killed Stallone’s old partner. The “one last job” scenario. Chrstian Slater and Forest Whitakker make breif appearances in the trailer, while the bad guy is played by none other than Jason Momoa (of Game of Thrones and Conan fame). Here’s the trailer.
Now I am more a fan of Sly than Arnie, so I am more inclined to see Bullet in the Head, but I think Arnie’s looks better. It certainly seems to have a cleaner focus, but Bullet could surprise us with some unrevealed plot detail or character depth *cough*. It brings the humour too.
Tomatometer Rating Guess: 45%
Thoughts? Are you for Sly or Arnie? Are you even interested? Leave your thoughts below!
Daredevil – The Director’s Cut Review
Director – Mark Steven Johnson
Cast – Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jon Favreau
A blind Ben Affleck fights crime in 2003’s Daredevil. He is a lawyer, which puts him in an interesting ethical position. By day he defends the down-trodden and upholds justice, and then by night he kicks ass of those he believes are criminals. He isn’t awfully scrupulous about who he beats up, either… in one scene he beats up a whole biker bar to get to someone. He’s a very violent superhero, apparently not as particular about his rules as Batman, for example. Baddies end up kicked off steeples, faces smashed in, and thrown under trains. Hardly in the best tradition of the bar, surely.
Daredevil, or Matt Murdock as he is known at the bench, received his powers as a young boy, after an accident at the dock yards where he is blinded by an unnamed toxic substance. (Smack a “Hazardous Material” sticker on a barrel and it’s amazing what you can get away with.) He finds he is able to “see” with a primitive radar, and finds his other senses greatly enhanced. Soon after, his father, a boxer who is past his prime, is killed after refusing to throw a fight. This spurs Matt on to fight injustice no matter the cost.
On a side note, why the hell does every superhero have to be an orphan? Superman, Spider-man, Batman, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Wolverine… Those whose parents weren’t prematurely killed still have father issues, Iron Man and Thor for example. It seems an oddly specific affliction to give a group of characters. But, I digress.
Daredevil’s life becomes purely dedicated to rooting out evil-doers. His house is full of crime fighting gear and multiple replacement costumes. I sometimes wonder where these people find their tailors. I love it when movies go into a costume origin, ala Spider-man or Batman. Even the Fantastic Four. We don’t get that here, but I suppose we wouldn’t want too much of that. The origin story is (perhaps wisely) whizzed through, gotten out-of-the-way as neatly as possible. That is done well here, and the way Murdocks radar sense is shown is quite interesting. we get right into the story.
The story itself is fairly generic, and I won’t bother repeating it here, especially as its lack of flair really brings the movie down. There are some mildly interesting characters, from Bullseye, an anarchic Irishman with astonishing aim, to Jon Favreau’s character, Matt’s best friend. Some are less interesting, like Jennifer Garner’s Elektra, a rich girl who doesn’t like how her father tries to control her. (More daddy issues…)
The movie works best when delving into the murky side of New York society. There is a great morally ambiguous reporter (played by Joe Pantoliano), who is trying to find out Daredevils identity. The man who “owns the town”, Kingpin, is played excellently by Michael Clarke Duncan, who knows just the right amount of showmanship to bring to the role. There is another great little character, played by Coolio, whom Murdock defends in a murder trial. There is a flashy griminess to the movie that works very well with the source material.
Never in a superhero movie has it been more evident that the superheroes we all know and love are vigilantes, through and through. This is due to the juxtaposition of Murdock’s legal life and his other, extra curricular activities. Does he truly believe that all men deserve a trial by twelve men, good and true? I don’t think he does, and by extension he brings into light that most other superheroes mustn’t either. I suppose the Nolan Batman does bring his catches to the cops… but in general, superheroes seem to be our right-wing feelings brought to the fore. “If we know he’s guilty, just bring him to justice your own way!” The dangerous thing is how right it feels…
Daredevil: The Director’s Cut is an improvement over the original, and has a grimy likability. It’s story falters dramatically, however; it just doesn’t have anything that interesting. The actors bring their best to their parts, but can’t stop some cheesiness that finds its way in. Not an awful movie, but not great. A decent little middle-of-the-roader. I would recommend it to superhero fans, though!
NOTE: This review is part of a series called Superheroes: Bottom to Top, wherein I review every super-hero movie I own, from the lowest rated to the highest (according to Rotten Tomatoes). Up next is X-Men: The Last Stand.
“Daredevil” on other websites:
IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia
Batman Forever Review
Review # 159
Director – Joel Schumacher
Cast – Val Kilmer, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, Drew Barrymore, Michael Gough
– follows Batman Returns
– followed by Batman and Robin
Batman Forever is a movie of twos. Bruce Wayne struggles with his dual identity of playboy and crime fighter, and he takes on a partner, Robin. There are two villains up against our heroes, The Riddler and, of course, Two-Face (self-explanatory). In a way, it is the start of the second major Batman series. While it technically furthers the continuity of the Burton series, it has a different look and a different Batman. It is also (if you’ll excuse the near-pun) too much, too long, and too garish.
After the Burton movies (Batman and Batman Returns) Warner Brothers wanted to brighten things up a bit, and Schumacher sure gives us that. Kilmer is quite different from Keaton, but surprisingly he is less humorous. And that’s the thing with the movie… the whole thing is largely humorless. It has none of the charm and off-beat weirdness of Burton’s movies, it’s brighter and more pop-oriented; as a result, the movie feels like just another ’90’s action flick. Visually, it is both gaudy and dull (though granted, Batman and Robin makes this one look quiet and restrained).
Plotwise, we follow Robin’s attempt to join Batman, and Bruce Wayne/Batman’s inner turmoil. He feels guilty about his parents death, and is, well… just plain mopey. This concept doesn’t work as the heart of the movie, especially as it was already done in Batman. It is never really resolved either. There’s no heart here. They attempt to make Robin interesting, but his story (dead parents, must kill the villain for revenge) is also just a retread of Batman. Combined with the cookie cutter feel of the film, we get a very dull movie here indeed.
It just makes me all the more anxious to see The Dark Knight Rises, a movie that looks like it will be one of the few great franchise three-quels. I know it’ll be better than this!
Batman Forever is a surprisingly dull movie. It is overlong and under-stuffed. Visually it is a pale imitation of Burton’s world, and there’s little to no meat in the story. Not really recommended.
NOTE: This review is part of a series called Superheroes: Bottom to Top, wherein I review every super-hero movie I own, from the lowest rated to the highest (according to Rotten Tomatoes). Next I will be watching Daredevil.
“Batman Forever” on other websites:
IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia
Upcoming Movies – Flight
(Opening Date: November 2, 2012)
I read an article lately (and, forgive me, I have no idea whose it was) who pleaded for more middle-of-the-road movies. By this he meant that studios today are spending too much on the Battleship‘s and John Carter‘s of the world, trying to bring in huge amounts of money, but spending huge amounts to do so. We need movies like Moneyball, and others of its type.
Flight looks like one of those movies. It looks like a solid drama/thriller, produced without an extraordinary budget, and with a couple stars. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring Denzel Washington, it tells the story of an airline pilot whose miraculous crash landing of a passenger jet comes under closer scrutiny than perhaps he would want. See the trailer below.
Personally, I’m adding this to my Anticipated Movies list. A director who can be good with the right project, a very solid leading man, and some excellent co-stars (Don Cheadle, John Goodman, etc.) make this interesting for me.
Tomatometer Rating Guess: 78%
Feel free to leave a comment!
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Review
Director – Gavin Hood
Cast – Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Will i. am, Lynn Collins, Kevin Durand, Dominic Monaghan, Taylor Kitsch, Daniel Henney, Ryan Reynolds, Tim Pocock
– follows (by release date) X-Men: The Last Stand
– followed (by release date) by X-Men: First Class
And we’re back, with the least successful movie of the X-Men franchise (both critically and, I believe, financially).
I have to admit, this movie was more fun than I had expected. It is an action movie through-and-through, and more of one than any of the other X-Men series. That is actually its biggest strength, but also what pulls it down. There isn’t as much emotional punch as I could have hoped, and the final sequences struggle to maintain consistency. The movie can be a bit unfocused as well, but there are plenty of good moments. Sure it’s not as coherent as we could have hoped, but there is a certain adrenaline pumped energy to the whole thing that keep us going. I enjoyed myself, in a guilty pleasure kind of way.
Plot-wise, we follow Logan (Hugh Jackman) as he grows up with his brother, Victor (Liev Schreiber), and as they learn to deal with certain abilities they have. They can regenerate from seemingly any injury, and have bone-like projections from their hands. They were born in the mid 1800’s, and participate in all the major wars from then on right up to Vietnam. They are “headhunted” by a military man (Danny Huston) who is putting together a secret team (or some such thing) of mutants. They roam the killing, carrying out missions, and doing a lot of killing. This is right up Victor’s alley, but Logan has reservations about all the bloodshed. This leads to disagreements between the pair. Logan eventually finds it all too much, and despite his incredible killing prowess he loses himself in the Canadian wilderness, re-imagining himself as a lumberjack. (Note: as a Canadian I scream “Stereotype!”, but then move on…) While in the Canadian wilderness, Logan falls in love with a woman and they live happily for years, until she is killed by Victor, who is a little pissed at his bro. Logan goes for revenge.
The opening of the movie, showing the death of Logan’s father, is played too fast, and does not give us much emotional impact, but from there the movie segues into an excellent credit sequence. We follow Logan and Victor from the Civil War to WWI, WWII, Korea, and then Vietnam. This is followed by action scenes that are fast and unique. It feels at times like a demo reel of different mutants abilities, and in a good way. One by one we get to see the individual mutants show off their skills, and it’s quite exhilarating. Logan leaves the group, and the movie changes gear. His life is peaceful and he has found love, but then it is all taken from, him and this time… it’s personal. As it always seems to go.
The movie is fast paced, and this helps hide the lack of a real story. It’s a revenge pic, but it smartly does not try to be much more than that. The action scenes are surprisingly effective. We feel the power of these mutants as they tear into both each other and their opponents. Hugh Jackman proudly stalks his way through the movie, and Liev Schreiber growls like no tomorrow. He in particular transforms from how we’ve seen him before. He always seems to be prowling low to the ground, feral and dangerous. Other mutants appear throughout the movie. Too many really, it starts to get cluttered. And we start to notice similarities… besides their main abilities (regeneration, teleportation, etc.) they all seem to have super strength too. Still, that is the way with super heroes.
There has been much talk (mainly online, of course) of how certain characters have been changed. Apparently Deadpool’s character is different in the comics, or something like that. There are also some discrepancies with a cameo character at the end of the movie, (discrepancies mainly created in X-Men: First Class). I can’t comment on Deadpool (as I now nothing of the comic books), but other problems to exist and they can’t really be ignored. But I feel that they are made up for by the sheer energy of the movie.
I feel surprisingly positive about this movie. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is no great movie, not by a long shot, but it gets the job done, and does a moderately good job of showing more of a character we all love. It is fast-moving, stylish, and fairly fun; although it can certainly hit a cliché or two now and then. Recommended to the comic book type of folks, and even to those who enjoy a bit of action.
NOTE: This review is part of a series called Superheroes: Bottom to Top, wherein I review every super-hero movie I own, from the lowest rated to the highest (according to Rotten Tomatoes). Next up on the list is Batman Forever, if I can get through it…
“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” on other websites:
IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia
Fantastic Four Review
Director – Tim Story
Cast – Ioan Grufuud, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon
– followed by Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
From Ghost Rider, which had a boring story but unique tone, we go to Fantastic Four, which has both a tremendously boring story and tone. With any movie this is a deadly combination, and this is no exception.
The heroes in this film get their powers after they are exposed to a cosmic storm, encountered while doing some very very sciencey stuff on a space station. (The science in this movie seem even more balderdash than usual, even for a superhero movie.) They all find themselves able to do some, well, fantastic things. One can turn invisible, one can stretch, one can fly and burst into flame, and the last guy… well, he gets the short end of the stick. While he finds himself with superhuman strength, his body is hardened and enlarged into a grotesque, rock-monster appearance.
It is this character, The Thing, that the movie centers around. Smartly so. Unlike the others, he cannot go out into public as “normal”, and his wife cannot deal with the physical changes to her husband. He finds himself isolated, and alone. This is the key to a good story line. A big reason superheroes can work dramatically is that their ability to do amazing things is undercut by the distance this creates between them and everyone else. When done well, this can work (some of the Superman movies, for example). It doesn’t quite work here; it’s clumsy and heavy handed. It’s still the best dramatic thing about the movie, which is a sad thing, really.
I wanted to like the characters, and if anything is redeemable about the movie it is that. Ioan Gruffuud brings a good quality to his character, the leader of the group, and Michael Chiklis is both affecting and humorous as needed. Jessica Alba doesn’t come out quite so well, she does her best, but her character is just boring. But Chris Evans… now he makes a great impression. This is one of his earliest hits, and we see glimpses of the star that he would become. He is cocky, funny, and is a highlight of the movie. In the end, if we needed to have Fantastic Four to have the Chris Evans we have today, I’m happy. Well, almost.
Fantastic Four is one of the most generic movies I have ever seen. Save for Chris Evans the cast is adequate, but rarely anything more. The story is deadly dull, and the movie’s cinematography is bight and cheap looking. It reeks of the corporate mindset… “Comic book movies are popular? Let’s make one of those. Just hire somebody, anybody.” It’s just all so adequate, and thus, dull.
NOTE: This review is part of a series called Superheroes: Bottom to Top, wherein I review every super-hero movie I own, from the lowest rated to the highest (according to Rotten Tomatoes). Next we bring the Snikt! with X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
“Fantastic Four” on other websites:
IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia
Ghost Rider Review
Director – Mark Steven Johnson
Cast – Nicholas Cage, Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, Sam Elliott, Donal Logue, Peter Fonda
– followed by Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Who’d have thought that Nicholas Cages’ most subdued performance in years is as the guy with the flaming skull head…
Ghost Rider is, of course, based on the Marvel comic book of the same name. This particular super hero (who is not as firmly imbedded in the public consciousness as Superman or Batman) is the alter ego of motorcycle stunt driver Johnny Blaze. When angry, or in the presence of evil, he transforms into a skeleton with a flaming motor bike, black leather outfit (with spikes), and of course the aforementioned flaming-skull head. He whips a chain around, can light random things on fire, and is general a goth’s wet dream.
Is he the bad guy? Well, not really, though the movie certainly want us to think he is bad-ass. I mean, he wears leather after all. In practice he is nothing more than a reckless Spider-Man. But he has no unique world view, no over-riding idea to set him apart from any other superheroes. The best we are given is int he movies final lines, where he says he will keep his powers to be a “spirit of vengeance”, wandering around being good. Ghost Rider is so generic and dull in his powers (or at least as he is presented here) that he needs the hellfire and damnation angle just to make him interesting. The same is true of the movie itself. There is a neat little edge to the movie (it is essentially a gothic western, if that is even a term), but without that it is just another origin story of another frikin’ superhero. It has the same plot beats, the same ideas, and we get the same result.
Even Peter Fonda (as the devil) and Wes Bentley (the devil’s son) phone it in. Peter Fonda in particular looks plain bored, and I don’t blame him. He strides into a scene, looks vaguely ominous and then strides out. And it’s always “…blabla the Devil Himself.” Have you noticed that?
Ghost Rider tries for something new in its tone, but forgets to have an interesting story. Combine that with a hammy yet bored-looking cast, and we get a strange mix of dull and bizarre. Not really recommended.
NOTE: This review is part of a series called Superheroes: Bottom to Top, wherein I review every super-hero movie I own, from the lowest rated to the highest (according to Rotten Tomatoes). Next up is Fantastic Four.
“Ghost Rider” on other websites:
IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia
Superman III Review
Director – Richard Lester
Cast – Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Annette O’Toole, Annie Ross, Pamela Stephenson, Robert Vaughn, Margot Kidder
– follows Superman II
– followed by Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
And, we’re back to Superman! This article is part of the series Superheroes: Bottom to Top, where I watch all the superhero movies I own, from worst rated to best (according to Rotten Tomatoes).
First, a small bit of background. Superman: The Movie was directed by Richard Donner, and released to critical acclaim. Come Superman II, Donner was fired halfway through filming, and replaced by Richard Lester, who re-shot some scenes, and shoehorned in a lot of awkward humour. While the movie was still received well, many people noticed the clash of styles, and weren’t too happy. And then, Richard Lester was given full control over Superman III. Comedian Richard Pryor was given the lead, the opening credits sequence was full of Marx Bros.-esque slapstick and didn’t even feature Superman… and fans were pissed.
Their Superman was noble and grand. He fought evil interplanetary beings, and vicious madmen, not a tycoon who wants to buy more coffee. Now personaly, and this is where I come into disagreement with most people, I was glad to see some comedy in this movie. Now it does go over the top a bit, and Richard Pryor is in way too much of the movie, but it felt right to me. The main reason is the ridiculousness of Superman’s character. His disguise is a pair of glasses. His co-worker is in love with his alter ego, yet does not notice the similarity between Kent and Superman. It’s absurd, really, and this movie recognizes that. So in that respect, I will defend the comedic aspects of Superman III.
Having said that, it does end up hurting the movie. By the half way point we stop caring about the characters, and we start getting sick off gags. It doesn’t help that the rest of the movie isn’t that great, either. The plot is draggy and unfocused, and as I said before, Richard Pryor’s hacker character drags the whole movie down. While it might have been an interesting idea to see a the typical superhero movie through the eyes of a man sucked up in the villain’s clutches, it doesn’t work here.
What does work? The special effects for one, which are definitely the best of the series. There is a sub plot involving Superman being infected (?) by some faux Kryptonite. He starts behaving erratically, and even turns evil for a bit. This story line doesn’t really work, but Reeves is very convincing as baddie Supes. I think Reeves is a better actor than he is usually given credit for.
Is the movie worth watching? I’ll go out on a limb and say it pretty much is, but just for Superman complete-ists. It’s nothing special, and has a lot of flaws, but I found it curiously watchable. Not a ringing endorsement to be sure, but there it is.
Superman III is not a great movie, it really isn’t. The storyline is unfocused, and Richard Pryor is way too prominent. Having said that, Superman complete-ists may find something to enjoy here. Everyone else should steer clear.
NOTE: This review is part of a series called Superheroes: Bottom to Top, wherein I review every super-hero movie I own, from the lowest rated to the highest (according to Rotten Tomatoes). Next up, Nic Cage and Ghost Rider!
“Superman III” on other websites:
IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia
Batman and Robin Review
Director – Joel Schumacher
Cast – George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Pat Hingle, Michael Gough
– follows Batman Forever
As I sat watching the mind-numbing neon nightmare called Batman and Robin, I couldn’t help but think of the previous movie I watched for this series that I’ve called Superheroes: Bottom to Top. But while Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was awful due in large part to its low budget, this movie suffers for having too large a budget. Put simply, it doesn’t know where to stop, from it’s outlandish set pieces (which might have been fun for kids if not repeated so relentlessly), to the overt sexuality of the constantly-narrating Poison Ivy, which went too far for a kids movie.
And I think they thought they were making a kids movie. That’s what everyone wanted apparently, after the slightly dark first two Batman films. Well, parents groups, you got your wish. This movie has the tone of a Looney Tunes short, complete with whistles and bweeps during fight scenes, but unfortunately without the fun. The baddies refer to Batman and Robin as the heroes, and are self-aware enough to know they are the villains. The dialogue is right out of a comic book, full of exposition and plot-pushing. Let’s drop in on Poison Ivy talking to herself… “Mammals, a day of reckoning is coming. The same plants and flowers that saw you crawl from the primordial soup will reclaim the planet, and there will be no-one to protect you!” It seems Schumacher takes the dynamic duo as seriously as the Hasbro execs.
For that matter, so does Clooney.” Sleep walking” would perhaps be the term. Michael Gough seems to give it his all, and in fact his story becomes almost touching. Almost. Meanwhile, Uma and Arnold ham it up. They seem to think they’re in a children’s play. Well, who are we kidding. They are.
Now all this is not to say that a light tone and a tongue-in-cheek spirit can’t work. It just doesn’t here. Bright colours and jokey quips are well and good, but here it feels like being hit over the head with a neon baseball bat.
All-in-all the movie just reeks of corporate desperation. Director Joel Schumchaer himself admitted to being under pressure from toy companies to make a movie that would sell action figures. Ice Skating Batman, Hockey Goon sold separately! I don’t know if they succeeded. Out of pure spite I hope they didn’t.
Batman and Robin deserves its bad reputation and then some. It’s garish, loud, obnoxious, and dull. Enough said.
NOTE: This review is part of a series called Superheroes: Bottom to Top, wherein I review every super-hero movie I own, from the lowest rated to the highest (according to Rotten Tomatoes). Next up, Superman 3! Not sure why I put an exclamation mark there…
“Batman and Robin” on other websites:
IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia