Saturday, July 7, 2012

'The Amazing Spider-Man' Review

The Amazing Spider-Man is the best Spider-Man movie outside of Spider-Man 2, and at moments exceeds even that one. Coming into the promotion for the movie a lot of people seemed to think that Marc Webb was making this movie darker, like Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, but that is nowhere near the truth. The fact is that this movie is more like The Avengers, a fun comic book movie for fans of the actual books.

Let's start with Andrew Garfield. No disrespect meant for Toby Maguire, but Garfield is a much better actor than Maguire and really played the part of Peter Parker, and Spider-Man, perfectly. While this is not the Peter Parker from the original comics in the 60s, Garfield fits better with what Peter looks like as an adult. I know this is still the high school years, but I think they needed to update Peter's look in this film. These days, outcasts are not geeky science nerds, they are more outsiders who can't find their place in the high school society hierarchy. In the ‘60s, it would have been the little nerd getting sand kicked in his face. This is a new generation and the new Peter Parker fits perfectly with modern day sensibilities.

I think that Garfield plays Peter as that kid who can't seem to fit in and just kind of walks around school with his head lowered to avoid confrontation, which doesn't always work when faced with bullies like Flash Thompson. On a quick side note, the portrayal of Flash was also solid and I loved how they worked in Peter and Flash's reconciliation after the death of Uncle Ben.

Speaking of Uncle Ben, while I love Rosemary Harris and Cliff Robertson, I really liked the work done by Sally Field and Martin Sheen. I like how they were younger because I always felt that Uncle Ben and Aunt May were always too old in the comics if they were Peter's biological aunt and uncle. Beside, these two actors are two of the best of their generation. Just like in the original Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie, the death of Uncle Ben was a tough pill to swallow and both Robertson and Sheen were great in their roles in the two movies.

Now, a lot of people have been complaining about the reboot and reliving Spider-Man's origin story over again, but that doesn't bother me. I care more about the movie and how it lives as its own organic being. I like the origin here better. I like how it ties in with Peter's dad's disappearance, and based on the post-credit sequence, it looks like the mystery of Peter's parents will tie in with the rest of the recently announced trilogy. I assume they are leading into a meeting with Norman Osborn and that is just fine with me.

However, there are other reasons I like this reboot better than the original trilogy (which I liked as well, as a huge fan of Raimi). Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey is a million times better than Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane. First of all, Dunst was a horrible choice to play Mary Jane. For another thing, a high school Peter needs Gwen Stacey and if they continue to follow the comic line, she might be in for a disturbing end in this trilogy.

However, the interactions between Peter and Gwen were perfect. When she saw him standing up for a bullied boy, only to get beat up himself, the sparks began to fly. When it came time for Peter to actually ask Gwen out on a date, Webb proved to have the magical touch as he presented these kids in the exact way you would hope, with neither really knowing what to say and the awkward silence saying more than regular dialogue could have. Garfield and Stone blow Maguire and Dunst out of the water.

I have done a lot of talking about the setup. Let's look at the action.

I like how Peter hacked into OsCorp to learn how to make his web blasters. I hated Raimi having Spider-Man shoot the webs from his skin like a spider, a way of showing his ascent into puberty. I love how they have Garfield make these without reverting to the old comic question of how a high school kid could be so smart to invent them. He wasn't, he was just resourceful. I also love how they had Spider-Man wisecrack because that is what made him so fun to read in the comics.

Rhys Ifans was solid as Curt Connors and his transformation into the Lizard was well done as well. My only problem here is that they took away the tragic Wolfman story of Curt being good as human and evil as the Lizard. Instead, they had the serum drive him insane. Of course, this was also from the comics and the animated series, as in both the Lizard wanted to create a world in his own likeness, so the new movie didn't really stray that far.

There were also some great setups, specifically with Norman Osborn remaining out of sight for now. I expect Harry to show up in the next movie but don't think his dad will be the main enemy until the third, unless they have him show up at the end of number two.

Now, there were entirely too many gratuitous scenes of Spider-Man flying through the air, and while they were awesome to watch in IMAX 3D, the format I saw the movie in, they were just showing off by the director. There were also items left unsaid. When Peter chose to become a masked vigilante in order to track down the villain who killed Uncle Ben (just like in the comics and original movie), he never found the killer. There is also the fact that the bad guy played by Irrfan Khan disappeared after the Lizard bridge attack.

However, at the end of the movie, there was little that did not make me happy.

I was a HUGE Spider-Man fan as a kid (in the ‘70s and early ‘80s). Watching this movie made me smile because this is the Spider-Man that I have always wanted to see on the big screen. It was not dark like Batman and remained a fun, thrill ride from start to finish. While not as great as The Avengers, it easily matches the Raimi movies and helps erase Spider-Man 3 from the mind.

Ignore the complaints that this is a reboot done too soon. Just watch the movie for what it is, a great big, kick ass and fun comic book movie that finally gets Spider-Man just right.

Monday, June 25, 2012

'Brave' Review


One thing I can’t get past when people are talking about "Brave" is how it looks too similar to the old Disney Princess formula. That is about as far from the facts as you can get. Sure, Merida is a princess but she is nothing like a Disney Princess.
The classic Disney Princess is someone who is looking for their Prince Charming and normally has a witch or evil stepmother cursing them, a handicap they have to overcome. In "Brave," Merida is not a victim in this movie and everything that happens is at her own hands.
Merida is a princess who is told she will be married off to a prince from another realm in order to keep peace between the realms. She does not want to get married and believes her mother is trying to force her to become more like her. This causes her to find the witch and strike the bargain, which backfires on her."Brave" is easily the scariest Pixar movie to date for younger children. The movie itself starts off with a vicious bear attack that costs Merida’s father his leg. There is another bear attack late in the film with a scary, disfigured monster of a bear. There are also some distressing moments with Merida’s mother that might be a little much for younger audiences.
There is also the warning that this is a movie geared towards the female audience, although there is plenty of action for the guys. This is about female bonding between a mother and her daughter and some men might be turned off by this (as evident by the lower rankings by many male film critics).
However, for anyone worried, this is typical Pixar, a story that is unique and not like many other films out there. If you want to compare it to other films, it is similar to "How to Train Your Dragon" when it comes to the settings, but thematically, it is also similar to the subplot of "The Incredibles," where a family has to work together to survive.
It is not the best you will see from Pixar but it is still better than much of their competitor’s offerings.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Comic Con IV: A Fan's Hope Review

Directed by Morgan Spurlock
Written by Morgan Spurlock, Joss Whedon and Jeremy Chilnick

Joss Whedon
Seth Green
Kevin Smith
Eli Roth
Stan Lee

In the documentary, Comic Con IV: A Fan's Hope, Stan Lee makes one statement that pretty much wraps up the entire idea behind the documentary. "Fans are the most important part of the comic business," the Marvel legend said, "or any other form of entertainment for that matter." 

Comic Con IV: A Fan's Hope is the latest documentary by Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker behind Super Size Me. After working on a number of projects where he is the center of attention, Spurlock never showed his face this time around. He allows his subjects to tell the story and he proves to be a documentarian that has finally found his groove. 

The documentary, produced by luminaries of pop culture like Joss Whedon, Stan Lee and Harry Knowles, tells the story of ComicCon, an event that started as a small comic convention and developed into the nation's largest gathering of all things geek. To make the documentary, Spurlock tells the story of individual people trying to achieve very personal goals in the biggest comic convention in the world. 

We meet "The Geek," a bartender at a comic themed bar that has dreams of being a comic book artist. He is a geek by birth, his parents having met at a comic convention themselves. "The Designer" is a girl who constructs costumes in her garage and plans to head to ComicCon for a costume contest, with dreams of catching someone's eye and getting a job making costumes for a living. 

"The Soldier" is another aspiring artist, a military man by day and a father and artist by night. Much like "The Geek," he is heading to ComicCon to try to impress someone enough to help him finally reach his dreams. Next, we get "The Collector," who goes to ComicCon make sure he never misses a chance to get the next big action figure, this year a Galactus figure. "The Lovers" met at ComicCon and the boyfriend plans on proposing to his girlfriend at a Kevin Smith panel. 

While those stories intertwine through the film, Spurlock also spends a lot of time dealing with "The Survivor," Chuck Rozanski, the owner of the legendary Mile High Comics. Rozanski is watching his business model slowly die and needs ComicCon to be a success for him in order to survive. However, what the movie shows is that ComicCon is not really a place for comics anymore. 

Non-comics are taking over. Comic collectors are the minority now and people are there to play the latest videogames or watch the studios pump out the next movie stars from upcoming summer blockbusters, something that is referred to in the movie as a "test market." 

It is interesting to see the way that ComicCon is moving away from what made it big and instead focusing on what Hollywood is doing. However, that part of the story, while sad for the comic book market, is not what makes ComicCon IV so good. 

The highlights are the individuals using this experience to try to move ahead in their careers. The Geek heads to ComicCon with stars in his eyes and wants someone to tell him he is good enough. The Soldier wants the same but also wants to find someone who will help him achieve his dreams. You might think that showing two different artists chasing their dreams is overkill, but they end up with different resolutions to their stories. You see one succeed while the other is told to keep improving. 

The Designer is another story, as her mission is to bring big costumes from the video game "Mass Effect 2" to ComicCon. This includes an elaborate scheme with a giant animatronic head for one of the members of the cast to wear. Her story plays out like a movie, with ups and downs and pratfalls before she finally gets her moment in the sun. 

The Lovers and The Collector shows two other archetypes from the convention but plays out as less pressing, both introduced later in the movie, without giving the viewer a lot of time to invest in them. I will give The Lovers credit for the most catcalls from the audience with exclamations like “RUN,” focused towards the boyfriend. 

Spurlock went all out for the documentary, though. He brought in a who's who of talent, including Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith, Eli Roth, Seth Green and Edgar Wright. Also on hand are names from the comic world including Grant Morrison, Frank Miller, Joe Quesada and Robert Kirkman. In between all the storylines and the quotes from attendees, these big names pop in to either prove they are fans too or to give their thoughts on the convention and the direction it is headed.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

'The Avengers' Review

Heading into The Avengers, I had high expectations. It could almost be said that my expectations were too high. I have loved The Avengers since I was a kid. I was a Marvel comic book reader and followed the team almost religiously through my childhood. These characters all hold a special place in my memories and anything they put up on the big screen had to live up to those expectations.

Secondly, Joss Whedon directed the movie, a person I count myself a huge fan of. Whether it is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, or especially Angel, Whedon made me want to watch television again. As a matter of fact, I count Angel as one of my favorite television shows of all time. It has also been less than a month since I watched The Cabin in the Woods, a Whedon scripted horror movie I consider one of the most original I have seen in years.

Needless to say, The Avengers had a lot to live up to in my eyes.

The Avengers exceeded all my expectations.

The best thing that could have happened to this movie was all the lead-in Marvel films heading to this one. When you have seven major characters and numerous auxiliary ones, there is no time in a movie of this size to give each of them room to grow. With Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, you have three main characters, and the greatest Avengers of them all, already established and can just jump right in with them.

The other major characters were also set up well in advance. Black Widow got lots of screen time in Iron Man 2. Nick Fury has popped his nose in enough to understand what his character is all about. Agent Coulson is like an old friend by this time. The bad guy is Loki, and you know all you need to know about him from the Thor movie. That leaves Hawkeye, who you caught a glimpse of in Thor, and The Hulk, who is now played by Mark Ruffalo.

I'll take a small break here and talk about The Hulk.

The Hulk owns this movie. Forget about Eric Bana in Ang Lee's Hulk. Forget about Ed Norton in The Incredible Hulk. Norton is a fabulous actor and I loved what he brought to the role when he took it on. However, Mark Ruffalo is the best Bruce Banner since Bill Bixby took on the role. Ruffalo brings the perfect laid back attitude that Banner should have at this time. He is untrustworthy of everyone around him, exactly as he should be, and he also has a wicked sense of humor as he watches the absurdity around him. Bruce Banner knows he is the most destructive force in the world and seems to have accepted that. Everything else is ridiculous to him.

The Hulk is the best written character in this movie and he is one of the film's top stars. He also shares in two of the most laugh-worthy moments of the movie. The first is with Thor and the second with Loki. Both instances had the entire audience in my screening laughing out loud. It was proof of Joss Whedon's perfect comic timing.

Wait! Comic timing in a comic book action movie?

Joss Whedon has perfected the ability to create mind blowing, destructive scenes while never letting the humanity slip away. The final quarter of this movie is The Avengers epic battle with an invading alien race. This is something that you might expect to see in a Michael Bay Transformers movie. There is one difference, though. Bay seems intent on throwing everything but the kitchen sink at you as he sets out to blow your mind with his technical prowess during fight scenes. He wants to create epic wars in all his battle sequences.

Whedon also gives you monstrous war-torn battle scenes with a knack for making sure you understand that everyone in this movie is in danger of dying. When Michael Bay does it, he exhausts you and it is never as fun as it sounds when describing it. Joss Whedon understands that for you to enjoy this movie there needs to be breathing time during these battle clashes. If a fight scene is to last 15 minutes or more of the movie's running time, you can't have 15 straight minutes of creatures killing each other.

Whedon delivers some of the best laughs during these moments. One of those is the Hulk and Thor scene. Another is the one with Hulk and Loki. These scenes prove that, when you are allowed to laugh at absurd moments, the intense battle scenes work better. He sprinkles those in throughout all his battles and these fight scenes are better than anything you will ever see in a Michael Bay movie.

Now, if this movie was nothing more than fight scenes, it would not be anywhere near as good as it was. For the first half of this movie, it is about the various heroes we love coming together as a team. No one trusts Thor because Loki is the bad guy. Captain America does not like the arrogance of Iron Man. Iron Man doesn't play well with others. Bruce Banner really doesn't want to be there. Black Widow and Hawkeye are soldiers, fighting a war. Nick Fury has a plan that no one ever really knows every part of. The best sections of this movie come when each of these characters learns to trust each other.

What makes these early scenes so important is that no character is left behind. One of the big complaints of the old Batman franchise is that too many characters were added to the mix and that meant that none of them got the screen time they deserved. Even when you look at the X-Men movies, some of the major characters received the short end of the stick.

In The Avengers, everyone gets their moment to shine. The only one that did not get as much screen time was Hawkeye, and even he was allowed to show what he is capable of on more than one occasion. This is a team movie and everyone is given equal time, with no one overshadowing anyone else. That includes the popular Agent Coulson, who gets some wonderful comedic moments in the film as well.

I will admit here that if you don't like superhero movies, you won't like The Avengers. This movie is everything that a superhero should be. There are over-the-top characters, ridiculous life-or-death situations that non-comic fans might scoff at and some of the grandest battle scenes you will ever see in a superhero movie. If you do like superhero movies, this is the best of them all.

Call that hyperbole if you want, but this is what a superhero movie is supposed to look like. When it comes to narrative films, this one doesn't come close to The Dark Knight, as much a detective story film noir as a film about a man who dresses up like a bat. But, The Dark Knight is a film. The Avengers is a giant superhero movie blockbuster that was made for one reason – fun.

Robert Downey Jr. is fantastic as Iron Man, once again. He shines best when paired up with Chris Evans' Captain America or Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner. Don't worry if you hated Scarlet Johansson in Iron Man 2 because she is a great deal more interesting in this movie and a much better character. Chris Evans is solid as Cap, learning his role in this strange new world. Tom Hiddleston is once again wonderful as Loki, more evil than before, and his final battle with The Hulk is one of the greatest scenes in years.

I already talked about The Hulk and his appearance steals the show. Clark Gregg is also on fine form as Agent Coulson, but that should be expected if you saw him in the Marvel shorts between the movies.

Go into The Avengers, expecting to see a movie that will make you laugh, make you smile and deliver a good time. Whedon delivers all that in spades. This is easily the most fun you will have at a movie in 2012.

Friday, February 18, 2011

'I Am Number Four' Review: 'Harry Potter' with a Dose of Octane

I Am Number Four is the movie D.J. Caruso should have made after Disturbia. Unlike his follow-up Eagle Eye, I Am Number Four remains a smart, exciting movie that never tries to dumb down the material for the audience. It also remains close to the source material, avoiding disappointing fans of the book.

Click here to read the full review...
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, February 7, 2011

How to Train Your Dragon Blu-ray Review

How to Train Your Dragon (film)"How to Train Your Dragon" received one of the three Oscar nominations in 2011 for Best Animated Feature Film. The movie was a departure for DreamWorks, providing a solid story without the normal pop culture references the animation studio is known for. The Blu-ray of the movie provides a number of fun, interactive features for fans, kids, and adults alike.

Click here to read the entire Blu-ray Review at Yahoo!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, July 18, 2010

DVD Rack: Bugs Bunny's Easter Funnies

Cast: Mel Blanc, June Foray

The Lowdown

Bugs Bunny’s Easter Funnies is a collection of classic Looney Toons cartoons framed in a new (for 1977) story. The Easter Bunny calls Granny and tells her he is sick and cannot make his Easter deliveries that year. Granny suggests Bugs Bunny replace him and heads to the studio to ask him. Unfortunately, Bugs Bunny is a busy movie star. He is filming too many short films to take off to help. All the other classic Warner Bros characters use short films from their filmography to prove to Granny that they are the perfect Bunny for the job.

The meat of the DVD is the vintage shorts, most of which I had seen as a child. We get Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, Sylvester and Tweety Bird, PepĂ© Le Pew and Daffy Duck cartoons. The Daffy Duck cartoon is a classic “Robin Hood” sketch while the Foghorn Leghorn cartoon focuses on Egghead Jr. always making him a fool. The vintage cartoons are great and this is a nice little addition to your child’s video library, if for no other reason than to let him see what cartoons looked like when you were a kid.

I will always take a Looney Toons cartoon over most of what is passed off as kid’s cartoons today.

The Package

There are some interactive games. I could not figure out how to operate them. There is also an extra cartoon, His Hare-Raising Tale (1951). This is a great short cartoon where Bugs Bunny is filling his nephews head full of tall tales about his “hare-raising” past. Also includes is a Peanuts trailer.

7.0 out of 10