2015年8月24日 星期一

Movies I Saw This Summer (Allowing for Memory Lapses)

Man I saw A LOT of movies this summer!  I saw so many I can't even remember what all of them were.  During the month of June alone I saw at least one movie a day, if not two.  I saw so many movies that I got tired of movies, and as a result I've spent the last couple of weeks just reading books and comics.

But of course some movies are more memorable than others, and some are more memorable for having been seen in different places, under different circumstances.  What follows is a partial list of movies I saw this summer, with a grade given to each.  Four stars means excellent, three stars is pretty good, two stars is average, one star is not very good with some redeeming qualities, and no stars is... fant4stic!

Ant-Man ***

Marvel's tiniest superhero finally gets his own movie.  There are some great action scenes, and costar Michael Pena almost (forgive the pun) steals the show.  Not great by any stretch of the imagination, but a solid action film.

Bound By Flesh (Documentary) ***1/2

Examines the life of a pair of conjoined twins.  Born in England to a woman who abandoned them, paraded through a series of freak shows, and finally laid to rest in the southern U.S., the story of these two sisters and the life they led is definitely food for thought.

Child 44 *

God this movie is boring.  Maybe it gets better in the second half?  Something about an orphan during World War II, but I fell asleep after that.

Chappie **1/2

If you stopped to think about the plot you'd give yourself a headache, but if you can manage to check your brain at the door it's a good action film with some memorable performances.

Dying of the Light *

Have you been wanting to see a movie, starring Nicholas Cage, featuring a CIA agent dying of an incurable brain malady?  No?  Me neither, but there is a scene near the end that's pretty good.

Fantastic Four

I already discussed this film at length in another post.  By now it's out of theaters and we've repressed our memories of it.  Sequel?  No, thanks!

Fury ****

I'd already seen this a couple months before in the theater.  It's a great movie with some truly great performances.  I'm excited to see David Ayer's take on Suicide Squad next year.

Get Hard ***1/2

This movie is hysterical.  Best comedy I've seen in a long time.  Never count out Will Ferrell!

Going Clear (Documentary) ****

Featuring interviews with Tom Cruise and John Travolta, this documentary introduces the inner workings of Scientology to the uninitiated.  I've already seen it several times.

Home Sweet Hell ***

A black comedy about a controlling wife.  My only complaint is that the movie drags on a bit too long.  I have found Katherine Heigl annoying in other films, but she's great here.

Housebound **1/2

Another movie that drags on too long, but the third act is pretty good.  A young woman faces house arrest after a failed robbery, and while stuck at home she uncovers a dark secret.


Hey, isn't that Miles Teller?  I couldn't make any sense of this movie, but then again I wasn't paying a lot of attention.  Some of the fight scenes were ridiculous!

Maggie *

Hollywood continues its effort to create sub-genres within the zombie film genre.  This weird "zombie drama" stars none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger crying over his zombified daughter.  Unintentionally funny in parts.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation ***

Yes, some portions of this film are (ahem) impossible, but it's a well done action movie just the same.  With regard to summer blockbusters, I didn't like it as much as Jurassic World, but it was far better than the (ahem) disastrous San Andreas.

Non-Stop *1/2

Forgettable action movie starring Liam Neeson.  Terrorists threaten an airplane while air marshal Neeson tries to stop them.  He really needs to stop doing these kinds of films.

Predestination ****

Excellent film based on one of Robert Heinlein's short stories.  Ethan Hawke stars as a policemen trying to catch a bomber hiding out in the past.  It's easy to let this one get by you, so pay close attention!

San Andreas

This movie is so stupid I had to turn it off after fifteen minutes.  The Rock is some kind of rescue guy and a huge earthquake hits California.  Really, really bad.

Slow West ****

A young man from Scotland journeys to the Wild West to retrieve his lady love.  Michael Fassbender also stars as a bounty hunter.  Great film that reminded me why Tim Blake Nelson is in so many movies.

Straight Outta Compton ***

The story of rap group NWA and their rise to fame.  It starts out great, but gets bogged down in legal issues toward the end.  I would have also liked a more honest portrayal of their attitudes toward women.  Painting them as a purely political rap group is just misleading.

Stung *

Bad film about mutant wasps (or is it yellowjackets?).  The thing is it knows it's bad, and it's not trying to be anything it isn't.

The Homesman ****

Another great Western, this one about an outlaw and an unmarried woman transporting a wagon full of demented pioneer wives back to the East.  Both Tommy Lee Jones and Hillary Swank are terrific here.

The Suicide Theory **1/2

A contract killer meets a man who cannot die.  It is a movie full of great scenes, but by the end its worn out its welcome.  I think if they'd just cut it down by about 20 minutes it would have been perfect.

Ted 2 **

Ehhhh, it's... OK.  All of the really funny parts were in the trailers.  It's relatively laugh-free by the end, and I'm not exactly dying for another sequel.  Reminded me of why I got bored of Family Guy.

Trainwreck **1/2

A single girl struggles with the concept of monogamy.  It was a lot funnier than Ted 2, though it gets a bit too serious for its own good.  I liked this movie, and I'd probably watch a sequel.

The True Cost (Documentary) ***

Expose of the fashion industry and how it affects the environment.  Some of this documentary is hard to watch, but it means well and the subject matter is important.  I do feel like they dumbed it down a bit too much for a mass audience, and laying most of the blame at the feet of "corporations" is a bit too easy.

These Final Hours ****

Of all the movies discussed here, this is perhaps my favorite.  An Australian man tries to cope with the end of the world, and a young girl tries to find her father.  It's great from beginning to end, and those who liked Mad Max: Fury Road will find a lot more to like in this film.

Time Lapse ***

Two men and a woman discover a machine that takes pictures - one day into the future.  More intelligent than most other science fiction movies, and done on a low budget besides.

What We Do in the Shadows ****

Another hilarious movie.  Three vampires share a house in New Zealand, and a documentary crew follows their comings and goings.  I've already seen it three times!

Marvel's "Secret Wars" (so far)

If you read the previous entry, which commented upon DC's "Convergence," you might remember me describing it as "Secret Wars meets Crisis on Infinite Earths."  Convergence was largely a rehash of other DC continuity fixes, with elements of Marvel's (original) crossover event thrown in for good measure.

Marvel's newest take on Secret Wars, which follows an earlier crossover event of the same name, is entirely different from DC's Convergence.  Whereas Convergence can be described as Secret Wars meets Crisis on Infinite Earths, Marvel's ongoing comic book event can be described as... 

Crisis on Infinite Earths meets Secret Wars!

On the Marvel side of things, the multiverse has seemingly collapsed upon itself, leaving only two universes - the normal Marvel continuity and the Ultimate universe.  These two universes are aware of one another's existence, and are engaged in battle as the series begins.  A cataclysmic event follows, and after the destruction of both universes a godlike Doctor Doom uses the Molecule Man as a conduit to create a new universe, which combines elements of both the Ultimate and non-Ultimate universes.  What results is a strange planet floating in a void, where the land has been sectioned off into territories with names like "Spider Island," and "Bar Sinister."  The heroes and villains which inhabit these territories are likenesses of the Marvel characters we know and love, each defined by his or her loyalty to "God Doom."

In terms of storytelling, it's already head and shoulders above Convergence, which to be honest was somewhat retarded.  The art is also excellent, and its planning, scope, and characterization put its lesser DC rival to shame.  Only the most blindly loyal DC fan could claim that Convergence is better than Secret Wars - in any respect.

And yes, this version of Secret Wars is incredibly confusing.*  It requires real concentration to read this one - but in my opinion that's another mark in its favor.  Even if it is Crisis on Infinite Earths meets Secret Wars, it's bringing new elements in as well, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.  As matters stand now, I've read all the "Secret Wars" up to issue #5 - the most current issue - and "Battleworld" up to issue #4.  I'm expecting great things from this comic book event, and it will be interesting to see what happens to the Marvel continuity afterward.

If nothing else, it's already far better than Convergence.  Marvel is growing ambitious with this new Secret Wars, and I applaud their ambition.

*Those wishing to avoid confusion would do well to read only the "Secret Wars" title first, up to the most current issue.  Reading all the crossovers at the same time would confuse anybody!

2015年8月22日 星期六

DC's "Convergence"

"Convergence" is DC's latest attempt to reorganize, or at least play with, their fractured continuity.  When you think about it, DC's relationship to its continuity is a lot like a 13 year old's relationship to his penis.  He knows that he should stop playing with it so much, but he just can't leave it alone.

In this particular company-wide crossover event, yet another iteration of Braniac has preserved several versions of Gotham and Metropolis from pre-Crisis continuity to the present.  All of these various Gothams and Metropolises have been placed under an unbreakable dome for a year, and all of the superheroes living under these domes have been de-powered.  It is only with the lifting of the domes, and with the announcement that a champion has been selected from each city, that the superheroes regain their powers and begin to battle one another for their cities' survival.

In other words, it's a lot like Marvel's Secret Wars meets Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Substitute Braniac (or Telos, or Deimos) for The Beyonder, add other worlds to your stock of superheroes, and there you go.  Thus we have the Wildstorm heroes inhabiting the same universe as Captain Marvel, the pre-Crisis Barry Allen inhabiting the same universe as the New 52 version, and so on.  It's total overkill, and many of the heroes begin fighting other heroes with a ridiculously low level of motivation to do so.  A voice in the sky basically says, "Fight!" and most of them do just that.

Reading through Convergence took me quite a while.  It's 89 issues long, and like most other crossover events it's not much of a story.  There are so many titles in Convergence, and so many of them from pre-52 continuity, that I had trouble remembering the backstory for some of the characters.  Aside from the Convergence title itself, no other title has more than two issues, and what results is a blur of similar characters in similar situations. 

I mean come on - it's not the 80s anymore.  Does anyone really want to read another issue of Batman and the Outsiders?  Does anyone really want to know how the Supergirl Matrix and red-haired Luthor are getting along?  Unlike Crisis on Infinite Earths, which painted a grand picture against a cosmos-wide backdrop, this "event" feels paper-thin, and rushed.  More than anything, it lacks grandeur.

Of course there are exceptions to the above, or maybe I should say diamonds in the rough.  The first Convergence issue of Wonder Woman is great, as is the throwback Blue Beetle featuring all of the Charlton characters.  But these exceptions are few, and are overwhelmed by the mediocre writing in other titles.

Which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy parts of it.  It was nice to see pre-Crisis Barry Allen again.  It was nice to see the characters from Flashpoint, and also the Crime Syndicate.  But why throw the older superheroes from Kingdom Come into the mix?  Why use the Justice League from The New Frontier?  Why Captain Carrot?  Some of the characters blend better than others, and including ALL of them smacks more of marketing strategy than competent, cohesive storytelling.

Compared to previous DC crossover events like Crisis on Infinite Earths, Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis (my personal favorite), Final Crisis, or even 52, I'd have to say that Convergence is an abject failure.  It's simply reaching too far, and it wasn't planned well enough.  It also lacks drama, and as a story it should have been driven by its characters, not by a corporate need to revise a failing continuity.

But hey, perhaps you could take Braniac as a metaphor for DC Comics itself.  Perhaps you could mine Convergence for a deeper meaning, and a deeper relationship between a comic book publisher and its characters.  The meaning, the metaphor, and the relationship thus drawn aren't cheering, but they are something to ponder.

"Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy (1985)

"The first of the herd began to swing past them in a pall of yellow dust, rangy slatribbed cattle with horns that grew agoggle and no two alike and small thin mules coalblack that shouldered one another and reared their malletshaped head above the backs of the others and then more cattle and finally the first of the herders riding up the outer side and keeping the stock between themselves and the mounted company."

Blood Meridian was published six years after Suttree, a book I've yet to read, and seven years before All the Pretty Horses, the first book of his Border Trilogy.  I imagine that the long gap between Suttree and Blood Meridian indicates the vast amount of research the author had to do in order to write this book.  Compared to McCarthy's earlier novels, it involves a higher order of detail altogether.

In the novel, a young man known only as The Kid leaves the East behind and joins a failed expedition to Mexico.  This failed expedition leads to his incarceration in that country, after which point he joins up with a corporal Glanton and his associate The Judge.  As they attempt to kill every last Indian they encounter, the party grows more and more bloodthirsty, and they spend much of their time as fugitives, fleeing authorities in both the U.S. and Mexico.

It's a really dense book.  It is, perhaps, the densest thing that McCarthy has yet written.  It's also breathtakingly violent, majestic, and saddening.  And while the ending is somewhat ambiguous, it's still a satisfying read, and I would heartily recommend it.

Like all the greatest books, I think I'll be carrying parts of this one around with me for many years to come.

2015年8月9日 星期日

Comic Book Interlude 4

The Uncanny X-Men: Quarantine

An evil corporation steals the mutant genome, which makes the X-men sick.  Another example of comic book genetics at its finest.  Makes about as much sense as Doomsday's origin, I suppose.  Anyway the art is great and the dialogue is memorable.  Just don't think too hard about the premise?

X-Men: Age of X

If this was a movie, most of it would be long, lingering shots of perfect breasts and shapely asses.

But hey, what about that story?  To be honest, I can't go into too much detail without giving the whole thing away, so I'll just say that the mutants are holed up in New York, and the remainder of human (un)civilization is trying to kill them.  As the X-men tend to veer between the soap opera and paramilitary ends of the superhero spectrum, you can probably guess which of the two extremes they occupy in this comic book.

I will say, however, that the short story featuring the Avengers near the end is very good.  I really like what they did with the Hulk.

The Death of Superman

Fran: Hi, Clark.  Lois left you a computer message.
Clark Kent: Very high tech of her.  Thanks, Fran. 

It may surprise readers of this blog to know that I'm reading this comic for the first time.  What took me so long, you ask?  The culprit here is ambivalence.  When it first appeared I was getting very sick of variant covers, crossover events, and whatnot, so I decided to pass on "The Death of Superman."

Finally reading it now - so many years later - I'd have to say that it's something of a non-event.  The whole thing is (strangely) without drama, and by the end of it I was glad the multi-issue fistfight was finally over.  Doomsday - in this incarnation, at least - is not an interesting villain, and Lois Lane spends much of this saga oddly disinterested in the goings on.

Given that one of Superman's greatest powers is supposedly his intellect, it's strange how little thinking he does in the course of this battle.  I can't quite figure why it took him so long to attempt to throw Doomsday into space, and why he continually throws both himself and others into harm's way.  What is it at this point in his career?  Overconfidence?  Fear?  Lazy writing?  Whatever it is, the version of Superman beaten to death in this comic never really feels like Superman, and as such his death lacks the kind of impact that would have made this book truly memorable.

The Starman Omnibus: Volume 1

Quirky, yes, but interesting?  I didn't find it to be so.  I suppose if you like superheroes that are obsessed with antiques and collectibles this is the comic for you, but I spent a lot of these 17 issues wishing that the hipster protagonist would meet his untimely end.  Perhaps if you've read all of Gaiman's Sandman, and Moore's Swamp Thing, you'll find something to like here, but it really wasn't working for me.

Carnage U.S.A.

The Avengers and several symbiote characters try to drive Carnage out of a small town in Colorado.  In tone it reminded me of the Aliens films.  I'm not really sure what the "U.S.A." part of the title is supposed to signify, since the characters never leave the small town, and this comic book isn't political at all.  Light reading to be sure, but not bad.

2015年8月8日 星期六

Ant-Man Vs. Fantastic Four

Before I get into this subject, I would like to encourage anyone reading this to keep an OPEN MIND about the two movies discussed below.  I am not trying to confirm or deny any biases you might have.  Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, and Comicbookmovie.com aren't the last word on anything, and I try to approach these movies from the standpoint of someone who likes movies, not as someone with a stake in the Marvel vs. Fox debate.  I never wanted either movie to succeed or fail commercially.  I'm not interested in whether or not Marvel gets the rights back to the Fantastic Four.  I just went to the theater hoping they were good films.

With that said, I thought it might be fun to compare this summer's two superhero films.  I'm not including Avengers: Age of Ultron in this comparison because it came out (where I live) in the end of May, and for this reason I would consider it more of a spring movie.


Ant-Man, as has often been stated, is a heist movie.  Hank Pym hires Scott Lang to steal the Yellowjacket suit from his former protege.  As premises go, it's not overly grand or mysterious.  The fate of the world isn't at stake, and the script was workable, if a bit formulaic.

A lot of what redeems this movie is humor.  Yes, the fight at the end is pretty great, but I think it's Michael Pena's character that keeps the movie from growing too serious or dark.  I think that without Pena's character both Scott Lang and Pym's daughter Hope would have brought the movie down.  With his character, the whole thing just rolls along.

Yellowjacket was a credible villain, and nothing in this movie feels extraneous.  I thought that scene where Scott and Hope finally make out in Hank's house was a bit awkward, but the rest of the movie worked well.  All in all, it's a solid, well-paced action movie.

Fantastic Four is a science fiction movie.  Reed Richards, a scientific prodigy, develops a technology that allows people to travel into another dimension.  It's a big concept movie - at least in the beginning - though many of the concepts are thrown away in a mad rush to reach the movie's conclusion.

Fantastic Four is about HALF of a good movie.  Up until Reed's escape from the military installation, it makes good on the promise director Josh Trank showed in Chronicle.  The characters are (fairly) well drawn and likable, and the dynamic between Reed and Ben sets a good tone for the rest of the movie.

But then the second act arrives, and Reed somehow begins to resemble Bruce Banner from Marvel's The Incredible Hulk.  The inclusion of Tim Blake Nelson in the cast only makes this feeling worse.  Reed winds up at the compound again, and nothing the characters do after that point makes a lot of sense.

Worst of all is Doctor Doom, who looks like he escaped from the Roger Corman version of the Fantastic Four.  His actions at the end of the film are inexplicable, and the battle between him and the FF is extremely disappointing.  Tim Story's version of the Fantastic Four draws a lot of criticism, but at least the conclusion of that movie made sense.


Unlike Glenn Close, who was wasted on Guardians of the Galaxy, Michael Douglas's Hank Pym is the glue that holds this movie together.  He is at once arrogant and likable, and his struggle to regain control of the technology he created is easily understood.

The other characters in Ant-Man aren't quite as memorable, but their arcs are satisfying and they fulfill their functions within the plot.  After Hank Pym, Evangeline Lily's Hope van Dyne and Corey Stoll's Yellowjacket are well done, even if Paul Rudd's performance is forgettable.  Michael Pena is pretty much Michael Pena in this movie, and that's OK.

Compare all of the above to Fantastic Four, in which all of the characters except Johnny and Sue's father are relative enigmas.  Sure, Reed says that he wants to "make a difference," but what does that mean, really?  And why?  Again I was reminded of Tim Story's version, in which the characters were easily understood.  Why would Johnny Storm, who is supposed to be some kind of mechanical genius, have so much trouble with his old Toyota?  Why would Reed suddenly desert (and then return to help) his best friend?  Who is Sue Storm, really?  Much of the character development in this movie is largely thrown out the window, and we never really get a sense of why anyone does anything, or to what end.

Worst of all is Doctor Doom.  Why does he resent authority figures?  Why would he work for a government-funded institution if he did?  Why does he hate the Fantastic Four?  Why does he want to destroy the world?  None of these questions are answered in the film, and thus he is reduced to a giant, cardboard-cutout supervillain, even more inscrutable than last May's Ultron.

Special Effects

This is the area in which Ant-Man truly shines, and in which Edgar Wright's previsualization is most strongly felt.  Scott's first shrinking scene is a lot of fun, as are his journeys into the backyard ant kingdom.  The fight scene at the end is better than anything in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it is in this context that the possibilities inherent in a shrinking character make themselves evident.

And Fantastic Four?  Again, the first half of the movie makes good use of the budget, but the second half really struggles.  Reed's stretching looks quite silly in the final battle, and there in no point at which Doctor Doom looks menacing, or even interesting.  I thought the Thing looked OK, given the fact that it's really hard to make a rock man look convincing.  And what about that crater at the end?  Where was the aftermath?  Where was the long effects sequence that would have made this meaningful?


I only include this category because it is the only part of Fantastic Four that exceeds Ant-Man.  I have always been a fan of Philip Glass.


I think I'm only stating the obvious when I say that Ant-Man is a much better movie than Fantastic Four.  Even so, I don't think Fantastic Four is the unmitigated disaster that it's made out to be.  It's not nearly as disappointing as Green Lantern, it's not as boring as The Dark Knight Rises, and it's not as jarring as Iron Man 3.  Again, it's HALF of a good movie, perhaps best viewed on DVD.

And no, it's not fair to the film (or actress) in question, but I found myself missing Jessica Alba.  A Sue Storm I'm not sexually attracted to brought this film WAY down in my estimation.  I realize that Kate Mara is a much better actress than Alba, but in this film she wasn't given much to do anyway.

A Review of Every Marvel Movie from 1986 to the Present (Revised as of August 7, 2015)

The Men in Black films have been left off this list, even though the characters are now the property of Marvel Comics.  The original comic books were not published by Marvel, and this is the reason I left them off this list.

Dr. Strange (1978) and Fantastic Four (1994) are not here either.  The former is a TV pilot, and never saw theatrical release, and the latter was only made to retain the rights to the characters.

And there are also the "novelty" superhero films, such as 3 Dev Adam and "Italian Spider-Man."  These movies are/were exercises in copyright infringement, and never saw theatrical release outside of their countries of origin.  Many of these films are good for a few laughs, and can be seen in part or in their entirety on YouTube.

Excellent!  Had to see it twice!
Good movie with a few flaws.
Not bad, but not great.
I’d watch it once if I was bored enough.
[no stars]
Just terrible.
So bad it’s kind of good.

1. Howard the Duck (1986) @

I must confess that the shot of Leah Thompson in her panties gave me one of my first hard-ons, way back when I was 11 years old.  This movie is so awful that it demands your attention.

2. The Punisher (1989) **

This is the Dolph Lundgren version.  It is on a lot of "worst of" lists, but I think that in many ways it is closer in spirit to the original Punisher comics.  Not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but not that bad either.


3. Captain America (1990)

This movie almost arrived in theaters, until the studio responsible realized how awful it was.  It makes little sense, it's surprisingly boring in parts, and the Red Skull bears an unfortunate resemblance to Skeletor from 1987's Masters of the Universe.

4. Blade (1998) ***

Now HERE is a good movie.  Not only was Wesley Snipes super cool, but the script was good and the direction was competent.  Kris Kristofferson also made a great sidekick.  My only complaint about this one is that the vampires just seem to "splash" out of existence.  It's kind of unsatisfying.


5. X-men (2000) *

I have never been a big fan of the X-men, either the films or the comic books.  This movie seemed very melodramatic to me, and I think without Hugh Jackman's performance as Wolverine this movie would have been a complete disaster.  As it is, it's forgettable.  Fun Trivia: Joss Whedon, of Avengers fame, helped write the screenplay for this movie.

6. Blade 2 (2002) ****

This movie is classic.  Blade 1 was already pretty good, but Blade 2 kills it.  It's super violent, super cool, and it is the reason someone needs to unearth Wesley Snipes for Blade 4.

7. Spider-Man (2002) **

I was as psyched as anyone else when I heard this movie was coming out.  With Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire involved, it seemed like a sure thing.  Then the Green Goblin almost ruined the movie for me.  Nothing against Willem Defoe, but that suit was ridiculous.

8. Daredevil (2003)

This has to be one of the worst superhero movies ever.  Ben Affleck didn't have the build to play The Man Without Fear, and the plot to this movie was a mess.  Bullseye was somewhat interesting, but this movie could have done without Elektra.

9. X2: X-men United (2003) **

I thought this was slightly better than the first film, but still not that great.  Had Brian Singer stayed on for X-men 3 and really built towards the Dark Phoenix saga, this would have been a better movie in retrospect.  Like the first, a bit corny.

10. Hulk (2003) ***

I can't see this as the unqualified disaster that it is often made out to be.  This is definitely one of the more intellectual superhero movies, and I liked the battle between The Hulk and the Absorbing Man at the end.  Could have been better, but could have been a lot worse.

11. The Punisher (2004) *

After Dolph Lundgren, it was Thomas Jane's turn to play Frank Castle.  This movie was better than Lundgren's, but it doesn't have the darkness that made the comic book so interesting.  Jane would have gone on to play Castle again in Punisher 2, but grew frustrated with the process involved.  Can't say that I blame him.

12. Spider-Man 2 (2004) ****

This is one of the great ones.  This movie hits the ground running, and the whole thing flows seamlessly from beginning to end.  Alfred Molina was a revelation as Dr. Octopus, and this movie is everything the first one wasn't.

13. Blade: Trinity (2004) *

What a disappointment this one was.  Blade 2 was excellent, but this third installment was just stupid.  Why would Jessica Biel start listening to her MP3 as the vampires are attacking?  Wouldn't she want to hear what was going on?  Fun Trivia: Wesley Snipes was THIS close to playing the Black Panther in a movie adaptation of the Marvel character the same year, but the studio felt he was too recognizable as Blade.  A Black Panther film is still in active development at Marvel Studios, and the character is rumored to appear in the upcoming "Avengers: Age of Ultron."

14. Elektra (2005) *

Not a terrible movie, but not that good either.  Jennifer Garner stars as Elektra, and she would have looked just like the comic book character if she had only dyed her hair black.  A watered-down version of everyone's favorite female ninja assassin.

15. Fantastic Four (2005) ***

Any movie featuring Jessica Alba in a skin-tight costume is going to have my attention.  The Thing looks kind of rubbery, but Tim Story did a good job with the material.  The battle at the end reminds you of the better FF comics.

16. Man-Thing (2005)

Low budget horror movie in which environmentalists square off against an evil petroleum company.  Man-thing doesn't appear until the movie's halfway over.  This film was shot in Australia, and many of the actors' accents are less than convincing.  A real chore to sit through.

17. X-men: The Last Stand (2006)

Unspeakably bad.  This movie makes you feel sorry for Hugh Jackman.  Not only did this film almost destroy the franchise, but it also butchers one of the classic runs in the comic book.  Fun Trivia: this film was based on a comic book story written by Joss Whedon, with elements of The Dark Phoenix Saga added on.

18. Ghost Rider (2007)

Ghost Rider STILL deserves a better movie.  Nicholas Cage is annoying throughout, and I have the feeling they were trying too hard to make this movie kid-friendly.  Peter Fonda couldn't have been less threatening as Mephisto.

19. Spider-Man 3 (2007) **

If they had just cut Venom out of this movie it would have been a good film.  As it is, Venom contributes almost nothing to the plot, and one gets the feeling that he was added as an afterthought.  Not terrible, but not that good either.

20. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) **

There are people who hate this movie, but I don't have any problem with it.  Galactus could have looked a lot cooler, and the movie stumbles near the end, but again there is Jessica Alba.

21. Iron Man (2008) ****

After Batman Begins, this is the other movie that reinvigorated the genre.  Where Batman Begins was dark, this one was funny.  Where Batman is driven, Tony Stark is brilliantly conflicted.  It is everything that Nolan's movie wasn't, and that's why it works.

22. The Incredible Hulk (2008) ****

This movie was sidelined by the overwhelming success of Iron Man, but I loved it.  I loved Edward Norton's take on the character, I loved the script he wrote for the film, and I loved the Greco-Roman take on The Hulk.  My only complaint is that he let The Abomination live at the end.  I found this hard to believe.

23. Punisher: War Zone (2008) *

A more violent take on Frank Castle.  It's a solid film, but maybe a little too depressing for its own good.  I consider it an improvement on the first.

24. X-men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

This movie is standard popcorn fare, much along the lines of Ghost Rider. Hugh Jackman goes through the motions, an attempt to bring Deadpool and Gambit into the mix is handled badly, and by the end you're thankful that it's not as dreadful as X3.


25. Iron Man 2 (2010) ***

I liked this almost as much as the first one.  Downey Jr. is given even better one-liners in this film, and Mickey Rourke characteristically chews the scenery.  Sam Rockwell is also great as Justin Hammer, and my only complaint is that Don Cheadle isn't given enough to do.

26. Kick-Ass (2010) **

I have friends who love this movie.  I don't.  I think the first half is good, but after Big Daddy dies it just gets silly - especially the jet pack.  A nice warm up for The Amazing Spider-Man, however.

27. Thor (2011) *
Considering how hard it must have been to adapt Thor to the big screen, I would consider this movie a success.  Still, compared to other movies Marvel Studios has made, I think this is the weakest one.  I've never been a big fan of Kenneth Branagh.

28. X-men: First Class (2011) **

Michael Fassbender makes this movie.  Forgive the pun, but he is positively magnetic as Magneto.  I thought the end was weak, but it's still miles ahead of the first three films.

29. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) ***

I would rank this fifth among the Marvel movies, behind The AvengersIron ManThe Incredible Hulk, and Thor: The Dark World.  It might seem a bit slow for some people, but the mixture of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark really worked for me.

30. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)

Can't bring myself to either rent or download this film.  I can't.  I just can't.

31. The Avengers (2012) ****

There are entire websites devoted to how awesome this movie is.  It's a good film, but not one of the best.  Considering how difficult it is to put characters as diverse as Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor into the same movie universe, this one is an unqualified triumph.  I'm only sorry the Oscorp Tower didn't make an appearance.

32. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) ***

This is a good movie, and I'm looking forward to the sequel.  Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have some terrific chemistry, and it's a solid effort.  The Lizard is a bit too Hulk-like for my taste, but this is a vast improvement over Spider-Man 3.

33. Iron Man 3 (2013) *

I was super excited about this movie, but walked away from it disappointed.  It starts out well, but neither of the villains are very compelling, and the stunt work is too over the top.  My biggest complaint is the ending, which gives us a Tony Stark who no longer has any reason to be Iron Man.

34. Kick-Ass 2 (2013) **

It's not a great movie, but it's not bad.  There are some funny scenes in this one, but it could have been a lot better.

35. The Wolverine (2013) **

I had high hopes for this one, but it wasn't all that good.  It's certainly much better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine and all the other X-Men films, but that's not saying all that much.

36. Thor: The Dark World (2013) ***

This was a great movie.  I didn't love the first Thor, but this one was a vast improvement.  Reminded me a lot of the Walt Simonson run on the comic book.  Hoping to see Beta Ray Bill in Thor 3!

37. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) **1/2

Steve Rogers struggles with the modern world and his role in S.H.I.E.L.D.  After encountering the Winter Soldier, he has even more reasons to doubt the nobility of certain causes.  A very topical movie, with some great action sequences.  Didn't like it as much as Thor: The Dark World, but it was well done.

38. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) **1/2

Too much CGI, but some great performances from Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.  I liked this movie more than "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," though the action sequences in Cap were better.  This film has more dramatic tension, better ensemble performances, and more heart.  Looking forward to the third film!

39. X-men: Days of Future Past (2014) ***1/2

A surprisingly good movie.  As mutantkind faces extinction, Wolverine journeys into the past to change the future.  Excellent performances, and one of the most emotionally resonant superhero films to come along in quite a while.

40. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) **

A good movie, though it features too many characters for its own good.  Humor holds the film together, and makes some of the less plausible plot elements seem more plausible.  As with many other recent films from Marvel Studios, seems less inspired than calculated.  Maybe the second one will be better?

41. The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)**1/2

I can't say it's flawless, but I did like it much better than the first Avengers.  It's less talky than the first film, and the battle between Hulk and the Hulkbuster is truly awesome.  Quicksilver seemed a bit  underused, and I would have liked to see more of the Vision, but it's still a great movie.

42. Ant-Man (2015)**

Any great scenes in this movie involve a) Michael Pena, b) shrinking, or c) both.  As for the rest of it?  It starts off well enough, but it takes too long to get going.  "The heist" at the end is a bit of a non-event, but the fight scenes between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket are good.

43. Fantastic Four (2015)*

This movie is not bad up until the four return from Planet Zero.  After that point it's a mess.  Once Reed escapes from the military facility the dialogue is bad, the characters do things that make no sense, and the movie somehow ends without building up any kind of dramatic tension.  It feels like an hour of this film was removed before it hit theaters, and Dr. Doom looks like he escaped from another, much lower-budget film.

On the Way

44. Deadpool (2015)

Everyone's favorite wisecracking mutant mercenary gets his own movie.  Deadpool (as played by Ryan Reynolds) appeared in X-men Origins: Wolverine, but this will be a soft reboot of the character.  Reynolds was born to play Deadpool, and this R-rated take on the character looks good so far.  The SDCC panel for this movie killed it.

45. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

More of a sequel to X-men: First Class, this film will focus on the origin of the mutants.  Apocalypse was always one of my favorite X-men villains.  This film will take place in 1983, and will hopefully also feature Cable.  After SDCC I know a lot more about this movie, though I can't say that everything learned from that panel has me excited.  Apocalypse looks surprisingly non-threatening in early stills, but maybe he'll look better later on.

46. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Captain America and Iron Man face off over the superhuman registration act.  Marvel has already stated that the Black Panther will appear in this film, and there will certainly be a host of other superheroes on hand. Marvel's version of Spider-man will also make an appearance.

47. Doctor Strange (2016)

All I can say is... finally!  I've been waiting for this movie for so long.  Scott Derrickson is directing, and Benedict Cumberbatch will star as Stephen Strange.

48. Gambit (2016)

Channing Tatum will star as Gambit.  This one is straight out of left field, and there are few details available.

49. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017)

Who would have thought the first Guardians of the Galaxy would be such a success?  And who would have thought that a sequel would be on the way so soon?  Most of the original cast and crew will probably return for this film.

50. Third Wolverine Film (2017)

Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold will be returning.  Hopefully they can improve upon The Wolverine, which wasn't the stylistic triumph I hoped it would be.  Hugh Jackman has indicated that they'll be going for "Old Man Logan," though of course Fox will need to change a lot of the story to make up for characters they don't have the rights to.

51. Fantastic Four 2 (2017)

No idea.  Details on the upcoming reboot are hard enough to come by, and this movie is a complete mystery.  Given the negative reviews the first film is getting, I doubt this movie will ever happen.

52. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

We'll probably see Surtur in this one.  I'm thinking this could be the movie that really sets Thor apart.  The first Thor film wasn't very good, the second one was much better, and this one might just be great.

53. The Black Panther (2017)

Chadwick Boseman will play the Black Panther.  I think it's safe to say that elements of his backstory will appear in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Nothing else is known about this movie at this time.

54. Marvel's Spider-Man (2017)

Sony finally set a release date for this film.  After years of negotiations with Marvel, Tom Holland will finally star as a much younger Spider-Man, with Jon Watts directing.  I thought the Amazing Spider-Man films were... OK, but I'm glad to see the character back under Marvel's supervision.

55. The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 (2018)

It was bound to happen.  Thanos will be the villain, and his quest for the infinity gems (stones) will probably cause Earth's mightiest heroes a great deal of misery.

56. Captain Marvel (2018)

A female-centered superhero film, even if it's a year after the proposed female-centric films by both Sony and Warner Bros.

57. Inhumans (2018)

It's kind of hard to imagine the Inhumans in the absence of the Fantastic Four, but I'm sure Marvel will figure out a way to make it work.

58. The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 (2019)

I would hazard a guess that this is going to turn up the volume on EVERYTHING.

2015年8月7日 星期五

Comic Book Interlude 3

Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes: The Search for Cosmic Boy

Supergirl, visiting from the past, joins the Legion of Superheroes in the future.  The Legion have always been DC's most forgettable superheroes, and this can be both a blessing and a curse.  On the one hand, their obscurity gives writers the freedom to take certain risks, and on the other hand it's hard to care about characters whose names you can't remember.  This installment continues the brand of arbitrary storytelling that makes the Legion hard to care about, even though it's well drawn and has a relatively cohesive plot structure.

Stormwatch Volume 1: The Dark Side

So, um, this like secret society of superheroes - or something - have to FIGHT THE MOON.  There's this, uh, dude that can talk to cities, and a - uh - girl who can only use physics concepts understood in the present century, and a, uh, like robot lady with nanites in her blood, and and then some stuff happens, and then they talk about some other stuff, and it ends with a, like, big explosion.  This is the kind of material that Grant Morrison could have done a lot with.  But Paul Cornell?  Not so much.

The Amazing Spider-Man: American Son

Peter Parker/Spider-man tries to rescue Harry Osborne from both his father and the "fake Avengers."  It's an excellently written comic book full of great art.  The guys that did this have a real love for the character.

The Shadow Hero

A Chinese-American superhero battles a crime lord.  I've also read the author's "American Born in Chinese," and this one is a lot less heavy-handed.  It takes a while to get going, but it's very good by the end.  An interesting side trip into comic book history can be found after the story's conclusion.


A rat-themed superhero, a tiki god, time travel, and a trout monkey.  I could try to explain the plot but I'd fail.  It's hilarious though.  I haven't laughed so hard in a while.

The Amazing Spider-man: The Original Clone Sage (TPB)

Run of Spider-man comics featuring the Jackal, the clone Spider-man, the "return" of Gwen Stacy, and various other friends and foes.  Reading this in 2015, it's fun to reflect back upon the subject of cloning in 1970s-era comics.  Clones are treated as fake people, and at one point the real (?) Spider-man disposes of the clone Spider-man as if he was so much garbage.  Gerry Conway wrote some good Spider-man comics before he switched to DC, and the art here is competent if not showy.  A couple of the issues feature work by a (very) young Frank Miller, just beginning his storied career in comics.