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Review of Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (3.5 stars) September 4, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Comic Book Stuff, Other Random Stuff.
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Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

My original intent was to rent this, and summarily bash it here for its horrible cheesiness which, I thought, the trailers made apparent. Well someone needs to fire their marketing department, because this was much better than it looked to be. Given, it still stars a bunch of young teen superhero children of the original Avengers, but the movie creators were actually able to pull this storyline off fairly well.

In the future, Ultron has killed off all the original Avengers, except for Iron Man, Hulk (though he isn’t discovered until late in the movie), and Thor (who left Earth behind). Before their deaths, the Avengers sent their young children with Iron Man, to be kept hidden away from Ultron. Tony, now the unsuspecting surrogate father must raise these kids. Surprisingly, he does a pretty good job. Twelve years later, these children have mastered their abilities, and after a quick chain of events, are found by Ultron. The rest of the movie is a series of attacks and escapes filled in with story and character development, and along the way we see a few “familiar” faces (though now much aged). There may not have been too much in the way of “Easter Eggs,” but those familiar with Marvel history will probably be able to guess a few plot points faster than the less familiar.

Now, addressing the complaint that this isn’t based off of any comic: personally, that doesn’t bother me at all. True, there are still plenty of classic Marvel sagas that need to be adapted to movie form, but seeing a completely new tale feels somewhat fresh, especially when it’s with new characters. Despite being kids, the stars give us plenty of great characterizations, and humor. The “child element” of this movie didn’t annoy me in the slightest. However, faithful Marvelites may be bothered by one thing: in the movie, it has been changed that Tony Stark was the creator of Ultron. Yes, this is a major change, but since he is still a character in this film, and plays a significant role, it allows us to see how he suffers the consequences, and makes for a much better story (in this particular instance) than if the creator had remained Hank Pym. So I was slightly annoyed at first, but I soon came to realize it was for the best.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but let me confirm now, the cheesiness was kept to a surprising minimum for being marketed as a kid’s movie, in fact this probably had the least cheesiness of any of Marvel’s Animated Features so far (though Dr. Strange remains my favorite to date). While this was intended to bring more kids into the genre, adults who enjoy superhero tales, and don’t mind animated movies should enjoy this. If you’ve seen any of Marvel’s previous animated movies, you should definitely look into this. There’s really not too much to complain about here. Yes, there were one or two lines that could have been omitted, and an occasional instance where the animation was awkward. But overall, this was surprisingly enjoyable.

-LOTRKing

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Casual Saturdays: Review of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2 stars) August 2, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days.
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Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Straying from the world of comics for a moment, I thought I’d take a crack at reviewing this. Sad to say, I was extremely disappointed by this movie. I loved the first two (four our of five stars in my book, both of ‘em, with the second being slightly better) and I realized that this one would be significantly different what with a new Mummy (and a new Evy) but I didn’t realize that it would be significantly less entertaining.

It starts out with an interesting enough premise. An ancient Chinese emperor gained control over the five elements (fire, earth, water, wood, and metal) through sorcery and after taking control of all of China, his next goal was the world. Knowing that he could not possibly live long enough to see this accomplished, he wished to live forever, and hearing of a witch who knew the secrets of immortality, he sent his most trusted general to find her. Of course, said witch is anything but an old hag and both the general and the emperor desire her when they first see her. Long story short, the general sleeps with her, the jealous emperor commands that he be given immortality or the general will die, she seemingly grants it to him, but he kills the general anyway, only to be revealed that she cursed the emperor and his large army as they all turn to stone.

Alex, now an adult and archeologist in his own right, discovers the emperor’s tomb and eventually the Mummy (if you can even call him that, seeing as he’s covered in stone) is awoken. While this sounds similar to the first two Mummy movies, I was willing to run with it, and enjoy it. It all turns downhill about half-way through the movie. As Rick and family are fighting this Mummy and his minions in a village which will show the way to Shangri-La, a ninja chick (introduced earlier in the movie, allied with the O’Connells, who cheesily falls in love with Alex) runs to an archway and shouts some cheesy line (something along the lines of “We’re in trouble! Come save us!”) only to have three Yeti come out of nowhere and help out the good guys. Now I knew there was going to be at least one Yeti in the movie from the previews, but I assumed he would be guarding a sacred tomb, or something, and must be defeated. Instead there are three Yeti who come when called to save the good guys.

Unfortunately, the movie just gets more ridiculous from there. Add to the fact that the aforementioned ninja chick can’t act and has an annoying voice, that Rick and this new Evy have no chemistry whatsoever, and that most of the plot points are similar to the first two movies or even occasionally a couple other random movies, and you have a failed film. I was looking forward to this movie so much. “The final great film of an awesome movie summer, this will be,” said I. But unfortunately, I was very wrong. To anyone who enjoyed the first two Mummy movies as much as I did, do yourself a favor and try to pretend that this one doesn’t exist.

-LOTRKing

Review of The Dark Knight (4.5 stars) July 17, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Intense is the word for Dark Knight. Without a doubt, it was the most terrifying, suspenseful, and dark superhero movie that I have seen. While this is its greatest asset, it also serves as its flaw. Yes, we get tons of violence, tons of jump moments, tons of scenes keeping you on the edge of your seat, but this dip into the world of dark gives viewers very little chances to “come up for air” as it were. Maybe I just enjoy humor too much, but this entire movie had a rain cloud hovering, if not down pouring, for almost the full two-and-a-half hours, with not but a rare short ray of sunshine (and most of the humor was dark humor anyway). Despite this, it was still very satisfying to me as a general movie-goer, and as a comic book fan.

If you do not want SPOILERS, READ NO FURTHER. If you want my spoiler-less review, go here.

First off, I was worried that the Joker might be a little over-the-top cheesy. After all, he’s the Joker! But not only was Heath Ledger able to perfectly play his character, the Joker came off as believable. The entire persona was that of a crazed murderer, who was anything but funny, and definitely frightening. It’s only once in a very great while that you see someone acting in a role they were born to play (superhero examples include Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man), but that was exactly the case here. It is therefore very unfortunate that this was Ledger’s final role. I’m sure the Joker will be in the next Batman movie, like the Scarecrow was featured here, but no matter how good the replacement, I highly doubt they will be able to recreate the insanity that Ledger brought to the role.

Speaking of role changes, Maggie Gyllenhaal successfully replaces Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. While the “torn-between-two-men” scenario displayed here is certainly not new, especially to superhero lore, it is told here in a believable way. Perhaps most tragic is Bruce’s belief that she will wait for Batman to “save Gotham” and then unite with him, when in reality she knows that he will never forsake the Batman persona, and therefore intends to marry Harvey Dent. While this movie had many shocking scenes, her death tops the list. Of course, the Joker’s trick which leads to her death further shows that despite his chaotic manner, there lies a true criminal mastermind underneath, one with the perfect brain for creating maximum emotional torture.

Yet the most surprisingly good character progression was that of Harvey Dent. Despite not knowing too much DC-lore, I knew that he was destined to become Two-Face. But as we got to meet his character, I felt more and more that he wasn’t going to be able to believably transfer from the unashamed do-gooder that he was to a merciless villain. I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong. The death of his beloved Rachel, the severe disfigurement of his face, and the city-wide emotion of absolute-terror seemed more than enough to cause his already weakened mind to snap.

But what about Batman himself? This movie certainly decided to take the “symbol more than a person” route. As such, we mostly just see Batman reacting to situations, and going to any measures to stop the spread of evil. While this provides a lot of entertainment, we don’t get to see too much of the man behind the mask. And while I can appreciate the heroic and sacrificial themes of the movie, I really wish this movie would have been more about Bruce Wayne, and less about virtually everyone else. Indeed, Bruce himself seemed more like a supporting character rather than the main character. Still, despite minor complaints, this movie is certainly a must see.

-LOTRKing

Review of Hellboy II: The Golden Army (4.5 stars) July 11, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The summer of great superhero movies continues with Hellboy 2, a film that either kept me laughing, contemplating, or sitting on the edge of my seat nearly throughout. Definitely better than the first (which I still enjoyed), Hellboy 2 is certainly a movie much more suited for the general public. Hellboy 1 had a much more low-to-medium-budget, almost independent movie feel, but this time around, they’ve pulled out all the stops, making this much more grand, but still maintaining the quirkiness of first film. What’s more, they pretty much tell you everything you need to know, so those who have not seen the first film will not be lost. In fact, I might even venture to say that those who flat out didn’t like Hellboy 1 may find themselves surprised by its sequel. With plenty of action, great characters, an engrossing plot, and the touch of Guillermo del Toro’s likable bizarreness, Hellboy 2 definitely ranks among the greats amongst the best of superhero movies, and stands apart for its enjoyable uniqueness.

Those who do not want SPOILERS, READ NO FURTHER. If you would like to read my spoiler-free review, please go here.

Echoing its predecessor, Hellboy 2 opens with a prologue in the past, telling of a war of man against elves and all other magical creatures, the stakes: the rights for dominion of the earth. When hope appears lost for the elves, they order the goblins to create war machines. This leads to the birth of the Golden Army, a mechanical multitude which cannot be stopped. As Golden Army wreaks utter destruction upon man, the king of the elves realizes the horror of what he has done, and calls for a truce between the two peoples. The king covenants to keep elfkind and magic folk within the forests if mankind will remain in the cities. The peaceful pact struck, the Golden Army is stored away deep within in earth, and the Crown of Bethmora, which allows the rightful owner to control the Army, is separated into three pieces. The king keeps two for himself, and gives one to man, hoping this separation will see continued peace and the permanent entombment of the Army. The prince, angered towards man and disagreeing with his father’s decision leaves his twin sister behind and goes into self-proclaimed exile, vowing that one day he would claim the crown and take earth for his kind.

When the story moves the present, the prince steals man’s piece at an auction, slaughtering all the customers. He later confronts and kills his father, taking the second piece. Luckily, his sister is able to escape, taking her piece along. As we move to the B.P.R.D., we see that Hellboy and Liz are having relationship problems (again). When the Bureau is called to investigate the auction massacre, we get the “horror” scene of the movie as the agents have to fight off a building full of “tooth fairies,” leading to the horrific deaths of various “redshirt” agents. Parents, if you take your children to this movie (probably not a good idea anyway), make sure they don’t see this scene, otherwise they’ll be afraid to put teeth under their pillow. (Though I suppose it would save you in quarters…) This scene also throws two wrenches into the movie. First, and perhaps most surprising, we learn that Liz is pregnant. This comes as a shock to her, and she initially decides to keep it from Hellboy. Second, the rather explosive ending of the battle leads to the public “outing” of the Bureau and Hellboy. This leads to some rather interesting plot points later on.

As the B.P.R.D. members investigate the mystery of the crown, they are joined by new member Ectoplasmic Man and also eventually find and house the princess. During much of the movie, we get some great character dynamics, whether it is quick-witted arguments between the more irascible characters, or the good times shared by this band of freaks, the viewers quickly learn that these people are definitely not two-dimensional. Perhaps the most amusing scene comes when Hellboy learns that Abe Sapien has fallen for the princess. Together they share some beers, advice, and singing. That’s right, Hellboy and Abe sing. (Keep in mind the beer preceding said song.) Having fun laughing at that (I know I did).

As the movie comes to its climax, Hellboy must enter into mortal battle with the prince for command of the Golden Army. Of course, Hellboy wins (it is a comic book movie after all), but not before a fast-moving and tense duel. Having defeated his opponent, Hellboy turns to return to his friends, only for the audience to see that the prince has pulled out a hidden dagger behind Hellboy. The princess, who has been magically linked to her twin brother since birth, stabs herself, killing both siblings in the process, but saving Hellboy. You can’t help but feel sorry for Abe Sapien here. But after the brief scene of grief, we see that Hellboy, Liz, and Abe all quit the B.P.R.D., with Hellboy and Liz wanting to move to the country to raise their baby. Here, Liz corrects Hellboy revealing the proper term to be “babies,” being pregnant with twins. If all this isn’t a big “to be continued” sign for Hellboy 3, I don’t know what is.

Whether it is the moral theme of true humanity, the spectacular action, or the amusing characterization, there is plenty to like in this film. If you want a deviation from the typical superhero film, this is the path to take. Hellboy 2 ranks with Iron Man and Cloverfield as my favorite movies of the year.

-LOTRKing

Review of The Incredible Hulk (4 stars) June 13, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Comic Book Stuff, Other Random Stuff.
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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Note: this contains some spoilers, but I am not giving a full summary. If you want full spoilers of this movie, please go here. For those wanting my original “spoiler-less” review, please go here.

While Incredible Hulk is obviously not as good as Iron Man, it still provides an entertaining movie experience for both the comic fan and casual movie-goer. The movie quickly cuts to the chase as we see Hulk’s fairly well known origin story as a series of flashbacks during the main titles (with a few Easter eggs scattered around). The story here moves into three acts, each culminating in a Hulk attack.

The first act features Banner in Brazil as he works to find a cure, consulting with a mysterious “Mr. Blue” via the internet, and supporting himself by working at a local soda bottling factory. In an accident, Bruce’s blood drips into a soda bottle later to be shipped to the USA and drunk by an unsuspecting civilian (Stan Lee no less!) After Stan gets “Gamma poisoning,” General Ross is able to locate Bruce and sends in a strike team, including soldier Emil Blonsky, to capture him. Along the way, we also get Bruce’s humorous blunder as he tries to say his tagline in Portuguese: “Don’t make me hungry, you won’t like it when I’m hungry!” (The same could be said about me! 😉 ) Here we get two very action packed scenes in a row as the soldiers chase Bruce over the rooftops of Brazil (I thought it was pretty darn suspenseful), and when the game of cat and mouse finally ends, Bruce is provoked into transforming. This first appearance of the Hulk (outside the opening credits) was very well done in that we mostly get teasings. You’d see the shadow of Hulk here and perhaps just his arm there. We don’t finally see the full Hulk until right before he escapes. Only seeing bits helped to emphasize the fear that the soldiers were experiencing by keeping us in the dark as much as they were.

In the second act, Bruce is able to make it back to the Americas and eventually reunites with Betty. While the lines shared between these two are few, the acting and body language make it obvious to the audience the pain that these two are experiencing. Craig Armstrong’s wonderful score also adds immensely to these scenes. Later, Bruce obtains the information he needs to send to “Mr. Blue,” to help find a cure, but before he gets the chance to send it, the second “Hulk out” of the movie begins as the U.S. Army attacks him on Culver Campus. This time we see Hulk full on, and there is smashing aplenty. Audience members who love to see things blow up and get destroyed will be more than appeased by this scene. Hulk also fights with Blonsky, who has been given a variant of the super-soldier formula, and unfortunately for Blonsky, “Hulk smash” every bone in his body. While this scene was visually stunning, my first major complaint of the movie comes from the “sonic cannons” used against Hulk. I realize that comic book movies use futuristic technology, it is part of the genre, but did they have to use something so cheesy looking? Sonic cannons certainly sound like a cool idea (no pun intended), but I really think they needed to redesign the look. Oh well, at least I got the pleasure of seeing Hulk smash those as well. Hulk escapes once more, this time with Betty, and we get some more trade offs between character development scenes and humorous scenes before finally moving to the third act.

Needless to say, the climax of the movie is the big showdown between Hulk and the Abomination (but not before introducing the Leader, hinting at sequel!). This scene is full to the brimming of super-powered violence as these two creatures of rage duke it out. My two favorite parts include the Hulk’s use of a police car as boxing gloves, and finally the inevitable line of “HULK SMASH!” After Hulk defeats the Abomination and goes on the run once more, we get the final scene with Ross in a bar only to be visited by Tony Stark! Tony has come to talk to Ross about Hulk because, as he says, “we’re putting a team together.” Some may complain that between these two scenes there is very little closure, but this is of course because they want to leave it wide open for a sequel.

While this movie holds a lot nods to comic book fans (and abounds in Easter eggs), it should still an enjoyable experience for action movie lovers. I realize this movie may not be everyone’s cup of tea (unlike Iron Man, which everyone I’ve talked to seemed to love), but if you normally enjoy comic book movies and/or you actually want to see the Hulk’s character done right (unlike 2003’s version), then I highly recommend this movie.

-LOTRKing

Review of Iron Man (5 stars) May 1, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Comic Book Stuff, Other Random Stuff.
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Iron Man

Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Iron Man is an action filled spectacle that will leave you begging for more. The movie opens with a bang (quite literally), as Tony experiences the explosion that will change his life within the first few minutes of the movie. After quickly showing that he has been kidnapped by Middle-Eastern terrorists, the movie jumps back in time 36 hours to show the audience who Tony Stark is, and why he was in Afghanistan in the first place. This flashback gives a humorous view into the arrogance and “jerkiness” that is Tony Stark. Robert Downey Jr. plays this part so well that you can’t help but love this egotistical jerk, instead of loathing him (which we all probably would if we were to meet him). Here we also meet the supporting characters Pepper Potts, James Rhodes, Obadiah Stane, and Jarvis (who is now a computer program).

As the movie catches back up to the present we learn that Dr. Yinsen has saved Tony’s life by installing an electromagnet in his chest, which is keeping the shrapnel from entering his heart, and he will therefore need it for the rest of his life. Together, he and Tony are commanded to build a Jericho missile (a new powerful missile invented by Tony earlier) or face death. The two agree, but secretly work on building the Mark One armor. With the explosion within the first five minutes of the movie, and the first donning of the Iron Man armor a little over a half hour after that, this movie is certainly not one to make the audience wait. Once the armor is finished, the two escape and the terrorist compound is destroyed, but not before Yinsen is killed in the attempt by the terrorists. Tony tries to fly away, but does not get too far before his armor fails and he crashes in the desert, leaving behind the pieces of the now broken suit, he walks into the desert before later being found by U.S. helicopters.

Once back in America, he vows that Stark Industries will no longer construct weapons, and later learns that Stark Industries has been making weapons deals “under the table” with several terrorist cells, including the one he was captured by. With the economic ramifications of his earlier pledge, Obadiah is left trying to explain to the rest of the company how they are still going to make profits. Tony meanwhile, improves his original designs on his armor through many humorous scenes of trial and error, and decides to use it to destroy all of his weapons that are in the hands of terrorists. The scene showing this is pure nonstop action, as he first takes on the terrorists personally (also showing that Tony is not afraid to kill) before taking on tanks, and finally as he leaves the now liberated village, he must escape from Air Force jets who have mistaken him for a hostile weapon.

As hints of a future romance are shown between Tony and Pepper, we learn that Obadiah was the one who was dealing with the terrorists and that he hired them to kill Tony. Obadiah steals the remnants and blue prints of the Mark One armor from the terrorists to design his own Iron Monger armor. When Pepper learns of this by stealing the information from Obadiah’s computer, the movie enters its final act as Pepper, along with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, attempt to arrest Obadiah, who then enters the Iron Monger armor to take them down. Iron Man enters to save the day, and we get an epic downtown brawl, reminiscent of last years’ Transformers, between the two. Iron Man, of course ends up winning, and this leads to mass media’s knowledge of his existence. Later, Tony calls a press conference, and, with the help of S.H.I.E.L.D., decides to cover up any ties between himself and Iron Man, only to change his mind halfway through and reveal the truth: “I am Iron Man.” Cue credits. This was the perfect and unexpected ending to the movie, leaving the door wide open for a sequel, but if this wasn’t enough, we still have the scene after the credits. Here, Tony enters his house to find Nick Fury (in the form of Samuel L. Jackson, no less!) who wants to talk about the “Avengers Initiative,” opening up to a whole different kind of “sequel.” Overall, this movie was absolutely pleasing, as both a comics fan and a movie fan. This is potentially (though I will need more time to decide) the best superhero film yet, and is a definite must no matter what kind of movies you like.

Please leave comments!

-LOTRKing

Review of Superhero Movie (0 stars) March 28, 2008

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Overall rating: 0 out of 5 stars

I’ve never seen Epic Movie, nor any of the Scary Movies, and I have no desire to. But when I saw the trailer for this, I thought two things: one, it looks insanely funny, two, it will probably have several little “Easter egg” jokes that only comic books readers will get. Boy was I wrong. I watched this movie last night (one of the perks of working at a movie theatre) and I was utterly depressed. The movie completely lacked humor. It was pretty much the exact same story as the first Spider-Man movie, but with a different superhero and villain. There were a few jokes that made fun of some superhero movies (only Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Batman Begins), but those were few and far between, and for the most part, not that funny. The central focus of the movie was just a bunch of sex jokes. So the quick summary of the movie would be “Spider-Man, with tasteless sex jokes.” And not only was the making fun of actual superhero movies kept to an absolute minimum, there was absolutely no reference to comics at all, nor any of the “inside jokes” I was expecting. I’d be surprised if the writers of the script were smart enough to know what a comic book was, much less ever read one. So, to anyone like myself who expected a movie that could appreciate and make fun of some of the quirkiness of comics, prepare to be utterly disappointed. You’d be much more entertained (if I do say so myself) reading my own “Batman Meets Marvel,” or even better, the “Marvel/DC” parodies on YouTube (which aren’t mine, of course, and are insanely hilarious). Do NOT waste your money on this movie (I’m glad I didn’t), as it was written with a brain dead audience in mind; people that would laugh and say “Haha! They just made a joke about sex! Ha ha ha!” I can’t imagine that anyone with an IQ of over 42 could possibly enjoy this movie.

Please leave comments!

-LOTRKing