Movie Review: The INCREDIBLE HULK

Leave a comment

incredible hulkUniversal Pictures
2008
PG-13

“I’ve had missions go wrong, and seen good people go down all because someone didn’t tell them what they were walking into. I moved on because that’s the job, and that’s what we do. But this…this is a whole new level of weird, and I don’t think I want to step away from it.”

The second film in the big Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it wasn’t exactly the big blockbuster that Iron Man turned out to be. Mind you, this was the second attempt to bring the Jade Giant to the big screen, five years after Ang Lee’s version with Eric Bana, Nick Nolte and giant mutated poodles. Among other things. And while this kind-of sequel to that Hulk movie got much more right with the characters and the story on this go-round, it still wasn’t the SMASH! we were expecting. See what I did, there?

Pointless bit of personal backstory: The night I went to watch The Incredible Hulk, it was part of the bachelor party I threw as Best Man for my friends. We had just spent a couple of hours at the nearby Buffalo Wild Wings, so almost all of us were nicely buzzed going into the movie. Except for me, I was the designated driver. So, maybe we enjoyed the movie more than we would normally. That doesn’t factor in my enjoyment due to complete sobriety. But, anyway, enough stalling.

Scientist Bruce Banner scours the planet for an antidote to the unbridled force of rage within him: the Hulk. But when the military masterminds who dream of exploiting his powers force him back to civilization, he finds himself coming face to face with a new, deadly foe.

I can see why a lot of people didn’t enjoy The Incredible Hulk. Technically, this was a reboot that worked also as a sequel, but was its own movie…stay with me, here. I liked the way they did a bit of a retro-summary of 2003’s The Hulk with the opening montage segment. The story itself was compelling, and for the most part kept my attention. It was maybe a bit early to wheel in The Abomination at this point in the game, and that’s probably what dragged the last third of the movie down. Liv Tyler seemed to play Banner’s love interest Betty Ross sans any kind of emotion. And while I kind of prefered Sam Eliott in the role of General Thunderbolt Ross from The Hulk, William Hurt does a rather good job in the role himself. Three times, so far.

Overall, yeah, I enjoyed The Incredible Hulk for what it is: a fun comic book action movies. Norton did a doable job as Bruce Banner, but I really am a Mark Ruffalo fan when it comes to live action portrayal of Dr. Bruce Banner. The Incredible Hulk isn’t a bad movie, and I would give it some repeat watchings if the opportunity arises, I’m just in no hurry to put it in my collection just yet.

Movie Review: X-MEN: Apocalypse

Leave a comment

x-men_-_apocalypse20th Century Fox
2016
PG-13

“I’m just saying Empire is still the best. It’s the most complex, the most sophisticated. Wasn’t afraid to have a dark ending.”
“Yeah but come on, if it wasn’t for the first one, you wouldn’t have any of the rest of the movies.”
“Well, at least we can all agree the third one’s always the worst.”

Worshiped as a god since the dawn of civilization, the immortal Apocalypse becomes the firt and most powerful mutant. Awakening after thousands of years, he recruits the disheartened Magneto and other mutants to create a new world order. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Professor X and Raven lead a team of young X-Men to stop the seemingly invincible nemesis from destroying mankind.

It’s been another two years, and here we are at the third movie in the second X-Men trilogy, this are set in the 1980s and involving the Apocalypse storyline.

Of all the comic book exploits that have been adapted for the big screen for Marvel’s Merry Mutants, the one involving the oldest mutant Apocalypse is the one I’m least familiar with. I’m not completely ignorant of the story arc, just not as much as the Days Of Future Past story. So it was, going in to watch this movie with the other Exalted Geeks (we then recorded a podcast about it, right here), I didn’t have a very high expectation, except for having it as good a quality as both First Class and Days Of Future Past.

X-Men: Apocalypse seems to continue on in the grand Hollywood tradition of having the third in the trilogy be the one that’s either underwhelming or outright sucking so hard no light can escape its event horizon. Fortunately, this one only falls under the former category, meaning that while I found the movie entertaining enough, it just didn’t feel up to the level that the previous two entries in the series were.

And yes, I realize they lampshaded this in the movie itself (see above quote).

The story involves a millennia old mutant that, over the eons, has been worshiped as a god in older cultures. His secret to staying alive for so very long? Well, it’s not exactly living right, not smoking or drinking, and exercising daily, let’s just say. Eventually, he’s finally betrayed by the ancient Egyptian empire he was lording over, and was entombed until some FBI agent accidentally lets him loose in 1983. Apocalypse decides that humanity has lost its way, and thus sets out to destroy the world and remake it into his own image, gathering together his “Four Horsemen” (of course), which includes Magneto, who recently discovered how true the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished” is. Meanwhile, in upstate New York, Professor Xavier has his own hands full with some new entries in his school for gifted children, when rumblings of this ancient mutant’s desire to do an episode of Extreme Makeover: Planet Earth Edition comes through (among other things), and he has to band together his X-Men to try and take down a god. Easy peasy.

Overall, there’s a lot to like about X-Men: Apocalypse. The visuals were up to the high standard, yes, the interaction between the characters were stellar, and I didn’t really see too many anachronism to the period it was set in. Mainly, the use of the Metallica tune, “The Four Horsemen”; while very much apropos (it played over a scene where Apocalypse was recruiting one of his Horsemen), I don’t know exactly which month this is set in the year 1983, and thus have no idea if the scene in question was set before July of 1983, which is when Kill ‘Em All–the album “The Four Horsemen” appear on–was released, and thus have no fuel for my NERD RAGE!!1! On the other hand, favorite scene, hands down. Also, I feel that this is the one time in all the series where they got the right person to play Storm.

But, when it’s all said and done, X-Men: Apocalypse felt like a lot of build up to a bit of a let-down. For a mutant with aspirations of destroying the entire planet and rebuilding from scratch, there wasn’t a lot of that to be had. At least, not in the “oh, crap, we’re boned” sense that I had with Days Of Future Past. That, and the fact that the method of bringing Magneto back to the dark side was rather arbitrary.

That all said, in the end X-Men: Apocalypse is a good movie for pure sci-fi escapism. It’s an X-Men movie, what more can I really say? If you like the X-Men movies, you’re gonna like this one.

Movie Review: DEADPOOL

Leave a comment

deadpool20th Century Fox
2016
R

I’m gonna do to your face what Limp Bizkit did to music in the late 90s!

Based upon Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, Deadpool tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.

Finally. Finally finally finally. After having our collective intelegence insulted with the mishandling of the Merc with a Mouth (actually, technically “Wade Wilson”, not really “Deadpool”, but still) in the cinematic wet fart that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and what constituted as several years of wishy-washy commitment issues from the studios, we long-time Deadpool fans finally have a movie that not only gets the character right, but goes well beyond our expectations on what a good, proper Deadpool movie would be. And considering that this was delivered by the Fox studios (the ones who gave us those wonderful Fantastic 4 movies, among others), I’m fully expecting to see pigs flying in the near future.

You see, I’m in a rather awkward position; I want to go on about the film, about how good it is and all that, but…I also don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who (for some reason I cannot fathom at the moment) hasn’t seen the film yet. So, assuming you haven’t seen it yet, lemme try and shove you off of that fence you’ve been straddling:

For one thing, you’ll be laughing within the first few seconds of the movie. The very opening credits had me and the rest of the theater howling at the way it sets up the irreverent and subversive nature of the movie. And the entire movie is chock full of this kind of funny stuff: the writing is fantastic, the actors’ delivery is impeccable, and there’s so much that I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to watch this again, just to catch whatever I may have missed this one time. Unlike a lot of other comic book-based movies, I’m actually well acquainted with the Deadpool comics (Joe Kelly’s run being my favorite), and I’m proud to say that this Deadpool movie stays very true to that character. Ryan Reynolds is spot-on, and while there are a few tweaks made with the movie version, overall this was a very well-made origin story for the Merc with a Mouth.

I’m going to have to stop there. You have no idea how much I want to go on about this movie. But, I shan’t. I will say, though, that Deadpool well earns that “R” rating, and is not for the squeamish and/or easily offended. Buuuut, if you were familiar with Deadpool, you’d probably know this. That said, Deadpool is awesome, and you really should see it. I’m very picky about which movies I’ll see in the theaters, and it’s rare that I’ll want to see a movie in the theater again after that. Deadpool is a movie I want to see again in the theater. That should tell you something.

Movie Review: FROM HELL

Leave a comment

from hell20th Century Fox
2001
R

“Laudanum is a derivative opium. Apart from doctors and addicts, not many would be able to detect it. How long have you been chasing the dragon, Inspector?”

It is 1888 in London, and the unfortunate poor lead horrifying lives in the city’s deadliest slum, Whitechapel. Harassed by gangs and forced to walk the streets for a living, Mary Kelly and her small group of companions trudge on through this daily misery, their only consolation being that things can’t get any worse. Yet things somehow do when their friend Ann is kidnapped and they are drawn into a conspiracy with links higher up than they could possibly imagine. The kidnapping is soon follwoed by the gruesome murder of another woman, Polly, and it becomes apparent that they are being hunted down, one by one. Sinister even by Whitechapel standards, the murder grabs the attention of Inspector Fred Abberline, a brilliant yet troubled man whose police work is often aided by his psychic abilities. Abberline becomes deeply involved with the case, which takes on personal meaning to him when he and Mary begin to fall in love…

In the first couple of years into the 21st Century, there seemed to have been a bit of a mini-explosion of neo-Gothic style horror movies hitting the theater. I don’t know whether it was deliberate; what I do know is, from between the years 1999 through about 2001 or so, the styles and feel, if not the actual settings, hearkened back to the Hammer and William Castle style of Gothic movies and such. From Hell happened to be one of those movies.

Little bit of back story: From Hell was originally a serial that ran between the years 1989 and 1996, by uber-writer Alan Moore and artist Eddie Campbell, that speculated on the identity of Jack the Ripper. You might have heard of him? Anyway, the original serial was collected in 1999 in a massive trade paperback. And in 2001, the Hughes Brothers team of movie magic makers presumably saw the title in a bookstore, scanned over the back cover descript, and decided to make a movie “loosely based” on this funnybook serial. Seriously, I remember reading an interview with the directors, where they pretty much said they gave approximately no f-bombs as to whether or not the comic fans find their movie to be faithful or not. I have yet to actually read that collected book; from my understanding, though, given the complexities of the finished product, any kind of adaptation would have been nigh-impossible. And, even if they did do a fantastic job in making it exactly like the source material, Alan Moore would have hated it anyway. Tis the Bearded One’s nature.

Anyway, as a movie, From Hell is a slow burning Victorian Gothic mystery, searching for the identity of Jack the Ripper, and possibly uncovering more than the detectives were bargaining for. The story takes its times, weaves back and forth, and finally leaving you with more questions than answers, really. Heather Graham was a surprising choice, given that I didn’t really buy her as one of the prostitutes on Whitechapel (she had to be the cleanest 19th Century whore going), while Johnny Depp was…well, he was at his Depp-iest, kind of a nifty precursor to his star turn as Captain Jack Sparrow to come. The visuals were great, nice and dark and atmospheric, and set the tone perfectly for the time period. However, what could have been really good only turned out to be just good. I never really thought that it was going to be a mind-blower, but still felt a bit underwhelmed when the end credits rolled. Otherwise, overall, From Hell is a good period mystery thriller, and worth checking out some night.

Movie Review: DREDD

Leave a comment

1-7 - Movie Review: DREDDLionsgate
2013
R

“Welcome to the inside of your head. It’s kind of empty in here.”

The America of the post-apocalyptic future is an irradiated wasteland, a vast, ultraviolent world where criminals control the mean city streets. Ultimate law enforcers like Dredd and his new partner, Anderson, are Judges-the only force battling for justice. Dispatched by the central authority, the Judges’ target is Ma-Ma, a ruthless boss bent on expanding her criminal empire through sales of Slo-Mo, a dangerous reality-altering drug. With Dredd calling the shots, the two Judges declare full-scale war on crime in this unrelenting and brutal thrill ride.

If there was any movie that needed a good revamp, it was this one right here. My history with this particular property is what you would call nominal – first heard about this cult favorite sci-fi comic book character by way of the song “I Am The Law” by Anthrax, then watched the 1995 movie adaptation starring Sylvester “I am da’ LAW!” Stalone, which was, like a lot of comic book based action movies in the 1990s, entertaining for all the wrong intended reasons. So then the 2013 adaptation – simply titled Dredd – came out, and since I was once again getting rather burned out by the recent crop of comic book-based action movies (not to mention remakes in general), I passed on the initial theatrical run, and even the DVD rental, despite the gushing praise my fellow interwebs critics were heaping on this. So, when I finally saw this on the streaming, I decided to give this movie a proper watch. In proper jaded fashion, I hit play, sat back, and prepared to be underwhelmed.

Just to recap the background story (which is done for you by way of voiceover narration in the beginning of the film), it’s the post-Apocalyptic future, and humanity dwells in urban superstructures known as Megacities. Crime is rampant, as happens when billions of people are crammed together in dirty urban sprawl like this, so the streets are patrolled by Judges – specialized law enforcement officials who act as police, judge, jury and executioner on the spot. No muss, no fuss. Put a lot of lawyers out of work, I’m sure. One such Judge – our titular Dredd – is legendary, as he seems to be a cold, hardened and emotionless enforcer of The Law, never taking off his helmet and sporting a perma-scowl and the manliest stubble this side of Miami Vice-era Don Johnson.

The story in Dredd sees the cuddly-wuddly Judge being assigned a rookie on her first outing in patrolling Megacity, a rookie that turns out to have a mutant ability that proves to be beneficial. Good thing, too, as her first day is spent being trapped with Judge Dredd inside the Peach Trees city block, locked down by the gang kingpen who oversees the manufacture of a drug called Slo-Mo, for the express purpose of offing the two Judges. Wackiness ensues, as you may have guessed by now.

I must admit, Dredd was a rather good sci-fi action flick. Having more of a claustrophobic setting – it takes place in a massive skyscraper-like building that houses over 25,000 people – the action was tense, and got rather frantic at times there. Yeah, I know the premise is hardly original. But I’ll be gigity if Dredd wasn’t entertaining, far better than the campy 1995 attempt. Karl Urban made for a much more convincing Dredd than Stallone did, and not just because his helmet stays on throughout the entire movie. And need I even have to point this out? NO ROB SCHNIDER. That alone makes it better.

Overall, I have to consent that Dredd was a rather good adaptation of the comic book, and should have gotten more love than it did upon the theatrical release. Do what I did: if it’s the bad taste of the Stalone version that’s keeping you from watching Dredd, or even if you consider the Stalone version to be the definitive film classic, get over yourselves and give Dredd a watch. You shan’t be sorry.

Heh, I just said “shan’t”.

Movie Review: ANT-MAN

Leave a comment

ant-manMarvel/Disney
2015
PG-13

I’m going to disintegrate you!”
Playing Disintegration by The Cure.”

Forced out of his own company by former protégé Darren Cross, Dr. Hank Pym recruits the talents of Scott Lang, a master thief just released from prison. Lang becomes Ant-Man, trained by Pym and armed with a suit that allows him to shrink in size, possess superhuman strength and control an army of ants. The miniature hero must use his new skills to prevent Cross, also known as Yellowjacket, from perfecting the same technology and using it as a weapon for evil.

At this point in the game, I’m just going to concede to the glaring fact that I prefer the movies over the comics Marvel is putting out nowadays. Not that I read everything Marvel released to begin with—I kept my interest in a tight Spider-Man and Deadpool circle, with occasional branching out to other random titles that caught my eyeballs at the time. Until they killed everything for me by way of that One More Day/Brand New Day, Peter-Makes-A-Deal-With-Satan-To-Reset-Continuity-Because-The-EIC-Didn’t-Like-Mary-Jane crap. Yeah, I’m still bitter about that. But anyway, with most of the Marvel stable of super-heroes, my interest in them has been largely due to the big screen adaptations of late, outside of some badly written Wikipedia article.

In the case of Ant-Man, this was another Marvel movie I initially was going to wait for the DVD release to watch, as my vested interest in the comic book hero was nil. But, so it was with Guardians Of The Galaxy, and that movie was awesome enough that I lamented not having seen it in the theaters when I had the chance. So, I decided to take advantage of the Early Bird special, where the tickets were a bit over half off the regular price, and caught Ant-Man 9am on the Saturday after its official release.

And now that I’ve taken in this movie, I have to say that, while I got a lot out of it seeing it on the big screen, I think I could have waited for the DVD release, in this instance. This is not to say that it’s a bad movie; far from it. I just found that my enjoyment of watching Ant-Man probably wouldn’t have been diminished much had I not watched it on the big screen, as opposed to the mid-sized external computer monitor screen I have in my cell at the Haunted Victorian. This is because Ant-Man is a superhero movie that’s a bit more driven by character development rather than by the special effects.

Again, don’t get me wrong, the special effects were fantastic, making very good use of embiggening the environment to make it a whole new battleground that’s normally invisible to the naked eye. These all lent to some rather entertaining fight and battle scenes here and there. But, as I said, the special effects are merely the icing on the cake, in this instance; the character development in Ant-Man was very, very well written, with the actors giving some rather good performances. Michael Douglas was a very good choice for the older Hank Pym, lending some weight to his fractured relationship with his daughter, as well as his one-time protégé and movie baddie, Darren Cross (as I’ve heard someone else in another review mention, after seeing Corey Stoll playing Cross in this movie, why he wasn’t tapped to play Lex Luthor in the upcoming Batman V. Superman movie is beyond even my level of comprehension); Paul Rudd seemed to be having some fun with the Scott Lang/Ant-Man roll, as the former convicted felon trying to find some redemption so he could be with his daughter. He could have easily went with the two-dimensional “dark, angsty antihero” portrayal, but this guy has a sense of humor, and is much more an optimist about things, which is a nice switch from the brooding we’ve been getting in superhero movies recently. But, I gotta tell you, my hands-down favorite character in this movie happens to be Scott Lang’s former cell mate/best friend/heist team member Luis. I mean, sure, this guy is merely a side character, and he’s onscreen for maybe a fraction of the time as the main guys, but if you’ve already seen this, then you would understand why I’m kinda wanting to see a story about that guy. His cadence, the way he goes about painting a verbal picture that makes you go, “wait, what?”, just made me smile whenever he came into the scene. I wanna see more of him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to come, please.

As far as the story goes, Ant-Man is basically the same structure as the first Iron Man movie, conjoined with the Batman Beyond origin and dropped into a 1960s heist caper movie. The story was engaging, at no point did I think the movie was dragging along, the effects were very well done, and outside of the obligatory Marvel Movie Universe tie-ins I found Ant-Man to be a rather good stand-alone flick without it seeming like mere filler, which was what I admittedly thought it was going to be when I heard they were making the movie months ago. Still, I maintain that, if you wish to watch it now while it’s still fresh in the theaters, make it a matinée or the Early Bird pricing, like I did. Otherwise, I wouldn’t fault you for waiting for the DVD release itself. Recommended, regardless.

Movie Review: The AVENGERS: Age Of Ultron

Leave a comment

avengers age of ultronMarvel/Disney
2015
PG-13

“I know you’re good people. I know you mean well. But you just didn’t think it through. There is only one path to peace…your extinction.”

When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to the Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for a global adventure.

Okay, so three years and four additional Marvel Universe movies have passed since the first Avengers movie blew this fanboy back into his seat in the theater and made him believe that a big-scale ensemble sci-fi action movie based on a comic book that I was familiar with but never really read could not only be made into an entertaining and engaging action flick, but could do so competently and succeed in not making it suck harder than a rouge black hole. To say the anticipation leading up to the opening of the long-planned sequel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series of movies was as epic as the movie itself would be no hyperbole. The stakes seemed bigger–they were bringing in one of their biggest enemies in Ultron, who was being voiced by James Spader, and the trailers promised a showdown between Iron Man and the Hulk that was making fanboys and fangirls everywhere squee with delight. So when I finally plopped down in my theater seat for a Saturday afternoon matinée with the rest of the Exalted Geeks, my expectations were pretty high. That was unavoidable, really. Did The Avengers: Age Of Ultron manage to give me that same fanboy joygasm like last time? Well…yes and no. More yes than no. I’ll explain in a bit.

Also, I’m going to try my darnedest to not feature spoilers in this review, but no promises. Here we go…

The story of Age Of Ultron starts off with the Avengers infiltrating what is said to be the final Hydra stronghold, where they recover Loki’s staff. Tony decides to take a look at it because SCIENCE!, and while doing so inadvertently creates Ultron, who skips over Childlike Wonderment and goes directly to Existential Quandry mode, and decides to wipe out all of humanity and repopulate the Earth with a bunch of Ultron robots. Or something like that. Meanwhile, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch show up sporting a massive hate-on for Tony Stark (who doesn’t, really?), and join up with Ultron to strike back at Tony and the gang. The Avengers get their collective butts handed to them, Ultron takes the remaining supply of Vibranium and heads out to the same fortress where they were holding Loki’s staff, then heads out to Korea to have a new suit tailor made for him by SCIENCE! The Avengers show up and interrupt before Ultron could finish, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch decide to side up with the Avengers when they realize finally that they were working with an INSANE ROBOT, JARVIS gets a new look, an entire city is taken on a joyride, things go boom, and the whole thing ends with some of the members going off to brood while Captain America and Black Widow are left to train a bunch of newbies for the sequel. The end.

Overall, The Avengers: Age Of Ultron was just as massively epic and entertaining as the first Avengers movie. Once again, the script was crafted nicely, with some great action sequences, fantastically witty dialogue (it’s Joss Whedon, what would you expect?), and some surprising character developments to a couple of supporting team members. Mind you, one such development between a couple of characters seemed to just come out of nowhere, and I still don’t think I can buy it completely. I’ll leave everyone to guess which one I’m talking about. The other one…well, it’s about bloody time that guy got some meaty development. And while the action scenes were great, the best parts of this movie, in my not-so-humble-opinion, were the ones where the team was just interacting with each other outside of the action. All of these larger-than-life characters, just sitting and chilling, chatting with each other. I could have watched an entire movie of just that, and I would have enjoyed it.

As a villain, Ultron could have been much more menacing than what he was. Mind you, when he first made his physical appearance, he was in the shadows and was genuinely creepy as all get-out. Then…*sigh* I think it was the decision to CGI animate his face that took a lot of the scary out of him. Like with Optimus Prime in the live action Transformers movies, seeing Ultron with a mouth that moved in a rather Uncanny Valley sort of way made me have to look past that to enjoy the movie. Ultron’s killbot army were designed much more effectively, and why they didn’t go with that for the face is a mystery to me. And speaking of CGI issues, the first ten or fifteen minutes or so of the movie, the big opening action sequence is kind of…I wouldn’t say sub-par, but it’s rather obvious with the animated heroes and such. But, it won’t kill the entire experience, trust me.

In the end, The Avengers: Age Of Ultron was a very good way to kick off the 2015 Summer Movie Season. It had its problems, yes, but so did the first Avengers movie, one could argue some of the same ones. But, I went in expecting a big, over-the-top action movie with a smart script, and emerged from the theater satisfied with the results. I highly recommend catching this on the big screen when you can.

Older Entries