Tuesday, July 28, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You (2.6.2009)

Director: Ken Kwapis Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Ginnifer Goodwin Co-Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper Watch for: Foreshadowing scenery and storyline crossovers. Editor(s): Cara Silverman Would I Buy It: Just to have an example of what "girly" movies should strive to be. It surprised me. I rented it via Netflix for my girlfriend and I to watch. It was appealing to me for a few simple reasons: Jennifer Connelly, Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Anniston in conjunction with Justin Long and Ben Affleck (who did a bit better this time around), though this is not the order in which they are billed. However, the marketing people want you to think this movie is about Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck and Drew Barrymore. They're in there (Drew least of all), but it's not. It's really about all of them. Not about their specific characters, either, but the character which each of them represent. As it turns out, "Gigi", played by an a previously unbeknown to me Ginnifer Goodwin, leads us through this drama which exemplifies every single way your average "chick flick" could play out. And I say let us be done with the genre forever!! I'm dreaming. However, there were... let me count... five women and four men that this film focused on, however over the course of it we were introduced and walked through several relationships at different phases. Breaking it down, because I was having trouble keeping up at certain points (and my girlfriend would quite frequently point a couple minutes after a scene started and say things like "Oh, he was the guy from the beginning with her!"), let's go one at a time here. Jennifer Connelly (Janine) -> Married to Bradley Cooper (Ben) Jennifer Anniston (Beth) -> 7-year relationship with Ben Affleck (Neil), she wonders if he'll ever pop the question. Ginnifer Goodwin (Gigi) -> Hopeless Perfected. Co-Worker to the Jennifers. Obsessed with every man who talks to her (while at a bar?), and even meets a seemingly wise bartender/manager in Justin Long (Alex). Scarlett Johansson (Anna) -> The temptress. Not sure if she wants Kevin Connolly (Conor) or the stranger she recently met at the checkout (Ben again). Drew Barrymore (Mary) -> The e-Dater. Consumed by electronics, works in advertising. Afraid of the real world aside from her fair allotment of, I apologize if I'm allowed to use this term, fag hags. Although, her story is the one that works into the plot the least. She's an modern-day-commentary-aside, at best. And, just to be clear: Ben and Neil are friends. Alex and Conor are friends (possibly ex-roommates?). Janine, Beth and Gigi all work together, Anna teaches yoga where Gigi takes the occasional class, Mary is Conor's ad rep and just to make sure it feels like a romantic comedy, there's some gay guys that show up here and there for flavor. And I think I'm forgetting some of the connections. So basically, there are maybe 20 people that live in this city. Moving on. If you took any one of these women, you could (or there already has been) a movie made about their love life. However, seeing as this was a 129 minute film (Aha! RomComs are usually close to 90 minutes!), the time was less-than-evenly split between them. There were some warmup scenes in the beginning, but overall we got the juicy bits. All the relationshippy parts of the romcoms engulf the movie, cutting out all the usual crap you see pasted over the TV spots in the Oprah timeslots. And while if you're not prepared for it, which I wasn't, keeping up can be a little bit maddening. The cutest, most endearing moment of the film belongs to (I'll admit it, my favorite actress) Jennifer Connelly. After discovering, for herself and the audience, that her husband is in fact a complete lying sack of shit (he looked her right in the EYES, man), she begins throwing his stuff down the stairs and breaks a mirror. She stares at it in awe and walks out of the room. Then, instead of the scene ending, she returns with a broom and dustpan. If you were watching her character at all, your heart just breaks for her in that moment. Connelly showed us the dramatic couple with the failing marriage. Aniston showed us the couple that "should" (look for the poster) be together for good, but the dude doesn't quite know it yet. Ginifer is the romcom cliche we all paid to see based on their TV spots. Scarlett has actually done this role before, only in Match Point and that one ends quite differently (this is kind of how I knew he was a liar, but that's neither here nor there). She plays the girl who's with a guy but meets another guy but that guy turns out to be a big fat liar so she ends up with nobody. If you haven't seen Match Point, go check out how different a direction they take that story in. I'm still not over it. Ms. Barrymore plays another romcom cliche, basically Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail and Hitch all rolled into one. Long distance initiation. And through all of this, along with some cutaways to "interviews", which I at first pegged as a ripoff to the When Harry Met Sally format, but thinking about it later reveals it to be a tool of foreshadowing, as well as some titles which I assume were chapters in a book this was based on (I really have no idea), we somehow got a complete film. My only problem is that I went in thinking it was going to be girl wants a guy, spends the whole movie trying to get to that first kiss. Boy, is that far from it. Ginnifer, yes, but this is a serious drama, with some mild humor that you enjoy but don't need to burst out laughing for, exemplifying what film has shown the modern city girl to expect for every relationship she goes through. It's not a straight road, there's a few different forks you can get off at, but overall the message here is that we are programmed to expect something, but relationships are their own self-fulfilling prophecies. I actually have to watch this again, but this is the general idea they sold me on. So much happens in this film, there's no way I caught it all the first time through. However, it impressed me with it's intelligence, even though at times it does get caught up within the romcom drama/comedic style, but it always brought itself right back to speed. It made me guess as to what would happen next a lot and unlike Will Smith having an allergic reaction or Sandra Bullock falling all over herself again, it kept me guessing. It took wild turns, despite all of it's regular developments that ran along side them in other storylines. And the ending, an ending to contest only with Return of the King for screentime, wraps up all the relationships in just about every way any RomCom date movie ever could. And I've barely even heard a word about this film from anywhere else. Talk to the marketing people.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tron Legacy: Grid Concept Test

This is a teaser trailer more than any sort of effects test. A "proof of concept" probably best describes it. Most effects tests I've seen simply feature the effect. Throwing in the dramatic music and appearance from Jeff Bridges is what makes it a teaser. And I am teased. I've been a Tron fan for about five years now. I caught wind of it in my early college years and decided to buy the 20th Anniversary DVD on a whim and have loved it ever since. Soon after came the Tron 2.0 video game (which I can't get to work on my computer lately, for some reason) and that pretty much sealed the deal for me. It's a great universe and I love that they're bringing it back with all of our modern CGI glory. However, the question remains that since this is a proof of concept, how much of what we saw will actually be in the film? I assume they'll use all of it, or update the scene and do it again. One forum-goer commented on the animation being terrible. If he means in terms of movement from the characters, I guess I could see where he's coming from. It really hasn't bothered me for the year I've been watching this in a grainy, low-res YouTube camcorder version, and getting the high-def version this week has kept pretty much the same feel for it. I think if they kept the rest of the film of this quality, they'd still have a hit on their hands. He's prolly just an animator being picky, lol. Another forum friend commented:
According to the universe of TRON, the lightcycle stuff takes place in an electronic reality, which is what they're trying to get away with here - and in the first TRON, it was so ghetto and ridiculous and groundbreaking that you could buy that. (Plus, that wasn't unlike what video games actually looked like at that point in history.) These days, this doesn't represent what we assume "the inside of a video game" to look like - if anything, it looks like the current trend in cell phone commercials. It might be something you completely forget about in the context of the film (or, you know, not), but as a picture, it's only compelling as an exercise in motion graphics.
One thing I've wondered about in the first Tron is just how this world inside a computer works. Humanoid programs baffles our logical thinking minds, I'm not even sure where exactly this world exists. Within electric signals? Beneath the circuits? Does the world disappear when you shut down your computer for the night? And on that note, would every computer system or network look like this? I like to think the look of Tron as we know it is how the computer world looks in terms of the Encom computer system. Basically, in the Master Control Program's system and everything it has appropriated, this is how things look. Maybe part of the MCP's reason for cracking into all the other networks is to expand his own world. A digital Death Star which, rather than destroying other systems, it conforms it's own format. Now, say you were back in 1982 and were sucked into the computer world of a different company, like Microsoft. I bet you'd still have glowing program people, but since Microsoft hadn't invented Space Paranoids and the like, their system would likely revolve around Windows logos and helpful paper clips. So with that understanding, bring the wayback machine to present day and imagine Encom has kept the rights to Lightcycle and updated the game. If the impact of their work in the real world alters the look/existence of the computer world, then this is probably how it would look, regardless of Lucasarts and Activision's graphics of the day (tho I'd like to get a look at THEIR computer worlds). This is just a theory, but if I'm true and that's how they're explaining it, I think they should spend a little time in the film having a character find him/herself in another system. Anyway, just fan conjecture at this point. The teaser itself has many things worth noting. First off, the updated graphics are amazing. I mean, there's reflections of the lightcycles in the enemy's jetwall. I love that they're taking the black look of the film and turning those surfaces into a glass-like material. That's how Tron 2.0 was, though not nearly as reflective. When you broke things in that game, it was like shattering glass. Actually, I guess that's kind of how it looked in the old movie too, just a much lower res version of it. The one thing I'm not quite keen on is the updated outfits. However, I'm theorizing this is just a lightcycle uniform. My problem is that it just looks like a leather jumpsuit with some tube lights run through it. The outfits in the original really felt like the glow was coming from within the person, rather than just being an accessory on their uniform. However, if this is just sort of a combat armor for lightcycles, then it'll probably be fine. The updated helmet is a pretty neat idea. It looks like they're making it work like a monitor. The way we see it looks like a face inside a helmet, but it looks like they're trying to show that the headpiece is just a really fancy screen. The digital young Jeff Bridges turns his 'monitor face' on and off. Rather than having a face like a human, perhaps it's considered to be more of an interactive display through which they communicate. So, a digital face, but not a face? If you look closely, you can see a bit of pixelation over their faces, which suggests monitor. The really interesting thing is that this same effect seems to have been applied to Jeff Bridges as well. Hmmm. The film's not out yet, so I will put a a SPOILER WARNING here: The action was cool, the sound was excellent (I love the sound of the "tires" landing on the glass) and the teaser did a really good job of showing us what they're selling without really giving away much of anything. I read online that the "evil" Jeff Bridges is likely the de-rezzed CLU program from early in the first film. It'll be fun to see how he got re-rezzed. The part that I'm sure most people are wondering about is Fung Shui Jeff up in his little mountain condo. In the video cam leaked version, I couldn't see most of the details present in the scene. I didn't know he had beads on his hand, nor did I see the decor. It just looked like he was in pajamas in a white room. The theory that popped into my head today is that he's CLU's prisoner. A vengeful/mad program might just take it upon himself to capture his user. Maybe he's trying to become as powerful as Flynn was in the first film, or maybe even escape out into the real world. I'm wondering if the gate the blue program was racing toward was somewhat significant. He shouts "You won, okay? It's just a game!" Perhaps the goal of this game is to reach the palace-looking thing without being stopped by CLU. And many programs try, and Flynn is left in his pseudo real world prison to watch CLU dominate his opponents. Pure speculation, but I'm interested to see just how right I am, if at all. I can't wait for this movie. Just based on this teaser and the snippets of info I've read on the net, this thing is going to be geek-tastic.
For more news on Tron Legacy, I recommend visiting the official site: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/tron/ Just kidding. They'll never tell you much, it'll just be a good place for some desktop wallpapers. I've been going to: http://www.tron-sector.com/ Also, for some quality Tron fanfilm hilarity, check out: http://www.youtube.com/TronReboot

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (6.25.09)

Director: Michael Bay Starring: Shia LeBeouf, Megan Fox, Peter Cullen, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson Co-Starring: John Turturro, Ramon Roderiguez, Watch for: Repeat vehicle modes, G1 nods. Editor(s): Roger Barton, Tom Muldoon, Joel Negron, Paul Rubell Would I Buy It: I'll have the action scenes on repeat. The one thing I know is going to happen while I write this review is that I'm going to forget something I wanted to mention. This movie was long. I don't mean long as in dragged on, but it was so jam packed with robot awesomeness that there's no way I'm going to remember all of it after my one viewing last night. Some of my internet colleagues came back and commented merely on a weak story and robo-testicles. Let not the nay-sayers sway thee, there's SO much more than that. The one thing I think I have on them is a sense of humor akin to Michael Bay's. I don't think I'd make the same jokes as him, but I'm guessing he and I laugh at the same stuff. I don't understand why it's okay to have a Scottish robot, or whatever else, but the minute you cross the color barrier people freak out. Sure, Skids and Mudflap could be annoying, fine. Call them a stereotype and I shall point you towards every single summer blockbuster character in history. Nobody balked at the late great Bernie Mac as the mom-hating, less-than-reputable car salesmen who pronounced it "Alabammy". And let's not forget the FBI takedown at "grandma's house", but face it. You thought it was hilarious when the cousin slammed through the sliding door, despite all the "COPS"-laden imagery it evoked. However, the moment it's a voice behind a CG creation rather than an actor playing out the stereotype, people cry racist. They make these characters because people identify with them. Maybe YOU don't, but I'm betting you there's people in the audience either like them, or that know someone who is. Or that laugh because it's a more ridiculous take on their personality, like Sam might be to a strung out nerdy guy. As far as Skids and Mudflap, they actually remind me of a couple co-workers I used to have that worked (GASP) the dish tank at a restaurant. Though I'm pretty sure they could read. They made me laugh. The bots made the audience laugh. Did I hear anyone talking about how offensive it was on their way out? What do you think? Anyway. I've been reading up on the various characters in the movie as my girlfriend and I have been collecting the toys. Our rule is to only get characters featured in the films themselves (tho I did get her the Scout-Class Dirt Boss to put in a small matching bouquet of flowers when I picked her up to go see the movie. She got the biggest kick out of it). We got a few of them before the movie came out, one of which sparked up my attention: The Decepticons are not creative individuals. Either that, or this movie learned a lot from Hasbro. There are repaints featured in this film. Hasbro does it when they have a decent looking toy they think they can make more money off of, so they'll make one in a different color scheme, slap a new name on it and wait for the cash to roll in. This is part of the reason the g/f and I agreed movie characters only, cuz it'd be so easy to throw down $10 here and $20 there on cool variants (The G1-styled movie Jazz was tempting). In 'Revenge', I noticed multiple 'repaints', so I did a little homework to figure out just how many there were: 1) Grindor, the helicopter. The first Transformer we see in the original movie, then known as "Blackout". 2) Bonecrusher. Only seen in his vehicle mode from an aerial shot. I think he was just filling up space to make the attack look larger. 3) Scrapper. This isn't a repaint, but according to Wikipedia, there are three of him in this movie. And no robot mode to be seen. 4) Demolisher, the vertical wheelbot, was killed in the beginning, right? Be kinda hard to make Devastator without him, though. I think the second one is called "Scavenger". 5) Rampage is another re-paint. He's the yellow bulldozer for Devastator, but he's red in robot mode fighting Bumblebee. 6) The Twins got an alternate mode for the first scene, which you could argue is so they could sell one more toy. It could be that, but the other theory is to establish that Transformers can combine so when certain, more important, characters do it later, you won't jump out of your seat and call shenanigans. Again, that is. That's all I remember for now. Not sure if there's more. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of new and unique bots as well, but it does seem like a bit of lazy storywriting if they copy/paste designs instead of just making a character and commiting them to the plot points they need him for, rather than killing him off for kicks and saying "It's okay, there's another one for this scene". So that kinda bugged me. However, we have the yellow Rampage toy. If they release a red one... there may be temptation. I'm such a TF tool. Carrying on, say what you want about "the Boof" and Foxy Megan... I think their acting is fine. To every internet hater, who hates just to hate, I want to look them in their squinty, monitor-filled glasses-hidden eyes and say "You do it". If someone can give me a legitimate reason, other than "they suck", I'll be glad to listen. Until then, I think they did pretty well for the script they were given. It ain't Shakespeare, folks. It's a robot movie. The plot was reminiscent of the 80's animated Transformers, but with a lot of changes too. For one, Megatron wasn't renamed Galvatron (coughTOSELLTOYScough). That could be due to plot, it could've been a toy guy decision. They brought him back with an Allspark fragment, using spare parts from one of the Scrappers (get it?), whereas in the animated he was completely revamped by Unicron, who gave him his new name. The deep submergent Constructicons just wanted their leader back, so he woke up and was still Megatron. The other main theme from the animated was the Matrix of Leadership. Now, I confess to having not seen the older film in a while, but I'm pretty sure this was originally found within Optimus, released when he died. Eventually, Rodimus Prime got it? To Mega/Galvatron it was like Mjolnir. He tried to open it, but no matter how hard he pulled, he couldn't. You have to be worthy of the Matrix (, Neo). So it's cool they incorporated that, though I'm still trying to understand how Sam collected every littte piece of dust from when it collapsed. Even the layman's gonna think of that, that was a rather weak moment. "Cybertronian tech, don't worry about it" just doesn't work for me. There's something about summer action movies where these things become somewhat acceptable. I do think they rushed TF2 out of the box a little bit. The action was great, CGI was awesome. We got some more "bots only" scenes, which they really could and should do more of. I understand the human element, but there's something about scenes, like Optimus finding the co-ordinates of the cube in the first film, or Megatron reuniting with Starscream and the Fallen in this film, that are so... cool. That makes it feel more like a live-action Transformers than any scene with Sam or anyone ever does. When we go get a third, I want more. Send a few of them on their own mission, or something. We don't always need a bot paired with a human for a scene to feel real. I don't really feel a need to comment on the action. You saw it. You know why I like it. Even people who hate the movie said the action was cool. I got what I paid for. I think what this movie is guilty of is trying to cram too much in. Yes, Transformers have disguises so that they can hide or infiltrate our society. So the Terminatrix, Alice? Apparently she's a really, really detailed Decepticon. With a tongue that can't change, though every other piece of skin can. Aside from a momentary bicker between Sam and Mikaela, she was unnecessary. They should've either worked her in more and had her try to gain Sam's trust, thus leading her/the Decepticons to the Matrix and THEN reveal she was evil and maybe have 'Bee or the Twins smash her up. "Wouldn't the autobots have detected her" and "I knew she was bad!" are far lesser evils than using a unique character for two scenes and killing her off. Whatever happened to the ball bearing/paper-thin bot, too? I did like that the tiny bots were basically scouts and that Soundwave was sort of the carrier craft for them. He had the same role in the show, but he walked around with everyone else. Having him as sort of a spy/backup craft was a nice touch. Hopefully we'll get to see him in action in the future, but teasing him for now was cool. They had enough bad guys to kill in the final scene. I'd be better off if I hadn't watched so many episodes of "Inspector Gadget" when I was younger, but he was fine otherwise. I'm fine with the bots having human-sounding voices and dialects, but I kind of wish Soundwave had stayed synthesized. They had the right idea with Bumblebee, giving him the radio voice. I understand his voice working for a moment at the end of the first film to help make it more genuine... but I'm glad they brought it back. I sort of hope it stays that way in the future, too. The Autobots sort of cheated with their new characters. It works, but I think we spent more time with the bad guys in this film than the good. And while the Twins were funny, I really don't think they needed to be as front and center as they were. I still don't have a good feel for Ratchet. Ironhide got a good intro, but they didn't really do too much with him. Then there's the amazingly designed rollerskating Sideswipe, when just looking at him makes you say "Cool" before he even does any of the cool stuff he does. (He cut a Decepticon in HALF while it was in CAR MODE.) And the Chevy Volt character, Jolt, was obviously tossed in there cuz GM asked them to. Yay, energy transfer! Good job Jolt, now go back in your hole! Did he even fight any, that we saw? Then there's the human good guys. Who we're given weren't given a lot of time either. We lost a good chunk of the cast from the first one and replaced them with another moron. Sam is lucky in friends. Girlfriend's a grease monkey, assigned roommate knows all about alien robot conspiracies. I can forgive the coincidence for a love interest, but they're pushing it. When Optimus died, I didn't buy Sam's sadness. Not because of Shia, that was fine, but I didn't buy it for the same reason I didn't buy it when Wolverine cried about Prof. X getting vaporized. WE know and love the character. SAM does not. Sam hasn't known him that long. Sam's life was saved by Optimus, sure. He also saved Optimus' life, on one shiny afternoon. Since then, it's made to seem like they haven't seen each other since. Bumblebee is hangin' around, they seem to have a close bond. Sam seems pissed at Optimus most of the time. I blame the writers. Would you expect Sam to get all upset if say, Ratchet, had died? No. Optimus is the famous character, so we care, therefore Sam has to care. That's not enough. (Actually, my g/f was pretty upset about it until I whispered in her ear "Peter Cullen is signed for three films". She cheered up after that.) I'm not sure if Sam worked harder to bring back Optimus cuz he felt bad, or cuz of this whole "only a Prime can defeat the Fallen" thing. Not sure what that was about. Made for some cool combiner-mode-ass-kickery, I guess. Aside from Prime getting all frenzied, they never really say why only a Prime can take him down. So there's that. So things about the story bugged me. However, what we have here is a very busy film. I think about it, I'm still not sure I can keep it all straight. In the last movie there were 12 robots and prolly just as many humans. It feels like there's so much more in this one and so much more trying to happen. The plot needed to stay simple, but somewhere in the details I feel like they really missed something. Some things just didn't happen right. I mean, did they seriously have a conversation with Bumblebee in the garage while firefighters were spraying down their house? I kept waiting for one of them to walk in. And the parents getting kidnapped? That was seriously so very wasted. Similarly, I am glad they tied up a couple of loose ends, like with Scorponok. We have no idea what happened to him for two years, but his tail was fixed, right? Prolly hooked up with his buddies at some point, then got dropped off in the desert with the rest of them. However, I had a theory I shared with my friends. Someone needs to do a short film called 'Scorponok's Story'. Basically, it'd be about how he gets injured in the desert and runs off and somehow finds out about the Matrix and learns that's what his allies are also going after, so he decides to make his way from Qatar to the pyramids and secure it. It takes a while if you have to dig, you know. He decides he wants to prove he can be more helpful than just stalking humans. Then, just as he arrives, it turns out there's already a battle going on, so he goes back under the dirt and decides to take out one of the leaders, Jetfire. He wounds Jetfire, only to have his head smashed in. Poor, poor Scorponok. I'm still holding out for Barricade. My guess is that a cop car that turns into an evil robot is too good a character to just throw away in a massive melee. He'll be back. Maybe it was the writing, maybe they shot it and in post realized they didn't have enough bots, I don't know. I think they rushed it, so a lot of the minor things got fudged, while all the really big fight scenes got all the attention, so they were well executed. Optimus vs. 3 was cool... but where were the other Autobots? That can be attributed to 'movie timing', them showing up just after he's killed. Crap like that happens all the time in every genre, but in a movie that's already pushing it's practicality boundaries, it's a bit much. On the other side of it, their rescue of Sam from his lobotomy was a great moment. You knew they were going to show up, but MAN did they show up. So yeah. Transformers. I'll be there for three, should it happen. (The bank says yes.) If you're on the fence cuz people say it's bad, go see it. Go watch these robots on the big screen. You'll be glad you did, for that. If you like to nitpick the little plot holes and plan on hating it no matter what, well. Shut up. ;-) Oh, and just to be clear... if I had to design a giant robot made up of construction vehicles, that's exactly where the wrecking balls would go.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Star Trek (5.8.2009)

Director: J.J. Abrams Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Karl Urban Co-Starring: Zoe Saldena, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg Watch for: Leonard Nemoy, obviously, along with little Trekkie details. Species names, sound effects, etc. Editor(s): Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey Would I Buy It: Hell, yeah!

This movie was just great. I have nothing further to say on the matter.

Yeah. Right.

Seriously, though. This is the best space adventure we've gotten in a long time. I definitely like it more than any of the previous Trek films (the most excited I ever got during one was the Borg space battle in First Contact, and this definitely trumped that).

People were calling it the Iron Man of the summer, and initially I thought this meant "the geeky movie that the general population ends up liking". It may still be just that, however I'm inclined to mention that there could be a trend starting here, and I really hope it doesn't.

Drunk guy humor + sci-fi genre = summer win. Yes, Kirk falling hands first into Ohura's boobs got a laugh out of me, probably equal to Tony Stark having a stripper pole on his private jet (where does that thing COME from?!?). However, that's how they won the general audience. You can't relate to Kirt making tribble jokes and such, but throw him in a good old-fashioned bar fight, and everyone'll be on his side. So that works.

The thing that got me about this movie though was the portrayal of the original characters. I have limited experience with them as far as the series go, but I saw all the movies. I know who they are. And these actors played them brilliantly. My favorite is the ever-up-and-coming Karl Urban, seemingly destined to skate the border between of stardom and "Oh, where have I seen that guy before?". His 'Bones' is just plain inspired. It's too bad that loud-mouthed stewardess kinda drowned out my favorite line of his, no one seemed to laugh much at that part except me. I still do the impression on occasion, and my friends are ready to kill me. "It means a fear of dying in something that flies!" It's the hand gestures, it's the eyes, it's the sarcasm, it's how he moves his mouth. Karl Urban is bones. A little more ruggedly handsome perhaps, but Dr. McCoy nonetheless.

And that goes for the rest of them. Spock is Spock, Chekov doesn't quite have a tan so far, Scotty is probably the biggest departure (still quite a bit of Simon Pegg in there, but once he put the uniform on he was getting closer). The best move they made was de-Shatnering Kirk. Shatner's alright in small doses, but whoever's idea it was to take the basic womanizing, hotshot qualities of Kirk and allow Pine to do his own thing with it was definitely onto something.

Then of course there's the bad guy. Eric Bana, folks. Gotta love 'im. I just like how he says people's names.

"Hi, Christopher. I'm Nero." and of course "SPOOOOOCK!" Awesome.

The update of the design was very well executed. I always thought I was looking at the Enterprise. I'm sure there's countless Trekkies cringing at the differences, but it worked for me. I'm actually amazed that all the fans seem to be going for the 'alternate reality' bit. I was almost certain that some of them were gonna call shenanigans on that one.

The characters were all very strong and well-defined. I believe that's what really kept this movie together. When the captains and commanders were off the bridge and they secondary members talking amongst themselves, it just felt natural. Like a team. Like a team should.

I really don't have much more to say. Great acting, great action. The sound work was astounding, particularly their established rules for 'no sound in space'. I'm pretty sure that only happened when a person actually went out into space without a ship, like the crewwoman getting sucked out the hull and the 3 crewmen making the spacejump to the drill. Then there was the phaser fight on the Romulan ship, my ears were a-tingle. Rather than fakey sizzle effects (lightsaber are often guilty of this) when the beam hits stuff, we actually hear clanging and thumping of metal, like it's being struck by something solid before it melts. First time I remember hearing something like that is the infamous internet vid Ryan vs. Dorkman 2, and while I can't prove it's a direct inspiration, I'd like to think Ben Burtt saw RvD2.

I didn't realize he worked on the sound until the credits, but the re-mixing of classic Enterprise bridge console sounds remixed with modern touches should've been a big clue. Burtt is definitely known for dipping into the archives and coming out with something fresh.

I saw this 4 times in the theatres, so far. I'm still not bored with it. I'll prolly let them cool their impulse engines for a bit and watch it again on DVD, but man. I so needed that.

Alright, so next on the list we need a new, more modern director to do the Star Wars sequel trilogy, meanwhile I'll get started on putting a SeaQuest film together.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

X-Men: What are you waiting 4?

<--Random piece of fanart, pretty much illustrating how we could've avoided our current predicament. I'm shaking things up a little bit today, I'm going to share a piece I recently wrote out for my LiveJournal. Maybe not a film review, but it's on my mind and film-related, so let's do this:
I'm gonna get something that's been bugging me off my chest. I think you've already figured out this is a geek rant. Hold onto something. While at dinner with my girlfriend last night, I basically broke down some of my issues with Wolverine that I'd written about here (she's the g/f, therefore she gets a live show. Jealous?). I liked the movie, but it wasn't entirely true to what the movies have said about Wolverine thus far, plus there were some story elements I'd focus more on, and some that could've been removed. Sound like any OTHER prequels you know? Anyway, carrying on. Last night we watched the original X-Men, since she hadn't seen any of them since we saw X3 in theatres. She fell asleep, per her modus operandi, but she's cute and I love her. So this morning, I woke up all X-ed out still, so I threw in X2. Then I thought about X3 (and watched it again since I wrote this. Hugh Jackman is playing Cyclops trapped in Wolverine's body. And vice versa. For cryin' out loud.). Then I thought about Wolverine, and the article I read this morning about the confirmation of a Wolverine 2. Then I thought about "X-Men: First Class", a supposed upcoming film about the first group of mutants to join with Prof. X (basically most of the cast from the TV show, minus a few characters the movie made younger). And you know what? Fuck. That. Shit. I had a lengthy conversation with one of my geekier friends about this, and he and I are on the same page. Alright. To gain back any sort of credibility for the series, X-Men 4 needs to happen, and it needs to be Superman Returns. Having Bryan Singer return may not be the worst of ideas, either. It needs to take X3, and basically shove an adamantium railspike up it's ass, and throw it out the fuckin' window. Who's not dead? All of them. That's fucking who. Jean Grey is flippin' PHOENIX. Not that bird, maybe, but in essence I think the namesake is reason enough to pull her from the ashes. The fiery apparition seen in the water... we all assumed that this was emanating from Jean. Looking at it today, I say that's the Phoenix as we know her. The astral being took notice of her host in that moment. It could've been messing with her all her life, but couldn't take hold until she died? It's so easy to write away. It took her a little while to bond and wake up, and maybe it threw Jean a little wacky in the process, explaining her actions in X3. Don't even MENTION the split personality thing again, or just say that was the Phoenix calling from on high. Or don't explain it, just accept it. Work it in. It'll work, because people WANT it to work. Cyclops: A golden Spielberg rule: You didn't see 'em die, they're not dead. Make him, sorry Hugh, the freakin' LEADER he's supposed to be. Wolverine was excellently portrayed (until X3, when Cyclops possessed him), but he's got his own freakin' movie (which will get his sequel despite my ranting). He doesn't need to hold up two franchises. There's enough characters to lead the X-series, and Cyclops should be one of them. The actor was great in the role, but for some reason got shafted with X2 and wisely followed Singer onto Superman Returns, prompting his shorter role in X3 and our current predicament (tho I bet they would've done it anyway). Prof. X: We already know he's not dead. I just hope they don't waste a lot of time 'searching for Spock'. Moira McTaggert is a medical genius and Muir Island is a fabulous place, let's just leave it at that. There's three storylines I'd like to see, one of which I think they actually might do, if someone just slapped those silly Fox people upside their heads. The Acolytes. Followers of Magneto who are basically mutant extremists. "Exodus" was the real turning point of this story. If you thought Magneto trying to make Prof. X kill off every single human was pretty awful, you should check out what these guys are up to. They basically started up when Magneto was "killed". Well, he's mostly powerless for now. That's reason enough for crazy folks. The reason we won't get this is, well, technically it's an X-Factor story, but it culminates in a massive crossover between the X-teams and the Avengers. So... prolly not. X-Cutioner's Song. One word: Cable. Basically, this could really help work Jean and Cyclops back into the mix, without even having her present for most of the movie. The fact that Cable shows up from the future, and later turns out the be Cyclops and Jean's son... someone in the present realizes this and "waitaminute... so that means... GASP!" Totally. Wouldn't even have to happen til near the end, if they wanted. There'd be way too much going on to reintroduce people, let alone bring in Stryfe, Sinister and everyone else you'd need to do it semi-proper. Plus, bringing Prof. X back from the dead only to have him gunned down would be a little too crude for PG-13. So, what I think they'll do... and this is the one I actually know the least about (mostly what I saw on the '90s show)... Apocalypse. Take a little time in the beginning, while you're warming up the villain plot (a super-powered lead antagonist that's not Magneto?!? SCORE!), to resurrect everybody. Enter the mystic side of Phoenix, "I didn't kill Scott... I... moved him?" Whatever. In theory, you could bring back everybody she vaporized if this is the case, but let's not go down that road just yet. Wolverine jumped the gun in X3 and says "I think she killed Scott". Jean's too screwed up to really know what's happening, so bah. He's alive. So, Prof. X is in his brain-dead twin's body, or whatever, and hooray, X-Men! Then you can work in Angel --> Archangel. Then an X3 sub-plot would simply be a big ol' establishment of a character, instead of yet another waste of one. Work in the TV storyline's bit about the cure, and since in movie canon, Rogue took it (but it seems like it'll wear off?), you can still work in Apocalypse's plot to use the lure of the cure to find his Horsemen. Enter Ms. Marvel, I think it was, or some no-name equivalent... Rogue accidentally kills her with her regained powers, absorbing Marvel's powers completely... and BAM. Rogue as we know her. My buddy seems to think Anna Paquin plays Rogue too shy to pull off the hot-talking, confident Southern girl we all love, but gaining her strength and flight could definitely work as the beginning of a character arc. Maybe this is where her confidence comes from. She was afraid to touch anyone, but now she has a little more control over herself. Seriously, just a couple of source-respecting writers in a think-tank, and we can end the spin-off nonsense and get back on track to a solid, successful second trilogy. Please?

Monday, May 4, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (5.1.2009)

Director: Gavin Hood Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schrieber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins Co-Starring: Will. I. Am, Taylor Kitsch, Ryan Reynolds Watch for: X-Men references, characters. Editor(s): Nicolas De Toth, Megan Gill Would I Buy It: When I get around to it.


Say what you want about prequels and their endless power to flesh out the backstory. Science fiction especially does this, their franchises each have their own world which countless fans will beg to be given every minute detail of. It makes sense, I can get into that too, if the story is interesting. The problem I find here is the characterization. This was a prequel to X-Men, featuring a character from the sequels.

Remember how tough Wolverine was when we met him in X1, beating up people in cages, being generally rude to everyone he meets? Remember Wolverine in X3, cries when Xavier dies, tells that chick he's trying to bang that he loves her, acts all big-brotherly to Rogue, the mutant with problems? Like I said, this was theoretical 'X4 Wolverine' trapped in an X-Men prequel.

And I wasn't buying it.

I read a paragraph of a review from the Detroit Free Press (a publication whose film section I tend to heartily disagree with... they didn't even like the first Matrix), and basically, their problem with Wolverine was this:

'Wolverine is a character who has two cool things about him. Sharp claws and mystery. Well, this film gets rid of the mystery.'

To be honest though, anyone who's read/watched X-Men for a little while knows who Wolverine is. They know he's Canadian, he was part of the Weapon X program. They might not know the little filler details like his original name or all the crap the movie explained in the first few minutes, but that's just sci-fi world trivia for the fans. When X2 came out, they were supposedly "revealing the mystery!" behind Wolverine's origin. I didn't really recall finding out anything new, except that Stryker was behind it.

I don't remember a clear explanation on why he changed his name from Jimmy to Logan. Was that when he was hiding as a lumberjack? I don't recall.

Anyway. Overall, I have one major problem with this film. It focused entirely too much on the wrong parts of his life. We see a young Jimmy, father is murdered, this kid with the nails is his brother... we'll always stay together. And while we do the credits, how about we throw the pre-Canada Canadians (I think it was Ebert pointed out there was no Canada in the year the opening scene was set) into every American war that we've had between then and present day? Alright? Cool.

Not cool. If this movie had been bold enough to be longer, I would've had it dwell on the wars for a bit. First of all, how do you enlist in the Army and then re-enlist again later? Did they have secret identities, did they just hop on the boat and steal a uniform? And why did they feel a need to fight in wars anyway? Because they could? Sabretooth obviously got his jollies out of killing folks, not that his brother would let him. I think this is the interesting part.

However, it jumps forward and we jump into the story and we see Wolvie and the 'Tooth joining up with Stryker, Wolverine very quickly develops a distaste for the work (he never even has to attack anyone. What a... wuss? Wait a second.), and leaves to find his own life. Then, holy crap, they kill his woman in an effort to drive him back into their employ.

Stop me if you've heard this one before. I sort of thought about Revenge of the Sith, not to mention my own Star Wars fanfilm which touches on that very idea as a mirror to Anakin's fall, but I'm certain it goes way beyond that. I mean, c'mon. Try harder, folks. I didn't even get choked up when Wolvie, very passionately, screamed his head off at his girls' demise. And I got choked up the first time Spider-Man started swinging through the city. I'm easy. They should've spent a LOT more time on his relationship with his team members before they had him split off. What we got out of the credits and opening scenes is that Sabretooth is the crazy one, and Wolverine is a level-headed humanitarian.

So yeah... about that?

And the whole "let's make it deep" bit with the Native American (?) story of the moon and the fool didn't really work for me, since it was very obvious that this was the only reason that scene was in there. The only thing that surprised me was when the teacher turned out to be Silver Fox, but I simply wasn't looking for a twist with her. I was paying attention to Sabretooth and Stryker still being allied, and them working together to get Wolverine back. "That's why he had to volunteer" pretty much confirmed that one.


Honestly, I've had this discussion many-a-time now, but I'll say it again for posterity. We don't go see movies like this for the story. At least, you probably shouldn't. If they HAD focused on the bit about the wars for the first, hell, even the first HALF hour, it could've gone somewhere. But they rushed it. The movie felt WAY too fast. Frankly, the scenes took a lesson from X3 in "how not to linger". We WANT linger. We want characters to get fleshed out. Dark Knight helped prove this... give. us. MORE. Make the scenes intertwine, for crying out loud. This back-to-back crap just doesn't do anything.

Though yes, the action was cool. We knew it would be. There were a few surprises, mostly thanks to Wade/Deadpool. The sword/bullet shots were totally slick, I fell in love with the adaptation of the character in that instant. They didn't really cut him loose in terms of just how funny Deadpool can be, but if he gets his spin-off, we'll prolly see it then. As we learned from Hulk vs. Wolverine, it's VERY easy for Deadpool to steal the show, and they prolly didn't want that here.

Blob was the Juggernaut of this film. Scratch that, he was the Angel. They put him there just to make a couple of fans wet themselves. The boxing scene? Bah. Wasted screentime. Okay, it was funny and it helped showcase the relationship between Wraith and Logan... but they PROBABLY should have spent a little more time doing that when they were still working together for Stryker. However, this is like the Native American tale all over again. You tell it so you try try to evoke an emotional response later. Guess what? Next scene, Wraith dies. Granted, I was a little sad cuz he was pretty cool, but I was mostly upset because they just wasted a perfectly good character in one scene in order to replace him with a more famous character.


I think I'd seen every single one of Gambit's money shots in trailers and TV spots, and I wasn't even trying to watch all of them. I do think he made a good Gambit, though. A little bit softer around the edges than the famous 90's animated Gambit, but that seems to be what's going on in general with the characters here.

Remember Stryker in X2: "If you remember what kind of person you were, the kind of work we did together..."

Stuff like that. Well, I REALLY didn't get a feel for it. They did sort of make a good "Stryker the Deciever" reference out of another of his X2 lines: "As I recall, it was you who volunteered for the procedure". Well, yes he did... because you totally fucked with his life. But his claws are in your shoulder, it's best not to mention that right now.

Anyway. I'm trying to recall a specific moment of "the kind of person you were/the work we did together" that actually holds true because of Wolverine. And I'm coming up short. Maybe Stryker just has a poor memory of who did what in their operations, but of what we saw, Wolverine was fighting wars humanely and doing his best to keep his crazy half-brother in line. Honestly, he came off as a good soldier, not the soulless mercenary that is earlier implied. That, and even though Silver Fox was part of the scheme, he did end up being a good husband and earned an honest day's work for a while. You could tell he got along with his fellow lumberjacks and had a regular life going.

Then the girl is killed, and he goes on a revenge streak. Naturally, but this doesn't really go anywhere. They give him the adamantium skeleton and then he discovers their ill intent and runs on out of there. And they chase him. And he kills them. And he looks for them. Then he kills them some more. But we'll let Sabretooth off the hook, cuz he didn't ACTUALLY kill anyone Wolverine loved.

In fact, she didn't even get killed by any of the main characters. Wasn't it a ricochet or something?

Cripes. So much for the revenge plot.

Really, what I was hoping for was an idea inspired by the original Spider-Man trailer. I remember when he was chasing down the crook in his wrestling outfit, for the trailers they did some quick (tho decent) renders of those scenes with the actual Spidey outfit. So, since I imagined his claws were often digital, I imagined maybe we'll get lucky and the adamantium thing won't be until the end. Yeah, not so much. Remember when Wolverine, in X2, finally remembers getting the adamantium and storming out. He's covered in blood and screaming about these metal things sticking out of his hands? They really should have stuck with that. The movie wouldn't work as is, you'd have to seriously move some stuff around and omit other parts completely. However, I always imagined he volunteers, for whatever reason (to be more badass, ala Abomination, is how I imagined it, tho not quite so creepily), but Stryker's betrayal is his mind wipe. Then Wolverine goes animal, busts out, and he's caught in a Canadian winter with nothing but claws to keep him warm. That's how I imagined it. I'm pretty sure that's what Bryan Singer had in mind too. But for the sake of climatic action scenes, they fixed that up a little bit.

Speaking of the memory wipe... they handled it really poorly. I accidentally read somewhere that he got shot in the head, and that's what caused it. Alright, head trauma. Makes sense. Then they said in the movie they could only kill him with an adamantium bullet, which I thought alright, cool. Kinda like a Werewolf. Makes him seem more animal-like. Then the doctor-lady says "Psh, no. It won't kill him," and wait for the point of ruin... "No, but it'll wipe his memory."

COME ON. Why couldn't that have been a lucky side-effect. Why wouldn't Stryker be naively convinced it WOULD kill him... try... fail, but lucky for him, Wolvie doesn't know what's going on. That's over-writing. I always have to trim my scripts, I tend to do this a lot. Eventually, one learns you don't always have to explain things. Sometimes you should just make them happen, and tell the audience to deal with it. Stop holding our freakin' hands.

I know it really sounds like I hate this movie, but honestly, I sat there and enjoyed it. I thought it was interesting on the first viewing, but looking back on it (I may be in a bit of a mood today), I'm finding faults. Hindsight, and all that. The action was cool, but I felt their compositing and CGI wasn't quite up to modern standards. I don't know what the budget was or who worked on it, these are often large factors, but I was very disappointed to find a shot I thought was simply made for the trailers, was actually used in the movie.

Remember when he escapes the facility, cutting a big ol' X into the doors with his claws. First, not only does this scream CGI, second... he just cut two three-layer cross-sections into a door, but the little cubes in the middle stay put. Shouldn't these, like, fall? Gravity?

The movie should've been longer, and they should've spent more time making it. The script is obviously something they had some writer come up with ASAP, and while I haven't checked on the time spent on production, something tells me they had to rush a bit.

Though, at least the action was cool. Cinematography wasn't too bad, either. I remember a number of non-effects shots popping out at me. And as a general geek and hardcore Marvel/X-Men fan, I got into it. Another critic/blooger I read said that this movie will be good for the established fanbase, but he didn't expect it'll bring many new fans to the series. As a fan, I enjoyed it. As a film critic, it's pushing my buttons a little bit. Not as bad as X3, not nearly as bad, but it's not bad where I thought it'd be. I totally thought they were going to mess up continuity with having Cyclops present and using Sabretooth so prominently... but one thing I will give the writers credit for is that they were really good about knowing which characters knew what. Gambit never saw Silver Fox until the end, for example. "Do you know her?" Cyclops never actually sets his eyes on Wolverine. It's very possible some of the kids mention him later, hence his distaste for him in X1, but it's hard to say. Things like that worked out very well, and I came out decently alright with it's placement in the X-film timeline.

I'm hoping from this movie we get Deadpool. I'm not really interested in seeing Magneto with his own film. If they do X-Men: First Class instead of X-Men 4, with Apokolips or X-Cutioner's song... like they SHOULD, then I hope at least they'll take Wolverine's Cyclops and Emma Frost and use First Class as a bridge between Wolverine and X1. Sure, Emma Frost wasn't technically in the first group of X-Men, but we learned a while ago there's such a thing as comic canon and film canon, and they don't often walk hand-in-hand.

So... I'd say this movie was cool, but not as good as it should have been. Not bad, not great. That's the best I can word it for now.

I could go on about all of the little X-verse references, Prof. X, Quicksilver (I think), the old couple who get sniped by Zero... but that sort of thing is pretty much standard by now. Honestly, I think this movie was a launching pad to help people forget about the failure that was X3... but it's not going to make them forget it for the reason they were hoping.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Watchmen (3.6.2009)

Director: Zack Snyder Starring: Patrick Wilson, Malin Akerman, Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Crudup, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Matthew Goode Co-Starring: Carla Gugino, Robert Wisden Watch for: So many references to the book. I don't even know where to start. S.Q.U.I.D. Editor(s): William Hoy Would I Buy It: Prolly gonna camp out the Meijer's DVD section at midnight. And re-buy when I get Blu-Ray.

I have limited experience with Zack Snyder, but this was very obviously one of his movies. And I mean that in a good way. There's some who didn't like 300, from what I've seen, that simply have an elitist view of cinema, always thinking they know exactly what a movie should be and how it should turn out. If it isn't 100% faithful to the source material, it can't possibly be a good movie. It was a fairly hollow plot to begin with, but the movie was about as cool as a modernized ancient war film can get. So, keeping this in mind, try not to let the thousands of Watchmen fans convince you that the movie could've been better while they sell their unopened action figures on eBay, considering they (like me) didn't even read the book until they saw the Smashing Pumpkins-laden teaser trailer released with The Dark Knight. People are always talking about how "you should be true to the source material", and even moreso "Give the fans what they want." Let me fill you in on something, in case you haven't figured it out for yourself: The fans are morons. The fans are the ones telling you Venom should've been the villain in the original Spider-Man and were utterly convinced that we'd see War Machine in Iron Man. They rant about Optimus Prime's paint job and can't, for the life of them, figure out why they left out Tom Bombadil. The fans think Thomas Jane is a bad actor, and the fans think R'as al Ghul, Two-Face and Dr. Octopus are still alive and should return in further sequels. The fans are so eagerly tripping over themselves to find flaws in franchise film releases, they (almost) never sit back and watch the freakin' movie. I can imagine this is an easier task when you already know exactly what's going to happen before the movie's even released. Don't let the fans tell you that your movie sucks. They weren't going to like it anyway. Which is what I did the first time with Watchmen, sadly. Well, it wasn't that I didn't like it or that I was looking for things to pick apart at it, the problem was that I was comparing it. I'd read "Watchmen" since I saw the trailer, and being a comic nerd, thought I should read the original first. It's a good idea, it enriches the experience. I kinda wish I hadn't. It's a great book. It's a comic rooted (sort of) in reality, has a nice tidy moral and maintains a depth throughout that is a rare find in even the best written of serialized comic characters. The movie is the same way. Obviously, you can't have everything that's in the book in the movie. There just isn't time. For some reason, studioheads think people want their movies short. People think they want their movies short. I think I've been waiting a couple of years to see this thing, sitting in the theatre for an extra 30 minutes isn't going to kill me. I had this same argument for Dark Knight. Buncha whiners at that midnight showing. Anyway. So get past the whiners and band-wagon elitists. (Alan Moore, I blame you.) It's a solid film. What I mean about it being a very Zack Snyder-y movie is a few things. One, I don't know if it was the same action choreographer, but I can't help but compare 300's famous side-scrolling, time-ramping one-vs-many action scene with a similar scenario in Nite Owl & Silk Spectre's entrance into the prison. On top of that, one of the things that kinda nagged me about 300 was how simple the plot was. Watchmen is anything but a simple story, but I still somehow felt it lacked the "beef". We learned all about Doc Manhattan, we got a skipped-through version of Rorshach's backstory, and everyone had their little memoirs of the Comedian at his funeral. Well, three outta three ain't bad. It's not that I needed to see everyone's origin, but Snyder sort of put the characters in front of us and let us sort them into the archetypes their characters were designed to fit. It could've use more, somehow. Granted, I didn't realize this until my second viewing, which happened to be at a nearby IMAX. The look of the film is great. There's elements of 1980's cinema, such as the rainy noir detective music playing over Dan after Rorshach leaves the cave, not to mention Rorshach's monologues and most of his scenes in general. They nailed the period element, really made it fit the times. The music helped with that, I'm sort of shocked I didn't see that coming. The use of period music in a film set in an alternate interpretation of our history really helps sell it. This is what the opening credits were for. Each image took something anyone familiar with history could recognize, and threw in an element crucial not only to setting up the story, but almost completely telling the backstory and bringing us up to present day. Very well planned. I could go on about how they nailed Rorshach in costume and with an amazing actor, how the updates Ozymandias' costume, while strange in pictures, works great in the movie, blah blah. Fanboy stuff. The characters were all really great. Just what they needed to be as far as modern adaptations go. One part I didn't think about, logistically, until a friend pointed it out after my third showing, was how they shot the action. They backed up a few years style-wise and actually let us see what was going on. The bit that stood out to me was Owl vs. Ozy, and while they were basically standing their ground and throwing punches and kicks and their capes were swirling all about. "I know, because you could SEE them!" says my friend. The cameras backed up and just let us watch the fight, rather than dictating which part of the fight we should be looking at during any given moment. It was a good move, too, because I simply couldn't get enough of staring at these peoples' costumes. They're just... cool. Anyway. Read the book, or don't. If you at all are into the superhero genre, or historical fiction... or just cool action with a decent story, this is a good movie to watch. It's cinematically gorgeous, and while the narrative needs a little thickening, it still gets the story's point across. There were scenes I remembered from the book that I could quote word for word on my first viewing. I think this is the closest we've gotten to a literal translation of any given source material. Someday I'll get a shot-for-shot word-for-word movie of "The Death of Superman" made, but until then... this is the one to watch. film. The fans wanted to see War Machine in

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fantastic Four (7.8.05)

Director: Tim Story Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon Co-Starring: Kerry Washington, Hamish Linklater Watch for: Stan "The Man" Lee, this time playing a character he created. Editor(s): William Hoy <--- The version I own.

Yes, it's been a while since I've put up a review. Life's been crazy busy.

At any rate, I shall keep on plugging through the Marvel reviews. I would love to get through all of them.

So, chronologically speaking, the next is Fantastic Four. If there were ever a translation of characters to the screen that was more accurate to the look and feel of the source material, I have yet to see it.

Sure, they changed a couple of outdated details regarding the origin, this has happened to every comic film that's come out lately, and it is a movie and not a comic series, so there is only so much you can do, but when I sat down and watched this movie, when it was over I just remember thinking "Those four were perfect". Of course all the technology has been updated. For instance, they fly up in a space shuttle in the comics and get blasted by cosmic rays while inside, whereas in the movie the shuttle docks with a space station, and that's where the incident occurs. It's just little things, and I think they all help more than hurt.

The biggest complaint I've heard about is Dr. Doom not really being as cool as the original. Just this last year I finally got around to reading some F4 material, and honestly... I don't know what they're thinking. Doom is a little more in touch with the mystical than he was in the movie, but in terms of attitude, he's a scheming, cheesy-lined classic comic villain. I'll admit the Marvel Ultimate Alliance Doom was infinitely cooler than the F4 movie, but as far as the source material, Doom seems just fine to me. He had a plan. It's common in a material with a running fan base like this for people to think very highly of their favorite characters, even to the point where their expectations are unreachable. Everyone reads the same comic a different way. I suppose I'm more of a casual fan of the F4, mostly seeing them in Spider-Man or other comics, as they did tend to get around quite a bit. Actually, it's a shame they're not part of the Marvel Studios line-up; they'd do well in the crossovers. It's a little late to help Spidey get rid of the symbiote, but that wasn't exactly their only accomplishment.

Anyway. The movie itself is a bit more lighthearted than the other Marvel films thus far. Spidey was pretty easy-going, but during the final battle things definitely got personal, and nobody was joking around. The F4? They were hilarious. We'd all seen the ads a hundred times before the movie.

Thing: Ladies, I'm going to need to borrow your car. Old lady: The transmission sticks! Thing: Not a problem. [throws the car at Doom]

Of course, the silly thing about that is we see that line so many times, and then in the movie they used a different recorded version, so it's a bit off-putting when you realize it. "Not gonna be a PROBLEM!" Anyway, that sort of thing happens all the time, it has little effect on the quality of the movie (even though I'm used to the old line still, the new one works just as well). Just a sidenote along those lines: Every (straight) guy out there noticed Jessica Alba in their ad campaigns, in the skin-tight jumpsuit with the zipper strategically placed to show just enough to maintain a PG rating. Not once in the movie did she have her outfit zipped that low. That's just a plain good business model, if you ask me. Pun intended.

I could run down the list and compare each of the 4 to their comic versions, Mr. Fantastic was the scientist, always hard-working, pulls any invention he wants out of his ass, blah blah, but there's no need. They were in the comics as they are in the movie. You see one, you've seen the other.

People didn't like this movie because it was a comedy. Check your source material, buddy. The F4 are the sitcom of the superhero world. I told this to one such critic, and he was surprised upon that revelation. They're supposed to be goofy. Johnny accidently lighting fire to the kitchen happens all the time. Reed stretching his arm across the hall for extra toilet paper (though you should really keep in the same room like normal people) isn't anything out of the ordinary for these guys.

I do believe they had a few modernizations to help explain their powers, though. Sue's powers, for example, are closely linked to her emotions. She gets angry, she goes invisible. Also, adding the bit about her nose bleeding when she's really exerting herself was a very nice touch. If we ever do get a third film, I kind of hope she'll have to go all out for some reason, and will have some sort of brain medical problem. It seems like they were sitting on their hands for that, but they definitely should go more into it later. Why doesn't it happen to the others, for example? Are their powers not as closely linked to their brains?

So, plot-wise, the film is a bit dramatic. The main plot is actually about Ben, and his desire to be normal again. The plot shifts a couple of times though, but it works. It starts about Reed and Ben wanting to get into space to study a cloud that will change science as we know it, or something. Instead they all get zapped, powers, hooray. From then on out, it's about Ben and his inability to accept the extreme nature of his transformation, with a sub-plot with "what the heck is up with this Doom guy?" Then Doom eventually goes a little mad, gets a little crazy, and voila, final battle sequence, in which Ben realizes that he was being selfish, and they are better off together. There are a couple of NYC hero, post 9-11 moments in this film as well, such as Ben saving firefighters and people surrounding and cheering for their heroes. I don't have a problem with it, it's always nice when a fictional hero saves a real one, but they do sort of hit you over the head.

I like the movie. I find very little wrong with it, aside from the fact that this movie was sponsor heavy. F4 was all over the place when it came out, they definitely put all their weight into this movie. I was working in a theatre when it was released, and I can understand why they had to do this. The F4 may be the first comic family, established back in the 60's, but the superhero market has become so saturated with characters that they've been pushed to the back. People had forgotten who they were. In the theatre, my most vivid memory is a mother taking her kids to a movie, and the one they wanted to see wasn't playing yet, or something. I forget why, but they looked around at the posters in the lobby to see what they should see instead, and she asked me what Fantastic 4 was. "Well, did your kids see the Incredibles?" I asked.

"Sure, they love it." "Well this is where they got the idea from." "Oh, really. Wow."

How interested in this fact she actually was remains to be seen, but blargh. In that moment, the rip-off was more popular. That disturbs me to no end. I love the F4, I've always been a fan of them, even if I relied on them in other series rather than their own. I enjoyed this movie immensely (first movie I ever saw on my own too, since I had to work opening night and wanted to be able to tell people about it while I worked the box office), along with the sequel, and I seriously hope they do more.

I just got the extended director's cut thingamajig last week during a mad sale, but haven't had a chance to watch it yet. Soon, definitely.