Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Blog That Took 20 Years To Write

Much to the surprise of box office analysts, Captain America: The First Avenger beat out the record breaking Harry Potter and the oh you know it’s the last movie by making a higher than expected $65 million, making it the best opening weekend of any super hero based film this year. In my last blog I talked about how much I love the character of Cap and that I had been waiting for over 20 years to see a great or at least good interpretation of the character on the big screen. Obviously the movie made money, but what did I think of it?


I found Captain America to be the most satisfying movie I have seen in a while. I felt director Joe Johnston found a perfect balance in tone that showed the intensity of war but was also an entertaining popcorn film in the vein of Back to the Future and Indiana Jones. Chris Evans was perfect as the noble and charming Steve Rogers and the heroic leader Captain America. Hugo Weaving made the Red Skull everything I hoped he would be on screen and already has me begging for his return in a sequel. There was plenty of humor, but it never felt like a parody, and there was plenty of action, but in a much more adventure style that we don’t see much of in today’s action movies. It was just pure fun, but never sacrificing story or character.

The writers made some changes here and there, like the Red Skulls origins and Captain America’s relationship with his sidekick Bucky, and I thought much, if not all of it was for the best. The origin of how small and frail Steve Rogers transforms into the star spangled hero was dead on, and the fact that they really took the time to tell it, not even showing him in the cap suit until almost halfway through the movie, made that moment along with the characters themselves, carry so much more weight. It could be my childhood attachment to the character, but I felt that Cap had the most emotion of any of the Marvel movies to date.

One of my big problems with Iron Man 2 was the fact that it felt like there wasn’t enough focus on its own story and it was more just a preview for the upcoming Avengers flick. Captain America had plenty of points that were working towards the Avengers, but it never felt out of place and it never took away from its own story. Even with the final moments that will segue in to the team up film, this movie was totally its own piece and had a solid story from start to finish that doesn’t require casual movie goers to see five other movies to know exactly what’s going on.

The movie is making money, and is getting solid reviews from critics and fans alike. I was so happy with the outcome of the movie I’ve waited 20 years and although I know I’ll see him in the Avengers just next year, I’m hoping they decide to move forward with a Captain America sequel. AMERICA!!! FUCK YEAH!!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Blog About My Childhood Hero

Most people know I love Batman. Probably because most people have seen at least one batman movie and can have a conversation about batman so it comes up a bit more. But not everyone understands that on an equal level, I love Captain America. I remember being in kindergarten and getting my first Captain America action figure, saving every penny to get the vhs tape of the 1960’s Captain America cartoon, having a subscription in the mail of the Captain America Comic, and going to the video store every week hoping the one copy of the direct to video Captain America movie wasn’t checked out. I had a Captain America dress up set complete with a Frisbee shield and got my Captain America tattoo before getting one of the dark knight.

While Bruce Wayne was a man who had all the financial and physical means to fulfill his destiny, Captain America’s alter ego Steve Rogers was a man who had no way to become the hero he was meant to be. He was small, weak and too frail to even be allowed to serve his country during World War II. But Steve Rogers had the heart of a hero and was given the chance to fulfill his destiny. As cool as Batman was and still is, whenever I imagined being a superhero (when I was a kid of course), I always imagined being Captain America. I imagined being average, maybe even less than average, and being courageous enough to do what others were afraid to do, and fight a villain like the Red Skull who rather than being insane like the Joker, was an intelligent, calculated form of pure evil.

Unfortunately, like a pre super-soldier serum Steve Rogers, the legacy of Captain America on film has been weak and frail. We got that one movie that I tried to rent so many times at the video store 20 years ago. That was the same movie that got a theatrical release in every country EXCEPT AMERICA! Sure when I first saw it I loved it, but I was 6 and I was young and stupid, not to mention it was all I had. I’ve watched it since and it’s bad, and not in a fun or nostalgic way. Let’s not even talk about the made for tv movies of the 1970’s. I’ve had a vision in my head of true movie about Captain America, set completely in World War II and having a more period war piece feel than a spider-man type super hero flick, and for years I’ve voiced my aggravation about the fact that this movie was not getting made. I’ve been getting multiple versions of Batman, the Hulk, and the Punisher, but not one solid or even semi-solid attempt at the star spangled avenger?! What the F Hollywood?

But then Marvel decided to take control of what happened with the cinematic versions of their characters. They tested the waters with Iron Man, and made plenty of money from that, and began creating what they now call the Marvel Cinematic Universe, combining characters and situations from multiple films that are culminating next summer in Joss Wheddon’s Avengers film. So far in this ambitious and so far lucrative adventure, we have gotten 2 Iron Man films with a 3rd on the way, a rebooted Incrdible Hulk, and a Thor film with the 2nd already on its way. But before the Avengers hits, we got one movie left to piece it all together, Captain America: The First Avenger.

I was overjoyed with the first news of a real Cap movie getting made. It was announced early that the entire movie would be set in WWII, saving modern day for the Avengers film, and they got a great director who was experienced, credible, and passionate about the character in Joe Johnston. They got the always badass Hugo Weaving to play the Red Skull, but I had my doubts about Chris Evans playing the Captain himself. My mouth was shut as soon as I saw the trailer and have already forgotten he played the Human Torch in the soon to be rebooted Fantastic Four movies. He looks, feels, and acts the way I’ve always thought Steve Rogers to be, coming across as more of a soldier than a superhero. Could this really be the Captain America movie I’ve been waiting over 20 years to see?

I got my tickets for the midnight showing. Check back soon after that to find out

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Blog That's Too Long and Too Scattered

Everyone has an opinion about Transformers director Michael Bay. Most critics say he is all style and no substance and others say he makes the most visually exciting and entertaining movies today. I’d say I’m somewhere in between. Although I find almost all of his movies to be pretty iffy in the realms of acting, plot, and geography, I am almost always entertained by the visual effects, camera work, and explosions.

It was because of these opinions I had towards Bay that I was actually excited when he was announced as the director of the first Transformers live action film. I felt Michael Bay was the right choice to bring giant alien robots that changed into cars and trucks because the idea was both visually intriguing and lacking in true logic. So it seemed like a match made in heaven, and truthfully, the first transformers film was exactly what I wanted it to be. It had just enough story to hold itself together between giant action scenes with some of the best CGI I have ever seen (and I hate CGI in most cases). There was never a point that I felt like it was trying to be more than what it was supposed to be, a high octane popcorn flick.

Then came the second film. When I first saw trailers for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen I was pretty excited. Most of the cast and crew from the first one were returning and it looked like they were staying true to what had come before, but were going to amp it up even more. Apparently you can’t capture lightning in a bottle twice because I felt that the second Transformers was silly, inconsistent, way too long, and not particularly fun to sit through. It may have been my fault, but I was expecting a lot more from Michael Bay and co. from this one.

Despite my lack of affection for the second film, I was anxiously awaiting Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Both Michael Bay and star Shia Labeouf had expressed their feelings of disappointment over how the last film had turned out and were sure that the third,and until it makes way more money, last installment was going to be the best in the series. The early buzz was positive and even the first reviews were saying it had the strongest story and stunning visuals. I was ready to give the franchise another chance so I was going along for the ride.

And what did I get with Transformers 3? Well I saw the movie at the very first IMAX 3D showing on Tuesday and ever since then I have been trying to figure out how to answer that question. On one hand, the action scenes were better than ever, and the most developed character in the whole movie was Optimus Prime. Finally a transformer and not a human gets some substance. There was also the 3D which I usually find worthless, but it was put to proper use here in certain scenes. I got a lot of robots blowing stuff up, which is exactly what I wanted.

But on the other hand I can honestly say it was the most brainless movie I have ever seen. The script felt like it was written in crayon and the story pitch had to have been a 5 year old mashing his Transformers toys together. It jumped from character to character with no flow or rhythm and never really got any further than where the impressive first five minutes took us. People complained about the annoying, jar jar binks like, robots Skids and Mudflap from the second film, and the filmmakers said they took them out of this one. They did, but the neglected to mention they replaced them with new transformers that were just as obnoxious that took away any emotional weight the film might have had.

The human characters weren’t doing much either. Megan Fox’s replacement Rosie Huntington-Whiteley wasn’t any better, but she wasn’t really worse considering that all the actor’s were doing a pretty rough if not phoned in job. There were also the forced, annoying, and worthless cameos by the likes of John Malkovich and Ken Jeong that could’ve been cut and not missed. I don’t blame them though, since the whole film felt like a series of scenes that were filmed like a jigsaw puzzle, but not put together as a whole piece.

Even with all that, I still prefer Dark of the Moon over Revenge of the Fallen. But with an extremely abrupt ending that left me asking what the hell I just watched, and still trying piece together my brain that was turned to mush, I’m not sure it’s a movie I can say was actually good.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Blog That's Not As Bad As They Say

DC’s first non Superman/Batman super hero movie Green Lantern came out this weekend making a lower than expected $52 million. Most are blaming the large amount of negative reviews for keeping it from becoming a major hit. But are all these negative reviews justified?

I have only recently started reading the Green Lantern comic but I got hooked pretty quick and thus, was rather excited for the movie. Of course before the film even got released, several critics were slaughtering the movie, calling it the biggest disappointment of the summer. I for one am not a guy who let’s critics decide weather I go see a movie or not, but after 30+ reviews giving it a lousy 20% rating on rotten tomatoes, I was a little worried.

Even with those doubts, I still went the the Thursday midnight showing of Green Lantern with all the other nerds, and while I was fairly disappointed in the movie, I didn’t find it to be the worst movie ever made everyone else was saying. I almost feel that critics and fanboys views of good and bad movies leave no room for middle ground. If it isn’t The Dark Knight, then it must be Howard the Duck. Can’t a movie just be good and not great? Sure I was hoping for a little more out of a Green Lantern movie, but it could’ve been a lot worse, and it wasn’t awful enough for me to come out of the theater enraged by what I had just seen.

At the end of the day, I would love it if every movie I saw was the greatest movie I’ve ever seen, but I can’t complain too much if a movie is still entertaining when it’s less than perfect.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Blog From Childhood

The summer movie season has started, and it looks like yet again comic books and other pre-established properties are the most hyped, and most likely to make money. Now I get why the studios and the public go for these films. These films have a built in fan base, and thus, built in money. But I am surprised that certain other properties from my childhood are not being taken to the multiplex where they can bring in fans both new and old. Here are some of my top pics of old properties that need a cinematic treatment.

Jurrassic park came out in 1993 and the effects in that movie still hold up, so it blows my mind that this 80’s toy line/cartoon series that had humanoid aliens fighting on dinosaurs equipped with futuristic weaponry didn’t get made shortly after. A Dino Riders movie seems like it would be an easy sell to Hollywood. Dinosaurs with laser guns! Done.

There’s been a Voltron movie in the early stages for the past couple years, so hopefully this one comes true sooner rather than later. If you go back and watch the old show about a team who pilot giant robot lions that connect to become an even bigger robot, you’ll see that every episode is the same. The bad guys come, they try to fight them separately, and then they just form Voltron and take the bad guys down. A Voltron movie plot would follow this pattern pretty closely, just hopefully with a bit more depth.

The 1987 Masters of the Universe movie starring Dolph Lundgren as He-Man and Frank Langella as Skeletor was the first movie I saw in the theater so I’m a little partial, but most saw it as a failure that didn’t stay true to its cartoon and action figure roots. Right now would be the perfect time to make a sweet movie that would make everyone forget about the old one with the current craze of the new Masters of the Universe Classics action figures selling out every month online. Build a movie universe on the same scale and scope of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, map out the franchise before you start so a trilogy doesn’t just get made as a cash cow, and ‘80s nerds and plenty of others will flock to the theaters.

What other classic properties do you think should be made into big budget blockbusters?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Blog That Happened Way Back When

X-Men: First Class came out this weekend and everyone’s been asking me what I thought of it and I haven’t quite found the appropriate response. On one hand I was pretty entertained throughout and felt it had strong performances by both Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, but on the other hand I found myself really irritated at all the direct references to the previous films, and then certain situations and plot points that don’t line up in any way shape or form to the same films. This was my issue with the film, and maybe my issue with prequels in general.

Prequels are meant to be an earlier story of familiar characters that show them how they were before and how they came to be the characters we’ve come to know and love. That pretty much means that a prequel has to end in a very specific way or it doesn’t work. You can start a lot of different ways, but you have to end the film in a way that allows the original films to pick up after and make sense. If you don’t line it up that way, then what’s the point of doing a prequel? If you want to change everything, why not reboot it from scratch. That’s what Christopher Nolan did with Batman Begins and it worked great. It’s a little sad that I can honestly say that the best made prequel movie in terms of continuity is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.

X-Men: First Class suffered from these issues of being a prequel. The writers and director had an entertaining and interesting story of the early years of several X-Men characters but I felt like they weren’t too concerned with lining up their film with the others and being one continuous story unless it was for a quick chuckle or point for nerds to freak out. I say if you aren’t concerned with lining up, then don’t, that’s great but make your own movie and do your own thing, but don’t throw in settings, situations, and cameos that say you are part of the same universe ‘cause then it just doesn’t make any sense, and it kinda ruins it for nerds like me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Blog About One Picture

Back in 2007 we got to see the 3rd film in director Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film franchise. The previous two installments were both critical and commercial hits, while part 3 made more than enough money, most found it to be a big let down that was lacking in story, and sloppy in execution.

Even though many were not totally thrilled with Spider-Man 3, news came quickly that Raimi was still going to work on another installment with Tobey Maguire and a rumored villain in John Malkovich as the Vulture. But almost immediately following these rumors and reports, Sony announced completely out of left field that they would no longer be persuing a 4th Spidey film with Raimi due to the typical Hollywood “creative differences” and instead launch a complete franchise reboot with (500) Days of Summer director Mark Webb at the helm.

Now I get things not working out with a director and wanting to try something new, but when Bryan Singer left X-Men, they didn’t start all over. When Tim Burton left Batman, they got someone else and kept it going, and those were a bit worse than Spider-Man 3. Spider-Man 3 made plenty of money despite some bad reviews so there was no real reason to start from the beginning like it was a flop.

But the decision was made. Screenwriter James Vanderbilt’s original script for Spider-Man 4 was going to be reworked into an all new origin story for Peter Parker and Andrew Garfield (pre Social Network) would be plucked from obscurity and become the new Spider-Man.

So despite a little bump in the road, a new Spider-Man movie was happening and things began moving fast. But the fans didn’t seem happy. Most message boards and other nerdy outlets were filled with comments of unhappiness and criticizing a movie that they haven’t even seen yet.

I haven’t seen the movie either, and although I was a little skeptical of the whole idea of rebooting what many call one of the greatest franchises in comic book/movie history, I was also excited to see what they would do with it. Mark Webb has proven himself to be a talented director who focuses a lot on character while not forgetting the visuals and Andrew Garfield certainly looks the part and now after seeing The Social network, I’m confident he can play the part.

Then, a few days ago the first official image of Garfield in the Spidey-suit hit the internet. Some fans are still saying no thanks to this reboot, but that image sealed the deal for me. I’m pumped to see a new take on the web-head that is just as true to the comics, but isn’t a 2nd rate attempt at the franchise. The suit looks like a fantastic mix of comic accuracy and urban realism. If you look closely at the wrist, you can see that the creative team opted for the mechanical web shooters from the comic books rather than Raimi’s organic ones. It’s only one image, but it proved (to me anyways) that these guys know what came before and totally respect it, but they also have no desire to repeat it. I’m gonna welcome this movie with open arms, and hopefully I won’t come out of the theater in the summer of 2012 disappointed.