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A rundown of the biggest films to hit so far this summer…
            A great improvement on the first Captain America film in 2011. Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo have honed their craft shooting parody action scenes on NBC’s Community and Winter Solider greatly benefits from this. Possibly the first film in the Marvel extended universe to have any actual stakes, this will hold us over nicely until Guardians of the Galaxy/Ant-Man/Dr. Strange hit theaters in the coming years.

FilmFire review:
4.25/5 forms


            Another fun but non consequential romp from Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield. Ridiculous and cringe worthy coincidences litter this film all the way through but it doesn’t stop it from being very entertaining. A lot of universe building stuff à la Iron Man 2. Paul Giamatti is wasted in a sea of third act villains.

FilmFire review:
3.25/5 forms


            A total joy to watch. Intense slow burn through the beginning stages of the film until we get what we’ve been waiting for. Bryan Cranston shines but is the only relatable character in the movie. The lead actors are terribly written and given less than nothing to do, but it doesn’t stop the film from being wildy enjoyable. Insane ending climax that is brutally satisfying.

FilmFire review:
4/5 forms


            A return to form for Bryan Singer, his first time directing an X-Men film since 2003. Fast paced and much more enjoyable than any of the X-Men movies from the last decade, Days of Future Past is a a ton of fun to watch. It manages to successfully combine the old and young casts into one film without seeming bloated with characters, something Sony should learn to do with their rambling Spider-Man franchise. The interesting take on time travel mechanics makes it a joy to watch.

FilmFire review:
4.5/5 forms


            A complete butchering of the original fairy tale, there’s almost nothing of merit here besides Angelina Jolie chewing scenery. Completely takes the evil out of the witch and sanitizes all of the dark and broodiness from the original. She doesn’t even turn into the dragon. Maybe fun for families with little kids, but this is another case of Disney cashing in.

FilmFire review:
2/5 forms

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… a holdover to distract us from what we’ve been craving all along… it’s still better than the last Wolverine sorta-solo outing, so there’s that.
-Kevin A. Ranson, MovieCrypt.com

The Wolverine is surprisingly dour and uneventful, at least by the carnage-n-claptrap standards of modern superhero movies
-Luke Buckmaster, Crikey

What they did to me, what I am, can’t be undone.
The Wolverine, the latest from James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) is a very unique film especially considering the summer of destruction we’ve had so far:

  • Star Trek: Into Darkness left San Fransisco and London in ruins
  • Humans fled planet Earth in both Oblivion and After Earth
  • Superman and Zod completely destroyed metropolis in Man of Steel, with complete disregard for innocent human life
  • Iron Man 3 featured major Los Angeles landmarks being blown to pieces by Extremis
  • The world all but ended in Pacific Rim and World War Z
  • This is the End…enough said

We’ve seen so much destruction that even Damon Lindelof is getting tired of it.

The Wolverine tries to be the opposite of the films mentioned above: A comic book adaptation with a small scale, very little carnage and a minimal body count.

“Eternity can be a curse. The losses you have had to suffer.”

It’s not quite a character piece but not quite a superhero movie. With much smaller set pieces and scaled down action sprinkled throughout, this film is essentially a look into the character’s psyche. Not quite what we’re used to in a big budget summer tentpole release, it’s almost a jarring change of pace and even slightly refreshing.

“A man can run out of things to care for, lose his purpose.”

The year is 1945. Wolverine is imprisoned in an underground cell in a Japanese detainment camp in Nagasaki. As a pair of B-52 bombers appear in the horizon, his cell is opened by an officer named Yoshida, who begs him to escape and save himself. Instead, Wolverine pulls him inside and shields him from the blast as all other human life on the island is decimated by the bomb. Yoshida watches in horror as Wolverines body is burnt to a crisp then heals itself before his eyes.

“That day ain’t here yet.”

Flash forward to 2013. Disheveled, lonely and living off the land in the Canadian wilderness, Wolverine is haunted by visions of Jean Grey, whom he killed in X-Men: The Last Stand. Eventually located by a mutant named Yukio, Wolverine travels with her to Tokyo per the request of Yoshida, who is now on his deathbed. The reason? Immortality.

“You have struggled long enough. I can end your eternity…”

“I can make you mortal.”

For the great majority of the The Wolverine, it plays as a straight old-school samurai action film with Wolverine fighting bigger and better enemies as he progresses, resulting in his confrontation with the “big bad” as his biggest challenge yet at the end of the film. And for the most part, this progression works well. At least enough to keep an audience entertained. The opening scene in Nagasaki is incredible, most of the characters are impressively written and compelling, and there is even a fascinating sequence on a train that puts a similar action beat in The Lone Ranger to shame. Not to mention the ending post-credit tag is easily the best we’ve seen in quite a while.

“Trust me, bub, you don’t want what I got”

But there’s still something missing from The Wolverine. It’s not boring and it’s very well acted but it almost feels as if the events are taking place in slow motion. Some of the lesser action sequences seem dull and uninspired and the setting for much of the film takes place in drab and ugly environments that aren’t exactly fun to watch. One of the villains named “The Viper” makes no sense within the context of the movie and is shoehorned in, presumably to balance out the cast between mutants and human samurai.

“You’re a soldier, and you seek what all soldiers do…”

“An honorable death, an end to your pain”

Despite the natural progression of enemies Wolverine faces throughout the film, the final battle goes off the deep end and is laughably ridiculous. It’s the kind of ending one would expect from a more traditional comic book movie that feels the need to escalate the stakes to the point of absurdity instead of trusting the audience to understand the character without blatant symbolism.

Better than all of the comic book adaptations we’ve had this summer and BY FAR superior to the atrocious X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine brings a slightly refreshing change of pace and a much lower body count. Despite it’s pacing issues and uninspired final battle scene, it’s very unique and worth checking out if you’re a fan of the X-Men.

FilmFire review:
3.75/5 forms


There’s plenty to like in Snyder’s hectic, rowdy film. But by the time we reach the bludgeoning excesses of the last half-hour it’s hard to shake the sense that this was an opportunity at least partially missed.
-Christopher Orr, The Atlantic

DC still has much to learn from rival Marvel in the filmmaking realm, but Man of Steel at least offers hope. Hope, and a slight headache
-Tyler Hanley, Palo Alto Weekly

Every person can be a force for good, free to forge his own destiny.
Superman has never been one of my favorite characters. I don’t care much for any of the previous film incarnations of the Superman mythos, in fact I think Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns from 2006 is pretty atrocious. To me, he always seemed more of a god than a superhero. I much prefer characters like Batman or the X-Men who are more human and relatable, with actual weaknesses. Given all of that, I was extremely excited for Man of Steel. The trailers were mesmerizing, the cast is phenomenal, I bought in to the hype and was ready to love this updated take on the hero.

Unfortunately, this film is a bit of a mess. Most of the individual scenes are fine by themselves, but there is an extremely jarring pacing between them. The film opens with an overlong sequence on Krypton explaining how baby Superman found his way to Earth. Not only is it a very confusing and abrupt way to begin, the events of what happened don’t entirely get explained until much later on.

The film cuts to various flashback sequences that break up the main storyline in somewhat awkward ways. All these flashbacks are excellent and really help flesh out Superman’s character, but when it comes to the the main plotlines that are driving the movie forward, they are real momentum killers.


General Zod is getting angry.
The pacing is a real issue, but the film still does a lot of great things. The cast, in particular, is incredible. If this wasn’t a summer movie based on a superhero, Michael Shannon would be considered for some major acting awards for his off-the-wall crazy take on General Zod. Russell Crowe redeems himself after his humiliating Les Mis performance with an eloquent portrayal of Jor-El, Superman’s Kryptonian Dad. Though he doesn’t have nearly enough screen time, Kevin Costner does his usual great work playing Jonathan Kent, adoptive Super Father. Lastly, Henry Cavill puts on a really fun performance as the Man of Steel himself, putting Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) to shame.
You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.
Man of Steel is a really dark film. For being a seemingly fun summer blockbuster with aliens who wear capes, it’s strangely lacking any sort of comedic touch or light hearted moments. If it’s not diving into gritty moments from Kal-El’s backstory, it’s showcasing the absolutely brutal fight sequences between Superman and Zod’s army.

Speaking of the fight sequences, they are almost insane to the point of being incomprehensible. The complete utter destruction and mayhem these characters cause is fun to watch, but quickly becomes mind numbing after the third or fourth time a ripple effect from a sonic boom destroys a skyscraper.


Nope, no religious imagery here
Overall, I was entertained. It certainly doesn’t live up to the crazy positive hype and outstanding marketing campaign over the last year, but it is still leagues better than Bryan Singer’s failed attempt at a reboot in 2006. The cast is great, the action is bonkers and there are some really well done individual sequences. Unfortunately, the sum isn’t quite equal to the parts here and it feels like at least a slight disappointment. Hopefully we can just chalk this up to growing pains and a slow start to what should eventually become a fully realized DC Cinematic Universe concluding in a Justice League film.
My father believed if the world found out who I really was it’d reject me. He was convinced that the world wasn’t ready. What do you think?

FilmFire review:
3.5/5 forms


A superhero in film is only as good as his villain. And that’s a critical problem for Iron Man 3.
-Kirk Baird, Toledo Blade

At times reaches “Avengers” level of intensity, fun and exhilaration, which makes it all the more frustrating that a few missteps result in it simply being a good movie and not the post-Avengers game changer it could have been.
-Jeffrey Lyles, Lyles’ Movie Files

This movie isn’t very good. As the highly anticipated follow-up to director Shane Black’s first film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3 is pretty hollow. It promises a look into the life of Tony Stark after the events of The Avengers. Iron Man with panic attacks and PTSD: not that interesting. Sometimes, comic book movies should just remain cartoonish and fun. This is one of those times.

Things are different now, I have to protect the one thing that I can’t live without. That’s you.

5 Major Issues I had with Iron Man 3

1. This entire film is just a series of disconnected set pieces. First, Tony’s in Switzerland, then back at his house in Malibu where he is attacked. He flies to Tennessee for a while then investigates a lead in Miami. Finally, the film ends with an enormous oil rig set piece off of some coast who knows where. It’s all very disjointed.

2. The villains in this movie are disappointing to say the least. Iron Man 3 absolutely ruins The Mandarin. Ben Kinglsey does his usual great work with the character but the choices the screenwriters make kill off all the momentum built in the first act of the movie. Guy Pearce does an ok job with an evil scientist type but just becomes silly towards the end of the film. The most important aspect of a comic book movie is the villain and Iron Man 3 swings and misses.


This guy? Not as scary as you might think

3. The effects of Extremis look really stupid. A popular story arc from the comics, Exremis is a “super soldier solution that hacks the brain, rewriting the blueprint of it’s repair center to heal injuries.” Obviously. Probably a cool concept in the comics, it doesn’t translate to the screen here at all. Glowing red and breathing fire makes for lame evil powers.

4. Gwyneth Paltrow is terrible. It’s clear she has never seen a comic book in her life and has no idea how to play this character without being a one dimensional target for Tony to interact with and occassioanlly hinder plot advancement. There was actually a scene at the end of the movie involving Pepper Potts that made me cheer, but unfortunately didn’t play out as I wanted.

Gwyneth Paltrow, trying to act in a comic book movie

5. This film really tries to shoehorn how the events from the Avengers are affecting Tony. He has random panic attacks at the mere mention of the words “New York” and complains about his psyche and his sleeplessness. Hey Tony? Not a great time for some post traumatic stress disorder. This is a comic book movie, it shouldn’t be necessary to convey realistic psychological shortcomings on a hero who flies around in a super charged iron suit.


Tony’s suit, as empty as his heart

I had a fun enough time with the movie, but I didn’t care for a lot of the creative choices. There are some funny moments and some decent enough action sequences, but the film as a whole is a pretty big disappointment.

I’m Tony Stark. I build neat stuff, got a great girl, occasionally save the world. So why can’t I sleep?

FilmFire review:
2.75/5 forms


It’s that time of the year to put out the annual top ten list. After much scrutinizing, I finally feel like I’ve seen everything I need to fill out my top ten. Links to the films I’ve previously written a full review of are provided…I will start with the 6 honorable mentions I have this year, in no order:

The Honorable Mentions

…These honorable mentions are the films that were in consideration up until the last minute but just barely missed the cut.


The Top Ten
  • 10. Rust and Bone
  • Powerful. Heartbreaking. Superbly acted. Rust and Bone tells the triumphant story of man’s will to survive against all odds

  • 9. The Impossible
  • A fascinating true story of a family determined to survive a devastating natural disaster. This is a disaster movie that puts Roland Emmerich to shame, in both special effects and human emotion.

  • 8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • A refreshingly charming coming of age tale. Somewhere, John Hughes is watching this film and smiling.

  • 7. Django Unchained
  • A brutal, blood-soaked revenge tale from Quentin Tarantino. Wildly entertaining and hilarious. Revisionist history at its best.

  • 6. Cabin in the Woods
  • I shouldn’t say anything about this movie. It is really good.

  • 5. Safety Not Guaranteed
  • A great little indie/sci-fi film. An exploration of what it takes to trust someone rejected by society and believe in the impossible. Tremendous emotional payoff at the end.

  • 4. Zero Dark Thirty
  • Completely mesmerizing from start to finish. Outstanding acting and directing. The best and most tense final act of a movie you will see this year.

  • 3. The Dark Knight Rises
  • Blew me away. Obviously not as good as The Dark Knight but what is? If you say The Avengers, you’re wrong. Nolan has completed the perfect Batman trilogy.

  • 2. Life of Pi
  • Gorgeous, profound, visually spectacular and the best film I’ve seen in 3D to date. Life of Pi  has it all. Come for the adventure, and stay for the enlightenment. Ang Lee’s best.

  • 1. Cloud Atlas
  • Six different stories weave their way through this epic tale and seamlessly connect both plotwise and thematically. Groundbreaking editing. So beautiful and ambitious. An absolute blast to watch. The best movie of the year.


The Dark Knight Rises

“The biggest surprise may just be how satisfying Nolan has made his farewell to a Dark Knight trilogy that many fans will wish he’d extend to a 10-part series, at least.”
-Bob Mondello, NPR

The Dark Knight Rises…the final chapter in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy. The world has collectively been waiting for this film since we first saw Batman run into the shadows at the end of The Dark Night. It’s finally here, but is it worth the wait? Of course it is. As the last theatrical Batman film we’ll see for a while, it does nearly everything we could ask for. While it may fail to reach the highs of the original Dark Knight, it delivers a heart pounding and satisfying conclusion to Nolan’s vision.

I love nearly everything about this film. Sure, it runs a bit long and might pack a bit too much plot into it’s 2 hour and 45 minute runtime. But for me, more Batman is better and I soaked up every last second. The Dark Knight Rises solidifies the series as not only the best comic book adaption to date, but one of the best film trilogies ever made.

Rises is the perfect end to this story. It has its own distinct style but fits right in with the trilogy. Bane is chilling! Catwoman is great! The gadgets are cool! The action and set pieces are epic! Alfred is old! Stuff happens! There’s not much more to say. Batman is cool and so are the movies he is in. You probably already have, but if not, go see The Dark Knight Rises!!!

“TDKR completes on the great trilogies in movie history.”
-Richard Roeper, Richard Roeper.com

FilmFire review:
4.75/5 forms

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The Amazing Spider-Man

“It is an entirely unnecessary remake, but a good one.”
-Robert Roten, Laramie Movie Scope

The Amazing Spider-Man comes just 5 short years after the final entry in the last Spider-Man film series. The first question on everyone’s mind is: Why reboot this franchise so soon? Money, for one thing. The previous franchise had gotten too big and expensive to continue being profitable enough for Sony Pictures (Tobey Maguire alone would have cost $50 million to retain). In addition to the financial issues, director Sam Raimi began to demand more creative control after pesky studio interference frankly destroyed Spider-Man 3. Of course the solution to this is to reboot everything and start fresh with cheaper actors (Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone) and a young, up-and-coming director in Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer). Another reason for the timing of this reboot has to do with how the rights to Spider-Man were sold to Sony Pictures by Marvel Studios in the 1990’s. No one seems to know for sure, but a “reverter clause” is said to exist, that returns the license to Marvel if Sony isn’t demonstrating use of the property.

So, that’s WHY this movie exists. Now let’s get into the real question: SHOULD this movie exist? Let’s explore. The film begins as young Peter Parker (Garfield) is whisked away to live with with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May due to some shady things happening with his Fathers research in genetic engineering. Flash forward to Parker as a high school student. Investigating the details of his estranged Fathers work leads him to the infamous Oscorp, where Peter runs into future love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), meets one-armed scientist turned mutant Dr. Curt Connors (Rhy Ifans), and of course, gets bit by a genetically engineered spider.

Following the trend of “darker and grittier” superhero movies, Spider-Man is mostly successful. It is essentially the same origin story told in 2002’s Spider-Man, but told in a different way. Ifans as The Lizard makes a much more inspired villain than Raimi’s rogue’s gallery of poorly executed baddies: Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, Sandman, Venom. Although the choreography of the action in The Amazing Spider-Man might not be as finely tuned as the previous installments, it is the character work that really shines here. Garfield and Stone have chemistry bursting at the seams and play off each other with perfection. As the romantic duo that drives the heart of the film, they put Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst to shame. There is a slight issue with the tonality of this film, as it mostly aims for a certain realism and edginess but sometimes comes across as over-the-top, including an incredibly cheesy scene towards the end of the film in which a group of blue-collar New York City workers band together to give Spider-Man a hand.

The Amazing Spider-Man, while perhaps not a necessary reboot of the franchise, is a great improvement on Sam Raimi’s trilogy of the early 2000’s. Although not a lot of new ground is broken story-wise, the acting, direction and emotional center make this an excellent entry in the Spider-Man franchise, as well as comic book films in general.

FilmFire review:
4/5 forms

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