Friday, December 16, 2011

TDKR Prologue Reaction (Warning: Spoilers!)


Hi everyone! So last night my dad and I went to Mosi to see the exclusive imax showing of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocal which featured the very eagerly awaited six minute Prologue to The Dark Knight Rises. We arrived in plenty of time and waited in line among other excited movie goers for a few minutes before being allowed entrance into the mildly disorienting egg-shaped theater to scale its steps and find a pair of seats that agreed with us. After a wait that felt like an eternity in which more and more eager looking people filed through the doors and filled up the rows the theater finally darkened and the familiar DC comics and Warner Bros. logos flashed across the screen amidst a passionate flurry of whoops and cheers, some of them even coming from other people in the theater (ha ha.)
The prologue begins with a shot of somber looking Commissioner Gordon standing before a podium and adressing what I am assuming are a number of Gotham citizens and law officials. Gordon says that he believed in Harvey Dent and it will be a long time before someone inspired people the way he did. Then the scene suddenly shifts gears to a long stretch of land in an undisclosed location. An armored jeep pulls up to a small plane manned by a team of CIA agents and a hanful of hooded prisoners are brought into their custody. To be perfectly honest I am a little hairy on the details of exactly what was going on but basically one of the prisoners is revealed to be Bane who, after decieving the authorities into believing they were at their mercy, forcefully takes them apart in true villainous fasion with his team of mercenaries in tow. The amazing arieal sequence that ensues is both thrilling and chaotic as Bane's crew manages to blow apart the entire rear of the plane as a larger aircraft begins to overtake it. In a scene quite similar to Batman's use of the "skyhook" during his Hong Kong detour in The Dark Knight, Bane makes off with a certain Doctor who I'm assuming is important to his agenda somehow while the ruined plane and its ill fated passengers plummet to their doom below.
The entire scene is absolutely incredible but the only thing I kind of was a little iffy on was Bane's voice. Granted, I really dug the emotionally detached almost Hannibal Lectarish way in which he spoke but the fact that his voice is processed through the mask gives his speech a warbling mettalic sound that, while cool, made his dialogue awefully difficult to understand at times. Judging from other reviews I have been reading, it seems alot of people share this opinion and I am certain the filmakers will take notice and easily rectify this in the months of post production ahead.
From there the action transitioned to a montage footage from the film including Batman taking aim with his fancy new laser gun, some cool shots of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, some shots of what I in which I believe both Catwoman and Batman hauling tail on the Bat-pod, a shot of what looks like the new Bat-plane or whatever the heck that thing is, a shot of what looked like Bane and and a team of his men repelling down the old well that we know from the first movie leads into the Batcave, and a truly awesome shot of Batman and his army of law inforcers colliding with Bane and his army of convicts on the steps of what appears to be Gotham City Hall.
Perhaps the most striking and heart-wrenching image came at the end though, in which we see Bane holding the shattered remnants of Batman's cowl before casually tossing it on the ground as though it were a filthy diseased ridden thing. The action finally concluded with the shattered visage of the Bat symbol unfolded across the screen along with the ominous tagline "The Legend Ends" July 2012.
The reaction, or lack there of, from the audience was palpable. Never since the ending of The Passion of the Christ have I observed a theater full of formerly excited and socially active people turn so silent and somber so fast. The marketing for this film is truly building a sense of dread and suspense the likes of which no prior comic book based movie has ever even remotely attempted before. There were a few sparse claps when the screen again went dark and I offered up a lone cheer despite the emotional gut-punch of the concluding scene.
In closing I thought the proglogue was pretty damn near the epitomy of awesome, and a thrilling and memorable way to introduce what truly looks to be one of, if not the most dangerous and formidable adversary The Dark Knight has faced in his illustrious cinematic career. Mission Impossible was pretty good but honestly I would have paid the 11+ charge just to see this and waked away a happy camper, if not a mildly traumatized camper.

Until next time.

Ross     

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Poster for The Amazing Spiderman


Hi eveyone. I just wanted to share this new promotional poster that Sony and 20th Century Fox recently put out for The Amazing Spiderman. So far I have really been digging the edgier, less campy approach the film seems to be taking toward Marvel's most misunderstood wall-crawling hero. This new poster seems to further emphasize the film's darker, more serious tone with its subtle use of shadow and veiled light to render Peter climbing a wall with his silhouette taking on the shape of his aracnid alter-ego. Perhaps this is meant to represent Peter's internal struggle in the film with the stone walls being symbolic of him feeling trapped by the circumstances of his life and Spiderman is his only escape. Printed at the bottom of the poster are the words "The Untold Story." This suggests to me that we will be getting a much more personal and intimate look at Peter Parker and the circumstances surrounding his becoming Spiderman that is perhaps more ambiguous and multi-layered than the typical, formulaic superhero origin story. That is what I am hoping for anyway. I can't get over how grim and moody this poster is. Contrasted with the bright lighting and radiant colors of the 2002 Spiderman poster below one can clearly see how much this new series is attempting to differentiate itself tonally from the previous Raimi/Maguire franchise. Definately looking forward to seeing more in the near future.


Ross

 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Top 10 things I'm Looking Forward to in The Dark Knight Rises



Hi everyone! So with the exclusive imax releaese of the "The Dark Knight Rises" prologue just around the corner yours truly has been pondering on what he is most looking forward to seeing in the epic final installment of the Nolan/Batman trilogy. Therefore, for your reading enjoyment I have compiled a top ten list of things I am most excited to see unfold in The Dark Knight Rises.

10. Whatever the heck this thing is!


9. Mysterious Supporting Characters


                                                             
Joining the ranks of mainstays like Michael Caine, (Alfred Pennyworth) Gary Oldman, (Commisioner Gordon) and Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox) are newcomers Marion Cotillard (Miranda Tait) and Joseph Gordon Levitt (Officer Thomas Blake). Very little to nothing is known concerning the impact these new characters will have on the film. It stands to figure that Marion Cotillard's character will serve as a new love interest for Bruce Wayne, whose relationship with Rachel Dawes ended in tragedy after she went kaboom at the hands of The Joker. However, theories have be posed suggesting the character may secretly be Talia, the daughter of Ra's Al Ghul' whom Batman defeated in the first film. This would be an interesting twist since the conclusion of The Dark Knight placed Bruce in a very vulnerable position both emotionally and as Batman. It would be completely characteristic of a fem fatale as deadly and conniving as Talia, who logically blames Batman for her father's death, to go about exacting revenge by infiltrating every level Bruce Wayne 's personal life before rearing her ugly Medusas head. Joseph Gordon Leavitt's character, Tom Blake, is a young Gotham beat cop who we can probably assume will be working closely with Comissioner Gordon. Like Miranda Tait, there is a great deal of speculation over what purpose his character will ultimately serve in the movie. Theories range from him secretly being a member of The League of Shadows to him even possibly taking up the cape and cowl should Bruce Wayne no longer be able to be Batman at the end of the film. An important trait of Christopher Nolan's films is that each character is there for a reason. Even though these ideas are just conjecture and could be completely false, chances are either character will have a significant part to play before all is said and done.

8. Batman and Catwoman Waist Deep in Sh#% Kicking Dudes



Although the two have frequently been at each others throats in the comics and other media, Bruce and Selena share an unspoken connection stronger then the ideological differences that put them at odds and, although they will not easily admit it, will not hesitate to throw themselves into danger if the other is in a tight spot. That being said, I would love to see a scene in the next movie were after the customary rocky start, Batman and Catwoman combine forces to take down a large group of escaped convicts or Leaue of Assassins ninjas or whatever, just so long as it involves the two forging a temporary alliance to wail on a bunch of bad guys.

7. A Totally Tricked Out Bat Cave



Okay Okay, so I realize that the realitic approach applied to the current Batman franchise pretty much rules out the possibility of seeing the trademark robot t-rex, oversized joker card or giant useless penny that adorn the Batcave of the comics, but still, assuming that Wayne Manner has now been completely  rebuilt after having been torched by The Leaue of Shadows at the end of "Batman Begins" I am fully expecting Bruce to have ditched his Bat-bunker in "The Dark Knight" in favor of returning to the creepy suberranean caves were he started establishing his base of operations in the first film. Also, considering the substantial eight year time gap between this movie and the last, it is not at all a stretch for one to expect to see Wayne Manor's underground caverns modified into a veriable crime fighting fortressreminiscient of the comics though likely devoid of the far fetched flourishes.

6. Secret Origins















Unlike the Burton Shumacher Batman films of the 90's were the villains backstory's were divulged in great detail and dominated a hefty chunk of the plot, the Nolan films effectively retain an aura of mystery around The Dark Knight's adversaries regarding who they are and were they came from thus inviting the audience to use their own imaginations to color in the lines. However, that being said I think it would still be cool to see something in the way of an origin story given to Catwoman and Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. In Frank Miller's classic story 'Batman: Year One' Selena Kyle is a tough and tenacious street walker scratching out a living in the seediest part of town before she is inspired by Batman's examrple and adopts the persona of Catwoman becoming a quasi Robin Hood figure for other downtrodden citizens of the East End. In Chuck Dixon's 'The Vengeance of Bane,' we see the inception of the man who would go on to one day break Batman's back as he literally comes of age in a stinking hellhole of a prison after being condemned for the crimes of his dead father before he is even out of the womb. Far from expecting a direct translation of these comics it would not surprise me in the least if Nolan adapted certain thematic elements to re-interpret and perhaps even improve upon the source material. 

5. A Batman Catwoman Rooftop Chase Scene




Assuming the filmakers  utilize the "cat burgler" persona from the comics I would love there to be a scene were Batman catches Catwoman in the act of stealing some priceless diamonds or jewlry and engages her in a thrilling, fast paced and heart pumping chase sequence over the roof tops of Gotham City. Such a daring and physical game of "bat" and mouse would offer something we have never really seen before in the previous Batman movies and provide a great juxteposition to the "Batman as outlaw" ending of The Dark Knight if he is chasing Catwoman while the police are chasing him.

4. What Happened in the Eight Years Between Films?



In a recent interview, director Christopher Nolan revealed that The Dark Knight Rises is set eight years after The Dark Knight. This immediately begs of question of what exactly transpired during those eight years? In one of my favorite lines in The Dark Knight the Joker says to Batman "I think you and I are destined to do this forever.  I would certainly like to think that the eight year gap saw Batman having to contend with The Joker three or four more times before putting the clown away for good. However, unlike the comics were Arkham seems to be more or less a revolving door for all of Batman's deadliest foes, the current film series is grounded in reality and in reality maximum security prisons are extremely difficult to break out of, even for a villain as crafty as The Joker. It would also please me to think that the eight year gap saw Batman having to vie with many of his other iconic rogues that were not exploited for this new franchise (Riddler, Penguin, The Ventriloquist, etc.) Or maybe Batman was only active for a portion of those eight years. Or not active at all. In the teaser trailer to The Dark Knight Rises that came out over the summer we catch a brief glimpse of what looks like Bruce Wayne doing pushups in a jail cell. Perhaps the new film opens with Bane breaking Batman's back like in the Knightfall miniseries and Bruce having to spend eight years traveling the world to build himself back up. Or maybe, since he essentially becomes a fugitive at the end of The Dark Knight, Batman is actually captured by the authorities at some point during those eight years and Bruce Wayne is forced to do some time for his escapades as a vigilante. To quote Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor in "Superman Returns" after he infiltrates the fortress of solitude and discovers the secret power that lies protected within its walls, "possibilities... endless possibilities."

3. Bane's Brutal Characterization



Of all Batman's crazed and nightmarish gallery of villains,  no one stands out in terms of sheer physical power and cunning, strategic intellect like Bane. In a recent interview with interview with Empire magazine, actor Tom Hardy had the following to say about the film's hardcore and ruthless characterization of one of Batman's most dangerous adversaries.
“He’s brutal, brutal. He’s expedient delivery of brutality. And you know, he’s a big dude. He’s a big dude who’s incredibly clinical, in the fact that he has a result-based and orientated fighting style. The result is clear. Do you know what I mean? It’s: f**k off and die. Quicker. Quicker. Everything is thought out way before. He’s hit you, he’s already hit somebody else. It’s not about fighting. It’s just about carnage with Bane. He’s a smashing machine. He’s a wrecking ball. The style is heavy-handed, heavy-footed, it’s nasty. Anything from small joint manipulation to crushing skulls, crushing rib cages, stomping on shins and knees and necks and collarbones and snapping heads off and tearing his fists through chests, ripping out spinal columns. It’s anything he can get away with. He is a terrorist in his mentality as well as brutal action. So he’s horrible. A really horrible piece of work.”

Nuff said!

2. Batman VS. Bane



This one is pretty much a no brainer. Thus far in Batman's long and storied history on film, he has never really been physically challenged by an opponent like I'm certain Bane will challenge him. Yes, it can be argued that  Ra's Al Ghul gave him a pretty good fight when the teacher and former student traded blows on board the speeding monorail in the climax of Batman Begins but in that case it seemed that the two were evenly matched and Batman emerging victorious was a forgone conclusion. In The Dark Knight The Joker was not afraid to get physical with Batman though the hits he got in were won pretty cheaply since either his thugs or attack dogs were always present to soften Batman up before he went in to inflict some damage of his own. Heck, even that big black dude in the cathedral scene in Batman 89 gave Michael Keaton a pretty good butt whoopin' but the latter had just survived a plane wreck for pete's sake. That would take the fight out of anyone. Back in the mid nineties when Bane was first introduced in the Knightfall series that ran through all the Batman titles he pretty much shows up and beats the living sh#% out of Bruce Wayne in his own home, cracking his spine across across his knee for which he is later dubbed by Gotham's criminal underbelly as "The Man Who Broke the Batman." While I am not expecting or frankly wanting a direct translation of the comic in The Dark Knight Rises, I am fully expecting to see some raw, emotionally charged, balls to the wall fight scenes between the two in which Batman, similar to the first time an unprepared and overconfident Sly Stallone faces off with the savage wrecking ball of Mr. T.'s "Clubber Lang" in Rocky III, not only takes a beating but is completely knocked on his a$$. I keep thinking back to that ominous final scene in the teaser trailer were Batman's fists are raised but he is wobbling on his feet and virtually gasping for breath while Bane is running on all cylinders and just barelling towards him like a freight train from hell. If The Joker's motivation was to destroy the symbol of what Batman stood for in The Dark Knight, it stands to figure that Bane's motivation in The Dark Knight Rises will be to destroy the man behind the symbol and, like in the comics, steal his throne as the symbolic "ruler" of Gotham.

1. Batman...THE END!!???



Director Christopher Nolan has repeatedly stated in interviews that The Dark Knight Rises will have a definate ending. Whether this can be interpreted to mean that the end of the film will see Bruce Wayne either dead or no longer Batman is still a matter of great controversy and speculation. Will Bruce Wayne decide to hang up the cape and cowl by the end of the film? If Bruce became Batman around the time he turned thirty according to Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight Rises is set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight which takes place a year into his career as Batman, then one would imagine that Bruce will be pushing the big four O in this film and really beginning to suffer from the wear and tear of his crimefighting exploits. Unlike the comics were Bruce has somehow managed to stay in his early thirties for for more than seven decades or the 90's film franchise, were a younger actor was cast to replace the former and the films were kept in more or less the same continuity, the Nolan franchise has always emphasized that this is a Batman who inhabits a realistic world, heightened reality sure but reality none the less. And in the real world a body, even one as tuned to physical perfection as Batman's, can only endure so much punishment and will inevitably begin to wear out and retaliate after years of being pushed to the extreme. Heck, most professional athletes careers last about ten years before the game exacts a physical toll and they are unable to perform like they once did. In the scene in The Dark Knight, were Alfred and Bruce are talking in the Bat-Bunker and Alfred warns Bruce to know his limits, Bruce removes his shirt revealing a back that is already noticeably scarred and bruised only a year into his being Batman. Now consider how much more dinged up he will be after eight more years of being Batman andf then a human bulldozer like Bane shows up...not good. Another argument for why Bruce will give up being Batman at the end of the film is that, unlike the comics were Batman's war against crime is essentially neverending, the Bruce Wayne of the Nolan films only ever intended to be Batman for a finate amount of time. In The Dark Knight, Bruce is essentially ready to relinquish his role as the citiy's protector to Harvey Dent after they, along with Comissioner Gordon had driven the final stake through the collective heart of Gotham's  cancerous mob element until The Joker shows up and completely blows Bruce's dreams of domestic bliss with his doomed love Rachel Dawes to smithereens. Is it possible that Bruce Wayne is satisfied enough in his endeavors as Batman to put away the mask for good and move forward in his humanitarian work, dropping the goofy, shallow playboy routine and becoming the "hero with a face" that Harvey Dent was meant to be? Or does Bruce in fact have to pay the ultimate sacrifice for taking the law into his own hands and dies to protect the city he loves? We already know that death is a very real threat within the realm of Nolan's Batman universe. Ra's Al Ghul died (or so it seemed) in Batman Begins trying to enact his own twisted brand of justice. Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent, both passionate advocates of law and order, died in The Dark Knight, each falling victim to The Joker's madness and cruelty. Is it much of a stretch to believe that Batman might not make it out of the next movie alive? Can the film's title "The Dark Knight Rises" be read to imply that his spirit will "rise" into a spiritual realm of existence? Will the man die and his legend live on in the hearts and minds of the people or will Bruce Wayne allow his alter ego to die a figurative death while he he begins a new stage in his life. Endless possibilities.

I hope you enjoyed reading this little countdown I put together. There are quite a few other things I am really looking forward to having to do with this film but it would probably take me forever and a day to list them all.  In the meantime, peace out, and stay tuned for more blogs to come!

Ross

   

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises Official Poster


Hi everyone! Just wanted to share this brand spankin' new poster for The Dark Knight Rises. I firmly believe in this instance the image says it all and any thoughts I had to share would pretty much be rendered insufficient and unessesary by the pure awesomeness on display here. Suffice to say that I am awed and more than a little frightened for the well-being of my favorite superhero...

Ross

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Empire Magazine Gets "Knighted"



Hi everybody! Check out the December edition of Empire Magazine. Looks like there will be a pretty heavy spotlight on The Dark Knight Rises if the duel covers featuring Batman and Bane is any indication. I read that this was supposed to hit stands on the 24th which I thought was pretty weird because of the holiday and all. Nevertheless I hot footed it to my local Books-A-Million after Thanksgiving dinner hungry for some Batmany "dessert" despite having fully maxed out on my levels of Turkey intake. For the next few minutes I scoured the racks with all the driven intensity of a Black Friday shopper on their third can of red bull but unfortunately all that turned up was the November issue. Rest assured I will probably be making near daily stops their until a magazine sporting each cover is nestled safely on my book shelf. 
I suppose it goes without saying that I am really digging what I am seeing with these covers and I have no idea what the deal is with that flashlight gun Batman is packing only that it tops my Christmas list if beaten out only slightly by Batman: Arkham City which I am still dying to play. I can't get over how physically menacing and flat out scary Bane looks in this picture. I am sure that the "Shredder" like mouth guard will have some practical application in the film but from a purely visual sense it evokes the idea of a rabid animal that has to be muzzled. I cannot wait for this movie. July 20th needs to get here tomorrow!

Ross    



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Immortals Review


I love Greek mythology. Ever since freshmen English were we had a section devoted to the study of Zeus, Hades, and the extended pantheon of superhuman deities my imagination was captured by these magnificient, otherworldly beings who wield almost unlimited cosmic power and yet are still mired by the same unsavory inclinations toward greed, pettiness, and depravity that ensnare much of humanity. It is this inescapable human condition and the fireworks that ensue on a colossal scale that makes them so interesting to study and read about.
There have been quite a few films that have taken a crack at depicting the Greek gods in all of their overwhealming splendor, more often than not with quite underwhealming results. (Hercules in New York anyone?) The latest of these is "Immortals," a truly ambitious film that has a great deal in common with contemporary films of the same vein like 300 (yah!) and Clash of the Titans (meh) while still managing to be quite unique its own art-house, surrealist kind of way
The story centeres around a young man named Theseus who lives a quiet life with his mother in a coastal village and wants no part in a brewing conflict with the vicious sado masochistic mask wearing Heraklion army led by the ruthless and bloodthirsty king Hyperion. But it does not take long for this simple man of the land to convert to full on Rambo mode as Thesus's village is razed by the sadistic tyrant and his mother is killed in the slaughter. After escaping from slavery with the help of a virgin oracle whom he in turn helps "un-virgianize" Theseus vows to do whatever it takes to stop Hyperion in the rulars relentless quest to a acquire the mythical Epirus Bow, a weapon with the power to kill a god with which he intends to slay the immortals of Olympus themselves.
Meanwhile, the Greeks gods watch the drama unfold from above on an immaculate citadel resting in the clouds. Zeus, who, disguised as an old man, has secretly been mentoring Theseus since he was a small boy expressly forbids the other members of his heavenly host to interfere in the affairs of men but Hermes, Poseidon, etc. are beginning to get antsy at the thought of having their immortality threatened by humans and do not heed their paragon's ruling for long.
This movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at. The filmakers dynamic use bold colors and epic landscapes amplify the film's surreal like quality and makes one feel as if they are witnessing actual mythology unfold on screen. I really wish the overall story had measured up to the sheer awesomness displayed in the visuals but unfortunately the movie is brought down a few pegs by a flimsy, generic and cliche' ridden narrative lacking in subtance or moral ambiguety. Henry Cavill and Micky Rourke both do a fine job of portraying the film's central characters of Thesesus and King Hyperion but neither really manages to add much in the way of dimensionality to their standard, typical action piece character molds of selfless hero and megalomaniacal villain. In fact, Thesus's character arc is almost exactly like that of the main character in Clash of the Titans from his humble upbringing, to being spurned to action by the death of a loved one, initially rejecting the gods before later accepting their influence on his life. Oh, and getting the girl.
In closing, even though Immortals leaves something to be desired in terms of storytelling and characterization, the movie is worth seeing for its breathtaking depiction of the ancient world in all its savage beauty.

Ross

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Batman: Noel Review


In Lee Bermejo's Batman: Noel, Charles Dickens classic story of "A Christmas Carole" gets a radical re-interpretation with none other than the brooding, obsessive, winged avenger of Gotham filling in for Scrooge, the grouchy old miser who in the course of one night, is visited by three spirits and chooses to change his stripes and turn over a new leaf.
Going along with the Scrooge theme, the Batman we are presented with in this story is very much a calloused, jaded, and cynical man. Although he once burned with youthful enthusiasm and the desire to be a catalyst for change in a fallen city, we see now that years of battling the absolute worst society has to offer has left him cold, suspicious, and unable to see the good in people anymore.
His mood is not improved in the slightest by the fact that The Joker, Gotham's most notorious psychopathic killer and Batman's sworn enemy has recently escaped from Arkham asylum and is at large.
Mirroring Scrooge's longsuffering employee is a down on his luck single father appropriately named "Bob" who, in a desperate attempt to bring in some extra income for him and his son becomes implicated in a cash drop for The Clown Prince of Crime. The job quickly goes awry when Bob is caught by Batman who suscpects the Joker will come after him because of his failure and decides to use him as bait to lure his enemy out.
Later that night, Batman is forced to re-evaluate his rash decisions regarding Bob and his black and white perception of humanity in general when he is visited by three characters, each symbolizing a particular period of his crime fighting career, who help him get back in touch with the hero he once was and the hero he can be again.
 Simply put, Batman: Noel is an engrossing gem of a story that manages to pay homage to its inspiration while putting its own exciting superhero twist on Dicken's thought provoking moral fable. Words simply fail to do justice to Lee Bermejo's stunning artwork. His Gotham feels like an actual living breathing city wrought with all the societal ailments of any sprawling metropolitan area. His Batman is a forboding gargoyle coursing with power and intimidation while his unique rendition of The Joker is more likely than not the most downright terrifying version of the character ever to appear in comics. Every panel pulsates with so much energy and attention to detail that it staggers me how much thought and pre-planning must have been put into this book. So if you are a fan of The Caped Crusader or just good, meaningful stories in general then I strongly encourage you to give Batman: Noel a try.

Ross 
 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Puss in Boots Review.


It was simply a matter of time before this funny, fiesty, sword slinging feline got a movie of his own. Ever since he slinked on to the scene in Shrek II, the cute little cat with the flair and mentality of a hot blooded Spanish outlaw quickly rose to become one of the most popular characters in the franchise. With the Shrek movies seemingly  having come to an end, it only made sense for Dreamworks to want to exploit the popularity of its furry, whiskererd anti-hero in a spin-off movie.
Now, it should be noted that I am a cat lover so it was next to impossible for me to view the movie impartially, but preferences aside I must admit that I was completely charmed by the story and its host of memorable characters.
Set some time before his adventures with Shrek. Puss in Boots tells the story of the pointy eared Latin firebrand living life on the run as a bandit hunted by the law. In his daring escapades, Puss crosses paths with an estranged friend, Humpty Dumpty, who convinces Puss to help him steal some magic beans which are the key to finding the real treasure, golden eggs inside a fabled castle resting in the clouds. The only problem is that the beans are safegaurded by Jack and Jill. A rough looking couple no one else is in a hurry to cross paths with. There to assist the two on their dangerous mission is Kittie Soft Paws, a sneaky little minx who proves to be quite the match for the match for the movies booted protagonist.
Plain and simple this movie was just a ton of fun for both children and adults. Although it consists of mainly of talking animals and fairy tale characters the movie never becomes too silly and the characters and their motivations are each unique and interesting. The story and its innovative twists on classic fairy tale figures is clever and engaging all the way through and the voice actors (Antonio Banderas, Selma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis) who bring the characters to life do a fantastic job. I went to see this with my Grandmother and we both had a great time watching it. I would recommend Puss in Boots to anyone even if, heaven forbid, they are not a cat lover.

Ross    

Monday, October 24, 2011

Batman: Year One Review





In the rich, generation spanning history of Batman in comics, arguably only a handful of stories are revered as canon. One of these is Batman: Year One. Released in the late 80’s as part of the character’s ongoing title, Year One delved into the formative stages of Bruce Wayne’s one man war on crime, providing a updated depiction of the character’s tragic origin along with a comprehensive study of his motives for resorting to vigilantism. Another pivotal facet of Batman lore the story expanded upon was the relationship between Batman and Jim Gordon. Not yet having earned his recognized role of commissioner, Gordon is portrayed as a down on his luck cop trying his best to make a difference in Gotham City, an urban cesspool riddled by crime and destitution whose own police force is mired in a sea of corruption and bureaucratic greed. He feels trapped and hates himself for bringing his wife and unborn child into a place as ugly and hostile as Gotham. Although Assigned to apprehend “The Batman” at all costs, Gordon eventually comes to see the city’s shadowy protector for the hero he is trying to be and the two lost souls manage to find a measure of hope and inspiration in each other while each working in their own ways to save Gotham from its many demons.
As you can imagine, I was very excited when I heard this story was being adapted into one of DC Entertainment’s animated features. And on the most part, it delivers. The movie is faithful to its source material to a fault and therein lies my biggest criticism in that nothing new and exciting is really added to the story. The movie is pretty much a straight page by page re-telling of the comic and while that is not necessarily a bad thing, I kind of wish they had tried to be a little more creative in putting their own unique stamp on the story as was successfully demonstrated in prior adaptations of pre-existing storylines like Superman: Doomsday and Batman: Under the Red Hood.
I thought the voice casting of the film was pretty solid. Brian Cranston in particular did a superb job at providing the voice of Jim Gordon and perfectly conveys the stoic resolve yet underlying emotional turmoil of a good man with the odds stacked against him who is just trying to be good at his job and do right by his family. Ben Mackenzie gave a pretty good performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman though at times I thought his voice acting came off as a little “forced” like he was trying too hard to sound brooding and obsessive. Eliza Dushku, who provided the voice of Selina Kyle/Catwoman was good though not present in the film enough to really leave much of a mark.
Although it doesn’t bring anything new too the table, Batman Year One is still an impressive and very well-made animated adaptation of it’s classic comic book inspiration and it’s raw edge and gritty realism definitely set it apart from many of the studio’s other animated ventures.

Ross

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Aquaman #1 Review




Of the entire pantheon of superheroes, no has endured more ridicule and fan boy derision than Aquaman. From South Park to Robot Chicken to The Big Bang Theory, the orange shirted ruler of Atlantis has long been the butt of more than a few jokes and superhero parodies and like the late Rodney Dangerfield, seems to get no respect, no respect at all. Maybe it’s the whole talking to fish thing? Or the fact that the guy cavorts around the ocean on a giant sea horse? In the nineties, DC attempted to de-sissify the character by ditching the iconic look and giving him a grungier, more warrior like appearance complete with beard and harpoon hand. Although well received at first, Aquaman’s pirate makeover was almost too much of a departure for fans to ever fully get behind and despite rubbing shoulders with the likes of Superman and Batman in The Justice League, the character more or less toiled in obscurity before being killed off in the early 2000’s.
Enter Brightest Day. A bi-weekly miniseries from DC that ran from summer 2010 to around Spring 2011. In it, both heroes and villains who had met their end at one point or another were brought back from the dead and given a second chance at life by a mysterious white light expelled fromas deep within the earth. One of these characters was Aquaman who had apparently been able to grow back his missing hand, and with it, rediscover how to use a razor. The series went on to be a success with the Aquaman storyline regarded some of the its strongest material.
Given the characters sudden upsurge in popularity it was no surprise that when DC announced its new 52 relaunch Aquaman #1 made the grade along with Batman and Action Comics as one of the most anticipated books set to hit the shelves in September. Of course it did not hurt any that the formidable writer/artist duo of Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis, arguably two of the most talented people working in comics, were selected to restore the sea king to all his aquatic glory and prove, unmistakably that even a guy who chats with fishy’s has the potential for untold awesomeness.
If Aquaman #1 is any indication of what lies in store for fans of the character than they are definitely off to a great start. Geoff John’s is once again at the top of his game with this book and one of the things I enjoyed most about this first issue was the clever way he directly tackles the subject of the character’s inherently cornier aspects while setting out to prove them wrong. Ivan Reis’s artwork is outstanding. Aquaman looks regal and imposing like a true king should, and it is amazing how he can make something as common as a seafood restaurant pop off the page and be fun to look at. I really liked the child of two worlds aspect of the story and how Arthur Curry has trouble reconciling his role as protector of the seas with his desire for an ordinary life on the surface. Judging by the ending, a life of domestic bliss may be entirely out of the cards for the trident wielding superhero as a sinister new threat rears its ugly, and I mean UGLY leaving the reader with a certain dread filled notion that Aquaman is about to be pushed closer to the edge than he’s ever been.
If you can’t tell by now I really dug Aquaman #1 and am glad the character is finally getting the respect he deserves. Unlike Raj in “The Big Bang Theory” I would have no qualms about dressing in a tight fitting Aquaman outfit complete with ride-able seahorse. As long as the Batman outfits weren’t sold out first. And Superman, and Green Lantern, etc.

Ross

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Justice League #1 Review



Sometimes terrible things happen. Horrible, unspeakable, unimaginable things. Like a loved one being diagnosed with a terminal illness or a beloved family pet running into the path of an oncoming car. Or, ‘gasp!’ the worst, your local comic book shop neglecting to pull you a copy of Justice League #1, only the most colossal, groundbreaking and sought after comic publication since the death of Superman in 1992. Sadly, such was the case with me when after months of build up and anticipation the book finally hit the stands prompting a storm of midnight release parties in which literally hundreds of copies found their way into the yearning clutches of many an eager fan boy and girl. Perhaps it was the machinations of the Legion of Doom or some cruel karmatic force coming back to bite me for a prior misdeed. Whatever the reason, the proud writer of this blog came frighteningly close to tearing his clothes and cursing the fates when a customary weekend pilgrimage to his local comic shop ended with the soul crushing discovery that a copy never made its way into the protective custody of his subscription file. However, the store employees, being the awesome folks that they are, acted quickly to certify a second printing with my name on it and this past Wednesday, three weeks in to DC’s historic, new 52 relaunch, my long wait was over as I quickly uncovered JL #1 nestled cozily in my stack.
Now that I have talked a little about my struggle acquiring the book I bet you are curious about what my thoughts are on the comic itself after actually having read through the thing. Though not a whole lot seems to transpire in the course of the first issue, the narrative does a superb job achieving its goal of acquainting the reader with the truly volatile and unpredictable world that is the new DCU. Especially in the latter parts of the old DC continuity costumed heroes were more or less viewed by the public as celebrities, adored, imitated, and idolized. A striking bronze statue of The Man of Steel stood tall in Metropolis park erected as a kingly tribute to its unearthly protector while in Central City, the Scarlett speedster had an entire museum dedicated to his many heroic exploits. Heck, even the edgy, anti-social Dark Knight who for the longest time had taken such extreme measures to preserve his anonymity as an urban legend had become somewhat of a public figure with his international recruitment campaign for Batman Inc.
In the new DCU, no such admiration yet exists as JL #1 introduces to a world that is still very leery if not downright hostile to this abnormal wave of costumed crime fighters. Such is illustrated in the opening pages of the comic which sees Batman chasing down a terrorist while he himself is being doggedly pursued by a Gotham City swat team. The issue continues by showing us the first encounter between Batman and Green Lantern. GL, believing the terrorist to be of extra-terrestrial origins which are his specialty, persuades the Caped Crusader to let him lend his interstellar expertise to help get to the bottom of the creature’s agenda.
The team up gets off to a bit of a rocky start as we see the two heroes’ oil and water personalities result in some genuinely funny exchanges. A couple of examples of this are when Batman steals the ring right from Green Lantern’s finger without the other noticing and, flustered, GL summons the ring back warning Batman of the its power to give life to his thoughts to which the other sarcastically replies, “I would be afraid if I thought you could think.” Another occurs when GL materializes a glowing green jet to fly him and Batman to Metropolis. When Batman criticizes him for their less than subtle arrival, GL wittily responds “How else were we supposed to get here talk in a deep voice?” As the issue draws to a close the two Seek out the Earth’s only known alien inhabitant who they are led to believe is implicated somehow in everything that is going on. Not exercising much in the way of precaution, Green Lantern is dispatched with relative swiftness by their new adversary resulting in a vintage cliffhanger ending teasing a showdown of epic proportions between the company’s flagship characters, Batman and a certain red and blue wearing Kryptonian.
Though the issue itself doesn’t quite live up to all the hype surrounding it (how could it?) it is still a really fun read and lays the ground work perfectly for a truly epic story arc that sees the very first teaming of the world’s mightiest heroes. As always, Geoff Johns displays an intimate knowledge of who these characters are in his writing while Jim Lee’s artwork is absolute candy for the eyes. Despite my prolonged suspense Justice League #1 was well worth the wait and I am truly excited to see what happens next.

Ross

Friday, September 16, 2011

Action Comics #1 Review




Unless you have no interest in comics and therefore, no soul, I’m sure you are well aware of DC comic’s monumental 52 relaunch. A bold attempt to reclaim the loyalty of fickle fans while simultaneously kindling interest among a broader demographic of people who would possibly like to start collecting comics but are afraid of being overwhelmed by frustrating crossover events and decades worth of fuzzy continuity. Now, with the entire DC Universe being given pretty much a clean slate, the new 52 offers the perfect jumping on point for readers old and new alike with 52 number one issues sporting new directions, new creative teams, and new interpretations of our favorite superheroes.
In an attempt to retain the best possible aspects of the prior continuity while offering a fresh, exciting interpretation of areas that could be improved upon the re-imaged DC Universe sees some of its core characters like Batman and Green Lantern left pretty much untampered with while B-listers like Captain Atom, Hawkman, and Green Arrow given new aesthetics, and status quos to make them more modern and relevant. But perhaps no character underwent more of a face lift then the big guy himself, that’s right, the man of steel, Superman.
In the months heading up to the relaunch Superman pretty much had it made. He was happily married to his long time love interest Lois Lane and had achieved a considerable measure of success as one of the Daily Planet’s star reporters. He had successfully mentored Kara Zor El (Supergirl) and Conner Kent (Superboy) into mature heroes whose nobility and sense of justice and morality were almost a perfect reflection of his own. He was the undisputed paragon of the superhero community, solid, soldierly, super.
So imagine my shock when I open the pages of Action Comics #1 and Superman is dangling a man threateningly above his head atop the balcony of a 20+ story building. Imagine my distress as he is surrounded by a swat team who hates and fears him, ready to fire away at the slightest provocation, imagine my bewilderment at seeing his very “un-super” looking choice of apparel. Superman in Levis!? What was so wrong with the red trunks over blue spandex!? And are those short sleeves he’s wearing!? And work boots!? Who is this guy!? Surly it cannot be the same superhero whose standard is one of the most instantly recognizable symbols in all of the modern world, the same superhero whose mythology is enriched with affinities to Moses, Jesus, and every foreigner who ever set out for the new world, risking life and limb just to fulfill the dream of being a part of this great country. But the more I read the more I realized how the man on the pages epitomized the core of who Superman is behind the title and the costume and the mystique, a hero of the people. That is the crux of who the character is, and that is certainly what writer Grant Morrison and artist Rags Morales delivered in Action Comics #1. Not so much a salubrious, borderline messianic figure but rather a rough and tough champion of the common man whose ardent pursuit of truth and justice in a corrupt, unscrupulous world make him an outlaw rather than an idol, a vigilante rather than a superhero.
The changes are no less prevalent for Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent. Not yet an award winning reporter Action Comics #1 sees Clark as an underpaid stringer cutting his teeth on human interest stories, living in a dinky apartment and barely able to make rent. His marriage to Lois has been dissolved and the two are now working for two competing media outlets. She makes an appearance along with several other recognizable characters from Superman’s supporting cast including his hair impaired arch nemesis Lex Luthor. No longer a villain but now on the right side of the law in this re-imagining, Lex is a military contractor working with the authorities to subdue and capture Superman.
All in all this first issue of Action Comics was an absolute blast, and I cannot recommend it highly enough if you have any interest in Superman or comic books in general. The writing is great the art is great and superman, unlike his portrayal in the mopey, introspective “grounded” storyline that ended the old continuity is really super again. Although not able to take the sky just yet this Superman is not afraid to face danger head on and throw himself in the mix while at the same time smiling and saying nice things to people. Although he may not yet be strong enough to change the course of mighty rivers this superman will not hesitate to throw himself in front of an out of control train even if it means enduring some cracked ribs and blood streaming out his ear. Because of this I suppose I can forgive the jeans and the work boots, heck I kind of dig them. After all it’s not what he wears but what he does that truly makes him Superman.

Ross

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens Review



Cowboys + Aliens equals one heck of a awesome movie. That is probably the most apt phrase I can think of to describe “Cowboys and Aliens” which I finally got around to seeing this past week. This movie had kind of an underwhelming reception when it came out a couple months ago which surprises me considering the flat out good time my dad and I had watching it. Maybe people’s expectations are just too unbelievably high nowadays. Or maybe like the film’s less than peaceful extra-terrestrials I must be from another planet. Anyhoo, this genre blending spectacle of guns and (not so little) green men captured my imagination and kept me well on the edge of my seat until the credits started rolling. Complete with mystery, monsters, space ships, and a heavy helping of daring-do, “Cowboys and Aliens” is pretty much everything one could ask for in a summer blockbuster. Oh, and did I mention Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford star in it? Talk about too much testosterone for one movie!
The movie opens with Jake (Daniel Craig) awakening in the middle of the desert with no idea who he is or were he came from. His only clue as to what happened to him lies in a strange metallic armband cuffed around his wrist. We quickly learn that Jake is one dangerous dude after he makes short work of some varmints who try to rob him before moseying in to the nearest town of absolution. Jake is not there very long before the unflattering truth of who he is catches up with him and after a perfunctory barroom dustup with the local deputies he winds up cooling his heals in the pokey soon to be tried for his past crimes. Just as with Bond, Daniel once again proves why he is certifiable action hero in “C&A.” He exudes the confident, steely eyed rogue persona almost effortlessly while maintaining a sense of mystery and unpredictability that always make him a blast to watch on screen.
Before Jake is taken away to be tried somewhere upstate, absolution is besieged by a fleet of wicked looking air crafts that terrorize the town and spit out long cable claws that snatch up some of the townspeople while there loved ones look on wide eyed and helpless. During the ensuing melee, Jake takes down one of the attacking ships with his bracelet which he finds out converts into a pretty lethal laser gun.
One of the people taken is the son of Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) an icy land baron (or something like that?) who immediately rounds up a posse of volunteers to track down a fleeing alien whose ship Jake shot down and rescuing their kidnapped kin. Because he possesses the only weapon that can really put the hurt on the enemy, Jake is unwittingly recruited into Dolarhyde’s motley group of avengers.
No stranger aliens or wearing a hat and cracking the whip for that matter Ford’s Dolarhyde is like an older version of Han Solo minus the charm and sense of humor. Despite really letting his irascible old grouch come through in this part Ford still manages to be charismatic and likable as the movie eventually sees him learn to take his inflated ego down a few pegs and be more empathetic to others. He and Daniel Craig worked really well together and it was especially fun to watch these two cinematic bulls lock horns before ultimately coming to like each other in the end.
With such high profile actors as Ford and Craig, one might suspect the two would end up stealing the spotlight but credit is do to the supporting cast for really managing to hold their own and in some cases display just as memorable performances. Olivia Wilde is equally cunning and beautiful as Ella Swenson, a survivor of an earlier alien attack who manages to penetrate Jake’s tough guy exterior and help him unravel the mystery of what happened to him while later revealing some bombshells of her own. Paul Dano is absolutely detestable as Woodrow’s son Percy, a spoiled puke bucket who rides the coattails of his father’s success and uses his influence to bully others and get his way. Jake is the one person in town who won’t put up with his nonsense and quickly let’s the younger man know that, painfully. Sam Rockwell gives a memorable performance as Doc, a geeky tavern owner who goes from questioning his place in such a rough and tough town to fighting aliens alongside Jake and Woodrow when he rises to the occasion after his wife is taken in the raid. And of course it would be remiss of me in lauding the supporting cast not to mention the aliens themselves. Imagine if one of the velociraptors from Jurassic park mated with the biggest, ugliest species of toad and these aliens are probably what would result. Fleet footed and frightening these nasty buggers are probably some of the best CG creatures I have seen to date and are utilized in some great moments guaranteed to make you jump.
With a fresh and fun concept, eye catching effects, engaging story, and great performances all around, “Cowboys and Aliens” ropes in your attention and levels you with its awesomeness like a bucking bronco. Raw hide!

Ross

Monday, August 22, 2011

Conan The Barbarian Review




A total testosterone feast, “Conan The Barbarian” is pretty much the epitome of a good “guy” movie, complete with babes, bulging arms, and bloodletting. Yep, lots and lots of bloodletting.
I had previously only seen bits and parts from the original Schwarzenegger movies the few times they showed them on T.V. or, if we want to travel way back, when my dad used to pop in an VHS tape a work out buddy of his taped for him along with Predator, Terminator, y’know, the AU-nold essentials. Not being a fan of the Conan comic book series either I did not have many preconceptions going into this movie, only that it was going to be your standard violent, over the top piece of male escapist fantasy which, surprise, I was 100% correct.
Despite the pitfall of succumbing to many of the cliché’s synonymous with action/adventure movies where the protagonist is bare chested and wield a sword about as big as he is, Conan The Barbarian is actually quite a bit of fun if taken on its own “barbaric” and outrageous terms.
In the beginning of the movie, we see the traumatic journey of the main character, Conan, as he survives a vicious raid on his people, the Cimmarians, by a neighboring kingdom whose ruler, haven’t seen this one before, is a megalomaniac with intimations of god-hood. The attack claims the life of his father and after crawling out from a smoldering pile of rubble and human remains, Conan hefts his sword toward the heavens and screams a vow of revenge.
From here, the movie cuts to a decade or so down the line where Conan is no longer a scraggly haired tyke anymore but a full-blown badass leading his own pirate crew in a tooth and nail fight against the tyrants and slave traders who seem to comprise the major authoritative power in the hyboric age. After freeing a bunch of slaves Conan picks up the scent of his father’s killer. The rest of the movie plays out in pretty generic fashion as the single minded hero embarks on his quest for vengeance, leaving a trail of death and destruction in his wake and winning the love of a good wench in the process.
The story is fairly predictable and while the main actors give good performances the characterizations are pretty stereotypical. On the positive side I really liked Jason Mamoa, the actor who played Conan. He looked every bit the part (Sorry AU-nold) and had a very commanding presence on screen. Another thing I  enjoyed was the movie's seemless transfusion of real and CG backgrounds to create an epic, larger than life feel. The costumes and sets look authentic and watching it in stunning 3D, one really feels as though they have been transported back to the world of antiquity. Or at least a roided out version of it.
A swashbuckling adventure that is definitely no for the squeamish, Conan The Barbarian succeeds in delivering the goods to moviegoers willing to roll with the silliness and enjoy a fun and thought-free escape.

Ross

Saturday, August 6, 2011

First Image of Catwoman from "The Dark Knight Rises."


Hi everyone! Check out this first pic of Ann Hathaway as Catwoman from "The Dark Knight Rises." Looks like she hustled the bat-pod when the caped crusdader wasn't looking. Not sure I'm digging the whole domino mask look as I was expecting something more along the lines of the comics cmplete with cute, pointy little ears but I will reserve my judgement until I see more. I just hope she is as good with a whip as Michelle Phiefer.

Ross

Friday, August 5, 2011

First Image From "The Man of Steel."


Hey everyone! Check out this awesome first publicity photo from the new Superman movie, "The Man of Steel." Honestly I was not expecting them to release anything like this for awhile still given the film's June 2013 release date but lo and behold it looks like the studio is keen on wasting no time in building anticipation for the big guy's return to the big screen and coming across this online the other day just completely made my week!
I could not be happier with the look of the costume and am releaved no jarring alteration were made to Superman's classic asthetic As for the man himself, all I have to say is Henry Cavill looks totally badass in this picture. The steely, determined look in his eyes says it all. "I'm taking you down no matter what." Jeez, would I hate to be the poor sap trying to get into that safe!
Needles to say, I just can't wait to see what this film has in store for us and how Cavill measures up to the plethora of great actors who have embodied The Man of Steel over the years. Judging from this first photo, I am already  feeling really, really, really good.

Ross

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tekken Movie Review



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In the world of motion pictures, a good film based off a video game is harder to find than a cute girl in a comic shop. This argument is especially true when it comes to movies adapted from games belonging to the fighting genre. While one might be able to argue the merits of films adapted from first person adventure/shooter games like “Resident Evil,” and “Tomb Raider” (said merits being a hot lead actress in skimpy attire and not a whole lot else) there is little chance in any sane universe for one to find much in the way of lasting value for stinking, cinematic turds like “Street Fighter,” “Mortal Kombat: Annialation” and the dubious “Double Dragon” movie.
So what is it about these movies in particular that makes audience members feel as abused as the characters doing the fighting? The one dimensional characters? The cheesy effects? The costumes so outlandish as to suggest the combatants would look more at home in a budget conscious staging of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show?” In this writer’s final prognosis, it may come down to a fatal combination of all of these. .
When I first caught wind that they were making a movie based off the popular, long running “Tekken” fighting game series I was immediately intrigued. Along with Crash Bandicoot (love that little guy!) the Tekken games have always been particularly special to me since Tekken 2 was one of the first games I unwrapped the wonderful morning Santa brought me the Playstation that had dominated my list back in the Christmas of 96. Despite my excitement that some of my favorite Tekken characters (e.g. the enigmatic, Robinhood-esque Toshimitsu, the cunning, jaguar masked wrestling powerhouse, King, and the lightning fast, Bruce Lee inspired Marhall Law ) would finally be given the big screen treatment, I could not help but feel a nagging twinge of concern about the film suffering from the same pitfalls of its less than Stellar forbearers. The fact that the movie only saw a brief lifespan in Asian theaters and was never released in the States did not exactly inspire me with confidence either.
After finally getting my hands on a copy of the dvd I can see why the film was never given much in the way of legs to stand on. The production value is, big surprise, pretty shlockly, and rather than attempt to create something new and interesting the story hinges on the worn out cliché of an angry young man fighting for revenge, wining the hearts of the people, threatening the established order, yadda yadda yadda, seriously, the movie is like a straight rip-off of “Gladiator” now that I think about it. To it’s credit though, most the movie’s seven fight scenes are fairly brutal and intense, adding a much needed dimension of realism to the silly gymnastics showcased in other movies of the same genre. Though they served as little more than background, I suppose there was also a certain “geek factor” in seeing the characters from the video game fleshed out on screen that is, if one can overlook the annoying decision to randomly select fighers from all six games, minus King I might add, (jerks!) instead adhering to the roster of one or two of the series.
In summary I suppose if you are a fan of the games you should probably give Tekken a chance. It isn’t terrible, and the fight scenes are actually pretty decent. Unfortunately, with all its clichés and cardboard characterizations, they are not quite enough to save the show..

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Captain America Review




In a summer movie season dominated by mythic hammer wielding gods, societal outcasts with uncanny abilities, and intergalactic lawmen with sparkly green finger bling, perhaps the most unabashedly patriotic of superheroes finally steps up to receive his cinematic due in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Chalked with explosions, superheroics, and Nazis getting stomped under Cap’s shiny red boot heal, Captain America, while not quite as intense and thought provoking as it should have been given the hellish WWIi setting, is still a lot of fun and a solid entry into this summer’s superhero movie lineup.
At the heart of the movie is Steve Rogers, (Chris Evans) a shrimpy kid from Brooklyn who longs to be out on the front lines fighting against Nazi Germany but is met with rejection every time he tries to enlist due to his numerous physical ailments and an all around stick figure build. Steve’s persistence and earnest desire to help in the war effort catches the eye of Dr. Erskin, (Stanley Tucci) a German refugee and brilliant military scientist who has perfected a serum that enhances strength, stamina, and regenerative capabilities, literally transforming ordinary men into super soldiers. Impressed by the admirable qualities he sees in young Rogers through talking to him in person and observing his behavior in basic training, Erskin asks Steve to be the first American to undergo the controversial super soldier program.
As the square jawed, no-nonsense Cap, Chris Evans gave probably his best performance yet in a role that was succinctly different from the smirky wise guys he has gained recognition for playing especially well. I admit I had plenty of reservations when I heard of Evans casting, mostly due to the redundancy of his already having portrayed a Marvel superhero, Johnny Storm, aka. “The Human Torch,” in the now dried up “Fantastic Four” franchise. However, after seeing his range deftly handled in the character’s journey from literal nobody to American icon, I can definitely say that Evans was definitely the right choice to wield Cap’s shield.
Probably my favorite scene in the movie is the thrilling chase sequence that ensues after a mole for Hydra assassinates Erskin. Having barely survived the super soldier treatment and narrowly escaping being killed himself, the newly buff Rogers chases down the Hydra agent who flees the scene in a cab, barefoot, across several city blocks of 1940‘s Manhattan. Being the selfless, willful man that he is, Rogers is so bent and determined on catching the guy that he doesn’t even register the borderline superhuman feats he performs until he nabs the culprit and the scene draws to a close.
Just like in the comics, Cap’s mission pits him against the nefarious Red Skull, well played by Hugo Weaving. the leader of “Hydra, a splinter division of Nazis with more occult leanings who is eager to get out from under Hitler’s thumb and pursue his own megalomaniacal agenda. Ensuring his success is the cosmic cube, a shimmering sapphire ruminant of an age when gods walked the earth that is infused with powers of a catastrophic level.
There to assist Cap on his quest to stop Hydra and save the day is a Colonial Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) a world weary veteran who enjoys some of the movies most genuinely funny lines, private James “Bucky“ Barnes (Dominic Cooper) a young soldier who is also Steve’s best friend from home, Howard Stark, (Sebastian Stan) a slick weapons contractor and eventual father of another certain iron clad marvel superhero who equips Cap with his decidedly un-spandexy red, white, and blue duds and state of the art vibranium shield, and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) a tough military gal from across the pond who develops a soft spot for Steve and plays a pivotal role in his ascension to All-American hero.
Despite all its positive attributes, Captain America is not without a few drawbacks. The more fantastical elements of the film, (e.g. the cosmic cube) are fun and succeed in evoking a “Raiders of the Lost Arc” kind of feel but in the long run, detract from gritty, low tech approach I would have preferred to see in a Captain America origin story. I think it would have been interesting to watch Steve endure some of the horrors of WWII while struggling to keep his pure and virtuous character in tact.. I was disappointed that this was one aspect of the comic books that was almost entirely glossed over in favor of the cosmic cube subplot that I‘m sure works in to this big Avengers movie that Marvel studios will finally get out of their systems in 2012..Another aspect of the movie that kind of let me down was Red Skull. For a villain that has the potential to be truly terrifying I found Red Skull to be more or less your typical, run of the mill super villain with a bad complexion and a superiority complex. While I think Hugo Weaving is a phenomenal actor and probably did his best with the script, I didn’t quite feel the hatred and intensity that is so synonymous with the character.
Overall I would probably have to rank Captain America behind Thor and Green Lantern as being my third favorite superhero movie to come out this summer Though a bit too removed from reality at times, Captain America reinforces everything that is fun about superhero movie escapism and like its protagonist, will surely win you over with its quaint charm and never say die attitude. Oh Captain, my Captain!

Ross

Saturday, July 23, 2011

TAS Teaser Trailer Reaction



Hey everyone! So it looks like after months of having nothing to go on but leaked set footage and grainy cell phone images we finally have an official trailer for next summer’s “The Amazing Spiderman.” Watching the trailer, I was a little disappointed that they are re-visiting the origin again after the Raimi and Maguire franchise did a such a memorable job at telling that story in the 2002 film but am more than willing to give it a chance considering the rich new layers of intrigue this movie appears to be adding to Peter’s history as it relates to his long absent parents and his eventual transformation into the wall-crawling hero.
At the end of the trailer following a breathtaking point of view sequence in which Spidey deftly hurdles over a series of New York skyscrapers like Tarzan through the jungle, we even here a voiceover from Andrew Garfield stating “There are two kinds of secrets, the ones we keep, and the ones that are kept from us.” What does this mean I wonder? That the radioactive spider bite that granted him his arachnid abilities was not random? That some nefarious figure is orchestrating everything somewhere behind the scenes? Needless to say I am very exciting to see what fresh new angles will be added to the Spiderman mythos come July.
Speaking of Andrew Garfield, the guy looks to be a near perfect choice to portray the brainy misfit turned web-slinging superhero Peter Parker and unlike his diminutive predecessor, definitely looks more in line with the classic Stan Lee Steve Ditko renderings of Spiderman as a tall skinny dude.
I can’t wait to see more of this movie in the months to come. Hopefully this new film will succeed were the previous franchise went astray and bring some of the “Amazing” back into Spiderman.

Ross

Thursday, July 21, 2011

TDKR Teaser Trailer Reaction


Hi everyone! So by now I hope by now you guys have taken the time to check out the official teaser trailer for “The Dark Knight Rises” that hit the web earlier this week. I don’t know about you but I’m sure glad it was not that long in becoming available to watch online since I was about ready to shell out the ten bucks it would have cost to see the new Harry Potter just to watch that flippin’ trailer!
Even though a good portion of it is narration over scenes from “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” the tidbits of actual footage shown from the new film, (Gordon confined to a hospital bed, Bruce Wayne doing pushups in a jail cell, an anonymous character scaling his way out of a dungeon-ish looking hole in the earth) is nothing less than striking and offers a truly tantalizing peek of what lies in store for us Batman fans in the summer of 2012.
Finally, who can deny the emotional gut punch of that last image of a staggering Batman, fists raised yet looking as though he could collapse at any moment, shrink away as Bane, an unstoppable freight train of a man, lumbers toward him like a monster. It is as though Bane is at a hundred percent and ready to dish out a world of hurt and Batman is just running on empty.
On top of being a fugitive and hunted by the police, per the ending of “The Dark Knight,” this makes me nervous about the extent Batman will have to endure in this final chapter, but if the the giant bat signal that shines out over the the crumbling skyscrapers of Gotham in the trailer is any indication, he will rise up in Gotham’s most desperate hour and be the hero they need.

Ross

Monday, July 11, 2011

Green Lantern/Tron Comparison






















Hi everyone! So the other day I saw “Tron: Legacy” (finally!) Watching this movie with my Dad, I have to say it struck me just how many similarities there are between this film and another Sci Fi fantasy film that opened last month, perhaps you have heard me talk about it before, “Green Lantern!?”
Lets look at the facts shall we? Each film finds its protagonist in an essentially good yet troubled young man whose issues stem from their father being taken from them at a young age. In Green Lantern, Hal Jordan witnesses his worst fear happen before his eyes when his father’s plane crash landed in a test flight gone horribly wrong. In Tron: Legacy, Sam’s father seemingly vanishes into thin air when in fact he has become a permanent prisoner in the Tron world after his efforts to grow the world result in his own creation turning against him. As a result of being left without a paternal figure to guide them, both Hal and Sam lead precarious lifestyles and instinctively run from greater responsibility. We see this play out in Green Lantern when Hal comes out the winner in a midair dogfight against two prototype drone jets though the ego stroking ultimately comes at the airfield’s expense when he is forced to eject from his plane after losing control, thereby jeopardizing a very important military contract. In Tron: Legacy, Sam commits corporate espionage on a company he technically owns when the men at the top try to enact a policy he does not agree with though he refuses to do little more than strike out from the shadows.
And of course where would we be without the scie fi. Both films see the main character transported to an extraordinary world were, confronted by a seemingly insurmountable challenge, they emerge with a renewed sense of responsibility and are humbled by the experience. In Green Lantern, Hal is given an emerald ring by a dying alien which harnesses his willpower and allows him to create solid objects out of green light. Joining the ranks of a cosmic peacekeeping force comprised of every imaginable alien life form Hal is awakened to a greater sense of purpose and rather than letting his fears get the better of him, fights for and defends his planet when almost everyone else has abandoned him. In Tron: Legacy, Sam is laser beamed into the Tron world and forced to compete in its deadly gladiatorial games were, interestingly enough, vehicles and weapons also appear to be fixtures of light, before he escapes and is reunited with his long absent father. Though initially careing for little more than his own survival, Sam eventually comes to appreciate and defend what his father allowed himself to remain a captive to protect.
This concludes my comparison of Green Lantern and Tron: Legacy. I hope this encourages you to check both of these awesome movies out and see which one you like best.

Ross