Blind Spot 40: ‘Scott Pilgrim vs the World’

It seemed appropriate during the month of an epic comicbook movie release I should finally watch one of the most popular entries from the genre I have yet to have seen for my blind spot series: Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

scott pilgrim4

Released in 2010, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is based on a graphic novel called Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It tells the story of a dopey 22 year old kid named Scott (Michael Cera) who enters a video game world when he plays with his band the Sex Bob-Omb. He goes through many women, but he in particular loves a multi-haired girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to be with her he must defeat Ramona’s 7 evil exes in the video game using music and sometimes a little action.

For the most part I enjoyed watching this film. It is very well cast with a crop of young talent that would go places including Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman. The visual effects and style of the film is unique and continually surprised me. It both feels like you are inside a video game and a comicbook at the same time. scott pilgrim5I also thought Scott Pilgrim vs the World was pretty funny. The big set up jokes like Brandon Routh having super vegan powers really paid off and made me laugh. I also really liked Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay roommate. He was very funny.

What I didn’t like as much is Scott is kind of the worst. He’s selfish, inconsiderate and doesn’t respect women. He goes through them like candy and yet they all seem more than willing to put up with such nonsense. The main excuse the movie seemed to give is he is lovable and nerdy but that’s not a very good excuse. I got the feeling we were supposed to judge Ramona for having so many ex-boyfriends when we saw Scott go through multiple girlfriends in just a few days!

scott pilgrim3

All that said, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a pretty fun movie. The soundtrack is great and it has a ton of fresh energy to it. If you are tired of the same old story it’s definitely worth a try. I think I prefer it to the other Edgar Wright film I’ve seen Baby Driver.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

(This is my 40th Blind Spot pick! What a fun series it has proven to be!)

smile worthy

Advertisements

Doctor Strange Review

doctor-strange4In some ways the latest Marvel movie, Doctor Strange, has been quite revelatory for me. You see, over on my youtube channel I had a special podcast with a comics expert friend of mine named Trevor at HowtoLoveComics.com. 

This forced me to dive into the comic books of Doctor Strange before seeing the film, something I have never done with a comic book movie. I was impressed with how understanding the lore and comics helped add to the moviegoing experience. It’s something I hope to continue to do for future films.

I don’t think  reading the comic books make you excuse flaws in the movie but it helps you understand the characters on a bit of a deeper level than may be explored in one particular movie.

Anyway, it was an interesting experience that I would recommend to all of you.

As far as the movie, Doctor Strange, I enjoyed it very much. There are 2 reasons to enjoy Doctor Strange:

doctor-strange9First, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange. I am a huge Benedict Cumberbatch fan and feel this is the best use we have seen for him in the movies yet. He manages to capture the brilliance of Doctor Strange while also getting a desperate humble side of him. I’ve heard many people compare his character to Tony Stark in Iron Man but I think he spends more of this movie humbled and weak than we get from Tony for many movies. He’s also much more awkward than Tony ever is.

Iron Man also has more substantial supporting characters than Doctor Strange gets. Pepper is a more active character in the first Iron Man than Rachel McAdam’s Christine and Rhodey is certainly more important to Tony than Wong is to Doctor Strange.

So, it is up to Benedict Cumberbatch and his character to carry the movie, and I think he does so very well. He’s charismatic and likable despite being arrogant and over-confident at times.

doctor-strange12

The second standout is the amazing visuals. I saw this film on IMAX 3D and it was pretty awe inspiring. Doctor Strange learns from the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) that there are multiple dimensions. The mystical realms are accessed when we learn to manipulate and control these dimensions.

The movie does a great job showing these dimensions and not explaining them to us or the magic that goes along with them. We see it and that’s good enough without understanding the background or mechanics.

A lot of people have compared the visuals to Inception and I can see their point. However, I think they are more dreamlike than Inception. There is something a bit more grounded in Inception’s graphics and something more ephemeral about them here in my opinion.

The one caution I will give about the graphics is as spectacular as they are, they did make me a little motion sick. Some of the sequences towards the end I feel went on a little bit too long, and I started to feel a little nauseated. I have a very sensitive stomach when it comes to such things, so it is probably just me. You will have to make your own determination. That was just my experience.

doctor-strange11A lot of people have complained about the casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. It is a tricky thing because casting an Asian man like in the comic book could come across as reinforcing stereotypes, so which is the greater sin? Regardless, I think Tilda Swinton does a great job in the role as there is something other-worldly about her. Also her character has a bit more of an arc than I was expecting or was in the comic books I read.

All the rest of the performances are good but they are pretty brief. This is Doctor Strange’s movie and it is his origin story. Some will roll their eyes at another origin story but I didn’t mind it. The movie is well paced, clipping along quite nicely and the tone is carefully controlled. I enjoyed the more thoughtful moments along with the humor.

I don’t know if I liked Doctor Strange as much as Captain America: Civil War, but it is a very enjoyable origin story. I liked the character of Doctor Strange, and I liked the world we were given. That’s about all I needed to be happy. The story was good enough to engage me

I look forward to seeing how Doctor Strange works within the MCU going forward and how the new dimensions of mystical magic help add a new layer to the storytelling at Marvel.

Overall Grade- A-

Here is my youtube review

Suicide Squad Review

suicide squad cerealI’ve never been the biggest superhero movie person, but over the years movies like The Avengers and X-Men Days of Future Past have won me over. These movies have clever stories, great scripts and charismatic performances by Oscar level talent. 2014 was a particularly memorable year with only 2 bad superhero movies and 4 outstanding films- Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Big Hero 6 and X-Men Days of Future Past. These movies had everything I could want in a superhero movie.

WE WERE SPOILED!!!

Aside from Captain America: Civil War the superhero movies of 2016 have been kind of sucky and unfortunately the latest entry, Suicide Squad does not change that trajectory. Suicide Squad is the latest offering from DC Comics and Warner Brothers and despite promising trailers it fails to deliver on its potential.

After Batman v Superman frustrated many moviegoers in March, Warner Brothers clearly took all the wrong lessons out of the feedback. ‘Make the movies more fun’ is what they heard. So, they rushed David Ayer to write Suicide Squad in 6 weeks and then hacked it to pieces creating a mess of a movie.

suicide squad2That’s not to say there aren’t any redeeming values to Suicide Squad. There are mainly with the casting. All the roles, with 2 exceptions, are well cast. The problem is the script doesn’t give them time to grow as characters or to gel as a unit. Will Smith and Margot Robbie are the standouts as Deadshot and Harley Quinn and I’m curious to see more of them in future films. Viola Davis is also great as Amanda Waller who is an agent forming the Suicide Squad. She is ruthless and you kind of see why she would be interested in super villains.

The story of Suicide Squad is you have this group of villains that are called upon to fight evil metahumans. This is all supposed to be after the events of Batman v Superman but there is never any talk of using the good metahumans like Flash and Wonder Woman (despite briefly seeing Flash in a cameo). And the fact that only 2 of the Suicide Squad are actually metahumans which makes you scratch your head?

The first act of the film starts out clunky with Davis sitting at a table looking through a binder of each of the squad members.  Then we see flashback introductions to the characters. It’s kind of like the gossip montages in Ant-Man but repeated over and over again.

But even with that certain characters aren’t introduced at all like Katana. She just walks onto a helicopter and they say ‘oh look it’s Katana. She’s a crazy ninja” (I’m paraphrasing but you get the drift).

Suicide-Squad-Enchantress-OriginSo what are they called upon to do? Well, they are supposed to stop an evil being named Enchantress who kind of needs to be worse than the squad in order for the story to work but she’s just not. I normally don’t care about lame villains but she did nothing for me and I felt the special effects were very poor. She creates this ‘brother’ that looked right out of Gods of Egypt. Again, I wouldn’t have cared about a bad villain if I had cared about the rest of the film.

SUICIDE SQUADFor a movie like this to work it relies on the charisma of the stars and a witty script (this is not a gritty crime drama like The Dark Knight). And the problem with Suicide Squad is the editing is so poorly done that just when characters are starting to interact it cuts away to something that doesn’t matter.

You are supposed to believe that the characters are becoming a family but I didn’t buy it for a second. There’s a moment where Deadshot has to decide whether to hurt Harley Quinn and their relationship wasn’t near built up enough for me to buy his decision. They had one very brief conversation and they are supposed to be big baddies. It didn’t work.

There’s another scene where they are fighting these glob creatures of Enchantress and the creatures stop coming for some reason and they stop fighting evil and have a drink. If the movie had effectively established them as not caring about the mission or stopping the badder guy than I could have bought it but the way it sits it feels random and jarring.

suicide-squad1The other confusing part about the movie is why have Enchantress when you have DC’s greatest villain in the film for like 6 minutes? You could have made the Joker the villain and instead you have a lame villain. That would be like Marvel having Loki as a villain for a 5 minute cameo. It makes no sense.

But speaking of the Joker…Jared Leto goes for it as this new take on the character and I personally was not a fan. The Joker is an agent of chaos. He thrives on creating disorder. He is the last person in the world that would want to be an organized crime boss like in this movie. It felt too outright bad-guy where the Joker is supposed to be a believer in the philosophy of chaos. He should be more complex than having damaged tattooed on your forehead!

suicide squad3All that said, if you can go into Suicide Squad and ignore the script and just enjoy the charismatic performances and the fun soundtrack I think you may have an enjoyable time. It’s a lot like Batman Forever. There’s some engaging performances in Batman Forever, some decent music and production design but the story and script are terrible. So if you can enjoy Batman Forever than you will enjoy Suicide Squad.

At the very least I didn’t feel as manipulated as Batman v Superman and it isn’t as gloomy (although the forced fun added by the studio is so obvious). To me the two movies are about equal in quality but it is a case of picking your poison and what types of problems bother you more than others.

It’s probably very generous but I did like it better than X-Men Apocalypse which underserved all of the characters I love and became destruction porn. I gave X-Men Apocalypse a D+.

So for Suicide Squad Overall Grade- C- for Will Smith and Margot Robbie but I’d say it’s a definite skip.

ps. Those people who started the rotten tomatoes takedown petition are morons.

Thoughts on X-Men Movies

In the battle of comic book fandom it is usually between the MCU and DC (mainly Batman and Superman). That dynamic usually leaves Fox’s X-men movies as the forgotten cousin of the debate.

Not the case in my world! The X-Men films are actually my favorite comic book franchise by a large margin. Sure they have their misses like all the franchises but even those I’d take over the misses from the other franchises.

The thing I like about the X-Men movies is I think the dynamics of social politics is an interesting layer. When they are discussing mutants rights and the treatment of people that are different it has a heft to it you don’t normally see in the genre.

Also, the casting is first rate. In the X-Men movies we have Oscar nominees/winners like Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page. As well as other strong actors like Peter Dinklage, Patrick Stewart, James Marsden, and Kelsey Grammer.

Bryan Singer has made pretty much all of the good X-Men movies and he knows how to direct entertaining layered films that look nice and have strong emotion. The X-Men movies have great characters like Magneto, Wolverine, Mystique and Professor Xavier. To me these are more interesting than any other franchise characters.

I know some of you disagree with me but I stand by my belief that X-Men movies have the strongest female superhero characters by far. Characters like Rogue, Mystique, Jean Gray, Shadowcat and even Storm are way better than the token female we get in other movies usually for sex appeal or to be the ‘tough girl’.

Anyway, like I have done with Batman, Superman and Marvel Phase 1 and Phase 2, I will give my thoughts on each of the X-men films except for Deadpool, which I will not be watching. I have also selected my ‘best shot‘ from each film. This is a shot that I think captures my favorite part of the movie. I hope you enjoy my picks and are anxiously looking forward to X-Men Apocalypse like I am!

X-Men

Our first introduction to the X-Men directed by Bryan Singer. This film holds up incredibly well. What makes it strong is we see the beginning of Magneto in the concentration camp and how he was treated. This gives a weight to his choices later on. You understand why he is doing what he is doing and why Professor X disagrees. You also have great emotion between Rogue and Wolverine. They are fighting and trying to understand their mutant powers. Their bond grows in a believable, moving way  and the events of Ellis Island are exciting and emotional. I picked this shot between Rogue and Wolverine because  it was a tender moment especially when you consider Rogue’s fears of human contact. Beautiful. xmen best shotX2

An extremely entertaining second entry in the series with Magneto taking the center stage. Colonel Stryker wants a genocide of all mutants. He drugs Magneto and uses Mystique to manipulate. What’s great about this movie is the good and bad characters are constantly shifting. One moment Magneto is the enemy and then Stryker and others. The idea of the Cerebro is fascinating and beautiful. I love how vulnerable all the mutants are and how each character gets their moment to shine. There many great scenes like Cyclops and Jean Grey fighting or the fight between Wolverine and Deathstrike. You never know who is being controlled or what their motives are.  It keeps you guessing and actually has something to say about faith, friendship and loyalty. Nightcrawler s a great addition to the cast and it’s just overall entertaining. I picked this shot of Jean Grey making her sacrifice because it is beautiful, moving, gripping conclusion to the film.

x2 best shot2X-Men: The Last Stand

A semi-decent premise of a ‘mutant cure’ is hampered by clunky dialogue and cheesy fight sequences. It seems every punch is accompanied by a ‘I’m the wrong guy to play hide and seek with’ or some other lame one-liner. I still think it is better than the bad movies from other franchises. It’s way more watchable than Batman and Robin or Superman 4. It isn’t a bad watch in my opinion if you are just looking for a dopey fun comic book movie. Ian McKellen seems like he is having a blast as Magneto so I picked a shot just before he destroys the Golden Gate Bridge. I didn’t like the way they messed with Jean Grey after her beautiful moment in X2.

xmen last stand best shotX-Men Origins: Wolverine

Now X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a movie worth putting at the bottom of the comic book movie barrel. I think it is far worse than Last Stand. Hugh Jackman tries his hardest with the material but it’s a mess. I think a character like The Blob is supposed to be funny but it falls flat and then the film is very violent at times but not in a compelling way. What is most bizarre is how bad the special effects are. You know an Xmen movie is bad if they can’t even get Wolverine’s blades to look good. It’s not fun or silly just boring and dumb. They introduce characters like Deadpool and Gambit but really just to fight with for a few minutes- not any real character development. I picked this shot because it is a semi-decent explosion with Jackman on a motorcycle. That’s really the best this movie has to offer.

best shot origins wolverineX-Men: First Class

I’m not the biggest fan of Matthew Vaughn’s new style to the X-men world. It’s too James Bondish for my tastes and a bit garish with skimpy costumes and stylized action. Also January Jones is very weak as Emma Frost. However, the rest of the casting is outstanding with Kevin Bacon, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, James McEvoy and more. I really like seeing the evolution of Magneto especially with an actor as good as Fassbender and it is kind of cool to see the X-men as a true team, not divided like the previous films. My best shot shows this sense of teamwork.

first class best shot

The Wolverine

Even though I love Wolverine as a character for some reason I had missed this film, and I’m here to tell you it is way underrated! I really thought it was a great superhero movie. The action by director James Mangold is really well done with a martial arts flare to it. I liked starting at WW2 and Logan’s experience in Japan and then the infection of Viper makes him more vulnerable than in other films. The relationship with Mariko is standard girlfriend superhero stuff so I am willing to forgive that. The dialogue is intense with moments of humor but not as out of place as First Class. Overall it’s very entertaining movie and reminded me a little bit of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy the way he combines martial arts style fighting with superhero story. There is a sequence on a train that was amazing so that is where this shot comes. Jackman is totally up for the physicality of this film.

wolverine best shotX-Men: Days of Future Past

I love this movie! Not only does this brilliant film take away most of the damage done in Last Stand and Origins but it combines all the great actors from all of the films. Through the Terminator-like time traveling set-up we get a story that is action packed, full of emotion and also very funny. The plot centers on a sentinel uprising that is wiping out our favorite characters in the future. Using Kitty Pryde’s abilities Wolverine is sent back in time to 1973 where he must gather Xavier and Magneto to convince Mystique to not assassinate the maker of the Sentinels Dr Trask. I love a movie with a message of hope and that’s what you get in the end with Mystique’s decision. She chooses hope for the future over cynicism and it’s very moving. Even Xavier says he has renewed hope. I love all of the actors, script and everything else. Picking a shot is really hard. Do I go with emotion, or dazzle? Emotion is hard to capture in a shot so I’ll go with Dazzle. I love Quicksilver and his scene helping to free Magneto. It’s hilarious with terrific special effects (and music).

dofp best shot2So there you have it my friends. I have finished my dive into superhero movies for the year. Boy what a journey it has been 16 Superman/Batman, 12 MCU  and 7 X-Men movies since Februaryish. 35 superhero movies and there have been highs and lows.  After I see Civil War and X-Men Apocolypse I will do a retrospective on the experience of 37 movies. Craziness… Ha.

I hope you have enjoyed my little efforts and let me know what you think of the X-Men movies and my thoughts/best shots on each film.

Batman v Superman Spoiler Free Review

batman v superman11I was going to wait to do a spoiler free review of Batman v Superman until I see it Thursday (I ended up getting into an early screening today!).  But I felt I should put a few comments down because some people will want to take their children to this movie and might hope I could give them some guidance in that regard.  This review is spoiler free so I can’t say what happens but something happens that I think could seriously upset small kids.  Just trust me.

Now let’s get on with my initial thoughts.

First I will remind you guys I’m not that rabid a Batman fan to begin with.  The movies tend to focus too much on villains and Batman is usually a bore.  I like my superhero movies to be about heroes rather than villains.

That said, I went to Batman v Superman optimistic and hopeful it would be a fun comic book movie.  And for about an hour in I was enjoying it on that level and then unfortunately it takes a turn I did not like at all.

I will also say that my brother who is a huge Batman fan hated the movie, so take that for what you will. He was very upset and not in a good way.

It’s hard because one of the things that didn’t work at all is highly spoilery but suffice it to say that Zack Snyder thinks we are all stupid.  He somehow thinks he can make a movie with a million hints at the Justice League Movie coming in 2017 and yet expect us to buy the ending…Come on? When you guys see it you will know what I mean.  There is no way the ending is legitimate and it is all done to squeeze phony emotion out of fans and leave you in a phony cliffhanger for those dumb enough to buy it.

Ok. Off soapbox.  There were things that worked quite well.  Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was actually quite good.  If you had told me going into it that one of my favorite things about Batman v Superman would be Wonder Woman I would have said you were crazy but there it is.

Also, I liked some of the character development we got in the first hour of Batman and Superman.  Ben Affleck was good as Batman although he is manipulated rather easily.  But I thought the building off of the destruction of Man of Steel and questioning Superman’s powers was pretty good.  Cavill is fine in the film but I still don’t see any chemistry between him and Amy Adams’ Lois Lane.

Jeremy Irons is good as Alfred although underused and Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White had a few moments of comic relief.  Holly Hunter as a senator was kind of wasted.

Jesse Eisenberg didn’t work for me as Lex Luthor’s son but it’s not entirely his fault.  The screenplay makes some leaps that I found hard to believe.  He is granted clearance to things he really shouldn’t be.  He’s places that don’t make sense for him to be at and he seems to know Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne’s alter-egos when he is first being introduced to both of them.  He also manipulates Bruce very easily.

Let’s talk about the action.  There’s really only one extended fight scene and then 2 dream sequences. The dreams were kind of annoying.  The long fight scene is ok but the way it ends does not make sense for either character.

We all knew they would go from being enemies to friends within the movie.  It’s in the title so I don’t think that is a spoiler but how that happens did not feel authentic or believable at all.   Batman makes such a drastic shift and for a reason that I didn’t buy.

Boy it sounds like I really hated it.  I guess the charisma of the stars provided enough marginal enjoyment for me to give it a ‘meh’ rating.  I can totally see why my brother hated it.

I think a lot of fans will phantom menace this movie.  It has a very low rotten tomatoes score and already I’m hearing defenses and ( if you liked it that’s awesome) but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people come down on this movie once the novelty has faded and they look at it more objectively.  We will see.

Oh and Doomsday looks terrible.  I couldn’t believe how bad the CG was on him.  Usually Zack Snyder at least gets that kind of thing right.

I just don’t know how anyone defends that ending.  Zack Snyder tried to trick me and it’s not going to work! I may not be a huge Batman fan but I’m not stupid either.

Overall Grade- C-

I also don’t think Man of Steel fans will like this movie.  It doesn’t have any of the sci-fi or edgier elements of that film.  It’s a lot of people talking about Gods and God-like powers and not much of the showing like in Man of Steel.

My youtube review.  A bit rambling but say what I needed to say.

All Superman Movies Quick Thoughts

So I did it!  I set a goal to watch all the Superman and Batman movies before Batman v Superman.  Watching Superman movies was interesting because most of them I hadn’t seen in a long time so it was kind of like watching them fresh.  I’ve never been that big of a comic book movie person and Superman was always pretty far down my list, but I do have nice memories of Christopher Reeves.  When I was in high school I read his autobiography and was very moved by his personal story.

Superman is a fun character because he is so pure.  He’s practically the definition of a hero because his mere existence is to help humans and spread hope.  Some of the versions miss this sense of hope and some forget it in favor of ridiculous comedy.  I’d say you get a little bit of everything with Superman.  At his core he should be a hero.

Just like with Batman, the Superman movies have their highs, lows and mehs.  And just like with Batman I am going to do it Best Shot style and pick one image from each film that summarizes my experience watching it.

My thoughts on all the Batman movies here

So here we go…

Superman: The Movie

I’ll be honest this movie didn’t hold up for me the way I thought it would.  Richard Donner’s film was a trailblazer in the world of comic book movies but my problem was how long it took to get going.  It takes an hour before you meet Christopher Reeves’ Clark Kent/Superman and he doesn’t fly until almost the 1 1/2 hour mark.  That was too slow for me.

Some of the origin story is compelling.  I like Marlon Brando as Jor-El and his role as a kind of Savior character is interesting, but it just takes so long.  I got bored.  Now once we get to Christopher Reeves it is wonderful.  He does such a good job differentiating the nerdy Clark Kent and the suave Superman.

I also felt that Margot Kidder as Lois Lane was wonderful and her and Reeves have excellent chemistry.  My favorite scenes of the film was their date and the first time they fly together.  I’m not the biggest fan of Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor.  I don’t mind a silly villain but he wasn’t charming silly but just annoying.  John Williams theme is of course iconic and overall it’s an entertaining film, just not quite as great as I remembered it.

superman1-8Superman 2

This was my favorite of the Superman films I watched.  I saw the Donner cut because Richard Lester took over as director and made it a lot sillier. I didn’t have time to compare the Lester version so take that for what you will.

Still I liked that this film focused on Zod, Ursa and Non coming back to have revenge on Superman for their banishment.  They are strong villains but the movie wisely focuses the most on Superman and his inner struggle over saving humanity vs having a loving happy life with Lois Lane.  This gives a nice emotion and Reeves is very good in these scenes. Plus, you still have the great chemistry between Kidder and Reeves.

There is a little bit of Lex Luthor but luckily it keeps it to a minimum and the violence is strong but in shorter bursts.  But mostly this film is great because of the journey of Superman and Reeves strong performance.

superman 2-3Superman 3

Now we get into the bad films.  In Superman 3 Richard Lester is given full control and it’s not really even ‘so bad it’s good’.  For something to be that kind of guilty pleasure it has to be sincerely trying to be good but this is just a boring, lazy, stupid movie.

Right from the beginning you know they are going for total slapstick with a pratfall routine where telephone booths are toppled over.  It gets worse from there.

I felt bad for Richard Pryor because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie where an actor looked more intoxicated while filming.  There were times you couldn’t understand what he was saying it was so slurred together.  He plays a programmer who is used by a CEO to do all kinds of dastardly deeds.

Reeves is fine and there is an entertaining scene with him fighting both sides of himself- evil vs good Superman.  But they remove Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane and give us Annette O’Toole as Lana Lang who he has no chemistry with.

I picked this shot of Richard Pryor because it showcases the problem of the movie with him skiing down the side of a building and then landing with no injuries.  It’s just so stupid.

superman3Superman 4

As bad as Superman 3 is, Superman 4 is even worse.  The production team famously took all the money out of the budget so everything looks horrible.  Everything from the costumes, special effects, script are horrible.

I guess only good thing about it is you get Margot Kidder back as Lois Lane but it sucks that things had to go out this way for her and Reeves, who were so wonderful together.  You have so many cliches with the mean boss at the Daily Planet with the daughter who has hots for Clark (Superman/Clark Kent go on a double date with Lois/Lacy for a long segment).

We get the return of Lex Luthor who creates Nuclear Man which is embarrassing.  Superman gives a speech at the UN and you can’t help but cringe.  Maybe some people find this ‘so bad it’s good’ but it’s hard when nobody was even trying to make something good.

superman4Superman Returns

Bryan Singer took a break from X-men to make his version of Superman in 2006.  It’s not terrible but did we really need to see Lois as a bitter single mother?  Brandon Routh is fine as Superman but he is off screen for long segments of time.  It really could be called Lois Lane Movie because of the focus given her.

We get Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor who I thought was surprisingly flat in the role.  He’s kind of a bully to his assistant played by Parker Posey (who cries most of the film) and not a believable foe for Superman.  Maybe I just don’t like the character of Lex Luthor?  We’ll see if Batman v Superman can change my mind.

It does have a nice look to it and some impressive sequences.  I particularly liked a scene where Superman stops a crashing plane.  I liked it visually but also because it took brains and brawn to make it happen.  That was cool twist for the character.  Overall not a terrible watch but a little bit dry.

It does have many homages to the Donner films and I don’t know if it quite got that balance of originality vs reboot right? It’s tricky.

superman returnsMan of Steel

Honestly it is the most divisive movie in history.  I have grown weary discussing it with people, but I must own I didn’t hate it this time around.  I was more ‘meh’.  It’s takes Superman into a scifi direction and then adds a disaster movie component.  I said while tweeting ‘it’s Superman if you combined Star Trek and San Andreas’ and I think that is accurate.

I hate the flashback structure and it’s not that the destruction exists it’s just gratuitous and repetitive.   Do we need to destroy all of Smallville and then destroy building after building of Metropolis?  Couldn’t the point be made more succinctly?  They also screwed up Lois and Clark relationship. There is not near enough time with them together to believe their relationship or what happens/how she is used.

Michael Shannon is fine as Zod and his motivations are interesting.  He is trying to save his people and I liked that.  I also love Henry Cavill who is a very beautiful man.  I just wish they gave us a few more moments like the kissing scene with him and Lois where he jokes about kissing an alien.  It doesn’t have to be a joke but the whole movie he seems depressed.

Diane Lane is excellent as his mother but I didn’t like Kevin Costner as Pa Kent or how they wrote that character at all.

The breaking of Zod’s neck makes sense in theory but it’s at the end of one building after another and it feels gratuitous after such exhaustion.

Snyder needs to learn the art of subtlety and that sometimes less is more.  This includes his Messianic imagery.  This shot really captured the film for me.  Cavill- great. Snyder’s excess- not so great.

man of steel quoteAnd there you have it.  I oddly had more to say about the Superman films than Batman.  Go figure.  I hope you enjoyed all of them.

What is your favorite Superman movie?  Put in the comments sections and let’s talk! On to Batman v Superman.

My youtube review of Superman 1 and 2.  If you feel so inclined give it a thumbs up.

Blindspot 3: Dark Knight Rises

dark knight risesThis month I am taking care of my Blindspot entry early.  This is the series where we watch a classic we have never seen before and give our thoughts on it.  I have already done Blade Runner, Tron and now we look at The Dark Knight Rises.  Yes my friends, today I saw Dark Knight Rises for the first time.  I’m probably one of the few Americans who can say that!

The reason why I was hesitant to see it was because I didn’t really care for Dark Knight (I know shock. Ah, horrors, I have no taste!).  It was too cynical, violent and frankly creepy for me.  It was dominated by a mesmerizing villain and I don’t like stories about villains.  I like stories about heroes.  So I was reticent to see the final installment and then the Colorado Shooting happened and it put me over the edge.  You can read my thoughts on that day here.

I quoted my cousin who said:

“How about the very movie that was showing in the theater where the shooting took place?! I know The Dark Knight Rises is the movie of the Summer, but I walked out because of how intensely violent I felt it was and the ruthless killer Bane was dark and evil. After 20 minutes I went back in because I didn’t want to feel left out… (wish i would have chosen differently now.) i know its bold to say, but we cannot keep watching this violence on screen and expect to be exempt from it in real life!”

I admit I have become a bit more immune to these things than back then but the violence in Dark Knight still bothered me when watching it a few weeks ago.

dark knight rises5

So that’s all kind of background to my viewing experience today.  And…

I have to be honest- I liked The Dark Knight Rises a lot more than I thought I would.  Why?  Well, at its core is a message of hope that a city can rise up and confront evil.  In the Dark Knight, on the other hand, the most noble soul turns into the villain.  It’s the opposite message.  Everyone, even Batman has an angle and isn’t that different from the Joker after all.

That’s not to say it is perfect but I did enjoy the viewing experience a lot more.  I know I’m unique in that but I’m not writing these reviews to tell you what you want to hear but what I truly believe.

So basically the plot in Dark Knight Rises is Bruce Wayne is blamed for the death of Harvey Dent, who is looked at as a hero.  He goes into hiding for 8 years.  Bane, a masked beast of a man, played by Tom Hardy is on a mission to remove corruption from Gotham by removing what he see’s as injustice. Injustice with the government, wealth, commerce and everything else.

dark knight rises2

Bane is trained by Ra’s al Ghul from Batman Begins (who trained Batman) and he is also on a mission to kill Batman who killed Ra.  Bane tricks Catwoman Selina Kyle to get Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints and he stages a takedown of the stock exchange destroying Bruce and Wayne Enterprises.

The plot does get pretty convoluted at that point but Alfred resigns (and is missing most of the movie), Lucius becomes involved, Commissioner Gordon is hunting down Bane as best he can and we get to meet John Blake who is essentially a Robin-type story.  There is also Wayne Board Member Miranda Tate played by Marion Cotillard who wants to see a fusion reactor produced for energy but Bruce fears it could get into the hands of people like Bane.

Bane tries to stage a type of Marxist revolution killing off the powerful and rich while manipulating the common people with fear.  This is in the end is not effective when many people fight back (literally in a type of battle) and Batman pays the ultimate price.  The film leaves us with the message “a hero can be anyone”

dark knight rises4

One of the things that bothers me about most Batman movies is Batman is always the most boring person in the film.  Dark Knight Rises is an interesting situation because he is not really the lead character.  The City of Gotham is the lead, and its transformation is what is compelling.So basically Batman Begins is about Bruce becoming Batman.  Dark Knight is about the Joker and the power of evil and corruption.  Dark Knight Rises is about the City of Gotham and it finding its hope again.

That’s not to say there aren’t problems in the film.  Batman is in the film too little and there are probably too many scenes of Bruce watching the action in prison.  Also it can be difficult to understand what Tom Hardy is saying with that mask on.  There are also other plotholes like his speedy recovery with a leg brace from a debilitating injury but it’s a comic book movie.  I guess I expect that kind of heroics in a comic book movie.  I don’t watch this genre for gritty realism. And in reality there are plotholes in Dark Knight whether people chose to acknowledge them or not.

I’m not saying Dark Knight Rises is a masterpiece. I don’t know if I feel that way about any superhero movie outside of The Incredibles; although there are many I enjoy.  I’m just saying I appreciated the change in tone from the previous installment.

dark knight rises3I also loved Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle.  She was confident, sexy, and smart.  Her performance certainly wipes the bad taste out of my mouth from Halle Berry’s Catwoman.  That’s for sure!  I thought she was really entertaining.

dark knight rises6Miranda Tate while fine was more of an average character, and I don’t know that I completely buy her big reveal at the end.  It feels a little cheap to me.  Nolan didn’t need to make everything in all 3 movies tie up in a perfect bow.  We even see Scarecrow in a cameo during the sentencing scene.  That wasn’t really needed.

Also  many of the other characters are relegated to bit roles.  Alfred has very powerful moments but then is missing for most of the movie.  Gordon we don’t see enough of , as well as a number of other characters.

dark knight rises8As far as Bane goes I found his political motivations to ‘share the wealth’ kind of interesting but like I said he is tough to understand at times and is a little one-note.  The fight scenes are intense but perhaps because I wasn’t as creeped out by Bane as Joker they didn’t bother me as much as the violence in Dark Knight.

If I’m honest you do kind of tell this was the B storyline that they had to use with Heath Ledger’s passing but I still think it turned out very well.

Dark Knight Rises feels like a comic book movie and not a crime drama.  That said, having seen how the story ends I do appreciate the Dark Knight much more than I did before (it might not sound like it but it is true).  I can now see the story as a true trilogy and the hopeful ending does make the middle violence a little more palatable. It is almost better to think of the 3 films as one long movie and not 3 separate stories.  dark knight trilogyOf course the direction is well done by Nolan with beautiful cinematography from Wally Pfister and terrific score from Hans Zimmer.  I don’t think Nolan has made a technically bad movie yet.

You could definitely make an argument that Dark Knight Rises is self-indulgent at its 165 minute time and there are definitely lags but over all I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.  Chop this one up to low expectations if you want.

There’s hope for Gotham and that makes me happy!

Overall Grade- B