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Category — Comic Books

S is for Summer – MAN OF STEEL

An alien from planet Krypton crash lands on Earth and is raised by a couple from Kansas who protect him from the world as he matures into one of the most powerful beings in existence: the whole of Earth is no doubt familiar with Superman‘s origin story by now – whether from comic books or film, odds are you’re aware of Kal-El/aka Clark Kent/aka Supes. So in launching Man Of Steel [2013] director  has taken a risk tackling the iconic character and risking Super-franchise fatigue from the get go. But with the guidance of Legendary Pics producer Christopher Nolan, screenwriter  and composer Hans Zimmer, he manages to add a few twists to Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster beloved Superman mythology, creating a film that – while not exactly fresh – is nevertheless chock-full of a vibrant confidence and plenty of tentpole swagger to justify the relaunch of a once proud franchise. Moments of bad dialogue and heavy-handed (unavoidable) exposition aside, Man Of Steel gets so much correct that it should have no problems ushering in a new flock of fans. Huge scope, high stakes and grand action sequences make this pound for pound the most entertaining Superman film to date – though NOT the BEST FILM – that’s undeniably Richard Donner & Christopher Reeve‘s Superman [1978]. I’m just saying this film is a huge tentpole that will easily step on a lot of this season’s blockbuster hopes with its huge red boots. This is no small feat when you consider the franchise was near death following the last attempt at a reboot, Superman Returns [2006]. The interesting thing about Man Of Steel is its unusual narrative, loaded with flashbacks that could have been a mess but  instead mirror the fractured mind of a person… um, alien… who is lost and confused, a Stranger in a Strange Land. And it works; the structure IS Superman. The minds behind Man Of Steel were smart not to try to emulate the earnestness we associate with the John Williams anthem-ed classic, instead creating a character that is larger than even the filmmakers themselves. And their interpretation works. Aided by a truly remarkable performance from Henry Cavill, there’s a ton of emotion on top of two tons of action, creating a character who’s accessible despite his super-humanity. He’s just plain likable; the ultimate boy scout, lonely and lost, a tortured soul who happens to go by the name of Kal-El from Krypton. Cavill fills the larger than life role with great poise, and while there’s no red underwear on display (sorry ladies), rest assured the dude looks a’ight in that S suit. And the supporting cast is super tight too: Kevin Costner brings irascible heart to protective foster parent Jonathan Kent, Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire, Take Shelter, and the classic Michael Shannon Reads the Insane Delta Gamma Sorority Letter video short) brings his notorious crazy eyed intensity to self-righteous heavy General Zod, while Antje Traue steals the show as Faorah-Ul, an instant classic badass! And the action sequences!?!? Exactly what you’d expect if Supes was real: mass destruction courtesy of pissed-off Kryptonians, with Metropolitans (residents of Metropolis?) caught in the crossfire. So much carnage it’s almost another in the line of apocalypse films. And since with huge scope comes huge cost you’ll find yourself snickering at some in-your-face-product-placement in all that smoldering rumble! In short, I had a damn good time, and hope DC Comics uses this as the bar when they attempt the inevitable sequel. So if you’re tired of superhero flicks I’ve got bad news for you: if they continue to be this bold and adventurous they’re here to stay.

man of steel

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June 20, 2013   No Comments

Shane Black’s Back! – IRON MAN 3

Most franchises fizzle out, lose steam or simply get run into the ground. In some rare cases – I’m looking at you Harry Potter – they actually get better and better as they approach the end of their saga. The Marvel run (separated chronologically into “Phase 1″ and “Phase 2″) shows no sign of dissipating as it aims for the upper echelon of comic book cinematic history. Simply put, Iron Man 3 is a solid chapter in Tony Stark’s arc, that rare third installment that’s strong enough to stand alone and smart enough to mine the past. But you’re one of the critics who hated Iron Man 2 (2010). You ask me, “Hey Rockie, what makes this IM so special?” Well, look no further than the film’s director – Shane Black, who’s has been a consistent Hollywood talent for decades, the man who pioneered blending hard R action with hard R humor like some crazy sleazy alchemist. His scripts for the Lethal Weapon films (directed by ) still impress with their seamless blend of action and character, and my personal favorite – The Last Boy Scout (1991) – is a sublime marriage of Black’s WTF? loaded script with Tony Scott‘s slick direction. And who knew that his directorial debut, the underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) would be a hint of things to come – as he then joined up with  for a voiceover-fueled neo-noir and now does so again, on a much grander scale. Over the course of Black’s IM3, as Tony Stark has to dig deep to conquer his problems, we get a glimpse of that sardonic, action-packed, character-centric humor that made Black a millionaire screenwriter. When we meet Stark he’s reeling from the New York attack that took place in The Avengers, manically struggling to juggle his Mach suits and personal life, and feeling vulnerable and exposed. He’s a man with a lot of gadgets who’s in constant need of human support: whether from his constantly put-upon girlfriend Pepper Potts (), complete strangers (he teams up with a small boy in whom he sees a lot of himself), or the hilariously named Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle), a militarized version of Stark himself. When a new terrorist threat (The Mandarin – an instant classic thanks to Sir Ben Kingsley and some clever writing) invades the defenses of the President Of The United States (what the William Sadler!?), Tony’s arrogant hubris bubbles over – a theme intrinsic to the Iron Man series and character. Not only does Stark have the Mandarin to deal with but also AIM – a group of scientists led by Guy Pearce – which IM3 ushers into the Marvel film world for no doubt future fun. All this – and the steady array of innovative Mach suits concocted by the brains behind IM3 – makes for a wonderful mix of action/adventure which will dazzle and amaze. There are some great supporting roles on display, including Rebecca Hall, adding some twitchy-face action, and the underrated James Badge Dale (check him out in my personal fave The Grey) as an explosively scene-chewing henchman. And have I mentioned this film is hilarious, with well-placed humor nicely balancing the action out? I have? Ok. Point is I loved Iron Man 3 because it manages to do everything right, taking elements of part one (the prototype tech and ‘geez, I hope this works’ shenanigans), elements of part 2 (‘A God Can Bleed!’), and introducing us to new elements (War Machine/Iron Patriot), all while managing to entertain and never stalling in the process. And by turning Stark into a humbled human this installment has made him into an even greater hero, one you actually care about. It’s a solid “Phase 2″ kick-off with Shane Black proving he’s the man for this (and other) job(s).  Hey Marvel: more like this please!

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May 8, 2013   No Comments

Comic Book Brutality – DREDD 3D

DREDD 3D is “the law,” done right.

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October 1, 2012   No Comments

The End of an Era – THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES seals the deal with a bang.

At the inception (yup) of writer/director Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Gotham has had 8 years of peace – with nothing remotely as threatening as The Joker (respectfully not mentioned ONCE the entire film) having surfaced during this long period of tranquility. Law enforcement is happy, the Gotham elite are happy, life is good, and as a result Bruce Wayne has hung up his spurs and retired the Batman. But of course when shit hits the fan this permanent vacation is cut short. It seems old buddies The League Of Shadows have a score to settle – not only with Bruce but also with Gotham city. Enter a new foe named Bane (Tom Hardy), trained by Ra’s al Ghul himself (the ubiquitous Liam Neeson), who’s come to finish what was started in the first chapter of the trilogy: namely to raze the corrupt city to the ground by any means necessary, in this case a good ol’ fashioned Atom bomb – and to break the Batman in mind, body, and spirit. Add to the mix master thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who complicates matters for Bats and rides the fence about whether Gotham and is worth saving, and you have a heady villainous brew. Of course our brooding hero has a few friends to help him on his journey, in the form of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and “hothead” police officer Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt), a cop inspired by Batman and more than willing to go beyond the call of duty. Will The Dark Knight and his allies save Gotham? Will Batman endure, as Alfred once foretold? Or does he have a death wish, as Alfred foretells early on? These are the stakes in Nolan‘s final yarn. Does the film work? Yes, though it never hits the levels of excellence of the previous films – there’s nothing as emotionally compelling as the interrogation scene from The Dark Knight, and there’s some pretty silly shit in the form of a mobile atom bomb (why not just level the damn city from a distance?) and a subplot involving police trapped in tunnels for months – all a bit much. But taken as a whole, The Dark Knight Rises merges perfectly with Nolan’s vision, and is a fitting ending – averting the disaster that claimed Sam Raimi‘s Spiderman 3 and Richard Lester‘s Superman 3 – and by so doing achieving that rare feat, of a single-director-superhero trifecta. As for the cast, it’s all accolades – Bale is a solid Bruce/Bats but finds himself in the shadow of some stellar co-stars: Michael Caine is without flaw, the perfect Alfred, end of story. Hathaway and Gordon Levitt are wonderful additions to the lore, expelling any iffy feelings you may have had about their casting within minutes of screen-time. And Hardy does so much with eye contact that it almost (almost) makes his massive muscles unnecessary. He’s creepy, his voice is demented, and it just works. And talk about payoff – the last 5 minutes of this film are truly special, and a brilliant send-off to the entire saga. He saved the franchise with Begins, and gave us two solid films afterwards: though it has minor problems, they aren’t so big as to blemish the big picture- with The Dark Knight Rises Nolan sticks the landing and proves that Comic Book Cinema is here to stay. Allow yourself to fall in, and you’ll find it’s a satisfying ride.

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July 26, 2012   5 Comments

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