Posts Tagged ‘superhero movies’

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Wonder Woman (2017), Baywatch (2017), 47 Meters Down (2017)

June 23, 2017

In the interest of catching up, I’m going to keep these short and sweet.

Wonder Woman (2017) – I loved it. This movie made me incredibly happy. The DC film universe looked in grim shape after Dawn Of Justice but Wonder Woman was a huge win for them – both critically and in its record-breaking box office performance. Gal Gadot does a GREAT job. Not only is she absolutely stunning in the titular role, but she is convincingly HEROIC. I’ve seen the movie twice and the scene in No Man’s Land gave me goosebumps and a huge smile both times. Wonder Woman might have a slow build to this epic moment, but there’s no hesitation in Diana’s resolve: she says she wants to go where the war is and she doesn’t think for a second before jumping right into the line of fire. Chris Pine is a great addition to the cast, as he has plenty of chemistry with Gadot and adds a nice dose of humor. The script does a great job of infusing small bits of comedy into a serious war time setting, without taking anything away from the gravity of the situation. I do think the climax got a little bit… extravagant and silly… but the rest of the movie was fantastic. Wonder Woman is a great comic book film and the best superhero origin movie since Iron Man in 2008.

Replay Value: I saw it twice during opening week and I’d be happy to watch it again right now. It will be a must own in my movie collection.
Sequel Potential: You don’t make heaps and not get sequels. I’m sure DC will fast track another Wonder Woman movie, but first up we will get the two Justice League films and I’m still concerned about those movies, even with Wonder Woman‘s success and the involvement of Joss Whedon.
Oscar Potential: It’s a very good superhero movie, but not really Oscar bait. There is always a chance for technical nominations but most likely it will just whiff entirely.

Grade: 7.5/10 (highly enjoyable/must see comic book movie)

Baywatch (2017) – I was really hoping Baywatch would be a solid 21 Jump Street imitation, but it’s not nearly as clever or as smart. In fact, Baywatch is nothing more than your average stupid, raunchy comedy. The script is absolutely terrible, but at least Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron give their roles some life, as less charismatic leads would render this movie completely unwatchable. The supporting cast range from totally forgettable to borderline bad and while Jon Bass has some funny moments, his character really shows no indication he would actually make the cut in the stiff competition there is to become a Baywatch lifeguard. So the reason he makes it is so we can laugh at his ineptitude and misfortune. Baywatch is a stupid, silly movie that you can safely skip in the theaters and wait until Red Box if you must see it. For what it’s worth though, the three people I saw it with seemed to be pretty satisfied.

Replay Value: Once was enough for me.
Sequel Potential: Baywatch hasn’t exactly smashed at the box office and it got destroyed by the critics, so it’s sequel chances are pretty low.
Oscar Potential: I could see some Razzie potential for the script.

Grade: 4.5/10 (forgettable/watchable)

47 Meters Down (2017) – This is a movie that I probably would have never seen in my life under any other circumstances, but after All Eyez On Me got demolished by the critics, the friends I was staying with in Vegas decided they wanted to see this instead. I basically had no expectations for what looked like a B-level Jaws ripoff starring Mandy Moore, so anything north of horrible was going to be a surprise to me and, well, I was surprised. The plot is trite and silly: two sisters vacation in Mexico after one of them has a big breakup and they wind up on a sketchy-looking boat with a sketchy-looking crew and then go underwater in a sketchy-looking cage so they can go shark-gazing and prove how not boring they are. I have to admit, 47 Meters Down made me incredibly uncomfortable. I’m claustrophobic and watching these girls not only be trapped in a cage, but also submerged underwater with a depleting air supply really hit my weak spots. I seriously had thoughts of walking out of the theater – that’s how much the situation was making me squirm. Just thinking of myself in that situation was unbearable – I’d be dead in minutes because of a panic attack – but I detached and got through it. Oh yeah, there are sharks in this movie! And they are actually well used, with the dark and murky water creating some tense and scary scenes. 47 Meters Down isn’t groundbreaking or particularly good – and the ending was kind of questionable – but it made me uncomfortable enough to get a thumbs up from me.

Replay Value: Not much, but I suppose I could watch it again.
Sequel Potential: The Sharknado sequels won’t stop coming, so maybe?
Oscar Potential: None

Grade: 5.5/10 (watchable/recommended)

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Beauty and the Beast (2017), Logan (2017), Arrival (2016), Green Room (2016), Sausage Party (2016), Pete’s Dragon (2016)

March 22, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Another solid live-action remake of a Disney classic. Beauty and the Beast isn’t as visually amazing as last year’s Jungle Book and it’s more of a shot-for-shot remake than a fresh take on an old favorite, but the story translates well and this film is really a testament to how wonderful the original animated classic is. It’s probably been 25 years since I’ve seen the 1991 version, but the songs felt like I heard them yesterday and they have been stuck in my head the last 24 hours – they are truly timeless compositions. Emma Watson is perfect casting as Belle, Dan Stevens is enjoyable as The Beast, and Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, and Emma Thompson do solid voice work, but the rest of the borders on annoying. Particularly, I had mixed feelings about Luke Evans as Gaston. On one hand, it’s an incredibly campy and silly performance; on the other hand, it’s very loyal to the source material. Overall, Beauty and the Beast is another enjoyable hit for Disney, even if some of the acting and musical numbers are a bit too flamboyant.

Replay Value: I would watch it again, but I’d rather watch the original.
Sequel Potential: This movie is breaking box office records, but it’s hard to imagine a continuation of this story that doesn’t come across contrived.
Oscar Potential: Even with the expansion of the Best Picture category, this film won’t get a nod like it’s source material did. However, nominations for Costume Design, Makeup, and Art Direction are highly possible.

Grade: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Logan (2017) – Logan is going to go down as one of the best superhero films of all-time, but really, limiting it to that distinction is a disservice – it is simply a great film, period. Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine, finds our hero in the not-so-distant future, as one of the few remaining mutants in the world. His new life consists of driving a limo, drinking copious amounts of alcohol, and harboring a mentally ailing Professor Xavier. Enter Laura: a young mutant girl with all the abilities and fury of a younger Logan. What follows is a road adventure with a Western tinge and a film that has pacing, ridiculous action sequences, and a guardian/mentor relationship all reminiscent of Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Making the film rated R was a stroke of genius and once you get past the initial shock of hearing Wolverine and Professor X swear, it’s actually quite funny. Plus, those claws finally get put to gruesome use. Packed with action, drizzles of humor and sorrow, and phenomenal performances from Jackman, Patrick Steward, and newcomer Dafne Keen, Logan is a comic book film masterpiece. It’s the best movie to come out of the X-Men universe and an absolute must see film.

Replay Value: This could go down as a classic and I’m anxious to see it again.
Sequel Potential: Reportedly Jackman’s last appearance as Wolverine, but that’s always subject to change and if not, the character will surely be rebooted in the future.
Oscar Potential: Like Get Out, Logan is in an interesting spot: it’s a comic book movie released in mid-March – not your typical Oscar fodder. But The Dark Knight paved the way for ten possible nominees, so Logan has an outside shot at Best Picture. I don’t see any acting nominations, but Cinematography nod could also be in the cards.

Grade: 8.5/10 (Must See/Potential Classic)

Arrival (2016) – Arrival was one of last year’s most critically lauded films and I found this first contact movie to be quite enthralling myself. It’s definitely a slow burn and the pacing can be a bit tedious at times, but director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) gives Arrival all the mystique and intrigue of a Christopher Nolan film. It tackles interesting themes of language, time, and how we might interact with an alien species, while highlighting our own world’s inability to communicate with one another in today’s trigger-happy environment. Amy Adams is stellar as usual and while Jeremy Renner’s character feels more like background music at times, he does provide some comic relief and plays a pivotal role in the film’s emotional core. While some may be dissatisfied with the ultimate payoff, I felt like Arrival tied things together nicely and made for an enjoyable, cerebral experience. Arrival is a fresh take on the first contact movie and a strong sci-fi recommendation, if not quite a must see film.

Replay Value: You might pick up on some extra things a second time around, but this is more of a once in a decade type movie for me.
Sequel Potential: Ever so slight, but highly unlikely.
Oscar Potential: 8 Oscar nominations and a win for Best Sound Editing.

Grade: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Green Room (2016) – Green Room is a taut, horror/thriller hybrid that cranks up the tension from start to finish. Director Jeremy Saulnier elicits strong performances from Patrick Stewart as a nihilistic neo-Nazi club owner and the late Anton Yelchin as a member of a punk rock band trapped inside a room in the club after unwittingly intruding on a murder cover up. It’s a gruesome, unforgiving film that lovers of scary movies should watch with delight. Enjoyable from it’s opening frame and featuring Yelchin’s best performance of his short life, Green Room is a must see for fans of unconventional thrillers.

Replay Value: Fun enough to watch again some day.
Sequel Potential: Probably not, but if it becomes a cult classic, it might invite some crappy, nontheatrical sequels.
Oscar Potential: Whiff.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Highly Enjoyable/Must See)

Sausage Party (2016) – The writing team responsible for Superbad offers up a hard R-rated animated comedy featuring everyone’s favorite grocery store items. Filled with all the cleverness and humor – if not the charm and superb storytelling – of a classic Pixar movie, Sausage Party is quite entertaining. While there are lots of juvenile jokes and unrelenting amounts of sexual innuendo, Sausage Party features an A-List voice cast and everyone does a laudable job. It’s not quite as emotionally resonant as it wants to be, but Sausage Party is still a pretty fun comedy and recommended while it’s streaming on Netflix. Warning: this is not for kids!

Replay Value: Smart and funny enough to be worthy of multiple viewings.
Sequel Potential: Definitely possible.
Oscar Potential: None.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)

Pete’s Dragon (2016) – It’s probably been 25-30 years since I’ve seen the original and I can’t remember it at all, so I can’t comment on how this film compares. Even though this live action remake was well received, I found myself struggling through it. It doesn’t help that the cast is largely made up of actors whose work I rarely enjoy. Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, and Karl Urban have never been the reason I’ve watched a movie. Oona Laurence, the little girl, gives the film’s only laudable performance. While I understand the decision to make Elliot, the dragon, look friendly, I felt like the CGI was lackluster and actually terrible at times. I’ve seen action sequences that looked less fake in movies that were made 15 years ago. While Disney films are supposed to require an abundance of imagination and a suspension of reality, it doesn’t hurt to explain some things. Like why is there a dragon in a forest in the Pacific Northwest? How does a dragon remain unseen for decades? If it has wings, wouldn’t it need to use them periodically? What does it eat? Are all dragons children friendly? All in all, Pete’s Dragon is a rare misstep from Disney as it feels like the film, with its uninspired casting and visual effects, was an afterthought for the juggernaut corporation.

Replay Value: None for me.
Sequel Potential: Always possible.
Oscar Potential: None.

Grade: 3/10 (Skip It)

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X-Men: First Class (2011)

June 13, 2011

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, January Jones
Director: Matthew Vaughan (Kick Ass)

Quick Thoughts: X-Men: First Class breathes fresh air into the X-Men franchise. The original series of films was mostly acclaimed with the possible exception of Brett Ratner’s messy X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006, giving this film some pretty high standards to live up and it easily blew those expectations away. Matthew Vaughan’s First Class manages to stand on its own while simultaneously giving enough nods to its predecessors that it works as both the start of a new franchise and a prequel to those earlier movies.

First Class takes a look into the lives of our favorite mutant heroes before they became established forces of good and evil. Set in the 1960s and amidst the Cuban Missile Crisis, the film focuses largely on Charles Xavier (McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Fassbender), and how they developed into the alter-egos we now know them as: Professor X and Magneto. Xavier is a young academic brought in by the government due to his excessive knowledge of the mutation gene and to help them against a potential new threat: a band of possible mutants, led by Sebastian Shaw (Bacon). Lehnsherr is after the same man, but for different reasons; Lehnsherr was a prisoner of war and his mother was murdered by Shaw and the Nazi regime. Upon meeting and realizing they have the same mutual enemy, Xavier and Lehnsherr team up, with backing from the United States government, to form the first class of X-Men, utilizing Xavier’s telepathic abilities to recruit other mutants across the world.

When I first heard about the concept behind X-Men: First Class, it seemed like a good idea, but the last X-Men movie was so underwhelming that my interest in the franchise was pretty moot. Fortunately, this movie is absolutely fantastic. From the story, to the casting, to the action sequences, all the way down to the music, this movie blew me away. I was on the edge of my seat and entertained throughout its entirety. The pacing was great and the character arcs of Xavier and Magneto are so well developed that the film exceeds its status as a pure action flick and dives into the territory of great film-making.

Though James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender aren’t complete unknowns, neither of them are stars. However, the casting in both cases is simply genius. McAvoy is charming, funny, and entertaining as Charles Xavier, turning a character I’ve always found mostly boring into someone compelling. While McAvoy is great, Fassbender as the future Magneto is the star of this film. Fueled by vengeance, Fassbender’s Erik Lehnsherr goes through the full development, reasonably transforming from a conflicted, anti-hero into the next big supervillain. The chemistry between the two actors is notable and its easy to see why, years later, Professor X and Magneto can sit down for a friendly game of chess despite their conflicting–and often deadly–differences. Magneto really is a fascinating character. One of the few villains in the superhero universe whose motives aren’t completely corrupt and self-fulfilling. While Xavier plays the eternal and sometimes naive optimist, Magneto arguably fights for the rights of his people. He’s almost like a violent Martin Luther King, Jr. This film really does a fantastic job of giving a believable identity to that character. Jennifer Lawrence is also great as Mystique.

At this point, you have to credit director Matthew Vaughan for knowing how to make a good action movie. Last year’s Kick-Ass was just the warm-up and this movie exceeds all sorts of expectations. It’s easily the best entry into the X-Men franchise and surpasses Bridesmaids as the most entertaining movie of 2011 to date.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’m looking forward to seeing it again and will definitely buy the DVD.
Sequel Potential: This film works not only as a prequel to the previous X-Men movies, but also as the first installment in a new series altogether. I’m looking forward to seeing this portion of the story continue.
Nudity: None… but damn, Jen Lawrence, January Jones, Rose Byrne, and Zoe Kravitz all look fantastic.
Grade: 9/10 (Potential Classic)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 87% Audience: 88%
IMDB Rating: 8.2/10
Recommendation: A great action movie and character drama, X-Men: First Class is not only the best film of 2011 so far, it’s also the best in its franchise.

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The Green Hornet (2011)

February 21, 2011


Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson
Director: Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Be Kind Please Rewind, Human Nature)
Quick Thoughts: When Seth Rogen was starring in “Undeclared” a decade ago, I didn’t really envision him becoming an A-list movie star and I certainly didn’t expect him to star in a superhero film. Boy how times have changed. It’s still hard to accept Rogen as a superhero, but The Green Hornet isn’t really one of the most beloved comic book icons. Surprisingly enough, Rogen makes it work, both as a writer and an actor. Rogen penned the script with good pal Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express) and turn The Green Hornet’s story into something worth watching. Rogen plays Britt Reid, the spoiled, unambitious son of a billionaire newspaper mogul. He spends his days sleeping in until the afternoon, waking up with girls he doesn’t recognize and slouching around after another night of hard partying. His world is shaken up when his father dies suddenly and he finds himself at the head of the family business. Reid ends up befriending one of his father’s employees, Kato, a young man with an amazing skill set that includes martial arts mastery and ridiculous engineering abilities. Inspired by Kato’s prowess, Reid takes up the identity of The Green Hornet and together they set out to take on the city’s underworld.

The Green Hornet is a perfect mesh of comedy and action. Kudos to the production team for turning a film about a C-List superhero and it something that’s consistently funny, fast-paced, and entertaining. In a lot of ways, The Green Hornet asks the question: What if Kick-Ass had Bruce Wayne’s resources and a Tony Stark/Bruce Lee hybrid for a sidekick? Rogen is perfectly cast as Britt Reid, playing our inexperienced hero with naivety and a sense of wonder about what he’s doing. Wanting so desperately for a rush in his life that he’s willing to ignore just how easily he could be killed. Jay Chou makes for a good sidekick and does solid work throughout the film, putting his martial arts skills on display. He does Bruce Lee’s former roll justice. Christoph Waltz, who won an Oscar for his role in Inglorious Basterds last year, doesn’t have quite as much to work with this time around, but manages to give a cold-blooded killer a believable sense of humor. James Franco has an awesome cameo at the beginning of the movie that is straight up hilarious. The special effects in this movie are a little cheesy at times, but don’t take away too much from the film. I enjoyed The Green Hornet. It’s not The Dark Knight, but it’s much better than I ever thought it would be and is at least better than any of the superhero movies that came out last year.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Might actually improve with multiple viewings. Comedies tend to do that.
Sequel Potential: I’m down.
Oscar Potential: January movies don’t tend to get much Oscar buzz.
Nudity: None
Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)
Recommendation: A surprisingly solid and funny action flick about a superhero no one really cares about.

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Kick-Ass (2010)

August 20, 2010

“Show’s over, motherfuckers.”

I was really anticipating this one and the results were mixed. It had a fun feeling to it, but the main character really didn’t move me at all and almost all the other characters were pretty hollow as well. Kick-Ass never felt like a superhero of any sort to me… just a nerdy kid in a bad costume. Hit-Girl is what made this movie borderline awesome despite all its flaws. Not only is the character well written and an utter bad ass, but the young girl that plays her displays a ton of acting talent. The movie has some good action and is funny at times, but the story wasn’t executed spectacularly and the casting was questionable.

That was my initial review back when I first saw Kick-Ass in theaters and after watching it again on DVD last night, not a whole lot has changed. I’m still really underwhelmed by the character of Kick-Ass. The kid gets credit for having the balls to put himself in hopeless situations and it shouldn’t be surprised when he finds himself hospitalized after his first attempt at heroism, but at his core, he’s a scrawny geek and there’s not really a moment in the film where you think he might actually amount to something.

Hit-Girl remains the story here and I think, rather than a Kick-Ass sequel (which is already announced), a spin off starring this character would make more sense. She’s awesome and easily steals the show. Chloe Moretz, the 12 year old girl that plays Hit-Girl, seems to be a rising talent and someone to keep an eye on. She already has numerous roles lined up and is set to star in the American remake of the Swedish film Let The Right One In due out October 8th, 2010. Normally, I’d be suspect about an American remake of nearly any film, especially so soon after its release, but Moretz has me highly interested, especially since her role actually has Oscar potential, an assessment I can make having read the novel.

I was a little hard on Kick-Ass the first time I saw it. It’s not really a mediocre film, it simply suffers because its main character isn’t all that great. I liked it upon a second viewing and I’d bump its grade up a bit. It’s worth watching for Hit-Girl alone, but is a pretty decent comic book/superhero film on its own regard. I’d recommend it.

Grade: B-
Viewings: 2
Replay Value: On the cusp of being a DVD worth owning. The edition I rented had no special features, but there’s a 3-disc edition that’s probably worth investing in. I’d pop it in once in a while.
Oscar Potential? I can’t really imagine this movie getting any attention. Maaaaaaaaaybe for Best Costumes.
Sequel Potential? Kick-Ass 2: Balls To The Wall is already announced. I’d be interested, not only for more Hit-Girl, but to see if they can actually do something worthwhile with the main character.
Nudity? Well, there’s some National Geographic type nudity when Kick-Ass is surfing the net for jerk off material, but that’s it. It wouldn’t have hurt to have this girl naked: