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Local Boy Makes Good Hero

6 Jul

Movie-watchers got their first look at Tom Holland in the Spider-suit last year, when the erstwhile Peter Parker was recruited by mentor Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) to help him in the fight against Captain America, et al. in Captain America: Civil War. Holland was such a blast of energy in the role that he practically stole the film right out from under stars Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans.

Now, Holland gets his own stand-alone Spider-Man film in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and shows that the inflated cameo was no fluke. This Spider-Man is the one we’ve been waiting for. Or, you might say, third time’s the charm. Continue reading

Heroes and Villains

4 Aug

On the surface, the two new movies Suicide Squad and Gleason would seem to have very little, if anything, in common.

One is a big, loud comic-book movie about a group of meta-human villains, and the other is a true-life documentary about the devastating effects of ALS on a former NFL football player. One is about some very bad characters acting sort of heroically and the other is about an actual hero acting even more heroically.

But at their cores, both movies are about flawed heroes. Heroes overcoming their own challenges.

And here they both are in theaters, presenting discriminating moviegoers with a choice. Which one should you see? Here are my reviews. Continue reading

The Top 10 Movies I’ve Seen So Far This Year

28 Mar

batman v supermanBefore you get too excited about that headline and the blog post that follows, I need to offer a brief disclaimer: I’ve only seen 10 movies so far this year. And these reviews are in order of when I saw them, which means they’re unranked.

So … sorry for the clickbait.

Alas, I wanted to clear the deck before any good movies come out. So here we go: My first 10 review blurbs of 2016. Continue reading

April Showered Us with More Movies

3 May

Avengers: Age of Ultron movie poster bannerIn the month since I last posted a bunch of mini-reviews, I’ve seen seven more movies. So, rather than wait till the end of the quarter again, I wanted to post them now … while you can still act on my recommendations.

(Note: The numbers before each one reflect the number of movies I’ve seen so far this year.)  Continue reading

Every Superhero Needs His Theme Music

14 Jun

superman-headphonesWith the new Superman movie now in theaters, it’s time to dig out all those Superman-themed songs that we know and love.

You know the ones … “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues” by the Spin Doctors, “Superman’s Song” by Crash Test Dummies, “Superman” by R.E.M., “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down, etc. etc.

Want ’em all in one place? You’re in luck: To celebrate the release of Man of Steel, I’ve put together a Spotify playlist of Superman music. It includes the obvious candidates, plus one or two that reference Superman, and a few that were new to me but still worth including. Continue reading

Welcome to the Planet

13 Jun

man_of_steel_posterThese days, it seems you can go one of two directions with your superhero movies.

There’s the Jon Favreau/Joss Whedon route, where the film reflects a comic book sensibility and there’s a healthy mix of action, pathos, and humor — as there was in Whedon’s The Avengers and the three Iron Man films.

Then there’s the Christopher Nolan route, where the stakes are greater than in a typical comic book movie and the drama takes place at an epic pitch, as in The Dark Knight Rises.

(Basically, it’s the Marvel way vs the DC way.)

Director Zack Snyder has taken the latter route with his Superman reboot, Man of Steel. (No surprise, given that Nolan is a producer of the film.) Following Nolan’s lead wasn’t a bad decision, but in doing so, Snyder makes us ask the same question the Joker asked in The Dark Knight: “Why so serious?” Continue reading

You Should Be As Afraid of Him As I Am

29 Jul

The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s thrilling final entry in his Batman trilogy, begins with a breathtakingly impressive and awfully scary sequence.

Shot in IMAX, it involves Bane, the bulked-up villain who wears an intimidating crab-like mask, taking a plane full of men hostage. “Now is not the time for fear,” Bane says as the plane attaches to another, tilts 90 degrees, and he injects one of the passengers with a needle that draws out his blood. “That comes later.”

Coulda fooled me.

The scene, which was previewed before IMAX screenings of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol last December, was shot largely with stunt actors in the air and not with green-screen-assisted computer effects. And yes, with those heavier, bulkier IMAX cameras.

It’s nothing short of amazing.

But that’s to be expected, given the way Nolan has rebooted the Batman story, infused it with such craftsmanship, and made each new film of his trilogy bigger and better than the last.

The Dark Knight Rises, while it may not be a better film than The Dark Knight, is certainly the most ambitious one of the three. And that opening scene sets our expectations pretty high (no pun intended). Continue reading

All This Is About Getting Even?

3 Jul

It’s been said that superhero stories reflect the times in which they’re written.

In 2002, for example, Sam Raimi’s first Tobey Maguire–starring Spider-Man film clearly took place in the post-9/11 world, with lots of patriotism and New York rah-rah sentiment.

2008’s The Dark Knight undeniably made statements about the political climate and actions taken by George W. Bush’s Homeland Security team.

Now we have a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, and it, too, feels timely.

The Amazing Spider-Man recasts Peter Parker as less of a nerd who gets strong and can defend his city, and more of a bullied loner who gets the chance to get even and show up those who have made him seem weak.

Instead of “With great power comes great responsibility,” now we get Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) telling his nephew, “If you have the ability to do good things for others, you have a moral responsibility to do those things. Not a choice; an obligation.”

So yes, this Spider-Man is about taking the (more heroic, sometimes lonelier) high road and standing up for the little guy who can’t help himself. It’s an anti-bullying message that feels appropriate for these times, and it’s a much more positive message than the Raimi series left us with in 2007, when Spider-Man 3 took a very dark (and not terribly satisfying) turn.

In fact, it’s not just the thematic nature of The Amazing Spider-Man that takes the high road. It’s the whole movie. Which makes it a welcome and pleasant surprise. Continue reading

Plays Well with Others

6 May

Summer is here!

With The Avengers now in theaters, we have our first big slam-bang, star-studded, popcorn action film of the season.

And what a good time it is.

Bringing together more than a half-dozen of the brightest stars in the Marvel universe, The Avengers is kind of like Ocean’s 11 for comic book geeks. (If you prefer Marvel, that is. Personally, I’m more a DC universe / Justice League fan. But that’s not really important here. I’m just sayin’.)

The movie begins with a portal to another universe opening (how does that keep happening?), and Loki, Thor’s megalomaniacal adoptive brother, arriving to cause mischief. After Loki tells Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, head of the peace-keeping alliance S.H.I.E.L.D., that a global war is coming, Fury assembles the Avengers to defend the planet — even though, really, it’s only the U.S. that seems to be in danger.

So Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and the Hulk (now played by Mark Ruffalo), all with their own egos and issues, are forced to work together. (Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, too, but not until he can break free from Loki’s mind control.) Of course, it doesn’t go well at first, but eventually they get their act together and they take on the Big Bad in New York City. Because if aliens descend on Earth, where else would they go? Continue reading

Six Degrees of Mutants

15 Jun

The superhero prequel X-Men: First Class imagines a reality in which mutants, led by Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), played a critical role in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Fascinating stuff, and a pretty cool concept. It’s the execution here that’s the problem, and I hold Kevin Bacon to blame. Cast in the role of scientist and fellow mutant Sebastian Shaw, Bacon is worse than a villain; he’s someone you don’t even like watching. Oscar nominee (for Winter’s Bone) Jennifer Lawrence has the opposite problem; she doesn’t make much of an impact as Mystique, the shape-shifter who will grow up to look like Rebecca Romijn. The action and special effects here are cool, and I did like the revisionist history angle. But the metaphors were less a turnoff when they were more subtle, like in the second X-Men movie (seems no one learned from the last X-Men film). So I’m giving X-Men: First Class a B.

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