“You know what they say about those ‘Fake Geek Girls’ don’t you?”
“Yeah, that they don’t exist.” –Dialog with a vendor at APE 2014.
I started collecting comics when I was about nine years old. Catwoman (DC) and Sam Keith’s the MAXX (Image) were my first loves, (Catwoman “Kitten With a Whip” from our Batman Hoodie collection) but as I grew up I found many more comics and graphic novels to collect, obsess over and love. The argument could be made that I was a geek because I had an older brother who was also a geek. It would be wrong, but it could be made. I went to Magic the Gathering tournaments, played tabletop RPG’s and knew maps in Zelda because of my brother, but I would have found comics all on my own. My tastes in them never matched at near 100% with my big brother’s anyway. Before long, my friends and family stopped giving me Barbie’s and cosmetics and began giving me art supplies and comics. I wasn’t ever just there as a passive spectator: I wanted to contribute.
In this series, I’m going to discuss the female characters represented on the page (in many forms) and the women who work behind the scenes in the comics industry. Some I admire, some I hold in disdain, mostly I just want to write about what I know: Chicks dig comics and these days, sisters are doing it for themselves (and for male fans).
Well do this plus and minus style ok?
Plus: It’s a Disney production production rather than a Lucas Arts one.
I have had my issues with the Mouse but have more or less turned around in the last few years. Films like Wreck It Ralph and Guardians of the Galaxy have reminded me that the thing Disney does better than anything else is make good films. When they focused on dopey princess stories it was easy to deride them but since they have stepped into my preferred genres I have to say I like what they do. They know how to please both fans and non fans and most importantly respect a license, keeping idiot writers and directors from marking up a beloved character like a dog urinating on a tree.
Minus: George Lucas is still listed as a writer.
The irony of listing the creator of Star Wars as a major detractor is not lost on me but if there were ever a war crimes trials for nerds Lucas would have been lined up against a wall and shot for Jar Jar alone (right next to Joel Schumacher and anyone associate with the production of the Host. Batman image courtesy of the comic book t shirts). He wrote the basic treatment for these films and is somehow listed as the writer for the credits so I am really afraid he is going to be all over this film like a sexual predators DNA at a crime scene.
Story recap. Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a down and out sociopath and petty thief when he comes across an accident being filmed by news stringer Joe Loder (Bill Paxton). Louis realizes there is money in it and trades a stolen bike for a camera and police scanner. He starts filming accidents and crime scenes and selling them to desperate news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo. Remember her being naked in like 50% of the Thomas Crown Affair? I sure do. She also played Frigga in Thor, which is both a great film and an awesome character name. The Norse did it right. Thor image from the comic book t shirts collection). He learns quickly and in short order is creating news as much as filming it. He extorts Nina into sleeping with him in a skin crawlingly creepy scene and steadily increases his skills and value to the network. He gets involved in a major crime and films all of it.
So worth seeing or not? Hell yes. You are a fool if you don’t go see this film. Every scene with Jake in it will have you glued to the screen and every scene has him in it. Date movie? In the sense of a film that will encourage your date to get naked with you no but in the sense that you care about your date and want her to see an excellent movie yes. Bathroom break? Hold it dude. This film is worthy of you wetting your pants. 5 of 5 phasers.
More to see soon but I am still working on those social commentary blogs that I think I need to share with the world. I’ll post them soon. Thank you all for reading . I hope you all have a great night.
The Infamous Dave Inman
Again for all that it wasn’t irredeemable. The courtroom scenes were cool and in spite of playing cartoon cliches both Downey and Duvall delivered solid performances, as did the rest of the cast. The mystery of what happened was intriguing. If you could fast forward through anything not involving the case you could see a really cool 20 minute short.
The story. Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a high priced defense lawyer who learns that his mother died. He goes back to the one horse town he grew up in and has to deal with his ornery father Judge Joseph Palmer. The Judges worst enemy gets run down and the Judge is charged with murder (Judge Death image courtesy of the comic book t shirts category. Sorry but I couldn’t resist). Hank has to defend the Judge in spite of the fact that Joseph really doesn’t seem to care and also has to deal with about 100,000 other sub plots that rise to the surface to clutter up the screen.
So worth seeing? Meh. Depends on your inclination. If you are a fan of Robert Downey Jr. maybe. If you have a really poor attention span and like the idea of 25 After School Specials packed into one movie sure. However if you were hoping for an in depth drama or crime story with a concise story that ties up all its loose ends give it a pass. It’s not Gran Torino or Sleepers. It’s not even the Incredible Burt Wonderstone. I can’t say it sucks, but I can say it disappoints in it’s mediocrity. 2.5 of 5 Phasers.
the Infamous (and mediocre) Dave Inman
I will say this film is a great date movie and in truth I wish I had taken the girl I am seeing to see it (4 dates! A new record!). It is good wholesome family fun and once you get it on DvD or streaming you can use it to park your rugrats comfortably for 95 minutes. I just don’t see it as a cherished childhood memory when your kids grow up (although these days what is?).
Story recap: La Muerta and Xibalba bet on which of two boys young Maria will marry. Xibabla choose Juaquin, a brash soldier he gives a medal of indestructibility to, and La Muerta chooses Manolo, a musician from a family of bull fighters. They each try to prove themselves to her in their own way. Xibabla cheats, killing Manalo and sending him to the Land of the Remembered where he meets all of his ancestors. They team up to make him alive again and win the day.
So worth seeing? I’ll say yes. Go see it. The part of your brain that likes pretty things will thank you. Take the kids. Load up the minivan full of all the kids in your neighborhood and that night feed them all burritos. There is a good chance you will feel like you aren’t raising your kids to be the next generation of white suburban drones by exposing them to something other than Christmas at least for a while. I’ll give this film 3.5 out of 5 Phasers. Pretty good but could have been better. Sorry for the short review but honestly there isn’t a lot I can do with kids films.
the Infamous Dave Inman
PS I was contacted by a guy doing a Kickstarter Campaign for a documentary on comic books called Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages. He seemed like a cool dude and has interview with a ton of great artists including Stan Lee. As a fan of classic comic book artists (Jack Kirby image from one of my favorite comic book t shirts) I say if you can help him go for it. His goal doesn’t sound ridiculous to me and he does have some cool swag to hand out. Mostly he needs funds to buy the rights to comic book panels for his documentary.
And of course, the torture of Vlad having to suffer from awful temptation, eventually giving in to his thirst and thus falling from grace? Remember that part that was grossly implied might be significant in the trailers and for about 10 minutes in the movie? Well, somehow he only feels the thirst when he is with his wife, not when he is out on the battlefield literally killing 1,000 men and surely covered from head to toe with blood. Did not a drop hit his lips? Then, because there is no way a major protagonist could ever be a truly bad guy he has to suck the blood of his wife after she freely offers it him in order to save his country. Oh, thank god. We were a stones throw away from seeing a character make a morally ambiguous choice there. I was in danger of actually being interested for a moment, but the writers managed to prevent the audience from falling into that hole by filling it with safe, innocuous BBQ flavored styrofoam packing peanuts. Bon appetit!
My final issue is the fact that in the first half of the film Vlad manages to kill 1,000 Turkish soldiers by himself. At that point he fell into the Superman trap in that he was so powerful his ability to fight got boring. There is no struggle to be had unless someone manages to find some Kryptonite (or in this case silver) and like I have said about Superman and Kryptonite, if Dracula is faced with someone who has covered a 20 foot circle with silver coins why doesn’t he just stand 30 feet away and throw a 50lb boulder? (Or in Supermans case a few miles away and burn Lex Luthors arms and legs off with heat vision? Heat vision image courtesy of the comic book t shirts category) When nothing short of deus ex machina will slow down your hero he gets really boring. Also how is it Vlad has to look at obscure texts to learn about vampires but everyone else seems to have taken a college level course on it and written their doctoral thesis on ways to kill vampires?
Anyway, a brief recap. The Sultan of Turkey wants Vlad the Impalers son and 1,000 other Transylvanian boys to be his slave soldiers and Vlad has to ask the local vampire for the power to stop him. If Vlad can not drink blood for three days he wins his mortality back (um, is that really winning?) but naturally runs out of time and has to suck his wife dry. Bad PG-13 action ensues and somehow this film managed to throw out a fishhook baited to catch a sequel.
For all my complaints it wasn’t painfully bad. Luke Evans did the best he could with the lines he was given and there was a story. Pacing was good and appropriate for the story and the old vampire scene was pretty cool. Dracula did not ever glow in daylight and most of the vampires looked pretty gross. If the area of classic story/fairy tale reboots could be considered the Dachshund races of movie making as compared to the real dog track of practically every other movie type out there then this film would definitely be the fastest Wiener dog. Of course the issue of vampires being romanticized was pleasantly ignored for the first 87 minutes of the film only to rear it’s very ugly head in the last 5 when the producers dug deep into our pockets for sequel money but still. Not horrible.
So worth seeing? Sure, why not? It’s stupidly entertaining (like most modern movies to be perfectly honest). The only way you will feel ripped off is if you think you are going to see a horror film. This is a medieval super hero action film that borders on fan fiction as written by sweaty teenage girls. There is no horror to be had here. I think this movie is safe enough for a date as long as she doesn’t want to have her IQ challenged (or half her IQ challenged). Nothing will be gained from having watched this film, but on the other hand nothing will have been lost.
the Infamous Dave Inman
Spider-Man! Spider-Man! Does whatever any other crappy comic book based movie can!
There are certain franchises that I have what can only be described as a dysfunctional relationship with. Like an abused spouse I get beaten and belittled, yet come crawling back in the vain hope that THIS time things will be different and the abuse will magically stop.
Spider-Man is exactly that kind of franchise and I have to say it might be time for me to give up on the relationship. Like most relationships the first few months were great (in this analogy represented by the original Tobey MacGuire movie) but had slipped down a steady slope of mediocrity and canon abuse. Each movie has a few points that are fun but the fun elements steadily diminish leading us to this remnant, representing the least fun movie of the franchise. I dread whatever they come up with next. I can only assume a movie so unfun that it sucks the fun out of the movies playing in the theaters adjacent to it.
(image courtesy of the Comic Book t shirt category)
If a few years ago you had told me that one day I would be rooting for Disney I probably would have either laughed or punched you out for impugning my integrity. I have always had an adversarial relationship with the Mouse that started at a security related issue in the Haunted House ride back in my childhood and has grown ever since (in 1987 I went to Grad Night at Disneyland with all of my high school “friends” who ditched me in the first 30 minutes, leaving me wandering the “happiest place on Earth” miserably by myself for 8 hours straight like a lost soul. The contrast was mind bending. That is one of the many childhood traumas that makes me the well adjusted adult I am now). In film in the past I have found them oppressive and formulaic, with little redeeming artistic value. As I work in the licensing industry Disney is a name spoken with fear and dread as they will literally hang you from a tree with a barbwire noose if they catch the slightest whiff of copyright infringement (even on images that should have been public domain 50 years ago).
Yet when shown what they have done with most of the Marvel movies I have to say they are really, really good. Spider-Man needs to be rescued from Sony by the lesser of two evils. When comparing this film too the infinitely superior Captain America: the Winter Soldier the contrast is startling. On paper the two movies should be at the same level. They are both sequels. They are both based on iconic Marvel super heroes. In fact Spider-Man is more beloved and has a richer backstory than Captain America. They both exceeded two hours in run time. So why then does this movie suck and the Winter Soldier rule? In fact rather than just list all the things I hated in this film let’s do a comparison, shall we?
1. Three times the villains =/= three times the fun. There is a weird belief in bad comic book movie making that adding more villains will automatically make the movie better. Joel Schumacher (one of the most hated men in the nerd world) proved that concept Batnipple wrong with Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Villains are fun when they are developed like the heroes and have a personal axe to grind. Each time you add another one to the film you cut the amount of time one can spend on character development, making each one in turn that much more uninteresting. The good movies treat villains almost as importantly as the heroes. Sometimes more so in that you can have a team of heroes but only one villain (Magneto from X-Men, Khan from TWOK, Darth Vader). By adding more villains to this film you take away from the value of each one, resulting in a sum that is less than the individual parts (having Paul Giamatti speak with a Russian accent and hate Spider-Man for getting him arrested earlier is not an automatic good villain. What is this, the Rocky and Bullwinkle show?). Disney wisely opted to go with one great villain. These guys went with a bunch.
2. Have a linear plot without too much to distract from the story. I checked a bunch of other reviewers for this film and the most common joke made was something along the line of “What a tangled web they’ve weaved” or the like. Winter Soldier, while addressing some interesting social issues and having a couple of cool plot twists, had a story that did not verge off into Magical Tangentland every ten minutes. This movie is about what happened to Peter Parkers parents, how he got his powers, how another guy loved and felt betrayed by Spider-Man, Peter haunted by Gwen Stacy’s dead father, his romance with Gwen, Harry Osbourne dying of something and needing Spider-Mans blood, Harry Osbourne haunted by feelings of failure from his father, OsCorp business politics, Spider-Man being abused by the media, Aunt May keeping secrets from Peter, Aunt May’s feelings for Peter, and Harry feeling betrayed by Peter. The film has six different writing credits and it shows. In fact it looks like each one wrote about 20 minutes without ever talking to or meeting any of the others. Also can someone give Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci a job watching paint dry or something? How many crappy scripts are they going to ruin before the literature police show up and arrest them? For the record they did both Star Treks, Transformers Revenge of the Fallen, and Van Helsing. I can totally see why they are the best choice for a film with a $200 million budget.
3. Ease back on the romance. Ok, in the comic book I was always more of a Gwen Stacy fan than Mary Jane and love was always a part of Peter Parkers life but jeez, how much of this film is going to be taken up with freaking Gwen Stacy, her option to move to England, her romance with Peter, and the whole thing. I am for sure a fan of Emma Stone and like looking at her on the screen but I’m here to see Spider-Man fight some guy, not watch the two of them eat ice cream. Notice that in Winter Soldier the romance was touched upon and then let rest easy in the background, secure in it’s knowledge that it had contributed just the right amount to the story.
4. No kids. Look, if we learned anything from The Phantom Menace it’s that kids in sci fi action movies suck. They generally suck as actors (not always but often), they take you out of the fantasy of the film into a legitimate concern for their safety (movies like this require suspension of disbelief, something that is hard to do when you see kids on the screen), and rarely add anything to the film. Do the producers really think that more kids are going to want to see this film because some eight year old is on the screen? Kids don’t want to be other kids in a Spider-Man movie. They want to be Spider-Man.
5. Treat the canon with SOME respect. I know I go off on this all the time, but every time you think it might be a good idea to go off canon in the interest of making the movie do something it really shouldn’t take a day to think about it and at the end of the day punch yourself in the balls really hard. If the canon change is worth a punch in the balls go for it. If not stick to the story as written. The fact is the best comic book movies try to stick to the comic book.
6. Don’t give any of your characters back stories that suck. You know, the nerdish guy who had some kind of accident and gained super powers has already been done. He’s called Spider-Man. The Electro back story was as tepid and lame as humanly possible. The whole Harry/Norman Osborne story sucked. They didn’t even bother with Rhino. If you had focused on one villain you could have had more time to develop something more interesting but that’s neither here nor there.
8. Avoiding the temptation to make your cast into a joke. This may or may not be petty but the director of this film is no joke named Mark Webb. Prior to getting on board with the new Spider-Man franchise he had directed absolutely nothing of note. This is purely speculation but I would be willing to bet at some point while considering who to put in charge of this someone at Sony said “This guys last name is Webb! That is fate! Also he must be a huge expert in Spider-Man with a name like that. The fans will love it!” and then proceeded to do more coke. Notice Winter Soldier did not hire a guy named Anthony Shield.
8. Soundtrack. Regular readers might recall me saying I never even notice soundtracks unless it is painfully obtrusive and annoying, and I will just say I haven’t “noticed” a soundtrack this painfully obtrusive in years. It was like sitting in the window seat on a plane and the guy next to you is a 300lbs homeless fan of garlic. The music used in this film would have embarrassed the creators of the 1978 Battlestar Galactica. Again, I never even noticed the soundtrack from Winter Soldier.
I could go on. Bottom line is in my opinion Sony should just sell the license back to Disney and let them make great movies instead of mediocre convoluted BS. Once I am done flagellating myself for coming down in favor of Disney I will feel a lot better about that statement.
The story. There is a lot of potential spoiler material so I am going to go easy on it (also it was so complex I am having a hard time keeping it in order). However a good amount will sneak into this so SPOILER ALERT. Skip ahead to the stars. Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield-the Social Network, I’m Here, Unscripted) starts things off by stopping a hijacking of a truck carrying plutonium (which we are told in one of the lamest plot devices ever is both radioactive and explosive. While the explosive part is sort of true it is not going to blow up like the movie implied. Also plutonium is a solid on this planet, not a liquid. Bad science makes me mad/sad). The hijacker is Paul Giamatti (Saving Private Ryan, Private Parts, the Illusionist) who will later resurface as the Rhino.
While saving the plutonium Spider-Man also saves Max Dillon (Jaime Foxx-Collateral, Django Unchained, Ray), a nebbish electrical engineer working for OsCorp. Max becomes obsessed with Spider-Man and is his biggest fan. Spider-Man goes back to Peter Parker and his college graduation with girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone-Crazy Stupid Love, the Croods, Gangster Squad). They break up for some reason (I think Peter was too worried about her getting hurt and she was pissed off because she’s a big girl and doesn’t need protection? Given that her father died in the last movie 10 feet from Spider-Man I would think his concerns might sit more heavily with her than that, but whatever).
Meanwhile Norman Osborne (Chris Cooper-The Patriot, Adaption, the Muppets) locks down his Father-of-the-Year award by telling his son Harry (Dane DeHaan-Chronicle, Lawless, Kill Your Darlings) how disappointed he is in him and also that Harry is soon going to die of the same ill defined genetic disease (not sure what they called it or if they even gave it a name. For the purposes of this review I am going to call it Shmerpes). Norman dies (without becoming the Green Goblin) and Harry takes over, dealing with internal corporate politics (fascinating, really) before the first symptoms of his Shmerpes kicks in.
Gwen works at OsCorp and meets Max on an elevator. Max’s boss tells him to stick around and work when the entire company is going home over the death of Norman. Max has to perform a high tech repair (known as plugging two cables together) and has an accident where he falls into (oh God I wish I were kidding) a tank filled with mutant electric eels, turning him into Electro.
(You know, a guy gets bitten by a radioactive animal and gains the animals powers has already been done. He’s called Spider-Man. This is just lazy writing all around.)
So Electro comes out and is attacked by cops and beaten down by Spider-Man. Meanwhile Harry is desperately searching for a cure for Shmerpes and discovers the fact that Peter Parkers father Richard was working with Norman on some mutated spiders but they were all destroyed. For some reason Harry thinks this venom is a cure and also that Spider-Man must have gotten his powers from these spiders. (Oh, yeah. Radioactive spider venom now has healing properties (cough cough Wolverine cough cough).)
So Harry asks Peter to ask Spider-Man for some of his blood in order to cure his Shmerpes but for some reason Spider-Man knows more about his blood than the entire OsCorp research team and tells Harry that the blood is too dangerous (um, Harry, Peter’s best friend, is dying. What does Spider-Man think the blood is going to do? Make Harry double dead?).
Things go haywire from there. Harry loses control of OsCorp and busts Electro out of the facility where they are torture-experimenting on him (?). They get the company back and Harry discovers that the guy who took over had the spider venom all the time. He takes some of it at gunpoint but it combines with his Shmerpes to do something bad (?). He more or less collapses and only by sticking himself into the Green Goblin suit (it just happened to be lying around) can he survive. Everyone decides they hate Spider-Man for assorted ill defined reasons and wreaking the whole city is worth getting revenge.
Action was pretty good. They definitely captured what it’s like to be and/or fight against Spider-Man. Two stars. Visuals and special effects were great. I really liked the look of Electro and the big fight scene between him and Spidey was awesome. Two stars. I really liked Dane DeHaan as Harry Osbourne. He really brought as much heat as he could to the film. One star. As a purist I should probably hate the new Rhino suit but honestly I loved it. Extremely cool. I also loved the new Goblin suit. Too bad we never got more than three minutes of either of then. Two stars. Emma Stone is very easy on the eyes and played her role well. One star. If you don’t feel the need for character development and a coherent story this film is fun. Two stars. Total: ten stars.
The black holes.
Too many villains dammit. Give me a bad guy to get to know and sink my movie going teeth into. One black hole. Way too much going on in the story. One black hole. Way too much romance. Do we really care that Gwen is considering moving to England so much that we have to go with her on her interview? One black hole. The whole parents sub plot and his fathers part in creating Spider-man was also totally unnecessary and stupid (actually those three last words describe most of the sub plots). One black hole. Massive plot holes. How is it spiders created by Richard Parker are still alive to bite 14 years later? How did he get a secret lab built in an abandoned subway platform? Did OsCorp build it? If so why did they not come get all his research after he betrayed them? How is the lab fully functional and spotless with biological samples in Petri dishes 14 years later? How is it Peter and Harry are best friends when they haven’t seen each other in 8 years? The list goes on. One black hole. Going off canon in really stupid directions. One black hole. Bad science. One black hole. The soundtrack felt like I was wrestling Shmoo and lost. Smothering. One black hole. Total: eight black holes.
A total of two stars, and me once again frustrated with what could have been. The potential of this film was great but instead they just did the typical Hollywood design-by-committee pap. When I look a this film and the convoluted yet horribly simplified story, the massive special effects, and the lack of real character development I realize that it was clearly made with overseas audiences in mind. This sort of thing will go over great in China. Should you see it? Sure. It’s fun and it’s Spider-Man. However will you want to see it a second time? I do not. Bottom line I am eager to see Winter Soldier a third time but given the prospect of seeing this one again I’d rather watch Tobey MagGuire on DvD. For me that is the mark of a good or bad movie. Date movie? Sure, why not? I don’t think this will get her pants off but it will not keep her pants on, if you get my meaning. Bathroom break? I think the scene with Peter discovering his fathers lab is totally disposable. Either that or any of the scenes with Aunt May. In the comic she was the most boring part of the story and nothing in this film improves upon that. At 142 minutes you will probably need a break somewhere.
Thanks for reading. I’ll try to get something else watched soon. In truth I saw this Thursday night and have been putting off writing it. I know when I find myself reading old blog posts in order to correct grammar errors I really don’t want to write it, and the mundanity of a franchise I used to love does not fire my enthusiasm. Feel free to post comments on this film or my review here, or send me an email if you have off topic questions or suggestions to [email protected]. Also join the dozens of followers I have on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Thanks and have a great night.
“The Infamous Dave” Inman
I mean that subtitle as both a compliment and a criticism. If you are looking for a pleasant feel good movie about a weird introvert who finds love and a life with the thin veneer of sophistication so you can at least look like you see movies with slightly more depth than Parker you need look no further. If you don’t mind someone touching your suspension of disbelief in what might be considered an inappropriate manner than you will most likely enjoy this film and go home with a farm fuzzy feeling and snuggle up with your sweetie with a warm cup of cocoa.
If, on the other hand, you are like me and sleep every night in a cold, lonely bed by yourself under the harsh prison lighting of reality and were hoping for a little more artistic integrity in your story and some kind of meaning behind the meaning than you might go home disappointed. By the way, I really can’t make my next couple points without some serious spoilers, so if you want to see this movie and not hate me (any more than any of you already do, especially if you are women apparently) then skip down to the recommendation paragraph and find out where I found the most appropriate place to use the restroom. For the rest of you SPOILER ALERT!
The main point of the story this movie comes from is Walter Mitty is a boring dude who lives a fantastic fantasy life in his imagination. While they showed some of that in the first 30 minutes (Walter leaps into a burning building to save the life of a dog, has a superhero-esque battle with his jerk boss, etc) once they got into the meat of the story that whole point was dropped entirely.
The thing is, all the adventures Walter were having felt exactly like one of his fantasies. If this film had wanted to maintain its depth and integrity it would have ended with Walter snapping out of a particularly long zone out back in NYC just unpacking the film for the last cover of Life Magazine. It was the weirdest feeling for me. As the movie was spooling down I found myself at the same time sincerely hoping for and dreading that ending. I had connected with Walter and wanted to see him advance as a human but the ridiculous nature of his coincidence riddled adventures left me knowing that if they turned out to be anything other than a fantasy I would be disappointed. As the credits started rolling with Walter fully transformed from nebbish fantasy guy into super stud action star I knew that an opportunity had been missed to create a great film in favor of creating something that people would enjoy (Clark Kent to Superman image courtesy of the Comic Book T-Shirt category).
I would be willing to bet they filmed the artistic integrity ending, showed it to whatever crowd of sheeple they could round up at the local Waffle House, and scrambled to edit it when everyone said they didn’t like how it ended. It’s just that all the elements of a massive fantasy were there; the bizarre shark attack, the use of his one great skill in life (skateboarding. More on that later), the missing his guy by about 100 feet when the volcano (oh, yeah. A volcano) goes off, the guy who bails him out in LA is some dude he spoke to on the phone a couple times at eHarmony, everyone seems to speak English, the rampant deus ex machina, etc. The film seemed to be headed straight for a massive twist but at the last minute opted to stay on the path to Mundania.
Oh, well. They can’t all be Johnny Handsome, right? The story is of Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller-Zoolander, Tropic Thunder, The Watch), a Negative Asset Manager at Life Magazine (but that I mean he manages film negatives). He frequently zones out into a fantasy world where he does amazing things and/or rescues dogs, only to snap back to his reality. He is very attracted to his coworker Cheryl (Kristin Wiig-Bridesmaids, Paul, Despicable Me) but has never spoken to her. Life is about to be closed down and Walter had some bad encounters with interim boss and all around jerk Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott-Parks & Rec, the Aviator, Step Brothers), who plans on laying off most of the staff.
Down in the negative vault Walter receives that last roll of film ever from acclaimed photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn-Colors, Milk, 21 Grams) with a gift wallet and a note that slide 25 is his best one ever and worthy of being on the cover of the very last Life Magazine. However the slide is missing. Ted wants the slide and so Walter starts looking for Sean, first by talking to Cheryl as she does something having to do with photographers (? Not sure what that was for). He finds out that he was last in Greenland and one of the photos includes a picture of a fishing trawler, so Walter jumps on a plane.
At that point it’s pretty much Joe Verses the Volcano except with Walter instead of Joe and, you know, no human sacrifices. There is a volcano involved. Walter climbs aboard a helicopter with a drunk pilot, jumps into the sea, gets attacked by a shark, skateboards down a long hill, barely survives a volcano, and goes on other wacky adventures. The coincidences pile up like casualties in No Mans Land in WWI lending the entire film another layer of surreality. He finally catches up with Sean only to discover he was close to the truth all the time.
Walter Mitty was a compelling character and well played by Ben Stiller. Two stars. If depth were not the goal of this film it was very well executed. One star. Some really good film work, with great locations all over Iceland and Greenland. One star. Most of the rest of the cast was great as well. One star. Paced very well for 114 minute movie. One star. In general not a waste of time. One star. Total: seven stars.
The black holes.
That whole real or not issue left the movie feeling totally unresolved. Either it was all a fantasy or it was pretty much pandering. It was set up to disappoint me either way, so I guess one black hole that I don’t feel really good about. This next one is petty but I know too much about skateboarding to let it go; a fairly complete misunderstanding of the difference between longboards and short boards and their relative application. You CAN kickflip a longboard. You just really don’t want to. One black hole. Total: two black holes.
So five stars. Decent, but I honestly hoped it would have more meat on the bone if you know what I mean. Again, if you aren’t looking for City of Lost Children I’m sure you will enjoy watching it. In spite of some of the great location footage I don’t see any compelling reason to see it on a big screen. At home on your TV should be fine via the legal media distribution channel of your choice. Date movie? Yes. Good romance, Walter is a dork that you will probably compare favorable to, and a warm feeling for her to carry home. Bathroom break? The scene where Walter gets fired and goes to Cheryls house is a good element but not critical. Feel free to skip it but come back fast.
Thanks for reading. I will try to go see Grudge Match later tonight and that will wrap up my 2013 movie docket. After that I will do my best, worst, and funny mentions lists. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. If you have comments on this film or my review please leave them here, and if you have off topic suggestions or questions email me at [email protected]. Talk to you soon.
Loki: the Dork World
I once again must apologize for not getting this written up sooner. I have been dealing with a technical issue all week having to do with a company with two o’s and two g’s in their name (you know, the German company known as Gurslictenoogle) that has kept me out reviewing for quite a while. I feel bad not getting these out in a timely manner, but since this gig doesn’t actually pay me not that bad.
The Loki image, by the way, is from our Comic Book T Shirt collection.
I have also been hesitant to write this as I am not sure how I really feel about it. Was it entertaining? Yes. Were there fun moments? Yes. Was it good in the way a well developed, well rounded film should be? No.
I think this is another case of writing failure. One of the two screenwriters, Christopher Markus, is what I consider an accomplished writer of sorts. He did write Pain and Gain and the first Captain America movies, both of which I feel were very decent. However, most of his filmography seems to revolve around the Chronicles of Narnia, the film equivalent of nacho flavored Styrofoam packing peanuts. His co-writer is Christopher Yost, who literally has only written superhero TV cartoons. There are six more writers credited, and the whole thing seems to be suffering from death by committee. The script staggers back and forth like a car accident victim with a rear view mirror embedded in his cranium. Sometimes it is a dopey, storyless action movie, sometimes there is an attempt at character development, sometimes there is a romance, and sometimes there is a revenge/brotherhood plot.
I’m not saying it’s terrible. If a strong tone and coherent, holeless plot are secondary concerns I am sure you will enjoy the hell out of it. It’s just not as good as the first Thor. I did that which I hate doing the most, research, and found out that none of the writers on the first Thor were involved in this one. I’m not sure if I understand the logic in that. You would imagine that a sequel to a successful movie would want to keep the same tone and flavor, but I guess if it ain’t broke fix it.
Where this film falls apart the most for me is the characters. In the first movie Thor was a spoiled princeling who needed to learn humility and deal with his lack of powers after being cast down to Earth by his equally interesting father Odin, while his scheming brother sought his fathers throne. In this film Thor is a boring, flawless good guy, Odin is pretty much a non-entity, and only Loki has anything that resembles depth or interest. The fish out of water stuff that Thor dealt with in the first film was a great framework for the chemistry between him and Jane Foster. In this film without that basis he and Jane have all the chemistry of mixing all your Easter Egg dyes together to get a muddy brown color and she ends up being the extraneous third nipple of the film (by that I mean completely unnecessary).
This film also falls into the scope trap that sucks in so many mediocre writers. The first film was about Thor, his brother, their fathers love, and the struggle for identity and personal angst. Sure, there was the whole Frost Giant thing but that was more to give the film context for the story to develop. You identified with the characters and felt their pain and hardship. In this one the villains plan is to DESTROY THE UNIVERSE! OMG! I LIVE IN THE UNIVERSE! I MUST AUTOMATICALLY GIVE A CRAP! You see, when the villains plan is to hurt or destroy a character we identify with that is engaging. As soon as the villains plan is to destroy the world, or blow up a city, or do something to everything in creation all tension is drained from the story. Everyone knows that no film is going to really end with the universe being destroyed, but there is just the off chance that the film could end with the tragic and noble death of Thor. After all, Rocky lost his fight and Spock died at the end of TWOK. If a wave of artistic integrity were to sweep over the writers and directors they could just have the evil plan be for the Frost Giants to get revenge on Thor by killing Jane and have her die in his arms at the end. That would be really cool. However, the odds are more likely of me finding love than that ever happening. Of course, since each film has to have a bigger, more bad ass plot than the last one how do you go bigger than the destruction of the universe? The complete annihilation of all causality? Oh, wait. The Infinity Gauntlet. Duh.
The story starts off with Thor (Chris Hemsworth-Pacific Rim, Snow White and the Huntsman, Cabin in the Woods) running around beating down all the oppressed people who rose up against Asgard when the Bifrost Bridge was destroyed at the end of the last film. Of course since all the bad guys look like post apocalyptic mutant Botox accidents and the good guys look like muscular Abercrombe & Fitch models I guess it fair to assume that seeking freedom from the iron heel of Odin is a bad thing. Meanwhile Jane (Natalie Portman-Black Swan, the Professional, V for Vendetta, some horrible sci fi films that shall go unmentioned as they make me sad) has been languishing back on Earth for two years pining for the guy she met and knew for like twelve hours in the last film with no more contact of any kind. She is doing some kind of weird science thing (if anyone can tell me exactly what kind of science she and her crew do I would appreciate it). She is aided by her bitchy sidekick Darcy (Kat Dennings-2 Broke Girls, the 40 Year Old Virgin, Day One) and Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård-Avengers, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Good Will Hunting), who after being the Marvel whipping boy for like six films is now Birdman of Alcatraz crazy.
Meanwhile Loki (Tom Hiddleston-War Horse, Thor, Avengers) is rotting in the Asgard dungeon with a bunch of the dudes Thor just beat on. He is visited by his mother Frigga (Rene Russo-Outbreak, Ransom, the Thomas Crown Affair (note-she is naked in like 80% of that film if you are interested)) who is the only reason he hasn’t done the hemp fandango (life note-if you are the female relative or significant other of an action guy in a movie or video game but don’t actually kick ass yourself there is about a 70% chance you will die in order to give the protagonist motivation. Be warned).
Tales are told of the defeat of the Dark Elves (by the way, if you happen to play Warhammer you will be shocked at how either this film ripped off Games Workshop or Games Workshop ripped off Marvel. My money would be on Games Workshop doing the ripping off. You can’t tell me Tyranids are not HR Giger Aliens) and how they all died, but apparently a bunch of them hid in hibernation for millenia until their magic zero gravity red Silly Putty was rediscovered or all the realms align or something (details are suspiciously vague. A lot of this script felt very half assed). Super scientist Jane uses her PKE to find a location where the walls between worlds are thin and after seeing the Laws of Thermodynamics sexually molested again falls into another realm. The red Silly Putty (the name in the movie is the Aether, I think) is in a crack between a floating menhir and a big plinth (yes, I know. Google it you lazy bastards). Being the super scientist that she is she figures the best way to investigate would be to stick a finger in and the Aether enters her body (her scientist sense must have told her it wasn’t radioactive or anything).
She ends up back on Earth in time for Thor to arrive and discover she has the red scabies. He ports her back to Asgard where she is treated like a short bus child (I guess she kind of is to them). Meanwhile one of the prisoners in the dungeon with Loki turns out to be a Dark Elf (I can’t type that term without wanting to talk about the new Army Book that just came out. Warlocks are way overpowered IMO) who is one of the Kursed, a suicide super soldier of sorts. He breaks out and frees all the other prisoners except for Loki and tears ass through Asgard. Meanwhile more Dark Elves (why did they move RBTs from Rare to Special? It just means more uniformity of army builds IMO) arrive. They are attacking to capture Jane and extract the red menace from her and put it into a super weapon to destroy the universe. Frigga gets killed.
At that point Loki joins up to get revenge for the death of his mother. Thor has to go against Odin (Anthony Hopkins-the Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, the Elephant Man) and needs Loki to sneak out of Asgard. About 30 small stories that could have developed into something are planted and then left to rot (like Sif secretly loving Thor, or some look at the motivation behind the Dark Elves (now Dark Steeds have the Fast Cav rule? That is pretty awesome)). Stuff gets blown up, and crazy man Eric Selvig invents metal tiki torches that teleport Dark Elves (he must be using Lore of Shadow) around because of science(???).
I don’t want to spoil the plot twist but I will say it was at the same time painfully obvious and drawn from the deepest recesses of the writers deepest ass. A plot twist is one thing, but having some random bulls&*% happen at the end is just dumb. It’s like if at the end of Saving Private Ryan the bridge was saved by an army of ninja clown paratroopers dropping in.
Loki was pretty awesome, and every scene with him actually had nuance and character. I’d be willing to bet one writer with talent was working on him exclusively. Two stars. There were some good humor moments. One star. Action was good, and Thor’s hammer Mjölnir was even cooler than it was in the last movie. One star. CGI was as always flawless, and the 3D managed to add to the film rather than detract from it. One star. I really like that the filmmakers didn’t just roll with the idea that everyone in the Universe speaks American English and actually had the Dark Elves (at least they lost the reverse ward save) speaking a different language with subtitles. Movies that assume I know how to read please me. One star. The Dark Elves themselves (access to all the lores adds a lot of flexibility, but the vast majority of them are going to just go Mindrazor FTW) were pretty cool. One star. Pacing and editing was nearly perfect. One star. Overall I enjoyed myself. Two stars. Total: ten stars.
The black holes.
Just not terribly well written. Plot holes and little to no attempt to explain anything. I’m not looking for a thesis paper here but if you are going to teleport bad guys all over the place at least make up a fake scientific reason why that is happening or how it was developed. One black hole. There was nothing of the character development that went so well in the last one. One black hole. I really wanted to know more about the Dark Elves (why oh why do they now also have ASF?), Jane’s research, Odin, Thor, Frigga, Sif, or any number of other cool sub plots that were tossed out with the bathwater. If you hadn’t seen the first movie this film would have felt really inadequate. One black hole. There was no actual chemistry between Jane and Thor, and honestly the film might have been better without her. One black hole. If you have high tech anti aircraft guns why do you go after guys on the ground with swords? The fight against the Dark Elves (at least they are still Toughness 3) might have gone a lot better if the Asgard forces had walked in with SPAS 12 gauges. Pick one or the other. One black hole. The plot twist just spontaneously manifesting itself as if by the will of God. One black hole. Total: six black holes.
A grand total of four stars. Not horrible, but not what I want from a Marvel comic book movie. Kind of meh. The action is good, and Loki is fun. If that is enough for you go see it on a big screen in 3D. If you want more than maybe wait for NetFlix. Just not great. I feel no need to ever see it again. Date movie? Meh. At least Chris Hemsworth keeps his shirt on, so you will only have to deal with his long hair, rugged good looks, and sexy accent when being compared to by your date. Bathroom break? Any of the “romance” scenes between Thor and Jane are 100% disposable. Go nuts.
Thanks for reading. I will have something up tomorrow I promise. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. If you have a comment on this film or my review post it here, and if you have an off topic question or suggestion email me at [email protected]. Talk to you soon.
I admit it. Somehow without ever being a Vin Diesel fan I am a Riddick fan. I own the DVD’s of all three movies (ohh, you say? You didn’t know there was an animated film with his voice connecting Pitch Black to the Chronicles of Riddick? No fan you) and played Escape from Butcher Bay front to back several times. There is something about his character that absolutely rocks. I enjoy every aspect of his character, and will probably see every film ever made with him in it.
So this movie. Saw it last night and enjoyed every second of it. Sure, if you are looking for the things that make a movie great like story, originality, great acting, character development, or good dialog you might be marginally disappointed. To the critics that I have read who are harping on about those things I say do you go to a Mexican restaurant and complain to the cook about the quality of his sushi? Riddick isn’t about making Citizen Kane in space. Riddick is about watching a bad ass bald guy who can see in the dark kill as many aliens and humans as you can fit into a shot, and as such the latest film delivers in spades.
That being said, if you are not a Riddick fan this film will seem like a massive self indulgent overly macho campy Pitch Black remake (and yet, I still defy you to find something wrong with it). Derivative it certainly is, but honestly if Pitch Black was the movie that made you a Riddick fan why would you not want to see the Aquaman version of it? Again, if you are a fan than the actual story is merely a vehicle to deliver alien ass kicking.
I will say to the writers credit they really did manage to tie the other films into this one. It’s obvious they knew this movie was for the fan boys and they threw lots of tasty crumbs to us, with references to both films that made sense in a way that George Lucas should be green with envy. Just referencing something in a past movie sucks, but to make it into a critical and worthwhile plot point is excellent work. However, if you haven’t seen Pitch Black or the Chronicles you might very well be lost for quite a bit.
I’m also going to spout off on the special effects/CGI. Honestly really good, especially the dog Riddick domesticates. I’d like to say that good special effects are the standard in science fiction these days. I’d like to say that, but I can’t. Even now when any kid with a decent Macbook and about an hour’s worth of YouTube instructional video can create a CGI monster running down the hall of his Jr. High we still get CGI and special effects that look like it was done using film scratch techniques (Google it). These days creatures in Sci Fi films should not look like they were added in using Colorforms on the playback monitor. The point is the CGI for this film was really good, and the creatures all looked awesome.
The story starts off with Riddick (Vin Diesel-Saving Private Ryan, the Fast and the Furious, xXx) left for dead on a barren world. He is badly injured and is constantly being attacked by local wildlife including some very large dog-like creatures. We find out from a series of flashbacks that he was betrayed by the Necromongers (those silly kids!) including head guy Vaako (Karl Urban-Dredd, Star Trek, the Bourne Supremacy. Dredd image courtesy of the comic book t shirts) and dropped off a cliff. The first part of the film is his struggle to survive, splint his leg, and find a safe place to heal. He does so and sees a land ahead with more resources. Unfortunately the way is blocked by a creature that looks like a cross between a chicken, a scorpion, and a barracuda (but awesome) that lives in a pool of water he has to cross. He manages to build weapons and get by it (while building a tolerance to the creature’s poison), rescuing the puppy he domesticated on the way.
He finds his way to a mercenary station but on the way observes a rain storm in the distance. Turns out the creatures he got by (chirpionuda?) hibernates most of the time and only comes out when the ground is wet (cough cough Pitch Black with rain cough cough). At that point he opts to get out of town and calls for help. Naturally two teams of bounty hunters show up looking for him.
The first team is a typical bunch of low life losers all looking for the bounty on Riddick, including shot caller Santana (Jordi Molla-Bad Boys II, Columbiana, Blow) and big bad boy Diaz (Dave Bautista-the House of the Rising Sun, the Man with the Iron Fists, WWE Smackdown. By the way, I really liked him in this film. Since when did WWE become the source for all the best new action stars like him and Dwayne Johnson?) plus a few other minorities. The other team is lead by a mysterious guy (Matt Nable-Killer Elite, 33 Postcards, the Final Winter) and seconded by non other than Starbuck from BSG, although in this film she is called Dahl (Katee Sackhoff-Battlestar Galactica, White Noise: the Light, Campus Killer) plus a couple other guys. Riddick tells them to give him one of the ships and leave or die there.
At that point you can pretty much guess the rest. Riddick kills a few of the bounty hunters until they catch him with super tranq bullets. It starts to rain and chirpionuda hell breaks loose. Since Riddick has stolen critical components of each ship they now have to help him run through the wet darkness to get off the planet. Crosses are doubled, and the mysterious guy leading the second team has an agenda with Riddick that references Pitch Black in a very cool way.
Duh. Riddick movie in every sense of the term. Two stars. Great sci fi action. One star. All the characters were cool and none of them annoyed me. One black hole. Excellent CGI and creature design. Two stars. The bounty hunters had these jet bikes that are second in coolness only to a super hot girl who wants to have sex with me (in other words, I can now dream about two things I really want that don’t really exist). One star. Speaking of which, the film had a couple of totally gratuitous nude scenes, including a side boob shot of Katee Sackhoff that has earned a permanent place in my personal spank bank. It might have been good body double and/or more great CGI, but I really don’t care. Thank you, Riddick, for understanding what rated R is supposed to be about. One star. While I can’t really give them credit for a particularly good story, I do have to give them props for nicely tying in the other two movies. One star. Total: nine stars.
The black holes:
I suppose if I must. The film really doesn’t deviate much from Pitch Black, and I would be a total hypocrite if I didn’t ding them for being so derivative. One black hole. Deus ex Machina doesn’t accurately describe the ending. One black hole. Total: two stars.
A grand total of seven stars. Should you see it? If you are a fellow Riddick fan, have at least seen both of the prior films, and/or are a fan of sci fi action then yes. Absolutely. If you are not and think Vin Diesel as the toughest most macho guy in the universe is a ridiculous idea than go see the new Woody Allen film. I’m sure your life is not boring in any way. Date movie? You’re probably going to want to give your prospective future girlfriend/wife a pass on this one. Unless she is herself a fan there is too much awesomeness for most girls to handle, and in truth she will think lesser of you for enjoying it. This is the perfect movie to sneak out of work early one day with a couple of your buddies and see without her. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt you. Bathroom break? There isn’t a lot you want to miss here but the scene where they have Riddick chained up and are interrogating him are a little more disposable, especially if you never saw Pitch Black. Try to hold it IMO.
Thanks for reading. Like I said, this film was fun and I enjoyed writing it up. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu and like us on Facebook. If you have comments on this movie or my review feel free to post them here, and if you have off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at [email protected]. Talk to you soon.