Monday, August 3, 2015

The Quick and Dirties: Superheroes


As some of you found out on Twitter, yesterday, there has been a little bit of a change at Dell on Movies. I took all of my superhero content and made it easily accessible via its own page. I call it Superhero Corner. Just click the tab at the top of the page. I figured I may as well keep that vibe going and do something related today. That means it's time for some quick and dirty reviews of superhero flicks. Have fun.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
(2009)
The origin story of the X-men's most popular mutant, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), duh. It knows that its bread and butter is spectacular action sequences and fight scenes. Our hero gets his claws out early and often, slicing his way through bads guys against a backdrop of pyrotechnics and cgi. And all of it looks great. The story between those scenes is simple but effective, with a nice twist thrown in at the end. This movie makes some the same mistakes as its predecessor in the series, X-Men: The Last Stand. First, it suffers terribly from "more is too much" syndrome. There are just too many mutants for one movie. At least for this movie. Characters are introduced then given a scene of 60 seconds or less to showcase their power. And that's pretty much it, no matter how cool they are or how much we want to see them again. Then it rushes the story along. Its not quite as abbreviated as The Last Stand, but it isn't much longer. I know it feels like it goes on forever, but trust me on this. Wolverine is an interesting enough character to not only get his own movie, but to be allowed to breathe and grow within it. Had it trimmed half a dozen characters, taken its time, and added maybe another 20 or 30 minutes, some of the complications dealt with in the comics could've been tackled resulting in a fuller, more satisfying experience. That may have separated it from the pack of superhero movies of which its firmly entrenched within. Actually, it sits a notch below that pack. It doesn't help that the final fight scene, between our hero and the soon-to-be-everyone's hero Deadpool, seems very much like a ripoff of the light saber duel featuring Darth Maul at the end of Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace.


Push
(2009)
A top secret government agency hunts down people with special abilities in an effort to create super-soldiers. Its a visually entertaining movie. Stuff is constantly whizzing across the screen. That includes bodies as what we have here is basically a chase movie involving telekinetics and psychics. As our lead, Chris Evans is solid in the lead and has a nice chemistry with Dakota Fanning. Fanning gives her usual blank stare laced performance but for some reason is less creepy to me than normal, landing her in the "good" section of the movie. In an effort to be complex. things get a bit convoluted. Not terribly so, but that means lots of strands are introduced and not all of them are resolved. More of a problem is that it comes like another attempt to make X-Men more of a real world story. It lacks the intriguing characters, dynamic villain (though Djimon Hounsou is cool, as usual), and social commentary that makes X-Men tick, relying on action and lots of twists that often don't go anywhere. If you're just looking for an action flick, it has enough excitement to likely do the trick. Use 2008's Jumper as a guide. They're fairly similar in plot but this, while not great, is far better.


The Spirit
(2008)
Seemingly invincible hero The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) battles his equally invincible arch-rival, The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson). The Octopus is also tracking down fellow thief Sand Saref (Eva Mendes) who has stolen a very valuable chest from him. Of course, Saref has an interesting link to our hero. Based on Will Eisner's comic. Though it borrows heavily from another movie based on a Frank Miller graphic novel, Sin City, it does enough of it's own thing to look interesting. Also like SC, it keeps it's tongue firmly in cheek with dry, noir-style narration and purposely stilted dialogue filled with double entendres. When its time for action, it purposely goes over the top and relishes in silliness. Complementing all of this are actors willingly hamming it up. And let's be honest, is there anyone who hams it up better than Samuel L. Jackson? Yes, it looks interesting but it still looks and acts entirely too much like SC. On top of that, its in a PG-13 package so it feels like SC-lite. Think of it like your favorite "blue" comedian suddenly working clean. You see, Sinbad (remember him?) hardly ever uttered a censorable word but has always been hilarious to me. Richard Pryor used four-letter words like punctuation marks and was also hilarious. If Sinbad had started cursing a lot it would feel disingenuous. If Pryor had quit, he wouldn't have had the same bite. Something would've been lost in translation. Same thing here. It feels like SC without most of the cursing, any of the gore and trades in bare boobs for a briefly bare bottom. In other words, it takes what was edgy and irreverant and makes it more palatable for families. In my opinion, here's where much of the hatred for The Spirit comes from. People don't like watered down drinks. I find myself going against the grain, here. I get why people hate it, and you may as well, but I actually like it despite it problems. Its not a great movie by any stretch but I found it enjoyable and far from the horrible experience most have made it out to be. That said, two things have to be taken into account. First like we've already covered, it's probably too derivative of Sin City for most people. Second, I haven't read the graphic novel its based on. To people who claim this movie butchered the source, I only have one response: OK, fine.



The Incredible Hulk
(2008)
Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) has been traveling the globe in search of a cure for the affliction that causes him to transform into a large green monster whenever his heart rate reaches 200 beats per minute. Meanwhile Gen. Ross (William Hurt) wants to track him down in hopes of using Banner’s DNA to create a race of super-soldiers. Unlike the previous Hulk movie it sticks fairly close to the comic book. It’s also actually fun. There’s no excessive philosophizing and it even remembers the movie is about the Hulk before an hour passes, something the other Hulk failed to do. Finally, it pays a nice homage to the TV series by aping its opening, having a cameo by Lou Ferrigno, and showing a clip of Bill Bixby. The story moves along briskly as there are plenty of things for Hulk to smash. Of course, the Hulk and bad guy Abomination look like giant cartoon characters. Then again, the Hulk does look better than in the previous movie if for no other reason than he looks nothing like the actor portraying Banner. In that movie, the Hulk looked a lot like a bloated Eric Bana. The speaking of actors, there is an issue with them in this movie. The acting isn’t necessarily bad, but the quality of the cast suggest it should be better. It appears everyone knows they’re in an action movie and is kind of going through the motions until the next big sequence comes up. They, and the whole movie for that matter are all surface. I know, I know. I have been bashing the Ang Lee directed Hulk for being too philosophical, and generally boring, but this one almost never tries to engage your brain. Still, it is certainly an upgrade over Lee's film. It tells the story fans were expecting from that movie. The whole point of watching The Incredible Hulk is seeing him SMASH! This isn’t a great movie, but we do get plenty of SMASHING! Unfortunately, we find out that if the women he loves value their lives, there's one thing he won't smash. Poor girls. Poor Bruce.


Swamp Thing
(1982)
Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise) and his sister Linda (Nannette Brown) have developed one formula that may end world hunger, somehow, and another formula that can combine plant and animal tissue. When the bad guys try to get their hands on the former, the good doc accidentally ingests some of the latter and transforms into a man/plant on a mission to get both formulas back and is in love with government agent Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) and her ample bosom (Adrienne Barbeau's Breasts). Based on the DC comic. Action scenes consist largely of our hero grabbing random bad guys and flinging them a few feet or boats trying to run over him but careening 10 feet in the air when they make contact. Dialogue switches from crudely sexual early on to extra-hokey the rest of the way. Plotholes are prevalent, especially concerning what our hero can and cannot do. And if you are wondering why I gave Adrienne Barbeau's Breasts separate billing (and capitalization) its because they are absolutely the stars of the show. Adorned in an array of tank tops and low-cut numbers they bounce, frolic and jiggle incessantly whenever she moves any part of her body. When she's not moving they magnificiently gleam in the light. Just so you know I'm not exaggerating, they get close-ups throughout the movie and even have their own controversy. There is a scene of Barbeau bathing in the lake which initially included a lenghty point-blank range shot of them fully exposed just above the water (as well as some other toplessness). This was removed from the American version to gain the PG rating needed to maximize box-office potential (this is in the days either just before or just after PG-13 was created so it was either PG or R for most flicks). Still, a shorter side shot from further away remained. Fast forward 20 or so years, the scene was fully restored for a special edition DVD that MGM "mistakenly" left labeled as rated PG. A few complaints from unsuspecting and upset parents later and that version was yanked from shelves, went out of print and is a bit difficult to find. No matter which version you see, you'll get a terrible super-hero flick that's both intentionally and unintentionally funny with bad rubber costumes making it a quick, fun and campy hour and a half. It's also proof that famed director Wes Craven should stick to horror. Yeah, its so bad, its awesome!


18 comments:

  1. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is unquestionably one of the worst film I had ever seen. It's just fucking stupid. I hated everything about it. They made the Wolverine into a fucking pussy. The twists don't make sense. There's too many characters and it felt like it was written by a bunch of people who hadn't read comic books. I fucking hated that film.

    The Spirit fucking sucked too. The film definitely deviated from the source material where Frank Miller really wanted to make it Sin City 2 but it had no clue what it wanted to be. There's a moment where I realized how bad it is where you have Gabriel Macht (who has his moments but can't act for shit) smiling and beating up a bad guy while there's all these things that just feel silly and stupid. Miller has fucking lost it and I say kill the old fart.

    Push was... meh.... The Incredible Hulk was OK. Swamp Thing is a film I hadn't seen in a long time so I can't really say anything about it.

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    1. Miller has certainly struggled. He seems preoccupied with trying to recreate the magic of the first Sin City.

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  2. I haven't seen Origins (which I...um...own), and never saw Push, but go ahead and pencil me in for loving The Spirit. Sin City lite is a perfect way to describe it, but I love that style, loved the hero, (really) loved Eva Mendes and (really really) loved what SLJ brought to the table. I think it's shitty rep is mostly unwarranted.

    Good God, do I need to revisit Swamp Thing. I haven't seen that one since I was a kid.

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    1. Good to know I'm not the only one who doesn't hate The Spirit. And Eva Mendes looks spectacular in this, too, which always helps. Yup, you should revisit Swamp Thing.

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  3. I'm with you on The Swamp Thing.That movie is one of the movies that defines the term so bad it's good

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  4. I've seen three of these. The first two, Origins and Push sorry to say didn't think much of either. I was especially disappointed in Wolverine since I love Hugh Jackman and enjoyed the other films in the series. As you said it was too crowded and as I recall just too damn dark. I am so sick of the blue/black color scheme, is it supposed to be edgy? It's just hard to see and murky.

    The other, Swamp Thing, which of course was a retread of all those low budget 50's B movies, was atrocious but at least it knew what it was and on that level it was good tacky fun...once. Regrettably I have also seen Return of Swamp Thing, ghastly!

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    1. I was also very disappointed with this Wolverine flick. At least the second one was much better. Very well said about Swamp Thing. Can't remember the sequel. Migjt have to find it just to see how bad it is.

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  5. I've only seen the Hulk flick here, which I didn't love. Superhero movies are a dime a dozen and so it's rare that I see one that makes me go...WOW.

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    1. The Incredible Hulk is pretty meh. No argument, there.

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  6. I hated everything about X-Men Origins. That movie was just terrible. I did love Push, however. I thought it was really different. I have completely forgotten about everything that happened in The Incredible Hulk except for that end credits scene where he meets Tony Stark and the MCU retconned it because Norton is terrible to work with. lol

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    1. Yeah, this Wolverine flick was a total mess. Too bad about Norton because I liked him in the role.

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  7. Great read! I too know nothing about The Spirit source material but I really hated that movie. X-Men; Origins actually started off pretty good but my gosh it flies off the rails. By the end it was an absolute mess. Talk about screwing up a potentially good idea.

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    1. Thanks! Lots of people hate The Spirit, so it's ok. And yeah, they totally screwed the pooch on the first Wolverine picture.

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  8. I love 'Swamp Thing.' I really need to rewatch it. I actually really enjoyed 'The Incredible Hulk.' Edward Norton reminded me a lot of Bill Bixby. I can't say I ever thought of 'Push' as a superhero film, but I guess it is. I have an oddball favorite superhero film...'Darkman.'

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    1. Interesting. I liked Norton in the role, but he didn't remind me of Bixby. Ruffalo does that for me. And Darkman is awesome.

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  9. I must be the only person alive who actually liked the first Wolverine movie. I mean, I didn't love it or anything, but I liked it, despite being overstuffed. I did occasionally think the claws looked like CGI, though, which is a pretty big problem. My favorite part about it though was Liev Schreiber hamming it up and having an absolute blast as Sabretooth.

    I always thought The Spirit looked good, but the awful reviews made me stay away. I like Gabriel Macht, so maybe I should give it a shot.

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    1. You might be the only one. The first Wolverine just didn't work for me. I'm in a similar boat on The Spirit. I don't love it, but found it enjoyable enough.

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