Is ‘Logan’ The Best X-Men Movie?

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The Last of Wolverine

No, I don’t think Logan is the greatest comic-book movie since The Dark Knight (which isn’t even great to begin with). But it’s probably the best X-Men movie yet. I used to agree with the general consensus that X2 was the best of the lot, but Logan is also a remarkable movie and it gets Wolverine right. And that for me, says a lot.

While the first two X-Men movies by were generally well-loved by both critics and fans, I’ve always find them lacking. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Professor X and Magneto respectively, brought gravitas to these surprisingly earnest comic book movies (the much maligned third movie had actually more fun to offer, especially with Juggernaut, Mystique and Multiple Man). Hugh Jackman took the role of Wolverine, and made a career playing the fierce but sensitive mutant from Canada. Unfortunately, the other supposedly key characters (Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, Beast) were sidelined, and nearly forgettable. While Rebecca Romijn, in her very physical and almost dialogue-free role as Mystique, steals the show from almost every one of them. Sure, Bryan Singer has style, but it’s a style that muted the colors and voices of these supposedly motley crew of outsiders.

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Yes, these movies touch on relevant issues (i.e., xenophobia, LGBT). But so did the comics and the ’90s cartoons, which, arguably did better doing so than the movies. In fact, that is only to be expected of these movies. What I did not expect was how Wolverine-centered they were. Were they called Wolverine and the X-Men, I won’t be complaining how the rest of team didn’t get to do much. Also, I thought these movies were just too serious for their own good. Logan was allowed to make jokes, but at the expense of the other characters, like Cyclops and Beast, who were both badly underwritten. And sometimes, the seriousness lapses into something silly, unintentionally (i.e., X-Men‘s amusing third act fight scenes, Prof. X saying goodbye to Cyclops in X2 (couldn’t Jean talk to Scott directly?))

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Same couldn’t be said of Logan, Hugh Jackman’s third solo and final outing as Wolverine. While James Mangold’s film has a setting similar to Days of Future Past—takes place in the future, the few remaining mutants hiding, hunted—Logan works as a kind of post-apocalyptic drama, where the fancy stuff in Future Past—the Sentinels, time travel, Warpath, Bishop and Fan Bingbing (characters I’d love to see in another movie) never happened. Here, Logan is old, his body’s regenerative ability is failing, and he drives a limo to buy medicine for an aging Prof. X to keep him from killing half the world’s population with his Alzheimer’s-inflicted brain. Think of it as a movie about old people taking care of old people, them sticking together, wading through the odds.

xmen3I know that for a lot of people Hugh Jackman is Logan/Wolverine. For me, his “too pretty, too soft” portrayal of the man with adamantium claws, secret past and weird hairstyle, is one of the many things past X-Men movies didn’t get right. The hurt look on his face, his full of guilt “I really hate killing people” facial expression every-time he fights, had always run in contrast to the Wolverine I grew up with. You see, I’m more into that “Come and get me, Bub” kind of guy, the bad-ass berserker who relish cutting anything with his claws, and hides the pain behind that nasty grin, instead of showing it.

Jackman’s portrayal makes Wolverine look vulnerable, much more than Cyclops, Jean Grey or Storm, but that doesn’t make his character complex, rather contradictory. Why? Because vulnerability should be the last thing one should expect from a mutant who’s lived hundred years, fought and survived countless wars and is nearly unkillable. Wolverine should be more like the T-800 than Harry Potter, but Jackman’s Logan is closer to the latter.

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Gaaad! I really hate killing people.

What I’m really trying to say is, finally, here’s a movie where Hugh Jackman’s softhearted and world-weary Wolverine fits and belongs to. A movie that has enough drama to justify the R-Rated violence. A movie that has the proper tone and weight to tackle intolerance, violence, and inequalities. If you take away the part where an evil corporation experiments on mutants, it’s hardly a superhero/comic book movie.

And that’s why the best part of the movie isn’t the final showdown between Logan and his clone X-24 (also played by Hugh Jackman). Nor is it the father-daughter relationship between him and Laura/X-23. (Actually, when Logan tried to push her away, it brings to mind bad memories from The Last Stand i.e., Dark Phoenix, the Logan-Jean Grey romance.) The best part of the movie happens in the farm, when Prof. X, Logan and Laura were accepted as guests by a family they helped in a traffic accident. Prof. X finally felt home (after a long time, here he is under one roof with the humans he spent his life protecting) while Laura befriends the teenage boy in the family. Logan on the other hand tried to reciprocate their kindness by helping them get rid of the greedy farmers from the nearby corporate farm. It touches on a number of relevant issues and while it ends with ultraviolence, it’s one of those fights where blood, death, and violence, really meant something.

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Tabi Po (Graphic Novel)

Rebyu ng rebyu ng Tabi Po ni Mervin Malonzo

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Unang una, na-disappoint ako nung malaman na yung nabasa ko sa web ay sya ring matutunghayan ko sa print version ng libro (hard copy, ika nga, at hindi e-file). Kung mababasa ko sya ng libre, ba’t ko pa binili ‘tong libro? Pero tama si Mervin Malonzo, masarap amuy-amuyin ang makulay na papel ng bawat pahina nito. (Ginawa ko ‘to kanina sa bus (yung pag-amoy), pero minabuti ko na mag-ingat. Nakakahiya kasi na makita ng ibang pasahero na inaamoy ko itong libro habang nakabukas dun sa pahina na may mga nakahubad na larawan.) Pero tama s’ya, mabango, amoy papel at makulay ang aklat na ito.

Pero sa totoo lang, mahilig naman talaga ako mangolekta ng mga bagay na tangible, tulad ng libro, CD, DVD, at hard drive na punung-puno ng mga bagay na nagtatapos sa .mkv, .mp3, at .pdf.

May ilang araw ko ring binalik-balikan ang komiks na ito sa loob ng bookstore bago ko binili. Swerte naman, may isang hindi naka-shrinkwrap, kaya ini-scan ko ang mga pahina, ang magagandang larawan at ang kwento. Inisip ko kung bibilhin ko ba o hindi, kung sulit ba na mag-gulay at half-rice ako ng ilang linggo. Pero nang napansin ko na unti-unti nang nauubos ang mga kopya, ayun na, nagdesisyon na ko.

Nagbasa din ako ng mga reviews bago ko tuluyang binitiwan ang naipon ko. At may isang review sa goodreads na medyo natuwa ako. Binanggit sa review na kinuha daw ni Malonzo ang ilang ideya nya mula kay Anne Rice at sa Twilight (cum laude pa naman s’ya sa UP, sabi pa nito). May punto naman siya, nakakatuwa lang kasi mukhang binasa n’ya talaga yung Twilight. Pero yung punto na mabango ang tao para sa mga aswang, sigurado akong hindi ito hango sa Twilight. Kasi, bata pa ako naririnig ko na ‘to sa mga kwento ng matatanda sa Continue reading “Tabi Po (Graphic Novel)”

Kick-Ass (Matthew Vaughn, 2010)

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With great firepower comes great kick-ass finale

Damon Macready (Nicholas Cage) was a good cop out to get NY kingpin Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong)—who in turn framed him for drugs and got him incarcerated. Macready lost everything while in prison, save for his little girl—thanks to his buddy Sgt. Marcus Williams (who showed up in the movie for a few minutes just to read Macready’s first graphic novel and reveal what this movie is all about: Macready’s revenge). Of course, Macready has since returned. This time as the masked vigilante known as Big Daddy. Big Daddy together with Hit-Girl a.k.a. his now 11-year old daughter Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz), are on to destroying D’Amico once again. They’re no super-heroes; they’re only out for blood.

Elsewhere, there’s Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his friends wasting time geek-talking about superheroes—how no one’s attempted to wear the mask and fight crime in real life. When Dave finally decided to don the green unitard and take on the streets, the results ranged from “nothing happens” to downright bone-crushing. In other words, he got his own ass handed to him a few times. And then he went viral and eventually conquered MySpace. (MySpace, of course, would eventually lost to Facebook, as can be seen in David Fincher’s brilliant Mark Zuckerberg movie, The Social Network.)

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I can make my own graphic novel out of screenshots from this movie!

On the side, there’s Lyndsy Fonseca as Katie Deauxma, the requisite (not that I’m complaining) love interest, Dave’s long-time crush and Kick-Ass‘s own MJ (an improvement over Spider-Man‘s Kirsten Dunst).

When Big Daddy and Hit-Girl finally crossed paths with Kick-Ass, Dave’s super-heroics took a backseat, together with his (and the movie’s) thought balloons about superheroes, comic books and genre deconstruction. And this is when Kick-Ass shifted gears into a straight action movie.

But what an ass-kicking action movie it is. Fluid cameraworks, great fight choreography, Matthew Vaughn’s cartoonishly violent action sequence—that’s what really sets this apart from other comic-book movies. Christopher Nolan’s Batman action scenes would look like something from a Kevin Smith movie if you compare them. While Vaughn’s spy movie Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015), could shred every James Bond movie from the last ten years to pieces if it wants to, Kick-Ass makes most of MCU movies look “strictly for kids”.

The best sequence of them all, the movie’s dramatic high point, is when Hit-Girl rescues Big Daddy and Kick-Ass from D’Amico’s men—Big Daddy’s burning and tied to a chair, shouting coded instructions (e.g., Go to Robin’s Revenge!) while Hit-Girl takes the henchmen down one by one. The sequence packs so much emotions, bullets, blood and style (i.e., POV shots, fast cuts and glorious slo-mos) and brings to mind bits from the best John Woo movies (i.e., The Killer, Hard Boiled).

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Another hallmark of a good action movie? The main villain, Frank D’Amico, has the best fuckin’ lines (e.g., God, I wish I had a son like you).

When all is said and done, it’s all about revenge. And Matthew Vaughn’s stylish action sequence. Nevermind its premise, or the first half, or Dave Lizewski’s thought balloons about being a superhero. You’ll forget about them anyway, once you see Hit-Girl engage Frank D’Amico in a brutal hand-to-hand combat in the movie’s kick-ass finale. And don’t forget, the part with that “one weird sounding bazooka” is a total winner.

No, Kick-Ass, though more kick-ass than Deadpool, doesn’t quite work on a similar level of either Super or Deadpool. Not a send-up or anything. It’s just a straight shoot-and-slice-’em-up revenge story disguised as comic book movie about comic books and superheroes. No chimi-fuckin-changas—just first-rate action movie is what it is.

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Ant-Man (Peyton Reed, 2015)

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The Top Secret World of Ant-Man

I kept thinking. That this could have been funnier like Shaun of the Dead. That this could have been geekier like Scott Pilgrim. That there could have been more inventive fight scenes—had Edgar Wright stayed to finish what he started. Just take Luis’ (Michael Peña) crafty way of telling his stories, for example, or the many times where Ant-Man fights, shrinks and puffs up—all of which could have been much much more engaging with Wright at the helm. I was thinking of things Marvel could have done to address this issue—this lack of panache on the director’s end. Perhaps, they should have made poor Scottie steal some sugar cubes like Arrietty and her Dad in that Ghibli movie. And made this a heartwarming children’s movie. Or better, made him watch Ms. Marvel (Brie Larson) while she . . . she . . . wait, she isn’t even introduced yet in this universe, so that would not be possible.

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What we got is a movie that follows the basic premise of Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man (a version of the movie that, sadly, we’ll not be able to see). Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man and a scientist who distrusts Howard Stark (and by extension Iron Man and his cohorts), wants to pass the torch to a protege. And that protege is Scott Lang, a well-meaning thief, an ex-con who needs to secure a job for his young daughter Cassie. And it’s also a heist film that has Lang and lots and lots of ants break and enter a highly secured facility to “steal some shit”. And of course he has to fight the villain Darren Cross, who’s easily the most convincing bad guy in the Marvel universe (he turned one co-worker into a sushi earlier in the movie, in a scene probably inspired from the original RoboCop).

But that’s only half the movie, more or less. The other half is what Peyton Reed, Adam Mckay and Paul Rudd, contributed to the script: the music, Luis’ tip montage, Falcon, Quantum Realm, adding more of Hope Van Dyne in the story, and streamlining the whole movie to make it more fit to the pre-existing bigger story. Allegedly, all this in lieu of the crazier stuff, the more far out ideas Wright and Joe Cornish had originally. Still, the movie ends up like a B-side—disconnected but not totally unrelated—to all the towering destruction from all the other Phase Two movies. Which only adds to the disappointment—that we didn’t get to see the crazier stuff—given this wouldn’t have much impact on either the crossover or the other standalone series.

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It all boils down to a certain set of rules, imagined or otherwise, that restrict all movies set on Earth from having deeply varying tones. I get it. With Wright, this would have ended like the fourth installment in the Cornetto trilogy than a Marvel movie. Right.

Surprisingly . . . it actually works. Ant-Man is an enjoyable romp. And it’s better, even if only a tiny bit better, than the other MCU movies with household name heroes. Thanks in no small part to Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly and the rest of the cast. After all the massive destruction, billions worth in collateral damage, and unaccounted casualties in Age of Ultron, The Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3, Ant-Man is a welcome change of pace, a refreshing retreat. A movie capable of going really small, without sacrificing a big heart in the middle. In the end, this isn’t much about being a superhero or saving the world, as it is about fathers and daughters, mentor and mentee. It’s all about Hank and Hope, Scott and Cassie, one interrupted kiss and that “messed-up looking dog” (a giant ant) Cassie kept, at the end of the movie.

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Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, 2017)

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Ms. Marvel

Near the end of Wonder Woman, I couldn’t help but think of that hapless lady, who found Diana Prince hiding behind the shrubbery, and subsequently gave her dress to her. I wonder what happened to her. Or in case she’s well and alive, how would she explain to her friends, what happened there in the woods.

Of course, the whole thing happened off screen. After that, we see Diana enter the party in a long blue dress, the god-killer sword concealed behind her back. And this was after Diana was told that she “can’t do this, can’t do that”, for the nth time—with Steve Trevor and the rest of team leaving her alone in the woods. Some found this empowering, that throughout the movie, she does what she needs to do and not what she’s told, and the fact that this was helmed by a female director. While some noted the total absence of male gaze, totally refreshing. Me, I was ready to revamp my top ten superhero movie list. Was already thinking which among a number of movies—Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass, and Deadpool—should go down a notch or two.

Did I just make it sound like Wonder Woman is really an awesome movie? In parts, yes, it is awe-inspiring—more than some of the more popular superhero movies (i.e., The Avengers, Civil War, The Dark Knight). The other time Diana was told she can’t do something—that she can’t save those people caught in the crossfire—I literally had to pick both my heart and jaw up from the floor. Because what happened next is simply the most marvelous sequence in the whole movie. This is when Diana rose from the trenches and charged towards the enemy lines . . . wearing nothing but . . . her signature Amazonian armor and indestructible bracelets, bringing sword, shield, and the Lasso of Truth against machine guns. But that’s not before she wore her aunt’s tiara and winked at the audience in a wonderfully subtle superhero change-outfit turnaround. (For the record, there hasn’t been a scene like this in a superhero movie for quite a while. I was thinking of that scene in Spider-Man, where Peter chased the killer right after the death of Uncle Ben.)

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While clearly a product of DC movie-verse, Wonder Woman is surprisingly blithe for a good part of it. The real world is predictably all grey, more than fifty shades of it, contrary to Themyscira’s otherworldly beauty—crystal clear waters, azure skies, and white sand beaches. When Diana got her first taste of ice cream, I desperately wished for the sun to come out and shine even for a moment, just to see clearly the smile on Gal Gadot’s face. Which is to say, outside of Themyscira, the movie is unmistakably Snyder-esque. Except for the humor.

There are lots of intended comedy here: most of them having to do with Diana being unaccustomed to the real world, and men in particular. At one point, she even admits to have read 12 volumes of what sounds like “ancient texts on Grecian erotica”. And this works for the most part, effectively fleshing out the characters while also underpinning the chemistry between the leads. Luckily, this light-hearted approach works despite the perpetual grey clouds of gloom hanging over.

It also helps that the movie skips over-explaining everything (like, “Really, an uncharted paradise island full of women?”) and just went with the basic plot that the heroes needs to go to the frontlines and help end the war.

And then it ends ugly—-not the war. I mean, seriously, the final third kind of sucks. Aside from the revelation that feels put-on, the final battle is just big, loud, dark, ugly and relies heavily on computer-generated I-don’t-know-if-I-can-call-them imagery, which also dumbs down the movie’s final message—something about love and faith in humanity. It never gets down to Michael Bay level, but I remember Optimus Prime saying a similar line at the end of the first Transformers movie.

That said, Wonder Woman is still pretty good, easily the best DC-based live-action movie since Batman Returns.

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Wait. What? Okay, okay, I hear ya.

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That said, Wonder Woman is still pretty good, easily the best DC-based live-action movie since The Dark Knight. (Sorry, I have to change that. I heard somebody scream “No” the way Superman did right after killing Zod.)

Revisiting The Dark Knight (Almost) Ten Years After

tdk2You Could Have It So Much Better

If I have to pick my favorite scenes or sequence in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, one would be the part when Batman failed to save Rachel Dawes, second would be the opening bank heist, Heath Ledger’s Joker bombing the hospital would be third and lastly, Batman interrogating the Joker.

The Dark Knight is not a bad movie—isn’t that great either. On paper, it’s probably the best big screen Batman adaptation. But since Batman is hardly the detective/ninja he is supposed to be in this movie (despite his rigorous training in Batman Begins), and TDK hardly a decent action-thriller, despite glimpse of greatness in the Heat-inspired opening sequence, I’d say it’s a little overrated.

Christopher Nolan can’t shoot action—let’s get that out of the way as early as possible. The action scenes in TDK are a jumbled mess, badly edited and poorly executed. Just take the part where Gordon was shot on stage. It happened so quickly and executed so poorly, that that sequence alone didn’t make much impact. It did make its point, that another major character died, but not much else. (Without the scene where Gordon’s wife was informed by the cops, it’s not too hard to miss what the hell happened there.) Which renders the reveal, or the prestige if you like, of this particular sub-plot later—that Gordon is alive and thus, was able to arrest the Joker—much less impact, like a poorly executed magic trick. They could delete that scene and the result would be the same. Also, Gordon’s death hasn’t even sink-in yet (for me at least), before it is revealed that he’s alive. Of course, all Nolan was trying to tell is that Batman, Gordon and Dent thought they were able to trick the Joker; turns out he was already ahead of them—this I’ve realized, only after watching the movie again.

Then, there’s the supposedly climactic battle where Batman tried and miraculously succeeded—despite fighting like an under-cranked ninja—in saving the hostages from Gordon’s men. Oh I forgot, he was wearing a specialized visor that renders Ethan Hunt and the rest of IMF totally old-school. Of course, the Joker’s ploy was brilliant, and Batman made a commendable job finally having realized that with the Joker, “it isn’t that simple”. What most tend to ignore, is the fact that this supposedly spectacular final battle, was awkwardly executed and visually flat.

If there’s a bigger schemer here, it’s Christopher Nolan himself—not Dent, not Batman, not the Joker. Joker’s disappearing pencil has got nothing on Nolan’s favorite trick: misdirection. While the Joker lays his plans like dominoes ready to tip over and fall one after another, Nolan layers poorly edited set-pieces with lazy exposition and badly executed action scenes, and toss them with Hans Zimmer score that should imply relentlessness and sustained tension. He loads the script with a lot of things enough to distract you from thinking how the execution—especially in terms of action film-making and visual storytelling—could have been so much better.

All this would result, nonetheless, to Nolan’s greatest inception—instilling many the idea that this ambitious but deeply flawed sequel is the Godfather II of the comic-book moviedom.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Is the Joss Whedon Sequel We Never Had

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Before The Avengers became Marvel’s biggest hit (to the tune of $1.5B), Joss Whedon was asked about making Avengers 2 and gave his thoughts on what makes a better sequel. He said that the sequel should go smaller, more personal, instead of just repeating what worked in the first. Then came Avengers: Age of Ultron—it’s not quite the kind of sequel Whedon said he’d like to make.

(Presses fast-forward button…)

Marvel’s favorite A-holes are back.

From the opening title sequence, where they fight the Abilisk to the tune of ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” (yes, an expanded version of Star-Lord’s “Come And Get Your Love” number from the first) to the moment Ego reveals himself to be Peter Quill’s father, the Guardians have managed to be the two things we love about them: being the “heroes” they are now known after the Battle of Xandar; and minutes later, the bunch of assholes they were known for before saving Xandar. First, they save the Sovereign the trouble of fighting a giant squid-like battery-munching monster; then on the next, they fight among themselves, crash their own ship, insult, offend and eventually, earn the wrath of High Priestess Ayesha and the rest of the Sovereign—the same people whose precious batteries they have just “saved”.

They’re just being themselves, I guess. Compared with the Avengers’ banter-heavy work-like team dynamics, the Guardians’ we’re-a-happy-family kind of shit (a Ramones reference, by the way) is, just on another level—of crazy. For them, doing the right thing, saving the world or saving one’s own ass isn’t always top priority. They’ll do it for the money, sure, or in exchange for something valuable. Sometimes, it’s just for the simple “Fuck it, we’re the Guardians of the Galaxy, bitch” reason. And that’s probably why Drax was dangling from outside the Milano, during one of the space battles—just like Han Solo in Air Force One. They’re erratic and unpredictable, and unfortunately for you, Andromedans, they’re the savers of your galaxy.

And that’s the primary reason James Gunn loves these characters so much. Or is it the other way around? That Gunn loves them so much that’s why… Nevermind. There’s definitely a lot of love going on here—in the movie and in making this movie. So much that Gunn made Vol. 2 just like the first—only in reverse. Less on saving the world and McGuffins, more on the characters and their backstories—expanding them, revealing hidden lines, connecting the dots.

Awesome Mix Vol. 2 takes the same dip, highlighting obscure titles and Gunn’s personal favorites in as much as the hits. If the first sounds like some hipster mix-tape you play in front of friends so you’d look cool, the new set is truly your parents’ music. They’re the songs you listen to when you’re alone and misses the times when you’re still small, being with your folks, playing with your He-Man action figures, and the songs your parents love, were playing in the background. It’s kind of sad and beautiful… Like a picnic in the park, or your family watching Empire Strikes Back at home, on the old Betamax.

So Quill finally meets his old man, a Celestial named Ego, a god with small ‘g’, played by the inimitable Kurt Russell. All those years growing up with the Ravagers, Quill just wanted to play catch with his Dad. On the other hand, Gamora just wanted to end her feud with her step-sister; but Nebula wants something else, actually, she wanted more. Elsewhere in the galaxy, Yondu, the guy who kidnapped young Quill many years ago, vows to right the wrongs he did in the past. While Rocket, still the meanest A-hole in the team, gets to meet his match.

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By the end, everyone’s given his/her own “drama queen” moment (because this is what Guardians is all about—the drama, it’s Marvel’s own soap opera), except Baby Groot, who stuffs the movie with cuteness overload and funny one-liners. Yeah. Funny. One. Liners. While Drax mostly served as muscle and gas throughout the movie, there’s one brief scene, with him and Mantis sitting by the pond, that’s really “touching”.

All this makes Vol. 2 a lot more personal, more intimate. And in a way, smaller, as the movie splits the team in two and focuses on each character’s personal issues. Then, the narratives meet in the middle, intertwine and unravel in the most organic way possible. Nothing here feels tacked on, as all were established, or at least hinted at, in the first movie.

Of course, Vol. 2 also doubles down on the other things we love about the first: dick-jokes and jokes about a mechanical eye and really big turd, the ’80s references, the eye-popping set-pieces, and action sequence set to really awesome music. There’s the Ravagers slam-dancing to “Southern Nights”; Quill and Co. landing on Ego’s Planet to the tune of “My Sweet Lord”; the arcade-inspired Sovereign Fleet with their “Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang” disco-hive attack, just to name a few.

If all this does not a perfect sequel make, then I don’t know what. A political thriller perhaps?

Then, it all fails—if only because we need to measure it with the same stick we used with the first. Or simply because there ain’t a scene as powerful, corny, kick-ass, funny, and dramatic—all of these combined, as when the Guardians vanquished Ronan in the first movie. If these two movies were a pair of rock albums, Vol. 1 is the surprise smash hit debut, and Vol. 2, is its decidedly different, less immediate follow-up (think about Weezer’s Blue Album and Pinkerton). It’s heavier, deeper, and has more layers. And probably requires—and hopefully gets better with—repeated listens.

Vol. 2 doesn’t need to better or outdo the first to be the perfect sequel. It is a perfect sequel. I have only one complaint: I expected Star-Lord to make a giant Skeletor. Or a big blonde Heather Locklear.

 

*GOTG Vol. 2 mugs from here.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Gavin Hood, 2009)

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When it comes to the worse Marvel-based movies, the B-grade X-Men Origins: Wolverine is easily among the front-runners. As a comic-book movie, Wolverine is one serious offender. It has no regards for a lot of things: the first X-Men movie (where Sabretooth appeared), the Weapon X series, the other X-Men characters (i.e., Gambit, Deadpool). But outside its irreverence, is a somewhat tightly constructed B-movie (particularly the first half) that knows its own thrills. If you think about it, the story was nothing more than a silly excuse to get Logan in Wolverine-mode. As a low budget action movie (they didn’t even bother to get back Brian Cox to play Stryker), it actually works—kind of. While there are still plenty to ask for in Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine (he’s too soft, too pretty), at least his own movie is so bad—ass; not only does it cut its ties with both comics and other X-Men movies with ease (talk about the script’s adamantium quality), it also almost killed and forever shut-up the one exciting character that Fox has: the snarky anti-hero known as Merc with a Mouth.

The Punisher (Jonathan Hensleigh, 2004)

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There are a few things in The Punisher that I wish were part of a totally different movie. The movie’s white on black title sequence and score was perfectly fitting. Thomas Jane, who did look the part, was almost perfect as Frank Castle; only ruined by the movie’s hackneyed script, inconsistent tone and ho-hum set pieces. There’s the guitar playing assassin named Harry Heck (who turns out to be a really slow shooter) and the car chase and fight sequence that started in the diner which had glimpse of suspense that’s quite elusive for the rest of the film. The big fight with Russian that ended in the kitchen, could have been a riot if the parts where his neighbors lip-sync and dance to an opera song had been cut. Frank Castle getting beaten to a pulp by a bigger opponent was already funny enough. And of course, Rebecca Romijn.

Of course, all of the above weren’t enough to save the movie. As a supposedly throwback to the gritty crime-action movies of the ’70s, The Punisher‘s got the look and feel partially right, but doesn’t have the weight to begin with. In the comics, the mob killed Frank Castle and his family because they witnessed a hit. It was senseless violence; they were just collateral damage. In the movie, it isn’t like that, The Saints are just settling the score. Thomas Jane is good as Punisher, too bad the movie his in, sucks.

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Rants/Raves: Top 10 Superhero Movies

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Spider-Man 2 (2004). In the comics, later in the story, it is revealed that Aunt May knew all along that Peter is Spider-Man. That she secretly knew his secret. That this is hinted at in the movie, is one of those little things that made this adaptation great. That Aunt May is given her own kick-ass moment, teaming up with Spidey to beat Doc Ock, is another. Of course, there’s the great train sequence, the bank heist, Doc Ock’s Evil Dead moment, and don’t forget, J.K. Simmons as the blustering  J. Jonah Jameson.

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Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008). This is one visually stunning film. The troll market is a hoot. The fate of the last forest god is both tragic and beautiful. On top of that, the film’s main conflict isn’t just simplistic good vs. evil—Prince Nuada has good reasons to break the truce. Remember the part where they drink beer and sing along to Barry Manilow? Yeah, this movie’s quite funny too.

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Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014). It’s a good mix of action, comedy and drama—not over serious but not just mindless fun either. From the opening song and dance number down to the other song and dance numbers before and mid-credits, this movie about a band of misfits saving the world is a winner! And probably the danciest superhero movie of all. The best MCU movie? Yes—beats The Avengers by a hair and way way better than Civil War.

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Batman Returns (1992). Tim Burton isn’t much about inventive fight scenes than he is about texture, the elaborate Gothic sets, the quirky and oftentimes grotesque characters. What it does lack in action, it makes up with style and wit (i.e., Penguin’s weaponized umbrella, Selina Kyle’s taser-kiss). Add to that the deliciously insane script and the great cast—Danny De Vito, Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfieffer—and you got the best adaptation of the Caped Crusader’s plight.

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Spider-Man (2002). Compared to more recent movies, this may seem a little too straightforward now—more like a comic book primer, a one-shot. But that’s only because it is the prototype, which others would later try to improve on. Some movies upped the action (e.g., Kick-Ass), some, the comedy (e.g., Deadpool) but Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, where Peter Parker learns that “with great power comes great responsibility”, remains the all around better origin movie.

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The Avengers (2012). After two Hulk movies that were just okay, here’s that Hulk movie we all really need. I remember not being so excited about this before it came out. That all the movies that lead to this movie were just okay—the talky Iron Man sequel, Cap’s WWII origin and Thor‘s uneventful Asgard—was enough for me to lower my expectations. Thus, seeing the Earth’s mightiest in one awesome movie—thanks to Joss Whedon—was such a huge marvelous surprise.

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Deadpool (2016). Merc with a Mouth’s origin story is part Spider-Man redux, part corrective to the atrocious Wolverine origin and the closest a comic-book movie comes to approximating Monty Python and the Holy Grail-type of craziness (though it’s not even close). Green Lantern is quite good as Deadpool and he’s got Serenity‘s feisty muse as his girl next door.

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Kick-Ass (2010). Also known as Big Daddy’s Revenge (With A Little Help From Kick-Ass). Because. It’s all about revenge. And Matthew Vaughn’s stylish action sequence. Never mind the premise; or the first half; or Dave Lizewski’s thought balloons about being a superhero. You’ll forget about them anyway, once you see Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) take on Big Boss Frank D’Amico in a brutal hand-to-hand combat in the movie’s kick-ass finale.

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Super (2010). The genre deconstruction that Kick-Ass hardly was—James Gunn’s pre-MCU superhero black comedy features the pipe-wrench wielding vigilante who calls himself The Crimson Bolt and his far more unhinged side-kick Boltie. It’s dark, funny and gritty. Tired of the family-friendly and passable entertainment from Disney? Or the trying hard to be dark and edgy DC movies? This one’s for you.

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Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back (2001). I was one movie short of making this a top ten list. So I thought of another movie which I really like. Then, I remembered this—Kevin Smith’s movie about Jay and Silent Bob going to Hollywood to stop the adaptation of Bluntman and Chronic into the big screen. It’s trashy and amateurish, which is typical of Smith’s movies. A must-see if you’re a fan of Smith’s.

Captain America: Civil War (The Russo Brothers, 2016)

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‘Civil War’ should have ended with that mid-movie orgy, not with the Tony-Cap-Bucky threesome.

Captain America: Civil War finds the Earth’s mightiest heroes split in two. One led by Captain America and the other headed by Iron Man—two evenly matched teams going head-to-head in a mid-movie battle seemingly inspired by the opening sequence of the X-Men cartoons from the ‘90s. While Iron Man got Spider-Man, Captain America’s team is the more exciting one, with Wanda, Hawkeye and Ant-Man on his side. Still, this doesn’t make it significantly more interesting than the other similarly themed summer flick from DC, especially when most of the superheroes left to team up with either Cap or Tony, are the predictably dull side characters in the Marvel Universe—War Machine, Falcon, Winter Soldier, Vision and a likewise banal newcomer in Black Panther.

I thought we should at least have Nick Fury in the middle, make him give long Tarantino-esque monologues that would illuminate why Cap and Tony were on different sides. (Looks like Tony is just jealous because Cap’s got a new boyfriend and he’s got no one else since Pepper left him.) Also, they could have given Agent 13 more screen presence this time, because honestly, they couldn’t make Black Widow any more alluring and her signature takedown gets tiring already. Another thing, the camera tends to get too shaky during her fight scenes—actually, most of the fight scenes, not just those with Black Widow.

Captain America: Civil War starts with The Avengers foiling a terrorist attack somewhere in Africa. They were able to retrieve the biological weapon from the terrorists, but not without collateral damage—something they might have avoided, if only Vision wasn’t so busy in the headquarters kitchen. So Tony Stark has to do a Bruce Wayne this time; taking fall for the death of innocent people when they tried to save the world from Ultron. Captain America, on the other hand, just can’t afford to lose Bucky for the third time, even if his disagreement with Stark could lead to Civil War.

Of course, it didn’t. No Civil War, just a smaller version of Mark Millar’s serial, which has twelve superheroes fighting each other in Leipzig/Halle Airport. With Hawkeye just being funny, delivering one-liners in between punches; Ant-Man getting inside Iron Man’s suit, then later turning into Giant-Man; and Spider-Man throwing banters while webbing up Falcon, sparring with Cap, and swinging around Giant-Man. Then, there’s Elizabeth Olsen, who gives Wanda Maximoff the vulnerability—both emotional and physical—that’s kind of rare in this type of movie. Olsen’s Wanda is both fragile and fierce, like a kitten with special powers, caught in the middle of a slugfest.

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Said airport scuffle is easily the best part of this movie. But since it happens somewhere in the middle, right before the “more” important events are about to unfold, it makes the last third of the movie drag, not just a bit. And I couldn’t even care less, especially after Wanda, Ant-Man and Spidey left off the screen. And I think, it asks too much of its audience when they killed Rhodes. Almost. It’s not like he (almost) died trying to save people. And both teams seem to be having a fun pick-up match just right before that, with Spider-Man referencing Star Wars and Ant-Man asking for orange slices (probably to nurse a massive headache) after he gets knocked down. Unlike the death scene in Joss Whedon’s Age of Ultron, the tone here is just, off.

At long last, the final fight between Cap and Iron Man boils down to Tony doing another Bruce Wayne—as he turns vengeful for the death of his parents. The fight gets a bit clearer near the end—lesser camera movements, lesser cutting but in the same gloomy blue-grayish tone (would have been nice to see Cap’s bright costume contrasting nicely with Iron Man’s metallic gold and red). And in case you forgot, in the pure Marvel tradition of having boring half-villains, this movie also got one: Baron Zemo, who gets to carry out his very complicated plan, just because the plot needs him to.

Again, that airport scene is probably the coolest thing ever…or maybe, just until the next Marvel movie comes.

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