‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ Is A Perfectly Executed Action-RPG

tws (4).png

Right after the opening salvo of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which we find Captain America and Agent Romanoff displaying their super-awesome fighting skills against a group of mercenaries in a SHIELD vessel, I wasn’t sure if I was in a movie house or if I just watched a perfectly executed tactical/brawler/action-RPG.

Was it the works of an invincibility cheat or was the player just really good? One thing is clear though, Captain America is someone Samuel L. Jackson would call a real bad-ass motherfucker! He was called super-soldier; only now do I understand. He’s better than Scott Adkins’ Ninja, James Bond, Col. Guile, Rambo, Ethan Hunt or all of them combined. He’s super-tough, and also, super-fast—cameramen could hardly follow his punches.

Captain America used to be a bore. Unless he’s got the wise-crackin’ Tony Stark or the brash god of thunder Thor on his side. But pair him with the Winter Soldier, and you’ll get a sophisticated “political thriller” featuring a shield-throwing Jack Ryan on steroids and a bad-hair day Jason Bourne with a cybernetic arm, in a movie that’s less Three Days of Condor and more like The Bored Ultimatum.

Continue reading “‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ Is A Perfectly Executed Action-RPG”

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Is One Big Superhero Movie Climax

avenger-infinity-war-spidey-iron-man-mantis

Avengers: Infinity War opens with a distress call—actually a massacre, off-screen. And it’s only fitting that after Marvel’s most outrageously hilarious movie comes tragedy. I’m referring to Thor: Ragnarok, of course, which ended with Thor, Loki, Heimdall, Hulk and the rest of the Asgardians aboard The Mastermind’s fancy ship. They all survived Ragnarok—saw Asgard burn to the ground—only to have their refuge cut short by Thanos and his henchmen, the Black Order.

Yes, Avengers: Infinity War takes off right after that Ragnarok stinger. By the way, I remember someone complained that Ragnarok shouldn’t be a comedy, that everyone should have died in the end just like in the comics. My dear friend, you had Thanos’ mercy, your wish has been fulfilled. Are you happy now?

Of course, Infinity War is also, more or less, a direct sequel to Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2—none of which required viewing prior (in case you missed them) except for the last one. Civil War‘s great divide was summed up by Tony Starks with “we’re not in speaking terms”; Spider-Man, who tried so hard to impress Tony only to reject his offer to become an Avenger in the end, now becomes an Avenger; and Killmonger, the most important character in Black Panther, you don’t really need to know to understand this movie.

Continue reading “‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Is One Big Superhero Movie Climax”

Are You Team ‘Infinity War’ Or Are You Team ‘Deadpool’?

1522147258_avengers-infinity-war-e1522287244801.jpg

Couldn’t we just like them both? Be excited for both? Eggsactly. But where’s the fun in that? Also, these are two very different superhero movies. Two movies that operate on very different levels. So let’s contrast and compare.

One is about a Titan’s intergalactic quest for a set of colorful McGuffins, and the resulting powerful one-against-all scenario that would lead to gigantic fights that’s most probably 80% punching. While the other’s just the first sequel in a franchise (as opposed to the former being the 19th movie in the series) that seemingly care less about anything else outside of its titular hero. And Cable. And X-Force. Who’s the villain? We don’t know. That, we will find out come opening day.

Maybe “the real heroes” aka the screenwriters have a few more tricks up their sleeves and subvert our expectations about the movie’s plot. But I don’t want to expect. That’s the golden rule: Don’t expect. And based on the trailer, it is probably more of a spandex-and-sword action movie, with a lot of talking and talking to the camera, and fewer punching scenes.

dp2

Continue reading “Are You Team ‘Infinity War’ Or Are You Team ‘Deadpool’?”

Black Panther (Ryan Coogler, 2018)

bp.jpg

Hail to the king

Wasn’t really planning to watch Black Panther. Afraid that this steady diet of tentpole superhero movies has nothing but replaced my enthusiasm for “something different” with disappointments and lowered expectations. But the hype and raves came overflowing that my Spider-sense started tingling.

Black Panther‘s box office success, just like Wonder Woman‘s last year, within the context of the superhero/comic book blockbusters, is sort of groundbreaking. It’s actually amazing—I won’t deny that. Nor am I going to elaborate on the said achievement here, because with so many rave reviews (initially 100% on RT, then came the few negative reviews, which eventually were met with backlash—it’s the internet, y’know) I’m pretty sure it has already been covered. A lot. So loud were the raves that some black dude has been wondering if majority of white geek dudes are being too lenient in their review for a movie that features an African king from a secret kingdom with advanced technology that’s both organic and alien. As if most reviews zoomed-in on the great things about the movie and zoomed-out when it comes to its flaws. That the critics seemed to have graded Black Panther on a curve—the Marvel grading curve.

In a little over two hours, Black Panther is able to tell a familiar story about family, politics, race, nationhood, and fighting for the oppressed, in a superhero frame that’s all wrapped in vibrant African color. The best thing about it is its narrative: the well fleshed-out characters and clear-cut central conflict. It’s like the first Thor movie actually. Wakanda minus its best-kept secret, is like Asgard. The rivalry between T’Challa and Erik Stevens, like that of Thor and Loki, only twice as compelling. Erik Stevens aka Killmonger also reminds me of Hela’s exiled heir to the throne, only with more humane than pure evil motivations and thus, he’s easily among Marvel’s memorable villains to date. And compared with other superhero/comic book movies that imbued its story with the topical, political and air of relevance—The Dark Knight, The Winter Soldier, X-MenBlack Panther has arguably the most cogent overall narrative. Continue reading “Black Panther (Ryan Coogler, 2018)”

2017: Movies & Music Year-end List

Birdshot1-1.jpg

Movies

I missed some pretty big movies this year. Just like the previous year. And the year before that. And the year before the year before that. And the year before the year before… Oh, this could go on forever. By “pretty big”, I mean movies like Blade Runner 2049 and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Or the last Star Wars movie. I also haven’t seen Okja and Get Out yet, smaller movies that definitely deserve no less. But I’ve seen a few films, both big and small.

Among the best reviewed films, I thought Baby Driver and Logan were overrated. So was Wonder Woman. I liked Baby Driver but there’s something lacking. I’m not really sure Logan was better than X-2 or Days of Future Past and I liked Deadpool better for sure. Wonder Woman, I liked for having the right balance between humor and pathos, which most Marvel movies lack, but the third act was just disappointing. Speaking of disappointments, Kong: Skull Island was simply the most disappointing movie I’ve seen this year, mainly for wasting the scenic locations in Vietnam for a generic thrill-less CGI mayhem. Comic book/superhero movies reached a new high in 2017. Of the three movies from Marvel, Spider-Man: Homecoming was OK and that’s the problem, it’s a merely OK movie. I’ve seen three movies featuring Vin Diesel this year and I thought two of them (xXx: Return of Xander Cage and Fate of the Furious) were a total waste of time.

Listed below, in no particular order, are the ones that made into my “best of” list.

Happy Death Day (Horror, Comedy, 2017)
The Big Sick (Romance, Comedy, 2017)
Tale of Tales (Fantasy, 2015)
Take Me (Comedy, 2017)
Kita Kita (Romance, Comedy, 2017)
Headshot (Martial Arts, Action, 2016)
Westworld (Science Fiction, 1973)
The Mermaid (Fantasy, Romance, Comedy, 2016)
Free Fire (Action, Comedy, 2016)
Logan (Superhero, 2017)
Baby Driver (Action, Crime, 2017) Continue reading “2017: Movies & Music Year-end List”

Looking Back at Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man

amzingspdr.pngSuck it up Raimi fanboys!

Finally got around to watching The Amazing Spider-Man. Oh boy is it great! Not only is it a reboot, it’s also an update, an upgrade, both, of the Spider-Man mythos we’re mostly familiar with. The guys behind this movie definitely went the extra mile (or extra swing) to give the fans more than what was promised.

This version took no time in expanding the Spidey universe, introducing Peter Parker’s parents right in the opening scene and how Peter ended up with Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Then, it also corrected the main deviations in the first trilogy: Gwen Stacy, a much more convincing and sophisticated girl next door, as played by Emma Stone and, the mechanical web-shooters—which is part OSCORP’s product, part Peter’s invention. (Midway thru the movie, I thought OSCORP would eventually hire Spidey to endorse their product, and let the abusive J.J. Jameson, this time as an ad agency mogul, enter the story.)

There are small additions changes here and there. The enhanced spiders and webs were retconned to be made by OSCORP, and it’s also implied that Peter’s powers may have originated from the older Parker’s experiments. My only beef is that they turned Uncle Ben’s famous words into a joke, albeit unintentionally. Martin Sheen’s cool, funny uncle could have been an improvement over Cliff Robertson’s, but without that classic line, he becomes secondary.

The biggest change of them all is Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker, who’s actually a cool kid pretending to be a geek. He’s a quippy masked vigilante who’s also kind of a dick. He ditches his girlfriend in time of grief, for a promise he couldn’t keep, and then break the same promise just because “those were the best kind.” All in all, this Peter Parker is an affable jerk. (At least he got the girl this time, and is able to actually fork her brains out—for a change.) Continue reading “Looking Back at Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man”

13 Reasons Why I’m (Not) So Excited About Avengers: Infinity War

avengers-infinity-war-2018-poster-by-camw1n-dbhwbei-1012733-e1512535847327.jpg

Can’t say I’m not the least bit excited about Avengers: Infinity War. It is after all an Avengers movie. Something I have always looked forward to more than any other series or sub-franchise in the ongoing Marvel universe. Outside of the Guardians of the Galaxy, of course.

One reason I’m not too excited about Infinity War is that the Russos are directing it. And the writers of Captain America trilogy are the guys behind the script (Edit: They also wrote The Dark World, which I actually liked, but y’know Joss Whedon also had a hand on it). Sure, Civil War had some funny, sometimes witty back and forths, but it’s not the same as when Joss Whedon was still Marvel’s go to guy. Of course, Age of Ultron was a massive let down but so was Civil War.

At their best, the script for the last two Captain America movies, were just a little more than serviceable. Except for The Winter Soldier‘s bone-busting, fast-cut ADHD-style and a little shaky fight sequences (not really that good, if you ask me, since they tend to get repetitive in the long run), and Civil War‘s airport scuffle, those movies didn’t really stand out from the rest of the MCU. They didn’t have a distinct look or tone. Neither the triumphantly comedic/dramatic as the Guardians, nor as outrageously “out-there” as Thor: Ragnarok, and never as heartfelt as Ant-Man. Nothing really inventive or out-of-the-box.

Speaking of out-of-the-box ideas, that scene in where Loki was falling thru nothingness for thirty minutes is one of the most inventive sequence I’ve seen among recent MCU films. Sure that sequence is simple on the surface, not much CGI required to pull off, but it definitely required more than a bit of imagination to come up with. Yes, it was played for laughs and didn’t really forward the plot but it’s actually great in that, it demonstrated Strange’s power, his magic, it fleshed out the contrast between characters Loki and Doctor Strange, and also, it was very funny. My complaint with Doctor Strange is that it wasn’t magical enough, it wasn’t really strange. (Should Waititi take on next Doctor Strange movie, I would be excited for that.)

Going back to Cap’s movies, on pure technical aspects, they’re as exciting as Ant-Man. Outside of things mentioned above, they look so run-of-the-mill. Too bad for them, Ant-Man had a smaller but more relatable, not to mention more convincing, story to tell.

So yeah, the trailer is out. And it was different from the one shown in D23, which already leaked thru the internet. Trailer breakdowns are everywhere. This guy found 13 reasons to be so excited about this movie coming out next year. So I decided that I’d rip him off and give my own—kind of contrarian—take on the list. Here we go:

Vision Goes Through Changes
Not a big fan of Vision. Though I like Age Of Ultron more than the next guy, Vision’s origin is one of those sub-plot in that movie that left me… I don’t know. It’s was kind of magical and dumb and also very contrived. I like Scarlet Witch. There’s a part in Ultron where Hawkeye told her that none of these (the things happening in the movie) makes sense, and it was followed by her character transformation. I also like her being paired with Vision in Civil War. But that brings me to one of my biggest gripes about the movie: Where the hell is Vision during that Lagos mission?

Continue reading “13 Reasons Why I’m (Not) So Excited About Avengers: Infinity War”

Thor: Ragnarok — Some Loud Thunder

tr3

Warning: Some Lou Ferrigno-sized spoilers ahead

“What are you, god of hammers?” Odin asks Thor at one point in the movie. Then Thor does his thunderbolt thing and we’re treated to what might be the coolest battle sequence in the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe since Scott Lang turned into Giant-Man, or since Peter Quill made a giant Pac-Man to the tune of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”. It’s so frickin’ awesome and thanks to director Taika Waititi, Thor: Ragnarok is now officially, the wackiest Marvel ensemble comedy to date this side of Joss Whedon.

Thor: Ragnarok opens with Thor captured by the demon Surtur, bound and hanging from a chain in the Asgardian underworld. While Surtur tells about Ragnarok a.k.a. the destruction of Asgard, Thor kind of breaks the fourth wall as he interrupts the background orchestra and the demon’s grand proclamations every time he slowly spins away from Surtur’s view. It’s a sequence that brings to mind GotG and Deadpool, effectively planting the movie’s overall tongue and tone, firmly in its cheek.

Minutes later, it’s family reunion time, as Thor is re-united with Loki, who’s been ruling Asgard as Odin and staging plays about his pseudocide in the last movie; then later with Odin, who’s just waiting for his final moments in Norway; and finally, with his older sister Hela, who was imprisoned by Odin and written out of history for her great evil ambitions and has now returned to take over Asgard, leaving Thor not much time to grieve or be bitter over Loki’s deception. Thor and Loki, suddenly on the same side, finds themselves outmatched, as Hela destroys the Mjolnir without much effort and kicks the brothers out into space while they try to escape thru the BEEF-roast.

The fun ride continues as Thor crash-lands into an alien planet and becomes a gladiator-slave owned by Jeff Goldblum, who, here, goes by the moniker the Grandmaster, ruler of the colorful wasteland called Sakaar (a goofy combination of neon lights, pinball aesthetics and Jack Kirby-inspired sets). Thor is forced to fight a gladiatorial death-match against the current champion, who turns out to be… the green brute Hulk (“He’s a friend from work”)—but we already knew that. Continue reading “Thor: Ragnarok — Some Loud Thunder”

Ranking All MCU Movies from Iron Man to Ragnarok

avengers (2)

With the release of Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel has now churned out seventeen movies. Yep, that’s right. Seventeen fuckin’ Marvel movies and almost all of them widely popular with both critics and fans, almost all of them hit big at the box office. But not all of them are great or good. There are few stinkers and there are a few gold. The list below starts with the stinkers with the movies listed in descending order.

 

hulk (3).pngThe Incredible Hulk (Louis Leterrier, 2008). Say what you want about Ang Lee’s Hulk, that’s still better than this movie. This louder rehash only improves on the special effects the action, which everyone soon forgets once Mark Ruffalo shows up in The Avengers.

 

iron2Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau, 2010). Iron Man 2, or: How To Make A Bloated Sequel. Black Widow made her first appearance in this movie. That’s the most vivid detail I remember from this really really long talky Robert Downey Jr. movie.  That and Tony Stark literally pissing his pants.

 

capam (3)Captain America: The First Avenger (Joe Johnston, 2011). Joe Johnston brought his Rocketeer aesthetic into an alternate 1940s giving it a frozen in amber quality. It was good in that it looked different, if only it wasn’t so boring.

Continue reading “Ranking All MCU Movies from Iron Man to Ragnarok”

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Jon Watts, 2017)

spideyhome
How d’you like my Batman voice?

Deadpool reminded me of Spider-Man. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, that is. Deadpool was half the movie that Spider-Man was, but with enough adult things—humor, language, sex, violence—to make up for the lacking half.

Spider-Man: Homecoming reminds me a lot of Deadpool, but in terms of the adult things—humor, language, sex, violence—the latter was (in)famous for, Homecoming‘s only half the fun that Deadpool was. It’s Deadpool-lite, with the latter’s hard-R rating cut to whiny PG-13.

Marvel has finally “marvelized” Spider-Man—which is both good and bad—the same way it did Thor, Cap, and Iron Man. The good: the casting of Tom Holland as Spider-Man/Peter Parker (easily the most precise (best?) incarnation of the character, a perfect middle ground for those who find Tobey Maguire too dorky and those who find Andrew Garfield too dicky), Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, and Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, Marvel’s ability to present a plausible comic book world that’s close to our own, and the impressive visual effects—all of which, should be pretty much given by now in every Marvel movie. And these are among the main reasons for these movies’ box office draw and the franchise’s enduring appeal.

Continue reading “Spider-Man: Homecoming (Jon Watts, 2017)”

Is ‘Logan’ The Best X-Men Movie?

logan1

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.

x2

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?)) Continue reading “Is ‘Logan’ The Best X-Men Movie?”

What if Marvel gets Tarantino to do a Captain America spin-off?

Here’s what—should Marvel hire Quentin Tarantino and give him 100% free rein:

It would be set in the near future where the world is enslaved by Loki and the formation of Avengers never happened. Why? Because a deadly assassin killed Nick Fury in the ’70s. Doctor Strange would send Captain America back in time to stop the assassination.

Fury would be portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson in Jheri curl. He still has two good eyes, but he’ll lost one by the end of the movie. Cap would have few but important lines; Samuel L. Jackson would do most of the talking.

Skye

To get to Fury, Cap would need to hook up with hookers, nuns with guns, and sexy spies. Expect lots of T&A and few glimpses of untrimmed hair because this is the ’70s! Cap’s magic shield wouldn’t work in this movie; he has to do a lot of heavy action scenes and sweaty bed scenes without CGI, green-screen, shaky cam and frantic editing.

There would be a scene where SHIELD’s Agent Skye shows Cap her voluptuous… vinyl collection. And Cap would unsheathe and play her delicate… Delfonics LP. Off-screen, she’d be heard whispering OMG’s ever so softly.

The assassin’s identity would be revealed as Cap, Fury, and Skye find themselves on the wrong end of a brutal fight. Cap would do the ultimate sacrifice to save Fury. (Cap dies during climax.) The assassin would escape through a time portal created by Doctor Strange.
__________________________________________________________________________________________

Epilogue: Present day. Bucky opens the door and enters his apartment, groceries on both hands. He finds Fury waiting inside with gun aimed at him.

Bang! Bucky’s hit between the eyes and falls on the floor.

A rodent crawls across the window.

Roy Buchanan’s “Sweet Dreams” fades in. Black screen. Credits.

Logan (James Mangold, 2017)

logan

I don’t get this bias towards serious comic book movies. A movie has some convincingly Oscar-worthy drama, then all of a sudden it’s the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight. People heap praises on these two movies yet no one bothers to mention Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan’s subdued superhero drama and follow-up to his more popular debut The Sixth Sense. Why cream your pants over Logan and not Deadpool? When Deadpool had more success at being irreverently funny than Logan did with its sob story. Don’t get me wrong, Logan is a fine movie. It probably has the most memorable portrayal of both Logan and Charles Xavier in all of X-Men movies. Logan’s old, resigned, half the beast he used to be while Xavier’s annoying, old, and sick, which makes him more dangerous. And I liked the dynamics between these two characters (the plot concerning the young mutants, not so much); like in the scene where Xavier needs to take a leak. And with a little detour, it is able to give what should have been the true essence of every X-Men movie—humans and mutants—which made the movie for me. But the movie’s really about X-23, old man Logan, and their kind of forced father-daughter drama, and those other young mutants—it is more than OK, but nothing to get too crazy about.

Doctor Strange (Scott Derrickson, 2016)

strange5

I’ve Seen Stranger Things

Like Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, Stephen Strange went to Asia looking for the cure (unbeknownst to the former doctor, the band resides in England—y’know, Three Imaginary Boys, 1979). Unlike Christian Bale’s Wayne, Benedict Cumberbach’s Dr. Strange has a slick sense of humor (“Just Wong?… Like Adele… Or Aristotle? Drake? Bono? Eminem…”) He didn’t find the cure (but later encountered their black-eyed goth followers). Instead, he got into the world of sorcery, or in his ex-girlfriend’s words, he joined a cult. Just like this movie joining the cult of fairly entertaining but underwhelmingly average MCU movies.

At the outset, the movie looks impressive (i.e., architectural wonders folding and unfolding like clockworks). Marvel definitely put their money where their mouth is—that is, on SFX, bold and capital. Still, Doctor Strange isn’t the Ditko/Kubrick/Miyazaki/The Matrix mind-trip Kevin Feige said it needed to be.  Ditko, sure, a li’l bit from The Matrix and a lot from Inception, minus the well established logic of the latter and the Wachowskis’ stylish kung fu mix. In short, it looks different from all other MCU movies. Yet, for some reasons, it also feels and looks the same—it’s lightweight, jokey, and heavy on CGI.

Doctor Strange isn’t as mind-bending as Kevin Feige thought it should be. Why? Because it takes more than fancy 3D eye candy to be truly mind-bending. It never quite absorbs you into its world in the same way The Matrix and Inception do. In comparison, Thor’s rough sketch of the Tree of Nine Realms was more interesting—yes, it sounds BS—but at least that movie understands no one’s supposed to take it seriously.

strange4

But they got Doctor Strange’s character right. Tilda Swinton, who anchors the movie’s more serious moments, disappears into her character as expected. Rachel McAdams, who plays Strange’s ex-lover, is just lovely and fun to watch—too bad she’s underused in the movie. Continue reading “Doctor Strange (Scott Derrickson, 2016)”

Kick-Ass (Matthew Vaughn, 2010)

kickass-2

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.)

kickass1
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). Continue reading “Kick-Ass (Matthew Vaughn, 2010)”

Ant-Man (Peyton Reed, 2015)

ant2

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.

PhotoGrid_1498268232833

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. Continue reading “Ant-Man (Peyton Reed, 2015)”

Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, 2017)

ww2

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. Continue reading “Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, 2017)”

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

yondurocket

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 The Empire Strikes Back at home, on the old Betamax.

Continue reading “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Is the Joss Whedon Sequel We Never Had”