May 3, 2013
The Marvel Machine rampages on in Iron Man 3, which is already taking in incredible amounts of money because, I think, Marvel is exceptionally good at product management. It says something about the skill of digital effects companies that you can make a solid action blockbuster product without the specific skill-set of an “action director”, and thus we have reached the point where the talent is brought in for their ability to keep a certain level of quality, not take risks and, most importantly, keep the writing snappy. Though some of the films have had minor aesthetic differences, they all more or less look the same: generally bright, inoffensive, with a dash of pop art stylization without going full-blown Ang Lee. The last two entries, especially, have had one major authorial difference and that’s in the writing. The Avengers largely kept to Joss Whedon’s not inconsiderable talent for wit, and now Iron Man 3 flows right into Shane Black’s wheelhouse. The fact that it’s distinctive is down almost solely to the script, and if it doesn’t set it necessarily to a higher standard than other Marvel fare, it’s at least different. Read the rest of this entry »
August 17, 2012
There have been too many cynical studio cash-ins to count. If they see a proven franchise sitting in front of them, executives will do whatever they can to milk it for all its worth. The Amazing Spider-Man is one such property, although instead of milking it for every last cent, the motivation here was simple: keep the rights. Due to a deal with Disney and Marvel, Sony had to produce a film featuring the Spider-man character before a certain amount of time for them to retain the rights, and here it is. As a result, there’s a somewhat antiseptic quality to the film. However, it feels less like a blatant cash-in a la Alien vs Predator than it does a protective measure. The studio handprints are all over it, but they’re more concerned with protecting the property (and not messing up a new version of a popular franchise) then they do with duping the public into a hastily thrown-together profit squeeze. Read the rest of this entry »
August 15, 2012
As one of the biggest films of the year, and certainly one of the most talked about, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to bother writing about The Dark Knight Rises a full month after its release. I was sick to death of critics and bloggers and message board nerds even before I saw it. Still, it’s out, and I have thoughts, so here we are. It is a testament to the film that even though I wasn’t a big fan of it (I enjoyed it well enough, but it is rife with problems and is certainly the least of a trilogy that has seen some degree of diminishing returns with each successive installment – yes, Batman Begins is quite easily the best of the three), it is too interesting to ignore. Read the rest of this entry »
May 5, 2012
Despite being a ready-made blockbuster success, The Avengers had a pretty significant hurdle to clear if it wanted to be any good – a notion that is hardly necessary when the quality of a film like this is rarely important when it comes to being a “success”. Ensemble films are tricky enough, but when four of the central characters have each had movies of their own, attempting to corral them all into something sensible without giving short-shrift to anyone is doubly (or, quadruply?) so. This is all to say that anyone who says that writer/director Joss Whedon, who was given the task of putting this all together, merely has to “not screw it up,” they’re doing an extreme disservice to the sheer difficulty of the task at hand. A surfeit of good, existing elements is probably harder to make into something even basically functional as a movie than starting from the ground up. It’s a small wonder, then, that The Avengers is not only good, it is better than it probably needs to be and is certainly the best of this slate of Marvel films.
July 31, 2011
The question that continued to weigh on my mind as I viewed Joe Johnstone’s Captain America: The First Avenger, the latest in the series of extraordinarily expensive supplemental materials for 2012’s Avengers spectacular, was this: are comic book movies boring or am I bored of comic book movies? I’m not entirely sure, and although I realize the premise isn’t entirely true (I am excited to see Nolan’s next entry in his Dark Knight series), I couldn’t even feign enthusiasm for any of the superhero tentpoles that have graced the screens this summer. As a matter of fact, I only saw this one and X-Men: First Class, so maybe I’m just being harsh. I’m sure I’ll rent Thor just to get myself up to speed, but at this point the Marvel Universe (or really, the Avengers Universe) entries are all too mediocre to get excited about. They feel more like filling in the prerequisites for a course I don’t particularly want to take. I recognize that Captain America isn’t all that bad, but it’s not all that good either. Read the rest of this entry »
August 29, 2010
As much as I have fond memories of my childhood and the frivolities of life as a youngster, I can’t help but find certain hipster trends in recent years both shallow and regressive. Yes, I loved playing SNES games and arcade fighters and I loved the Smashing Pumpkins, but referencing the obsessions of a bygone era does not endear me to the nostalgia-laden world that people selling Megaman t-shirts and and their chillwave bands are basking in. Not to denigrate the cultural touchstones of a generation, obviously including my own, but the mere mention of a tanooki suit does not fill me warm, fuzzy feelings and it certainly does not elicit a chuckle. Such are the dangers of geekdom, for making some ‘shit that is awesome’ is not enough to generally enough to make that same ‘shit’ interesting, and certainly not if the only thing ‘awesome’ about it is that it stirs up memories of my life as an 11 year old. After all, ‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.
April 7, 2010
I’m sure I’ve talked about the importance of tone in films before, and before I go back to that old standby when talking about Matthew Vaughn’s comic book fantasy Kick-Ass, I think it worth stressing how crucial it is (for the thousandth time). In most films, suspension of disbelief is paramount for engaging with the characters and story. This is not to say that everything need be believable or even logical, but if you want to be swept up in whatever experience the film can offer, the wrong moment can jar you right out of the picture. A consistent tone does well to maintain the suspension of disbelief in genre films such as Kick-Ass because, after all, nobody wants to find themselves aware of the real world when they’re meant to be escaping from it. As a digression, a good director making a certain film knows when to use a moment totally at odds with everything else around it to emphasize a point and, hopefully, get an emotional reaction (Richie’s attempted suicide in The Royal Tenenabaum, for instance). I’m not saying Matthew Vaughn is forever incapable of accomplishing this, but Kick-Ass is most certainly not that film. Read the rest of this entry »