Archive for the Based on Comic Book Category

RED 2 (2013)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, All-Star Casts, Barry Dejasu Columns, Based on Comic Book, Bruce Willis Films, Buddy Movies, Campy Movies, Comedies, Fun Stuff!, Government Agents with tags , , , , , , on July 23, 2013 by knifefighter

RED 2 (2013)
Movie Review by Barry Lee Dejasu

RED2PosterSeveral months after the events of RED (2010), former CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is trying to happily move on with his life, now truly retired and living with his girl Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker).  When Frank’s old buddy Marvin (John Malkovich), also a former CIA agent (but with a bad case of paranoid eccentricity due to decades of LSD experimentation), shows up, it’s clear that trouble won’t be far behind…and sure enough, trouble comes for them, in spades.  With conspiracies, assassins, and weapons of mass destruction abound, it’s up to Frank and his R.E.D (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) friends to save the day again.

Director Dean Parisot (best known for his 1999 film GALAXY QUEST) turns in a decent action-comedy with RED 2.  The film is rated PG-13, which is understandable, since it’s aiming for a widespread audience; as a result, there are numbers of pulled punches—sometimes literally, as an early fight sequence left me a little confused as to what was happening at times.  There’s lots of gunplay, fistfights, and explosions, and a few well-staged sequences, but nothing particularly new or unusual—which was probably the idea, since the movie is played more for laughs than anything else.  Still, a few of the fight scenes might benefit from an “Unrated” cut, and one can hope that such may show up on the eventual home video release.

Like with the first film, however, what I enjoyed most in RED 2 was its cast, which, even with an occasionally stilted conversation (more on that later), gets along very nicely, and works together well in some genuinely screwy scenes.

Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, and John Malkovich in RED 2.

Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, and John Malkovich in RED 2.

 “You haven’t killed anybody in months,” Marvin says at one point, and the same could be said for Willis at this point in his career, with A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD and G.I. JOE: RETALIATION having been released just earlier this year. Bruce Willis has become one of the main go-to guys for action movies the past couple of decades; generally speaking, his presence brings a fun and laid-back (yet simultaneously rugged and smarmy) presence in the middle of the cinematic chaos—and this movie is no exception; he nicely chews up the scenes with his relaxed (and occasionally grumpy) persona, and while this vehicle is nothing new or unusual for him, it’s hard to ignore his charm.

Mary-Louise Parker is a hoot in her return as Sarah.  Although her character is now quite familiar with Frank’s former career and skills, she’s also his dedicated lover, and will do anything to help him—including eagerly stepping in to fight alongside him in every situation he’s faced with.  This of course leads to much bickering about her safety versus his, and more than a few times she has to “prove” herself in action.  If you think Mary-Louise Parker can’t handle an action scene, well, think again—that’s the whole idea with her here, and because she’s a capable actress, it worked quite nicely.  (Coincidentally, Parker also appears in this past week’s fellow acronymic action-comedy R.I.P.D., directed by the original RED’s director, Robert Schwentke!)

Now, traditionally, I’ve disliked John Malkovich as an actor; I find him to be very hammy and more than a little unpleasant most of the time, even when he’s portraying (allegedly) sympathetic characters; yet, I have softened a bit towards him in recent years, and that reason, I now realize, began with RED, and continues now in RED 2.  He portrays Marvin in a very goofy, dopey-eyed manner, and I genuinely laughed a few times with him in these films.

Dame Helen Mirren steals every scene she’s in, which is to be expected when you put an automatic weapon into the hands of the Academy Award-winning actress.  She portrays Victoria every bit as tongue-in-cheek as she did the first time, coolly portraying a charming lady who’s more than ready to deliver asskickery.  (There’s also one scene of hers in particular, which I won’t spoil, that had me seriously cracking up; I’ll just say that for anyone who’s familiar with her career, it’s a real treat.)

Helen Mirren + gun = scene officially owned.

Helen Mirren + gun = scene officially owned.

Alongside Malkovich, Byung-Hun Lee was the real surprise for me in this film.  Previously, I’d only seen him in the two G.I. JOE films of recent years – coincidentally alongside Willis in the second one; and as a result, I didn’t really have much of an opinion of him.  Here, however, I got to witness just how charismatic he can be, and he’s gracefully capable of some truly jaw-dropping stunts.  He was also very funny, which went a long way towards fleshing out his role as Han Cho Bai, a contract killer seeking revenge.  (“You stole my plane!”)

When Catherine Zeta-Jones appears, everything seems to stand still—and I’m not just saying that as a longtime fan of the actress (here portraying former KGB agent Katja, also an ex-flame of Frank’s).  She comes sweeping across the screen, in full movie star glamour, just before delivering a hard kiss on Frank (much to Sarah’s disgust).  Her screen time is unfortunately a bit limited, and her character’s nature a bit uneven, but if the filmmakers were seeking a memorable and gorgeous actress for the role, then they succeeded.

It’s also quite funny that Anthony Hopkins is in this film, and for more than one reason.  As an eccentric scientist (and weapons maker) being kept in a mental institution, Hopkins turns in a rare comedic role in this film.  Oddly enough, he has starred alongside not only Jones and Mirren in previous films (respectively in 1998’s THE MASK OF ZORRO and last year’s HITCHCOCK), but even has a face-to-face appearance with “the other Hannibal Lecter” himself, Brian Cox (1986’s MANHUNT).

Anthony Hopkins once again finds himself in a mental hospital.

Anthony Hopkins once again finds himself in a mental hospital.

Like the first film, RED 2 is based on characters and a general setup from the DC Comics graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner.  This film takes a nice wink at this origin with various screen shots of the actors transitioning into stills of their respective comic characters; it helped serve as a reminder that this isn’t a film to be taken too seriously, and thus was all the easier to enjoy.

That said, there were times where I found the plot kind of hard to follow (mostly in the shell game of different characters’ shifting loyalties and/or revealing their true natures), and there were a few stretches of wooden dialogue, but then again, the script (written by the first film’s team of brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber) exists solely to set up one funny scene after another, and it works well for that.

So ultimately, RED 2 was a bit of a retread of the first film, but it took all the elements that worked well and put them to good use here, starting and ending with a fun and enjoyable cast.  If you liked the action-packed screwball antics of the first film, then you’re in for more in RED 2.

I give it two and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by Barry Lee Dejasu

Barry Lee Dejasu gives RED 2 ~ two and a half knives.

Cinema Knife Fight: COMING ATTRACTIONS for JULY 2013

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Based on Comic Book, Based on TV Show, Coming Attractions, Ghosts!, Giant Monsters, Guillermo Del Toro, Johnny Depp Movies, Paranormal, ROBOTS!, Samurais, Superheroes, Supernatural, Westerns with tags , , , , on July 5, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT – COMING ATTRACTIONS:
JULY 2013
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene:  The wild west.  A group of masked OUTLAWS on horseback wait by a train track.  A train whistle shrieks in the distance.)

OUTLAW #1:  Here she comes.  Right on time.

OUTLAW #2:  I can’t wait to see the look on the conductor’s face when our man Willoughby guts him like a pig!  (snorts and spits tobacco).

(Train approaches.)

OUTLAW #2: Here she comes.  Look fast for Willoughby!

(The outlaws hoot and holler as they see Willoughby with a knife to the conductor’s throat. 

OUTLAW #2:  Stick him, Willoughby!  Stick him!

OUTLAW #3 (points):  Wait a minute.  Who the hell is that?

(A man in black appears behind Willoughby and pummels the outlaw over the head with a sledge hammer.  The man in black faces the camera— it is L.L. SOARES.  He continues to pummel Willoughby with the sledgehammer, stopping only to give the outlaws on horseback the finger.)

OUTLAW #1:  What the—?

OUTLAW #2 (points):  Lookee there

(MICHAEL ARRUDA, dressed in white with a white 10 gallon hat, walks on the roof of the train.  He smiles for the camera and lifts a submachine gun which he uses to blow away the outlaws on horseback in one swift sweep.)

(Dissolve to the train station)

CONDUCTOR:  That was friggin amazing!!!  Thank you, gentlemen, for stopping the Whippersnapper gang.  That was terrific!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Shucks, it was nothing.  What we’re really good at is reviewing movies.

CONDUCTOR:  You don’t say?

L.L. SOARES:  He does say!

MA: In fact, right now, we’re about to do our COMING ATTRACTIONS column for July, where we preview the movies we’ll be seeing in the month ahead; in this case, July!

CONDUCTOR:  You guys are better than the Lone Ranger and Tonto!

MA:  That remains to be seen, but wouldn’t you know it, our first movie in July, opening on July 3, is THE LONE RANGER (2013), Disney’s big budget production, starring Johnny Depp as Tonto.

Lone-Ranger-PosterNow, as much as I’m a fan of the Lone Ranger character, going back to my days as a kid when I used to watch reruns of the old LONE RANGER TV show from the 1950s starring Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels as Tonto— I even had a Lone Ranger toy— I simply wasn’t all that excited about this movie.

LS: Hey, I remember that old TV show, too!

MA: I used to be a big fan of Johnny Depp, and I really enjoyed his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, but lately I just haven’t been into his roles as much.  His Barnabas Collins in the recent DARK SHADOWS (2012) disaster may have been the last straw.  So, the idea of seeing Depp play Tonto does nothing for me.

Now, all this being said, I have to admit that I’ve actually enjoyed the trailers for this one, and although I won’t go so far to say that I’m looking forward to it, I will say that I’m not dreading seeing THE LONE RANGER as much as I was a few months ago.

It’s directed by Gore Verbinski, by the way, the guy who directed the first three PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, as well as American remake of THE RING (2002).

LS:  Yeah, I’m pretty much in the same boat. I’m a Johnny Depp fan from way back, in the days when he mostly appeared in independent movies. I understand him going for the big bucks now that the first PIRATES movie made him a bankable star, but I haven’t been excited to see a movie starring him in a long time. And yeah, DARK SHADOWS was pretty horrible.

The trailers for LONE RANGER don’t look completely awful. I’ll certainly go in hoping it’s a decent movie. But I don’t have a lot of hope.

On July 12 we’ll be reviewing PACIFIC RIM (2013).  This is one of the movies I’ve been wanting to see most this year. Directed by Guillermo del Toro, the guy who gave us PAN’S LABYRINTH and the HELLBOY movies, among others, this one has real potential. And what a cool cast. Idris Elba, Ron Perlman, even Charlie Day from IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA!

Pacific-Rim-movie-bannerPACIFIC RIM looks like a cross between TRANSFORMERS and CLOVERFIELD, as giant monsters rise up from the Pacific ocean to terrorize mankind, so the humans build giant robots to fight them. If anyone else made this movie, I’d think it was a pretty goofy idea, but with del Toro involved, I think it has a real shot at being an enjoyable flick, and smarter than it sounds. At least I hope so. Like CLOVERFIELD, it looks like it’s trying to make giant monsters scary again.

MA:  You have more faith in this one than I do, and you know what?  I hope you’re right!  Because I would be really into a cool giant monster movie!

But for me, the problem is the trailers just remind me too much of the TRANSFORMERS movies, and that’s not a good thing.  But like you said, del Toro’s involvement should lift this one to a higher level, and I certainly like that Idris Elba and Ron Perlman are in the cast, but I’m guessing in a movie like this, they probably don’t have large roles.

I just think this one’s going to be a monstrous flop.

LS:  Oh, give it a chance! It might surprise you.

MA:  I hope so.  I certainly would be happy if this one turned out to be more like CLOVERFIELD than TRANSFORMERS, but I won’t be holding my breath.

LS:  The horror movie THE CONJURING opens on July 19, and I’ll be reviewing this one solo.  This could be interesting, with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as a pair of paranormal experts who investigate a haunted house where Lili Taylor lives with her kids.

The-ConjuringMA:  I’m sorry I’m going to miss this one.  The trailers look really creepy, and it’s directed by James Wan, who directed one of my favorite horror movies of the past few years, INSIDIOUS (2010), a movie that I like even more now than when I first saw it a couple of years ago.

I also like the cast, led by Patrick Wilson, who played the dad in INSIDIOUS, and Vera Farmiga, who’s currently starring as Norman Bates’s mother on the TV show BATES MOTEL.

LS: Yeah, I enjoyed the first season of BATES MOTEL, and I’m a big Farmiga fan.

MA: We finish July with THE WOLVERINE (2013), which opens on July 26.  Now, I’m a huge fan of the Marvel superhero movies, and I like the character of the Wolverine a lot, and I especially enjoy Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the Wolverine character in the X-MEN movies, so why aren’t I all that excited about this one?

X-Men-Origins-Wolverine-2-For one thing, the title is about as blah as you can get:  THE WOLVERINE, especially considering the title of the last Wolverine movie, X-MEN ORIGINS:  WOLVERINE (2009).  Here’s a look at some future titles as the series continues:  THIS WOLVERINE, THAT WOLVERINE, WTF WOLVERINE, and THE MICHIGAN WOLVERINE

There you go.

It’s directed by James Mangold, who directed the western 3:10 TO YUMA (2009), a movie I liked a lot. 

I’m not all that excited about THE WOLVERINE, but strangely, I am looking forward to seeing it.

LS:  Yeah, I’m a Wolverine fan from way back when Chris Claremont and John Byrne were the creative team on The Uncanny X-Men comic books. So it’s cool to see the character doing so well in movies. However, while he’s been good in the X-MEN movies, I wasn’t a big fan of his last solo outing in X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, which I felt was kind of a misfire.

MA:  I actually liked X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. 

LS:  You would!

Hopefully James Mangold can get the character back on track. This adventure takes him to Japan, where the character had a lot of storylines in the comics. There’s been a kind of “modern samurai” take on Wolverine for a long time, and I’ll be curious to see how this translates to film.

But man, you’re right, that title is incredibly lame.

MA:  And that wraps things up for July.  (turns to Train Conductor)  So, how did we do?

TRAIN CONDUCTOR:  A very entertaining column.  But I still wish you’d consider catching outlaws on a full time basis.

MA: Sorry.  No can do.   We have too many movies to review.

LS:  And I have a new novel to write.

MA:  Me, too.

LS:  A writer’s job is never done.

(MA & LS ride off into the sunset).

(SHERIFF approaches the TRAIN CONDUCTOR.)

SHERIFF:  Who were those masked men?

CONDUCTOR:  Sheriff, those men were Cinema Knife Fighters, the toughest, meanest, sons of bitches this side of the Mississippi.  And when they’re not hunting down outlaws, they review movies.

SHERIFF:  What’s a movie?

—-END—-

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Scoring Horror: Interview with MARCO BELTRAMI (Part 2 of 2)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Barry Dejasu Columns, Based on Comic Book, Marvel Comics, Movie Music, Music for Film, Mutants!, Scoring Horror, Soundtracks with tags , , , , on July 3, 2013 by knifefighter

Scoring Horror Presents:
An Interview with MARCO BELTRAMI
By Barry Lee Dejasu
(Part 2 of 2)

Composer Marco Beltrami

Composer Marco Beltrami

Part Two: THE WOLVERINE

 TheWolverinePoster

Directed by James Mangold (with whom Mr. Beltrami worked on 3:10 TO YUMA), THE WOLVERINE stars Hugh Jackman as the eponymous character, a metal-clawed (and indestructible) mutant of the X-MEN franchise, left wandering the world alone in the wake of the events of X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006).  Logan’s travels take him to Japan—where his own mysterious past comes back to haunt him in ways that could challenge his whole future.

BLD: Superman, Indiana Jones, and many other staple cinematic heroes have a central musical theme—something to identify them with as soon as it’s heard.  How did you approach the character of Wolverine, in these regards?

MB:  THE WOLVERINE is a very unique take on the superhero movie.  In that respect, it’s a very stylized picture.  Most of it takes place in Japan, and there’s a little bit of a mystery to it, almost a noir-ish mystery to it; the character Wolverine is a bit of a loner.  Having said that, there is a sound and melodic structure and harmonic structure that is used for him, but it’s not like a Superman type of theme; it’s much more reserved.  I used early on when you see him, in the woods, (a) harmonica.  The harmonica has a fairly strong thread throughout the score, as Wolverine’s sound.  Sometimes it’s processed and treated, other times it’s fairly straight, but it seems to work well for him, and it goes well with the harmonic structure that’s used for him.

Hugh Jackman as Logan, AKA Wolverine.

Hugh Jackman as Logan, AKA Wolverine.

BLD: The fact that the movie is set in Japan immediately puts into mind, of many a typical American moviegoer, images of exotic locale and culture.

MB:  Things that we consciously avoided, musically.  I think the last thing that Jim (James Mangold) and I wanted to do was Japanese music associated with Japanese places.  There’s a reference; I do use Japanese instruments, (but) not really in a traditional way; koto is used, but as a percussion instrument.

Koto, a Japanese instrument used in the score.

Koto, a Japanese instrument used in the score.

There’s Japanese flute stuff, but it’s treated in more of a Western way; it’s not really based on any pentatonic scales.  There’s echo tunnel drumming that takes place in there, but often times it’s processed, and different effects are put on it; so it’s nothing really traditionally Japanese as part of the score.

BLD: How was it to work on this (particularly unique) superhero movie?

MB:  It was really refreshing.  It really went smooth.  Jim was really into the stuff; he’s very musical, and had really interesting comments and ideas that would spur me, creatively, in different ways.  It was a lot of fun.  Again, it was a short schedule; we started on it…it doesn’t seem that long ago, but it was sort of fast, and there was a lot of music in it.  It goes off in a lot of different directions.  The ride goes from the woods of the Pacific Northwest to part of urban Japan.  It’s a really fun movie to watch.

***

Part Three: In Closing

BLD: In what portion of a movie’s production do you usually come aboard?

MB:  It’s different in every project.  This, THE WOLVERINE, was all shot except for a couple of pickup shots, and I had a full edit.  The next movie I’m doing, which is called THE HOMESMAN, a Tommy Lee Jones project, they’re just finishing shooting right now, and we’ll start talking about stuff (in the) next week.  It can be early in the process, which I like, because it gives time to think about a new way to approach things.  There’s a certain time factor; if you rush what you’re doing in too short a time, it can handicap the process of exploration.  Coming on a little bit earlier is a bit better.  Although, having said that, I don’t like working from scripts; if someone sends me a script, I usually don’t start working right away, because it’s really deceiving.  I’ve tried that in the past, and stuff that I’d come up with invariably (had) nothing to do with the movie that was shot.  It changes dramatically.

BLD: What particular (or non-particular) movies would you most want to work on, if you had the opportunity?

MB:  The movies most influential to me are probably the (ones) scored by Bernard Hermann—you know, the Hitchcock stuff; the spaghetti westerns (scored by Ennio) Morricone, and the Fellini movies by Nino Rota.  And to some extent, I’ve been able to do some Western stuff, which I really enjoy doing.  Just…the way Morricone was able to make non-orchestral sounds part of the score, that really inspired me.  Similarly, the Rota scores, the music doesn’t take itself seriously, and it skipped genres, and plays with a lot of different colors.  There are some I haven’t done much of yet, but are something that would be very appealing to me.  They don’t make movies like that now, but if there were, I think that’s what I’d be most excited about.

BLD: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

MB:  You know, maybe, I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to work in a variety of genres, and I’ve had a lot of fun exploring musically.  The worst thing to me would be to keep repeating things over and over, and (to) repeat the work of other people.  To explore other areas is what I find interesting about film scoring, and I hope that I can continue to be able to do so.

THE WOLVERINE opens on July 26th.

© Copyright 2013 by Barry Lee Dejasu

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT REVIEW: MAN OF STEEL (2013) – Another View by L.L. Soares

Posted in 2013, Based on Comic Book, Blockbusters, Cinema Knife Fights, DC Comics, LL Soares Reviews, Reboots, Remakes, Special Effects, Superheroes, Villains with tags , , , , , , on June 28, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: MAN OF STEEL (2013)
Review by L.L. Soares

man-of-steel-posters-visuasys2-470x695

(THE SCENE: An outpost in the middle of the Arctic. A group of SCIENTISTS in heavy coats are looking down at a spaceship encased in ice, as workers use machines to melt and cut through the frozen surface. L.L. SOARES comes up from behind, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and drinking a Margarita.)

LS: What are you guys up to? Is this another remake of THE THING?

SCIENTIST 1: I have no idea what you are talking about. What is zis…thing?

LS: It’s a movie, Chop Top. About an alien shape-changing monster found in the ice in the Arctic. That’s why we’re here, right? (slurps drink loudly through straw)

SCIENTIST 2: We are here to welcome the last son of Krypton, Kal-El.

LS: Kal-El? Doesn’t Nicolas Cage have a son with that name? What, is he all grown up and dating a Kardashian now?

SCIENTIST 1: No, no. This has nothing to do with Nicolas Cage or monsters.

SCIENTIST 2: We are here to greet Superman.

LS: Superman? He’s back again?

SCIENTIST 2: Yes, and he will fight for truth, justice, and the American way.

LS: That’s nice. I was wondering when they were going to bring that overgrown Boy Scout back to the movies, considering all the success Batman has had lately. Y’know, I really didn’t mind SUPERMAN RETURNS  (2006). Brandon Routh was actually pretty decent in the role, but he got the short end of the stick. It should have been a hit.

SCIENTIST 1: Brandon Routh? How dare you mention his name here, in zis sacred place. (Points down at the ship frozen in the ice)

LS: Get over it, Doc. I bet nobody is even in there. You guys are standing around in the cold for nothing. Speaking of which, anyone got a spare jacket? I didn’t bring the right clothes for this trip. That’s what I get for asking Jimmy Buffet for travel tips.

SCIENTIST 2: So why are you here anyway? We did not invite you?

LS: I’m here for the ambiance, and to review the new movie MAN OF STEEL.

SCIENTIST 1: Yes, MAN OF STEEL. You mean zee Superman. So you are here for zee same reason as we.

LS: The Man of Steel and Superman are the same thing? Imagine that!

SCIENTIST 2: You have been joshing us all along. Busting our jaws, so to speak.

LS: Busting your jaws? Yeah, yeah, that’s it.

SCIENTIST 1: So go ahead, movie man, give us your review of zee MAN OF STEEL.

SCIENTIST 2: Yes, stop your joshing.

LS: Okay, okay. First off, I want to preface this by saying that my Cinema Knife Fight cohort, Michael Arruda, reviewed MAN OF STEEL when it first came out. You can read that review here. So this is kind of an afterthought. I saw the movie myself recently and figured I’d give my two cents.

SCIENTIST 2: Enough with the preface. What did you think of it?

LS: Well, I should first get around to a brief synopsis. MAN OF STEEL is the story of Kal-El, who would later go on to become known on Earth as Clark Kent…

SCIENTIST 1: And Superman!

LS: Yes, of course, Superman. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? But he has to get there first.

SCIENTIST 2: So his father Jor-El sends him here from the planet Krypton.

LS: Yeah, and I thought the way the movie handled Krypton was kind of interesting. Usually in these movies, it just looks like a futuristic version of Earth, with crystal buildings and stuff. However, in MAN OF STEEL, it actually looks like an alien planet, and a dying one at that. For once, we get to see some of the animal life on Krypton. And their machines and technology looks so weird. I liked this a lot. And everyone has these robots who are like CGI machines, constantly creating weird shapes and they seem to have a mind of their own, even as they serve their human-like masters. I just really liked the way the Krypton scenes looked. I wanted to spend more time there.

I originally had a hard time picturing Russell Crowe in the Marlon Brando role of Jor-El, but he’s actually pretty good here. He’s older and kind of stately now, and he fills in for Brando pretty well. I also really liked the Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer as Superman’s mother, Lara Lor-Van. They were both commanding and classy, and you could see them as the parents of someone as colossal as Superman.

SCIENTIST 1: Do not forget zee General Zod.

LS: How could I forget him? Michael Shannon plays General Zod, the head of Krypton’s military. He’s in the middle of a coup, trying to take things over from the decrepit leaders who rule the planet. The old guard have botched things and the planet is on the verge of dying, so Zod decides it would be better if he was in charge. Of course, Zod and Jor-El are friends from way back, but they disagree about how to handle the last days of Krypton, probably because Zod’s big plan to change things comes way too late in the game. He claims he wants to alter the future of Krypton, but, let’s face it, there is no future there. At least Jor-El and Lara have a plan to keep their race alive, involving shooting little Kal-El out into the universe shortly after he is born. A plan which, for some odd reason I didn’t understand, Zod is completely opposed to. He’s so opposed to it, he goes to great lengths to try to stop them, even to the point of killing poor Jor-El. But Lara beats him to the punch – or rather, the launch button.

It’s not long afterwards that Zod and his officers are arrested and tried for treason. So much for his big takeover attempt. Zod and his pals are shot up into space in some weird giant tooth ship that turns into a black hole, or something like that. The other dimension they’re sent to is called the Phantom Zone, by the way.

Meanwhile, little Kal-El shoots through space like a Kryptonian sperm looking for the big mother egg of Earth.

SCIENTIST 2: A vivid image.

SCIENTIST: Enough of zee sex talk. What about Kal-El. He gets found by zose farmers!

LS: Yes, the Kents. They find him after his ship crashes in Kansas and amazingly nobody tracks the ship down or knows anything about their intergalactic adoption, so they raise the little tyke to be their son. Of course, they realize early on that Clark isn’t like other boys. And Pa Kent teaches him to control his temper so he doesn’t get arrested for murder on a daily basis. When Clark saves a school bus full of kids that crashes into a river, there are witnesses, but they just chalk it up to an act of God.

Kevin Costner is actually pretty good as Jonathan Kent. You know, when he was younger and a big star, I didn’t care for him all that much, but now that he’s older and plays more character roles, I’ve grown to like him a lot. And he’s a perfect choice for Pa Kent. The great Diane Lane, who I always liked, plays Clark’s mother, Martha Kent. So we’ve got more good casting here.

So eventually, Clark grows up and decides to go out into the world. He becomes a kind of quiet loner, drifting around the earth, taking a variety of jobs from fisherman to bartender to construction worker, trying to figure out where he came from, and why he’s here on Earth. It’s in the Arctic that he finds an alien ship that is pretty much the Fortress of Solitude, and a hologram of his father pops up to explain everything.

SCIENTIST 1 (looks down): And zat is what is in zee frozen in the ice beneath us.

LS: I guess so. Boy, you think Russell Crowe is dead in the movie, and then he’s onscreen more after he’s dead than he was before. I almost got sick of seeing him. And he always shows up just at the right minute to help out.

SCIENTIST 2: What about the great Cavill?

LS: Henry Cavill? The guy who plays Superman?

SCIENTIST 1: Yes! Zee great Cavill.

LS: He’s not bad here. While I still think Brandon Routh got cheated by not getting to be in any sequels, I have to admit, Cavill’s pretty good. He plays the role completely different, though.

And this is a big part of why I liked the new movie so much. I have never been a Superman fan. I always thought he was too one-dimensional. Superman = Good. It’s all so black and white. There was never any dark side to him. You knew what you were getting, and you knew he would always do the right thing. And frankly, to me, that’s pretty damn boring. Not like Batman, who at least has enough darkness to him to make him a wee bit unpredictable.

In MAN OF STEEL, Superman is still a force for good. It’s not like he suddenly turned into an anti-hero. But the movie plays up the fact that he’s an alien from another world. That he doesn’t belong here. That, even though he grew up here and has been assimilated into this world (something that will come in real handy during his battles with Zod), there’s still a kind of “otherness” to him. And I liked that. It made him more interesting than the kind of character Christopher Reeve played him in the original SUPERMAN films. All good and golly gee. I liked Reeve, but I like Cavill’s Superman better. I like that there’s actually some mystery to him.

SCIENTIST 1: What about Lois Lane?

I liked Amy Adams a lot as Lois. She seemed more like a real reporter than in previous incarnations. But there is a vulnerability to her. Even though she’s in a job that can be dangerous, she never seems particularly tough. And if she acts like a damsel in distress when Zod and his minions come to Earth—well, any human would seem weak in the face of such super-powered beings.

SCIENTIST 2: And Zod?

Michael Shannon was the main reason I was excited about seeing this movie going in. I didn’t know much about Henry Cavill, but I’ve been a Shannon fan for years. He’s been pretty amazing in independent films for years, and stuff like William Friedkin’s BUG (2006) and he had a supporting role, but was a scene-stealer in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (2008). But his most impressive role so far has been as Prohibition Agent Nelson Van Alden in the HBO series BOARDWALK EMPIRE. Van Alden has gone from a do-gooder government agent to a much darker character who’s rather unpredictable, and capable of murder and violence. It has been fascinating seeing his character grow and change through the seasons of that show.

I actually liked Shannon in MAN OF STEEL, but I had a mixed reaction to his General Zod. Mainly because I still remember the great Terence Stamp’s portrayal of Zod in SUPERMAN II (1980). Stamp’s take on the character was more that of a sadistic soldier with a god complex, and he had a bit of a dark sense of humor. In comparison, Shannon plays the character completely humorless. This isn’t really a man who is pushing his own agenda and a lust for power. Shannon’s Zod is a zealot who believe he is doing the right thing. He was bred to be a warrior and to safeguard the Kryptonian race, and he takes this responsibility very seriously. I think I still like Stamp’s version of the character better, he was a hoot and you could cheer him on as a real bad guy. I’m not sure I like Shannon’s Zod as much, but the actor takes him into a completely different direction, and I can appreciate that.

I also really liked German actress Antje Traue as Zod’s “right hand” woman, Faora-Ul. She’s just as ruthless and formidable as Zod  is, and is a strong ally, instead of being just another faceless flunkie.

I also like that there was so much destruction in the movie during the battles between Superman and his Kryptonian enemies. These people have god-like powers, and would make as much of a mess as Godzilla if they fought it out in a major city. It was just nice to see some of the fall-out from that. By the time the fighting is over, Metropolis looks like a bomb hit it.

The script for MAN OF STEEL  is by David S. Goyer, the guy who gave us the BLADE movies and the really cool script for DARK CITY (1998), as well as Christopher Nolan’s excellent DARK KNIGHT trilogy. He’s a solid screenwriter and has become the go-to-guy for a lot of superhero stuff. And I liked what he did with Superman here. By the way, Goyer’s script for MAN OF STEEL is based on a storyline he wrote with Christopher Nolan.

The movie is directed by Zack Snyder, who has also done his share of comic book adaptations, like Frank Miller’s 300 and Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN. I thought he did a good job with MAN OF STEEL. I like the more science fiction focus of the film, since Superman is an alien being, and there would be repercussions about this—something that previous films completely ignored. He’s not just some super strong guy who fights crime, he’s proof that we’re not alone in the universe. And it was nice to see a movie finally address this.

While I like the script and the direction and the acting, there are flaws. I’m actually sick of seeing Superman’s origin story yet again, even if it’s used to give us a different perspective this time around. And the action scenes are pretty good, but, as usual, go on way too long. The movie is definitely longer than it needs to be, but that seems to be a common thing among blockbusters these days—there’s this idea that more is better. But, with tighter editing, and a more focused storyline, a little shorter film could actually be an improvement.

But my complaints are actually kind of minor. I think everyone involved tried to do something different with a character we’ve seen a hundred times before, and they succeeded in breathing new life into the concept. I’m still not a huge Superman fan, but I’m more of a fan than I was.

I give MAN OF STEEL, three knives.

SCIENTIST 1: Arruda only gave it two and a half knives.

LS: I know. I liked it more than he did. I would have given it even more knives if they had ditched the origin story and done something really daring. But, for what it is, it’s a solid, well-made superhero film.

I’ve got to go now. What is it you guys were waiting for again?

SCIENTIST 1: We are waiting for Superman to emerge from zee ship.

LS: The ship trapped down there in the ice? You guys are idiots. Nobody’s in there.

(LS suddenly leaps into the air and flies away)

SCIENTIST 2 (staring up into the sky): WTF?

-END-

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives MAN OF STEEL ~three knives.

Quick Cuts: Featuring SUPERMAN

Posted in 2013, Aliens, Based on Comic Book, DC Comics, Quick Cuts, Reboots, Remakes, Sequels, Superheroes with tags , , , , , on June 21, 2013 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS:  SUPERMAN
Featuring Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Peter Dudar, and Daniel Keohane

man_of_steel_poster_by_hammond09-d5930z8MICHAEL ARRUDA:  With the release of MAN OF STEEL (2013) this past weekend, tonight on QUICK CUTS we’re talking some Superman.  Joining L.L. Soares and myself on tonight’s panel are Peter Dudar and Daniel Keohane.

First question, gentlemen, who’s your favorite Superman?  George Reeves?  Christopher Reeve?  Brandon Routh?  Kirk Alyn?  Dean Cain?  Tom Welling

L.L. SOARES:  I guess my favorite Superman would have to be Christopher Reeve, only because I haven’t seen Henry Cavill yet.

ARRUDA:  Not a George Reeves fan?

SOARES: I really enjoyed the George Reeves SUPERMAN TV show as a kid. It was really campy, and if you watch the show now, it’s even funnier. The storylines made no sense at all.

George Reeves in the 1950s TV series THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN

George Reeves in the 1950s TV series THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN

DANIEL KEOHANE:  Oh, I still have such fond memories of the old George Reeves SUPERMAN television show.

SOARES:  Good for you!  What do you want, a medal?

KEOHANE:  I would run and leap in the air onto the couch making that flying shooshing sound to recreate the guy jumping out of the Daily Planet window.

SOARES:  What a goober!   I bet you still pretend to be Superman when no one’s looking.

KEOHANE (laughing):  No, it’s been a while since I leapt onto my couch trying to be Superman.  Although I used to struggle whenever I walked by a phone booth—.

ARRUDA:  Lucky for you, there aren’t too many of those left.  No one’s into Tom Welling?

KEOHANE:  I assume Welling is the new guy?

Tom Welling as a different kind of Superman on the TV show SMALLVILLE.

Tom Welling as a different kind of Superman on the TV show SMALLVILLE.

ARRUDA:  No.  He played Superman in SMALLVILLE.

SOARES:  I tried several times to get into SMALLVILLE, but it just didn’t grab me. I thought it was boring. And I didn’t care for Welling all that much.

ARRUDA:  I liked what I saw of SMALLVILLE, although I didn’t follow the show towards the end.

PETER DUDAR:  I remember being a kid and having my dad take me to see the 1978 Alexander Salkind/Richard Donner version of SUPERMAN.  Christopher Reeve was larger than life on the silver screen, both as the bumbling, mild mannered Clark Kent and as the confident bastion of non-religious righteousness that was Superman.

SOARES:  Confident bastion of non-religious righteousness?  What is this, a college lecture?

DUDAR:  If you can’t handle the big words, I’ll be happy to dummy it down for you.

SOARES:  Dummy this down.  (Raises his middle finger to his forehead.). Speaking of dummies, where’s Lil’ Stevie? I thought he was the brains of your outfit?

DUDAR: I was six years old at the time I saw SUPERMAN; an age far too young to grasp either dramatic acting performances or the criminal genius of Lex Luthor’s (Gene Hackman) sinister real-estate plans.  What I do remember was the man in the blue uniform and red cape who could fly and break through steel doors and somehow managed to make the earth turn backwards until time regressed and Lois Lane was saved from dying in the earthquake. 

Christopher Reeve as Superman

Christopher Reeve as Superman

ARRUDA:  I saw SUPERMAN at the movies too, though I was a bit older than you when I saw it.

SOARES: Same here.

ARRUDA: Christopher Reeve is my favorite Superman, as well.  Not only did he make a believable and likeable Superman, but he also was hilarious as Clark Kent. 

I’ve always thought that Reeve never received enough recognition for his role as Superman.  I remember back in the day critics were none to kind to Reeve.  It’s a shame that it took a horse riding accident which left him paralyzed and eventually killed him to really make people take a good hard look at his acting achievements.

I will say that I recently watched a bunch of episodes of the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN TV show, and I was really impressed with George Reeves’ performance as Superman. 

SOARES:  Sit down, Dan!  Don’t go leaping off your chair now!

KEOHANE: It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s—.

ARRUDA:  The first season of the George Reeves show, in black and white, was the best.  It was far superior to the subsequent seasons in color, as these latter seasons were geared more for kids and were often silly.  The first season had some pretty cool episodes.

SOARES: Great Caesar’s Ghost!

ARRUDA (laughing):  That’s my favorite line from the series!  Good old Perry White. 

But I still prefer Christopher Reeve as Superman, and he gets my vote for being the best.

SOARES: I guess I was never a big enough Superman fan to really care. Reeve wins by default. I don’t think his Superman was all that amazing, but it’s probably the best we’ve had so far.

KEOHANE:  I thought Christopher Reeve was a good Superman too, but to be honest, I’m still traumatized by that first movie’s slow, terrifying death of Lois Lane, even if she did get saved by the Big Guy turning back time – though the car should have still fallen into the crack in the earth after he saved her. That mistake always pissed me off.

I have no idea who Kirk Alyn was – was he the original pre-Reeves guy?

Kirk Alyn played Superman in movie serials from 1948 and 1950.

Kirk Alyn played Superman in movie serials from 1948 and 1950.

ARRUDA: Yep.  He starred in two Superman serials, in 1948 and 1950, which predated the George Reeves TV show by a few years.  Alyn actually has a cameo in the Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN movie.  He’s in that brief scene on the train, where we see little Lois Lane with her parents, her dad played by Alyn, and her mom played by Noel Neill who played Lois Lane on the George Reeves TV show. 

SOARES: I actually think Brandon Routh was the most underrated Superman. I actually liked him a lot in the role, and didn’t mind his movie all that much, but it has been put down so much that he’ll never play the role again. But I liked him, and would have liked to see him in some sequels. He got robbed.

ARRUDA:  Yeah, I agree with you about Routh.  I didn’t like SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006) all that much, but it wasn’t Routh’s fault. He was good in it.

Brandon Routh in SUPERMAN RETURNS

Brandon Routh in SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006)

KEOHANE:  I like the look of the guy in the new movie.  Superman with a beard is kind of cool.  How can he shave, though?

SOARES: Kryptonite Razors?

ARRUDA:  Good question!  I should have asked it for this panel.

Instead, our next question is:

What’s your favorite SUPERMAN movie?  Or TV show, if that’s your preference?

KEOHANE:  My favorite Superman movie is a tie between SUPERMAN III (1983) with Richard Pryor and SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987).

ARRUDA:  Are you nuts?

KEOHANE:  No, no— I’m just kidding.

I still twitch a little thinking of those, though SUPERMAN III had some cute parts in it.

SOARES:  Superhero movies shouldn’t be cute.

ARRUDA:  I’ll say.  Unless you’re talking about a kid’s story, cute is probably the last word you want to hear describing your work.  “I liked your movie.  It was— cute.”  Ugh!  But that being said, Dan is right.  SUPERMAN III does have a case of the cutes, and that’s one of the reasons it’s such bad movie.

KEOHANE:  All joking aside, I’d have to go with SUPERMAN II (1980) as my favorite Superman movie.  It had a lot of action and was the Superman franchise’s WRATH OF KHAN when you think about it.

ARRUDA:  Khan!!!  Or, in this case, Zod!!!

SOARES:  Okay, you two STAR TREK geeks, let’s get back to the subject at hand, Superman.

My favorite Superman movie is easily SUPERMAN II as well, with Terence Stamp as General Zod. And I totally agree that it’s like the WRATH OF KHAN in that it was the second film in a franchise, and the best of its given series. I thought the first SUPERMAN movie with Christopher Reeve was kind of boring for at least half its running time, as we got his origin again. This is one origin story that has been done to death. SUPERMAN II was a self-contained story, and was all the better for it. After the second one, the series went downhill fast. You can see just about the same exact arc with the 80s STAR TREK movies.

ARRUDA:   SUPERMAN II (1980) starring Christopher Reeve is my favorite Superman movie as well.

Terence Stamp as the first General Zod in SUPERMAN II (1980)

Terence Stamp as the first General Zod in SUPERMAN II (1980)

I’ve always enjoyed the climactic battle between Superman and General Zod and his two friends, although the special effects are clearly dated now.  I also enjoyed the back story of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, as in this movie Lois finally discovers that Superman and Clark Kent are one in the same.

SOARES:  It took her long enough! I thought she was supposed to be smart.

ARRUDA:  Yeah, those glasses of his aren’t much of a disguise, are they?

DUDAR:  If you guys are through discussing SUPERMAN II, I’d like to talk about the better Superman film, the first Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN movie, which is my favorite.

(SOARES yawns)

I recall revisiting SUPERMAN every time it appeared on HBO, and then on network television, and then countless times more through syndicated cable stations.  With time and age, I found the few moments of the film that could be dismissed as cinematic cheese, like Ned Beatty’s Otis who played out as campy comic relief, but not to the detriment of the film, but as a whole, the film has stood the test of time as one of the great superhero films. 

ARRUDA:  I would agree with that.  There’s also something very cinematic about it, as it plays out on a grand, epic scale.

DUDAR:  Yes, and seeing it made you believe Reeve was really flying in some of those shots. 

SOARES: You thought he was really flying? You weren’t a very smart kid, were you?

I still say that at least half of the movie is a total snooze.

ARRUDA:  I’m glad you brought that up, Peter, as that was one of the taglines from the movie, “You’ll believe a man a can fly.”  That was a big part of SUPERMAN, the special effects that for its time were superior to any other “flying” effects before it.  Compared to MAN OF STEEL, which has CGI effects that are the same as every other movie with CGI effects, the 1978 SUPERMAN was much more cinematic, much more special.

MAN OF STEEL boasts effects that, while very good, aren’t anything we haven’t seen before.

DUDAR:  And Margot Kidder in SUPERMAN seemed to fit in fine as Lois Lane, the street-tough reporter that seemed to melt whenever Superman entered the room.

And let’s be honest…the fact that she couldn’t differentiate between Clark’s glasses and Superman’s never-moving curlicue made her all the more endearing.  What the hell kind of reporter is she? 

SOARES: A dumb one.

DUDAR: The SUPERMAN sequels went on a progressive downhill slide.  SUPERMAN II had the great Terrence Stamp as Zod who, along with his two cohorts, posed the greatest threat ever to Superman’s existence:  Three of them against one of him.  The odds alone are enough to create massive tension.

The film delivered terrific special effects and a storyline that was filled with drama based on the character arcs of Clark, who was ready to give up being Superman to follow his passion for Miss Lane; Lois, who finally embraces her inner bitch at the end and slugs one of the baddies right in the kisser; and Lex Luthor, the returning Hackman, who is willing to “kneel before Zod” in order to rid the world of Superman…talk about putting your pride in check!

This is a cool movie and worthy sequel, but it never captures the heart of the first film.

Henry Cavill as the new version of Superman in MAN OF STEEL.

Henry Cavill as the new version of Superman in MAN OF STEEL.

ARRUDA:  Perhaps, but it’s just so much damned fun that I’ve always liked it a wee bit more than the first SUPERMAN.

SOARES: Yeah,  SUPERMAN II is better than the first one because it has General Zod in it.

As for Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, wasn’t he like in every single Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN movie?

ARRUDA:  He’s not in SUPERMAN III, but he’s in I, II, and IV.

SOARES:  Enough was enough! He wasn’t so great that we needed him involved in every plot. In fact, I thought he was second-rate compared to a villain like Zod.

Luthor was supposed to be the smartest man in the world (the big brain vs. Superman’s brawn), but I never once believed that about Hackman’s performance. He wasn’t so smart, he was more like a glorified Damon Runyon character. His version of Luthor was just so-so.

And what bugs me the most is that there were so many other villains from the comics who deserved screen time more than Hackman’s Luthor—like Brainiac or the Space Parasite, or later on, Doomsday. And Superman had some really absurd/surreal villains that would be terrific in a movie: Bizarro Superman—and all of Bizarro World—.and Mr. Mxyzptlk top my list of characters I would most like to see in a Superman movie.

ARRUDA:  I agree.  Bring on the other villains!

DUDAR:  The other sequels are instantly forgettable, other than noting that Richard Pryor appeared in SUPERMAN III.

SOARES:  That “cute” movie which Dan loves so much!

KEOHANE: No, no.

Before we move on from this question, I’d just like to give a special nod to George Reeves’ black and white TV show for the fond memories and his perfect Clark Kent.

SOARES: Didn’t we discuss George Reeves already? Why are we going back to him now?

KEOHANE:  Because I chose SUPERMAN II as my favorite Superman movie, but I want to give a nod to the George Reeves TV show, too.

ARRUDA:  Dan is right, though. George Reeves did make a great Clark Kent.  He wasn’t the bumbling comedic Kent portrayed by Christopher Reeve in the movies.  Reeves’ Kent is actually pretty heroic.

DUDAR:  I still prefer Christopher Reeve.  For me, Christopher Reeve will always be the real Man of Steel…though I am curious to check this summer’s next big blockbuster.

ARRUDA:  Tonight’s final question:

What’s your favorite scene from either a Superman movie or TV show?

I’ll answer this one first.  I’ve always liked the Niagara Falls sequence from SUPERMAN II.  Lois and Clark go up to Niagara Falls for an assignment, and it’s here that Lois discovers Clark’s true identity.  After a nifty rescue scene where Superman saves a little boy from falling into the falls, Lois deduces that Clark is never around when Superman is, and she also questions why  Superman just happens to be at Niagara Falls.  Is it just a coincidence that he’s there, or is it because Clark is there?

Later, to prove that Clark is Superman, Lois jumps into the water so Clark will turn into Superman and save her, but Clark doesn’t do this, and in one of the movie’s more comical scenes, attempts to rescue her on his own as Clark Kent.

And of course the sequence concludes when later that evening, Clark accidentally trips into a fireplace and doesn’t get burned, and at this point Lois has her proof.  Clark admits as much, that he is Superman, and they also admit their feelings for each other, in one of the film’s more touching moments.

SOARES:  How cute!

I have two favorite Superman scenes. The first one is also from SUPERMAN II, when General Zod says to Superman “Kneel before Zod.”  Finally a scene where a character is strong enough to make goodie-goodie Superman kneel!

The second one is not even in a Superman movie. It’s David Carradine’s speech about Superman in Quentin Tarantino’s KILL BILL VOLUME 2. In that movie, Carradine’s Bill gives a long (and wonderfully written) speech where he concludes that Superman thought human beings were simpering cowards, because in trying to fit in with them he took on the guise of Clark Kent, who he played up as a weakling to separate him from Superman. It’s a really terrific theory about how Superman’s alter ego revealed his negative perception of the human race.

KEOHANE:  My favorite scene isn’t from any of the movies or TV Shows, but from a rare comic book called Superman Versus Aliens. Supes battling the Xenomorphs from the ALIEN movies was just too cool.

DUDAR:  I don’t really have a favorite scene. 

But I will say that the soundtrack to SUPERMAN absolutely kicks ass! 

ARRUDA:  I’ve always enjoyed John Williams’ score as well.

DUDAR:  Whenever I’m accomplishing something manly or heroic, that’s the song that leaps into my brain.  When I hear it, I am unstoppable. 

SOARES:  So when you’re writing your novels you’re listening to Superman music?

DUDAR:  Of course!

ARRUDA:  To conclude, we have a special treat.  (Takes out an IPod and begins playing the SUPERMAN theme.)

DUDAR:  Time for me to go chop some wood.

KEOHANE (stands on his chair):  Up, up, and away! 

SOARES: If I have to choose a John Williams score that’s inspiring, I’d have to go with  his Imperial March from the STAR WARS films. It’s better than anything in a SUPERMAN soundtrack.

ARRUDA:  Well, folks, we’re out of time- thankfully!  Thanks for joining us everybody!  We’ll see you next time on QUICK CUTS.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, LL Soares, Daniel G. Keohane and Peter N. Dudar

Quick Cuts Plays “WHAT’S MORE LIKELY?”

Posted in 2013, Based on Comic Book, Comic Book Movies, DC Comics, Quick Cuts, Sam Raimi, Twilight, Vampires, Zombies with tags , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2013 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS: WHAT’S MORE LIKELY?
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Daniel Keohane, Paul McMahon, and Jenny Orosel

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to another edition of QUICK CUTS.  Tonight we’ll be playing a little game.

IRON MAN 3 opened in theaters last Friday, May 3rd.  The Marvel superhero movies have enjoyed a nice run going back to X-MEN (2000) and Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie, SPIDER-MAN (2002).  Here we are in 2013 and they’re still going strong.

So, tonight we’re going to play a little game called “What’s More Likely?”

Our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters includes, in addition to L.L. Soares and myself, Nick Cato, Daniel Keohane, Paul McMahon, and Jenny Orosel.  Thank you all for coming.

So, tonight’s game, “What’s More Likely?” works like this.  Looking ahead to the next ten years and answer the following questions. 

First question:  What’s more likely? That there will be more Marvel movies in the next ten years, or more zombie movies?

 Spider-Man-2-Movie

NICK CATO:  I think there will always be both, but superhero films seem to be more lucrative.

ARRUDA:  So, more Marvel movies then?

CATO:  Yes.

JENNY OROSEL:  Seeing as they’re now owned by Disney, we’re going to see more Marvel movies than ever.  I fully expect they’ll do two direct-to-video sequels or prequels for every one they have in the theater.

ARRUDA:  I hope not.  There’s nothing like a direct-to-video release to kill off a movie series.  Ugh!

dawn_of_the_dead(2004) L.L. SOARES:  Oh, what do you know!

Turning to the zombie genre for a moment, hopefully, oversaturation will result in a dwindling of zombie movies.

Marvel, however, has a nice variety of characters they can draw from (including many who have never been in a movie before), and should go strong for many years.

ARRUDA:  I agree.

PAUL MCMAHON:  With the success of THE AVENGERS (2012), there will definitely be more Marvel movies. I won’t be sure about zombie movies until we see how much money WORLD WAR Z (2013) makes. With all the buzz about production problems, it could either bring about a reanimation of the zombie sub-genre or put a bullet through its head.

SOARES:  I’m sick of zombies.  I wouldn’t mind putting a bullet through the head of the genre.

DANIEL KEOHANE: I’m going with Marvel movies, without a doubt.

Zombie movies are popular right now, but the superhero movies have a much wider reach and end up making more money, overall. And there are so many characters and teams to choose from, whereas zombies pretty much lumber along the same way each time.

ARRUDA:  I’m going with Marvel movies as well.

Okay, on to our second question: 

What’s more likely? That we’ll still be seeing Marvel movies in ten years, or that we’ll still be seeing movies based on books by Stephenie Meyer?

the-avengers-1235-wallmages

Dan, why don’t you start us off this time?

KEOHANE:  Marvel movies.

(The panel cheers.)

KEOHANE:  Thank you, thank you.

SOARES:  We’re not cheering you.  We’re cheering your pick.

KEOHANE:  Don’t ruin my moment.

Where was I?  Marvel movies.  Because as good a writer for her age group as Stephenie Meyer is, she can only crank out so much content.  Marvel not only has a slew of new comics coming out every month, they have half a century of classic stories already in the can ready to become movie-ized. Even the Avengers movie was loosely based on one of the first Avengers comics (I think). Not to mention DC’s Superman movies. They’ll keep making the same origin story over and over ad infinitum.

Twilight_poster_4

SOARES:  What are you bringing up DC comics for?  This question is about Marvel movies!  Pay attention, Dan!

ARRUDA:  But he makes a good point.  Not only does Marvel have more stories to choose from, but they can remake their own origin stories. Heck, they just did it with their latest SPIDER-MAN movie.

Let’s move on.  I don’t want to give Meyer any ideas.  The last thing I want is a TWILIGHT remake!

SOARES:  I predict that Stephenie Meyer will find a way to continue the Twilight series.

ARRUDA:  No!

SOARES:  You just don’t put a cash cow like that out to pasture.

However, the future for Meyer-related projects is iffy – especially if something new grabs the public’s interest. Meanwhile, I think Marvel movies will be going strong in 10 years.

CATO:  Ten years from now?  Hopefully Meyer will be retired by then.

ARRUDA:  I’m with you.  I hope she’s retired.  I’ll be happy if I never have to see another movie based on a Stephenie Meyer book ever again.

KEOHANE:  I think Meyer is a very talented writer, and you’re not giving her enough credit.

ARRUDA:  Maybe so, but the TWILIGHT movies were awful, and they killed any interest I might have had in seeing THE HOST (2013).

SOARES:  I think you secretly like the TWILIGHT movies.  You talk about them so much.

ARRUDA:  Yeah, right!

MCMAHON:  Marvel movies, no question. They have new ideas and maybe some new-to-the-screen heroes as well.

And sorry, Michael, but it’s entirely possible, though, that in ten years they’ll be remaking the TWILIGHT movies. We can hope not.

ARRUDA:  That’s a horrible thought, though I agree with you.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that it’s bound to happen.  If film history has taught us anything, it’s that remakes are always with us.

What about you, Jenny?  In ten years, Marvel movies or Stephenie Meyer movies?

OROSEL:  Ooh, that’s a tough one, since I fully expect Disney to eventually buy Stephenie Meyer, and turn Bella into a Disney Princess. 

ARRUDA:  This panel is getting more painful by the minute.

OROSEL:  I call it a tie.

ARRUDA:  Okay, it’s time for the third and final question of the night.

What’s more likely? Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark/Iron Man again, or Christian Bale plays Batman again?

Robert Downey Jr. in IRON MAN 3, and still going strong.

Robert Downey Jr. in IRON MAN 3, and still going strong.

MCMAHON:  Downey is already going to play Tony Stark in THE AVENGERS 2. There will probably be an IRON MAN 4. I can’t see him ditching that cash cow while the iron is hot. Ahem.

(Someone in the audience groans.)

MCMAHON:  I don’t think Christopher Nolan intends to do another Batman movie, and I can’t see Christian Bale playing that character under another director

ARRUDA:  Good point.  And I agree with you.

I say Robert Downey Jr. plays Iron Man again.  Between THE AVENGERS movies and the IRON MAN series, you’d think that he’d at least be back one more time as Iron Man if not more.

From what I’ve read, Bale is done as Batman.  You never know about these things, but I don’t expect him to play Batman again.

 

Christian Bale is Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

Christian Bale is Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

OROSEL:  It’s going to be hard for Bale to keep it going as Batman as he ages, while even if Downey looks ragged and worn, it fits the Stark character.  Unless he ends up in rehab again.  Then all bets are off.

KEOHANE:  Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man without a doubt. This is just a guess–.

SOARES:  Really, Dan, it’s a guess?  You mean you don’t know? 

KEOHANE:  Sorry.  I left my crystal ball at home.

So, this is just a guess, but Downey seems to be enjoying himself immensely up there on the screen, whereas Christian Bale puts so much angst into his characters, his doctors will probably have him committed if he even thinks about doing another one of those.

CATO:  It may be too early to tell, but hopefully Downey will continue to play Stark…he’s perfect in the role, whereas we have yet to find a Batman everyone seems to agree on.

SOARES:  That’s for sure.  It’s all about the mask anyway.  Anyone can play Batman.

Both Downey and Bale probably want to focus on more artistic movies. That said, I think Batman is replaceable, as we’ve seen several people play him over the years, while Downey remains the definitive Tony Stark. I think it’s more likely Downey will be convinced to play Stark again.

ARRUDA:  Okay, there you have it.  It seems the general consensus is that Marvel movies will be around for a while.

That’s all the time we have for tonight.  Thanks for joining us everybody, and we’ll see you next time on QUICK CUTS.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Daniel G. Keohane, Paul McMahon and Jenny Orosel

OBLIVION (2013)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Aliens, Apocalyptic Films, Based on Comic Book, Blockbusters, CGI, Cinema Knife Fights, Clones!, Dystopian Futures, Science Fiction, Special Effects, Tom Cruise Movies with tags , , , , , , , on April 22, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  OBLIVION (2013)
by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

Oblivion poster

(THE SCENE: A spaceship high above Earth in the future.  MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES sit at the controls.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Shouldn’t one of us be down on the planet’s surface fixing drones?

L.L. SOARES:  No.  We both should be up here reviewing today’s movie.

MA:  Good point.  Shall I begin?

LS:  Sure. I’m going to check out the swimming pool out back, to see if there are any nude female assistants swimming about.  That was one of the highlights of OBLIVION!

MA:  No, you’re going to sit right there and review today’s movie with me.  Although I do agree with you, about that scene being a highlight.

LS:  As usual, you’re no fun.

MA:  Anyway, today we’re reviewing OBLIVION (2013) the new science fiction movie starring Tom Cruise.

OBLIVION isn’t exactly the most emotional movie you’ll ever see.  Its interior sets are dominated by one color, white.  As such, the film presents an almost sterile environment.  Likewise, it evokes about as much emotion as a sterilized white room.

In the future, Earth has been attacked by aliens.  Humanity won the war, but lost the planet, because in order to defeat the aliens, we used nuclear weapons, in effect making Earth uninhabitable for life any longer. Now, in 2070, humans live on Titan, Saturn’s moon.

LS: I didn’t realize Titan had an Earth-like atmosphere. Why the hell did they choose that as the new home for mankind?

MA:  Beats me.  Plus it’s not exactly in our backyard.  The trip would take several years.  Can you imagine the kids in the back seat?  Are we there yet?

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) remains on Earth, working with a young woman named Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). Their job is to repair the drones that are defending the planet against the remaining aliens, known as “Scavs.”  They report to their commander Sally (Melissa Leo) who’s stationed in the space station above them known as the Tet.

(C3PO and R2D2 from the STAR WARS films, enter the cockpit)

CP30: Excuse me, gentlemen, did you say “droids?”

LS: No, he said “drones.”

C3P0: See R2D2, I told you you were mistaken.

(R2D2 beeps and whistles)

MA: What did he say?

C3P0: He said that OBLIVION sounds rather dumb. And I must say, its lack of droids is quite suspicious.

LS: I agree.

(R2D2 beeps again.)

MA:  Now what did he say?

C3PO:  He said he’s bored and he can’t wait to piss off more Stormtroopers in the upcoming STAR WARS movie.

(R2D2 beeps some more.)

C3PO:  No, R2, I don’t think these gentlemen know if there are any Stormtroopers in the area.

MA:  No, but there’s some drones down there on the planet you two could annoy.

C3PO:  Oh, splendid!  Let’s go, R2.  (The two droids exit.)

MA:  Back to our review.

All is well, except that Jack is haunted by images, perhaps memories, of a mysterious young woman whose identity he can’t remember.  Later, he finds this woman asleep in a kind of metallic coffin which has arrived on Earth from a spaceship called the Odyssey. He awakens the woman, and she reveals to him that she’s his wife Julia (Olga Kurylenko).  She tells him that his memory has been erased, opening the door for some dramatic revelations and plot twists.

Jack is later captured by some remaining humans, who are living underground. Needless to say, they aren’t supposed to be there. Their leader, Beech (Morgan Freeman) asks for Jack’s help in defeating the true enemies of Earth.  Jack then has to decide who to believe, who to fight for, and where the truth lies, but since he’s being played by Tom Cruise, there’s little doubt whether or not Jack will make the right decisions.

I can’t say that I really liked OBLIVION.  I never really got into its story, which wasn’t all that interesting.  I also wasn’t crazy about the characters..

The “aliens” are boring.  We never really see them.  The real menace in this one is Sally, and as played by Melissa Leo, she’s nothing more than a face and a stern voice on a video monitor.

LS: Yeah, that was major problem with OBLIVION. I thought it looked great, with the flying machines and drones. But to what end? I didn’t really care about these characters all that much. There are a couple of scenes that show us Jack’s humanity, the most obvious one being scenes at a cabin he made in the mountains, by a lake. It’s his one sanctuary from the world around him, and it’s a potent image. But otherwise, there’s not a lot about OBLIVION that has any emotional value.

 (The robot from the 1960s series LOST IN SPACE enters the cockpit)

ROBOT: Warning! Warning! We are entering the planet’s atmosphere!

MA: I thought you turned off the engines.

LS: You didn’t tell me to do that. It’s been on autopilot.

ROBOT: Warning! We have entered Earth’s atmosphere.

LS: So what? We have to land sometime.

ROBOT: This does not compute.

LS: Be quiet you bumbling bucket of bolts!

MA: You’re starting to sound an awful lot like Dr. Smith.

LS: Why thank you!

ROBOT: Humans. I will never understand them.

(ROBOT leaves the cockpit)

MA: Are you sure entering landing on Earth is a good idea?

LS: Why not? (looks out the window) Ah, home sweet home.

MA: Ahem. Time to get back to our review.

Tom Cruise is fine as Jack, but he was better as Jack Reacher in JACK REACHER (2012), as that character was more fully developed.  Jack in this movie is just your average standard hero.  I didn’t buy into his mission on Earth, nor was I all that intrigued by his love story with Julia.

LS: Oh yeah, JACK REACHER was a much better movie, and probably made at a fraction of the budget. No fancy special effects in that one.

MA: I did like Andrea Riseborough as Victoria. There was something very sexy about her in a quirky, offbeat way, but she’s not the main character in this one.  That would be Olga Kurylenko as Julia, who I didn’t enjoy as much.

LS: I liked both women, but I agree that Victoria gets short shrift. My main problem is that Jack and Victoria seem to have real feelings for each other, but when Julia shows up, Jack pretty forgets all about his feelings for Vicky.

MA:  I definitely agree with that point.  I really had the impression that Jack had genuine feelings towards Victoria, and so I agree with you it played out as strange that he simply forgets about her.  I expected some angst on his part, some tension, perhaps a love triangle, but as I said before, this movie’s too sterile for that.

LS:  Yeah, a love triangle would have been more realistic, and would have provided a bit of drama to the stale proceedings here. Sure, Victoria is uptight, is afraid to break the rules, and is an all-around stick in the mud a lot of the time-hey, she sounds a lot like Michael Arruda!

MA:  Hey!  I resemble that remark!

LS:  —but we’re led to believe they have a strong bond, and it’s not believable that Jack would be able to just sever that without a second thought. It would have made more sense if he had a real conflict about which woman he wanted. Instead, he doesn’t seem to have any trouble making a choice when this new woman shows up. Sure, he has had dreams about her before he meets her. But I just didn’t like how Victoria was tossed aside so easily.

MA:  I agree.

Oblivion poster #2

LS: By the way, Olga Kurylenko who plays Julia was previously in movies like SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (2012), Neil Marshall’s underrated CENTURION (2010) and was even a Bond Girl—she was Camille in 2008’s QUANTAM OF SOLACE.

MA: Meanwhile, Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman.  He’s fine, but he doesn’t do anything here we haven’t seen him do before.

LS: I’m not sure what I feel about Morgan Freeman at this point. When there’s the big scene where he reveals himself for the first time, I felt it was almost—laughable. Like he was doing a parody of himself. But the thing is, his role in OBLIVION isn’t funny. Maybe he’s just played so many roles like this that I just can’t take him seriously anymore. He can’t be a convincing character—you just think of him as “Hey, it’s Morgan Freeman.”

MA:  Maybe he should just stick to narrating.

LS:  I liked the women in this one, and I liked Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Sykes, another leader of the human rebels on earth (kind of Morgan Freeman’s right hand man). Most people may recognize Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister in the great HBO series GAME OF THRONES. But while I liked seeing him in the OBLIVION, he really isn’t given very much to do.

MA: I thought the visuals and special effects were just okay.  They didn’t wow me.  Neither did any of the battle scenes. I thought it was pretty  ho hum throughout, and in this day and age, where movies can look so good visually, I thought OBLIVION was just average.  There weren’t any memorable images to go along with this one either.  The movie had its chances, with various images of Earth after the nuclear holocaust, but few if any of these images resonated with me.  There’s only so many times you can see the Washington Monument or the Empire State Building looking beaten and dilapidated and feel something, especially when these scenes don’t look all that real.

LS: I thought the machines and high-tech contraptions looks convincing enough. I thought they were all well done. But I didn’t felt “wowed” either. There’s just something about OBLIVION that wasn’t very exciting. And you’re right about the battle scenes. They were kind of boring. The first time we see Jack confront a drone, it’s kind of interesting. But after a while, they just become tedious.

MA: The screenplay by director Joseph Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek, and Michael Arndt did little for me as well.  It’s based on a comic book by Kosinski and Arvid Nelson.

LS: It’s called a graphic novel.

MA: Comic book, graphic novel. What’s the difference?

LS (shrugs): Beats me.

MA:  I thought the story was confusing at times, but worse than that, it didn’t win me over emotionally.  I cared little about these folks, mostly because they themselves didn’t seem to care much about what was going on.  I also didn’t find that Cruise and Kurylenko shared much chemistry, which didn’t help the love story.  I thought Cruise shared more onscreen chemistry with Riseborough, but they’re not the main love focus here.

LS: I didn’t find the story very satisfying, either. And while I am not as down on Kurylenko as you, I do think Cruise had better chemistry with Riseborough, too. I just found OBLIVION to be kind of bland and sanitized and despite its various plot twists, it seemed like something we had seen before.

MA: Director Kosinski also directed TRON:  LEGACY (2010), and I would say both films score about the same in the quality department. Neither one wowed me.

LS: I didn’t see TRON-LEGACY, so I don’t know if I’d agree with you. But I’ll take your word for it.

One thing that did interest me a little was the movie’s soundtrack. Kosinski has been making some interesting music choices in his films. In TRON: LEGACY, the soundtrack was done by French electronic group Daft Punk. This time around, OBLIVION was scored by another band I like, M83. Truth be told, however, I wasn’t really all that aware of the soundtrack while I was watching OBLIVION, maybe because I was kind of bored a lot of the time. I am curious to see if I listened to the soundtrack without the visuals if I would have enjoyed it more.

MA: OBLIVION is also nowhere near as ambitious in theme or scope as last year’s science fiction hit PROMETHEUS (2012) but the results are about the same, mixed.

LS: I don’t know. I thought PROMETHEUS was a little disappointing, but I thought it was much better than OBLIVION.

MA: I feel a chill in here, and that’s because I never warmed up to OBLIVION.  It was cold and emotionally detached throughout.

I give it two knives.

LS: I’m pretty much in agreement with you on all counts here. I give OBLIVION two knives as well. I thought it looked great, but it had no soul. Nothing meaty to grab onto.

(The DROIDS and ROBOT have returned)

C3P0:   Excuse me, gentlemen, but how do you get off this ship?

(R2D2 beeps and whistles.)

C3PO (pointing out window):  Look, there are those pesky drones come to attack us.

MA: I told you it was a bad idea to land here. Didn’t you learn anything from OBLIVION?

LIS ROBOT: Warning! Warning!

LS: So long, fellas.

(LS pushes a button that ejects the section of the craft where MA and LS are)

MA: I hope they know how to fly the ship without us.

(There is the sound of drone fire and an enormous explosion)

LS: Oops,

-END-

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives OBLIVION ~ two knives!

LL Soares gives OBLIVION ~two knives, as well.