Archive for the Superheroes Category

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

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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

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  MAN OF STEEL (2013)By Michael Arruda

Posted in 2013, 3-D, Action Movies, Alien Worlds, Aliens, Cinema Knife Fights, DC Comics, Michael Arruda Reviews, Reboots, Superheroes, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 17, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  MAN OF STEEL (2013)|
By Michael Arruda

Man-of-Steel-poster2-610x904(THE SCENE: A diner.  MICHAEL ARRUDA sits at the counter sipping coffee talking to a group of patrons about MAN OF STEEL.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Well, at least Russell Crowe doesn’t sing!

Normally I’d be meeting my Cinema Knife Fight partner L.L. Soares to co-review today’s movie with him, but he’s off winning himself a Stoker Award, so it looks like I’m doing this one solo.

If you folks would like to listen, I’ll review today’s movie, MAN OF STEEL (2013) right now.

(To WAITRESS)  Everyone’s breakfast is on me.  (The group utters a collective “thank you.”)  Don’t mention it.  I’ll put it on L.L.’s tab.  (laughs.)

Anyway, MAN OF STEEL is the new reimagining of the Superman story by director Zach Snyder, screenwriter David S. Goyer, and producer Christopher Nolan, who also received story credit.

It begins where all Superman origin stories begin, on the planet Krypton.  It’s a familiar story by now.  Krypton is dying, and Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is trying to convince his elders that they need to save the planet.  It’s a much more action-oriented opening than past Superman origin tales, as General Zod (Michael Shannon) leads a coup to take over the land, and Jor-El, while a scientist, seems to have gone to the “kick-ass” school of science, as he’s quite adept at kicking butt when he needs to.

You already know what happens, as Jor-El and his wife send their infant son Kal-El to Earth before Krypton is destroyed, while Zod and his followers are arrested and sentenced to prison in deep space, thus sparing them from Krypton’s destruction.

The next time we see Kal-El, he’s already an adult, going by his Earth name Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) having been found and adopted as an infant by Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane).  Fortunately, the story jumps around and we learn about Clark’s childhood via flashback, and so we’re spared the time it would normally take to explain the traditional back story, which again, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know.

But even with the creative spin put on the story this time around, there’s still no getting past the fact  that the Superman tale has been told many many times, in the comics, in the movies, on TV, and even in cartoons.  Can’t we just throw Superman into a new adventure and skip the back story?

I recognize that in this case, the whole idea was to reimagine the story, to reboot the whole thing, and screenwriter David S. Goyer does deserve credit for telling this tale from a totally new perspective, but the bottom line is it’s not enough to overcome the fact that MAN OF STEEL has little or no depth when it comes to its characters and its plot.

There were parts of the screenplay that I really enjoyed.  Lois Lane (Amy Adams), for example, meets Clark before he even thinks about joining the Daily Planet.  She also learns right away that he possesses superhuman powers.  I also liked how the story utilized flashback. But one drawback to this style is the film never really establishes a sense of place.  We never get a feel for life on the Kent farm, which is fine by me, but we also never get a feel for life in Metropolis, which is less fine by me.  The story hops around all over the place, and it plays like a video game landscape.

Moving on to the characters, I enjoyed the General Zod character up to a point.  The story makes it clear what his mission is.  Right or wrong, he’s all about saving Krypton, and if it means destroying the human population of earth in the process, then so be it.  I also really enjoyed Michael Shannon in the role.  He makes a very cold General Zod.

(GENERAL ZOD approaches the counter)

ZOD:  Glad to hear I was so enjoyable.

MA: But on the flip side, Shannon’s Zod is no fun.  Compared to Terence Stamp’s portrayal of Zod in SUPERMAN II (1980), Shannon’s Zod is a bore with no personality.  This is a problem the film has as well.  It’s got no personality.  There’s no joy to it. It’s soulless.

Russell Crowe as Jor-El.

Russell Crowe as Jor-El.

ZOD:  That I’m not glad to hear.  I shall have to destroy you now.

MA:  Can you at least wait until after the review? I really would like to finish this.  If you stay and listen, you might hear some more good things said about you.

ZOD:  Really?  Okay.

MA:  Where was I?  Oh, yes.  MAN OF STEEL has no camp, little humor, and ultimately it’s no fun.

ZOD:  I don’t know how to take that. Is that good or bad?

MA: Well, if you’re evil, that’s probably good.

ZOD:  Okay.

MA:  I know they were going for a darker film, but this style worked better in THE DARK KNIGHT movies because Batman tends to be a darker character than Superman.

Russell Crowe fares very well as Jor-El. In fact, in his brief screen time, he was one of my favorite characters in the movie.  He’s a much more active Jor-El than Marlon Brando was in the first Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN film (1978).  It’s actually a superb performance by Crowe, who in a role like this, could have easily mailed it in, but he didn’t.

Superman meets Lois Lane....again!

Superman meets Lois Lane….again!

I’ve become a huge Amy Adams fan of late, and I really enjoyed her here as Lois Lane.    She’s strong, smart, and feisty, not to mention sexy, but one drawback is I didn’t think she and Henry Cavill shared much chemistry as Lois and Clark.

And that’s because Henry Cavill doesn’t generate much chemistry at all in this one.

ZOD:  He’s a wuss.

MA:  Quiet.  I’m reviewing the movie, not you.

ZOD: How dare you hush Zod!

MA: He’s not the most engaging Superman ever to grace the screen. Yet, I have to believe, judging by the way this movie plays out, that he portrays Superman here exactly the way he was supposed to.  But there’s something lacking.  He doesn’t have much of a personality.  He’s not the goodie-goodie Christopher Reeve Superman, but don’t expect a dark brooding superhero either.  He’s not Christian Bale in a red cape.  And that certainly is a problem.  One of the strengths, for example, of the recent Marvel superhero movies is their superheroes are so full of personality.  Cavill’s Superman is kinda boring.

ZOD:  Zod is much more interesting.

MA:  Kevin Costner enjoys some fine moments in his brief stint as Jonathan Kent, and Diane Lane is also memorable as Martha Kent.  Laurence Fishburne makes for a less cranky Perry White, but the rest of the new characters, military types and scientists, are all largely forgettable.

The biggest problem I had with MAN OF STEEL is it suffers from the video game syndromeit has that look of a video-game turned into a movie, and it contains long drawn out battle scenes that bored me to tears.  For all its creativity with its story, MAN OF STEEL lacks grandness and cinematic vision.  There’s no sweeping cinema here.  It’s just CGI effects, and none of them stand out.

ZOD:  I like long drawn out battle scenes!  I could watch them all day!

MA:  Well, I can’t.

The reaction I had to MAN OF STEEL was similar to the reaction I had with STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013).  I liked it, but I didn’t love it. There’s just so much going on in both films, you just want things to slow down a bit so you can get to know the characters more. Once the audience gets to know the characters in a movie, and if they like these characters, then they’ll follow them anywhere.  But we have to get to know them first.

Give the characters some depth, and then we will enjoy the action.

Director Zach Snyder inundates us with special effects, none of which really wowed me.  I wish he had spent more time on characterizations and plot.

I don’t really feel as if I knew Superman in this movie.  He’s upset at a young age that he’s different, and later as an adult he goes off in search of his heritage.  Once he learns the truth about his past, he goes off to fulfill his destiny.  Along the way, does he like Lois Lane?  Obviously, the answer is yes, but you wouldn’t know it from this movie.  More effort should have been made to define this new Superman, because right now, he’s not all that exciting.

WOMAN: But he’s so hot!

MA:  Okay, I’ll give you that.  But I think Amy Adams is hot, too, but sex appeal isn’t enough to make a successful movie.

WOMAN:  I think it is!

MA:  Well, I’m sure you’re not alone in that opinion.  But I need more.

One thing I don’t need, however, is more 3D.  I didn’t see MAN OF STEEL in 3D, as I’m sick and tired of shelling out the extra money.

MAN OF STEEL is not as good as THE DARK KNIGHT (2008), THE AVENGERS (2012), or IRON MAN (2008), nor is it up to par with SUPERMAN (1978) with Christopher Reeve.

I wasn’t a big fan of the previous Superman movie, SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006), and I’m not a big fan of this new one.

MAN OF STEEL is ultimately about trust.  Can Superman earn the trust of the world, or specifically in this movie, of the American government?  It’s also about General Zod attacking Earth so he can conquer the planet and reestablish the Kryptonian race.  Neither one of these two plot points did much for me.

Michael Shannon as General Zod!

Michael Shannon as General Zod!

I think Superman is a hard sell nowadays anyway because, one, his story is so familiar, and two, he’s so powerful it’s difficult to write interesting stories about him.  If you really wanted to make Superman darker, he should have gotten involved in some predicament that troubled his conscience or something.  About the only thing troubling Superman in MAN OF STEEL is whether or not the U.S. military thinks he’s good guy or not.

I wasn’t impressed.

I give it two and a half knives.

ZOD:  Are you done?

MA:  Yes.

ZOD:  Then it’s time for me to destroy you.

MA:  Wouldn’t you rather ask one of these fine young ladies out on a date?

ZOD:  Huh?  Do you really think they’d go out with me?

MA:  You’re Zod!  A great general!  Of course they’d go out with you!

ZOD (blushing):  Well, in that case—. (Turns to women next to him)

MA:  Okay, while Zod is busy with his new dating reality show, I’ll slip out the back door so I can be around to review next week’s movie.

Thanks for joining me, everybody!

ZOD (to WOMAN):  Did anyone ever tell you you’re the most beautiful woman to ever belong to an inferior race?  (She rolls her eyes and turns away)  What?  Was it something I said?

—END—-

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives MAN OF STEEL ~ two and a half knives!

man-of-steel-poster

Scoring ACTION: An Interview with BRIAN TYLER (Part 2 of 2)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Barry Dejasu Columns, Interviews, Magic, Movie Music, Scoring Horror, Soundtracks, Superheroes with tags , , , , , on May 25, 2013 by knifefighter

Scoring ACTION Presents:
An Interview with BRIAN TYLER
By Barry Lee Dejasu

Part Two: NOW YOU SEE ME and the Future

NowYouSeeMePosterBARRY LEE DEJASU: With a film that deals so much with magic, and the stage, and all eyes on the performer, how did you evoke that kind of mood for this movie?
BRIAN TYLER:
NOW YOU SEE ME is a really interesting combination, tonally, as a film, and I don’t think it necessarily has been done like this as a film before, so musically it needed to go along with that tone.  You’re combining two different genres; you’re combining the idea of magic and illusion, which the music at least will give you that kind of sense of… You might think of HARRY POTTER and LORD OF THE RINGS, and things like that, and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (1977), where you have that, but on the other hand, you have this heist movie.  These guys are pulling off a heist (and) rob a bank in Paris, and pull off all kinds of different, crazy things like that, which goes more toward things like CHARADE (1963), like cool ‘70s heist movies all the way up through retro-heist and retro-chase movies like CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002).  These kinds of music don’t typically go together, so I kind of came up with this sound like a ‘60s James Bond/CHARADE/Henry Mancini kind of vibe, crossed with LORD OF THE RINGS and HARRY POTTER! (laughs) And that kind of thing is like, how does that work?  It turned out to be this great combo, and it’s got elements of groove, and fun, and upright bass, and drums, and vibraphone, and kind of retro ‘60s stuff, with also a magical, shimmery element that was the London Philharmonic.  These two unlikely kinds of pairs, kind of like the underground New York jazz club from 1962 meets the London Philharmonic, strange bedfellows.  It ended up being one of my favorite musical experiences, and the fact that also feels like sleight music, like the music is beating you in one direction, like, look over here, or look closely here, but you’re looking in the wrong place, you know.  It was like a giant puzzle, this whole score, and I can’t wait for people to check out this movie and hear the score.

BLD: There seems to be a lot comedic elements at work in the movie.
BT:
Very much so.  You have this team of four magicians that are thrown together.  They’re definitely kind of a motley crew; they don’t necessarily like each other at the beginning of the movie—they’re thrown together for this mission, and it’s hilarious; they’re great together.  It’s really funny, and it’s got a lot of twists, and it keeps you guessing.  I’m just interested in magic from the point of view of illusion, myself.  Each one of the characters, it’s like there’s a corollary in real life, like the Woody Harrelson character, he’s like this mentalist like Darren Brown, and you have Morgan Freeman, who’s like a debunker, like James Randy, who goes around and calls out people that claim to be psychic and are full of it.  You got a guy that’s more like David Blaine that’s more like close-up magic, street magic, things like that, (and) a dude that’s more like (David) Copperfield; he does big illusions in Vegas.  To put all these people together, you needed to have the fun.

Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco in Now You See Me

Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco in NOW YOU SEE ME.

There’s an action element to it, of course, as well; there’s a streak of THE BOURNE IDENTITY(2002), well, not in terms of it musically, but more like the film, where there’s something at stake here.  It’s fun the whole way, and you’re constantly guessing, and the whole movie is actually kind of like watching a really cool magic show unto itself.  The story is really the illusion, and the mystery you have to try to solve while you’re watching.

BLD: The fact is it’s still an audience watching a performance.
BT:
Yeah—for sure.  It’s almost like you’re pulled into it.  It doesn’t rely on special effects, it’s more like the trickery of how does someone outwit the other person with what is obviously not real magic, but with illusion.

BLD: Can you speak of any projects you’re attached to, or circling?
BT:
There are some directors that I work with that are working on some movies.  There’s STANDING UP, from DJ Caruso, who directed EAGLE EYE; I’ve done a bunch of movies with him.  There’s also a movie (also by Caruso) that I’m hopefully going to be doing very soon called INVERTIGO which is great, a really cool story.  And John Liebesman, who I work with a lot, has NINJA TURTLES; we’ll be doing that together, and he’s great, he’s amazing.  Steve Quail (FINAL DESTINATION 5, 2011) is directing a movie called BLACK SKY, and there’s some other things that may be coming up as well.  I would love to work with Marvel again, and of course Shane is a fantastic director, so we’ll see what’s on the horizon here.

StandingUpPosterBLD: If you could re-score any pre-existing film (but preferably older ones, and the older, the better), which might you choose?  (Previous answers have often included NOSFERATU and GODZILLA.)
BT:
I don’t know if I could improve on it, but I’d love to take a whack at MANOS: HANDS OF FATE (1966).  (laughs)  I just would love to write some music for something that’s that strange.  There was so much blank space in it, filming outside of car windows, driving alongside it endlessly… It would just be cool to go back and score something like that.  I’m sure I could pick something that’s actually good, but I have a thing for films like MANOS: HANDS OF FATE.

ManosHandsofFatePosterBLD: There are tons of films always in the works.  If you could choose and score anything in particular, which would you jump for?  (Anything from a new documentary to, say, one of the new Star Wars films?)
BT:
Also MANOS: HANDS OF FATE! Or (its sequel), TORGO RETURNS! (laughing) It’s a good question.  Walking into something like STAR WARS would be amazing, of course, but John Williams is the impossible bar to reach.  I would love to just see where the Marvel universe would go; that’s really interesting to me.  And also something that I would love to do is just a historical drama of some sort, to just sort of mix it up, but it’s something that I personally love.  The things I watch most of on Netflix are documentaries, that kind of thing, and my major in college was history.  It would be great to dive into something historical.

© Copyright 2013 by Barry Lee Dejasu

IRON MAN 3 is now playing.
NOW YOU SEE ME comes out in theaters on May 31st.

Scoring ACTION: Interview with BRIAN TYLER (Part 1 of 2)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Barry Dejasu Columns, Interviews, Movie Music, Scoring Horror, Soundtracks, Superheroes with tags , , , , , on May 24, 2013 by knifefighter

Scoring ACTION Presents:
An Interview with BRIAN TYLER
By Barry Lee Dejasu

CONSTANTINE. WAR. RAMBO. THE FINAL DESTINATION. LAW ABIDING CITIZEN. BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.  Do any of these films sound familiar?  That’s probably because they’re tent pole examples of summer cinema from the past decade—big-screen tales of action-packed suspense.  There’s something else that they all have in common, however: the vibes of epic excitement and suspense were in no small part the result of the musical contributions of film composer Brian Tyler.

Composer Brian Tyler

Composer Brian Tyler

With a resume reaching back into the 1990s that runs the gamut of comedies, dramas, made-for-TV specials, and horror movies such as FRAILTY (2001) and DARKNESS FALLS (2003), Brian Tyler been making an increasing splash for himself with scores to numerous franchises, including the third, fourth, and fifth movies in the FAST AND FURIOUS series and both EXPENDABLES films.  He’s also done a bit of work on video games and TV shows, including TERRA NOVA and HAWAII FIVE-0.

Most recently, Mr. Tyler lent his talents to the first major blockbuster of 2013, a little something called IRON MAN 3.  This film furthers the adventures of genius billionaire inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), in the wake of the explosive events of THE AVENGERS (2012), as he faces a mysterious and powerful new enemy, the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), as well as Stark’s personal demons in his efforts to protect the woman he loves (Gwyneth Paltrow).

Later this month, moviegoers will hear Mr. Tyler’s music in NOW YOU SEE ME, an all-star suspense caper about a group of stage magicians utilizing their talents to conduct mystifying thievery.

Mr. Tyler was kind enough to share some of his time to dish about his work on IRON MAN 3, NOW YOU SEE ME, and his musical approach to suspense and thriller films.

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Part One: Brian Tyler and IRON MAN 3

BARRY LEE DEJASU: What was your first instance of “noticing” music in movies?
BRIAN TYLER:
My first memory, I’d say, would be STAR WARS (1976).  Huge STAR WARS fan.  I wanted the music to go along with the action figures.  The double-album (was) pretty amazing.  I really walked out of that thinking, “Wow, this is cool!  This is something I want to listen to.”  And as I started playing instruments and started writing music, it was just kind of… I always had scores around, I always collected them, and I was into it.  So it naturally kind of influenced the music that I would write, and it led me to what I do now.

BLD: With the majority of the movies that you score falling into a suspense/action vein, you obviously enjoy them to some extent.  Do you find that you’re just drawn to them, or does the work just get brought to you?
BT:
Yeah, where I seem to have landed in my career is partly what I like to watch.  I love all kinds of movies, so I’m not really genre-specific in that sense, but I love genre films.  I love scifi, I love horror, I love action, and pretty much everything.  But certainly, I got started in offbeat, quirky films, some quirky horror stuff like BUBBA HO-TEP (2002) and FRAILTY, and then it just kind of expanded into different kinds of adventure films.  IRON MAN 3 is such a great canvas to do a superhero film.  I’ve done movies based on comics before, but never a legit superhero.  So that was really cool to jump on board.

IronMan3PosterBLD: How did you come about jumping on board this movie, following Ramin Djawadi’s and John Debney’s respective scores for the first and second films?
BT:
(The filmmakers) were looking for something very specific.  The music for the first two was a little more rock-based, hybrid-orchestral kind of vibe.  On this movie, for the majority of the score, they needed something that reflected the post-AVENGERS sort of world of IRON MAN 3.  Tony Stark used to be this billionaire, playboy, inventor dude, who’s brilliant, but he had this vibe of kind of devil-may-care smartass kind of thing, which is great, and I think that worked with the score with the Black Sabbath songs and AC/DC and all that, and that kind of had his attitude.  Then all of the events happened in THE AVENGERS, and he fell in love with Pepper, and he has something that he really cares about now.

Robert Downey, Jr. is Tony Stark, “Billionaire, playboy, inventor.

Robert Downey, Jr. is Tony Stark, “Billionaire, playboy, inventor.

The post-Avengers world, in Marvel, you can mark everything pre-Avengers and post-Avengers, kind of like pre-9/11 and post-9/11.  And it was such a huge event that the stakes are raised, and all of a sudden, the music for Iron Man can be superhero music; a legitimate superhero theme.  Even though he’s a reluctant superhero—he’s been thrust upon this position, in a way—it still nonetheless needed one of those soaring melodies.  In the first two movies, it just wouldn’t have worked; it would have been strange to hear that.

So (IRON MAN 3 writer-director) Shane Black, and (producers) Kevin Feige at Marvel, and Stephen Broussard, and Dave Jordan, (and) a lot of other Marvel people… I had no idea, but for years they’d been listening to my soundtracks, and really loved the thematic writing, the melodies, and things like that on films that I did that were not as well-know, like THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED (2005) and ANNAPOLIS (2006), and films like that that had big, soaring melodies.  They wanted a melody that you could walk away with and be like, “Oh, that’s Iron Man,” the way that (the melody in) RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) is Indiana Jones, the melody, the march, it’s like, “Oh, that’s him.”  So that was the drive; that was the goal, so I did my best, and it’s cool seeing how people have reacted to it.  It was my best whack at that kind of thematic writing.

BLD: It must have been pretty flattering and an honor for you.
BT:
For sure, and as a fan, as a kid before the IRON MAN movies, you know, (I read) Iron Man, and Tales of Suspense (and other comics).  It was great, it was really cool.  To have had the fortune to happen to have landed this, and to come to different projects like STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE (TV series, 2003) and ALIEN VERSUS PREDATOR: REQUIEM (2007), and RAMBO (2008)…all these different kinds of established franchises there, I’d come into as a fan long before I began writing for them.

BLD: How do you approach genre-blending films such as BUBBA HO-TEP (2002) or BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (2011) and right up through IRON MAN 3 and NOW YOU SEE ME, in which radically different genres are mashed together?
BT:
(Laughs) All these things kind of tap into something that, for me, probably just comes from being a movie fan.  I can’t help but think of my favorite alien invasion movies when I watch BATTLE: LOS ANGELES., but at the same time, it had a tone like SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998) or PLATOON (1986) or something.  You end up subconsciously merging (and) doing genre mashups in your head.

IRON MAN 3 has a lot of different things going on there, because you have this great writer in Shane coming along, and I think that wanted to use something that was risky, and he uses dialogue in a certain way that’s snippy—all these different things that went into the story.  I think that Kevin Feige over at Marvel, and Shane and I, all of us were genre film score fans and comic book fans.  IRON MAN 3 is an example of the inmates running the asylum.  (laughs)  We’re all really big fans of film, and we got a chance to do what we really wanted, and that’s hard to do, and it’s rare, when you talk about how expensive movies like that are to make.  That’s why I love those guys so much; they’re kind of like me—they just got into it because they love movies, and so it’s really not far removed at all from what goes into making something like BUBBA HO-TEP, in a way.  For me, I approach it the same way; just like, “Hey, this is cool, let’s try to do something that’s really great, that will give audiences something to walk away with that actually has some kind of emotional impact.”  It’s definitely not like churning out a product; none of the people involved on IRON MAN 3 had that approach—they approached it like film fans.

BLD: Going all the way back to silent movies, film music can be light and cheery when the heroes are on the screen, then drops to “dun-Dun-DUN!” when the villains appear.  How did you approach this pairing-off for IRON MAN 3?
BT:
(Laughs) Well, sometimes you go with conventions, sometimes you don’t.  I think the most important thing for me to keep track of is how the whole thing works together, and writing scenes that will embed themselves in the subconscious of the viewer.  (If you’re) watching the scene, and all of a sudden you do some melody over on the English horn way in the background of a character that’s not even on the screen, you start to think of that character, subconsciously, even though you don’t know you are, you know?  I do a lot with identity in the IRON MAN 3 score, and if you go back and watch it a second time, you realize certain themes for certain people are playing at the times that you might not think would be—should be—playing, but it all makes sense when you see the whole movie.

I think you can also put convention on its head slightly when you do things that are melodic-based, because you can play melodies in so many different ways that you don’t expect.  There’s a scene where Tony Stark is dragging the Iron Man suit through the snow, for instance, and in that scene you could have gone with something really powerful or whatever.  I don’t think many people would have thought, “Gee, let’s have a solo instrument for Tony, what’s it going to be?  Oh, it’s going to be a harp!”—but that’s exactly what it is, it’s a harp, and it feels really, really lonely.  Those are sometimes the things you try to give it a flavor that really resonates (even if) it might be really out of the box.

Tony Stark dragging his Iron Man suit through the snow

Tony Stark dragging his Iron Man suit through the snow

And certainly the Mandarin’s music is kind of quasi-religious and spiritual, almost as if he sees himself as some kind of televangelist, in a way, but there’s this artifice as well, like he’s kind of full of shit, a little bit.

So all of these things kind of come together, and you try to make it work as a whole, and I kind of thought how the original STAR WARS had such a great grasp on how music works in a movie.  (There) you have the score theme playing super lonely and sad when he’s looking at the twin sunsets on Tatooine, but then you can have it during the Death Star battle and it sounds badass, but it’s the exact same melody, and it’s triumphant at the end in the throne room, and you don’t necessarily realize it’s the same melody when you’re watching it.  I think people remember the main theme and the Imperial March as good guy/bad guy, but there’s a lot of different nuance in there that I find to be the fascinating part of scoring.

BLD: It’s kind of impossible to watch a film like this one and talk about the score without making some kind of cliché comparison to the sound as being industrial, especially in tracks such as “War Machine,” where there are literally clangs and pulses.
BT:
It was a combination of different stuff.  The majority of the sound was the London Philharmonic, you know, that’s kind of the base sound of it.  Then of the little extras, about ten percent of it, you get those sonic little “hinges” that are unique to your film.  There’s choir work in there that’s sometimes kind of big and heroic, and other times it feels like a falling choir, like you’re falling towards the ground, and instead of a literally falling, the choir goes in reverse, it goes up.  I scored the scene where they fall out of the plane and are plummeting towards the earth, so instead of being like they’re falling, the music is really like the earth is coming up towards you, so actually that cue goes upward.  Things like that, I was like, “Ooh, I want to take a twist on that.”

People falling from an airplane in a memorable scene]

People falling from an airplane in a memorable scene]

And certainly for “War Machine,” and for “Iron Man,” I used literal metal.  Not metal like Pantera, but hitting big chunks of metal, you know, anvils, big brake drums from a truck, and hit them with a hammer, things like that, give it some “clankiness.”  And then there is, with “War Machine,” since the story kind of takes it in kind of a dark turn with War Machine, there are some manipulations of some old 1970s synthesizer stuff, distorted and kind of weird and floaty, and you combine it and it all just sounds kind of weird on paper, but somehow, internally, it all makes sense.  Even when you’re dealing with like instruments from score to score, it sounds very different, just like the Beatles’ “She Loves You,” and “Black Dog” by Zeppelin, and there are the same instruments, but do they sound anything alike? No; you know?  So it’s also the way the actual instruments are played and written for.  So for IRON MAN, I tried to make it match the personalities of the characters, and make it tweaky, and kind of unexpected for the scenes.

DifferentSuitsLineupBLD: What were some challenges in scoring this film?
BT:
The challenge was definitely finding that main melody, wanting to make something that was memorable, and that’s of course one of those things that’s of course very subjective.  But I did my best to kind of find the voice of Iron Man in a way that also, since it’s this sort of post-Avengers/pre-Avengers scenario, I needed to find something that the director wanted, which was to build this instant nostalgia, so you hear the theme and you go, “Oh yeah! I know this is Iron Man!,” even though it’s brand-new; that was the thing—it wasn’t established yet, this type of theme.  I had to build in.  It’s like buying games that are trashed already when you get them; (we) wanted the music to sound like it was always there.  That was a huge challenge.

BLD: Were there any favorite scenes that you scored?
BT:
No, I totally hated all the scenes.  No, I’m kidding.  All the scenes, one to the next, I loved it.  To pick a favorite is like, “What’s your favorite cute puppy of the litter?  You have to choose.”  So I guess the finale is pretty awesome; it was a great scene that I loved scoring, (SPOILERS) with all the different Iron Man suits showing up, and the big battle, with Tony running around and doing a lot of his work outside of the suit, which I thought was so cool; he was just a man having to use his cleverness.  It was a lot of fun doing the whole last ten minutes of the movie, which included the end title sequence, which was kind of a retro thing; that was a lot of fun, too.  If I kept going, I love the scene where he’s dragging the suit across the snow, and so much of the ramping-up of the music as the movie kind of reveals one twist after another; that’s always fun as well, because you can build in little Easter eggs in the music, and they’re certainly all over the movie.

BLD: Would you like to work on other superhero films?
BT:
Oh, sure!  I love superheroes, and the movies are just such a great canvas, because there really are not a lot of borders to what you can do, musically, and IRON MAN 3  was just a total joy to score, no question about it.

© Copyright 2013 by Barry Lee Dejasu

IRON MAN 3 (2013)

Posted in 2013, 3-D, CGI, Cinema Knife Fights, Comic Book Movies, Marvel Comics, Superheroes, Surprises! with tags , , , , , , on May 6, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  IRON MAN 3 (2013)
Review by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

iron_man_3_new_poster (2)

(THE SCENE: The sky.  Two figures in Iron Man suits zoom by. Inside the body armor are MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  This is so cool!  I can’t believe Tony Stark was okay with our borrowing these suits.

L.L SOARES (laughs):  Who said anything about borrowing?

MA:  But you said you spoke with Stark and he agreed that—.

LS (laughs some more):  And you believed me?  What a doofus!

MA:  So, you’re telling me that we stole these suits?

LS:  Something like that.  But don’t worry.  We’ll fly these babies back before anyone even notices they’re gone.  I just thought it would be cool to be wearing them while we review today’s movie.

MA:  From up here?  While we’re flying in these things?

LS:  What’s the matter?  Can’t you do two things at once?

MA:  I most certainly can, and I’ll prove it to you by going first and starting the review.

LS:  Suit yourself. (snickers)  That’s a pun.

(MA Socks LS with his iron fist, sending him away flailing.)

MA:  And that’s a punch.  You owe me after all the trouble you’ve gotten me into today.

Anyway, welcome folks, today we’re reviewing IRON MAN 3 (2013) the third movie in the wildly popular Marvel Iron Man series starring Robert Downey Jr. as everybody’s favorite superhero alter ego, Tony Stark.  We’ve been talking about this a lot lately, how the Marvel superhero movies have enjoyed a tremendous run during the past decade with a string of well-made hits.  Iron Man, thanks to Robert Downey Jr., might be their most popular movie character to date.

LS (returns):  By the way, I owe you this.

(LS punches MA, sending him hurtling toward the Earth. At the last minute, he stops his descent and flies back up into the sky)

MA: Let’s call a truce until the end of the review at least. I’m really looking forward to this one.

LS: Okay okay. We’ll have our big battle after the review.

MA: So, as I was saying, Iron Man is a very popular character in an amazingly successful series.  The Marvel movies have done so well because for the most part, they’re made so well.  And IRON MAN 3 only adds to the list of high quality movies.

LS: How about ending the commercial for Marvel Comics and get on with the review? Not all their movies are that high quality. I wasn’t all that impressed with IRON MAN 2, for instance. The script was pretty lame. So I’m not really sure why you’re gushing so much.

MA: I gotta give credit where credit is due.  They’ve got a tremendous track record.

LS: Michael, your autographed photo of Stan Lee just arrived! He signed it, “To my favorite shill.”

MA: In this one, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) just isn’t the same guy anymore.  He’s suffering the after-effects of his traumatic encounter with both aliens and a massive worm hole at the end of last year’s blockbuster Marvel movie THE AVENGERS (2012).  He can’t sleep, he suffers anxiety attacks, and things aren’t going too well with the love of his life, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).

LS: I thought this was interesting, that Stark actually had some psychological fallout after the events of THE AVENGERS. In the comics – and most superhero movies – it’s like these guys take everything in stride and never get affected. So that was an interesting idea, having him suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Except they never really do anything interesting with it. Stark just has some panic attacks at some inopportune moments. But the movie only really touches upon this in a very superficial way. When the real action starts, it’s pretty much an afterthought. This was a clever idea that wasn’t used all that well.

MA: I disagree.  I thought he had confidence problems throughout the film, even at the end.  I thought the film did a good job highlighting his weaknesses.

But back to the story.  A terrorist by the name of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has set his sights on humiliating the United States and in particular the President (William Sadler).  Leading the team to find and destroy The Mandarin is Tony Stark’s buddy Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle).  Rhodes dons a patriotic red white and blue Iron Man suit and goes by the name of Iron Patriot.  He tells Stark that he doesn’t need his help, as catching The Mandarin is government business, not superhero business.

LS: Yeah, the big joke is that they changed the name of War Machine (Rhodes’ original name when in the metal suit) to Iron Patriot because “War Machine” didn’t do well in a focus group. This is a kind of satirical point, but sadly, also reflects the way the movies dumb down and sanitize comic book characters to fit certain audience expectations. Kind of ironic, actually.

MA:  You’re thinking too much.  It was funny, plain and simple.

LS: Yeah, I’m thinking too much about the things that annoyed me about this movie.

As for the Mandarin, they take a character who is supposed to be a Chinese warlord longing for the days of the ancient dynasties, and turn him into an Osama Bin Laden wannabe. Maybe that is more timely, but it also seems really cliché.

MA: But when Stark’s friend and personal security chief Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau- yep, the same Jon Favreau who directed IRON MAN & IRON MAN 2) is critically wounded in a terrorist blast credited to the Mandarin, Stark calls out the villain in a public rant in front of news cameras where he gives out his home address to the baddie and says he’ll be waiting for him.

(WAR MACHINE suddenly flies toward them and stops)

WAR MACHINE: What the hell are you guys doing here? And where did you get those suits?

MA: Uh oh.

LS: How do you know one of us isn’t the real IRON MAN?

WAR MACHINE: Because you’re just hovering in the sky, arguing about movies.

LS: Oh.

WAR MACHINE: I suggest you take it down to Earth, before you get mistaken for enemy crafts. This is monitored airspace.

MA: I told you this was a dumb idea.

LS: I still think it’s fun.

WAR MACHINE: Fun? These suits are a responsibility, not a game. Does Stark even know that you have them?

MA: Errr.

LS: Sure he does.

WAR MACHINE: I think I’ll call in and check with Mr. Stark. (Talks on radio) Tony, did you let two idiots borrow Iron Man suits today?

(Looks around)

WAR MACHINE: Where did those guys go?

iron-man-3-international-poster

(LS and MA are back on the ground)

LS: That guy is a real stick in the mud.

MA: These suits are probably worth millions of dollars. I think we should bring them back.

LS: All in good time, my friend. We’ve got to finish the review. Race you to the other end of the beach.

MA: Okay.

(They continue talking as they have a foot race in the Iron Man suits)

LS: Was it just me or was Favreau incredibly annoying in this movie?

MA: Oh, he might have been a little annoying, but I kinda liked him, and he really wasn’t in it enough to be too annoying.

LS:  His character, Happy Hogan (who he has played in all three IRON MAN movies) is just grating in this movie. Every time he appeared onscreen, I just wanted him to go away. I don’t remember him being this annoying in the previous films. I’m just glad that, after he gets caught in an explosion, he’s stuck in a hospital bed and we only see him rarely.

MA: And like all good movie villains, the Mandarin wastes no time in descending upon Stark’s compound and blowing it to bits.  But not before Stark is visited by a former girlfriend Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) who tells him she thinks her boss Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) is working for the Mandarin.

LS: How intriguing!

MA: Her boss, Killian, is a brilliant scientist who, along with Maya, has been working on experiments involving the process of regeneration.  Their treatment allows humans to grow back limbs.  Killian once tried to work with Tony Stark, but Stark snubbed him.

Killian also dated Pepper Pots for a time.  It’s a small world.

LS: Too small. The scene where Stark first meets both Killian and Maya (New Year’s Eve 1999, on the eve of Y2K, in Switzerland) starts the movie, and while it’s not a bad opening, I have to admit, the more this movie went on, the more I didn’t really care about these characters at all.

MA: After the Mandarin destroys Stark’s compound and kidnaps Pepper Potts, all bets are off, and Tony Stark makes it his mission to track down the terrorist and rescue the love of his life.  Along the way, there’s a major plot twist that I didn’t see coming, and I can easily see how hardcore fans might not like it, but I thought it was refreshing and quite funny.

LS: Yeah, let’s not spoil it, except to say there’s a very interesting twist that involves the Mandarin’s reason why he’s involved in all this skullduggery. The thing is – I’m a big fan of the character, and I had a mixed reaction to the big surprise. On the one hand, I felt a little cheated, except that this character not once seemed like the Mandarin from the comics. On the other hand, I thought the surprise was clever and funny, and maybe the only truly inspired moment in the entire movie. So I can’t complain too much.

MA: I have to say, I really liked IRON MAN 3 and place it among my favorite Marvel superhero movies. While not quite as good as THE AVENGERS or the first IRON MAN movie, it’s right behind them, and is way better than IRON MAN 2 (2010) which I barely remember.

LS: I remember IRON MAN 2 just fine, and I wish I didn’t. It was pretty bad. And totally wasted the Iron Man villain Whiplash (played by Mickey Rourke in that one, and except for one cool scene, he mostly just sits around doing nothing). Like IRON MAN 2, the third one eventually pushes aside a great villain from the comics to focus on a more generic bad guy, in this case, Guy Pearce’s Killian.

There are so many better villains who could have been in this movie instead, involved in the plot with the Mandarin. And if the effects guys want to give us tons of  guys in armor, then why not do it right and give us the Crimson Dynamo or Titanium Man?  No, instead we get Pearce’s Killian, who is about as compelling as toothpaste.

MA:  I liked Killian.  I think Pearce gave him an edge that made him better than he should have been.

LS:  An edge? (laughs) You really think so? Good for you.

There’s also a subplot about how Killian founded the organization Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.), which opened up a ton of possibilities. In the comics, A.I.M. is an organization of evil that gave us MODOK – a major bad guy in the Marvel Universe! When A.I.M. was first mentioned in IRON MAN 3, I immediately hoped this meant that we’d eventually get an appearance by MODOK, but no such luck, at least not in this movie. Another total letdown.

And what’s with the need to have a hundred people in Iron Man suits in every movie? They did a variation of this in the second one, and in this one, there are a ton of remote-control Iron Man suits (pretty much an army of robots) in the big final fight, and it’s mostly boring. How about one really cool and powerful Iron Man instead of a hundred second-rate ones? But I guess it keeps the CGI guys busy.

MA: That didn’t bother me.  This one actually plays better than its story, which is nothing special, but the writing, the dialogue, the special effects, and most of all the acting lift it to the top.  And while the story wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before, it was interesting and entertaining.  I liked the regenerative science Killian was working on.

LS: The Lizard did it better in the last SPIDER-MAN movie, and even that movie wasn’t that great. And why do people who get this regenerative upgrade from Killian have the side-effect of turning into a crispy critter? At first, I thought they were Lava Men, another old-time Marvel reference, but no, it’s just a drug side-effect that makes no sense at all.

MA: Well, I found it interesting.  I liked the terrorist plot involving the Mandarin and the later twists which went along with it.  I liked how Tony Stark had to deal with his post-AVENGERS trauma.  I liked that Pepper Potts was more involved in this story, and I enjoyed the stuff about her relationship with Stark.  All in all, it was a very likable story.  I thought it was a very successful screenplay by Drew Pearce and Shane Black.

LS: I thought that, except for the big plot surprise in the middle and a couple of good scenes, the script was pretty crappy for most of the movie’s running time. In fact, I will go so far as to say this one is on the same quality level as IRON MAN 2. Which is nothing to get excited about.

MA:  I don’t think so at all.  The script here is far superior to the one in IRON MAN 2.  Just the Tony Stark/Pepper Potts relationship alone is an upgrade.

LS:  But we still haven’t gotten to the worst thing in the movie…

iron-man-3-poster

MA:  I think all that high altitude flying we just did went to your head.  Not only is IRON MAN 3 a decent movie, it’s one of the best Marvel movies period!  I think you’re letting your affection for the comics cloud your judgment.  Jeesh!

LS: This movie pretty much made me forgot about any affection I had for the comics while it was onscreen. So it can’t be that. Maybe it’s….just a bad movie?

(Tony Stark appears above them in his IRON MAN suit)

STARK: Stop right there and identify yourselves.

MA: We’re the guys from Cinema Knife Fight, Mr. Stark.

LS: Yeah, don’t worry. We’ll return your dopey iron suits.

MA: I swear, I had no idea he didn’t ask you first.

LS: What a stool pigeon.

STARK: I have now taken control of the suits. You will have to vacate them.

(The suits open up, dropping LS and MA on the beach)

STARK: You’re lucky I don’t press charges, or kick your butts.

LS: Oh go play with your transistors.

STARK: I’ll let you two morons off the hook this time – against my better judgment. But don’t let it happen again.

(IRON MAN flies away, followed by the two radio-controlled suits)

MA (Looks around the beach): Do you even know where we are? How are we going to get home.

LS: Just finish the review. We’ll worry about that later.

MA: I guess so.

Shane Black also directed, and I thought he did a fantastic job here.  The pacing was great.  The movie clocks in at over two hours, but for me, it flew by, and there was barely a dull moment.  Yet, this doesn’t mean it was non-stop boring action.  It’s not.  There’s quite a bit of story here.

LS: Black does an okay job directing this one, but the script, which he co-wrote, didn’t excite me at all. It has one good moment, and then it’s business as usual.

I also found the big “Battle of 100 Iron Men” showdown at the end went on way too long and was tedious as hell. Black previously directed the 2005 movie, KISS KISS BANG BANG, a kind of neo-noir, which also starred Robert Downey, Jr. Otherwise, he’s mostly known as a writer, best known for the screenplays of the LETHAL WEAPON series. This movie looks good, but overall, it’s a very mediocre effort by Black.

MA: I didn’t find that final battle long at all.  I thought the timing was just right.

While the film looked great, I saw it in 3D, and I can’t say I was impressed.  This is one you could probably enjoy just as well in 2D.

LS: I saw it in 3D as well. Only because all of the 2D showings were SOLD OUT way ahead of time. What does this tell you? That this movie is going to be a big hit. But also that the audience is sick of being gouged by the more expensive 3D tickets, which only rarely are worth the added expense. If I see a movie that’s in 3D and 2D these days, which one I choose to see is based more on the convenience of the show time than anything else. I didn’t want to pay extra for 3D here, but I had no choice.

That said, I was completely underwhelmed by the 3D effects in IRON MAN 3. For most of the time, I didn’t even realize I was watching a 3D movie. I urge our readers – if you have to see this one –don’t spend the extra money for 3D. It’s not worth it.

MA: But the best part of IRON MAN 3 is the performances, starting with Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man.  He’s the most compelling superhero out there right now, mostly because—and this has always been the best part of the Marvel Universe—he’s a deeply flawed character.  He’s a guy who’s impulsive, quirky, and incredibly fun to be around.  He has no business being a superhero, but he is, and that’s what makes his story so cool.  Downey has played Stark in four movies now, and I can’t say that I’m even close to being tired of watching him.  I hope he plays the role again.

LS: God, you eat this stuff up, don’t you? Downey is fine as Stark. But he deserves better scripts than this.

MA (laughs):  As far as eating this stuff up, what can I say?  I sit through tons of bad movies every year.  The Marvel movies are not among them.  The odds says these film should be tiring by now.  They’re not.

LS:  The first IRON MAN was a decent movie, and he brought his A-game to it. He was also a real highlight in THE AVENGERS. But the IRON MAN sequels have been pretty embarrassing in comparison. Downey really needs to move on to better movies. Right now, he’s kind of trapped in a dumpster. Someone needs to open the lid and let him out.

MA: He brings his A-game here as well.  And if he’s smart he’ll keep making these films because it’s the perfect role for him, and there’s still more he can do with it.

LS: They’re the perfect movies to keep his bank account full. But a challenge for him as an actor? I don’t think so. Unless the scripts get better, he’s spinning his wheels.

MA: I really like Gwyneth Paltrow too, and she’s splendid here as Pepper Potts.  She’s played Potts four times now as well, and it’s probably her best performance as Potts.  She certainly has more to do in this movie than she’s had in the others.  Stark and Potts, as played by Downey and Paltrow, make a very likeable couple.

LS: I don’t know. I find Paltrow really stilted in these films. There’s this sense that she feels she’s too good to be acting in this kind of movie. Maybe she is. She never once seems relaxed or natural in this role. She has a couple of okay moments (one where she gains some strange super powers temporarily), but overall I just didn’t care for her. And I think if there’s any chemistry between Downey and her, it’s because Downey is doing enough acting to make them both look good. I’m just not a Gwyneth Paltrow fan, I guess.

MA: I don’t get that sense at all.  Maybe one of the reasons she doesn’t appear relaxed is because her character is dating Tony Stark!

Don Cheadle, one of my favorite actors, took over the role of Colonel James Rhodes in IRON MAN 2, and I remember not being all that impressed.  He’s excellent this time around, though, and it helps that Rhodes is integral the plot here.

LS: I think Cheadle is wasted in these movies. He’s Iron Man’s uptight sidekick. (Yawns). It’s funny how many good actors are wasted in this thing.

MA: Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin, I suspect, is going to generate some strong reactions from fans.  Diehard fans of the comics will probably hate him, while those of us, myself included, who aren’t as familiar with the comics, will find his performance refreshing and funny.  I loved it.

LS: I’m a diehard comics fan, or at least I used to be, and I didn’t hate him at all. I was disappointed they made him a Bin Laden clone—that just seemed very lazy to me—but despite any problems I have with the character here, I think Kingsley is the best thing in the movie. Maybe even better than Downey, because he doesn’t have to appear onscreen in almost every scene like Downey does, and doesn’t seem as burnt out.

MA (shaking his head):  Downey doesn’t come off as burnt out at all.  I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Guy Pearce is excellent as the villainous Aldrich Killian.  Killian is a particularly cold-hearted scientist, and Pearce does a good job bringing him to life.  I enjoyed Pearce here more than in last year’s PROMETHEUS (2012).

LS: When we first see Killian in a flashback, he looks like a reject from REVENGE OF THE NERDS (1984), with sloppy hair and bad teeth. When we see him in modern day, “cold” is the operative word here. Pearce might as well be playing a robot. He has about as much depth as a puddle. I really didn’t like him, and usually I’m a fan. I also hated the whole Killian character and storyline. He’s a major villain here, and yet he seemed generic and boring. The villain(s) might just be the most important thing about a superhero movie (if it’s not an origin story). And as one of the major villains here, Killian, is a complete snooze.

MA: For a complete snooze, he’s pretty damn deadly! He has the upper hand over Tony Stark/Iron Man throughout the film, and he was believable doing it.  I liked him.

I also enjoyed Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen.  Hall was memorable in Ben Affleck’s THE TOWN (2010), and here as Maya she’s sexy, smart, and she has a dark side as well.  I liked her a lot.

LS: I liked Hall a lot, too. I didn’t care about her character’s storyline all that much, but I found that she was warm and human onscreen in ways Paltrow never comes close to being. Rebecca Hall just seems to relax in front of the camera and seems like a real person, and her scenes with Paltrow just make the contrast all that more glaring. Based on this movie, I’d rather date Rebecca Hall any day of the week. Paltrow comes off as an android ice queen.

MA: I’d have no problem dating either one of them.

The supporting cast is also very good.  I particularly enjoyed Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan.  He was a bit goofy, but I found him likeable.

LS: I already said what I thought about Favreau. They should have killed the character off in the explosion scene and spared us.

You didn’t mention James Badge Dale, who plays Eric Savin, Killian’s right hand man. I had a mixed reaction to him. It’s not like Savin has much of a personality either, but there are a few times where he seems to be trying to do something with the role. Most of the time, he’s just this killing machine, but I actually thought he was pretty good.

MA: Overall, I loved IRON MAN 3.  As the third film in the series, I had hoped it would be good, but wouldn’t have been surprised if it dropped off a bit in quality. Far from this, it was better than I expected.  It just might be my favorite film of the year so far.  Then again, I have a soft spot for the Marvel superhero films, mostly because they tend to feature strong acting, solid writing and storytelling, and impressive visual effects.  IRON MAN 3 is no exception.

I give it three and a half knives.

LS (stares at him): You’re joking, right?

MA: No way.  I loved it.

LS (shakes his head): And I notice you completely overlooked some of the worst aspects of the movie. Just didn’t mention them at all.

MA: Like what?

LS: Like a character named Harley Keener. Who is he? He’s a kid who helps Stark out after his Iron Man suit crash lands in Kansas. He’s a cute kid who lives with a single mother we never see, and Stark meets him when he stashes his damaged suit in the garage behind the kid’s house. There’s this big chunk of the movie that’s just about Stark and Harley, to give us some kind of surrogate father/son bonding that is meant to warm our hearts and show us that Stark has a heart of gold after all.

They have this cute banter back and forth, and Stark says some obnoxious stuff to the kid, and you think, “Wow, he’s still the same wise-cracking Tony Stark,” but he’s not. He’s gone soft, and he’s gotten stupid. This entire storyline played like an outtake from REAL STEEL (2011), another movie about a cute kid and a metal guy. These scenes were sappy and dripping with saccharine.

MA (laughing):  No they’re not!  The scenes in REAL STEEL were much more syrupy sweet than these!  These scenes were just amusing, and I didn’t mention them because I didn’t think much of them.  They’re a small part of the movie – it’s not like the kid is main player in the film. He’s not.  So, there’s a big difference between REAL STEEL and this.

LS: It’s long enough. It seemed to last a good half hour. It probably felt longer than it actually was.

In IRON MAN 3, Simpkins plays a sickeningly cutesy kid who is the visual equivalent of fingernails on a friggin blackboard. Every time he was onscreen, I completely hated this movie. And Stark’s smart-ass interplay with him was just as aggravating. This sequence made the entire movie grind to a halt, and the movie never fully recovers, going forward.

MA:  I think you just hate kids.

LS: I didn’t have any problem with Pierce Gagnon, the kid in LOOPER (2012), or Haley Joel-Osment back in THE SIXTH SENSE (1999). I don’t have any problem with kids who can act, and aren’t in a movie just to provide some sappy subplot.

I also think that Marvel movies are starting to get in a rut.  They take the comics and dumb them down, sandpaper away any real rough edges, and then hook them up to a script that is by-the-numbers and predictable. Aside from one surprise in IRON MAN 3, the movie is so predictable that it could have been written in someone’s sleep. These movies are all cookie-cutter products, and anything that was cool about them is going stale pretty quickly.

MA: Wow. I don’t view IRON MAN 3 as dumbed down or predictable at all.   And you think it could have been written in someone’s sleep?  Then that guy must be pretty smart to come up with a major unexpected plot twist in the middle of his nap!  It’s a cool story.  I can’t believe you’re complaining about it so much.

LS:  THE AVENGERS was a rare exception. But for the most part, the more recent Marvel movies have been pretty bland. And I grew up on Marvel Comics. I was a hardcore fan of the comics and these characters. So I should be the target audience, right? Someone who actually cared about these superheroes? Not even close. These movies aren’t made to appeal to long-time fans. They’re made to appeal to the widest audience possible—compromises and illogical changes are embraced without question—to separate them from their money.

MA:  They also appeal to people who appreciate good movies!  I can see why you, as a fan of the comics, would be more critical of the Marvel movies, but it’s not like for the rest of us the movies suck.  They’re well-produced, well-written, and well-acted.  I don’t see them as cookie-cutter movies at all.  That’s not to say that the Marvel movies don’t all follow a similar formula.  They do, but it’s a formula that so far is still working.

LS:  But it’s not just about comparing this stuff with the comics. If I was a hardcore comics fan and that was my only gripe, then I would hate the movie because of the way it treats the Mandarin, for example. But that’s not my problem. My problem is the script is very weak. Maybe it is no surprise that Marvel is now part of the Disney family. Because anything that was unique and exciting about Marvel’s characters is being washed away to give us the most assembly-line type of product possible.

I wish Downey would move on to better movies. He’s done what he could to make Tony Stark cool, despite completely moronic scripts. And he deserves to get the chance to actually act again.

MA:  No.  He should keep playing Tony Stark.  He has yet to wear out his welcome, and he might not.

LS:  I give IRON MAN 3 just one knife. And that’s only for Ben Kingsley and Rebecca Hall, and maybe 10 minutes of Robert Downey’s Tony Stark here. Otherwise, I think this movie is a waste of time. I’m sure it will make a gazillion dollars. I’m sure there are there are fans who will go completely gaga over it. But I’m one long-time Marvel fan who thinks it’s a dud.

There’s an end credit montage after the movie, that looks like a 70s action TV show, and it’s more fun than the entire movie that came before it.

Oh, and by the way, this one has a “cookie” at the very end. A secret scene after all the final credits role. Just like almost all other Marvel movies recently. This is annoying, because the end credits of this movie seem to go on forever, and the secret scene isn’t worth the wait at all!

MA:  I laughed at the last scene.  I thought it was funny.  And unlike you, I think people should run out to see this one.  It’s one of the more entertaining films of the year.

So how are we going to get back home?

LS: Hitchhike, of course!

(The two of them walk across the beach to the road and stick out their thumbs. A huge military-looking vehicle stops for them. The door opens)

LS: DOCTOR DOOM! I sure am glad to see you.

DOOM: Hop inside, gentlemen. You can accompany me in my latest plan for world domination.

LS: Excellent! After seeing IRON MAN 3, some world domination sounds like a great antidote!

MA: How do I get into these situations?

-END-

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

Michael Arruda gives IRON MAN 3 ~ three and a half knives!

LL Soares gives IRON MAN 3 ~one friggin knife!