Monthly Archives: August 2013

Superhero Movies and Race

This post may be a little serious. What sparked these thoughts are what I have read on the internet. There was an article about who should play the next Batman and among those there were suggested one was a black man. Again this question came up on Facebook and someone suggested that Batman could be played by a black actor. Some people did not think that was a good idea and that changing the race of an iconic character was only being done in the name of being politically correct. It was cited that change Nick Fury and Perry White to a black man was for politically correct reasons only.

It is an interesting topic to think about. Does not wanting to change the race of a character racist in itself? I really don’t think so. I tend to not want to view this topic in “all-or-nothing” categoires. I think there is room to change a character and then I think we also run into resistance not because of race as much as how people become attached to certain aspects of a character and race is one of those components.

Let me see if I can explain it this way. I am a huge fan of Godzilla. The 1998 movie changed the character so much that it no longer resembled Godzilla to the fans. I think this is the same issue with changing any iconic character. If you change to much the character begins to take on a new identity separate from the iconic character it is supposed to be portraying.

This happens when you even change a Superheroes costume. Sure, there is room for change but if you go too far fans will say that it is no longer the character. The new Man of Steel movie rremoved Superman’s red undies and many fans were outraged and cried foul! So people do have their limits.

I have them too. For instance, I would be alright with a black Batman, however I may not be so open to a black Superman. I would be open to it if the actor seemed to fit the role and the tone of the movie. I was fine when they cast Laurence Fishburne as Perry White thinking that was a great choice! Marvel Comics crreated a black teen Spider-Man (Miles Morales) and that was well recieved.

Now, all of what I have written doesn’t mean racism doesn’t occur because I think that it can be part of the reason why someone doesn’t want a character changed. Therefore it can be a touchy subject because not many people will want to admit that the motive behind a resistance to change can be racism.

Like all thinks in society these changes do have to happen slowly to allow people to adjust to these changes.

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Ben Affleck as Batman: My Thoughts.

It is a nice warm and sunny Friday morning as I write this. Late last night it was announced that Ben Affleck had been cast as Batman for the upcoming sequel to the Man of Steel movie. My first reaction was one of disbelief and shock. He wasn’t even on the radar. He wasn’t even mentioned as being in the running for the role. I also honestly thought that they would select a relative unknown and not a big name such as Ben Affleck. I think that is why I am so shocked.  But the more I think about it the more I do like the idea. I think he can really pull it off. Today as I write this I am watching the majority of my fellow nerdlings have a meltdown as the interweb explodes with the fallout from this news.

I actually like the guy and his work. Like most of us, I was introduced to Ben Affleck when I saw the movie, Good Will Hunting. An excellent film. He and his friend, Matt Damon, crafted a great story and both acted superbly in that movie. Sadly, Affleck’s acting career had some misses as well as hits while Damon’s acting career really took off. I am also a fan of Kevin Smith’s movies and Ben has acted in several of them, my favorite is when he teamed up with Damon once again for the movie Dogma. Ben also had a highly publicized romance with Jennifer Lopez. Ben also was the star of Marvel’s superhero movie, Daredevil, which was not well received. All of this creates too much baggage in the minds of many fans of superhero movies.

But that is not the whole story. He starred in and directed in last years Academy Award winning film Argo. He also starred and directed the critically acclaimed film The Town. He played George Reeves in the well acclaimed film Hollywoodland. Ben Affleck does have  awide range as an actor. He can do comedy as well as serious drama. Not every actor can do that.

I do understand that the last Batman, played by Christian Bale, is the most popular actor to don the Batcowl. So Ben does have some awfully big shoes to fill and hopefully he will not be in Bale’s shadow during his portrayal of the character.

Another point I want to make as my fellow nerds are all upset this morning is that back in the late 80s there was a similar outcry when Tim Burton cast Michael Keaton as Batman. Even I thought that was pretty certain back then that Keaton was wrong for the part he proved all of the nay sayers wrong and did two great performances as Bruce Wayne/Batman. The other thing I find fascinating about the nerd meltdown is that they have a problem with long-term memory. When Heath Ledger was cast as The Joker for the movie, The Dark Night, many fans were all up-in-arms and outraged about that! Today he is, and for a long time will be, the standard by which any portrayal of the Joker will be measured.

I am “borrowing” some points by a blogger   and they are all points that I completely agree with.

Let us go back through the history of movie casting:

  • When Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Iron Man, people thought he would be TERRIBLE because of his past. This actually helped his character and made him the face of Iron Man.
  • When Christian Bale was cast, people still thought of him as a small actor who would be terrible.
  • Heath Ledger was BASHED up and down the street because of his pretty face when he signed on to play the Joker. Now most people now consider him the greatest Joker ever portrayed.
  • Daniel Craig as James Bond… people did go crazy about it which most of you should remember, since it was just a few years ago.
  • Chris Evans was the Human Torch and was thought of as a terrible actor. Uhh, have you seen London? And now he IS Captain America.
  • Chris Hemsworth looks like an Abercrombie and Fitch model and he was in Star Trek, but now he IS Thor.
  • Hugh Jackman was a broadway star. How in the hell is he going to be the ferocious Wolverine? Go remove your foot from your mouth now.

Read more at http://nerdreactor.com/2013/08/23/ben-affleck-batman-awesome-news/#P1HWDMlZFBvU2FXI.99

As I said, Ben Affleck was not even on the radar as being in the running to play Batman. Many sites on the internet listed whom they believed would be a worthy successor to Christian Bale to play Batman. The favorites were: Matt Bomer (my personal choice), Richard Armitage, Josh Brolin, Armie Hammer, Ryan Gosling and others. I think Affleck as a better choice than Brolin. I just don’t think he has the looks. I now am wondering if these were true rumors, that the studio was looking at these actors, or were they just the dreams of fan boys?

I am more than willing to give Ben Affleck a chance in the role and I think he will do just fine. There are more important things to consider such as the script and the tone of the film. I am more concerned about the script than who they cast as Batman. Look at Clooney in Batman and Robin. While I may enjoy the movie as an homage to the campy 60s show, Clooney did not do a bad job acting as either Wayne or Batman. The problem was people did not want a campy Batman movie, or at least the level of camp that was in that movie. So if Clooney had been Batman in a less campy movie I think people would not be putting the blame for that movie on his shoulders.  If they set the tone of this movie like they did with Iron Man then I think Afflack will do just fine.

I am sure the tone of the film will be similar or exactly like the one established in Man of Steel. If that is the case then I really have no worries about Ben Affleck being able to play Bruce Wayne and Batman. I just hope they have a good story to tell and that the script is well written.

Rodan: My review.

I reviewed all of the Godzilla movies, along with War of the Gargantuas, so now it is time to review one of my favorite non-Godzilla Kaiju movies: Rodan. The movie came out in 1956 and was the first Kaiju film released in color. It was directed by Gojira director Ishirō Honda and the music was also provided by Godzilla veteran Akira Ifukube. Akihiko Hirata, who played Dr. Daisuke Serizawa  in the original Godzilla, films stars as Professor Kashiwagi.

The synopsis of the movie is very simple: Mutant pterosaurs and prehistoric insects terrorize humanity. I okay, I will expand on that. In a mining village a mine as flooded and soon these large prehistoric insects, called Meganulon, (we will see these guys again in Godzilla vs. Megaguirus) begin to appear. Shortly thereafter a mysterious UFO is terrorizing the skies. Then after an earthquake a giant egg appears. When that hatched out pops a giant pterosaurs which begins to feed on the thousands of Meganulon. This mutated pterosaurs joins forces with the mysterious UFO which turns out to be another mutated pterosaurs. Soon the Japanese Defense Force and scientists have their hands full trying to defeat these ominous pair of flying monsters. In the end it would be nature itself that provides the victory as the two pterosaurs are painfully engulfed in an erupting volcano.

Pros: This is Rodan’s first and only movie. He is called Radon in Japan but called Rodan here in the States. I greatly prefer the Rodan name. The first handful of Toho’s Kaiju movies are done in a very serious tone. It would take a few more year before we began to see Kaiju movies aimed more at children. While I enjoy more fun and lighthearted Kaiju movies, the serious movies are also enjoyable and Rodan is no exception. Like Gojira in 1954 this movie has a theme that states these monsters are the results of our own doing and it tells its tale with a very ominous and foreboding tone. These scenes of monster destruction are very well done and still hold up well 57 years later. It is also an interesting plot with interesting characters. We have a murder mystery in the beginning that ties into the appearance of the two Rodans.

Cons: I really do not have many negative things to say about the movie. At 82 minutes it is not a long movie and I have come to learn that Kaiju movies needn’t be that long to tell a good story and to be entertaining.  My only minor complaint is that it does seem slow at first and does take a little too long to reveal the monsters. While not a con per se, the ending is very sad an emotional. These movies do have a way of alling the viewer to get emotionally involved with these creatures and the demise of two Rodan at the end of the movie is particularly chilling and sad.

Sometimes I think that this is a lost movie. Rodan became part of the panoply of Kaiju creatures that were incorporated into the Godzilla franchise. He never had his own solo movie again. That is sad. Rodan is one of my favorite Monsters besides Godzilla and even though he only got one solo movie this is a very good, somber and action filled Kaiju movie. If you’re looking to watch a more serious film featuring mutated prehistoric creatures then this is a good one to watch.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation. My Review.

I just picked this movie up and watched sight unseen. I really enjoyed the first movie, 2009’s G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, so I was really looking forward to the sequel. I really did enjoy it despite having some difficulty with it. G.I. Joe: Retaliation stars  Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson, with Channing Tatum, Arnold Vosloo, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, and Byung-hun Lee reprising their roles from the first film.

This is a spoiler free review!

Here is a brief synopsis: The Joes rescue a nuclear warhead from Pakistan and soon discover that  Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), is impersonating the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce). The majority of the unit is subsequently eliminated in a military air strike, including Duke. Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) are the only survivors. Zartan then announces on television that the G.I. Joes have been eliminated, after having gone rogue and killing the Pakistani president. The three surviving members of the Joe unit need to convince Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) to join them to defeat and ex-Joe Firefly (Ray Stevenson) and Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) who is holding the world hostage with nuclear weapons via Zartan the President of the United States.

Pros: This movie has a ton of action, twists and turns and great character moments. The plot is very good and I like that they focus mainly on the fact that Zartan is impersonating the President. Dwayne Johnson is a favorite of mine as is Bruce Willis so it is really good to see them in this movie. This movie has great CGI special effects and they blend into the story, help tell the story, without overpowering the story. This movie could have easily turned into a CGI laden video game but it does not. I think the presence of Dwayne Johnson really carried this movie and the central theme of this movie is all about redemption. Although we see Cobra Commander and his gang of evil doers retaliate for the defeat they experienced in the first movie. In truth this movie is about the redemption of the Joes, The President and Storm Shadow. I found a great deal of heart in this movie.

Cons: Although I really did like this movie it felt detached from the first movie in some ways. Maybe that has to do with the fact that so few of the actors from the first movie returned for this movie. This film introduces us to many new faces. Plus, this movie seemed smaller in scale than the previous film. Those two elements make the movie feel very different from the first movie. Although I really like the movie I could never shake that sense of feeling that this film is so different from the other film.

I recently published a blog post that mentions how the tone of comic-book movie should be. G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a great example of a comic book style movie that strikes the right tone or verisimilitude. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is not campy but yet the humor, the macho bravado within the film does let us know that this is going to be a fun movie…and it is. This movie is about redemption, friends and standing by those friends who need our help. The movie is also over-the-top in places with its action scenes but they are fun to watch. It is almost like watching an action oriented well choreographed dance unfold before your eyes.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a fun popcorn munching escapism type movie filled with a lot of heart, fun, and interesting characters wrapped up in exciting science-fiction and action and adventure tale.

The tone of Comic Book movies…what should it be?

The Man of Steel movies has not done as well as WB had hoped, although it is still success and it is more successful than 2006’s Superman Returns. Does this mean that Superman doesn’t translate that well into being a more serious character? What should be the tone of a superhero comic book movie? Many sing the praises of the Nolan Batman trilogy for its gritty realism. Some do not like it at all. I am between those two extremes. While I do like the trilogy, with the first movie, Batman Begins, as the most enjoyable, I do think that there are times when these movies seem like something else rather that a superhero movie. So, what should a superhero movie look like?

There is not one answer to this question  but I do see a common denominator. To ironically quote the Joker from the movie The Dark Night..”Why so serious?”

That is they key element. At some level in the movie it needs to not take itself so seriously. After all these are stories where adults are dressing in costumes and fighting crime. If this were to happen in the real world such a person would be spending some time in a psychiatric center. I find many of the Marvel movies, specifically the first Iron Man movie, does strike the right tone. I also notice that there is a continuum of tone. As I mentioned that Iron Man strikes a good tone but can there also be a time when a more lighthearted approach can also work? I think so….and this is the heart of the issue; To balance seriousness with a lighthearted approach. For the next couple of paragraphs I will defend one of my favorite Batman movies, Batman Forever, and demonstrate how that movie does successfully balance the  seriousness with a lighthearted approach.

First of all, the set designs, costumes and cinematography all let the viewer know that this is indeed a fantasy and not the real world. Gotham is not realistic but it is a character all its own that adds to the verisimilitude of the movie. Direct Joel Schumacher used brighter colors than the previous director, Tim Burton, but it still kept Gotham as a foreboding gritty crime filled city. The setting does establish the tome of the movie that it will be serious but lighthearted. The over-the-top portrayal of the villains, Two-Face and the Riddler, played wonderfully by Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carey, also lets us know that this movie is to entertain and to not take it so seriously.

Yet, the movie does have some serious themes. It shows Bruce Wayne/Batman, played greatly but Val Kilmer, struggling with his identity and the guilt over his parents death. We see Dick Grayson/Robin, played brilliantly by Chris O’Donnell, struggling with grief, the murder of his family and the desire for revenge. Although this movie does have camp like the 1960s version of Batman, this movie does not show that the relationship between Bruce Wayne/Batman and Dick Grayson/Robin was anything but smooth and it took them time to form a partnership. For myself this is the strength of the movie and watching them come together is what makes it so enjoyable for me.

Batman Forever is on the more campier side of the verisimilitude of comic book movies, much more so than Iron man, but it does demonstrate that there is a continuum within the less realistic approach of the recent Nolan Batman and Superman movies. The sequel to Batman Forver, Batman and Robin, although a guilty pleasure, did cross the line in the other direction and demonstrates that going too campy can also cause a problem. So for myself with Batman Forever on the campier end of the spectrum and the first Iron Man being the more serious end of the spectrum gives comic book movies a great deal of space to work with to find that perfect tone for these types of movies.

Oblivion: My Review

I picked up the latest Science-Fiction epic Oblivion. Sometimes I get a little worried buying  a movie sight unseen but this time it certainly did not disappoint! The movie stars Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman and was directed by Joseph Kosinski and based on his graphic novel of the same name. The movie is one of the apocalyptic films which displays the planet earth after it has been destroyed by aliens.

I have decided this will be a spoiler free review because I think this is a movie you really need to see for yourself and to see it unfold before you. I will give a basic synopsis of the plot. It is the year 2077, 60 years after earth was invaded by aliens. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his partner Victoria “Vika” Owen, played by the beautiful Andrea Riseborough, are the only ones on  after the invasion and they are there to repair drones that are fighting off the residual alien resistance. The surviving inhabitants of earth are living on Titan one of the moons of Saturn. Harper meets up with Malcolm Beech a resistance fighter played by the legendary Morgan Freeman (one of my very favorite actors) and he also begins to have flash backs to a time he was with a woman on the Empire State Building prior to the alien invasion. Things begin to unravel and we begin to see that appearances can be deceptive.

Pros: The cinematography and special effects are stellar. This movie is great eye candy but you do not get an overdose of it. The acting is great and two of my favorites, Cruise and Freeman, are in this film and do a fine job. This is my first time seeing Andrea Riseborough and I enjoyed her performance. She portrays a sense of vulnerability while also wanting to stay in denial concerning the things Jack is discovering. I do like the story. Some of the criticisms I have read that there are plot elements that we have seen in other movies. While I can agree with that assessment, I can also see that this is common in Hollywood movies. I am fine with movies that may have similar plot elements to other movies as long as it is executed well and that is the case with this movie. I also enjoy the story. The movie mixes romance, mystery and action adventure into a tale that will keep the viewer engaged and caring about all the characters throughout. Despite great special effects this is a very character driven movie.

Cons: I really have only one minor complaint. Director Kosinski wanted this movie to be an homage to the science fiction films of the 70s and in many way he succeeds in that endeavor. The movie is paced more like a film from the 70s and it is slower than the more kinetic pacing we modern viewers and grown accustomed to. Is that a fault of the directors or is it a fault of the viewer? I will place blame on myself. We live in a fast paced mircowave society that wants instant gratification. So it was hard to slow down and get absorbed into the story. I just wasn’t used to it. So really this is not a con, it is just something that the viewer needs to be aware of when going in to the movie. It is an old-fashioned movie and as I think more on the pacing it really does work even though some viewers might not be used to it.

This movie does have some good re watch capabilities for me. As a mystery there are clues throughout the movie and on more than one viewing you can pick up on these clues. In an era where science fiction films that are heavy with CGI they are like cotton candy for the mind. This one is not. It will make you think and keep you on your toes.

 

Elysium: My Expectations.

Elysium is a new science fiction film that will be released on August 9, 2013. The  film is written, co-produced and directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9) and stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. Here is a synopsis of the movie courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the year 2154, the very wealthy live on Elysiuma Stanford torushigh-tech space station governed by President Patel (Faran Tahir), in a utopian setting which includes access to private medical machines that offer instant cures, while everyone else lives below on the overpopulated, disease ridden, ruined, “Third World slum”Earth has become. Those who maintain Elysium will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve their citizens’ lifestyle, even destroying ships that attempt to get there.

After an industrial accident leaves him with a cancer virus, 36-year-old factory-worker and ex-con Max DeCosta (Matt Damon) has only five days to get from Los Angeles to Elysium in order to be cured.Max straps into a powerful exoskeleton and attempts to kidnap a rich businessman (William Fichtner) in order to steal his identity and hijack his way into Elysium. This pits him against Elysium’s Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her violent secret police forces, led by Agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley).

My Thoughts: From the director of District 9, a  very original take on the traditional alien invasion movies, comes another gritty dystopian view of Earth’s future. I have said in the past that I generally do not like Science Fiction movies with too strong of a dystopian theme. I have also said there are exceptions and this looks to be one of them. I really like the premise because it does mirror things in our society. Science Fiction often takes current issues and takes a look into the future to see how this problem may get worse in the future if humanity does not address the issue.

With Elysium we have a future where those who have plenty have left the Earth where society has crumbled and poverty and disease reign. Those are concerns of mine as I see the rich getting richer and the poor have less and less opportunity to better themselves. How far will it go? In the movie Matt Damon is sick and dying and the cure for his illness is found off earth in Elysium where the healthy and the wealthy live.

The trailers look very good and I like both Matt Damon and Jodie Foster so my expectations that I will enjoy this movie are pretty high. I only had one concern with one of the trailers I saw. It was actually a featurette. Agent Kruger, who had just tossed out a bomb and yells, “It was only a Flesh wound.” Yes that does sound like dialog that could be from any popcorn munching action movie starring Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, but that wasn’t my problem. My problem with the line was that it sounded as if Sharlto Copley was channeling comedian Dana Carvey when he said it!

This movie seems to be a gritty science fiction action adventure movie with a premise I find interesting and unless it is executed in a manner that I find boring, like getting bogged down too much in politics, I don’t think I will dislike this movie.

An older Batman?

Word is out that WB is looking for an older Batman to appear in the sequel to Man of Steel. From my sources I have learned that Zack Snyder will be meeting with Frank Miller about the next film. Frank Miller is the author of the well-known classic graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns which depicted an older Batman coming out of retirement. 

This pretty much seals the deal that this Batman will not be from the continuity of the Nolan films. So, who be a good choice to play the older Caped Crusader? Richard Armitage, 41 — The British actor appeared in TV’s Strike Back is a contender, as is Max Martini, 43,. But the front-runner seems to be Josh Brolin, 46 an actor that WB studios has worked with on so many films. An actor others have suggested is Jim Caviezel who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ. At 44 and with chiseled good looks many feel he would be good to play an older version of Batman. John Hamm, another older actor, once thought to be too old to play Batman, may just be the right age now to play this incarnation of the Dark Knight.

Brolin, Caviezel and Hamm (sounds like a law firm), any of these three would be my personal favorites to play Batman.

My one concern about a Superman/Batman film is that in these graphic novels the two characters are depicted to be rivals and even adversaries . We saw this type of relationship in the Avengers at the beginning when many of the superheroes were actually rivals until they saw the wisdom in joining forces. While I understand that a Superman and Batman movie does need to have drama and tension in the movie, I just hope they do not go overboard. I grew up in an era where Superman and Batman were friends and not adversaries.