Archive for the 'Movie Review' Category

Aug 19 2016

Out of the Past non-review

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Out of the Past is a 1947 noir thriller so brilliant I cannot do it justice. I would definitely recommend it, particularly if you’re working with…

  • Characters
  • Plots
  • Accidental deaths falsely claimed as murder-suicides
  • Double-crosses, triple-crosses, and maybe a quadruple-cross depending on how you interpret a self-defense kill with a fishing reel.
  • A complex plot that is extremely easy to follow as it unfolds.
  • A character falsely disgracing himself for the greater good, but more smoothly and dramatically than Batman taking the blame for Harvey Dent in Dark Knight. This is straight-up tragic.

4 responses so far

Aug 14 2016

Suicide Squad review (spoilers)

1. The character introductions were lacking. Having Waller narrate the characters’ backstories to a minor character in a no-stakes infodump was probably not ideal. If Waller’s MO is that she’s ruthless and/or exploitative, would have preferred a scene with her coercing Flag to work on the project and/or why they selected these guys rather than any other high-stakes criminals available. Also, given that virtually all of the characters are total unknowns to most viewers, a smaller team would probably have helped with character development. (Failing that, if you start with a large team of antiheroes, having several deaths would probably have helped raise the stakes and establish a mood).

2. It probably would have helped if the main mission of the movie had been more shady and/or disagreeable. If a supervillain is ravaging a city, it’s not clear why the government needs a “plausible deniability” option here of unwilling gangsters with guns and bats rather than, say, asking Batman or Wonder Woman to step in. Or that having 6 minor criminal patsies would have helped explain at all why a sorceress wrecked a major city. I feel like a very messy police mission like trying to destroy a major gang and/or killing somebody that’s gone rogue and/or helping a VIP (maybe Waller) deal with a major case of blackmail would have been a better fit.

3. The music selection was ugly. E.g. playing “Sympathy for the Devil” to introduce a shady character with semi-sympathetic goals calls out the viewers as idiots, I think. Not nearly subtle enough. In contrast, Killer Croc got the much more imaginative “Born in the USA”, rather than (God help us) Crocodile Rock.

4. June is the worst archeologist in the world. She spends less than 10 seconds in the temple before twisting the head off a priceless relic that nearly destroys the world. Whoops. Not to be outdone, she falls for the worst soldier in the world, whose superpower is playing golf without a handicap and bungling pretty much everything he touches.

5. The team selection is an odd choice: Harlequin, Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang, Diablo, Katana, Deadshot, and Slipknot. Slipknot and Captain Boomerang are joke characters that contribute very little to the plot. (Seriously, Slipknot’s reason for being on the team is that “he can climb anything”). Harlequin and Deadshot (and secondarily KC and Diablo) feel like a pretty good personality fit for the movie, and the four of them dominate the memorable lines. I would have removed or overhauled CB, Katana, Slipknot, and maybe Rick Flag – they have little impact on the plot, and there just isn’t time.

6. Enchantress feels like a serious mismatch for the protagonists. Someone shootable would probably have created more interesting interactions and better fight scenes, seeing as almost everyone on the team is a badass normal. (The team’s only superhumans are Diablo, Killer Croc, and maybe Katana – not the most intuitive choice for stopping a world-ending threat).

7. Characters raise plausible concerns about Waller’s plans in a fair way (and thoroughly exhaust standard police and military alternatives). In context, it almost feels believable that serious people would agree to this crazier-than-crazy plan. (If we pretend that Batman and Wonder Woman were dealing with some other world-ending threat somewhere else, it almost makes sense). Also, in the interests of making Waller/Flag look better than “totally useless”, it might help if the problem the team had to deal with was not 100% created by Waller being a dumbass. In, say, well-executed noir movies like Out of the Past, characters create their own problems, but without compromising their competence.

8. Although this movie did as poorly as Batman vs Superman on Rotten Tomatoes, I think Suicide Squad is considerably better-executed and more entertaining. E.g. Will Smith’s attempted negotiation with Flag and Waller actually did a great job advancing character development, establishing conflicts between characters, and advancing the central plot. I don’t think there were any scenes in BVS that managed any one of those besides maybe Bruce Wayne’s very brief conversation with Diana Prince.

9. Even for a superhero movie, SS asks you to check a lot of realism at the door. E.g. 3 helicopter crashes for major characters without any deaths or injuries. Seriously, it would have been okay to kill off some of these characters. No one in this movie is integral to the success of the DC Universe moving forward. Also, Rick Flag is a notably passive, weak character – besides killing off Slipknot early, he is curiously reluctant to respond to provocations from his team. I was actively rooting for his death.

10. Several of the characters (notably KC, Joker and Diablo) are taken in an unusually gangsta direction. It feels really strange for Joker, who comes across as more sketchy than threatening. For Killer Croc, it got oddly humorous, in a non-PC way.

11. Harlequin’s background as a psychiatrist does not feel like it fits with the rest of the character.
11.1. The sexploitation was actually pretty effective.
11.2. Harlequin getting punched in the face by Batman probably got the loudest laughter from the audience, followed by Deadshot trying to negotiate in prison.

12. Villains threatening worldwide destruction generally don’t give protagonists much to work with. Enchantress felt like a sorry rehash of the most recent Fantastic Four’s Dr. Doom and Green Lantern’s Galactus, even down to the purple vortexes of death and terrible CGI. It’s much harder for characters to interact with a force that has nothing to talk about. Off the top of my head, the only superhero movies with global villains that worked out creatively very well were the Avengers series and Guardians of the Galaxy, and they relied on exceptionally interesting interactions between the protagonists rather than with the villains.

13. Most of the teammates – and Flag and (if you go as far back as Green Lantern) Waller – have a tragic backstory to soften them. I was sort of hoping for at least one character to have an unapologetic Walter White-style “I did it for me. I was good at it.” The closest we got was Harlequin stealing a purse. While that helps reinforce the character’s craziness, maybe something more important to the central plot?

14. Deadshot’s final scene with his kid (helping her with geometry) was surprisingly heartfelt and refreshingly dark. The kid isn’t just a sweet plot device, and it’s probably the closest this movie got to daring. I wish they had tried it more often (e.g. see Deadpool). For example, maybe giving characters more opportunities to do more antiheroic things than stealing a purse? Giving Diablo and Flag more of a pulse? Making Waller competent?

14.1. Deadshot shows off technical expertise in his final scene very naturally – compare how he talks about the geometry of shooting people and the curvature of the Earth to virtually every Fantastic Four conversation about science.

15. It’s so hard to feel for the setting. It’s very generic and, like every DC city besides Gotham, it’s just a soulless cardboard box to wreck. No interesting characters, no interesting places, no distinctive mood to the city… For God’s sake, it’s called Fauxcago “Midway City.” How much personality could it possibly have? PS: Would suggest checking out better noir movies for better alternatives to “dark and rainy all the time.”

16. The last 60 minutes of the movie (50:00 to 1:48:00) were a single, REALLY LONG mission where the characters break into Fauxcago, rescue a VIP, and ultimately defeat the villain. I strongly prefer the pacing of virtually every other superhero movie (e.g. Avengers and Incredibles), where several (much shorter) action sequences build up to a climactic confrontation with the villain. That would have also made it easier to work in dialogue into scenes than it was for Suicide Squad – e.g. look at how weirdly paced the bar scene is. (The world’s about to end, but hey, let’s talk about Diablo’s backstory!)

17. Across the movie, I counted about 38 minutes of action scenes. I think that’s about twice the average for superhero movies. Some issues here. First, it got tedious. Second, most of the fight scenes were ineffective. E.g. did we really need 3-4 separate scenes of soldiers/helicopters/aircraft carriers getting wrecked? There are so many characters that could have used most of that space more.

17.1. Most of the action sequences setting up each SS member were wasted.

  • Boomerang’s heist – no emotional impact to the betrayal, and he comes across as helpless. No hyperbole here: this is probably is the least interesting interaction I’ve ever seen between a superhero and a villain in any medium. Compare to the vastly better-executed heist scene in Dark Knight, which establishes Joker’s disloyalty and unpredictability and his conflict with more conventional criminal groups. I believe it’s an especially memorable scene because he makes major decisions (e.g. preemptively betraying his own men) that 99% of villains wouldn’t have made in the same situation.
  • Katana’s scene stabbing a criminal in Japan was a heavy-handed way of showing her revenge angle, and it contributed to the movie in no other way. Easily removable.
  • Diablo torching a prison yard, shown twice. Not terrible. The crown of fire is a neat touch (but seems to imply that he hasn’t changed as much after killing his family as he’s trying to show).
  • Deadshot has 3 (a sample assassination which does a good job establishing his personality, getting taken down by Batman, and an inexplicably long scene where he shows off his skills by firing at dummies for 45 seconds straight).
  • The Joker/Harlequin takedown by Batman is probably unnecessary – it covers a lot of the ground of Batman taking down Deadshot, but that scene did a better job establishing Deadshot’s relationship with his family.

18. The movie took far too long before the teammates first meet each other 45 minutes in. Virtually all of the moments in the movies that actually worked featured Squad members interacting together (or Deadshot with Flag or his daughter), and getting the Squad together much sooner would probably have helped with the pacing. If your first 45 minutes of the film give more screentime to Waller, faceless government extras, and Joker as the titular heroes, it’d really help if these side characters got more opportunities to be interesting or memorable. In comparison, most of the great superheroes movies that introduce the main case exceptionally late, like Iron Man 1 and Incredibles, used the extra time early on for scenes that were very interesting, hilarious, emotionally effective, developed the main characters, or developed critical plot elements – hell, Tony Stark’s “Merchant of Death” scene and Bob’s attempt to prevent a suicide accomplished a lot on all 5. In Suicide Squad, the first 45 minutes don’t have anything that well-executed… I’d argue the closest is Deadshot’s interactions with his client, which create some character development and humor.
18.1. The odd men out here are definitely Waller, Joker, Enchantress and her brother (Incubus), and arguably Batman. Ideally, I think it would have helped to replace Enchantress/Incubus with villains that could interact with the heroes more directly, made Batman’s scenes more distinctive or removed him altogether, and significantly accelerated the setup to the squad coming together. I think Joker would be a candidate for lead villain, but I wouldn’t keep him on as a side villain because there are so many characters fighting for space. Also, overhauling Waller (more competent, more believable, more logical, more reacting to an actual problem rather than creating a problem that doesn’t exist yet, more threatening to teammates rather than maintaining no surveillance on the team, etc).

19. A point worth belaboring: Waller is outlandishly incompetent.

  • At one point, she warns the squad, “Remember, I’m watching, I see everything.” Except that she doesn’t have, you know, team microphones or anything, which might have let her hear Boomerang goading Slipknot into bolting, or Deadshot telling HQ that he was going to kill Flag and the SEALs but needed Joker’s help with the nanites. So she’s less well equipped than a Counterstrike team.
  • She doesn’t have Harlequin searched for a phone. There wouldn’t have been many places to hide it. Waller apparently trusts that to someone that’s not on her team (who has been turned by Joker).
  • She’s not aware of a major asset getting turned by Joker, or his high-risk behavior playing in a heavily criminal casino.
  • She’s not aware of her helicopter getting hijacked by Joker. The resulting surprise gets many people killed.
  • Not being able to destroy the heart remotely, or put in a verbal command to someone who can. That seems like a pretty important capability, given that she knew Enchantress could teleport.
  • She appears to get off on lying for no apparent reason (e.g. goading Deadshot into pulling the trigger on a guard by telling him that the gun was disabled, and telling Rick that it was a standard terrorist attack).
  • She murders her own subordinates because “they weren’t cleared for any of this.” First, this serial killing feels completely unnecessary. However, if it were necessary, it might be safer to wrap it up before Flag and Deadshot can witness it. Second, she’s not even good at being bad – she shoots four people once each, and doesn’t check to make sure that they’re dead. That’s really sloppy… there’s a high risk that at least one will survive.
  • No security precautions on the second doll.

19.1. While Rick is not as legendarily inept as Waller, he’s not exactly covering himself in glory.

  • “I don’t do luck. I do planning and precision.” Except for, you know, any sort of plan that accounts for 50%+ of your team plotting to kill you, and you having no surveillance on them even as you have SEALs within 10 feet of the plotters. If your team’s situational awareness is that bad, you might as “do luck” and randomly blow up a teammate, because everyone on the team besides Katana and KC is openly discussing killing you.
  • Flag lets HQ back onto the team even after she sides with Joker and gets most of his SEAL friends killed.

18 responses so far

Apr 03 2016

Rotten Tomatoes Score Dataset Updated

We’re up to 62 superhero movies since 2000. You can download the full data here. Some observations:

 

  • R movies are making up the quality gap with PG-13 movies.

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Aug 07 2015

Preliminary Review of Fantastic Four

  • The new Fantastic Four movie runs like an ill-conceived first draft. Personally, I think it deserved a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes rather than a suspiciously low 9%. It’s notably less awful than Green Lantern (26%).
  • Fill in the blank: “One thing most of the main characters share is ________.” The first thing that came to mind for me is petulance. It’s a weird direction for Dr. Doom. Other justifiable answers include insanity, mood swings, daddy issues, a lack of action scenes, unbelievably weak dialogue, a complete lack of fun in their lives, poor acting from normally okay actors, a shocking lack of energy and initiative, a director that thinks they’re in Chronicle, and a studio that thinks they’re in an X-Men movie. It is still better than Green Lantern in every way, and a better love story than Twilight.
  • Another weird direction for Dr. Doom is having him act like a Human Resources killjoy against a romantic rival. “It’s not professional. That’s not what it looked like…” He’s previously been kicked off the team for lighting the project’s servers on fire, so maybe this isn’t the most fitting or most interesting way for him to conflict with Reed over Susan. E.g. he’s brash enough to launch a renegade, drunken space mission. Maybe he could get brave enough to ask her out at some point?
  • Writing advice from 2009: “Tip: [If you’re using a super-scientist] get him out of his lab as much as possible.  Field research is more interesting and has more storytelling potential than lab research.” The Fantastic Four spent maybe 5-10x as much time in a lab as they did in the field. The stakes on their lab research were alarmingly low. Okay, it’s great that Reed Richards is really interested in finding out a way to make teleportation possible, but I think he’s the only one riding that train. It’s a train-ride with 5 minutes of combat and 90 minutes of quasi-adolescent angst. You don’t want to be on that train.
  • Writing advice from 2014: Don’t work anywhere with a containment unit. They have never, ever contained anything and are a leading indicator that everybody involved is about to die in a fire.
  • I liked the darker direction they took with the relationship between Reed and Ben, but I’m not sure what the plan was for the Human Torch and the Invisible Woman. They contributed so little to the movie in their time on screen that their roles either needed to be totally overhauled or (if this weren’t an already-established franchise) cut altogether.
  • If a high school friend woke you up in the middle of the night and asked if you want to go into space even though you have zero training, no relevant experience, no applicable skills, and a crew that is all drunk out of their minds, you have nobody but yourself to blame when it goes to hell. And keep in mind that Ben is supposed to be the sensible member of the team. (One way to resolve this would have been having Reed work Ben into the project more quickly — e.g. Reed could insist that Ben be added to the program because Reed trusts him a lot more than Victor). Also, maybe giving Ben some rarer skill and/or more meaningful interaction with Reed than lending a screwdriver.
  • Pattern recognition and uniform-making, really? Susan Storm is like half a step below a Bond girl.
  • There were something like 4 writers and 10 editorial staffers credited. I watched the movie ~5 minutes ago, and I can’t remember any line that stood out in a positive way besides maybe “You would have been too busy to notice.” This is not the stuff that 50%+ ratings are made out of.
  • Visuals and audio effects were pretty solid. Oddly, The Thing sounds a lot more human than TDK’s Batman does. And his CGI looks a hell of a lot better than it did in his first movie. Some other reviews mentioned that The Thing doesn’t wear clothes, but given that he’s a pile of rocks, it feels like a nonissue. Out of all the changes this movie desperately needed, the wardrobe is not top-30.
  • I feel like Susan Storm and her father showing up at Reed’s high school science fair (apparently at random) could have been handled a lot better. Personally, I would have cut the high school science fair and had them be contacted by the Baxter Foundation after nearly destroying the world. Once you’ve nearly blown up the world, a high school science fair is a huge step down.
  • The attempts to work in comic book catchphrases and the team name were notably clumsy. I’ll check my notes, but off the top of my head, I don’t remember another Marvel-licensed movie struggling like this. Having “It’s clobbering time” come from an abusive brother is the bizarrest use of source material I’ve seen in any movie (superhero or otherwise) in a long time.
  • The goofiness level was unintentionally high. E.g. the “CONFIRMED KILL COUNT” running during the video recap of The Thing’s combat operations, a video recap that the Army apparently outsourced to ISIS gornographers.
  • Writing advice from 2011: “…the organizations are almost always callous and/or sinister secret agencies that bend over backwards to make their conscripts hate them. If I could offer some human resources advice, I’d be very careful about unnecessarily antagonizing your workforce, especially superpowered combat specialists that don’t want to be there. Also, have you tried not hating your subordinates?”  Uhh, yeah, that is still good HR advice, it turns out. Also, not rehiring known psychopaths that have previously set your servers on fire and darkly wonder about whether humanity deserves to be saved.
  • If you’re a science teacher and your brightest student has been working on a teleportation project for years and manages to pull it off at your high school science fair, disqualifying him because “that’s not science” is, umm, a bit backwards. This is why the only scientists that come to New York City are supervillains and/or useless… For everyone else, there’s everywhere else.
  • I feel like the Thing’s combat operations (which happen almost entirely off-screen) would probably have been much more interesting than the movie they actually showed. And also probably a better love story than Twilight.
  • The product placement was annoying bordering on obnoxious, but once the box office returns come out, this’ll look a lot wiser in retrospect. [UPDATE: Probably the smartest decision the filmmakers made, actually.]
  • I watched it Friday evening (6PM) on opening weekend and the theater was at 40-50% capacity. The correlation between Rotten Tomatoes ratings and a superhero movie’s box office success is very strong.

6 responses so far

Aug 01 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Blew My Mind

Published by under Movie Review

My expectations were modest — e.g. “What if they made a watchable version of Green Lantern?” The movie is better than I think anyone could have reasonably anticipated. It’s more like an exceptionally funny version of Star Wars. 5 stars.

 

PS: I’d suggest against bringing most kids younger than 13. The violence level is more like a Vin Diesel movie than a talking raccoon movie. (You did notice that the talking raccoon has a machine gun, right?)

7 responses so far

May 26 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Published by under Movie Review

  • In my opinion, it was the best superhero movie this year (Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Captain America 2 so far). UPDATE: Not as good as Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • The action scene with the speedster (Quicksilver) was amazing, but I think it indicates how ridiculously hard it would be to use a speedster as anything but a one-off change of pace rather than a main character. Quicksilver spends the rest of the movie at home because his powers were strong enough that he would have broken the plot.
  • I believe the only major problem with the movie was that the plot holes were massive. SPOILERS:
    • The movie apparently isn’t sure how many people know about / are afraid of mutants. For example, at one point a government official claims that the whole mutant business in Cuba (X-Men: First Class) was “unconfirmed.” Uhh, several mutants employed by the CIA engaged several U.S. and USSR ships, with probably thousands of people witnessing a destroyer being telekinetically lifted from the sea and at least 10 military casualties. If mutants can get through that “unconfirmed,” I need to hire their publicist and/or defense attorney. Later on, there’s a scene where a U.S. businessman reveals to a (North) Vietnamese delegation that one of their members is a mutant and they instantly freak out. So… people do care what mutants are?
    • One recurring limitation of the X-Men series is that the plot is frequently driven by stupidity. For example, Dr. Trask has an apparently foolproof mutant-detection device but forgets to use it at a presidential press event. That works out about as well as you’d imagine. Also, taking Magneto into custody is definitely an idiot ball — “maybe the beyond-maximum-security prison we’ve built for him this time will work better than the last twenty!”
    • Another recurring limitation of the X-Men series is that its characters are notably uncreative when it comes to solving problems besides just killing people. For example, you’d think that a character with the ability to impersonate anyone would be able to come up with some more creative way to discredit a (criminal) scientist than turning him into a martyr and instantly vindicating his research. For example, exposing that he’s a criminal and/or committing outlandish acts while impersonating him?
    • It is completely unbelievable that the final confrontation between Magneto, Mystique, and the President ends well for most mutants.

17 responses so far

Nov 03 2012

Wreck-It Ralph Was Impressive

Published by under Movie Review

A lot of the comedy was impeccable and the writers did a lot more with side-characters (especially a hardened/paranoid space Marine and affable Fix-It Felix) than I’m used to seeing from Disney.  It had many of the best traits of Pixar movies–unusually innovative scene selection, strong characterization all around, emotionally effective protagonist-vs-protagonist conflict, an unusually interesting villain, an engaging romance, memorable bits of flair (e.g. two awesome space marine weddings), etc. There were a few more kiddy elements (e.g. too much toilet humor and slapstick), but on the whole this movie was extremely adult-friendly (definitely more so than Pixar’s last movie, Brave). Although Wreck-It Ralph involves video games, I think the movie would be highly enjoyable even if you’re not a video game fan. (In contrast, I think Scott Pilgrim would be sort of weird for people that were looking for a more traditional superpowered story).

 

FIVE YEAR OLD: “Now that I’m President of Candyland, everybody that was ever mean to me will be… executed.”
SPACE MARINE: “This place suddenly got a lot more interesting.”

16 responses so far

Sep 09 2011

Improving Your Writing With Cowboys and Aliens

Published by under Movie Review

I’d highly recommend this writer’s review by Janice Hardy, particularly if you have a kickass premise but it just isn’t coming together.  Hat-tip: Marilynn Byerly.

 

Speaking of Cowboys and Aliens, I found this highly amusing but not safe for work (unless your job is awesome).

One response so far

Aug 22 2011

List of Superhero Movie Rotten Tomatoes Scores

If you’ve ever wanted to know which is the best superhero movie or the worst superhero movie ever, I’ve compiled Rotten Tomatoes’ ratings below.  If you’re interested in a comparison of how DC’s movies stack up against Marvel’s, please see this article.

Excel file downloadable here with additional data included. Current as of April 2016.

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5 responses so far

Jul 25 2011

Captain America was very fun

I’d give Captain America 3 out of 4 stars.  If you’re into superhero action, I’d highly recommend it.

  • The writing was consistently clever and entertaining.  I’m not sure how much of it I will remember a few weeks from now–most of it wasn’t brilliant–but it was a very fun time.
  • The movie played with a few superhero tropes.  For example, there’s the obligatory chase scene where a villain tries to escape by throwing a civilian into danger.  A villain throws a boy into a river and runs off.  The Captain glances at the boy, who says something like, “I can swim.  Go get him!”  However, I think they could have more smoothly handled the trope that the super-serum could not be replicated.  Spoiler: The project falls apart because one scientist gets killed and he didn’t have any notes or additional doses of the serum anywhere?  Didn’t he have any lab assistants?  (I don’t think it would’ve been hard to plug this hole.  Maybe he was worried that the Nazis would steal his notes, so he did as much from memory as possible and/or he used a code that only he could understand).
  • I liked that Steve Rogers proved himself, whereas many other superheroes are just passively chosen for greatness (e.g. they’re born with superpowers or happen to be in the right place at the right time for a genetically-modified spider bite).   Rogers is selected as the test subject for the serum because he shows uncommon character, cunning and bravery.  The bravery struck me as a bit banal (he leaps on a hand-grenade without knowing it was a dummy).  The cunning was much more memorable. That flagpole scene was pretty kickass.
Continue Reading »

18 responses so far

Jul 15 2011

Harry Potter was good…

Published by under Movie Review

The opening night audience was somewhere between overjoyed and ecstatic.  If you liked the previous Harry Potter movies, you’ll probably love this one. I liked it, but it never felt like a great movie. Currently, it’s scoring a stratospherically high 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, but I don’t think it’s close to the same level as classics like Up, The Godfather, Casablanca, Terminator 2, District 9, The Matrix or the like.  

Most awesome moment: McGonagall quipping “I’ve always wanted to cast that spell.”   Also, there was a cool scene with a basilisk made out of fire.

Most ridiculous moment: 19 years in the future, everybody has more hair than Charlie Sheen. I bet Ron’s parents would have killed for some of that magical Rogaine.

12 responses so far

Jun 04 2011

X-Men: First Class was surprisingly good

  • It’s less action-heavy than previous X-Men movies.  That’s fortunate, because the action is largely derivative of previous X-Men movies.
  • The character-building is surprisingly good.  I think 2-3 more minor characters like Havok, Darwin, Angel, Riptide (the unnamed tornado villain), Banshee and Moira the CIA agent/love interest could have been removed so that there was more development time for the others, but to the writers’ credit I think each of them had at least one worthwhile moment besides Angel.
  • I feel Beast and Xavier are a lot more interesting here than they were in the previous movies.  Wolverine’s cameo was hilarious and the Magneto-Xavier relationship was good but rushed.  (I don’t think Magneto interacts enough with Xavier that he would be as shaken up about losing him as he was).
  • The cast was generally competent.  However, Kevin Bacon (the lead villain) is notoriously inept.  A few of his scenes were unintentionally funny.  Besides Emma Frost, the ladies were notably not bad, particularly compared to previous superhero disasters (e.g. Jessica Alba and Halle Berry).  However, all of the ladies got small roles.
  • There were several female characters (Mystique, Emma Frost, Moira the love interest and Angel) but, besides Mystique, I thought the writers didn’t accomplish much with them.  The Moira-Xavier romance was half-hearted.  I think it would have helped to eliminate Angel and use that time to develop Moira and/or Mystique.  Also, the movie failed the Bechdel test.  (At least two named women must have at least one conversation about anything besides a man).
  • Spoiler: The black guy is the only protagonist to die?  He barely got enough screen-time to say his name!  (Still, he’s less awful than the jive comic relief in Transformers).
  • The political propaganda was a bit less heavyhanded than usual, mainly because the U.S. military is a potential genocidal villain and not a current genocidal villain yet.  (That’s pretty much as politically evenhanded as the X-Men series gets).   Also, there’s a likable CIA agent and a CIA supervisor that is not totally evil, whereas the military was pretty consistently portrayed as some combination of evil and/or useless.  (For example, Xavier implicitly compares U.S. soldiers to Nazis “just following orders”).   However, I’m inclined to give the screenwriters a pass on making the CIA bosses grossly sexist because that strikes me as plausible for this time period.
  • Besides Mystique, the nonhuman-looking characters looked surprisingly goofy.  Beast and Azazel (Nightcrawler’s dad) looked like extras on a Sy-Fy production.  Yeah, if my dad looked like Azazel, I’d probably join the circus to get out of the house.
  • I noticed two one fairly minor plot hole.  There’s a scene where the characters are staring at incoming missiles and Azazel can teleport himself and others.  Hey, maybe instead of staring at your impending death, Azazel, maybe you can warp everybody to safety like (SPOILER) you did after the missiles were disabled?  Just saying…

22 responses so far

Jul 16 2010

Do critics hate comic book movies?

Over at the Sun Times, Jim Emerson argues that “critics seem to overwhelmingly approve of the current crops of comic-book, graphic-novel and superhero movies.”

One of the commenters responds:

While critics in general are happy to give approval to comic book films (and, I think, many critics do treat them fairly), I think there’s no question that there are elements of bias in many critics’ reviews.

First, look at the language many critics use. When giving a positive review, many will say things like “despite its comic book origins,” or “leaping beyond comic books,” as if being based on a comic book is in some way a handicap.

Actually, I think being based on a comic book (or a novel or TV show or anything else) is a handicap for a movie.

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9 responses so far

Apr 04 2010

I’ve seen some awful trailers, but this is the worst

Published by under Comedy,Movie Review

Birdemic!

25 responses so far

Mar 29 2010

“I wrote the worst movie ever– sorry!”

Published by under Movie Review

The screenwriter for Battlefield Earth has written an amusing article describing his experience. And, also, an unsuccessful search for love on a Scientologist cruise.  No matter how bad your writing is, please rest assured that it’ll never be that bad.  And, if it IS that bad, please find some other line of work.

2 responses so far

Apr 18 2009

Michael Bay’s stab at a Dark Knight script

Published by under Comedy,Michael Bay,Parody

Spill.com did a mock script showing how Michael Bay (the guy who did Pearl Harbor and Transformers) might have tried The Dark Knight.

I recommend that you read all of it, but this is my favorite part.

BRUCE WAYNE is standing in front of a mirror, flexing his sculpted, shirtless torso.

BRUCE: Let’s do this.

Cue AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”  A series of quick shots show BRUCE gearing up: putting on the boots, slapping on the gloves, a brief glance across those beautiful pecs.  Finally, there is no longer BRUCE WAYNE, but BATMAN standing before us.

BATMAN: Back in black.

Pyrotechnics erupt in the distance.  Wailing guitar solo.

6 responses so far

Nov 08 2008

Movie Forum

Published by under Movie Review

If you’d like to comment on a movie, this is a good place to do so.  (We may relocate movie-related comments made elsewhere).

70 responses so far

Oct 03 2008

Another movie with Lex Luthor? Haven’t we suffered enough already?

The Independent reports that Kevin Spacey will be reprising his role as Lex Luthor in the next Superman movie (Hat-tip to io9).  God, I hope not.  He has none of the competence, charm or combat skills a supervillain needs to shine in a movie.  Lex Luthor can’t have an interesting fight. (And no, Superman limping around because of Kryptonite is not interesting).  So casting Luthor as the villain would pretty much guarantee that the movie has at best mediocre action scenes*.  I like Superman saving planes as much as anyone, but no one reads a comic or watches a movie to see the superhero stop a natural disaster.

Virtually nothing in Superman Returns worked.  At the very least, the next Superman movie needs a new cast, new writers and a new villain.  A different mood might help too.  I don’t think that a “darker” Superman will be much better, but it’s hard to imagine that it could get any worse.

*In the cartoons and the comics, Lex Luthor actually gets superpowers, so his fight scenes are interesting, but that’s probably too campy for a movie.

B. MAC ADDS: I walked out after around an hour of Superman Returns.  I can’t remember the last time I walked out on a movie.  Hell, I made it through Superhero Movie.

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Aug 31 2008

Salon asks why the Star Wars trilogy beat LOTR

The author claims that Star Wars was better because it was human-centric rather than world- or action-centric.  Our contributors respond…

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Aug 31 2008

George Lucas Disproves Evolution

Exhibit A:

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7 responses so far

Jul 29 2008

Good News and Bad News: the Neuromancer Movie

Fans of trippy science-fiction novels everywhere can rejoice that Neuromancer is getting a movie. In other good news, the movie poster shown by i09.com looks pretty stylish and suggests that it won’t be a remake of Swordfish.

The bad news is that Hayden Christensen, the same “actor” that ruined Star Wars and Jumper, is starring as Case. Dare I say that John Travolta could do this better? Egads. How could we have come to the point where John Travolta is the lesser of two acting evils? Hayden [censored]ing Christensen.

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Jul 21 2008

“The Dark Knight” Rocked

Published by under Comic Books,Movie Review

I loved the new Batman movie. I’d say that it was the best DC-licensed movie I’ve ever seen, but that would be damning it with faint praise. Although the action was low-key and frankly forgettable, the writing and side-characters really redeemed it. Instead of getting campy one-liners from the Joker, the script echoed The Lord of the Flies. It wasn’t exactly deep or insightful, but it was unexpectedly dramatic and entertaining.

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2 responses so far

Jun 14 2008

Iron-Man, Hulk, Hellboy 2, Punisher: one of these is not like the others…

Published by under Comic Books,Movie Review

I would venture to say that Iron-Man is the only Marvel movie released this year that approaches watchable. (I liked Iron-Man, but I found its action scenes disappointing).

Speaking of the new Punisher movie, you can see its trailer below. It looks like it will be beyond bad. I’m not adverse to wanton, cybernoir violence (The Matrix!) but the concept should have translated to film much better than it did in the 2004 Punisher film…

The last trailer I’ve seen that was this bad was Vantage Point. If the movie is really as loaded with goofy stunts and groan-inducing lines as the trailer is, comparisons to Elektra, Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD, and perhaps even the 1990 Captain America “movie” may be in order.

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