12 posts categorized "Comic Book"

November 26, 2017


LoganIf indoctrinating child audiences into accepting, and enjoying, brutal deadly violence was the intent of the filmmakers responsible for making “Logan,” then their mission is accomplished. Audiences not wanting to be party to such a disgusting cause will want to avoid this cinematic abomination like the plague.

How much senseless killing can an audience member be expected to endure? You’ll be asking yourself that question when “Logan’s” third act slips into gear after a black family are brutally murdered in their plantation-posited home after they have the bad luck of receiving charity from Hugh Jackman’s Logan and Patrick Stewart’s Charles during a runaway horse episode on a local highway.


As superhero movies go, this one seems poised to put a final nail in their overdue coffin. In 2029, long suffering mutant Logan (a.k.a. Wolverine) cares for his wheelchair bound mentor Professor X (a.k.a. Charles) in a fenced off compound somewhere near the Mexican border. Logan drives a limo to provide a meager financial backing for the ailing Charles, whose weird episodes can have far-reaching negative effects on the people and atmosphere around him when they strike. Things get especially strange when Logan takes over caring for a similarly hand-blade equipped child, the [seemingly mute] mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen) who desperately wants/needs to be transported to the Canadian border where “Eden” awaits. The “Antichrist” reference seems apropos as there is far more graphic violence in this film than there is in Lars von Trier’s psychological thriller. Breaking character is etched in stone as a rule of dramaturgy to never cross, and yet it occurs in this movie like a fart that can't be held in. Screenwriting teachers take note. This is a sure-fire way to make your cinematic cake fall. 


Naturally our of trio limo-ensconced travelers are pursued by a militarized gang of soldiers overseen by an evil doctor (played by Richard E. Grant). Chase scene after redundant chase scene gives way to repetitive sequences of decapitating violence. Blood spews, characters yell in monstrous glee after bringing mutilation and death to their victims. There are more murders committed by a child (Laura) than in any film I can think of.

Logan speaks the film's theme when he says, You have to learn to live with hurting people." How anyone could think this is a responsible message to teach young people is beyond me. 


“Logan” is a film that will scar your psyche. I cannot in good conscious recommend that any peace-loving person expose yourself or your children to viewing “Logan.” There is nothing to be gained; it’s not entertaining, and it will leave you with memories you don’t need to have rolling around in your brain.  

Rated R. 137 mins. (F) (Zero stars — out of five / no halves)

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August 30, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Dark Knight RisesDisconnected significantly from the flow of logic between the first and second installments of Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” films, “The Dark Knight Rises” is a disjointed mess. Plot inconsistencies from the last two films — about things such as the performance of Batman’s hi-tech armored suit — arise when he battles the least charismatic — or knowable — villain of any of the Batman movies, dating back to Joel Schumacher’s four installments. Tom Hardy’s hulking Bane gets lost behind a cloistering mask that covers his face below the eyes due to a beating his character received while imprisoned in the Middle East many years ago. The mask ostensibly holds Bane’s face together and enables him to breathe. Even more suppressed is any context for Bane’s desire to wipe out humanity via a nuclear bomb, which he aimlessly transports around the streets of Manhattan for a few weeks in one of three decoy trucks.

For such a bloated movie — it runs a ridiculous 165 minutes — you’d think the screenwriters (Nolan and his brother Jonathan) could at least manage to weave a proper narrative together. Robert McKee won’t be referencing “The Dark Knight Rises” in any of his screenwriting seminars. The best thing “The Dark Knight Rises” has on offer is Anne Hathaway’s butt-in-the-air silhouette as her Catwoman speeds around Manhattan on Batman’s mean-machine motorcycle.

Unreliable characters saturate the story. Catwoman has more in common with a black widow than a feline when it comes to loyalty. Her alter ego Selina Kyle is a hypocrite thief who betrays Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne every chance she gets. For his part, Bruce Wayne proves himself to be a terrible judge of character. His misplaced trust in Marion Cotillard’s Miranda Tate, a corporate mover-and-shaker for clean energy, takes a heavy toll. Worse yet, Bruce Wayne betrays Alfred, his most trusted confidant and assistant, in an impulsive fit of anger. Batman doesn’t make for a very persuasive anti-hero this time around. There isn’t much to like or respect in this latest incarnation of a crime-fighter who we discover during a ghostly visitation by Liam Neeson’s Ra’s Al Ghul, was built for failure from the beginning.

Christopher Nolan’s outspoken defense of fans that rained down threats on critics of the movie before they had even seen it, speaks to the bullying hype surrounding the film. The film’s odd pokes at political exploitation — regarding the battle being waged between the world’s 99% and their elite corporate oppressors — come across as half-hearted attempts at pandering. Even without the Colorado shooting tragedy that will forever haunt “The Dark Knight Rises,” the film represents a soulless and gratuitous ploy that favors flimflam over substance. There’s something gross and mean in the way Nolan approaches the material. It’s not an entertaining or enjoyable film to watch. The only likable characters are secondary roles. You keep wishing that Morgan Freeman’s Fox, Michael Caine’s Alfred, and Joseph Gordon-Levvitt’s police officer John Blake would co-opt the story.

The bottom-line is that Christopher Nolan is a better director than he is a screenwriter. He specializes in plot holes and logic gaps in the same the way that M. Night Shyamalan toys with hackneyed suspense device. It would be good if Christopher Nolan didn’t make anymore Batman movies. The world could certainly use fewer comic book movies. It’s just sad that Nolan had to take so many talented people down with him in a movie that sinks under the weight of its own pretentions. You can sit through “The Dark Knight Rises” once, but you’ll never want to see it again.

Rated R. 95 mins. (C-) (Two Stars - out of five/no halves)

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June 29, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

The Same Web Twice
Sony Reboots Spidey and Company
By Cole Smithey

Amazing_spiderman_ver7How quickly generations come and go. If you’re old enough to remember seeing Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man, and thought Tobey Maguire would carry Spider-Man’s mantle far into the 21st century, Hollywood is here to tell you your time has passed. You were wrong. Maguire’s quirky vulnerability has been firmly usurped by Andrew Garfield — coming across like a young Anthony Perkins, if any of you are old enough to remember him from a little black-and-white movie called “Psycho.”

Spidey 2.0 has some very good things going for it — 3D effects, sadly are not among them. The IMAX-branded 3D countdown intro reel that rolls before the movie starts is more impressive than anything that occurs during the movie. It’s  too damn bad the production company chose not to bring in a 3D cinematographer to plan specific shots to “break the window.” How long will it take before Hollywood gets the bleeding message — If you’re going to go to the trouble of making a 3D movie, break the freaking window dammit! — Which means put the 3D effects right in front of the audience’s noses where they rightfully belong.

There’s far too much apologetic “unobtrusive 3D” disinformation flying around from critics like Variety’s Boyd Van Hoeij, who clearly knows nothing about what goes into creating successful 3D effects.

Unlike Raimi’s version of the same comic book story there’s no, “With great power comes great responsibility” theme-line to anchor Peter Parker’s sense of duty. Still, the nuts and bolts of Parker’s transformation into the hyper athletic “bug-boy” run very parallel. For his part, Martin Sheen does a lot with a little as Peter’s Uncle Ben.

Director Marc Webb — yes that his real name — shows a little too much of his music-video past during a montage sequence where Peter gets his gravity-defying groove on while riding his skateboard in an abandoned shipyard. Sappy singer-songwriter music underscores the jump-cut edits. If ever there were a sequence that would have gained muscle by having nothing but source-sound, this is it. Still, it’s a forgivable enough blunder from a filmmaker whose primary claim to fame is an under-seen little romantic drama called “500 Days of Summer.”

Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” is a lot of movie. The CGI is outstanding. The action-set pieces are lavish, bold, and generate enough electric current to make you jump in your seat more than a few times.

Emma Stone is less restrained than Kirsten Dunst’s version of Peter Parker’s love interest. Stone isn’t playing MJ. Rather she is Gwen Stacy, daughter to police Captain Stacy (well played by Denis Leary). The film’s three screenwriters go heavy on coincidences. Gwen sits next to Peter at school, and also happens to work at the scientific research corporation where Peter has a connection to one of its key scientists — Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). The writers don’t make a believable gambit regarding Gwen and Peter being high school students. Still, these are minor concerns, considering the overall package at hand. Stone and Garfield share surefire chemistry. The romantic connection might not simmer in the way it did between Maguire and Dunst, but there’s plenty of emotional grit-and-grist to reboot the franchise on.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” is far from being a perfect movie. It’s doubtful that audiences will see the franchise rise to the high watermark Raimi stamped on “Spider-Man 2.” Nonetheless, as comic book characters go, Spider-Man has something special that makes him more likable than just about every other comic book hero. For now, Andrew Garfield has the role well in hand.

Rated PG-13. 136 mins. (B) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)

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June 04, 2011

X-Men: First Class

X-men first class poster As predicted Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy are outstanding in their respective roles as young versions of Erik Lensherr and Charles Xavier, respectively. What isn't so predictable is what an impressive job of dynamic storytelling the filmmakers execute for this prequel storyline to Marvel's celebrated "X-Men" comics.

With more than a tad of an anti-authoritarian, anti-militaristic messages, director/co-screenwriter and Matthew Vaughn juggles numerous characters, emotionally palpable subplots, and fascinating visual realities like Robert Altman on steroids. The story moves from '40s era Wolrd War II to the Cold War of the '60s. Kevin Bacon chews some delightful scenery speaking German as Sebastian Schmidt (AKA Sebastian Shaw), a Joseph Mengele-inspired Nazi doctor who physically and mentally abuses the boyhood Erik Lensherr to a horrific degree. Erik can move metal with his mind. This is a big deal. Adult Erik is on a revenge mission to hunt down and kill Dr. Shaw. Erik is pretty much a badass.

Cut to the mutant brother/sister duo of Charles Xavier and Raven (magnificently played by Jennifer Lawrence). Raven is a lusty blue-skinned shape-shifter. Charles is on his way to being a professor of microbiology. He leads with in intellect and ego. She leads with her lips. He is a "telepath" who can read minds with an interactive twist. She can instantly alter he appearance to look like anyone. A CIA investigation into Dr. Shaw's diabolical plans involving nukes brings the existence of mutants to the Government's attention.

An assemble-the-team plotline makes way for a small team of attention-grabbing mutant characters that include the energy-throwing Havok (Lucas Till), sound-blaster Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), adapt-to-survive Darwin (Edi Gathegi), a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-inspired Beast (Nicholas Hoult), and Angel (Zoë Kravitz) a winged fire-spitter. "X-Men: First Class" is a meaty comic book spectacle movie you can sink your teeth in. John Mathieson's cinematography is gorgeous. The editing team of Eddie Hamilton and Lee Smith keep the action ticking like a Swiss clock.

Rated PG-13. 130 mins. (A-) (Four Stars - out of five/no halves)

May 09, 2011


Thor_movie Chris Hemsworth plays Thor the God of Thunder, but it seems more like he's playing Heath Ledger playing the title character in Kenneth Branagh's visually stunning but narratively confined movie. Blame it on his Aussie accent. Marvel comics once again stubs its toe on a would-be summer blockbuster behind such slip-ups as "Howard the Duck, ""Daredevil," and "Hulk."

As a popcorn movie for the masses, "Thor" is written with as little thematic edge as possible. The Earthbound aspect of the story might as well be set in 1955 as in 2011. Natalie Portman is hardly credible as Jane Foster, a storm research scientist who travels around in a crash truck with her co-workers Stellan Skarsgård and Kat Dennings.

In the far reaches of outer space are where things get interesting. Although the 3-D effects are an afterthought, the production design for Thor's Kingdom of Asgard is fantastic. This is one great looking film. Thor's wily brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is a little too pleased to see Thor exiled from their kingdom by their father King Odin (solemnly played by Anthony Hopkins) after Thor leads an attack against their rivals, the Frost Giants. Said giants have about as much humanity and charm as a rattle snake, but in comic book land we must want our villains painted with a black brush.

For all of its limitations "Thor" entertains. Branagh balances the story's bi-polar settings well. As the director's Shakespearean lineage would forecast, every line of dialogue comes through loud and clear. Ten-year-olds will be blown away by "Thor." For the rest of us, it's a visually thrilling joyride with not much story to back it up.

Rated PG-13. 115 mins. (B-) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)

May 03, 2011


Dylan-Dog-Dead-of-Night-2010The inept writing team of Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer have so thoroughly screwed up Tiziano Sclavi's comic book source material that you can barely tell the werewolves from the vampires from the zombies. Flirtations with dark humor ala "An American Werewolf in London" are the closest the movie comes to achieving any traction of entertainment. Brandon Routh falls from his mighty perch as the once-hopeful Superman franchise standard bearer in the role of the title character.

The filmmakers feint toward a noir tone for Dylan as a hard-boiled detective living in New Orleans (even if Routh is far too young to pull it off) before regressing into a kitchen sink monster-war storyline. The ever-watchable Anita Briem briefly livens things up as Elizabeth, Dylan's latest client. The murder of Elizabeth's art-dealer father kicks off the action. Sam Huntington gets all the gallows humor lines as Dylan's zombie-cum-lately-assistant Marcus.


If you haven't seen "Cemetery Man," director Michele Soavi's 1994 avant-garde adaptation of Tiziano Sclavi's Dylan Dog novel and comic books, I highly recommend checking it out rather than wasting your time on this muddled piece of filmic tripe.

Rated PG-13. 107 mins. (D+) (One Star - out of five/no halves)

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April 04, 2011


Super Writer Director James Gunn ("Slither") beats the dead dog of fanboy culture with an idiotic movie that follows in the faux transgressive footsteps of "Kick-Ass." Rainn Wilson rides his indie wave of unjustifiable leading-man status as Frank, an abandoned husband who turns to a life of crime-fighting to rescue his drug-addled wife Sarah (played by Liv Tyler). Stripper Sarah has been willfully kidnapped by a drug dealer played by Kevin Bacon. Talk about slumming. Frank's red-spandex-wearing alter ego "The Crimson Bolt" proves more wrongheaded than the people he attacks with a plumber's wrench. The Crimson Bolt mercilessly bludgeons a couple waiting on line for a movie for "butting in line" after the man joins his mate who was already waiting on line. Ellen Page adds her name to the slum list as Libby, a horny comic book store clerk who susses out Frank's secret identity. Libby naturally imposes herself as Frank's short-skirted sidekick "Boltie." There's even a gratuitous sex scene between Frank and "Boltie" to excite post-pubescent nerdboys with a costume fetish they didn't know they had. "Super" represents another nail in the coffin for the consciously impotent fanboy culture that hijacked Hollywood since the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Avoid this movie like the plague and say goodbye to petulance.

Not Rated R. 96 mins. (F) (Zero Stars - out of five/no halves)

June 18, 2010

Jonah Hex

Jonah-hex-poster "Slipshod" doesn't begin to express the haphazard approach that its team of screenwriters and clueless director (Jimmy Hayward) take in making a pejoratively "cartoonish" movie. Most upsetting is the utter waste of estimable talents like Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Michael Shannon, and Michael Fassbender. Rather than containing a cohesive storyline with developed characters, "Jonah Hex" is an abomination of disjointed apocryphal elements set during the Civil War. Brolin plays the title character, a Civil War soldier-turned-bounty-hunter who killed his best friend when said friend drew his pistol on Jonah for reasons that remain fuzzy--much like every other glossed-over detail. Said best friend was the brother of one hot-tempered Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich), who, in turn, burned down Jonah's farmhouse with his wife and son in it before branding his own initials in Jonah's right cheek for good measure. The gruesomely disfigured Jonah--he since burned away the initials with an axe blade--is now able to communicate with the dead. As such, Jonah is the only man General Grant (Aiden Quinn) can turn to bring down the nefarious Turnbull, who is not as deceased as previously believed. It seems QT has wrangled up some funky pre-industrial-revolution weapons of mass destruction with which he plans to divide and conquer the nation. Megan Fox is the coldly sexual prostitute Lilah who helps Jonah get his courage up when she isn't getting in dust-ups with less mannered, but more attractive, clientele. There isn't a single reason to see this movie.

Rated PG-13. 81 mins. (D-) (Zero Stars - out of five/no halves)

May 07, 2010

Iron Man 2

Ironman Compared to "Spider-Man 2," the high watermark of comic-book adventure movies , "Iron Man 2" falls short. Still, there's plenty of eye-popping action, snappy one-liners, and Robert Downey Jr. working at the top of his game as genius super hero Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man). Keeping in mind the simplistic formula comic book narrative template indigenous to the form, Justin Theroux's script gets around the bases pretty well. Stark responds to a senate hearing request for him to turn over his "Iron Man weapon," and gleefully refuses. Behind Stark's back, arms dealer Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is working on creating similar suits for military use. The arrival of Mickey Rourke as Iron Man's villain du jour Ivan Vanko, presents Hammer with an opportunity to access Vanko's technologically advanced ideas to create drone bots in the Iron Man image. Obligatory romantic tension simmers between Tony Stark and his newly promoted CEO Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), while Scarlett Johansson's legal representative Natalie is brought on board at Stark Enterprises. Natalie's character revelations add some much needed spice and kick to the wholesale destruction on display.  

Rated PG-13. 124 mins. (B) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)

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