Daredevil (2003)

I don't plan on re-watching Elektra anytime soon.

I don’t plan on re-watching Elektra anytime soon.

Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson (well, this is his best movie, sad as that may be)

Written by: Johnson wrote the screenplay based on the Marvel Comics character of Daredevil

Starring: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Jon Favreau, Joe Pantoliano, David Keith and Leland Orser

What it’s about: a man struck with blindness as a result of a childhood accident finds his other senses are greatly heightened and uses those abilities to fight crime as both a super-hero and a lawyer

What I liked: To be clear, this was the Director’s Cut that I watched.  It’s a bit longer and in some cases it actually makes the film better.  Most of the action scenes are decent, as well as the special effects.  The costuming of the characters was a fairly decent translation from the comic books, as well.  I liked Affleck’s performance, as well as Colin Farrell’s enormously intense scenery chewing as Bullseye.  It’s also a fairly dark comic book movie, and I think it was actually ahead of its time.  If this movie were made today, it would be of a higher quality with more attention paid to the darkness of the character, as modern audiences are more accepting of those themes than they were 10 years ago.

What I disliked: At times it feels like a comic book, and that’s not a great thing when it comes to the execution of the story.  Pointless scenes featuring action hero poses, and lighting choices that make no sense when you take into account the fact that the character is goddamn blind.  Some scenes are positively goofy.  There was also the sense that – much like Batman & Robin – the story was trying to cram in as much Daredevil history as possible which just led to it being somewhat scatterbrained.  If you’re doing a proper Daredevil movie series, you don’t introduce Elektra until at least the second movie.  Also, the music choices for the movie just reeked of attempted cross-marketing, featuring two flash-in-the-pan Evanescence songs.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sort of.  It is a decent enough comic book movie, but unlike the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy, it doesn’t transcend the genre.  All that being said, it is still a guilty pleasure of mine.

Rating: 3 / 5

See?  Goofy.

See? Goofy.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Directed by: Marc Webb (I enjoyed his (500) Days of Summer well enough)

Written by: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves, based off of the Marvel Comics character

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Denis Leary, Rhys Ifans, Sally Field, Martin Sheen, Chris Zylka, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, C. Thomas Howell and Michael Massee

What it’s about: a reboot of the barely 10-years old Spider-Man franchise, retelling the origin story of the boring super-hero Spider-Man

B-Movie Alternate Title: The New Spider-Man!

Movie Mash Up: Spider-Man – a believable and not annoying Peter Parker

What I liked: Not a helluva lot, that’s for sure.  Let’s see, I liked Rhys Ifans, Emma Stone, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, and Denis Leary.  The Lizard looked cool.  Okay, that’s about it.

What I disliked:  I hated Andrew Garfield.  He was the smuggiest Peter Parker that I have ever seen in any form of media.  He sucked.  He was terrible, and therefore I also hated the direction of Marc Webb because he allowed it to happen.    The only good thing about Garfield’s Parker was that it was better than Spider-Man 3‘s Parker, which is damning it with faint praise.  It doesn’t help that I also don’t think much of Spider-Man as a super-hero.  It’s like a perfect storm of suck.  It was a comic book movie in the most cartoonish fashion.

Would I recommend this to anyone?: No, but I wouldn’t really recommend any Spider-Man movie to anyone, either.  Yeah, the first two were decent enough (the second one, near perfect), but I don’t think much of the character and there are better comic book movies or just regular movies to watch instead.

Rating: 2 / 5

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)

When I first saw commercials for this movie, I didn’t believe that it could actually exist.  Yes, the first Ghost Rider movie made over $228 million at the box office, but it wasn’t really screaming for a sequel, which of course in today’s Hollywood means yes, greenlight the shit out of that.  Story idea?  WHO CARES just start filming.  It didn’t help that it was directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (obnoxiously credited as Neveldine/Taylor), and that I hated the hell out of Crank and Gamer, two of their previous movies.  And yes, thank your gods, Nicolas Cage is back as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider.

The first Ghost Rider film was not a good movie, in fact, I rated it a 2, but I didn’t hate it.  It was what it was, and the most surprising thing of all was that it didn’t suck completely.  Like Punisher: War Zone, this film was released under the Marvel Knights banner, which means it sorta doesn’t take place in the same Marvel Cinematic Universe as The Avengers and certainly not the same world as Spider-Man because those rights are owned by different companies or some legalese bullshit.  Anyways, the whole premise of the movie is that Blaze is trying to save some kid named Danny (Fergus Riordan) (and of course he’s named Danny, that’s what one of the incarnations of Ghost Rider was named in the comics universe) whose mother, Nadya (Violante Placido), made a deal with the Devil, Roarke (Ciarán Hinds), to spare her life, in exchange for her future son’s life, or soul or whatever.  The premise is not mining new territory.

There’s one new aspect of Ghost Rider that I enjoyed in the film, and that was the redesign of the flaming skull, as instead of a clean, skinless skull constantly on fire, the new skull appears to be constantly burning, the skull coated in ash and soot.  Much more striking and effective than the original design.  However, now Ghost Rider has this stupid power where everything he jumps on becomes enflamed (I may have just made up that word), like a goddamn crane all bursting with Hellfire and brimstone and the like.  This has terribly stupid implications, because that now means if Ghost Rider starts driving a boat, well that boat will have flames coming out of it and it’s just so dumb stop, please stop.

There are numerous other head-shakingly bad plot holes throughout the movie (like how come the never-named Blackout (Johnny Whitworth) whose power is DECAY and rots everything by touching it can drive an ambulance without anything happening to it?), and Nicolas Cage tends to be acting like he’s going through heroin withdrawals throughout the entire movie, and it’s laughably bad.  Yet, I still didn’t hate it.  I should have every right to hate it, but it was exactly what I thought it was going to be, and that was Not Very Good at All.

1.5 / 5

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

I’m going to set the record straight right off the bat.  I prefer the 2003 Ang Lee-directed Hulk movie to this one.  There are notable tonality differences in the two films, as the first one is much more of a “real movie” whereas the second one is a better “HULK SMASH” movie.  Not everyone will agree with me.  In fact, most Marvel fanboys will completely disagree with me, but whatever, everyone’s got their own opinions.  I also think that is the weakest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films released so far, and I don’t think too many people will disagree with me on that.

Playing the part of Bruce Banner this time is Edward Norton, taking over the role that Eric Bana played in Hulk.  And for The Avengers, it was switched a third time to Mark Ruffalo, which is completely acceptable.  Norton plays a decent enough Banner, but didn’t really strike me as I don’t know, maybe miserable enough to fully capture how much Banner disliked losing control and turning into the other guy.

I don’t really have too much to say about this movie.  It did its job well enough, while also furthering the Marvel Cinematic Universe storyline and getting Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) in an end credits scene to push The Avengers further to the forefront.  There are numerous call-aheads to Captain America as well as developing a potential future villain with the mutation of Dr. Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson).  However, if they end up making a third Hulk film, the question is whether or not they just “requel” it again or actually make it a full-on sequel.

As it is, for full enjoyment of the work that Marvel Studios has done in crafting their Cinematic Universe, you should definitely see the movie.

3 / 5

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Alright, so I did a whole nice write-up yesterday for the first Iron Man movie, and well, this one is more of the same.  It’s not The Dark Knight sequel to Batman Begins, it’s more like what Batman Forever was to Batman, if that makes sense.  It probably doesn’t since I just casually omitted Batman Returns, but Forever had sooo much Batcrap shoved into it that the movie actually shat out a sequel.

I just wanna sit back and appreciate that thing that I just wrote.  Man, I hope I didn’t subconsciously steal it from someone, because it is such a perfect description of Batman & Robin.  You can LIKE this review or G+ it or RT it or whatever.  I don’t even want to write anymore.

Alright, fine.  So Iron Man 2 brings back almost the exact same cast and creative team as the original movie, minus the unlikable Terrence Howard (replaced with the awesome Don Cheadle) and bringing in Justin Theroux as the screenplay writer.  At this point The Avengers movie release date was (I think) set in stone and there were preparations and things shoved into the story that seemed to be less about just Iron Man, and more about pumping up the Avengers plotline.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it gives the whole movie more of an episodic feel.  Like, you can’t have “The Body” episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” without “I Was Made to Love You” which I had to research (and I actually dug that episode too) to remember it took place directly before “The Body”.

I feel like I’m getting all Pitchfork-y with this review, making allusions to other things that seem quite brilliant in my head and maybe seems assholeish when someone else reads it.  Anyways, the film also brings in Mickey Rourke as the main villain Whiplash, Sam Rockwell as Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey, Jr.) main business rival, Justin Hammer, and Scarlett Johansson as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent – and future Avenger- Natalya Romanov or y’know, Black Widow.  There’s also a lovely little appearance by John Slattery as Tony’s dad in archival footage, and the whole Stark family thing reminds me so much of “The Venture Bros.”

So there are parts I like about Iron Man 2 because they remind me of other things, and it’s a competently enough made movie, but not nearly as great as the first movie.

3.5 / 5

Iron Man (2008)

Okay, so this is the movie that kicked off the whole Avengers Initiative thing that ultimately led to The Avengers being made and probably becoming one of the Top Five highest grossing movies ever (pure speculation at this point).  If this movie had ended up being a box office bomb, well, it would have bankrupted the newly made Marvel Studios, Robert Downey, Jr. would probably have had a relapse and the entire world would be a different place now.  Probably.  But it didn’t, so yay!

I’m a DC Comics fan, so most of the characters in Marvel’s comic universe I have only a smattering of knowledge about, though I do tend to pick up little tidbits of info here and there.  Iron Man probably wasn’t what Marvel would consider a first-tier marketable character, but they didn’t have 100% control over their most recognisable movie characters – Spider-Man and Wolverine/X-Men – so the film for Iron Man became the launch pad of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It was directed by Jon Favreau in an apparently less than 100%-scripted environment, which leads to some scenes of dialogue which feel much more natural because of Downey’s nature of neverstoptalkingwhenotherpeoplearetalking.

Downey was probably no one’s first choice for Tony Stark/Iron Man, but the actor took that ball and fucking repulsor rayed it to the moon.  The rest of the cast is 95% perfect as well, but only because I find it hard to buy Terrence Howard in anything.  This film also marks the first fun appearance of Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) of S.H.I.E.L.D. and boy I hate typing acronyms like that.  Iron Man also pretty much laid out the formula for all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, with Coulson appearances, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) appearances, post-credit scenes and numerous nods to the future films in the Universe.  Like Pixar, only more fanboy serverish.

Anyways, solid fucking movie.  Great launchpad for the Avengers franchise, and I wish DC would be able to replicate the same formula for a future Justice League movie, but oh well.

4.5 / 5

Thor (2011)

With The Avengers having recently been released, I thought it would be a great idea to look back on all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films that have been released (read: search engine optimization).  The only one that I’ve already reviewed is Captain America so feel free to go back and read that one after reading this stirring bit of literature I’m probably not going to provide you with here.

Of all the Marvel movies that have been made and were rumoured to be being made, I thought that Thor would have been the hardest sell to mainstream movie audiences.  I don’t know much about the comic book version of the character, other than he fucking bored me.  I didn’t expect the cinematic interpretation of the Norse mythology behind the character to be anything even remotely approaching interesting.  And then a funny thing happened: Kenneth Branagh was named as the director and I thought to myself that at the very least, it’s going to be high quality boredom.  I just wasn’t expecting a movie that was a fun popcorn summer blockbuster, but that’s exactly what Branagh delivered.

Of course, all the directing miracles in the world wouldn’t be able to save a Thor movie if the actor playing Thor was completely unsuited for the part (I’d use Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze from Batman & Robin as an example but fuck that, that movie had more problems than just one miscast).  Thankfully, Chris Hemsworth got the part (and doubly thankful that Triple H didn’t), and as a heterosexual male, even I had to admit that dude was ripped.  He was Thor.  He also had a weird Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You accent going on for the whole movie, which was somewhat disorienting, but whatever, he was great.

Honestly, the entire movie was pretty great all around, visually stunning, great casting, super performances and a surprising amount of fun.  I might have truly loved it if I was completely familiar with Asgaardian stories and such, but let me just give it a solid thumbs up mark.

4 / 5

The Avengers (2012)

I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous.  See, I’m not a Marvel Comics fanboy and the success that their high quality movie versions of their characters are enjoying makes me – a DC Comics fanboy – insanely jealous.  See, I know that if there ever were to be a Justice League movie, well DC Comics would have to have some sort of alternate (read: inferior) version of Batman, because it’s quite clear that the Christopher Nolan Batman isn’t in a world populated with heroes.  And while I enjoyed Green Lantern there are loads of others that didn’t.  Not to mention how every Superman movie that has come out since Superman II has been pretty craptacular.  Marvel went and signed Joss Whedon to direct The Avengers, so there went the best hope for any Wonder Woman movie, and there aren’t even any rumours that I’ve heard about a Flash movie.  So yeah, super jealous because DC can’t get their cinematic shit together.  Moving on.

In the next couple days, my reviews for the rest of the movies that are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be posted (except Captain America, as that one was already posted) and what you’ll find is that they’re all pretty damn good movies.  For the most part.  The sum of them all is The Avengers, and honestly, you couldn’t find a better director than Joss Whedon to helm this ship.  Whedon has an affinity for the characters that he’s been reading for decades, and if we’ve learned anything from Whedon’s fanbase, it’s that he can make us feel in a way that most directors/writers take for granted.  When Wash dies in Serenity, he wasn’t the only who felt like they’d been impaled, and that was because of the heart that Whedon instills in his characters.  So the whole time watching Avengers, I was wondering which ancillary character was going to bite the dust so we could truly feel like This Means Something.

Another trademark Whedon-ism is the wry sense of humour that characters have in the face of insurmountable odds, and that humour is very much evident throughout the entire film.  I’m pretty sure every character, from Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) to Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) hell, everyone of them gets a laugh in the movie.  Of course, front and centre is the most fleshed character out of the Avengers team (so-far), Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), but this movie isn’t his.  It’s not Captain America’s (Chris Evans) or Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth).  In fact, I think that the Big Bad of the movie, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), might have had more screen time than anyone else.

The movie doesn’t really have to waste time with showing the origin stories of all these heroes, because they have their own series, just like in the comic book world.  It’s the story of a bunch of combustible elements coming together to form a super power to combat the end of the world.  Honestly, I would have to say that this is the greatest comic book movie of all time, and that’s mostly because I think the Christopher Nolan Batman films can actually hold their own as non-comic book movies.  The Avengers movie and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a lot of fanboy pandering to them, but it’s all great popcorn, summer blockbuster fun.  The Nolan Batman films, well they’re exploring areas outside of the comic books with the implication that they take place in a very realistic world.  Nolan’s Batman would never be in the Justice League.

Anyways, The Avengers is pretty much what any comic book nerd dreams of: the action on the screen taken directly from the pages of their comic books.  The heroes they love, the villains they hate, they’re all expertly interpreted into a new medium and it’s a goddamn great movie.  I don’t even think you’d need to see the other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to completely enjoy the movie, but they would certainly add more depth to the experience.  Also, the 3D was much like Toy Story 3, not invasive and all OMG LOOK IT’S 3D so I strongly recommend seeing it in a theatre when you can.

5 / 5

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

After watching all the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe film (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor), I was looking forward to Captain America and next summer’s The Avengers with great anticipation.  Especially The Avengers, because as both a comic geek and a Joss Whedon fan, I was going to see if the total package would come to a satisfying conclusion under a writer/director whom I had the highest respect for.  The fact that I’m more of a DC Comics fan than a Marvel Comics fan doesn’t even enter into it, because first and foremost, I’m a great movies fan.

And under director Joe Johnston, Captain America is a great movie.  Johnston had a previous olden times superhero movie under his belt, and despite last year’s exceedingly boring The Wolfman, he was a good choice for an action blockbuster film.  The important thing with a character like Cap, was casting perfectly, and I gotta say, Chris Evans certainly fits the bill.  He’s physically built for the part, but he also has the charm and humility (as evidenced in last year’s excellent Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) to pull off a character of Cap’s stature.

However, without a great villain to face off against, comic book movies often come up lacklustre and leave you wanting more, but not in that good way.  Thankfully, Cap’s nemesis The Red Skull is played by the tremendous Hugo Weaving, no stranger to comic book movies himself (V for Vendetta would have been lesser without him in the titular role).  There’s a deep list of character actors in the supporting cast, most notably the talented Stanley Tucci and the leathery Tommy Lee Jones.

The action scenes are amazing, the effects excellent, the attention to detail, the fanboy pandering, it’s all top notch and a great ride, even for those unfamiliar with the Captain America character.  However, the movie made the mistake (SPOILER ALERT) most comic book movies make in killing the villain, rather than bringing them to justice.  Although, there’s a possibility that Skull will be back, you never know.

4.5 / 5

Punisher: War Zone (2008)

In this film, The Punisher kills 81 people, minus the two friendly fires.  EIGHTY ONE PEOPLE.  Most of the kills involve bullets, some fire, and in one particularly memorable instance, punching a coke head’s skull so hard that it explodes.  It is often dark, disgusting, violent, ridiculous, over-the-top and pretty much true to the Marvel Comics character.  I can’t argue with anything I see onscreen in a Punisher movie, because that’s pretty much exactly what the character would do.  To my knowledge, it was always very black and white with Frank Castle, and the film holds to that.

Ray Stevenson does a solid job as Castle, and lives up to the image of The Punisher admirably.  There’s some decent scenes throughout, and while it does feel very much like a comic book movie, it also feels a helluva lot like a video game.  Particularly the end sequence, which would make for an awesome Fallout level.  It’s not a great movie, hell it’s barely a good movie.  Actually, I read that Ebert said it was one of the best bad movies he’d seen.  So there’s that.

2.5 / 5