Category Archives: Movies

If this is true…

…its absolutely crazy that it was leaked to the media.

Written by Caroline Graham and posted to dailymail.com.uk:

Black Woman who will be the next 007: Lashana Lynch takes over the famous code name

Lashana Lynch previously appeared in Captain Marvel. My understanding (I didn’t see the film) is that she was quite good in it.

According to the above article (sorry to spoil everything), Daniel Craig’s James Bond, at the start of the new Bond film, is officially retired. He is brought back in to see M because of whatever problems need his attention and it is there that he finds Ms. Lynch’s character has taken over the 007 codename.

Directly from the article:

A movie insider said: ‘There is a pivotal scene at the start of the film where M says ‘Come in 007’, and in walks Lashana who is black, beautiful and a woman. ‘It’s a popcorn-dropping moment. Bond is still Bond but he’s been replaced as 007 by this stunning woman.

First off: I’m OK with this concept. It sounds like fun!

On the other hand… how the hell did the studios let this rather large whopper of a plot point escape?!

Can nothing be kept secret anymore? If indeed Ms. Lynch is revealed as a “new” 007, that is indeed a “popcorn-dropping” moment designed to shock and delight viewers…

…only now the cat’s out of the proverbial bag and absolutely no one is going to be shocked anymore.

I know the internet makes it hard to keep secrets. One tiny slip and the entire world knows what’s going on.

If this is indeed true, its a shame this secret has been revealed while the damn film is still being made.

The dangers of buying digital things…

First, I have to be honest: I LOVE buying things “digitally”.

I LOVE not having the clutter of so many books and movies and the ease by which I can enjoy both through either my cellphone, tablet, or through my “smart” TV.

I LOVE IT!

…however…

Stories like these make me mighty uncomfortable. From Matt Novak and presented on gizmodo.com:

Ebooks purchased from Microsoft will be deleted this month because you don’t really own anything anymore

The title is self-explanatory: Microsoft sold eBooks starting in/around 2017. The service appears to have not done very well and the company decided they were going to stop selling books and, further, delete those that people bought.

Money will be returned by Microsoft to the people who bought these eBooks, just to be clear, and the service seems to have been a flop pretty much from the beginning so not that many people were affected.

However, this does present a sobering thought: What if this should happen with Apple or Amazon? How about VUDU? All my books/graphic novels -and I have a BUNCH of them- are on Amazon. Pretty much all my film purchases are currently being done through VUDU.

What if these services have a problem? What if suddenly all these many thousands of dollars I’ve spent will *poof!* be gone?

Again, I love the digital services. I love the fact that my home isn’t getting filled up with more books and movie boxes.

I love this!

But, seriously, there needs to be some kind of permanence created for these bought items yet I wonder if such a thing could be accomplished, other than downloading your stuff and saving it to increasingly full Hard Drives.

Batman (1989) at 30…

That’s right, thirty years ago and on June 19, 1989, the Tim Burton directed, Michael Keaton/Jack Nicholson/Kim Basinger Batman film was released to theaters and became a monster hit. It is not exaggerating to say this film, released 11 years after the Richard Donner Christopher Reeve/Marlon Brando/Gene Hackman Superman may well form the alpha and omega of superhero films and explain why such films are so popular today.

When Superman came out in 1978, it was released a mere 10 years after the last episode of the Adam West/Burt Ward Batman TV series was cancelled.

Certainly not a terribly long time!

I suspect part of the reason that Gene Hackman’s Luthor -or at least his henchmen- are played mostly for laughs is because Donner and company were hedging their bets, hoping that after the very somber first and second acts of Superman (for those who have yet to see the film, I’m referring to the Krypton and Smallville segments) they needed to not only provide something a little lighter and “fun”. They likely drew some inspiration from the Batman TV show and its more silly portrayal of the villains but made the villain’s plans all that much more deadly.

Superman ushered in what I call the first wave of superhero films and, for the most part, they weren’t all that good. There were some very cheap Marvel Comics character releases that are viewed today as cult artifacts rather than legitimately great films and while Superman II (1980) did quite well Superman III (1983) and especially Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987) proved that even with the earnest acting of Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder, the script is everything and in the case of these later two films, they had miserable scripts/stories.

After Superman IV, one could be forgiven for thinking the superhero film was done and over with.

A mere two years later and with the release of Tim Burton’s Batman, the genre would prove to be very much alive.

Back in those pre-internet days, I recall vividly being extremely excited to see this new Batman film. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was a current thing and, along with Alan Moore’s Marvel/Miracleman and Watchmen, an almost morbid sense of “reality” was permeating comic books and their heroes.

It was very much hoped by me -and I’m certain many others!- at that time that Tim Burton would deliver a dark and grim Batman, one that would bury the then viewed as ridiculous Adam West TV show of nearly two decades before.

I distinctly recall Entertainment Tonight one day offering an exclusive “preview” of Batman and me setting the (*cough*) VHS to tape it.

What I saw totally turned me on. Unfortunately, I can’t find that particular clip but check this out, a preview of the summer films for 1989 (see how many have become lost in the flotsam!)…

Somehow a friend of mine and I snagged a “sneak preview” showing of Batman way back then and, along with a rowdy crowd of people like us, were thrilled to see the film a few days (maybe even a week) before its formal release.

I remember being so damn excited to see the film and was in rapt attention as the credits rolled and the film went on. For the first half of the film, I felt it was everything I hoped for. Right up and until this sequence…

Alas, from that point on, the film in my humble opinion went downhill. It seemed to be paying tribute to the Adam West Batman but with a darker palette (the museum sequence, in particular, could have easily fit into that show).

And the ending… well… it was weird, to say the least. Batman seems to be in such a superior position with his fearsome Batwing yet gets taken out by a ridiculously big Joker gun. (Oh, and for those who hated the Snyder version of Batman, you do remember in this film Batman uses the machine gun on his Batwing to try to kill the Joker, right?).

The conclusion in the Cathedral was visually lush and reminded me of Neal Adams drawn comics, but the ultimate fate of the Joker felt incredibly morbid, even as I strongly suspect Tim Burton knew there was no way Jack Nicholson would return as the Joker in a sequel film and decided the best thing to do was end the character right there, something he would do in the sequel to this film with Danny DeVito’s Penguin.

When I left that preview showing, I have to admit I was dejected. I felt this movie was so close to greatness but the script had gotten away from Burton and company. Curiously, I read the novelization of the film…

…before seeing the movie and the second half of the novelization was quite different from what appeared in the movie. I suspect Burton and company essentially jettisoned the script after the “wait ’til they get a load of me” scene and went their own way.

Still, the film was a HUGE hit and I suspect it helped revitalize the superhero movie genre just when the Superman films -at least III and IV- were indicating the genre was running out of steam.

Thirty years.

Wow.

Where does the time go?!

2019 Summer Movies…

What in the world happened this year?

By this time, there’s usually a number of films out there doing decently and/or getting people’s attention but this year…

…I dunno.

Many consider May 1st as the official start of the Summer Movie Season but one should consider Avengers: Endgame, released in the last week of April, as the start of the Summer Movie Season.

That movie did very well, of course, but I’m rather surprised by the fact that only a month or so later it seems like… it’s kinda/sorta in the past. Not forgotten, mind you. There are still people I find online posting positives about the film (I haven’t seen it yet) but I’ve also found a surprising number of people who feel the movie wasn’t all that.

Not that they hated it, mind you, but there are some who feel the film was something of a wiff… that it could, indeed should have been much better than it was. There are even some who offer a far more scathing view, that the film was a lot of “fan service”, ie. a bunch of sequences designed to make fans happy but which ultimately didn’t make the overall film all that great.

Again, I don’t know. Haven’t seen it yet.

But at least Avengers: Endgame did great at the box office!

At least for the time it was out. Again, it seems like the film did really well and all those that wanted to see it saw it and then… that was it.

What followed, however, were films that didn’t seem to catch on quite as well.

Over at this site found on firstshowing.net…

2019 Release Schedule

…you can check out the films that have been released to date along with those upcoming.

I did a quick check of some of the films that were hoping to get movie-goer’s interest/money over the Summer Season and was surprised by how many of them to date did only so-so.

Among others you had Pokemon Detective Pikachu (looked cute in commercials and the idea of Ryan Reynolds voicing the character was a plus, but the film sure did seem to come and go). There was John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, which, granted, benefited enormously with the good feelings people have regarding Keanu Reeves and, given what I’m sure is a smaller budget, did very good business. But again, it sure seemed to come and go.

What about Aladdin? Terrible early trailers had everyone doubting the film, but once it was released the critics were kind yet the film was another one week (if that) wonder. Brightburn? Low budget horror “take” on Superman produced by James Gunn had certain audiences intrigued, and given the movie’s low budget I’m sure it recouped its investment and then some. But, again, a one week wonder and out.

Godzilla: King of Monsters had decent reviews but under-performed. Dark Phoenix had pretty poor reviews and also didn’t do all that well. Last week we had two new morsels: Men In Black International and Shaft. Sadly, it appears neither of these films is drawing much interest and appear to be slipping away from theaters after only a week.

All, however, is not lost. There are still some interesting films to come. Child’s Play and Toy Story 4 are being released this coming week and while I suspect the later will do well, the former… we’ll see. Either way, I personally am not to interested in either.

Looking further ahead, July 2 sees the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home. I’m not all that interested but because its a Marvel film, I’m sure it’ll do good business. July 26 brings us Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. I’m intrigued with the film though I know very little about it other than the setting (Hollywood in the late 1960’s and immediately before -and I’m guessing during/after the Charles Manson horrors). Given how much I hated (no pun intended) his last film, though, I don’t know if I’m going to catch it during its initial release.

Looking over the list of films coming in the next months, there is only one film that currently has me intrigued: Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. That film looks beyond silly but in a good way.

Otherwise, I dunno. This could be one of the weakest summer movie seasons I’ve seen in a very long time… and, it would appear, for a few others as well.

If I do go see Hobbs & Shaw in theaters, it might well wind up being the only Summer film I see this season in theaters.

A stunning thing to admit!

What’s Up Doc? (1972) a (incredibly) belated review

A while back TCM played the 1972 Peter Bogdanovich directed screwball comedy homage What’s Up Doc? Here’s the movie’s trailer/behind the scenes:

I had warm memories of the film but, frankly, hadn’t seen it in at least twenty plus years. I wondered if it was as good as I recalled. The DVR was set, the film recorded, and then a couple of months later and with my wife and daughter sat down to see it.

It wasn’t easy getting those two to sit in!

After some twenty minutes, my daughter bailed. She doesn’t have a lot of patience for “old” films and, frankly, I can’t totally blame her. Nowadays films have a quicker pace to them, and this film certainly started “slow” compared to more recent works.

My wife found at least some of what she saw humorous enough and held on, but I think during those early minutes she too was “touch and go”.

But then, once the movie’s finished with the preliminaries and into the story proper, as well as the slapstick that’s to come, What’s Up Doc? becomes a truly wonderful comedy and very worthy of my pleasant memories.

The plot is complex but never complicated: There are four identical traveling bags held by four different characters.

Two of the suitcases carry totally innocuous items: Judy Maxwell (Barbara Streisand, equally sexy and off the wall as a walking hurricane of a character) has a suitcase of clothing. Howard Bannister (Ryan O’Neal doing his best to emulate a stuttering, stuffy Cary Grant who, along with his fiancé –Madeline Kahn in her film debut- is headed to a music convention in the hopes of getting a grant to study… Neanderthal music?) carries igneous rocks.

The two other cases contain something far more interesting: Mr. Smith (Michael Murphy) carries a suitcase full of top secret documents. He’s being pursed by a U.S. agent. The last suitcase, owned by Mrs. Van Hoskins (Mabel Albertson), contains a treasure in jewels.

The jewels catch the eye of the shady Hotel Clerk and equally shady Hotel Detective who plan to steal it. The U.S. Government agent, who Mr. Smith quickly gets wise to, wants to retrieve the top secret documents. And all four suitcases wind up, with their owners, in four separate rooms on the 17th floor of the Hotel they are staying at. This results in mass confusion and considerable hilarity.

The movie plays out, for the most part, like a slapstick stage play, with characters talking in and around each other while the identical suitcases move from room to room and character to character while Judy Maxwell takes a liking to her opposite, character-wise, in Howard Bannister.

The set pieces wind up working terrifically, each bigger and better than the other, followed by a breather before getting into the next comedic set piece. I feel the final big set piece, involving Liam Dunn (I won’t give away too much here, for fear of SPOILING a …gulp… 47 year old film) is a perfect climax and the proverbial cherry on top of the pie. Mr. Dunn, best known for appearances on Mel Brooks films, is but one of the people who would go on from this film to work in two of Mel Brooks’ most famous films. He, along with Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, and John Hillerman would go on to appear in Blazing Saddles. All but Mr. Hillerman would also show up in Young Frankenstein.

In conclusion, if you don’t mind seeing “old” films and/or can put up with a few slow minutes in this movie’s opening act (assuming you’re spoiled on the more speedy pace of modern films), What’s Up Doc? is a no-brainer. A hilarious, albeit strangely forgotten, film that stands up quite well with some of the better comedies out there.

William Gibson’s Alien 3

A while back I mentioned the sorrow I felt when the comic shop I frequented for the past (*gasp*) 20 some years or so -likely more!- had shuttered.

Even so, I felt that it was a matter of time. Just as bookstores in this digital age seem to mostly be a thing of the past so too I felt comic book shops were facing an increasingly stiff digital tide against them.

What I didn’t realize with the shutting of the shop was the access I’d have to so many different comic books, both of recent and past vintage. I’ve been on a tear buying digital copies of series I never finished reading, such as Nexus, or books I was curious about but wouldn’t pay the very stiff amounts for the physical books (there are so many to mention, but I have pretty much the complete runs of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and Captain America up to the turn of the century. I also recently found Detective Comics on sale and picked up the late Silver Age/Early Bronze age issues and intend to give them a look see when I can).

One of the interesting things I’ve discovered is that there are several comic book adaptations of interesting unused screenplays. For example, after the success of the original Robocop movie, comic book writer/artist Frank Miller was hired to write screenplays to Robocop 2 and 3. My understanding was that both films bore little comparison to Mr. Miller’s screenplays, but I was always curious to read them. To my delight, I found that there were adaptations of Miller’s Robocop screenplays and I eagerly bought and read them. An improvement over the films, I felt, but perhaps too unfocused for their own good.

Similarly, I found the original/early drafts of The Star Wars by George Lucas and The Bionic Man by Kevin Smith were produced in comic book form as was a more faithful adaptation of the classic Star Trek episode The City on The Edge of Forever by Harlan Ellison.

Reading these works has proven to date a fascinating bit of literary archeology. In all cases I’ve wondered how these scripts were and “reading” them in a graphic novel format is perhaps the closest I’ll get at this point to “seeing” them as a film or TV show.

But it is proving to be a double edged sword.

As I mentioned, the Frank Miller Robocop proved ambitious in scope and scale but unfocused. I fear a faithful film adaptation of what I read would have been a mess. The City on the Edge of Forever, in my opinion, benefited from the changes made to Mr. Ellison’s script. Likewise, The Star Wars presented an interesting early view of George Lucas’ thought process but the eventually released film was far better.

Recently, William (Neuromancer) Gibson’s Alien 3 script was unearthed and adapted into a graphic novel by Johnnie Christmas (writing/art) and Tamara Bonvillain (colorist). For those unaware, after the success of Alien and Aliens, Mr. Gibson was hired to write the script for the third Alien film and did so. The studios passed on his script and it was filed away. The movie which was eventually made had absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Gibson’s screenplay.

Being a fan of Mr. Gibson’s writing, I was intrigued about this screenplay and, given my negative feelings with the theatrically released Alien 3, longed to read his vision of the Alien universe. Was this, finally, a story that deserved to be made into a film?

…welp…

So last year in 2018 Dark Horse comics published the five issue adaptation of Mr. Gibson’s screenplay. In August 5th of this year, the work will be collected into a single edition and I was waiting to buy it. However, over the weekend I found the individual five issues of the series were on sale, digitally, through ComiXology for 0.99 each. The total price for the five issues is $4.95. A bargain considering the upcoming digital collected edition is set to retail for $11.99. Seeing the bargain and no longer able to contain my curiosity, I purchased the five issues and, yesterday, read them.

William Gibson's Alien 3 #1 by [Christmas, Johnnie, Gibson, William]

So, my thoughts:

To begin, the story isn’t a total disaster. There are interesting elements here and there. For example, unlike the screen version of Alien 3, we have the return of Newt, Hicks and Bishop, the trio of which were (SPOILERS FOR A VERY OLD FILM) killed right off the bat at the beginning of the theatrical film version of Alien 3.

I’ll be getting into SPOILERS in a moment but before I do, let me offer this short review:

William Gibson’s Alien 3 is a competently done work with decent art and colors but with a story that is simply not very good. It drags at the beginning then devolves into a typical Alien bloodbath but, truly, offers little new or interesting to the Alien universe other than trying to flesh out political systems.

If this adaptation is true to Mr. Gibson’s screenplay, one can see why the Producers took a pass despite his well regarded reputation in the science fiction field.

Now then, a deeper dive into the story, but to do so we have…

….SPOILERS FOLLOW!…

Still with me?

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

William Gibson’s Alien 3 presents the Sulaco, fresh off its adventures in Aliens, derelict. A group of people intercept her and discover that in the sleeping module of Bishop, the android, is an alien growth. They foolishly take the android and one of their men is infected and runs away and gets lost in the Sulaco. The others, realizing their time is short, take the 1/2 of Bishop with them and, in time, all hell breaks loose for them.

But before all that happens, the Sulaco is released so that it can complete its journey. There are politics involved and threats among the people who were behind the boarding of the ship and those expecting its arrival but this doesn’t really amount to much, IMHO, nor does it make for terribly interesting reading.

The bottom line is the ship makes it to a major space station and it is there that Ripley, Hicks, and Newt are revived. Ripley freaks out upon discovering Bishop is gone and the Alien threat may be happening and is quickly tranquilized.

And that’s it for Ripley’s participation in this story.

That’s right, kids, Ripley has one “scene”, is knocked out, and that’s pretty much all for her participation here.

Meanwhile, Hicks and Newt re-unite and Newt is sent on a shuttle to her grandparents.

Two characters down.

Bishop is returned to the station repaired (he was, as I already mentioned, torn in half in Aliens) and we find out the people who got to the Sulaco first are facing annihilation from the aliens they unknowingly brought with them. The people who have the Sulaco, meanwhile, are about to get into the same trouble as a “company” woman has them work on the alien DNA. They discover a way the alien DNA can essentially glom onto and over-write human DNA.

Guess what happens?

Anyway, as things are starting to go sideways, Hicks sends the still tranquilized Ripley out on a shuttle craft and to safety. Even in the comic book adaptation we don’t “see” her character or have her say any parting words because she’s in a pod before being sent away. I can’t help but think at the time Mr. Gibson was writing the screenplay the producers told him Sigourney Weaver may not be involved in the film.

Afterwards there’s bloodshed, there’s death, and ultimately we have a station that has to be cleansed by being destroyed.

In the last pages of the story, Hicks and Bishop consider what’s going on and realize that all out war between humanity and the aliens is just around the corner.

Dark times are a comin’.

Fin.

Meh.

When I saw it, I came away really hating the Alien 3 movie. Having said that, I’m put in the uncomfortable position of saying… for all its faults, and it has many, the film was still a better overall work, in my opinion, versus Mr. Gibson’s screenplay.

Now, before I bust on an author idol, I will give Mr. Gibson the benefit of the doubt: He was not involved, I’m assuming, in this comic book adaptation. He didn’t rewrite his screenplay so that it would “work” in a comic book format. Still, assuming what I read was a faithful adaptation of Mr. Gibson’s work, then I can safely say this screenplay would have made for a pretty bad film.

We’ll never know, of course, and for all we know Mr. Gibson produced this screenplay with the intention of then working it out and improving it with time. Perhaps he knew there were many things up in the air, including whether Sigourney Weaver would eventually participate in the film, and he simply wrote out a treatment and knew it would be at best a rough outline for some more fully formed work.

Maybe, maybe not.

At the very least my curiosity is sated.

However, I can’t say that what I read was some lost William Gibson masterpiece.

Upgrade (2018) a (Mildly) Belated Review

Sometimes, a movie takes you by surprise and rocks your world. Especially when the movie (and, one has to assume, the movie’s makers) are treading into creative areas similar to the one’s I’ve been mining.

Please, please, PLEASE don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying the delightful Upgrade is somehow “ripping off” ideas I’ve used in my novels.

Hell no!

What I’m saying is that there are elements in the movie that I recognize in some of my novels… but that’s all they are, similar elements.

The creative playground out there is quite big and it wouldn’t surprise me if writer/director Leigh Whannell’s been reading/watching/admiring some of the same material I have over his life. In other words: If you’ve read and like my books, I suspect you’ll like this movie and, no, it doesn’t “rip off” my books -at all!- but does play in similar territory.

But enough preamble. Here’s the trailer for Upgrade:

As you can see by the above, Upgrade involves one Gray Trace (Logan Marshall-Green, quite good) who is a mechanic and something of a technophobe living in the near future where computers are everywhere and a creeping dystopia is coming to life. When we meet him, he’s doing the finishing touches on a Trans-Am Firebird, the type many would be familiar as being in the movie Smokey and the Bandit, when his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) arrives from work.

They have some light banter before Gray insists his wife accompany him to deliver the Trans-Am to the man who hired him to refurbish it. Turns out the man is a computer genius who heads a large tech company and whose work his wife is familiar with. The man is sullen and awkward, but offers to show them his latest project, a new computer chip which he states will revolutionize the world.

Upon leaving the reclusive man’s home, Gray and Asha’s self-driving car is hacked and crashed. A group of toughs come to rob them and Asha is shot and killed while Gray is rendered a quadraplegic.

Understandably morose following a painful recovery that has this once independent man a widower and tied to a wheelchair, he is visited by his previous employer, who states the chip he showed him might just be able to get him on his feet again.

And that’s about all the spoiling I’m going to do for this film.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you know some of what’s to come, but this very low budget (supposedly around $5 million) film is quite amazing. It’s lean, mean, and doesn’t waste a second of your time while delivering a clever story that is at times familiar (boo!) only to surprise you with some well thought out twists and turns (yay!).

The ending, too, proved a fascinating, well thought out piece of cinema, giving you the proverbial cherry on top of the cake.

While Upgrade doesn’t necessarily revolutionize B movies, it offers plenty of thrills and clever storytelling. Further, despite its ending it also allows for -if the writer/director is interested- sequels which could examine… well… that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

If you haven’t seen it, give Upgrade a whirl. It’s well worth your time.

Post-script: I noted on director/writer Leigh Whannell’s IMDB listing that he’s attached to the Escape From New York remake. A very, very interesting choice. Given how much I liked Upgrade and how that film was set in a pseudo near-future not unlike the original Escape From New York, I can certainly see the reason he was chosen.

Could be good.

Avengers: Endgame…

Out this weekend and breaking a ton of box office records is Avengers: Endgame, the culmination of some ten years of Marvel Superhero films. (You can read about the mind-boggling monetary take here. The article is by Julie Muncy and is presented on i09.com).

It is clear that audiences absolutely love the Marvel universe and its movies. Captain Marvel, the previous Marvel film release, earned decent -but not superb- reviews from critics and audiences nonetheless made a mint as well. It stands to reason this latest Avengers film, featuring the big hitters (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, The Black Widow, etc.) was bound to draw even more interest. Indeed, in one single weekend its blown out many a box-office record and critics and audiences appear equally ecstatic with the end product (currently over on rottentomatoes.com, the film has a 96% positive among critics and a nearly as strong 92% positive among audiences).

And me?

I will likely not catch it while its in theaters. In fact, I’m not sure if I’ll catch it when it inevitably comes to home video. I have yet to see Black Panther, Ant Man and The Wasp, Captain Marvel, and Avengers: Infinity War. The later film, by the way, I have a digital copy of yet haven’t found the time or desire to see it.

As it turns out, I’m kinda sour on Marvel’s films.

Now, before you get out your pitchforks and come after me, let me quickly say this: I’m incredibly happy about the success of the these films and I absolutely have no desire to put down anyone who enjoys them.

To those who love the hell out of these films, have yourselves an absolute blast!

I sincerely wish I could feel the same levels of joy you guys obviously have with these films.

But… I don’t know if I can. Not anymore.

The last batch of Marvel films I saw were Civil War, Dr. Strange, Spider-Man Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarock. I’ve seen pretty much every Marvel film other than those I mentioned further above and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.

I loved the first Iron Man. Captain America: Winter Soldier is my all second all time favorite superhero film. My favorite? The original Richard Donner directed, Christopher Reeve starring Superman.

So its not like I didn’t like the Marvel films from the beginning. Quite the contrary, there was a time I was very much into Marvel films. But over the past few years I’ve grown weary of them. Their stories are more and more formulaic and, frankly, not all that interesting. Or good.

And then there’s that overbearing, IMHO, snarky humor.

While there was certainly humor present in earlier films, I suspect the original Guardians of the Galaxy started my downward sliding opinion of these latest Marvel works.

That movie was met with incredibly good reviews and ecstatic audience reactions… and I distinctly recall being bummed when, for one reason or another, I couldn’t catch it in theaters during its original run. When the BluRay was released (in those *brrrr* pre-digital copy days), I picked it up and, along with the wife and my eldest daughter, we sat down to watch it and…

…we hated it.

Hated it.

My daughter bailed after some twenty minutes. My wife hung on with me, perhaps hoping, like me, it would get better. It didn’t. Not for us.

Again: I don’t question everyone else’s love for the film. You guys loved it but for us, it was a wiff.

A big wiff.

The story, to me, was a blatant rip off of Star Wars, and the humor I felt was way overdone, to the point where there didn’t feel like there were any stakes.

Dr. Strange, similarly, I really didn’t like. It took the original Iron Man movie’s plot and plopped it on top top of Dr. Strange. Oh, and also added all those snarky bits of humor at the most inappropriate (again IMHO!) times.

Yet I was still willing and hoping for things to get better. I think the next Marvel film I caught (on digital, of course) was Captain America: Civil War. The film was actually more of an Avengers film than “just” a Captain America film, but given it was the follow up by the directing duo of Russo Brothers to Winter Soldier, I was hopeful it would be a great follow up.

It wasn’t.

Sure, there were some really cool things in the film, but the movie’s plot was a mess. Worse, we once again couldn’t take any menace or threat seriously because of the snarky humor. Indeed, whatever tensions we as an audience should have been feeling were wiped out.

The best example of this in Civil War involved what is arguably the movie’s best sequence: The airport fight. It was big and effects heavy and it was genuinely exciting to see on screen the equivalent of a massive superhero fist-fight. But that sequence was, I felt, supposed to be the point where the heroes painfully decided to take sides. It was, again I felt, supposed to be a very serious point where very good friends had to choose to fight against each other, perhaps to the death…

…yet there was absolutely no seriousness whatsoever to the fight. Each landing fist or flying kick was followed by snarky, “humorous” comments.

Were they actually fighting or what?!

Over at i09.com they have a second article concerning the various heroes in the Marvel cinematic universe and their… beards. It’s a tongue in cheek article, of course (you can read it here if you’re interested) and they presented the below graphic at the header of the article:

Image result for captain america and thor beard gif

This couple of seconds long gif perfectly illustrates this undercutting of tension with silly humor: You have what appears to be a serious scene and in the background we have what looks like people fighting to their bloody deaths…

Yet our two heroes, in the middle of all that bloodshed, take a moment to make this joke.

Imagine something like this presented during the D-Day landing in Saving Private Ryan! (OK, I know that’s an extreme example, but still…)

Again: I know I’m in a very small minority with respect to this. I know many of you will tell me to lighten the hell up and not take these things so seriously.

I get it.

But sometimes, even in a “silly” superhero film, you want there to be action sequences with genuine consequences. I can’t help but think the Marvel films owe a great debt to that Donner/Reeve Superman film. It managed to balance humor and action, suspense and nostalgia, wonderfully.

And, yes, Lex Luthor, the film’s main menace, had daffy assistants who often provided jokes and laughs.

But the laughter stopped when the nukes detonated. Suddenly, everything was very serious. Could you imagine a snarky joke presented the moment Superman finds Lois Lane in the desert?

But enough whining. I will stop raining on your parades. Go out, enjoy the film. If I find the time, I promise I’ll see them with as neutral a mind-set as I can.

Eventually.

POSTSCRIPT: Yesterday various networks were running various Marvel films, including the first Avengers film. I caught the second half of it, the first time I’d seen it in many years, and I was surprised by how serious most of the action was presented. Yes, there were these snarky humorous moments, but I’ll be damned if director Joss Whedon didn’t keep the action sequences grand and tension filled.

The helicarrier attack, in particular, was extremely well staged, and Loki’s presentation in the film may well have been the best of that smooth-tongued villain. I couldn’t help but think that film was so very much better for those reasons than, for example, Civil War.

Which proves that the snarky humor in these films has followed a progression from movie to movie, appearing more and more until its become very much a part of the whole.

I wish they would tone back on it!

A Simple Favor (2018) a (mildly) belated review

When A Simple Favor was released last year, I knew absolutely nothing about it. It was one of those films that, quite simply, weren’t on my radar. But I recall reading plenty of good reviews and became intrigued.

I wanted to see the film with my wife but a couple of weeks passed and the film, by that time, left theaters and, therefore, we had to wait until it was available on home video to see it. A couple of days ago, we did just that.

A Simple Favor, directed by Paul Fieg (The Heat, Spy, Bridesmaids), stars Anna Kendrick as Stephanie Smothers, a geeky single mom whose entire life seems to revolve around her son and her video blogs. She meets Emily Nelson (Blake Lively in an absolutely terrific turn) one day and things change for her in all kinds of bizarre ways.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

As I mentioned above and need to repeat, Blake Lively is incredible in this movie as the enigmatic Emily, a woman married to a one-time best-selling author who works for a high flying talent agency. She is as beautiful as she is enigmatic, a classic noir blonde that you just know is all kinds of trouble.

Anna Kendrick’s Stephanie, on the other hand, is the meek and impressionable type, though she too has her secrets and skills, and when she’s asked to do a “simple favor”, pick up Emily’s son from school, and Emily subsequently disappears, an eerie mystery develops and the police become involved. What follows is a serpentine story that throws plenty of curves at you… along with a healthy dose of laughs.

Yes, laughs.

For Paul Fieg, known mostly for comedy, isn’t about to let the film become too dark and gloomy. The tone is generally light and, if I have any particular criticism, its that perhaps there should have been a point where it did get a little darker, especially during the film’s final act.

But I won’t get into details. To say much more would be a crime!

A Simple Favor is a very easy recommendation, a film that uses certain well worn tropes to create a noir-like mystery film but which is also a pretty damn funny and, therefore, quite creative.

And Blake Lively… jeeze. I never had strong feelings for her as an actress one way or another, but she’s so damn good in this role.

If nothing else, see the film for her!

Larry Cohen (1936-2019)

Not familiar with the name?

He created many fascinating works, both as director and writer. Some of his bigger/most famous works include It’s Alive (1974)…

The movie proved popular enough to merit two sequels! He also directed Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)…

But Mr. Cohen wasn’t just a director, he also wrote plenty of material. He is listed as the creator of the paranoid alien invasion TV series The Invaders (1967-68)…

He was the screenwriter for the pretty bonkers Armand Assanti starring Mike Hammer film I, The Jury

Mr. Cohen passes away at 82 late last month. Looking over his IMDB listings, I’m impressed with the amount of material he had his hands on/in. True, some of the works have lost the edge they once had, but still, what a fascinating career!