comic book

[Movie Review] A Warm and Welcome Homecoming for Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

spidermanhome_posterWith great power, comes great responsibility, John Watts. It’s one thing to have Spidey somewhat back in the hands of Marvel Studios, it’s a whole other thing to deliver a portrayal of Peter Parker’s alter ego that can wipe the slate clean from sins passed. Watts has come from ultra low budget horror, Clown, to helming what is hands down the greatest Spider-Man film to date.

Sam Raimi and Marc Webb both tried and–to certain degrees–failed to deliver crowd pleasing adventures for everyone’s favorite web-slinger. While these were not the first efforts to bring the character to the screen in one way or another, of the most modern attempts it would seem the third time (third iteration anyway) was the charm. Tom Holland’s first appearance in Captain America: Civil War gave legions of fans hope for the impending reboot as it certainly appeared that finally the tone and personality of Peter Parker and his arachnid alias had been captured. Spider-Man: Homecoming extends that and more with nearly the entire high school setting.  (more…)

[Mega Movie Review] Catching Up on 2017

13886469_1267046413328617_7042198926381498825_nBusy time of year folks, so apologies to anyone who actually looks forward to my latest reviews. I didn’t want everything I’ve seen to fall by the wayside, so here are some brief thoughts on everything I’ve seen so far in 2017 but haven’t had time to sit down and put full write ups on. Sit back relax and “enjoy” some candid hot takes on these 2017 releases!

Kong: Skull Island – Come for the star studded cast then shove them aside for the awesome creature fights. Kong is visually impressive, but it lacks humanity in a pretty comical way. The characters very much feel like empty shells taking us from one place to another to be bait for the eventual breathtaking spectacle of the Kong fights. In spite of the lack of characters to hang your hat on this was still a pretty tremendous and crowd pleasing theater experience. Rating: B+

Gifted – Sort of let this one get lost in the shuffle. This is a very understated film. There was almost no marketing push and it just sort of appeared in theaters with little to no fanfare. If its still out there though, get out and see it. I could have used a little more closure for some of the relationships and perhaps a little more emotion out of Chris Evans’ character, but this has been the most affective dramas so far this year that also happens to have a pretty delightful sense of humor. Rating: A-

Raw – Coming out of the film festivals the press on this was touting how extreme it was and how it was causing audience members to faint or throw up. When the credits rolled I had one question: What kind of p****** were attending these screenings? I can’t fathom anyone watching this and feeling sick. The sound design is effective, but never to the point that I felt even the slightest bit nauseous. The film looks great, the central performance is quite good and the themes are intriguing…but color me disappointed that this is apparently what gets people worked up these days. Rating: C+

The Blackcoat’s Daughter – I have watched this film at least 4 times now. Each viewing has made it grow on me a little more each time. You’ll want to have been a fan of moody slow burns such as It Follows and The Witch for this one to be in your wheelhouse and if it is you’re in for a treat. Oz Perkins has a knack for creating an uneasy tone and depth to story without over explaining and hammering themes down your throat. Horror fans should quickly familiarize themselves with Perkins…that’s the moral of the story. Rating: B+ (inching ever so close to an A-)

The Devil’s Candy – When The Loved Ones FINALLY came out there was little that would convince me that Sean Byrne wasn’t going to be a horror breakout filmmaker and that his next film wouldn’t be my favorite one of the year. Get Out is going to make it tough for anything else to take that title this year, but even then I still don’t think The Devil’s Candy could pull it off. That being said, it is still pretty great. Byrne’s sophomore flick is tense and totally metal, but could have benefited from a more energetic sense of momentum. Rating: B+

Detour – If you don’t know the name Christopher Smith no one–including me–would blame you. If you haven’t seen any of the movies he’s made, shame on you. The director’s name is so plain that remembering it is understandable, but if you’ve seen and love his movies like I do you’d remember. Detour is just another road of twisty mind games to add to the road map of his career that’s also well worth your time–even if I don’t enjoy the acting chops of Tyr Sheridan. Rating: B+

The Girl With All the Gifts – Those clamorong for a The Last of Us film should know that you kind of already have one–and this is it. The storyline is not the same, but the film has so many aspects that mirror the game that it’s sort of surreal. The emotional resonance is lacking, but the thrills and mythology are more than enough to draw you to this one. It seems as if the creative team involved envisioned something even more ambitious, but budget constraints hold it back at times. Rating: B+

XX – The anthology genre over the years has been cluttered with some singularly focused male visions so it was about time we got some fresh female voices a space to shine. Sure, the final product ends up being about as mixed as most other anthologies, but there is some serious talent on display in each segment in some way shape or form and XX should definitely at the very least be on your radar when it’s released on DVD/Bluray May 23rd. Rating: C+

John Wick: Chapter 2 – The fist installment of the John Wick saga came out of nowhere with its weird comic book hitman universe. The sequel just stacks on the crazy around every corner with some clever set pieces and a sh*tload of headshots. If you don’t walk out ready for Chapter 3 then maybe you just really really hate dumb stylish fun. Rating: B+

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter – The Resident Evil franchise hasn’t been my thing for quite some time now. Each new film seems less connected to the actual video game than the next and instead opts to force in characters and foes from the game with little to no context. The Final Chapter is more of the same and the best part about it–assuming the title is a promise–is that it’s the last time we’ll have to endure any of it. Rating: D- 

A Dark Song – There are a lot of reasons why I don’t practice in the occult. A Dark Song just added one more pretty big reason–it’s friggin hard. Another reason on top of that–it takes a really long friggin time. A brooding character driven horror film that really swings for the fences during the finale which is as divisive as it is emotionally resonant. This is one that most will love or furiously hate. Somehow I was just on the outskirts of love. Rating: B

The Void – As a movie watcher I gravitate toward the horror genre. It’s a world I feel like I know and am comfortable in–in spite of having quite a few gaps in knowledge in the classics. When it comes to horror I’m a sucker for some crazy gore and awesome practical effects, both of which The Void has in spades. However, that’s about all it has. There’s a solid creepy villain near the end, the cult figures are cool looking and the idea is solid. Yet, there’s something lacking in the overall plot and the characters just feel flat. Still, you should probably check it out–at least once–when it hits Netflix this July (2017). Rating: C

Small Crimes – Speaking of Netflix, how about all the original content they’ve been churning out this year? Crazy right? When you tell me the director of Cheap Thrills has a sequel that came out via Netflix I couldn’t hit play fast enough. When it was all said and done, I probably could have waited a little bit and not rearranged my whole schedule to watch it. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s actually quite good. Not as good as Cheap Thrills though. The dark humor and sudden bursts of violence would make this a perfect middle movie for a Netflix Triple feature of Shimmer Lake (scroll down for that ‘review’), Small Crimes and I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (which is fantastic and there might be a ‘review’ below but as of writing this I haven’t added it to the backlog). Rating: B

Free Fire – After High Rise my stock in Ben Wheatley took a mild dive. Kill List is still a work of bleak art so no one can take that away. Then Free Fire happened. Holy cow, you guys. This movie is a blast. It’s also mostly kind of a one trick pony. It’s a good trick, but the circumstances at which all the mayhem goes down is pretty petty and ultimately uninspired. That doesn’t change the fact that watching things escalate and turn to sh*t wasn’t some of the funnest nonsense I’ve seen this year. Rating: B+

Colossal – I go to the movies to have a good time. Sometimes I go to be moved. Sometimes I go to learn a little about myself. Rarely do I get all three. Colossal isn’t the most profound movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s one of the most unique. I got some chuckles, it has some moving realizations and it more than once made me think about my own actions and words with some reverence. For that it is well worth your time and money, even if it is a little weird for its own good. Rating: B+

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – I was tempted to just link to my review of the first movie and call it a day. Volume 2 is very much just a repackaged version of the original, but with a few more gadgets and upgrades attached. There’s sequences that I could have easily done without near the middle, but the end is enough to tweak everyone with a soft heart in the feels. Also, because it was so much like the original I couldn’t help but feel it wasn’t as fresh and surprising. Rating: B

Wonder Woman – Right in front street, Wonder Woman is hands down the best DC movie of the new batch–aka since the Nolan Batman movies. The bad news is that the bar was not very high–even I could limbo under that rotten stick. However, even that is undermining what WW accomplishes. The action is good, Gal Gadot is great as is her chemistry with Chris Pine on screen. The finale is dogsh*t. It’s so bad and unoriginal that it made me wonder if everything before it had tricked me. I don’t think that’s the case so in the end I think what we got was a genuine attempt at righting the ship at DC even if it forgot to drop some of its dead weight. Rating: B

It Comes at Night – Whenever someone asks me about this movie I always say simply this: good movie, sh*t marketing. Except to call out specifics of the marketing could spoil part of the movie for some, even if it would serve to align their expectations. It Comes at Night is a depressing movie. It’s misery porn at its most basic levels. The performances are great, the idea is solid and the director seems to know that less is more when it comes to making us scared and feeling dirty. However, the film shows us so little and tells us nothing that would make enduring the misery all that profound. Rating: C+

Rough Night – Have you seen Very Bad Things? Well, it’s that, but with a cast of women. The case could be argued that Rough Night is considerably less dark than VBT, but let’s face it, were taking about a comedy with a murder at its center. Once there’s a dead body it is tough to pick back up the funny and lets just say the cast tries very hard to do so with mixed to mediocre results. By mixed I mean mixed decent jokes that are still to easy to be considered that clever. All in all you’re money is best spent grabbing a bag of dick straws and having your own party at home. Rating: D

Shimmer Lake – Shimmer Lake, another in the growing line of Netflix Originals, is a weird little flick that for those patient enough to stick it out should feel at least a minicam of appreciation. For those like me, you’ll get a kick out of it. The film is a botched robbery told in reverse and if you are invested enough to not ask why it’s being told in reverse then you, like me, won’t feel like you guessed what was going on from the beginning. It’s certainly not perfect, but I found myself laughing and impressed by a first time filmmakers grasp on reverse storytelling from beginning to end. Rating: B

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore – I know, I’m not a fan of long bizarre titles either. But once you watch this movie you probably couldn’t think of a more appropriate title either. Fantastic performances end to end and a near perfect yarn of normal people in over their heads in a mostly realistic scenario. Macon Blair wow’ed everyone his performance in Blue Ruin, might as well let him do it with his directing chops as well. Rating: A

47 Meters Down – You can thank The Shallows for giving hope to the possible theatrical success of this one. Saved last minute from a direct-to-DVD release at zero hour this Mandy Moore vehicle’s most redeeming aspects come in the form of those who have a fear of being trapped underwater with sharks in nearly pitch black conditions. Bad CGI sharks and questionable twists hinder the movie’s ability to be all that effective, making it similarly pulpy when compared to The Shallows. Rating: C+

[Movie Review] ‘Logan’ Infuses Heart and Violence into a Potent Cocktail

logan_poster-tgofWhile superhero fatigue still has me in its icy grip, along comes Logan to warm that chill–at least temporarily. Perhaps it’s the, at times, overwhelming violence or the emotional vulnerability of being a new dad that makes the arc Wolverine’s final chapter that much more effective. Whatever way you look at it, Hugh Jackman’s curtain call as the claw wielding potty-mouth is a fitting and emotional bow that might rely a little too much on its R rating and hero cliches.

Picking up in 2029 where mutant residency has since passed, Logan spends his days driving a limo for drunk brides and frat boys chanting ‘Merica near the US/Mexico border. South of the border Logan lives with Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and an aged Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart with his most powerful portrayal as Professor X to date) suffering dementia and the occasional population crippling seizure. With his health steadily declining and his body unwilling to heal like it used to Logan begrudgingly accepts to transport a young mutant, Laura (Dafne Keen), with powers strikingly similar to his own, North across the Canadian border and hopefully to safety away from the research facility tracking her down. (more…)

Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

bvsdoj_tgofThere are those of us who willingly choose to avoid the paper representations of the immensely popular superhero films. In doing so, while unable to provide a glimpse into how faithful the adaptations are, can still provide a unique and still truthful outlook to the success of the filmmakers to present a story that is worthwhile and thrilling. Sadly, it’s filmmakers like Zack Snyder who make us realize how good we had it with Christopher Nolan and his uneven take on the cowled vigilante in The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan, provided a grim perspective on the Batman universe and Snyder too uses the grim approach, it also is more often than not…soulless.

For better or worse I approach each superhero flick hoping to experience a well told story. With any luck it’ll come together cohesively even without having read the comics. One should not have to have that knowledge to enjoy the film counterparts because it is the job of the filmmaker to present the story in a way that makes sense in its own right. Snyder has not done his due diligence in this regard- at least from this viewer’s perspective. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice certainly sets the table for DC’s own Avengers type formula, but does so in messy fashion. Consider Synder’s vision the Island of Misfit toys so to speak, which goes a long way in describing the film as a whole. It’s like a child playing with his toys and like a child they’re no sense or meaning to anything that happens, just the bashing together of plastic soulless figures because it’s fun. Plus this particular child has a $250 million budget so those plastic toys look a lot cooler.  (more…)

Movie Review: Deadpool

teaser-one-sheetIn 2009, if someone had mused about the possibility of a Deadpool movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine almost singlehandedly put those hopes to bed. The fact that we are here now, means of course the fate of the “Merc with a mouth” wasn’t quite as grim as previously feared. Comic fans and non-readers alike can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the gleefully profane Deadpool not only found the light of day, but shattered box office records even with its much needed hard R rating. Breathe a double sigh for the fact that the film is pretty f*ckin’ awesome too.

A superhero movie decidedly not for the kiddos, but don’t worry, when they are of age they’ll seek this bad boy out and you can finally share in the love. Deadpool follows the origin story of the anti-hero played wonderfully by Ryan Reynolds. Before he was Deadpool though he was Wade Wilson, a mercenary for hire who meets and falls in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Things seem to be going perfectly when he’s hit with a bombshell- he has cancer. Facing certain death and unwilling to make Vanessa endure the pain he accepts an invite from a mysterious man proclaiming he has the cure and can turn Wilson into a hero with extraordinary abilities. The process leaves him horribly scarred and Wilson embarks on a revenge mission to find the man who turned him into an invincible monster.  (more…)

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider Man 2

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At this point no matter how hard Sony tries I cannot get excited about their new round of Spider-Man movies. I like Andrew Garfield, I love Emma Stone and I like comic book movies. Hell, I even liked THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN more than most. The trailers for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 didn’t make me NOT want to see it, but I just couldn’t get excited about it- same went for Marc Webb’s first go around. As of now the cinematic Spidey world just feels too crowded and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 isn’t doing the cannon many favors.

Picking up where the first left off the sequel follows the continued efforts of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) trying to keep the streets clean with his alter ego Spider-Man. At the same time Peter is juggling his conflicted relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) an old friend, Harry Osbourne (Dane DeHaan) returns with troubling news. Before long a huge admirer, Max (Jamie Foxx) suffers an accident that leaves him with shocking power that he can’t seem to control. When Spidey tries to neutralize Max his admiration turns to hatred as the newly dubbed Electro sets his sights on eliminating Spider-Man from the world. (more…)

Movie Review: Iron Man 3 (2013)

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I must admit that as much as I loved IRON MAN I probably could have been done with the series after IRON MAN 2. I didn’t hate the sequel, but aside from the racing sequence it seemed like nothing more than a clone of the first film with an equally if less satisfying finale. It took nothing more than one trailer for IRON MAN 3 for me to change my tune completely, granted THE AVENGERS did soften the blow immensely. With all due respect to comic nerds, IRON MAN 3 delivered on almost every level for me and I dare say it could possibly end up being my favorite of the series thus far.

Following the events during the finale of THE AVENGERS, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who we all know also as Iron Man, is struggling to sleep- in fact when he does he has terrible nightmares. A lack of sleep has also lead to a series of equally distressing panic attacks as he is terrified of the potential that he cannot match the power of his opponents and thus cannot protect the love of his life, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). While Stark struggles the world is looking at a global terror threat in the form of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who has been causing lots of tension with a series of mysterious bombings of which there is no evidence of an actual bomb at the scene. When Stark’s interest in the matter becomes personal he can’t resist the urge to call out terrorist which sparks an intense confrontation where Stark must alone face a threat unlike anything he’s seen.

It’s true that I have never read an Iron Man comic in my life and it’s been made abundantly clear that because of that I cannot comment on how a comic lover would enjoy IRON MAN 3, but as a fan of the first film and the character as portrayed by Downey Jr. I have to say this movie straight up rocks. I am aware of an Extremis plot within the comics, which this film explores and Shane Black’s film works for me in every way. It isn’t perfect by any means, but the personal conflict Stark faces along with the way it ties in with THE AVENGERS all hit me in a way that I enjoyed greatly.

I did have some questions with some of the logistics of certain scenes and the fact that this takes place in a post Avengers world how at some point none of them might have been called upon, but at some point I just was okay with brushing aside those thoughts and enjoying how fun and exciting the film is on its own. Shane Black’s script had enough surprises and flip flops to keep me on my toes and interested in the outcome of any given situation to almost make me forget how let down I felt after IRON MAN 2. I am not quite sure if it really stacks up with THE AVENGERS in terms of total enjoyment, but as an Iron Man film it delivered in every way for me.

The special effects are great and when integrated into some of the central action sequences they are easily the best the series has seen. The climactic battle is alone better than the first two film’s final fights put together. Aside from the finale there are two really epic action sequences that are equally impressive in terms of visuals and overall quality of filmmaking. Don’t get me wrong because I love THE AVENGERS, but the plane rescue in this film at times beats many of the action set pieces featured in Joss Whedon’s film.

It was a breath of fresh air to see a new face behind the camera for the third IRON MAN, but I must say that Black’s script doesn’t always take full advantage of its characters in spite of some really fun surprises. I also don’t find the use of 3D to be necessary despite the fact that it works incredibly in the plane rescue and a few other moments, but felt wasted in many other scenes including the finale.

IRON MAN 3 is bound to have a crowd of detracts, but then again what movie doesn’t these days. Shane Black did more than enough to restore my faith in the franchise and in the process directed a film that could close it out in a satisfying way and be the most enjoyable of the series. Robert Downey Jr. continues to knock it out of the park as the wisecracking billionaire and eccentric genius while carrying everyone around him. IRON MAN 3 also shares some of the villain woes from its predecessors, but makes up for them in ways the previous films didn’t. This non-comic enthusiast may not have the knowledge that most nerds have, but I still give the film two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Rating: A-

Brew & View: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

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The first edition of Brew & View, a post in which I pick a movie and suggest a beer for you to enjoy as you watch said film features 2010’s SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD. I caught Edgar Wright’s video game/comic book film in theaters and was a bit apprehensive at first, but warmed up to over time. I gave it a pretty favorable review in spite of any issues I may have had on the first viewing and it’s become a film I love more and more everytime I watch it even though I still don’t think the romance angle is as effective as I’d like.

There’s an indie spirit to the approach Wright takes to the film, but some pretty awesome flashy sensibilities as well when it comes to the way the fights are choreographed and executed. The humor is what carries this film through along with the visual style and video game flare thrown in just for fun.

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Beer Pairing: Tallgrass Brewing Company’s 8-Bit Pale Ale

The choice here is intentionally transparent as it plays with the video game theme that’s also present in the film. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD opens with the Universal logo and theme in an 8-Bit style animation and music which fits in perfectly with the name of the beer.

What I feel also links these two outside of the obvious name connection is the fact that Tallgrass’ 8-Bit Pale Ale is a beer that I wasn’t quite sure what to think of at first, but only got better as I drank it more. There’s a bit of a citrus taste that comes through on the nose and on the taste making it a light beverage at first but finishes with a bit of a bite- a perfect beverage counterpart for SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD.

Movie Review: Dredd (2012)

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Few comic book movies have elements that aren’t inherently silly or elements that come off as silly when implemented on film. Even dark interpretations like THE DARK KNIGHT have aspects that people scoff at, just as THE AVENGERS has aspects equally as eye rolling to certain audiences. For me DREDD is a comic book adaptation that mixes that dark tone with elements of that straight popcorn fluff entertainment into a gleefully violent and fun action flick.

As a straight up reimagining to the woefully terrible Stallone flick DREDD is everything JUDGE DREDD wishes it were. Sure it’s missing all the hilariously fun and over-the-top acting moments from its cast that you can play over and over on YouTube, but what it lacks in unintentional laughs it makes up for in straight faced jabs that can be equally as fun and entertaining. The younger version of myself was always able to squeeze plenty of enjoyment out of Stallone’s turn at the character, but after seeing this update I’m more than just aware that my younger self should be served up for judgment.

Karl Urban is awesome as the stone faced Judge Dredd, a law enforcer in the wasteland of the old world that is just one of many with the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner to those who chose to ignore the law. Olivia Thirlby plays a trainee appointed to Dredd as the two investigate a murder in a massive apartment complex run by a lethal drug kingpin know as Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), who locks them in with intent to kill, so the Judges are forced to fight for their lives. Thirlby holds her own, but it’s really Urban and Headey’s show as the two square off and have plenty of fun doing so.

Through all the grizzled tough talk DREDD has a pretty awesome visual style, while the story is nearly identical to THE RAID: REDEMPTION. The similarity isn’t an issue as far as the been-there-done-that factor goes, but honestly THE RAID’s action and fight choreography tends to put DREDD in its place. That’s not to say I’m telling you to skip this because of that, because the action here is still good, it’s just that it’s unfortunate that it shares so much in common with a film released the same year.

DREDD is a comic adaptation B-Movie action flick that was never going to change your life, but it is a damn fine piece of popcorn entertainment. This film serves as a memory wipe of the Sylvester Stallone vehicle that came before it and replaces it with a stylish, bloody and darkly comedic entry into the comic book film realm. DREDD may also dip a few too many times in the Zack Snyder bucket of slow motion scenes, but watching people’s heads explode in slow motion is still pretty hard to be mad at.

Rating: B+