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Marvel Movie Madness film festival -- and you're invited!

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Author Topic: Marvel Movie Madness film festival -- and you're invited!  (Read 4612 times)
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« on: May 07, 2011, 02:46:56 am »

Rotten Tomatoes Presents: Marvel Movie Madness!
It's a major Marvel film festival -- and you're invited!
by RT Staff | Friday, May. 06 2011
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You like Marvel Comics? You like movies? U mad?

Then step right up for Marvel Movie Madness! Beginning Monday, Rotten Tomatoes is watching (or re-watching) every significant film from the Marvel filmography, coinciding with this summer season's unprecedented onslaught of Thor, X-Men: First Class, and Captain America: The First Avenger. We'll deliver our thoughts on each film, and regale you with witty tales of us sitting, eating, and watching comic book movies.

Below is our schedule of events and we encourage everyone to watch along, leave comments, and get some heated discussion going. Thor is the first movie on the schedule so go watch it this weekend. It's Certified Fresh! We'll publish the Day 1: Thor article early Monday so you'll have until then to gather up some beautiful sexy thoughts and talking points.

May 9: Thor
May 11: Hulk
May 13: The Incredible Hulk    May 16: Fantastic Four (1994)
May 18: Fantastic Four
May 20: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

May 23: Blade
May 25: Blade II
May 27: Blade: Trinity    May 30: X-Men
June 1: X2: X-Men United
June 3: X-Men 3: The Last Stand

June 6: X-Men: First Class
June 8: X-Men Origins: Wolverine
June 10: Ghost Rider    June 13: The Punisher (1989)
June 15: The Punisher (2004)
June 17: Punisher: War Zone

June 20: Man-Thing
June 22: Red Sonja
June 24: Howard the Duck    June 27: Spider-Man
June 29: Spider-Man 2
July 1: Spider-Man 3

July 4: Kick-Ass
July 6: Men in Black
July 8: Men in Black 2    July 11: Daredevil
July 13: Elektra
July 15: Iron Man

July 18: Iron Man 2
July 20: Captain America (1944)
July 22: Captain America (1990)    July 25: Captain America: The First Avenger
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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2011, 09:00:47 pm »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 2: Hulk
Underrated or appropriately maligned?
by RT Staff | Wednesday, May. 11 2011

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes over the coming weeks will watch all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

Part 2: Hulk (2003, 62% @ 227 reviews)
Directed by Ang Lee, starring Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliot, Nick Nolte

Jeff: Marvel books have been the inspiration for plenty of disappointing movies, but I'm not sure any of them stung as badly as Hulk. Of all the characters who seemingly stood to benefit from modern special effects and a smart director, this guy had to top the list -- but while we were watching a paint-covered Lou Ferrigno and thinking about how much cooler a comic-sized Hulk would be, we never stopped to consider how much harder it'd be to build a real human drama around him -- or, just as importantly, meaningful fight scenes. Two words: gamma dogs.

Luke: About half an hour into this movie, bored little kids started doing laps in the theater. I was hoping they'd keep running around and wreck the place -- at least they were entertaining, which is more than could be said for this sorry pile up of faux heavy drama and cartoon CGI. Hey look, I'm Ang Lee and I'm making a comic book movie! You can tell because I keep sliding the panels across the screen! Just like, you know, in a comic book! Even when Yoda from Attack of the Clones showed up to trash some tanks, the kids still didn't sit down. I should have joined them.

Jeff: What really bothered me about the sliding panels was that Lee was trying to create a real serious drama with Hulk, but he kept taking the audience out by cluttering it up with those "I'm making a comic book movie!" gimmicks. It puts a distance between the viewer and the characters, so by the time Nick Nolte is spraying through his climactic monologue, all we can do is laugh. Hulk still wouldn't have been a good movie without the comic-style editing, but it would've have less schizophrenic.

Tim: I went to a matinee with my brother and his wife, and there was this family a few rows ahead of us with these two little kids running around the theater screaming. We left after a half hour in a lousy mood, but not because of the movie, which we agreed was intriguing. As I sat down to watch it in its entirety the other night, thought to myself, "When is this supposed to get bad?" I understand what you guys are saying about the self-conscious attempt to mimic the experience of a comic book, but I disagree: One of the most interesting aspects of Hulk is its bold stylistic palette. Lee is able to meld the kinetic energy of reading a comic with the airy, evocative mood of an art film -- those early scenes of a young Bruce wandering around his boyhood home have a sense of patience and beauty that wouldn't look out of place in your average Director's Fortnight entry, while the split panels pack information onto the screen without distracting from the main points of interest. And as with Brokeback Mountain and The Ice Storm, Lee doesn't bog the whole thing down with unnecessary exposition. A lot of superhero origin stories over-explain things, but the actors in Hulk do a good job of playing their roles with admirable restraint, creating three dimensional characters within the admittedly limited confines of the material.

Jeff: Wait, wait, wait. Did you say restraint? I thought we were talking about the Hulk that stars Eric Bana and Spittlin' Nick Nolte.

Tim: I'm just saying there's a little more shading than your typical comic book movie. Actually, that's the biggest problem with Hulk -- it's a superhero movie that's not really a superhero movie. I hate to say this, but the inherent problem with Hulk is the Hulk himself. The appeal of the comic is obvious -- Bruce Banner is cold and cerebral, while the Hulk is his raging id -- but the movie does something altogether different. It promises Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but gives us King Kong instead. All the while, we're stuck in a strange position. Do we root for the Hulk? Pity him? Marvel at the fact that he's completely unstoppable? I think audiences were expecting "Hulk smash!" and were disappointed when they got "Hulk struggling to deal with traumatic, confusing nature of Hulk's existence." What can you do with the Hulk? He's indestructible, has no control over his strange gifts, and for most of the movie he doesn't have anyone to fight except the military -- and they're not inherently malevolent. So other than feeling protective of Jennifer Connelly, his actions aren't really his own, and we don't get the satisfaction of watching our hero battle the forces of evil. Ultimately, I like Hulk -- heck, I like most of it quite a bit -- but it's not an unqualified success because its makers never really figured out how to make its central character sympathetic.

Jeff: I agree -- that's what I was getting at with my opening comment. A big ol' Hulk seemed like it'd be the coolest thing ever...and then he showed up on the screen. In the comics, Hulk has meaningful enemies, but he's also got decades of backstory; the problem with giving him an origin tale on the big screen is that the rules say you've gotta have action, and the screenwriter doesn't have the luxury of spending two hours showing Banner on the run. But that's what I think it'd take to really build the kind of framework you need to invest an audience in a movie about a giant green monster who doesn't really speak. And I know that's what Lee was trying to compensate for by tilting his focus toward all that internal struggle, but I think he undercut his efforts with all those self-consciously "comics" gimmicks. They repeatedly took me out of the movie. Ultimately, I didn't hate Hulk, but I never cared about what was happening, either.
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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2011, 09:03:16 pm »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 3: The Incredible Hulk
The Hulk saga concludes. What did everyone think?
by RT Staff | Friday, May. 13 2011

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes over the coming weeks will watch all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

Day 3: The Incredible Hulk (2008, 66% @ 211 reviews)
Directed by Louis Leterrier, starring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, William Hurt, Tim Roth

Jeff: I had high hopes for The Incredible Hulk. An outstanding cast, an action-savvy director, the introduction of the Hulk's most powerful enemy, and five years of special effects improvements could only help, right? Well...yeah...mostly. All in all, I enjoyed this a lot more than the first Hulk -- it boasts a terrific first act that tells you everything you need to know in ten minutes, returns Bruce Banner to his fugitive roots, and ratchets up the tension by doling out brief glimpses of our wrathful green antihero. It also benefits from flashes of humor and an obvious respect for the character's history.

But it loses momentum once Banner locks lips with his beloved Betty Ross (on a bridge! In a rainstorm!), and although the climactic battle between Hulk and the Abomination certainly delivers more action than we got in the first movie, it's so overblown, and so larded over with CGI, that it doesn't resonate the way it should. It feels like Zak Penn, Edward Norton, and Louis Leterrier got so excited about putting together a big ending that they didn't know when to stop -- "We'll pit them against each other in the middle of Harlem! And Betty will be there in a helicopter that dangles them around for a few blocks before crash landing on a roof!"

All that being said, "big," "loud," and "overblown" are intrinsic qualities of the Hulk -- and The Incredible Hulk brings them to life about as successfully as possible. I think he's probably just a poor choice for a film protagonist.

Tim: I couldn't agree more. What's strange about The Incredible Hulk is that it's obviously attempting to get the franchise back on track (no more subverting the superhero film, art house directors!), but it's more compelling as a sort of Bourne-lite chase movie than it is as a re-introduction to the Hulk. They still don't know what to do with the big green guy. There's a terrific sequence at the beginning in which Banner is getting chased through a densely populated section of Rio, and director Louis Leterrier stages the whole thing with assurance -- it's a good chase scene, and there's no shaky cam! But the whole thing comes to a screeching halt when the Hulk actually shows up.

It's weird that The Incredible Hulk is most effective as a chase film. I think that Eric Bana looks more like Bruce Banner, but Ed Norton's nervous energy and wounded psyche make for an interesting man-on-the-run figure. I love it when they're running from the government and trying to figure out what to do. But the big action set-pieces are just so over the top. The sequence on the college campus, in which dozens of humvees are speeding over the quad and the military is firing on the Hulk, is kind of deadening -- it goes on way too long, and there's a strange lack of energy to the whole thing. Plus, as the recent raid on Osama's lair in Pakistan has taught us, isn't it smarter to stake out Bruce Banner and catch him with a tranquilizer rather than corner him, make him mad, and then unleash a barrage of useless weaponry on him?

Jeff: I thought the Hulk's Rio appearance was the only one that worked, because you don't really see him; Leterrier takes the thinking man's horror approach there, and only gives you glimpses of the big guy between the carnage. It obviously wouldn't have worked if he'd tried to stage the whole movie that way, but I can't help wondering what might have happened if those action sequences had been dialed back just a little. For instance, going back to the campus battle -- did we really need to see a helicopter explode all over Betty and the Hulk?

Ryan: Jeff, you've touched on one of the two central problems I had with the movie: Why couldn't Leterrier have filmed the whole thing only showing glimpses of the Hulk? Because at the end of the day, people inevitably want to see some good, old fashioned "Hulk smash!" But that also brings me to the second problem I had, related to the first in such a way that I don't know if a really good Hulk movie can be made anytime soon: filmmakers still haven't quite figured out how to infuse a computer-generated character with believable humanity and work him into the film's real-world universe seamlessly.

Like you guys, I thought the first half hour was the best part of the film, and Jeff's horror comparison is right on, because the Hulk in this form is best in small doses. Banner is inherently a more interesting character than the Hulk, so whenever the big guy trots onto the screen in all his full, green glory, the film does lose momentum; the CGI is definitely improved, but not enough for the action to feel like anything more than a really fancy cartoon. Audiences are too sophisticated now to be wowed by the mere spectacle of another semi-realish-looking monster going berserk, unless you give that monster something super interesting to do; this isn't 1933, and -- let's be honest -- "Hulk smash!" isn't really that interesting.

I didn't hate the movie, though; I just found it surprisingly a bit lifeless. Tim Roth is always an excellent villain, and despite some of the more melodramatic moments (cue the spontaneous dusk and rain), I thought the cast did a fine job. It might be somewhat of an unfair criticism, but it was really the CGI that killed it for me. I'd totally watch a Bruce Banner chase movie, by the way.

Tim: Speaking of Tim Roth, he signifies one of the most interesting things (to me, at least) about this movie: the subtext of The Incredible Hulk. Like many iconic works of fiction, the classic Marvel comics were created in response to the social and political concerns of the day. But what happens when the times change, and what was once sci-fi is no longer, well, fi? Take Frankenstein: it was written at a time when scientists were learning how to harness electricity. Now that we've actually figured out how to create life in a lab (hello, Dolly the Sheep!), Mary Shelly's intended allegorical concept has been lost to the ages. Likewise, the Hulk debuted during the Cold War, when nuclear obliteration seemed like a possibility, and kids in classrooms were being told to duck under desks to avoid radiation. While we've never totally shed our collective skepticism toward nuclear energy, we've entered an age in which the human body can be enhanced -- and ultimately damaged -- through the use of performance-enhancing drugs. In our modern era, you can literally become the Hulk. The Incredible Hulk was released only months after the Mitchell Report, which provided lurid details of a Major League Baseball culture rife with steroid use -- essentially, Tim Roth is a stand-in for Roger Clemens.

Alex: Who gets to be Bo Jackson? I'm simply glad we're getting no sequel out of this; Tim Blake Nelson was hammy and embarrassing and can't imagine him returning as an effective villain at all.

Matt: You guys are being far too hard on this movie; for all its faults, I still mostly enjoy it. Liv Tyler is miscast here, but the storyline mostly works for me, especially in light of Ang Lee' take on the big green guy. First of all, although not perfect, the Hulk looks MUCH better than he did in Lee's movie (where he looked like Shrek). And although saddled with a lot of Avengers set-up, Leterrier manages to make most of it flow into the story much better than we saw in Iron Man 2. Secondly, I disagree with the idea of treating the Hulk as an unseen menace (a la the shark in Jaws) -- if you're going to make a movie out of the Hulk, you have to show him big as life and twice as mean. I enjoy the final fight scene because it's so overblown, in true Hulk style. Also, let's hear it for not making us sit through another origin story for 30 or 40 minutes. Can we all agree that we don't need any more scenes in any movies about superheroes learning to use their powers? Been there, done that.

I do agree that the Hulk is a tough subject to use as a film's protagonist. Creating legitimate conflict for the Hulk is similar to creating legitimate conflict for Superman; when your hero has god-like abilities, you need to raise the stakes pretty quickly or the movie won't really work. Ang Lee's Hulk never manages to do this in a satisfactory way, and I don't think the Abomination is a home run here either. In my opinion, the best Hulk movie yet was the direct-to-video, animated Planet Hulk.

Ryan: I get where you're coming from, Matt, and I actually think we agree on a lot of points; it's just that I didn't really find the movie as entertaining as you did. And your last point sort of speaks to one of the major issues I had: the best Hulk movie, in your opinion, is an animated one because, at least for me, it's just not going to work in live action with our current CGI technology. See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 4: The Fantastic Four (1994) will publish this Monday, May 16.
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« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2011, 12:41:22 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 4: Fantastic Four (1994)
This early attempt is no stretch of the imagination.
by RT Staff | Monday, May. 16 2011

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes over the coming weeks will watch all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

Part 4: The Fantastic Four (1994)
Directed by Oley Sassone, starring Alex Hyde-White, Rebecca Staab, Carl Ciarfalio, Jay Underwood

Matt: Imagine hiring a director and cast to make a movie that you never intended to release. That's exactly what happened in 1994, when Constantin Film partnered with Roger Corman to make this low-budget version of The Fantastic Four. The film was made only so that Constantin could maintain the film rights to the franchise.

There's no getting around it - this movie is pretty bad, as expected from something that was never meant to see the light of day. And the standard Roger Corman elements are there - stock footage, cheap effects, etc (one of my favorites was the use of asbestos fire suits to stand in for space suits). But to be honest, it's no worse than you'd expect out of something shown on TV in 1994.

The kicker here is that no one told the cast and crew the movie wasn't intended to be released; they all thought the movie was legit at the time. The fact that the director and cast thought they were making a real movie makes this weirdly fascinating to watch. The actors are clearly trying here (sometimes too much), and the movie does have a sort of hokey charm.

In some places, the movie actually does compare to the 20th Century Fox productions. I think this Dr. Doom is more true to what we'd expect from the comics, and The Thing from the later, big budget films doesn't really look that much better than he does here, although this Thing looks a little reptilian.

Alex: I've been falling asleep to this movie over the past week. I'm at the part where one of the villains -- the one that looks like The Penguin's disfigured cousin -- kidnaps a blind pottery artist to make her his bride. I'm assuming Dr. Doom fits into this, perhaps as one of the groomsmen? Is he planning the bachelor party? I'm sure it'll make sense when I get to the end.

Tim:: My cousin, who's a huge Marvel geek, was talking about this movie around the time it was made, so I've long wondered what a zero-budget Fantastic Four movie would look like. Thanks to the miracle of YouTube, I have an answer -- and though this movie is far from being good, it's not the unwatchable mess I had anticipated. I agree with everything Matt said; it's kind of poignant watching the faux Five (and the filmmakers) invest such energy into a movie that would never (officially) see the light of day. The Fantastic Four is overacted (sometimes laughably so), the sets and special effects are straight from the dime store, and it's got a goofy, gee-whiz vibe that's laughably out of fashion in our era of dark, gritty comic book adaptations. But it's occasionally a lot weirder than it has to be (the Jeweler, surrounded by legions of subterranean hobos, wouldn't seem out of place in a Terry Gilliam movie). And I have to admit, the scene in which the Four's craft is hit by a cosmic ray was nicely done -- the slow-mo shots of our heroes blinded by a powerful blast of light was both inspired and evocative. All in all, it's a thoroughly so-so movie, but not a disaster by any means.

Jeff: Purity of intent can go a long way, can't it? Maybe I've just been beaten down by crassly cynical Hollywood product, but I think there's something sort of endearing about a movie this cheerfully crappy. Fantastic Four is bad, but it's bad in a Little Rascals-type "Let's get the gang together and make a movie!" way. It reminds me a little of the Sunday night movies that Disney used to make for network TV, with bare-minimum production values, slumming character actors (I hope they gave you at least enough for a mortgage payment, George Gaynes), and performances that swing wildly from curiously deadpan to way over the top -- sometimes during the same line.

A couple of asides: If someone ever writes a book about the making of this movie, I'm buying it. And during the opening credits, while the Muzak score played over a tour of the galaxy, I briefly daydreamed that I was watching an episode of Newhart in Space.

Matt: Jeff, I think you should do the investigating and write that book - there have to be some great stories there. I'd love for this to get a DVD or Blu-ray release, because I'd be interested in seeing a decent transfer. We all watched this on YouTube, and I think that watching a 240p feed from what has to be at least a 3rd generation VHS copy only adds to the experience. And if it ever makes it to DVD, Jeff gets the pull quote on the box: "Cheerfully crappy!"

Tim:: All joking aside, you guys raise an interesting point: it's unlikely that we'll ever see a curiosity like it again, since no Marvel property is getting the B-movie treatment in the near future. That's not necessarily a bad thing; in the last couple years we've seen some remarkably mature, stylistically bold comic book movies. But that also means we'll be denied perversely watchable oddities like this.

Alex: Made it to the end. Nope, no sense at all. Put this one back in the ashcan. See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 5: The Fantastic Four (2004) will publish this Wednesday, May 18.
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« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2011, 10:35:42 pm »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 5: Fantastic Four (2005)
Does this movie trip the Fantastic?
by RT Staff | Thursday, May. 19 2011
Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes over the coming weeks will watch all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

Part 5: Fantastic Four (2005, 27% @ 202 reviews)
Directed by Tim Story, starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans

Jeff: The 1994 edition of Fantastic Four was reportedly filmed with a $1.5 million budget. The 2005 version cost $100 million to make. Here's how that extra $98.5 million paid off for audiences: Loads of awesome special effects, a couple of solid performances struggling to get out from under a cast loaded with dead weight, and a script that might actually be worse than the original.

It isn't just that FF lurches unsteadily between moments of corny comedy and high drama, or that it plays fast and loose with the comics version of the team's origin -- it's that, aside from a few brief moments of well-staged action, this is one extraordinarily dull film. One of the reason these characters have been Marvel cornerstones for over 40 years is that, in the books, they blend incredible adventures with the kind of petty family squabbling everyone can understand. Here, they're just vanilla archetypes who spend most of the movie either moping around a lab or causing accidental property damage.

Matt: I remember being mostly disappointed with this movie when it came out, but it's not quite as awful as I remembered. That might be because I had just watched the Corman version, and so this seemed a lot easier to watch, or it might be that I watched it with a seven-year-old, and his enjoyment of it colored mine (we both shouted "Wilhelm" simultaneously when we heard one in a fight scene). If you view this as a superhero movie you can watch with the kids, it's not terrible.

The best and worst thing about this movie is the casting. I'll go out on a limb here and say that Chris Evans as the wisecracking, irresponsible Human Torch is the best match of an actor and a comic book hero since Christopher Reeve played Superman (though Ron Perlman as Hellboy is also in the top three). And Michael Chiklis finds the perfect note for the ever-lovin', blue-eyed Thing. But the casting of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl is disastrous. Ioan Gruffudd comes off like more like a salesman quoting technical specs that he doesn't actually understand, and less like one of the smartest men on the planet. And the less said about Jessica Alba's casting, the better.

Jeff: My experience mirrored yours to an extent, Matt -- although the first time I watched this movie, it was in the theater with a seven-year-old next to me, and his sheer enjoyment did nothing to improve my experience. I braced myself for the worst this time around, and it wasn't as awful as I'd remembered, but Ioan Gruffudd (whose name looks like something you might read on a bottle of moderately expensive Scotch) and Jessica Alba (who makes for the least convincing movie scientist since Christmas Jones) don't do themselves any favors. It's all about Chris Evans -- at times, it's almost like he's acting in a different film.

Alex: Chris Evans carries this. I've only otherwise seen his great brief appearance in Scott Pilgrim, and now I'm really looking forward to see what he does with Captain America. As for the movie overall, I've got no complaints. Like Thor, Fantastic Four has a bit of fun with ridiculous premise though the movie admittedly lacks Thor's walloping action. The fight scenes here feel small and pedestrian, I guess about what you would expect from the guy who made Barbershop.

Say what you will about the casting (no real opinion on Gruffudd or Alba; I liked Chiklis when he was costumed up but otherwise he felt a TV actor gruffing his way through movie land), together this group does the job. The script is nimble when it tires, whipping you through various state of emotions with all the characters - I simultaneously pitied The Thing, love/hated The Human Torch, and resisted the urge to yell for Mr. Fantastic to freaking grow a pair. These are big, weird characters exposed for the first time, and in those moments when the movie is firing on all cylinders it's a little joy to see them bounce off each other. Good ensemble work. Again, about what you would expect from the guy who made Barbershop. See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 6: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) will publish this Friday, May 20.
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« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2011, 10:44:17 pm »

ARTaylor on 05-18-2011 04:59 PM
Fantastic Four was certainly not the best, but neither was it the worst comic book adaptation. I was mostly underwhelmed by it. I'll sit through it, but I won't go out of my way to see it. I ended up with a lackluster "meh" feeling.

It came out when comic books were just getting started and didn't do anything to stand out from the crowd. It came out after Spider-Man, X-Men, Blade, Hulk, Daredevil, and Punisher, all of which were origins. Rather than do anything different, it just followed the established and already well-worn origin format. It was practically following the same exact beats and scenes as Spider-Man and Hulk. There was nothing about it to stand out from the crowd.

As said, the casting is hit and miss. Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans are terrific, almost perfectly cast. They are exactly as I imagine when I read the comics. If they did a reboot, I would greatly appreciate if those two returned. Ioan Gruffudd is mostly uninteresting. He doesn't do anything interesting. He does have Reed's bumbling social awkwardness, but not the intelligence. Jessica Alba was terrible casting, merely there for a "big" name in the credits. I assume that when people said "big name" the producers heard "bra size." She is absolutely nothing like the comic version. And they just threw in scenes to show off her body without much reason, like the bridge rescue.

And they completely missed what makes Doctor Doom so great. He's one of comic book's greatest villains. Here, he's nothing. First, they made the mistake of going with his Ultimate version rather than the far more interesting main universe. Then, he does nothing for most of the movie except hate everyone else. Julian McMahon tries hard, but he isn't given much to work with.

The special effects were good. Mister Fantastic and Human Torch looked cool. Though it isn't too hard to make a woman invisible. I absolutely loved that they did Thing in practical make up since it looks so much more realistic than anything they could do digitally. And it wasn't just some crappy TMNT-copycat.

Considering that there are four superheroes, there's surprisingly little action. There's the space station disaster, the rescue on the bridge, and the end battle. It's mostly technical jargon from people reading a script, with none giving the impression they know what it means. And the action just doesn't give the time necessary to build up anticipation and make people care about what's going on. It's okay for what it is, but too many other movies have done it better.

It's an okay, middle of the road movie, neither terrible nor terrific. It played it safe to make money for the studio and didn't excite anyone. I did think that the second movie improved on a lot of aspects. But I am no where near sad that they decided not to make a third in this series.

My rating: 60%
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« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2011, 12:57:38 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 6: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Closing out the Fantastic week.

by RT Staff | Friday, May. 20 2011

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes over the coming weeks will watch all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

Part 6: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007, 37% @ 166 reviews)
Directed by Tim Story, starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans

Ryan: If you thought 2005's Fantastic Four was bad, then you probably won't be too surprised by anything in Rise of the Silver Surfer. But if you, like me, thought FF '05 was OK despite its flaws, then RotSS will irritate you. It will probably make you regret giving the first one a fair shake.

Rise of the Silver Surfer is, at first, relatively familiar. Ioan Gruffud still suffers from an unhideable accent, Jessica Alba is still nothing more than a pretty face, Michael Chiklis is still the archetypal "big softie," and Chris Evans again outshines his co-stars as the only properly cast character. The special effects are pretty solid, save for a bit of dodgy, of-its-time CGI in the form of the Silver Surfer, and the action pops a little bit, even if it's ultimately forgettable -- so, yeah, pretty much like the first installment.

The core problem (not the only one, mind you) with the movie is that it can't seem to decide if it wants to be a kid flick or something for older audiences. The writing is terribly simplistic and the humor is broad (extended stretchy dance number, anyone?), but it's intermixed with some sexual innuendo (how does The Thing, you know, "do it?") and winks at the audience that kids just wouldn't get. There's just not enough of either to skew the film one way or the other, so it ends up being half entertaining for adult moviegoers and half beffuddling for kids. The first movie had a bit of that, but this was a big step down, in my opinion.

Alex: You know how some movies blur, making you aware you're really just staring at a wall for two hours? This is one of them. Did anything of remote interest happen here? The first Fantastic Four edged itself between hokey and fun and came out on top, but everything here just toppled over at the slightest bit of drama. No good dialogue, Silver Surfer did nothing, and we see another Marvel superhero go to the dark getting down on the dancefloor. How scandalous.

And, Jesus, I forgave Doctor Doom in the first movie, but this one? Julian McMahon looks barely fit to rule a Radio Shack. Hey, Fox: It's been a few years. Please sell the rights to Marvel Studios. Tony Stark needs to set up drone strikes in Latveria.

Wait...there is something about this movie I remember...

There were Ray Bans. I need Ray Bans. And Midway's fine video game, Hydro Thunder, available where Gillette razors are sold. And did you just say there's a to-scale fully functional Fantasticar replica for purchase?! Wait, hold up... This Fantasticar is not manufactured by Dodge and it doesn't have a Hemi as verbally endorsed by Mr. Fantastic and Human Torch? Well!! Good day, madam, I tip my top hat to you and bid farewell.

Ryan: Seriously! Morgan Spurlock even namechecks that exact scene as part of his inspiration for Greatest Movie Ever Sold. What's funny is, Johnny Storm enters a scene early on in the movie holding up a NASCAR-like bodysuit emblazoned with various logos, and the others poke fun at him for being a brand ****. Haha, so meta!

Oh, and Doom? I almost laughed out loud when he spoke his first lines from the shadows of his cloak. Julian McMahon's voice isn't really the type to make me reach for an extra pair of boxers; he sounds like someone I might hear complaining loudly at my bank.

Jeff: I'm so mad at you guys for making me watch this movie. Someone could have at least told me that you can pretty much skip the first hour without missing anything.

Alex: It's clear filming was compromised. Everything looks rushed. It shoots product placement out the ass non-stop. No wonder everybody walked away from this franchise.

Matt: This movie especially suffers if you've watched it right after the sitting through the 2005 movie. I watched both of them with a seven-year-old, and even he was getting bored with this movie.

What's really frustrating about this franchise is that the filmmakers seem to have read a CliffsNotes version of what's important to the Fantastic Four legacy, and then completely missed the point by making everything so bland that you just don't care what's happening. Doctor Doom, a wonderfully rich character in the comics comes off as merely slimy here. The Silver Surfer loses most of his nobility. Galactus is no longer a staggeringly powerful sentient being, but is now a mindless cloud of destruction; not to nerd out here, but one of the more interesting parts of the original comics plot was how Mr. Fantastic actually confronted Galactus. Even the idea of Johnny Storm using everyone's powers at once is a bastardization of an old story about the Fantastic Four faced with the challenge of an alien soldier (the Super-Skrull) that shares all of their abilities, and could change shape to boot.

I think the Fantastic Four could be made into a great movie franchise someday, and I can only hope that the rights to these characters fall back under the Marvel umbrella someday. Marvel may not have a perfect record, but they can't do anything worse to the Fantastic Four than what's already been done.
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« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2011, 12:29:32 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 7: Blade
We sink our teeth into Marvel's vampiric hero.
by RT Staff | Tuesday, May. 24 2011
Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes over the coming weeks will watch all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

Part 7: Blade (1998, 55% @ 84 reviews)
Directed by Stephen Norrington, starring Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N'Bushe Wright

Matt: In 1998, Blade hacked and slashed his way onto the big screen in one of the bloodiest comic book adaptations we'd ever see (at least until Blade II). Wesley Snipes, mostly at the top of his stardom, played the vicious vampire killer, and the movie was directed by a relative newcomer named Stephen Norrington.

I remember liking this movie, but I was surprised at how bleak it was when I rewatched it. There's a washed out feeling to the cinematography that's somewhat alienating, and I think it really helps set the tone here. As I watched it though, I felt like there was a conflict between the laconic intensity of the Blade character and Wesley Snipes' natural exuberance. Blade is very dour character here (more than he is in the comics), but sometimes Snipes just can't help mugging, or making a wisecrack.

Alex: Absolutely, this movie looks fantastic. The sets have zero clutter, with the images stern and elegant. It actually creates a sense of oppression, reminiscent of The Dark Knight later on. Other than some unfortunate CG work during the climax, it's hard to believe Blade has been out for nearly 15 years.

Norrington is clearly more comfortable with Snipes's physical strength than later directors who waste a lot of time on unnecessary stylized shots and slo-mo moments. You got Wesley Snipes in front of the camera; just let him do his thing and you'll get all the badass you need. There's very little posturing and chasing around in this movie. It's all direct choreographed brawling and it just feels great and real.

That's what I love about Blade and X-Men: they were filmed when Marvel had no precedent of Hollywood success. They hide their comic book origins and focus on making sense within the real world. Blade has refreshing immediacy, something slowly traded away for spectacle in modern comic book movies.

Tim: I agree with you, Alex. Having not read the Blade comics, I could imagine how this story looked on the page without much difficulty. I really enjoyed how movie plugs you into its world without tons of convoluted backstory or heavy portentousness. Still, there's a lot going on here: at times, Blade is an AIDS parable, at others, an Oedipal nightmare. Sometimes, Snipes comes across as the supernatural resurrection of John Shaft -- he's a supercool freelancer navigating the underground on a mission to make things right. But none of that detracts from the sheer fun of this movie -- it's got several fantastic set pieces (I particularly love the disco bloodbath at the beginning), and the performances are all better than they need to be. I could listen to Kris Kristofferson read the phone book, and N'Bushe Wright is good enough here to make it lamentable that we haven't seen much of her since.

In some ways, the sleek aesthetic of Blade feels like a dress rehearsal for The Matrix one year later: it's got leather trench coats, shades, a throbbing techno soundtrack, spiritual mumbo jumbo, and truckloads of spent shell casings. Alex is right -- some of the special effects look surprisingly dated, and the end is probably 15 minutes too long. But he's also correct in the fact that Blade is an assured B-movie that works well despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that Blade is a lesser-known Marvel character -- it's not weighted down with the expectations of a rabid fan base, so it can go about its business with efficiency and a good deal of panache.

Alex: Marvel was probably cautious after watching D.C. let Superman and Batman rise, crash, and burn. Smart to toss out Blade first to test the waters.
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« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2011, 12:32:30 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 8: Blade II
Was this sequel cut from the same cloth as the original?
by RT Staff | Wednesday, May. 25 2011
Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes over the coming weeks will watch all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

Part 8: Blade II (2002, 59% @ 136 reviews)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro, starring Wesley Snipes, Ron Perlman, Kris Kristofferson, Norman Reedus

Alex: 2003: The year the comic book movie boom really got started. Spider-Man web-slung into theaters to declare superheroes the new king of summer, and Blade II marked the first time Marvel had produced a movie deserving of a sequel. In this outing, Blade relocates to Russia searching for his left for dead mentor, Whistler. At the same time, a mutant breed of vampires rises, forcing Blade to make uneasy alliances with enemies and new sidekicks.

This is, for better or worse, a Guillermo del Toro movie. Baroque sets and lots of colorful characters, creatures, and gross-out gore. Del Toro's style has only grown in popularity following Blade II but I prefer the original's spare style. Blade II is one big bouncy cartoon, and I frequently find that del Toro's passion and creativity exceeds his directorial intuition. I don't plan on revisiting this film ever but do find it marginally compelling to see a director put a personal stamp inside a mainstream superhero series.

Luke: Alright, I confess -- I couldn't handle any more of this movie after 30 minutes. The bad sunglasses, leather trenchcoats and crappy industrial beats were hurting my will to live. But I would pay to see a movie based on that Photoshopped image from a couple of years back in which Blade puts an end to Edward Cullen's miserable existence. Come on, IRS, cut Snipes a break so we can see this happen.

Tim: Listen, I've got nothing but love for Guillermo del Toro, but I have to agree with Alex. Blade II has a lot of things going for it in comparison to its predecessor -- the effects are better, the action is cranked to 11, and the makeup design is vivid and grotesque (the Reapers look like Nosferatu by way of Aliens). And there are some wonderful del Toro touches -- I loved the ninja-like vampires who invade Blade's workshop -- and a couple funny lines (Blade: "So you're human." Vampire attorney: "Barely. I'm a lawyer").But there's something missing this time -- it's not like Blade is the most effusive superhero on the block, but the first movie placed him in an intriguing milieu and let us fill in the blanks. Here, he's not as haunted, and therefore not quite as weighty. Add to that a couple of absurd plot twists, plot inconsistencies, and a non-starting romance, and what you're left with is a slicker, more cosmetically appealing movie that nonetheless fails to equal the gritty soulfulness of the first film.

Matt: This movie is a weird match of director and subject to me. I think del Toro's creativity is really hobbled here; he's got a real flair for blending horror and fantasy, but I don't think the Blade series the best place for that. Don't get me wrong - I really like this movie, I just think it's one of the weaker entries in del Toro's filmography. If Blade seems to feel like a dress rehearsal for The Matrix, then Blade II is definitely del Toro's dry run for Hellboy two years later. But this movie isn't bad, by any means. The action is well-staged, (it had better be, if you're going to cast Donnie Yen), and Snipes seems to have a sixth sense for striking photogenic martial arts poses no matter where the camera is placed. I should also add that watching these movies definitely makes me miss Action Hero Wesley Snipes.

Jeff: No, it isn't a bad movie -- in fact, I prefer it to the first installment, which I thought had some nifty ideas but was ultimately undone by Norrington's unsteady direction. Del Toro is simply a better director, and as a result, I thought Blade II felt much more assured -- the funny lines were legitimately funny, some of the action sequences were legitimately awesome, and the visuals, of course, benefited from del Toro's signature style. Like Luke, however, I started to feel fatigue set in after awhile, and I thought the whole thing went completely off the rails in the final act, with one overblown battle after the next. (Did anyone else feel like they'd slipped into a Three Stooges/vampire hybrid when Blade and Nomak broke out the wrestling moves?) If del Toro had cut 20 minutes, this would've been a much stronger film. See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 8: Blade: Trinity will publish this Friday, May 27.
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« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2011, 12:41:42 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 10: X-Men
The beginning for Marvel's beloved franchise.
by RT Staff | Tuesday, May. 31 2011

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes over the coming weeks will watch all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

Part 10: X-Men (2000, 82% @ 154 reviews)
Directed by Bryan Singer, starring, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen

Alex: I see now X-Men isn't about superheroes. It's about mutants. About the fear, the isolation, the terror of inhabiting a world that seeks only to shun or bury you. This movie has a hard edge, likely because in 2000 it represented some risky filmmaking. An ensemble comic book movie? The furthest thing from a sure bet. So then kudos to Bryan Singer for knowing what he had in Hugh Jackman and sticking with him. If you're watching X-Men again with us, I hope you took note how much Singer challenged Jackman and what a fantastic performance he gives back. Check out the compelling single-take, zero-dialogue scene of Wolverine scampering through Xavier's school, running up against walls, avoiding detection. Jackman, a thespian with a background in dance, moves like a feral animal. His presence makes the movie feel robust and physical. And Singer makes the rest of X-Men feel real: Magneto's effective (if exploitative, whatever) holocaust origin story; the melting horror of Senator Kelly; the way Mystique hisses in agony when Wolverine slices off a part of her body. The powers are mutant, but their pain is human all the way.

Luke: I agree. I really like this film. I know a lot of the kudos conventionally goes to X2, but for me this is just as good: a lean, character-driven introduction that hits most of its marks with well-crafted finesse. X-Men is a great character movie. It takes its time to establish the players and their relationships, which is tricky when you've got so many to deal with, to the point where you feel for them individually -- even through the more routine pyrotechnic climax on Liberty Island. I like that Singer spent time building the backstory of Magneto and Xavier -- McKellen and Stewart, both all class; as ever -- and how he handled the Nazi experimentation stuff (echoed later in Del Toro's Hellboy intro, even), a subject he seems to return to with fascination (see his previous Apt Pupil and later Valkyrie.) I wonder how First Class can top this, frankly.

What Alex said about Jackman is spot-on: I don't know that he's ever been better, in anything, than he is here -- he's hungry as a performer, able to combine limber physicality with a gruff sensibility, and he brings a real thread of sardonic humor to what might have been an overwrought exercise in superheroes-as-metaphor. Considering he got cast last minute when the film was already shooting, it's even more impressive -- can you imagine the first choice, Russell Crowe, or Dougray Scott, who began and then dropped out? Never. Also, I dug his protective relationship with Rogue and her look-but-don't-touch bind, and the comic sparring with Cyclops over Jean (that throwaway gag where he flips the adamantium bird is great.) It's a solid bit of filmmaking that didn't presume it could coast on existing fanboy sentiment, probably because it was sort-of out on its own as a comic-book franchise opener at the time, and maybe because Singer approached it as a filmmaker rather than simply a slavish fan -- he'd turned the project down originally a couple of times before agreeing. It works hard to set itself up as a series, which then duly paid off (well, at least until the third part made a popcorn meal of things, anyway.)

Tim: Alex, the key word is indeed ensemble. X-Men has a lot of characters to introduce, and it does the job without shortchanging anyone (or getting bogged down in the details). Take Rogue, for example: she's as much a victim of supernatural teen angst as Bella Swan, but X-Men deals with her predicament more poignantly and economically in 104 minutes than all three of the Twilight movies. Her relationship with Wolverine is wonderful as well -- the X-Men are all outsiders, and it's touching the way they bond over their shared idiosyncrasies. Plus, the fight scenes are coherently edited, which allows us to see the mutants? powers in action, without shaky-caming things into a blur. The film's gay rights subtext seems brave for an early 2000s blockbuster, but the movie never gets didactic -- instead makes its points within a briskly-paced, richly compelling action movie framework. See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 11: X2: X-Men United will publish this Wednesday, June 1.
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« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2011, 12:59:33 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 11: X2: X-Men United
The series hits its most entertaining heights.
by RT Staff | Wednesday, Jun. 01 2011

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes over the coming weeks will watch all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.


Part 11: X2: X-Men United (2003, 88% @ 222 reviews)
Directed by Bryan Singer, starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen

Alex: X2 comes out and makes $30 million more opening weekend than X-Men's. Suddenly, everybody realizes the box office potential of the superhero. X2's story picks up directly after the original: Wolverine returns to the mutant campus after a fruitless Weapon X origin search, just as Magneto gets involved with a plan to neutralize all non-mutants on Earth.

A government raid on Xavier's school puts the children in danger but the movie is never cheap or exploitative about it. X2 takes the time to show daily school life and scenes of Wolverine getting to know the kids at school feels authentic. Wolverine's resulting savage defense of the children becomes much more thrilling. Wolverine kills humans, Magneto fatally pulls iron out of a guard, and Pyro rains destruction on the police at an idyllic suburban home. The first movie was about living in fear and oppression, this one is about lashing out when the blood boils over.

After the raid on Xavier's school, Singer juggles three separate stories (Jean, Wolverine, and Professor X), sending them towards a snowy showdown in Canada. I like how Singer uses no more establishing shots after this point as to keep the proceedings chaotic and tightly wound. The last 50 minutes of this movie is like a single breathless action scene.

Luke: X2 is every bit of a satisfying piece with the first film. It's weighty without being ponderous, philosophical but full of great action sequences (Wolverine vs. Deathstrike, for one), moves at an engaging clip like a chase movie and boasts the same brand of humour among the characters, which works here organically because we already know and love them. Much more than its predecessor, the real villain here isn't so much Magneto as it is intolerance and government interference, and the film builds sympathy for Erik (one of the few things I think the third movie carried through on) by having him team up with the X-Men to foil Stryker (the always excellent, and here deceptively menacing, Brian Cox.) Some things feel more like seeds planted for the future -- the teenage mutants don't have enough to do in the film's second half -- and new characters -- teleporter Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming, amusing) seems to exist as a plot device to bust Xavier out in the climax -- are there more or less to expand the universe in the films. But the core bunch are as good as always, with the Jean-Scott-Wolverine love triangle heightened nicely and Magneto and Xavier's battle for the sympathies of humanity extended to strong effect (I still wanted Storm to do a little more again, but at least she gets to pilot that fantastic jet.)

What's interesting revisiting X2 is how the emotional impact develops from Stryker's manipulation of Wolverine's memories: ironically, the brief flashbacks to Logan's creation hit harder than anything in X-Men Origins: Wolverine did in its limp entirety. Watching it again I also found Jean's sacrifice to be pretty moving, which makes me curious to revisit The Last Stand to see if her resurrection as Phoenix capitalizes on any of that feeling (from memory they kind of fudged it). Again, Singer composes this one handsomely (and has his own bit of fun with Iceman's "coming out"), John Ottman's score has an even richer classical thump to it, and the thing builds to a pretty deftly cross-cut finale that balances spectacle with character. Visually, the X-Jet's pursuit through the twister clouds was a highlight; comedically, I loved the moment when Wolverine viciously extends his claws... only to have a house cat tenderly lap at them.

Tim: You guys pretty much said everything I was thinking about this one. X2 is an outstanding sequel, deepening the world established in the first film while adding some interesting wrinkles. The uneasy alliance between the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants makes for a very tense second half, with allegiances shifting seemingly from moment to moment. I also loved Nightcrawler -- playing the haunted, lonely mutant, Alan Cumming's performance is terrific, and the character is interesting enough to warrant his own movie, so it's a shame he wasn't back in The Last Stand. It's too bad Lady Deathstrike got killed off -- I'd love to see her and Wolverine battle it out some more, since they seem evenly matched (and seem to relish their one fight together). Still, the climactic escape is thrilling and moving, and offers further proof that this is a franchise that knows what it's doing.
See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 12: X-Men: The Last Stand will publish this Friday, June 3.
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« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2011, 06:51:29 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 12: X-Men: The Last Stand
The original trilogy comes to a close.
by RT Staff | Friday, Jun. 03 2011

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes over the coming weeks will watch all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

Part 12: X-Men: The Last Stand (2006, 57% @ 228 reviews)
Directed by Brett Ratner, starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen

Luke: The Last Stand feels like a kit car: from a distance it appears to be the real thing, but get up close and lift the shell and you discover it's running on an inferior engine. Like most I wish Bryan Singer hadn't jumped ship for that confusing Superman movie, but I also think Brett Ratner takes too much of the bad rap for X3's shortcomings. Ratner's douchey reputation tends to precede his competency as a director -- sure, his images lack the grace and personality of Singer's, but in his defense he at least tries to be reverent. The third part of a trilogy is always a tough gig, too: filmmakers have to pull the story threads together while feeling the need to up the ante by adding more characters and inevitably the level of spectacle. I'll get crucified for this, but I actually enjoyed most of the first part of the movie, which surged with a requisite sense of urgency for a third chapter, but it's eventually undermined by a screenplay that loses focus of what worked in the first two films, shortchanging the characters in favor of repetitive, tone-deaf action. There's an exact point that seals the movie's doom for me: Vinnie Jones, playing Juggernaut as a variation of his soccer hooligan persona, grunts, "Don't you know who I am? I'm the Juggernaut, ****!" It's horrible screenwriting, whatever the justification for it, and lazy lines like "The best defense is a good offense" don't belong in a series that previously worked to establish some gravitas.

What's worse is how it discards the characters that mean things to the audience. Scott gets dispensed early on without much care (as does Mystique); Xavier exits and the movie suffers greatly without his reason; and Jean, who gets a couple of great moments early on as pure Phoenix id, has her potentially emotional moment with Wolverine in the finale squandered amid an avalanche of loud CG. Meanwhile new characters receive disproportionate attention: I guess Kelsey Grammer is an okay Beast; it's always nice to see Ben Foster, however briefly; and at least Juno, I mean Shadowcat, gets to call Vinnie Jones a "dickhead" (a rare satisfying moment.) My biggest problem, though, is the handling of Magneto. This film gets to a point where he had my complete sympathy -- his fight against the cure seems just, or at least active, when everyone else is standing around debating flaccidly -- but X3 turns him into a low-rent, shouty villain who suffers a cheap demise in the end. Without Xavier around there's no balance to the relationship, no tempering of each others' ideology. (That ending and post-credits thing makes little sense and seems more like an easy sequel ploy.)

I don't think this is necessarily the horrendous sequel its reputation has come to suggest, but it is a disappointingly rushed conclusion to something that had been set up with care; it understands only bombast when it needed to pause to give the characters their due. Then again, it's a masterpiece compared to what was coming next...

Alex: X-Men Origins: Wolverine is stupid as hell but at least it moved around like a Hollywood movie. The Last Stand is completely disjointed: tonally all over the place, the plot lurches around in fits and starts. The X-Men are completely reactionary in this movie: they appear to have no purpose in existing beyond checking out the aftermath of Magneto's antics. Their time is spent inside the mansion crying about bad plot devices and trying to knock boots with a reanimated Jean Grey. Nothing made my jaw hit the ground faster seeing this movie exploit Professor X's death for some sweet, sweet Iceman/Rogue/Kitty Pride homeroom drama.

And that "the last stand" takes place with Wolverine, Storm, some boring kids, and Kelsey Grammer on leave from Blue Man Group? I'm glad I had skipped X2 when it came out of theaters. It would've convinced me the series was worth continuing.

It's easy to to blame blame Brett Ratner but this was yet another production shortsightedly rushed by Fox (hopefully the great reviews for X-Men: First Class will have convinced the studio to cut it out). Ratner doesn't have much hay in the stable of self-critical analysis, and that's an asset when the job is to take this pile of money and shoot fast with a bad script and major actors unavailable. A better director would mull over proper shots and story structure, but, a better director wouldn't compromise themselves with a movie like X-Men: The Last Stand in the first place.

Luke: A great -- and insanely creepy -- point about the Jean-Wolverine situation. Not only is Scott Summers wiped out of the plot early without fanfare, but, as you say, Wolverine then proceeds to spend the rest of the film (when he's not sniffing out nondescript Brotherhood extras in the Ewok forest, that is) trying to consummate his flirtation with Phoenix. Where's the respect? Oh right, that'd be in the cheap pan across the headstones at the end -- hey, remember Scott Summers? Jean Grey? PROFESSOR CHARLES XAVIER (he's the one with comically big tombstone)? Yeah, we thought not -- the movie did its best to make you forget them. But we can look forward to X-Men Origins: Kitty Pride and the Sunny-D, right?

Alex: Kitty Pride's sidekick would be Jubilee and they would fight the injustice of long lines at the mall for iPads.

Tim: I'm just gonna come right out and say it: I've never understood the vitriolic hate this movie inspires. Is this movie as satisfying as the first two? No. Does it feel completely faithful to the X-men universe? Not really. Does it work as an action movie? It does. It's not particularly profound, but The Last Stand does a few things very right. I like the introduction of the new mutants on both sides -- seeing new characters learn how to harness their powers never gets old for me. For all its geographic absurdity, the sequence when Magneto literally rips the Golden Gate Bridge out of its foundations and rides it like a chariot to Alcatraz is a pretty awe-inspiring demonstration of Magneto's abilities. And the scene where Mystique is shot with the mutant antidote and loses her powers right before our eyes - with Magneto unceremoniously ditching her to boot - struck me as strangely poignant. Sure, the X-Men seem curiously understaffed for an apocalyptic battle against the Brotherhood, but the climactic throwdown is both thrilling and crisply edited. And the last scene before the credits, in which Magneto looks both haunted and defiant, has a quiet power to it. Overall, this is the weakest of the X-Men movies so far, but it's still pretty sturdy stuff. See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 13: X-Men: First Class will publish this Monday, June 6.
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« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2011, 12:01:51 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 15: Ghost Rider
We're getting Blazed.
by RT Staff | Friday, Jun. 10 2011

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes over the coming weeks will watch all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

Part 15: Ghost Rider (2007, 27% @ 131 reviews)
Directed by Mark Steven Johnson, starring Nicolas Cage, Wes Bentley, Eva Mendes, Sam Elliot

Ryan: Over my lifetime, my feelings on Nic Cage have gone from apathy to distaste to befuddlement to acceptance and, finally, amusement. Nowadays, I tend to enjoy the way he throws himself into every role, primarily because I get a kick out of his wild antics and hilarious facial expressions. With that in mind, I was actually prepared to give Ghost Rider the benefit of the doubt.; I kind of wanted to like it, and was half expecting that I would.

Unfortunately, despite the abundance of Nic Cage freakouts, some surprisingly effective (at times) CGI, and the unexpected presence of Sam Elliott, the film is simply plagued by too many little issues to earn even a begrudging seal of approval from me. The three things I had the most trouble accepting? 1) Ghost Rider suffers from tonal schizophrenia, melding silly gags (a motorcycle that comes when you whistle for it) with demonic imagery a bit too intense for younger audiences; 2) Wes Bentley, while certainly creepy, is not menacing at all, and he thus makes for a poor central villain; and 3) little details go unexplained, resulting in either confusion or too great a suspension of disbelief (how exactly does one "outrun the devil," and why is it apparently so damn easy to do?). But let me emphasize again that those are just three of the problems; there's lots to talk about here.

Jeff: There's a certain cheese factor built into every superhero movie -- what looks awesome on the page doesn't automatically translate well on screen, and that includes dudes in costumes battling it out while the fate of the world/universe hangs in the balance. There are two main ways of dealing with this: you either treat these struggles as one part of an otherwise ordinary framework, and ask your audience to suspend disbelief as little as possible, or you embrace the campy humor of it all.

Ghost Rider chose the latter option (most of the time, anyway), and it sort of undermines the entire movie's reason to exist. In the comics, Ghost Rider isn't cheesy at all -- in the '70s and '80s, when I read the books, he might have been the most badass Marvel hero of them all. But on the screen...well, he's a flaming CG skeleton in a biker jacket. It's hard to pull off with a straight face, so Ghost Rider doesn't even try.

This is a shame for a lot of reasons, chief among them the presence of Nicolas Cage, one of the few actors who really seems nuts enough to go Method as a messenger of Hell. Cage is trying here, and although his decision to make Johnny Blaze a quirky guy doesn't always pay off, he's far from the worst thing about the movie. Ghost Rider is the type of film where the devil shows up with thunder, lightning, and a skull on the handle of his cane, and where a renegade demon wanders into a biker bar (helpfully named "Saloon") and is stopped by a biker named Killer who growls, "Angels only." Without getting overly precious about a comic book character, this is a needlessly silly film that wavers between disrespectful and outright hostile to its protagonist's mythology. The only way to enjoy it is with a heavy dose of irony -- and that's only if you don't care about Ghost Rider at all.

Ryan: You know, Jeff, when I heard they'd cast Nic Cage in the role, I did wonder exactly what kind of movie it was going to be, because, like you mentioned, I had always remembered Ghost Rider to be a pretty no-nonsense kind of character. Casting Cage sort of automatically undermines that. And what was with the strange finger-pointing thing he did throughout the movie? Was that a reference to some signature pose of his in the comics that I'm not aware of? If so, it might have worked on the page, but on screen it came off looking rather goofy.

Tim: You know, I've never been a big fan of the auteur theory -- given the number of people involved in the making of a movie, it seems reductionist to say that any film is the product of an individual's singular vision (apologies to Andrew Sarris for my simplistic description). However, watching Ghost Rider forced me to consider another possibility: what if an actor, by sheer force of personality, puts his stamp on a film so thoroughly that virtually every other element is consigned to the background? Ghost Rider may not be much of a comic book movie, but as an unintentional argument for Cage's auteurism, it's priceless.

Remember when Magic Johnson said, "There will never, ever be another Larry Bird?" There will never, ever be another Nicolas Cage. What other actor could possibly deliver the following lines of dialogue like he means it?

"Mack, you touch the Carpenters or that chimp video again and we got a scrap on our hands."

"Thanks for the info. I feel much better knowing I'm the devil's bounty hunter."

"You're both good cops. And you provide a very, very important civil service. In fact, when I finish my stunt career, I intend to apply my skills to being a motorcycle policeman."

The answer, in short, is no one. In her outstanding essay, "The Heat-Seeking Panther," Slate critic Dana Stevens wrote, "When Cage takes on these outsize B-movie roles, I don't believe for a moment that he is just nodding wearily to his agent (and his accountant). I think he's fulfilling a vision, albeit one that looks inscrutable from the outside, of choosing roles in the kind of movies he himself loves." When Cage is howling maniacally while his skin burns, or drinking cup after cup of water and tossing each on the floor (in a church, no less), or writhing on the ground at his father's gravesite, he displays such insane commitment to his performance that your first instinct is to chuckle, and your second is to shake your head in slack jawed appreciation.

I know we're supposed to be talking about Ghost Rider, but I can't muster enough enthusiasm for the movie to take our task seriously. If this was made in the 1970s by Roger Corman as a low-rent knockoff of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia or something, I would have liked it a lot better. It's most interesting as a tale of a cocksure stuntman, the sweet gal who loves him, and a deal with the devil. It wouldn't be the Ghost Rider of the comics, but it might be a better movie. Good for us that it is what it is, since we get to see Nicolas Cage do his thing. God love him.

Jeff: I agree with you, Tim -- that's kind of what I was getting at with the last sentence of my writeup. This is the only way to enjoy the movie: as glorious schlock, untethered from the source material. But if it doesn't work as a Ghost Rider movie, then why involve the character at all? Why not just make a movie about Nicolas Cage as a guy who's tormented by the devil and bursts into flame against his will?

One reason and one reason only: Because the Ghost Rider brand has built-in commercial value. Every franchise is built to make money, but I felt like Ghost Rider was more flippant about it than most. All of Cage's insanity isn't enough to keep the movie from ringing hollow. See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 16: The Punisher (1989) will publish this Monday, June 13.
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« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2011, 02:14:50 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 20: Red Sonja
Marvel starts seeing Red. Will we?
by RT Staff | Wednesday, Jun. 22 2011
Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes over the coming weeks will watch all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

Part 20: Red Sonja (1985, 20% @ 20 reviews)
Directed by Richard Fleischer, starring Brigette Nielsen, Sandahl Bergman, Ernie Reyes Jr.

Luke: It's telling when Arnold Schwarzenegger describes this film as one of his worst -- he once said that he used it as a threat to his kids: "I tell them, if they get on my bad side, they'll be forced to watch Red Sonja 10 times in a row." So what do they and Maria make him watch? Jingle All the Way? I beg to differ with Arnold's appraisal of his canon.

Not that Red Sonja is good. It's terrible -- but in a pleasurable way. Brigitte Nielsen was apparently cast in the title role mere weeks before production when producer Dino De Laurentis saw her picture in a fashion magazine, and she delivers the kind of magnificently wooden performance that hiring process would suggest. Any time Schwarzenegger shows up -- which is not enough, because he disappears for long, deadly stretches of the film -- it's like Olivier stepped on set; that's how lifeless Nielsen is. But all of this adds to the fun. Watching her and others negotiate lines like "Talisman... stolen... must... destroy... the... talisman" and "so it's true -- only women may touch it" is to be in bad acting heaven. And Arnie's Kalidor (essentially Conan but by name) wrestling and punching a mechanical dragon in a pond is like that scene in Ed Wood where Lugosi had to tangle with the fake octopus.

One thing that is genuinely great in the film is Ennio Morricone's score. I was surprised to hear it, but it's unmistakeably him in Spaghetti fantasy mode. And some of the costume design (there are some fantastic headdresses) and shot composition/photography in the castle scenes (the DP often worked with Fellini, so there you go) wouldn't look out of place in a Jodorowsky film. Hire that guy to do the remake, I say -- you're sure to get the requisite fantasy nudity missing here, at least.

Alex: Brigitte Nielsen's performance, annoying bratty sidekicks, and an endless barrage of weird Arnie lines. There's plenty of things about Red Sonja that would bug me, but something like Neilsen trying to act up to Schwarzenegger's level is really a sight to behold. I liked Red Sonja, and not even ironically. This is a one-of-a-kind fantasy camp implosion that could only occur within the confines of 1985.

The movie opens with scenes of carnage, including Sonja's **** at the decree of Queen Gedren, apparently as an act of revenge for Sonja rebuking her sexual advances. The movie's plot involves preventing Gedren from using a destructive artifact that evaporates any male who touches it. There's an upfront and transgressive sexual agenda in play that's rather delightful, especially considering most sex in comic book movies is handled with kid gloves, drawn from easily-digested affairs or love triangles. Red Sonja is supremely silly, like a Boris Vallejo painting come to life, and that's got to count for something.

Matt: I have to jump in with a quick note for the nitpickers about how Red Sonja qualifies for inclusion as a Marvel Movie; Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan) did create a character called "Red Sonya" for one of his stories, but apart from the name, that character had little to do with what we see in the movie. Marvel writer Roy Thomas took the renaissance-era, pistol-packing secondary character created by Howard, and dropped her into Marvel's take on Howard's Hyborian age, changing her into a sword-wielding, chain-mail bikini-wearing heroine. Confused? Just remember that Red Sonja as seen on screen is mostly based on her comics appearance, and not as a book character.

This is a great example of "so bad it's good," and that's mainly because of the cast. Arnold, Brigitte, and Sandahl Bergman (previously seen in Conan the Barbarian) are all pretty awful here, as is most of the dialogue. Ernie Reyes Jr, as the child prince, is pretty annoying, but you can forgive him because the script is so silly. The other fun part of this movie is spotting the 80s character actors; that's Paul Smith (Bluto in Popeye and Feyd Rabban in Dune) as the prince's guardian, and Gedren's right-hand man was played by Ronald Lacey, who's probably most recognizable as Major Toht (the black-clad, face-melting Nazi) from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

You can tell this movie was done on the cheap, but producer Dino De Laurentiis still manages to make the movie look pretty good (relatively speaking). It's not quite an epic production, but it doesn't look as bad as something like The Sword and the Sorcerer. It's not a great example of movie making, but it's a damn sight better that Man-Thing.

Jeff: There isn't a lot of analysis I can add to what you guys have already written, but I have to say that I think Red Sonja is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. It's amazing -- words can't possibly do it justice. Every performance -- hell, every single line -- is delivered without an iota of visible connection to the material, and watching it while listening to Morricone's dramatic score is like watching someone desperately try and blow up a leaky balloon. It's absolutely mesmerizing. I urge everyone reading this to see it at their earliest convenience, preferably after having a few drinks. See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 21: Howard the Duck will publish this Friday, June 25
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« Reply #14 on: June 23, 2011, 02:19:57 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 19: Man-Thing
A long, hard look at Marvel's Man-Thing.
by RT Staff | Tuesday, Jun. 21 2011
Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes over the coming weeks will watch all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

Part 19: Man-Thing (2005, 20% @ 5 reviews)
Directed by Brett Leonard, starring Alex O'Loughlin, Rachael Taylor, Matthew Le Nevez, Imogen Bailey

Matt: This week of the Marvel Movie Madness contains the movies we're calling "the weird crap" - Man-Thing, Red Sonja, and Howard the Duck. We've seen some good and bad films get made out of Marvel properties, but I think we can all agree that the movies this week are based on some of the lesser-known titles, and all three of them are pretty ugly.

Today, we're focusing on Man-Thing. Based on a long-running, semi regular title, Man-Thing is a shambling swamp monster that's basically Marvel's version of Swamp Thing (the creators of both characters came up with them around the same time). Man-Thing had a brief monthly run, but was then cut to a quarterly or semi-annual run as double-sized issues. And to the delight of everyone's inner 12-year-old, they were called "Giant-Size Man-Thing."

Being able to make jokes about the title is the most interesting thing about this movie, because it's really awful. It's supposed to be set in Louisiana, but the movie was shot in Australia, and there's not a single square foot of the land down under that looks anything like Louisiana swampland (and the Spanish moss hanging from every branch isn't really fooling anybody). The story is about the new sheriff of Bywater, Lousiana, who is trying to solve the mystery of a spate of disappearances, connected to the local oil-drilling company. And there's something about a shambling swamp monster. But honestly, I didn't care about this film at all. The script is poorly written, the acting isn't very good, and worst of all, the movie is flat out boring. Yes, something is killing the locals, but you don't really care about any of them. The dialogue sounds like cliches from other movies, and the movie just felt cheap. It did get an international theatrical release, and had been shown in the US as a "Sci-Fi Original" on the Sci-Fi (now SyFy) Channel. But honestly, this movie makes Mega-Shark vs. Giant Octopus look like a James Cameron movie.

Alex: This one was pretty much hopeless from the beginning. A low-budget creature feature designed to go straight-to-DVD? Even Howard the Duck had aspirations of being a good movie at one point. Man-Thing was indeed originally going to be shot in the deep American south but once production got relocated to Australia, everyone probably just about stopped caring. I agree, the swamp sets aren't convincing. And the actors lurch from thick Australian to twangy American accents inside the same sentences. Director and non-actor Brett Leonard plays a pivotal secondary role, not out of narcissism but to ensure that at least somebody sounded consistent on screen.

But, hey, at least this movie showed some boobs.

Tim: Man, this one has all my favorite movie stereotypes: malevolent southern degenerates, mystical Native Americans, evil small town plutocrats, and a well-meaning sheriff from the outside, who's about to learn of the unspeakable secrets lurking out there in the mist. I said stereotypes, because Man-Thing is decidedly short on characters (though I kind of like stars Alex O'Loughlin and Rachael Taylor -- they do the best they can with their cardboard roles). Or plotting. Or thrills. Or anything that would mark this as a Marvel property. Man-Thing feels like a particularly undercooked episode of The X-Files -- I was constantly waiting for Dana Scully to show up and start gathering evidence. If the political undercurrent of, say,The X-Men has evolved since the 1960s, then pity poor Man-Thing, who seems condemned to being a ham-fisted eco-parable. See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 20: Red Sonja will publish this Monday, June 22.
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