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

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« Reply #15 on: June 25, 2011, 01:59:54 pm »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 21: Howard the Duck
Marvel amuck.
by RT Staff | Friday, Jun. 24 2011
45 comments
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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 21: Howard the Duck (1986, 16% @ 32 reviews)
Directed by Willard Huyck, starring Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins, Ed Gale

Luke: Well, I guess everyone's going to violently disagree here, so I'll come right out with it. This is the kind of movie that reminds me why I never trust critics' opinions on anything. If you think Howard the Duck is one of the worst things ever made, then frankly you either haven't seen enough movies or have no sense of humor. I mean, sure, the script grimly bastardizes Steve Gerber's comic character in favor of a silly sci-fi adventure -- an ideal Howard adaptation probably should have been animated and directed by, I don't know, Ralph Bakshi or Terry Zwigoff, to capture the character's caustic existentialism. But whatever; how many big-budget PG blockbusters marketed under the marquee of George Lucas have been this **** weird? What I like about Howard is the uncomfortable friction between source material and family-friendly adventure intent -- no matter how they tried to dampen them, traces of Gerber's rude, ill-mannered anti-hero remain. Yeah, the duck puns are inoffensively lame, but consider that in the first five minutes we get a boozing, cigar-chomping misanthrope in the lead and a totally unwarranted frontal flash of duck breasts (upholding the classic gratuitous '80s shot tradition), before soon discovering that Howard rocks a mini duck condom in his wallet, gets a job cleaning the jizz from the tanks at a sleazy sex spa, and then all-but gets it on with Lea Thompson in one seriously strange bedroom scene. What would little kids reared on the Lucas brand name of Star Wars and the previous tame Ewok movies have wondered?

On top of that, Jeffrey Jones is completely gross and hilarious as the evil scientist possessed by an ill-tempered intergalactic demon -- "I no longer neeeeeeeeeeed humaaaaaaaaaaan fooooooooooooood," he wheezes, sweating like a Mr. Rooney from Hell -- in a performance that essentially set the standard for Vincent D'Onofrio's similar turn in Men In Black a decade later (and Jones' ILM stop-motion alien incarnation at the end is pretty damn freaky-great, too). And if Howard's puppet/animatronic form looked dodgy to 1986 audiences, he looks relatively charming and real compared to the sorts of crappy CG characters that would later replace him. It's all a matter of time and perspective. Oh yeah, and Tim Robbins is dorky-funny, the music's by John freakin' Barry (and Thomas Dolby, doing synth-pop punk songs for all-girl band Cherry Bomb), while Lea Thompson's Sistine Chapel of crimped Cyndi Lauper hair is a work of pop-girl art. She and the duck make quite the cute couple. And there's nothing wrong with that at all. I'm guessing that, had this movie not been released under the aegis of Lucas (when the knives were obviously drawn at that point) and instead been made by a unknown entity, it might have gone down as an offbeat cult item instead of the critical whipping post it (unfarily) is.




Jeff: While I can't share your (apparently considerable) enthusiasm for Howard the Duck, Luke, I have to admit that this movie is nowhere near as bad as its reputation. I watched it in the theater as a 12-year-old Marvel fanatic, as the front half of a double bill with Flight of the Navigator, and I hadn't seen it since; I remembered it as being pretty lame, but not the worst thing I'd ever seen, and it more or less lived up (or down) to my memories.

As a showcase for what ILM could do circa 1986, Howard isn't bad, and Jeffrey Jones' performance is a wondrous work of majestic, ham-scented art. But generally, it's just kind of harmlessly silly -- the kind of movie where you can't have a bar fight without a person (or an anthropomorphic duck -- whatever) being sent sliding down the bar, and where street toughs giggle and trade punny quips instead of doing anything really menacing.

The big problem with Howard -- for me, anyway -- is that it's so disconnected from the clever, subversive spirit of the books. As you pointed out, Luke, we do get to see flashes of the "real" Howard, but they're sort of randomly scattered throughout the movie, and the way he's written really doesn't have much of anything to do with who he is in the comics.

So why bother adapting Howard the Duck if you aren't going to do it in a way that fans of the character will recognize or appreciate? It isn't like Ghost Rider, where you can **** off the fans and still have enough flaming action to draw blockbuster crowds. Here, you're just left with a talking, cigar-smoking (and really pretty unpleasant-looking) duck. I don't think it's one of the worst movies of all time, but it's definitely a bizarre disappointment.




Tim: I couldn't disagree with you guys more: Howard the Duck is worse than its reputation suggests. I've been known to revisit critical duds from time to time, and usually I can find something to admire (or, in the case of Heaven's Gate, a whole lot to admire). But sorry, nothing doing with Howard the Duck; it's just awful. It's too sophomoric and silly for adults, and too sleazy for kids. It takes a ridiculous scenario and makes the very least of it; it's the kind of movie where everyone acts as wacky as possible to cover up the fact that they have to sell an incredibly unfunny script. There's so much off-putting stuff here, from the groan-worthy one-liners to the dull action to the the sheer repulsiveness of Howard. Seriously, this movie left me slack-jawed. I've read time and again that the original comics were subversive and smart, but there's hardly a glimmer of that here -- the whole thing feels like a smuttier Mac and Me, or some other dispiriting 1980s relic.

Jeff: I can't argue any of the points you're making about the movie -- especially about the wacky actin' -- but in this particular case, they didn't bother me as much as they bothered you. Maybe it's because so much of the Marvel stuff we've watched for this series so far has been slickly crass, or at best, mind-numbingly competent; although Howard the Duck is certainly a failure, at least it's an unusual one. I didn't come away from it feeling sad and unclean the way I did after watching, say, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer or The Punisher.

Luke: Ah, Tim, you issued all the praise I needed to say right here: "the whole thing feels like a smuttier Mac and Me."

Tim: I agree with you in theory, Jeff -- there are plenty of unsuccessful movies that I enjoy for their sheer weirdness. But said weirdness should feel organic, and unfortunately, I don't get that vibe here -- it just feels like a big-budget movie that went seriously amuck. See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 22: Spider-Man will publish this Monday, June 27.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1922675/news/1922675/marvel-movie-madness-part-21-emhoward-the-duckem/
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« Reply #16 on: June 27, 2011, 10:19:24 pm »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 22: Spider-Man
Can this do movie do what any Marvel movie can?
by RT Staff | Monday, Jun. 27 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 22: Spider-Man (2002, 89% @ 215 reviews)
Directed by Sam Raimi, starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe, James Franco

Luke: You know a comic book movie's big when it transcends genre and becomes part of the mainstream pop consciousness. Like Richard Donner's Superman, Burton's Batman and, later, Nolan's Dark Knight, Spider-Man felt like an event; and it was: domestically it was the highest-grossing film of 2002 -- beating Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter -- and helped crown Marvel's movie renaissance begun with Blade and X-Men.

Kinetic horror auteur Sam Raimi was a great choice to direct: he understands the dynamics of action, and he's also got a wicked sense of fun in his films. As a comic book movie, the first hour of this is pretty close to perfect. Peter Parker's teenage introduction and fateful encounter with the radioactive spider is economically and satisfyingly told; again, it makes me wonder why the hell they're rebooting this series in high school, because the scenes here with Maguire -- who couldn't be a more awkward Peter, in a good way -- don't need redoing. Peter's discovery of his powers and his ability to use them is handled fluidly and with a light touch that's also respectful to the source. I feel like Raimi's touchstone might have been Donner's first Superman, with which this shares a similar momentum toward the lead-up to the classic "superhero begins fighting crime" montage that features in both films. (There's also an obvious Lois-Clark vibe going on between Peter and MJ.) Having Bruce Campbell coin Spidey's name was a cute nod from Raimi ("The Human Spider? That sucks..."), and well, what can I say about J.K. Simmons as Jonah Jameson? He couldn't be more comic book; the man is just a work of art. It's nice, too, to have Danny Elfman around doing a score that sounds like it's big and exciting; of course, there are echoes here of his Batman stuff for Burton, which adds to the sense of hero continuity, I guess.

But then there's the Green Goblin. Spider-Man is really enjoyable on the whole, but I thought GG took some of the wind out of the movie's sails by steering parts of it toward corny, cartoon villain stuff. Willem Dafoe was great, and sufficiently menacing, as Osborn, but his Green Goblin was... well, to me he could have been a villain on the Power Rangers. I know he looks kind of goofy at times in the comics but still, this movie version wasn't up to the job of providing a satisfying adversary -- plus, the script makes it worse by having Dafoe shout crappy lines like "It's time to die!", taunt Spider-Man by singing "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider," and cackle like a cheap Halloween toy. I suppose when you have Willem Dafoe as your Dr. Jekyll, how is the Mr. Hyde part gonna top that for scary? And the climactic duel was ordinary. That's probably a result of the filmmakers having to reshoot what I guess was a World Trade Center showdown, so what could they do? The characterization of Green Goblin (and his silly costume) could've been done with more care.

Anyway, apart from that the movie holds together pretty well. Spidey's web-slinging through the Manhattan streets still looks great, and that upside-down kiss deserves its iconic status; it's up there with the most memorable comic book movie moments, for me.





Ryan: I pretty much echo Luke's sentiments here, with one minor difference: I didn't mind Green Goblin. Yes, he was a bit cartoonish, but it worked for me, and Willem Dafoe was just one member of what I thought was a very strong cast. Initially, I had a problem with Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, because nothing I'd seen him in prior to Spider-Man really convinced me he was right for the role. That changed when I eventually watched the film; I actually think Maguire was pretty close to perfect, with his nerdy, boyish charm and occasional smug grin. And yes, J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson was an inspired choice; now I can't picture anyone else in that role.

The one casting choice I did have a problem with, however, was Mary Jane. Kirsten Dunst is cute in an odd, Muppet pug sort of way, but Mary Jane is supposed to be a knockout. I realize this is just a matter of personal taste, and Mary Jane's allure is probably pretty far down on the list of elements crucial to the story, but I was disappointed when I found out who Peter Parker would be pining for.




Tim: This remains one of my favorite comic book adaptations for many of the reasons you outlined, Luke. The kiss has indeed entered the lexicon of iconic movie scenes, and the movie shows that you can maintain the flavor of the comics while adding a few nice wrinkles. One thing that always bugged me about Spidey's origin story was the idea that Peter Parker would be able to manufacture web-slinging devices; the movie handles this unlikelihood by just giving him wrist webs, a switcheroo that I'm sure few comic geeks really objected to. I love the scenes at the Daily Bugle -- J.K. Simmons and Bill Duke look and act exactly like I'd imagined J. Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson to be, and unlike most superhero movie workplaces, the newspaper really hums with the buzz of activity; it feels lived in. And Peter Parker's exuberance in trying out his new superpowers is just infectious -- to take your Superman comparison one more step, Luke, you really do believe this kid can fly (or at least swing). Overall, this is one of the best examples of how to put an iconic character to the big screen and really bring the world of the comics to vivid life.
See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 23: Spider-Man 2 will publish this Wednesday, June 29

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1922676/news/1922676/marvel-movie-madness-part-22-emspider-manem/
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« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2011, 01:01:07 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 23: Spider-Man 2
Even better than the first?
by RT Staff | Thursday, Jun. 30 2011
168 comments
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 23: Spider-Man 2 (2004, 93% @ 242reviews)
Directed by Sam Raimi, starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, James Franco

Alex: Spider-Man 2 shows Sam Raimi at peak form -- a mischievous filmmaker with a big budget and the studio trust to do whatever the hell he pleases with the expectation that a great huge blockbuster will come out of it. It dutifully treks the path laid out at the end of Spider-Man: Peter Parker is in the city as a struggling college student, Mary Jane is making strides in her acting career, and Harry Osborne picks up the Oscorp pieces in the wake of his father's death. Spider-Man 2 has the same semi-serious bubblegum tone as the first, but with the distinct advantage of having a much juicier villain: Dr. Otto Octavius, whose arc from romantic scientist to Dr. Octopus to repentant villain is simple but always compelling.

Spider-Man 2 to me represents the finest example of comic book filmmaking. It's a joyous adolescent story where kissing and declarations of love are everything, sex is fantasy, and emotions like betrayal, anger, and jealousy are presented at maximum. Raimi delights in juggling everything at once without pushing the tone of the movie too far in any direction. Parker struggling with and abandoning the Spider-Man persona gives that emo flavor the series is known for, but Raimi keeps things fun with personal flourishes, like his cameo as passerby hitting Tobey Maguire on the head with a briefcase, or a shot during the climatic fight where he just had to throw water on Kirsten Dunst wearing a skimpy shirt. And the scene where Dr. Octopus is born on the operating table -- cheesy Dutch angles and hyperactive shots of Doc Ock's arms ripping apart surgeons and nurses - is inspired lunacy.

The only shame is, again, its heavy leaning on already-dated CG work. Other than that, Spider-Man 2 equals The Dark Knight in sheer comic book film entertainment.




Tim: Can I pick a couple nits with Spider-Man 2? Why did Harry Osborn think it was a good idea to hold a public demonstration of the fusion device without making sure it worked first? How good can Mary-Jane's performance be -- in an Oscar Wilde play, no less -- when she keeps missing her lines and staring forlornly into the audience? Why on earth did Peter take off his mask when he was attempting to stop the runaway train? And why is Peter constantly falling down, getting stepped on, dropping stuff, etc.? I mean, I know he's supposed to be an everyman, but it gets a little sadistic after a while, you know?

Whatever. This movie is pretty terrific -- Spider-Man 2 gets a lot of the big things right, so it can be forgiven its small lapses. In a lot of superhero movies, there's no real feeling for anything or anyone outside the frame, but the Spider-Man films do an excellent job of showing a New York City teeming with life -- people have jobs, go to school, and seem to be living life, not just waiting to run screaming when the heroes and villains go to battle. The fight scenes are electric -- you always have a good idea of where Spidey and Doc Ock are in relation to each other, and even their most gravity-defying battles maintain a certain internal physical logic. The climactic battle is suitably chill-inducing and tense, and the scene just afterward, with Spidey and Mary-Jane on the giant web, has a delicate beauty that's comparable to the ice-skating scene in Peter Jackson's King Kong -- it could look ridiculous in lesser hands, but Raimi makes it incredibly poignant and romantic.




Luke: I'll be honest, I just don't get the praise for this movie. Sure, it's fun enough, but it's not as narratively clean and well-paced as the first film -- and it sows the seeds for the round-in-circles overstuffing of the third instalment (which I don't think is any worse than this one). Where in the first movie the birth of Spider-Man and Green Goblin were nicely developed as parallel plotlines (nevermind the GG suit), here the story initially meanders for a large chunk through Peter's uninteresting personal crisis and his romance with MJ, while Doc Ock feels more like the "guest villain of the week" without having a great personal connection to Spidey's arc. I thought Peter's decision to give up his powers seemed a bit arbitrary at the behest of the script, as if it were designed to set in motion endless corny speeches about "choosing what's right" and "being a hero" -- both from Uncle Flashback and Aunt May, who really started to annoy me in this (seriously, like how many syrupy lines about heroism is she going to dish out?) Design-wise Doc Ock is definitely a better villain, even though Alfred Molina's about as scary as your grade school math teacher with a mild temper, and the action sequences are pretty well done -- though the "weightless CGI" is still a minor issue. The movie does, as Tim says, reach a nice emotional crescendo at the end with Peter and MJ finally getting their stuff together, but to me this feels like a place marker for a better story that needs to be addressed...

Ryan: I'm somewhere in between Alex and Luke. I thought Spider-Man 2 was a fun and entertaining follow-up to the first movie, slowly expanding the Spider-Man universe while fleshing out some of its existing characters a bit more. On the other hand, unlike a lot of what I've read and heard, I didn't find this to be an exceptional improvement over the previous installment; I enjoyed both films pretty equally.

I agree that Doc Ock felt like a "villain of the week," but he was adequately worked into the ongoing story, and in the end, don't all superhero movies suffer from this unfortunate plot device? Unless you somehow introduce all of a hero's would-be villains in the first installment of a planned franchise (bad idea to being with), every subsequent film will feature the hero encountering a baddie with whom the audience will have little or no prior connection. The "villain of the week" phenomenon is somewhat unavoidable, I think. Oh, and I thought Alfred Molina was great in the role. In the comics, Doctor Octopus always looked a bit like Elton John in a jumpsuit, so I don't think Molina had much to live up to in the "visual menace" department.

In any case, though I sympathize with some of Luke's gripes, I thought the movie struck a nice balance between the big action scenes and the more dramatic elements. I'm still not sure I understand specifically why so many place this film at the top of the franchise (and for some, the entire genre), but it's definitely a good time at the movies, both for Spider-Man fans and for those seeking great popcorn entertainment. See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 24: Spider-Man 3 will publish this Friday, July 1.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1922677/news/1922677/marvel-movie-madness-part-23-spider-man-2/
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« Reply #18 on: July 01, 2011, 07:24:12 pm »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 24: Spider-Man 3
The infamous closing out the trilogy.
by RT Staff | Friday, Jul. 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 24: Spider-Man 3 (2007, 63% @ 241 reviews)
Directed by Sam Raimi, starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Thomas Haden Church, James Franco

Ryan: It has to be said: This is the most problematic of the three Sam Raimi Spider-Man films. There are too many characters, too many simultaneous subplots, too many villains, too many meandering lulls in between the big action sequences. With two-plus years to work on the third installment, and with two solid films behind them, Raimi and Co. were perfectly poised to hit another one out of the park. Unfortunately, the director's ambition seems to have gotten the better of him on this go-round.

First off, at 138 minutes, Spider-Man 3 is much too long for its own good. They were considering splitting the movie up into two parts, but decided against that when they couldn't figure out a good place to break the story in half, and this sort of "we've got a lot of stuff here, but we don't quite know what to do with it" mentality shows. Next, if Doc Ock felt like a "villain of the week" in SM2, we get double the (dis)pleasure here with Sandman and Venom, who both really feel shoehorned into the central story revolving around Peter, Mary, and Harry, and whose exits from the movie are unsatisfying.

One thing I will say, though, that might place me in the minority, is that I didn't mind "emo" Peter Parker as much as a lot of people did. When he pulls his bangs down over his eyes and starts strutting down the street with that crooked grin on his face, I can't help but chuckle. And when he goes nuts inside the jazz club, it makes me laugh out loud. I'll admit it: I sort of liked the ridiculous nature of it all, and I felt like Raimi was just having fun. Then again, maybe Raimi having too much fun was the problem with the movie as a whole.




Luke: Yeah, it's definitely the most uneven of the films, with too much going on than it can give attention to properly. That said, I didn't enjoy this significantly less than part two, despite its flaws. On the plus side, part three at least feels poised to be a sequel to the first film by addressing Harry's vengeance story. Things get momentarily tense. Harry gets a hoverboard. And then -- oh that's convenient -- he gets amnesia for a huge stretch of the film. Properly done, Goblin junior should have been sufficient to carry the villain duties of the movie, but instead, as Ryan says, we get Sandman and Venom shoehorned in, their stories paced awkwardly, and then a sudden, unbalanced cacophony of supervillainy right at the end -- when it felt too late. Sandman at least had a reason for the conflict (Peter's uncle); the real waste here is Venom, who looks the most badass of any of the villains thus far, but gets shortchanged in the melee. (And why did they need to keep revealing Topher Grace's decidedly non-threatening face during the fight scenes?) Again, the finale is yet another kidnapping of MJ and her precarious high-wire suspension -- don't these villains ever learn from their predecessors' mistakes? -- with varying quality CGI that to me felt like the most rushed of the series.

The love story, meanwhile, just goes round and round and round to the point where I did not care anymore, and the evil Spider-Man suit was cool briefly -- until the script had no more use for it so decided that he could easily -- somehow; cooking oil? -- just take it off and throw it aside. As for the infamous "emo" fringe and dance sequence, I'm with Ryan -- I thought it was funny; moreover, it was one of the rare points in the film where Raimi actually seemed to be enjoying himself. And that's the thing: the director expends so much effort in this movie goofing in the comedic margins that I wonder whether he was bored by everything else. I know I was. I'd had enough of Spider-Man by the end and am not eager to return to his world just yet (especially when it's made by the guy who directed 500 Days of Summer).




Tim: Oh, c'mon, guys. That dance sequence was painful. Not only does it interrupt what was sure to be a perfectly good version of "Fever," it also provides yet another excuse to leave Gwen Stacy sitting on the sidelines (her character just feels like a missed opportunity throughout). If you want a good dance sequence in this flick, I suggest taking another look at the scene in which amnesiac Harry and heartbroken M.J. perk up by making omelets while grooving to Chubby Checker -- that at least had a feeling of spontaneity, something this movie is sadly lacking. However, I agree with you that Spider Man 3 had the same problem as the first round of Batman sequels -- too many bad guys. What we need is an epic showdown that feels urgent and personal, and by giving us two antagonists (two and a half, if you count the Green Goblin), it's more bombastic than tense.

To its credit, Spider-Man 3 has a solid first half; I liked the fact that being a superhero was taking a toll on M.J. and Pete, not least because his ego had gotten out of control. I found Aunt May's reminiscences about the day Uncle Ben proposed to be kind of touching, and Peter's landlord proves himself to be a gruff but thoroughly decent guy; what's nice about all three Spider-Man films is that the characters are, in general, fundamentally decent people who strive to do the right thing (even the bad guys!). Spider-Man 3 doesn't totally deserve its toxic reputation, but it's kind of a bummer that the franchise succumbed to blockbuster bloat after two superior installments.

Luke: Tim, really? It's fine to hate on the goofball dance routine -- I guess that's the consensus anyway -- but to defend it by praising the freakin' egg cooking scene?

Tim: What can I say? I like eggs.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1922678/news/1922678/marvel-movie-madness-part-24-spider-man-3/
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« Reply #19 on: July 02, 2011, 04:31:38 pm »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 25: Kick-Ass
Kicking off Marvel imprint week.
by RT Staff | Friday, Jul. 01 2011
45 comments




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 25: Kick-Ass (2010, 76% @ 235 reviews)
Directed by Matthew Vaughn, starring Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Alex: The question: Could America handle an ultra violent movie that glorified, and even slightly sexualized the actions of a 12-year-old femme fatale? Probably, but Matthew Vaughn never even gives us the chance. An R-rated comic book movie needs to hit and it needs to hit hard. Vaughn instead tries to soften the blow every chance he gets, overstylizing and resorting to tricks like plopping obvious pop songs over action scenes. Here's a Joan Jett song just in case you wanted to be sick of it again! The movie can be appealingly bratty but that's hardly a counter to Kick-Ass' lack of discipline: too many characters, too many meandering subplots, too many too-clever ideas it struggles to be in your face about.

Luke: Oh man, if I have to hear "Bad Reputation" lazily applied to another "girl kicking ass scene" I'm going to burn my vinyl. That song belongs to Freaks and Geeks -- not Shrek, not this; period. That said, I actually found a lot to like about Kick-Ass -- at least for the first half or so, when it was playing like a superhero Superbad. The idea that a ****, undersexed teenager decides to become a low-rent comic book avenger to raise his social status was kinda amusing, and I liked the banter between Aaron Johnson, Clark Duke and co. Also, Nicholas Cage channeling Adam West's Batman and his offbeat, borderline creepy mentor relationship with Chloe Moretz's Hit Girl was great, for a while anyway -- and I love any movie that encourages a 12-year-old girl to drop c-bombs to the horror of queasy moral guardians. I think the problem I had with the movie is that it lost its way toward the end, falling back on pretty generic shoot-'em-up sequences and an uninteresting villain (at least until Red Mist comes into his own in the sequel, if there ever is one). Mathew Vaughn didn't manage to juggle the tones of satire and action here; I think he's better suited to straight violence, because his grasp of humor often deserts him (ahem, Stardust.) The actors -- Cage, Johnson; especially Moretz, who's killer -- gave this the boost for me.




Tim: Luke, feel free to call me one of those queasy moral guardians if you must, but my objection to Hit Girl is less rooted in prudishness than in my feeling that there's really no character there -- she's a conceit, an idea, and a dicey one at that. Her dialogue sounds so written that it's impossible to believe she's a real person, even within the quasi-reality the movie portrays. I get that it's "transgressive" and "shocking" to see a little girl swearing and killing people, but that doesn't make it funny, and it sure doesn't make it exciting. When she's slaughtering a roomful of people while a punk version of The Banana Splits theme plays on the soundtrack, we know she's not in any danger, which robs the scene of tension; worse, I think we're supposed to be amused by the incongruity between the sunny tunes and the bloodshed we're witnessing, but that's been done before, and better -- remember "Jesse's Girl" in the drug-deal-gone-bad scene in Boogie Nights? Or take Kung Fu Hustle for example -- that film has triple the body count as Kick Ass, but it also has real tension and big laughs, and there's never a sense that it's winking at the audience. It also goes all the way and establishes that it exists in a hyper-real, cartoony universe, while we're never quite sure how seriously we're supposed to be taking the world of Kick Ass.

I guess what I'm saying is that the film assumes a level of emotional detachment and cynical humor that it doesn't even begin to earn. I wasn't so much offended by the content of this film as I was by its attitude; it's really sour. Take the scene in which Kick-Ass and Big Daddy are about to be executed on live TV: one of the teenage girls watching it looks away and presses herself against one of Kick-Ass's friends' shoulders, and he turns and gives the guy next to him a thumbs up -- he's about to score! It's a cheap, lame gag, but one that explains a lot about this movie.




Luke: Not at all, Tim. In fact, I tend to agree. Personally I didn't think Hit-Girl was at all as transgressive as Vaughn and his writers thought she was -- I just enjoyed the fact that some people got upset at a little girl swearing. Even in 2010. In fact, if you wanna look at a better version of this -- one with a foul mouth and a trigger-finger but character in spades -- you only have to revisit Natalie Portman's unforgettable Mathilda in The Professional (Hit-Girl/Big Daddy's relationship might just be a jokier copy of that.) I agree that Vaughn is mostly very wink-wink in his jokes -- sorry to invoke it again, but yeah, Stardust is the nadir of that kind of moviemaking -- but for me, it's the performances here that afford this one some saving grace. It doesn't pat itself on the back that much.

Ryan: I'm a little surprised that I'm in the minority here, but I had a great time watching this movie. I don't think it's a monumental achievement in comic book-based cinema, and I'm aware of its flaws, but I found it largely entertaining, possibly because I didn't really take issue with any of the problems the rest of you found in the film. Was it overstylized? I think so, yes, but I was already expecting that. Too many characters and subplots? There were a lot of them, but I wasn't left disappointed by their level of involvement in the story like I was with, for example, Spider-Man 3. Too clever? Whatever Vaughn's true aim was here, I didn't find the movie especially clever, but I also didn't feel as though it was particularly pleased by its own perceived cleverness. Too exploitative (re: Hit-Girl)? I understand the nature of this criticism, but I disagree with it and thought, if anything, the violence was potentially more objectionable.




Pop songs or not, I enjoyed most of the action sequences, right up until Kick-Ass showed up with that machine gun/jet pack strapped to his back. As far as Hit-Girl is concerned, I found all of her action scenes to be the most exciting, not due to any fetishistic tendencies, but because she looked great performing those moves; I don't know how much of it was the work of stunt people, but the fight choreography was outstanding, and that was good enough for me. Tim's right in that there wasn't much tension there, but is there ever, really, in an over-the-top action film like this? I do agree that she was more a conceit than a real character, but I thought she was ultimately given enough of a backstory to justify her presence. Also, to reiterate what I said about Ghost Rider: Nicolas Cage's peculiar mannerisms are becoming increasingly entertaining.

At the end of the day, I enjoyed Kick-Ass in much the same way I would enjoy, say, an episode of Jackass: a bit of cringing, some laughs, and several outbursts of "Oh, no they didn't!" It wasn't as funny or subversive, I think, as some have claimed and others have criticized it for pretending to be, but that didn't detract from its entertainment value for me. It's unabashedly cartoonish in so many ways, and that's all I really wanted from it. See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 26: Men In Black will publish this Wednesday, July 6.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1922679/news/1922679/marvel-movie-madness-part-25-kick-ass/
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« Reply #20 on: July 16, 2011, 01:56:30 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 28: Daredevil
A daring proposition.
by RT Staff | Tuesday, Jul. 12 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 28: Daredevil (2003, 45% @ 211 reviews)
Directed by Mark Steven Johnson, starring Ben Affleck, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan

Tim: Why on earth does this movie have such a lousy reputation? The mind boggles. Daredevil is a second-tier movie about a second-tier Marvel character, and so it follows that it lacks the operatic grandeur, emotional complexity, and mind-bending special effects of the Spider-Man and X-Men movies. Therefore, taken on its own modest merits, Daredevil delivers. The backstory is generic as all get-out (kid loses dad to bad guys, gains super skills, resolves to wage a one-man war on crime), but there's a nice twist here: Daredevil is blind, and his other four senses are extraordinarily heightened. It's nice to have a hero who turns a physical handicap to his advantage (and the visual effects artists deserve props for depicting Daredevil's amplified perceptions). It's also refreshing to have a character who's a semi-regular churchgoer; even though there are plenty of folks in the Marvel universe who are allegorical Christ figures, I'm glad one of these films makes room for some actual religion when its hero explores (albeit not terribly deeply) the moral weight of his vigilantism.

As a native New Englander, I've always had a soft spot for Ben Affleck; he has the look of a classic movie star, but he also exudes an air of vulnerable decency that makes for a sympathetic hero. Michael Clarke Duncan is effectively menacing as the Kingpin, Colin Farrell plays Bullseye with roguish exuberance, Jon Favreau is solid as always as the best friend, and Jennifer Garner is convincing as an action heroine. Garner and Affleck also have pretty excellent chemistry in this movie (maybe they should go on a date or something). And there are some better-than-average musical choices throughout, though they can't all be winners (N.E.R.D.'s "Lapdance" and House of Pain's "Top O' the Mornin' To Ya," oui; Evanescence, non). I don't want to oversell this thing, but for popcorn thrills, you could do far worse than Daredevil. Call me crazy, but I think this one's due for a critical reappraisal.



Ryan: Usually, Tim, when you're able to concede some words of praise for movies that were widely panned, I'm with you, because I appreciate the fairness of acknowledging silver linings. But to say that the mind boggles when considering Daredevil's reputation, and that it might warrant a critical reappraisal... I have to draw the line somewhere. I tried to give this movie the benefit of the doubt, particularly during those early scenes when, as you've mentioned, Daredevil's backstory threatened to suffocate itself with cliches ("My client is not on trial here!"). And for the most part, the first half hour isn't completely terrible. I've come to realize that, personally, I much prefer watching superheroes duke it out with their enemies in well-choreographed hand-to-hand fight sequences, as opposed to battles that rely heavily on special effects. Daredevil's early raid on that dive bar packed a lot of punch, and aside from a bit of dodgy CGI work, it's a pretty solid fight scene with nicely orchestrated action.

Unfortunately - and this conflicts with another point Tim has made - Ben Affleck has absolutely no charisma in this movie! Normally I find him to be a decent actor, but he was unbelievably bland here. The chemistry, it can be argued, is there between him and Jennifer Garner because, frankly speaking, she really seemed to be phoning it in as well. Oh, and while we're on the topic of Dare-Lektra, their playground flirt-battle was the moment the movie's "benefit of the doubt" expired for me. Come on, that was ridiculous. A blind dude engages you in Hong Kong-style wire-fu on the teeter-totters, and he asks you where you learned how to fight? I think I'd be freaking out right about the time he followed me down the street by smell alone. I'd also like to point out that the two lovebirds met each other a grand total of three times before the climactic battle with Bullseye.

I don't know, Tim. There were just too many moments that hammered on my sense of logic, and the tone drifted from campy to serious and back again far too easily. The movie is riddled with cliches executed (presumably) without a hint of irony, from the ex-girlfriend breaking up with him on the phone to the slow pan across the roaring fireplace during the love scene, and the actors seem relatively bored throughout. With that in mind, and considering I did enjoy the close-up hand-to-hand fight scenes, I think the 45% Tomatometer is fairly accurate.



Jeff: Taken out of context, the idea of a blind lawyer who fights crime with the heightened sense perception he gained after being doused with radioactive chemicals is pretty ridiculous -- but if you read the books, particularly during Frank Miller's outstanding run, you know he's one of the more realistic, readily identifiable heroes in the Marvel universe.

With a little work, then, Daredevil could have been a pretty killer superhero movie -- the character's history is soaked in noir vibe, gritty urban crime, and one horrible tragedy after another. What did writer/director Mark Steven Johnson give us instead? An inexcusable mess, larded with hambone acting and awful dialogue, not to mention one of the most excruciating sequences in the Marvel filmography, earlier pointed out by Ryan: the Affleck/Garner playground dance.

Like Ryan, I found that scene ridiculous, but I'd already lost hope for the movie by that point. The best action sequences in the world couldn't paper over this script -- and along those lines, while I agree that Ben Affleck didn't do himself any favors here, there isn't a lot any actor could have done with lines like "I prowl the rooftops and alleyways at night, watching from the darkness. Forever in darkness. A guardian devil."
See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 29:Elektra will publish this Wednesday, July 13.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1922683/news/1922683/marvel-movie-madness-part-28-daredevil/
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« Reply #21 on: July 16, 2011, 01:57:34 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 29: Elektra
by RT Staff | Wednesday, Jul. 13 2011
 83 comments
 
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 29: Elektra (2005, 10% @ 151 reviews)
Directed by Rob Bowman, starring Jennifer Garner, Terence Stamp, Goran Visnjic, Will Yun Lee

Ryan: I don't believe Elektra deserves its current 10% Tomatometer score at all. Elektra was only marginally worse than Daredevil, and in fact, it held my attention for a much longer time than Daredevil did before it took a turn for the worse (relatively speaking).

The first thing to note about Elektra is that it doesn't operate as a true spinoff of Daredevil, because the events of that film seem to have been wiped from Elektra's memory. I expected to see a revenge story, with Elektra tracking down Bullseye, Kingpin, and maybe even Daredevil himself, but aside from a few vague flashbacks, we're given precious little to connect the dots. Also, unlike Daredevil, Elektra takes itself rather seriously, with few winks at the audience and just the faintest touch of humor. The entire first act feels like a traditional action flick, and honestly, I think if they stuck to that, it could have made for a passable, if familiar, assassin's story. But it wouldn't be a superhero movie without a bit of "super," and that's where the villains come in.

The movie has a lot of problems, ranging from poor character development to lifeless action sequences, but I think my biggest gripe was with the rogue's gallery Elektra faces. The film sets up The Hand to be a powerful force, but their abilities are more showy than effective (What was Kinkou's power anyway? Immaculate taste in men's undershirts?), and the final battle with Kirigi, probably the least menacing of all of them, left me wholly unsatisfied. Also, what a waste of Cary Tagawa. Despite all of its other flaws, if Elektra had had some quality enemies to battle, I really think this movie could have been better than Daredevil. As it stands, it's just a humdrum chase movie with flaccid action and some puzzling directorial choices.



Luke: Ryan, I had the same Cary Tagawa thought: when you see that guy at the beginning, after a passable enough animated prologue invoking some pseudo-samurai babble, you kind of hope that maybe he'll provide an interesting adversary -- or at least face off against Terence Stamp in a duel of old masters. Oh well. Not that I was exactly hoping for, well, anything here.

When you can't get your central hero right, there's trouble. We're led to believe that Elektra is a stone-cold assassin sworn only to her professional code -- despite the fact that Jennifer Garner looks like she should be shopping for lip balm in Sherman Oaks -- and yet, there she goes all gooey on the first guy she's assigned to kill because, what, he's got a turtleneck, an accent, and a teenage daughter who broke in and tried to rob her house? And the villains, as you say, felt like a sideshow thrown in every time the movie needed some action -- and even then it was heavily CGI'd and not at all involving. I love how Rob Bowman spent so much effort orchestrating the digital sheets billowing all over the fight sequence in the hotel dining room that he seemed to forget to give the audience a proper battle. It was like Elektra and The Hand assassin were having a scuffle outside someone's wedding reception. Like you say, this would have been better (if just as forgettable) as a straight-up assassin action movie, or maybe a mentor-prodigy thing between Elektra and the girl.



Jeff: Given my passionate loathing for Daredevil, I was expecting Elektra to be torturous, but in a lot of ways, I think it's actually a better film. For one thing, it simply looks better; whatever the movie's flaws -- and it has plenty of them -- Bill Roe's cinematography deserves special mention. It's all beautifully lit, with loads of artfully framed shots, and in these days of decidedly un-cinematic movies, it's hard to take that for granted.

And for the first 45 minutes or so, Elektra almost sort of works. Garner is a credible action hero, even if I don't think she's capable of carrying the dramatic weight the character requires, and those opening sequences do a nice job of weaving between cleanly staged action and psychological drama. (Note: yes, I did watch the director's cut.) But then things start to get silly. After Elektra kills a ninja and he disappears in a puff of green smoke, she says "What comes after will be worse," and she isn't kidding. If you've ever wanted to watch a movie in which one of the villains is a guy with a magic bird tattoo that can come to life and fly, Elektra is for you; otherwise, it's just a really weird mishmash of soapy comic thrills and further examples of Hollywood's patronizing, confused view of Eastern mysticism and martial arts.
See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 30:Iron Man will publish this Friday, July 17.


http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1922684/news/1922684/marvel-movie-madness-part-29-elektra/
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« Reply #22 on: July 16, 2011, 02:04:35 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 30: Iron Man
by RT Staff | Friday, Jul. 15 2011
 56 comments
 
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 30: Iron Man (2008, 94% @ 234 reviews)
Directed by Jon Faverau, starring Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow

Tim: Hands down, Iron Man is my favorite Marvel movie. For me, Robert Downey Jr.'s performance as Tony Stark -- a cross between Steve Jobs and James Bond -- is pitch-perfect. He's a charming rogue with a conscience, someone who you can relate to and dream of being. (And unlike most wiseacre heroes, Tony Stark's witty bon mots seem to come more from the mouth of someone who's supremely self-confident -- not a screenwriter.) Downey's performance is the highlight, but Iron Man gets just about everything else right as well. Too many blockbusters feel the need to throw everything at the screen in clumps, but Iron Man is remarkably well-paced; it gives the story and its characters room to breathe, and its (admittedly awesome) special effects never overwhelm the narrative. The action sequences are stupendous, but never arbitrary -- this is a movie that trusts the audience will stay entertained without resorting to explosions every five minutes.

A lot of filmmakers seemed hamstrung by the wars in the Middle East, but Iron Man is one of the few films that successfully asked important questions about American foreign policy without resorting to didacticism or bludgeoning the audience with agitprop. At heart, Iron Man is the tale of a man who seems to really question his place in the world and use his energy and intellect to make things right. I love the scene where Tony is watching a news documentary on a terrorized Afghan village and immediately springs into action; who hasn't been weighted down by the struggles of decent people around the world? Who hasn't wished they could do something -- anything -- to make a difference? Fortunately, Iron Man leavens its geo-political commentary with plenty of good humor and some terrific musical cues (AC/DC's "Back in Black," Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized"). It all adds up to a terrific good time, one of the best comic book adaptations ever.



Alex: 2008 was my favorite year for comic book movies. I think many would incline to agree. By then, the comic book movie industry was in full steam -- we've been watching a lot of superhero movies, with entire trilogies opened and closed. I look back in 2008 with particular fondness since, as the comic book movie threatened to fall into a pattern, two movies released which foresaw two different visions for the future of the genre: The Dark Knight (serious and elegant) and Iron Man (bright and zippy), with both telling their type of story to maximum effect.

The Iron Man movies challenge themselves to get by on the least amount of action possible, driving instead on its high-tech world and sheer cast charisma, especially and obviously Robert Downey Jr. I like Iron Man as middle age wish fulfillment cinema: There's something joyous in watching a dude (albeit a millionaire genius dude) come to the realization that, yes, he can fit into this world as a superhero. The action scenes exhibit a cool restraint, avoiding the showy flash that would obscure Iron Man's key simple fact: underneath all the armor is just a man who at last discovers his sense of peace and justice.

And the ending -- "I am Iron Man" -- is perfection.



Jeff: I think we're all at least a little ambivalent about the way Hollywood's gotten drunk on special effects over the last 10 to 15 years or so, but Iron Man is a great example of a movie that couldn't have been made before the CGI invasion. And we all would have been poorer for it -- this is a funny, exciting, effortlessly entertaining burst of superhero action.

Plenty of people had their doubts about Iron Man going in, and for good reason -- Tony Stark has been a Marvel keystone for decades, but he was never really absorbed into pop culture the way Spider-Man, Superman, or Batman were, and on top of that, Iron Man doesn't have the most cinema-ready villains. But as you pointed out, Alex, Iron Man is less dependent on big action set pieces than it is on human drama -- and it's carried by an absolutely stellar cast.
See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 31:Iron Man 2 will publish this Monday, July 17.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1922685/news/1922685/marvel-movie-madness-part-30-iron-man/
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« Reply #23 on: July 21, 2011, 01:40:28 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 31: Iron Man 2
by RT Staff | Tuesday, Jul. 19 2011
106 comments
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 31:Iron Man 2(2010, 74% @ 263 reviews)
Directed by Jon Faverau, starring Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson

Luke: Has everyone forgotten about this movie already? It seems like it. Despite good reviews and strong box office, it feels like Iron Man 2 is generally dismissed as a weak sequel. It's definitely inferior to its predecessor, but I do remember enjoying it enough at the time -- even though I could scarcely remember a single thing about it a few days later. For me, the first Iron Man was an average superhero film elevated by a charismatic performance, but this time around that element of pleasant surprise is gone; Robert Downey, Jr.'s off-the-chain appeal is still there, but it's a given, so the weakness of the narrative feels more apparent.

You could say Iron Man 2 suffers from the classic syndrome of sequel excess, but even with the extra villains and characters, somehow this movie felt like less than the sum of its parts. I mean, when you've got Mickey Rourke with a oddball accent and a pet cockatoo, shouldn't that character somehow be more memorable? The movie suffers from a lack of purpose for its main character -- although there's no shortage of purpose in the way it flagrantly goes about setting up the Avengers universe, which sometimes appears of more concern for the filmmakers. And once again, like the first film, the action sequences are pretty crappy -- seriously, what was with the final showdown between Iron Man and Whiplash at the end? It looked like it was filmed in a kids park. The best thing about Iron Man 2 -- as it so often is in many movies -- is Sam Rockwell, who picks up all the villain slack in Mickey Rourke's absence.



Tim: I probably liked this a little more than you, Luke, but I essentially agree: Iron Man 2 is certainly a case in which bigger isn't better. I enjoyed it just fine, and I dug Mickey Rourke's Whiplash a lot more than you did (that first scene in his workshop has a palpable sense of place -- you can practically smell the grease and dankness -- and his accent is spot-on). But overall, this one felt overstuffed and a little underdeveloped. It can't be easy to both follow up a big hit and preface a future blockbuster (The Avengers), so Iron Man 2 deserves props for not completely overdosing on spectacle. Once in a while, it even rivals the visceral impact of the first film -- the Monaco scenes have both an immediacy and a sense of dread -- but it just doesn't feel as fresh this time out. I liked it, but I didn't love it.




Alex: Huge disappointment for me. The movie seems to punish anybody who has any fun (a key word to describe the original), ultimately reducing Tony Stark to a predictable surly cad and Pepper Potts a shrill nag, whose main duty as CEO of Stark Industries is apparently to apparently repeat "I have a company to run" to anyone in earshot.

Plus, the movie is boring. Super talky in the middle, bookended by a mere two action scenes. I can't wait for the Avengers movie to come out so we can stop seeing all this S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff shoehorned into these movies. Marvel needs to let them focus on telling their own story first and foremost. See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 32:Captain America (1944) will publish this Monday, July 17.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1922687/news/1922687/marvel-movie-madness-part-31-iron-man-2/
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« Reply #24 on: July 24, 2011, 01:01:57 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 32: Captain America (1944)
Was Hollywood's first attempt at the character a success?
by RT Staff | Thursday, Jul. 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 32: Captain America (1944, N/A Tomatometer)
Directed by Elmer Clifton and John English, starring Dick Purcell, Lorna Gray, Lionel Atwill, Charles Trowbridge

Alex: Captain America: Perhaps Republic's most popular serial ever! 15 chapters, a massive budget, and only Republic's finest seven serial screenwriters worked on it!

...Which means absolutely zero to anyone watching Captain America in close approximation to the year 2011.

Captain America is a 243-minute collection of 15 serial episodes produced in 1944. The DNA of the story has been altered as to be completely unrecognizable: Gone are Steve Rogers and his military origins, along with the Nazis and Cap's trademark shield. In their place is District Attorney Grant Gardner, who moonlights as Captain America, battling crooks and punching his way through local government bureaucracy. His main villain is The Scarab, a museum curator looking to scoop up mysterious artifacts, killing people left and right.

Naturally, it's easy to mock a serial from the 1940s. And it's really easy when Gardner (played by a porky Dick Purcell) puts on the Captain America suit and one can see Purcell's glorious paunch of justice. Then it becomes less funny when you do some research and discover Purcell died from a weakened heart mere weeks after finishing the grueling shoot. As was the style of the time, Captain America was shot fast and quick. The fight scenes, of which the serial cobbles together about five minutes' worth per episode, have a sort of ruthless workmanship you'd never see today. It's all hokey and people throw chairs in the general direction of people, as opposed to directly at them, but these guys are really bouncing around with the speed set to "Three Stooges."



Overall, yes, the serial sent the Rotten Tomatoes office into bouts of laughter (one cannot resist in the face of such flippant use of the word "vibrator"), but if you ever found yourself exiled by Red Skull into some infinite nebulous void between time and space, and have four hours to kill, here you go.

Tim: There's something incredibly charming about this Captain America. Nothing he does bears any resemblance to the comics (we joked that he should call himself "Captain Connecticut," because of his thick New England accent and the fact that his crime-fighting priorities are bereft of global scope). I'm mostly unfamiliar with the serial medium, so it was fun to watch this form of pre-television entertainment. Illuminating, too: anyone who complains that modern movie audiences are only interested in mindless sensation should give this stuff a look. It's shot with little artistic care, the dialogue is mostly stiff and colorless (save for a stray line like "That dame is wise to our setup!"), and the special effects are hilariously bargain basement, even for the period; everything here is in the service of non-stop action. It's also really violent -- as Alex noted, our hero kills a lot of people, and there are car wrecks and explosions galore. With the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg borrowed all they could from Republic Pictures serials -- the swashbuckling, the rope-swinging, the classic archetypes - and reassembled them with considerably more stylistic flair. Still, Captain America is worth checking out for a goofy example of the kind of stuff that thrilled the kiddies in the decades before more sophisticated superhero fare hit the big screen.



Luke: Ha ha, well it was, in the very least, entertaining. This Captain America wouldn't look out of place as a washed-up member of Watchmen's Minutemen -- the lucha libre outfit, leery smirk and low-rent thuggery seem less associated with patriotic justice than they do a D.A. exorcising his vigilante demons by thrashing some bad guys from central casting. (On a side note: can someone bring back villains with monocles?) The perils are obviously laughable by today's standards (as I'm sure future audiences will guffaw at 21st-century CG spectacle), but what's surprising is how quickly they hook you in once you're adjusted to the style. And as Tim mentioned, there are so many portents of the Spielberg/Lucas adventures: one episode alone boasted a leap onto, and in through the door of, a moving truck, plus those old clifftop car plunges -- both mirrored clearly in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's fitting that one of their old colleagues, Joe Johnston, should be taking the reins of the 2011 Captain America.
See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 33:Captain America (1990) will publish this Friday, July 22.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1922688/news/1922688/marvel-movie-madness-part-32-emcaptain-americaem-1944/
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« Reply #25 on: July 24, 2011, 01:05:40 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 33: Captain America (1990)
The first attempt at a feature film adaptation falls flat.
by RT Staff | Friday, Jul. 22 2011
 24 comments
 
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 33: Captain America (1990, 13% Tomatometer)
Directed by Albert Pyun, starring Matt Salinger, Kim Gillingham, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty

Tim: Since the late 1990s, Marvel has become increasingly protective of its properties, which has been a good thing for movie audiences. The X-Men, Spider-Man, and Iron Man all got the big-screen treatment they deserved, resulting in an exemplary marriage between art and commerce -- these were blockbusters with heart, smarts, thrills, and surprising depth. Aggressively guarding the brand can have its downsides -- we're probably less likely to see bold stylistic experimentation or deviation from formula in future Marvel flicks, especially after the hackles that greeted oddball entries like Ang Lee's Hulk -- but it also means that we can generally expect a certain level of quality control from here on out. If you aren't minding the store, someone's bound to make a second-rate hash of one of your most iconic characters, and that's exactly what happened with 1990's Captain America. Just about everything here seems cut-rate; this is the kind of movie where the villain (the Red Skull, in this case) can kidnap the president of the United States and plot world domination despite the fact that by all appearances he has about 20 henchmen. Unlike the 1940s serial, Captain America sticks closer to the comic books, but to what end? The action scenes are clunky, the geopolitical stuff is simplistic, and there's no sense of awe or exhilaration, no sense that anything is at stake.

Once in a while, in spite of itself, Captain America hints at being something more. There are a couple goofy scenes in which Steve Rogers is baffled by the norms of the 1990s, but this stuff was handled with more aplomb in the first Austin Powers. And the movie's most poignant scene -- when Steve returns to the home of his teenage sweetheart, now elderly, but still in love with him -- is so fleeting as to blunt any intriguing possibilities. Matt Salinger (fun fact: he's J.D's son!) has plenty of aw-shucks charm in the title role, and a couple of old pros (Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty) do their best in limited roles, but ultimately, the actors are overwhelmed by the hokey material. If some recent superhero movies have overdosed on self-seriousness, well, that's a preferable approach to the cheapness on display here.



Ryan: You are not wrong, sir; this movie is embarrassing in oh, so many ways, and I cannot recommend it to anyone looking for a semblance of quality filmmaking in a superhero story. That said, Captain America transcended its own putrescence just enough to land in "so bad, it's good" territory for me. Not everyone is going to agree, but that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

You've touched on some of the "big picture" issues, but there are also several very basic things wrong with this movie. For one, there is absolutely no subtlety about anything here. During Steve Rogers's procedure, an undercover German spy offers a handshake to Dr. Vaselli, only to shift the gesture abruptly and awkwardly into a Nazi salute, yell "Heil Hitler!" and bust a cap (ahem) in her gut instead... I LOLed. Then, there are the Ed Wood-ian mistakes, my favorite of which was when Steve Rogers and Sharon are supposed to be speeding downhill on a bicycle with no brakes, and the scene cuts to the pair literally running alongside the bike, rolling it off the edge of a cliff, and jumping after it.

Furthermore, between the corny dialogue ("God bless you, Captain America!"), the problematic plot elements (Red Skull strapped him to that rocket along with his shield?), and tension-free action (the bad guys fall behind in chases REALLY quickly, so much so that there's always time for someone to reflect on something in the meantime), there is just no finesse evident in its creation. But I will say this: There is a website called Everything Is Terrible, and they condense bad movies into mere minutes of sheer hilarity; Captain America would be absolute comedy gold in that format.



Jeff: I don't want to pile on here, because unlike a lot of the big-budget misfires we've seen in this series, Captain America has a heart -- even if it's in the wrong place, upside down, and pumping pure hooey. I'd really love to know the story of how this movie was made, because at one point, it was supposed to come out in theaters here. Did someone put some actual money behind it, only to watch the final product and frantically pull the plug? Usually films this inept are supposed to be a tax write-off, but I kind of think somewhere along the line, the folks involved really wanted Captain America to be great, which I find fascinating. Also: Ned Beatty won an Emmy the year this was filmed and obviously wasn't hurting for work. Why did he agree to this? Didn't he read the script?

Anyway, yeah, this Captain has a lot of flaws, including the fact that it's supposed to be an epic but was filmed with what looks like the budget from a company picnic. Cap's transformation from regular soldier (who never looks all that frail, by the way) to super soldier is just a bunch of sparks and yelling, and I think Kim Gillingham used the Red Skull's "reconstructed face" makeup during her scenes as Old Bernie. And the action sequences are brutal -- poorly staged, some poorly lit, and tons of tight, whirling shots with corny sound effects. (My favorite part of the whole movie: when one of the villains yells "Get the jet -- Captain America is in California," and the scene immediately cuts to a shot of a plane flying past the camera and making the stock "zoom" noise.)

The main problem is that Captain America desperately wants to be huge -- heck, the script makes the Red Skull responsible for the murders of JFK, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King -- but it doesn't have the budget to satisfy its scope, so you're left with people running around deserted locations in Yugoslavia and a laugh-out-loud climax featuring a standoff on top of an oceanside fortress that has a conveniently located piano on the roof.

On the bright side, though -- after this, the new Captain America can't help but be awesome in comparison.

Editor's Note: In an interview with Comic Book Resources' James Gartler at Comic Con, Captain America director Albert Pyun said the film was hamstrung by budget problems and studio tampering. A director's cut has been released on DVD that Pyun says is closer to his original vision. Check out the full interview here.
See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 34: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) will publish on Monday, July 25.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1923236/news/1923236/marvel-movie-madness-part-33-emcaptain-americaem-1990/
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« Reply #26 on: July 26, 2011, 12:46:09 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 34: Captain America: The First Avenger

by RT Staff | Monday, Jul. 25 2011
 13 comments


 
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 34: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011, 74% @ 145 reviews)
Directed by Joe Johnston, starring Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell

Jeff: As we learned earlier in this series, it isn't exactly easy to bring Captain America to the big screen. He's unquestionably a comics icon, but for decades, Cap's combination of bland upstanding citizenship, dorky costume, and fairly boring superpowers have been a challenge for the guys who write the books, so it isn't hard to see why Hollywood has struggled with him.

Given all that -- and Joe Johnston's somewhat bumpy track record -- I wasn't expecting a lot from Captain America, and I was really pleasantly surprised. In terms of feel, Johnston directed it as a throwback to the classic '30s and '40s serials via Raiders of the Lost Ark -- not only in terms of the swashbuckling action, which was great, but in terms of pacing and character development. It's a movie that makes you wait for the payoff instead of just throwing one-liners and explosions at you every few minutes, which is something close to a religious act of faith in our modern, hyper-adrenalized cinematic environment.

I also thought Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely's script did an impressive job of rounding off Captain America's square edges and making him less of a noble caricature. He's still motivated by a sense of patriotic duty, but he isn't a jingoistic flag-waver; he's a guy who knows what it means to be powerless, and all he really wants to do is help.

But none of it would work without a great cast, and Captain America has one. Evans does an impressive job of tamping down his usual winking charm in favor of a somewhat nuanced performance that gets at the heart of a larger-than-life character, and he gets plenty of help from a solid supporting cast, including the always dependable Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones.

I still question whether a Cap movie set in the modern era can work, and I can't even imagine how Joss Whedon is going to cram everyone into The Avengers, but for a movie that had to function as an origin story and a tie-in to the rest of the Marvel universe, Captain America stands up surprisingly well on its own.


Ryan: I'm pretty much on the same page with you, Jeff. I did't go in with high expectations, and as it turned out, I enjoyed the movie a lot more than I thought I would. And when you question whether or not this could work in a modern day setting, I think you sort of hit on one of the conclusions I came to as I was watching it: This isn't a traditional superhero movie so much as it's basically a light WWII movie with a sci-fi bent. I don't know how closely the writers stuck to the source material, but I thought they did a great job fleshing out the character of Steve Rogers, and his transition into the role of the titular hero feels really natural.

I agree that Evans is solid here, mainly because -- also like you mentioned -- he tones down the snark factor in favor of a more balanced delivery, which proves effective in endearing him to the audience. I came away thinking, "That Steve Rogers is a pretty cool cat. I really hope that new Avengers gig treats him well." And as for the inherent patriotism of the character, I thought the dud grenade bit was the perfect way to illustrate his motivations; the scene bordered on cliché, but Steve's quirky mannerisms and earnest selflessness would come to represent what Captain America stood for, more than his love for country.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a couple issues I did have with the film, though. I found some of the editing to be a little jarring, as there were a handful of moments when the story skipped ahead rather abruptly. For example, after Cap declares that he and his "Inglourious Basterds" will walk right up to Red Skull's front door, the film immediately cuts to him speeding through the forest on a motorcycle with a gang of Red Skull's henchmen already on his tail. And speaking of Red Skull, after seeing him portrayed in this and the 1990 iteration, I've decided I'm not a huge fan of him as a central villain, regardless of his stature in the source material. His backstory's parallel with that of Steve Rogers is interesting, but the climactic battles between the two never seem to pack much punch. And lastly, I actually found the action itself to be one of the weaker elements of the movie; it wasn't bad, but it wasn't particularly special, and I found the little battle montage in the middle a bit odd.

In the end, of course, I had a pretty good time with this movie. I didn't get the sense that it existed simply to advance the ongoing Avengers narrative, and I found myself invested in the character of Steve Rogers. That said, I'm also not sure how all of these Marvel heroes are going to fit in next year's film, but I'll be looking forward to it nonetheless.


Matt: I loved this movie, and I love that we're ending our epic Marvel Movie Madness series with something that's so good. We've watch some great films, and some really crappy ones, so it's nice to be able to go out on a positive note.

As both Jeff and Ryan mentioned, the cast here is terrific. Like a lot of other people, I was concerned about Chris Evans being cast in the title role here, but as I look back, I realize that was a mistake. Cap is usually shown as a straight-arrow type, and though that works in the comics, it could get bland on the screen. As much as Evans tones down his normal attitude to play this role, there's just enough of an edge to him that we can relate to Steve Rogers a bit. And the secondary cast brings so much to the table here; Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Hugo Weaving, Toby Jones, and Hayley Atwell all put in great performances.

The action moves along really well, and the Hydra side of the Nazi war machine makes for an appropriately threatening menace for our heroes. My only complaint would be that we get a few too many montages in the middle of the movie. There's a training montage, and a musical montage, and a combat montage; I'm not sure how I'd recut those parts, but all I can say is that I think we could have done with one less montage. I think Johnston ended up being a good choice as a director for this film. There's not overly artistic attempts at subtext here; we're just getting a straight-ahead action movie that's appropriate to the character of Captain America.
See the full Marvel Movie Madness schedule here. Part 35, a final Marvel recap article, will publish this Wednesday, July 27. Thanks for following us all the way to the end!

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1922690/news/1922690/marvel-movie-madness-part-34-captain-america-the-first-avenger/
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« Reply #27 on: July 28, 2011, 01:09:13 am »

Marvel Movie Madness! Part 35: The Epilogue
by RT Staff | Wednesday, Jul. 27 2011
 31 comments
 
Welcome to Marvel Movie Madness! If you're just joining us, you're too late! You get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir! We already watched all 34 theatrical Marvel movies and many have moved on to Tarkovsky and Bresson marathons to cleanse the palette.

You may, however, quietly check out the full schedule to read (or re-read) any of the entries.




Otherwise, this here is a final recap, just a little retrospective looking over our favorites of the series, our least favorites, and our biggest surprises. Thanks for reading and participating everyone!



Matt
Favorite Movie: X-Men. It's hard to pick an absolute favorite, because I really like Iron Man too, but X-Men is one of those movies that I can catch on TV at any point in the film, and I'll set the remote down and watch the rest of it.

Worst Movie: Man-Thing, but only because I didn't rewatch Howard the Duck. When I was fifteen, I thought Howard the Duck was an excellent movie, probably because I thought George Lucas could do no wrong. I was a devotee of the Star Wars films, and I loved Raiders, and I think I convinced myself that Howard the Duck was another home run from Lucas. I saw it three times in the theater, and dragged friends to see it. If I were to rewatch it now, the forty-year-old me would want to to slap fifteen-year-old me in the face. I couldn't face the possible contempt I'd have for my younger self, so I didn't watch Howard again. But damn, Man-Thing was one of the worst movies I've seen in years.

Biggest Surprise: Captain America. I was worried about this one; director Joe Johnston has a bumpy track record, Chris Evans seemed like odd casting, and I wasn't sure that an all-American hero like Cap would translate well to the modern expectations of audiences. Somehow this production sidestepped each one of those pitfalls, and audiences got a great introduction to the first Avenger.



Tim
Favorite Movie: Iron Man. For me, this is one of the best blockbusters of recent years. Robert Downey Jr. is perfect as Tony Stark - he's charming, roguish, intelligent, and conscious - and the dazzling special effects never overwhelm the characters or the drama. It's exhilarating stuff, and, surprisingly, it's one of the few big Hollywood movies to address our post-9/11 foreign policy in a way that doesn't seem overly didactic.

Worst Movie: Howard the Duck. It's mind-bogglingly awful, and just wrong on so many levels. It's too raunchy for kids, too dumb for adults, and its air of forced zaniness is seriously off-putting. Plus, it never makes clear what made Howard a countercultural icon in the first place.

Biggest Surprise: Daredevil. I didn't see it when it first came out, and my expectations were minuscule because of its terrible reputation. And I found myself really enjoying it - it achieves its modest aims with style and finesse. It's by no means a masterpiece, but as a second-tier movie about a second-string Marvel hero, it's sharp and satisfying.



Ryan
Favorite Movie: This is a toughie because, quite honestly, I don't really love any of the Marvel movies; even the ones I liked best were only "pretty decent." With that in mind, there are a couple I'd consider my favorites, and of those, I'll choose Iron Man. RDJ is perfectly cast, and despite a rather snoozy final battle, I enjoyed almost everything else about the movie. Good, pure fun, and a great summer popcorn flick.

Worst Movie: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. With most of the bad movies, I was still able to find at least one or two things to praise. I could not say the same for FF:RotSS, save for maybe Chris Evans. Terribly written, terribly acted, miscast villain, inconsistent CGI, and dull action. This movie should never have been made.

Biggest Surprise: Captain America (1990). I expected to hate this movie, and it is indeed poorly crafted. But, as with a lot of Albert Pyun films from that era, it's got a lot of unintentional hilarity, and that led to a much more enjoyable experience than I expected. I'm not saying it's a good movie -- it isn't -- but I was far more entertained by it than I had any right to be.



Luke
Favorite Movie: I suppose Men in Black is entertaining on a slow day. And it's mostly unlike any of the major Marvel titles, which explains enough. What can I say? I'd rather watch a sci-fi comedy with a sense of humor than some leaden, self-important superhero movie. But that's me. Oh, and the first X-Men is still okay.

Worst Movie: Honestly, where to begin? Elektra was garbage, but that's stating the obvious. There are so many I could pick here.

Biggest Surprise: Yep, pretty much everything was as I expected. I mean, relative to conventional wisdom Howard the Duck is stupid and enjoyable, but I already knew that going in. Mostly what's good is what was expected, and what sucked, sucked.



Alex
Favorite Movie: Spider-Man 2. A bubblegum triumph. Sam Raimi runs freshman Peter Parker through a gauntlet of emotions -- love, hate, jealousy, despair, hope -- and amplifies them the way only comic books can. With Raimi really cutting loose in a way we haven't seen since the '80s and throwing in a great juicy villain, you're gonna get a classic.

Worst Movie: X-Men: The Last Stand. Crude and depressing. A clear demonstration of zero respect for the source or the fans who had invested in the series. Nothing against gun for hire directors since they're the ones who grease the Hollywood wheels, but Brett Ratner was incapable of finding proper tone, decent action, or a capable script under the duress of filming.

Biggest Surprise: Red Sonja. If only all "trashy fun" B-movies were this trashy and this fun.



Jeff
Favorite Movie: I've got to go with Iron Man. Much as he might bristle at the notion, I think Tony Stark is the role Robert Downey, Jr. was born to play -- and here he has a sharp, funny script, not to mention a director who did a terrific job of walking the line between fanboy faithfulness and solid cinema.

Worst Movie: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The Marvel catalogue includes plenty of duds, but this is the only one that actually made me angry. You could cut out the first hour of the movie without missing a thing. Awful, just awful.

Biggest Surprise: I think I have to call it a tie between Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger -- given the characters' limitations and the storyline restrictions imposed by the way they had to lead into The Avengers, both movies are far better than they had any right to be. Nice, solid bookends for a pretty bumpy series, wouldn't you say?

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1923276/news/1923276/marvel-movie-madness-part-35-the-epilogue/
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« Reply #28 on: February 18, 2019, 04:32:35 am »

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