Tag Archives: Superhero movies

Throwback Thursday: Ant-Man (2015)

A parent’s love for their child is a powerful thing. Sometimes, this leads to actions that might be considered odd or out of the box.

In the 2015 film, Ant-Man, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a con-man with a past and a record. He is also a father who adores his daughter. Given a super suit that allow him to change his size, Scott joins his mentor Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to save the world against Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Joining Scott on his path to superhero-dom is Hank’s daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly).

This movie is so much fun. I can’t comment on the transfer from the page to screen because I have never read the comic book. The best thing is that it does not take itself too seriously, which allows the audience to have fun in a fully engrossing and entertaining manner. The actors have amazing chemistry, the special effects are nicely balanced with the narrative, and Lilly’s character stands on her own two feet without being limited to the relationships she has with the male characters.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review

Movies and/or television shows that are based on comic books have been part of our modern entertainment era for decades. What is important is the balance between the source material and the enjoyment of the audience.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released into theaters a few weeks ago. Based on the comic book of the same name, we are initially introduced to twenty something Shaun (Simu Liu). Living in San Francisco, he and his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) earn their living parking cars. Reality intervenes when Shaun’s ancient warlord father Xu Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) send his goons to bring his son back to China. On the plane, Shaun tells Katy that his real name is Shang-Chi and the truth about his family. Meeting up with his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), they have to come together to defeat their father and prevent an even greater disaster from occurring.

I loved this movie. Though I have no knowledge of the narrative or the character arcs within the books themselves, I can say with certainty that the film adaption is superb. I loved the balance of the comedy and the action. The female characters who surround Shang are not sitting in the background, waiting to be rescued. They are as important to the action as the male characters. The one role that stood out to me was Xu Wenwu. He is akin to Anakin Skywalker in that his intentions are good, but his actions are not exactly on the up and up.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently in theaters.

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Throwback Thursday: The Phantom (1996)

Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. They also exist outside of the big IPs.

In the 1996 film, The Phantom, the title character (Billy Zane) is the latest line of superheros. Four hundred years ago, his ancestor witnessed his father’s murder on their ship. When he finally returns to dry land, he swears that he will become a version of Robin Hood. This legacy is passed down from father son until we get to what was then the present day. The current Phantom’s latest is nemesis Xander Drax (Treat Williams). There is also the love interest in the form of his ex, Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson) and the wannabe love interest/baddie Sala (Catherine Zeta-Jones).

Like The Shadow (1994), it is a live action version of an old time radio show. As narratives go, it is rather generic. While the action is decent, there is nothing that makes it stand out in the genre.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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RIP Chadwick Boseman

To say that cancer is cruel is an understatement. It steals lives when one is otherwise perfectly healthy, taking away what should be years, if not decades of life, love, and experiences.

Actor Chadwick Boseman died from colon cancer earlier today. He was 43.

He was best known for playing real life heroes (Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013) and James Brown in Get on Up (2014)) and fictional superheroes (T’Challa/Black Panther in the Marvel Avengers franchise).

My heart hurts. Tears are welling up in my eyes. He was one of the actors who could jump from genre to genre, from character to character. The transition was seamless. His future as an performer was full of possibilities.

But cancer had other plans.

May his memory be a blessing and may he live forever on the silver screen.

Z”L

P.S. The fact that he was constantly working throughout the four years of his battle with cancer tells me at least everything I need to know about who the man was.

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Aquaman Movie Review

Disclaimer: I know nothing of the cannon Aquaman from the comic books, this review is strictly based on the movie.

When a character is torn between two worlds, he or she must make a choice. It is that choice that defines who they are.

In the new movie, Aquaman, (based on the comic book character of the same name) Aquaman/Arthur Reed (Jason Mamoa) is caught between two worlds. His father, Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) is an ordinary man who manages a lighthouse. His mother, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) a Queen of Atlantis. While they are in love and happy to have a life together, the reality is that there are opposing forces to their love.

As an adult, Aquaman/Arthur Reed knows that he is born of two worlds. While he plays the super hero game, he is not ready to accept that he is a Prince of Atlantis. Then Mera (Amber Heard) comes to him and begs for his help. Mera is a member of another royal family of the sea and engaged to Orm (Patrick Wilson), Aquaman/Arthur Reed’s younger half-brother. Orm not only has his eye on the throne, but he is angry about the destruction of his world by pollution.

Can Orm be stopped and more importantly, can Aquaman/Arthur Reed find his place in the world?

I am not particularly a fan of super hero movies based on comic books, but I loved this movie. Jason Mamoa was tailor made for this role. I appreciated that the female leads (Mera and Atlanna) are bad ass and far from the sexualized, 2D romantic partner/damsel in distress female characters that often appear in comic books. I also appreciated the message about pollution and doing our part to ensure that we do not destroy our environment.

Though, I have to admit that the choice of hair color for Mera for me, as a redhead, is a little questionable. While I understand that Mera is a redhead in the comic books, I would have preferred a more natural red instead of a red color that looks like it came from a kool aid container.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Aquaman is currently in theaters. 

 

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RIP Stan Lee

Comic books are sometimes dismissed as violent, sexual, immature and not fit for the eyes of its young readers. But comic book can also reach its readers in a way that few genres can. Today the comic book genre lost one of its brightest stars and iconic creators, Stan Lee.

Mr. Lee was born in 1922 to Jewish immigrants who were originally from Romania. In his teens, he started working at Timely Comics, which would decades later become Marvel Comics. After fighting for his country in World War II,  Mr. Lee returned creating comic books. Instead of introducing readers to variations of the same characters they had seen previously, he started creating characters that were not just misfits, but also fully fleshed out as human beings.

Readers fell in love with  immortal characters such as Spider-Man, Black Panther, the Fantastic Four and X-Men. While they were reading about superheroes who were going on out of this world adventures, they were also hopefully opening their minds to those were being disenfranchised because they were different. In a very subtle manner, the Feminist Movement, the Civil rights movement and other movements whose goal of enfranchisement of those who rights have been taken away or non-existent benefited from the characters whose stories are told within these comic books.

In the words of our mutual ancestors, may the memory of Stan Lee be a blessing not just to his loved ones, but to the millions of fans who have adored his creations over the years.

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Early Throwback Thursday-Elektra (2005)

One of the hallmarks of the hard-fought for gender parity, especially in Hollywood, is that the idea of a female superhero headlining a film is no longer an anomaly. But, then like any superhero film, the question of quality, especially when compared to the source material, has to be asked.

In the 2005 film, Elektra (based upon the comic book character of the same name), the titular heroine, played by Jennifer Garner survives a near death experience. Breaking with the rest of the world, Elektra’s sole focus is her job as an assassin. Her latest assignment is protected a single father and his young daughter from a group of supernatural assassins. Can she protect her charges and perhaps regain her humanity in the process? Or will she forever run from the world?

At the time, I knew nothing about the MCU or the characters that inhabited that world. I suppose the film is ok, but when it is compared to other films within the MCU, it doesn’t quite hold up.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

*Warning: this review contains mild spoilers. Read at your own risk.

A sequel of a sequel of a superhero movie walks a fine line. It has to be entertaining, but it also has to extend the narrative and the character arc in a way that feels right to both the universe and the characters.

Two weeks ago, Thor: Ragnarok hit theaters.  Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is no longer of this world. His previously unknown first child, Hela (Cate Blanchett), otherwise known as the Goddess of Death has returned from exile to return Asgard to the way it was before her exile. But to do this, she has to make sure that her brothers, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) are out-of-the-way. They find themselves in another world where Thor is a gladiator and fighting against The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). This world is ruled by Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who might be crazy. With the help of Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Thor, Loki and The Hulk might be able to defeat Hela and save Asgard.

If there was a proper way to do a second sequel, especially for a movie which is based on a comic book, this film is the blueprint. It is funny, entertaining  and takes the narrative and characters in new directions without feeling stale or overproduced. And of course, the two female characters, played by Tessa Thompson and Cate Blanchett are amazing. They contribute to the narrative, both standing on their own two feet and neither relying on the stereotypical female caricatures that exist in the genre.

I absolutely recommend it.

Thor: Ragnarok is presently in theaters. 

 

 

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Flashback Friday-Mystery Men (1999)

Sometimes superhero movies take themselves a little too seriously.

In 1999, the genre was given the satirical treatment in the form of Mystery Men.

When the local superhero Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear) is captured by the local super villain Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush), it’s up to a ragtag group of superhero wannabes to save the day. Led by Furious (Ben Stiller), the group includes Bowler (Janeane Garofalo) and Blue Raja (Hank Azaria), this bunch of second-rate superheroes must band together to save their city and their superhero from destruction.

As I recall, what I enjoyed about this movie is not the DC, Marvel Comics type movie that many fans of the superhero and comic book genre have come to expect. The film had an underbelly of dark satire that was unique to the genre and made the audience laugh.

And of course, what a late 1990’s movie without the requisite theme song sung by Smashmouth?

I recommend it.

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Throwback Thursday- Superhero Double Feature- Spiderman (2002) & Ghost Rider 2007)

Every ten to fifteen years or so, Hollywood dips into it’s vault and releases new adaptations of films or television shows that have long since left the big or or small screen. The superhero genre is no different.

In this post, I’m going to talk about two 2000’s superhero movies and why they either worked or didn’t work.

The first movie is Spiderman (2002). Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is your average academically overachieving, social underachieving high school student. He has a crush on Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the girl next door. But she does not see him. When Peter is bitten by a genetically modified spider, he becomes Spiderman and must learn the lesson that every Spiderman fan knows: “with great power, comes great responsibility”. Can Peter, with his new power, find the man who killed his uncle and prevent an eccentric billionaire from terrorizing the city?

I’m not normally a fan of the genre, but I liked this movie. Every character is well cast and fits well into the Spiderman universe. Unlike his superhero brothers in arms (Batman, Superman, etc), Spiderman is the boy next door/average Joe/underdog. He does not have the fortune that Bruce Wayne has, nor does he have the extraterrestrial powers that Superman possesses. Rather, he uses his intelligence to fight and create the persona that is Spiderman.

The second movie is Ghost Rider (2007).

When Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) finds out that his father is dying from cancer, he makes a deal to save his father. Johnny will give up his soul to prevent his father from dying. The deal is soon made with Mephistopheles and broken when his father dies in a motorcycle accident. Heartbroken, Johnny walks away from everything and everyone, including his girlfriend, Roxanne (Eva Mendes).  Years pass and Johnny becomes a famous motorcyclist. He runs into Roxanne, who works as a TV reporter. But Mephistopheles is not done with Johnny. If Johnny is willing to become the “Ghost Rider” and defeat  Mephistopheles’s evil son Blackheart (Wes Bentley), then Johnny will be free of the contract he signed years ago.

What can I say about this movie? It’s not good. Nicolas Cage has not made a decent movie in years. The poster, especially the depiction of Ghost Rider carrying who the audience might perceive to be an unconscious Roxanne is not taken from any specific scene. Riding on the coat tails of it’s fellow superhero movies, this film and it’s sequel (which is just as bad) just does nothing for me as a film goer.

Do I recommend them? Yes and no. I do recommend Spiderman, but not Ghost Rider

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