Movie Review: The Avengers (dir. by Joss Whedon)


I’m almost certain that this won’t be the only review for Marvel’s The Avengers here on the Shattered Lens. Arleigh is watching it as we speak, and while I can give my thoughts on the film, they won’t be from a comic insider’s point of view. It’s not my strong point. You see, I grew up on Spider-Man comics, and totally shunned the Marvel Team Up / Group stories. Never read an X-Men comic until after that film came out and The Avengers overall are new to me. I know who they are, but I can’t tell you if the movie gives you everything the comics were. Keep your eyes open for the other reviews to help build a better picture of things.

What I can say is that the movie easily touches on everything that Disney / Marvel has built upon with the movies before it. Starting in 2008, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were all pieces of a larger puzzle. After 4 years, The Avengers does its best to utilize all of it, to a great success. That’s the amazing element of this movie. You aren’t essentially required to watch the other movies to enjoy The Avengers. In 2 hours, you’re given a film that stands completely on it’s own if you’ve never seen the other films, yet is an added bonus if you have. Even better, the characters that didn’t have a chance to get their own films still have moments where we can learn about them and where they get to shine. One could maybe say the same about The X-Men in that you have a group of heroes that have to work together, but you’ve never really had a set up to display all of their abilities and background the way Disney/Marvel did this.

Warner Brothers and DC should be crying right now at the missed opportunity here. All of their comic creations were already under one roof, and they really should have been able to have had a Justice League film by now if they wanted to. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if they tried to mimic Marvel Studios right now.

When I first heard that Joss Whedon was doing the directing, I groaned. I have a love / hate relationship with Whedon’s work. I was never a big Buffy: The Vampire Slayer fan, but I really enjoyed Angel when it went into syndication, seeing all of it’s seasons more than once. Of course, everyone loves Firefly, but the film based on that, Serenity, tanked at the box office (I was there at the first Friday to support it, though). I wrote off the Avengers as something that was destined to fail, because Whedon loves to inject pop culture references at every given and small bits of humor into things that are usually serious. I felt the only saving grace would be that Whedon is something of a master when it comes to ensembles, which is why I figured Marvel Studios went with him. It may work for something like Cabin in the Woods (“When did you start reading science books?!” / “You! I learned it by watching you!”), but for a superhero movie, come on.

And yet, here I sit, feeling I owe Whedon the biggest of apologies. The Avengers has equal parts humor and action and it comes together so well that I’m not sure I know who else could pull this off. Let’s put it this way. The only true lull in the whole movie is at the beginning of the film, because it still needs to set up the big problem for the Avengers to handle. Other than that, the movie moves very well for a film with so many characters.

Previously on The Avengers…

Without giving much away, The Avengers is basically the story of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who has to bring a group of heroes together to face a foe that’s too powerful for one good guy to handle on their own (or so that’s how they sell it). However, before they can take on the battle they’re supposed to, they have to find a way to get along with each other and that’s the building point of this tale. The action, when it happens is fresh and fast and there isn’t a slow moment that passes without pushing the story forward. For as long as the movie is, it moves very well.

The Character Study…

Like I said, One of the marvels of The Avengers is that all of the characters are given their time to shine. Since this is the big story we’ve all been waiting for, the film does take it’s time to give the characters brief explanations of where they’re from and how they fit into the entire scheme of things. These summaries give the audience just enough to be satisfied without turning the movie into a set of background dossiers like Watchmen. Of particular note is Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner / Hulk, who may have had the hardest duty here, playing a character that most people associated with Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk. He makes the role his own, and just like with Bana in Ang Lee’s version of the green guy’s story, Norton’s quickly forgotten (or was for me, anyway). Ruffalo’s version of Banner is very hesitant, almost scared of what he can unleash. Norton pulled this off as well, but I have to admit that I felt a little sad for Ruffalo’s Banner at the start. He keeps his distance because of how dangerous he can be, and I can’t imagine how rough that would be. Still, he and his alter ego get their spotlight moments, too.

None of the characters veer off from how they were established in their own films. Robert Downey, Jr’s Tony Stark is just as much of a wise cracking ass as he was in his movies, and Captain America is just as noble. Chris Hemsworth carries Thor without a problem. If there’s any one character that has a tough time fitting in, it would have to be Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. Though he had a blip of a cameo in Kenneth Branaugh’s Thor, and manages to have some presence here, but if he wasn’t in the story I don’t think he’d be terribly missed. The story manages to cushion this by having the Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) be something of a fighting partner with him. For a character without anything super about her, she holds her own amongst the team, even better in some occasions.

Most superhero movies have gone the route of adding villains as the number of films increase. Superman had Lex Luthor in the first film and then the three Kryptonians. Spider-Man 3 had both Venom and the New Green Goblin to deal with. Even the Dark Knight had Joker and Two-Face. One would think that given the number of superheroes on board, you’d have just about the same number of Arch villains to deal with. The Avengers spins this notion on it’s ear by just giving you one main enemy in Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and as a demigod, he’s as formidable as one could expect. I thought that was a great touch, considering what we usually get in superhero movies.

One thing about The Avengers that helps it move along is the humor that’s injected throughout the film. It’s not so heavy that you can’t take the film seriously, but there’s just enough to find yourself accidentally chuckling or downright applauding at scenes. Of course, this is classic Whedon. Even his Astonishing X-Men comic line had the same elements. Just when you think everything’s becoming a little too dramatic, the film throws a comedic curveball that breaks the tension. What felt like overuse in Buffy The Vampire Slayer turns out to be really fun here. This doesn’t mean that the film avoids being serious. There are moments where it’s incredibly so. It’s just that the story knows when to laugh at itself. I applauded and laughed out loud too many times during this movie. Were it not for the audience laughing with me, I’m pretty sure I’d be that guy getting shushed down in front. Wow, it was just fun!

…But What about the Kids? 

Can kids go see The Avengers? Of course. It may get a little scary for the littlest of viewers, but overall, it should be a fun ride for anyone who enjoyed the other films in Marvel’s arsenal. There’s no time for anything steamy (unless you want to count a little flirting between two characters anything), but maybe the violence may be something to be wary off. Then again, it may not really be that bad. It’s up to the Parental Guidance and all that. They will probably love the 3D version, which is actually used well in the aerial sequences but can tend to fade as one watches it. It definitely has a great look to it, but the 3D isn’t exactly required here. That’s up to the viewer to choose.

Overall, The Avengers is a wild ride and a great triumph when looking at what was built to reach that point. It’s easily the Inception for me this year, that film that I know I’m going to be running back to a few times before it’s had it’s run, and as of right now, I’m far less excited about Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises at this point. My movie year’s pretty complete at the moment and the Summer officially starts with this film, the way I see it. I wouldn’t mind seeing another Marvel team up like this.

Oh, one more thing. Stay when the credits roll. There are 2 tidbits that need to be viewed. One just after the credits start and one at the very end.

The Oscars: The Visual Effects SemiFinalists


The Visual Branch Executive Committee of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Scienes (yes, you can say it five times fast but can you say it five times fast while eating a pop tart — I think not!) has released a list of the 15 semifinalists for the 2010 Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

And here they are:

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • Clash of the Titans
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • Hereafter
  • Inception
  • Iron Man 2
  • The Last Airbender
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
  • Scott Pilgrim vs the World
  • Shutter Island
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • TRON: Legacy
  • Unstoppable

This list will be narrowed down again to 7 semifinalists and then in February, the actual nominees will be announced.

Looking over this list, there’s a few bright spots.  I don’t think anyone’s surprised that Inception made the cut but it’s still good to see it there.  I’m also happy to see that there’s at least a chance that Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World might get some love.  Same thing with Shutter Island.

As for the rest of the list — well, it’s pretty much what you would expect to see, isn’t it?  Clash of the Titans?  Really?  I have to admit that I don’t remember the film all that well but didn’t the special effects kinda look like …. well, crap?  I can only assume that the voters were overwhelmed by the raw charisma of Sam Worthington.  Prince of Persia was a little better but still, for the most part, the effects were routine, dull, and predictable.  Hereafter featured an impressive tsunami but otherwise, the visual effects were pretty much limited to making the afterlife resemble a poorly lit office of the DMV.

As usual, I guess what’s really interesting about this list isn’t what’s listed as much as what’s not.  I would happily replace both Clash of the Titans and Price of Persia with Splice and Skyline, two mediocre films that were distinguished by impressive f/x work.

For that matter, even the Social Network featured Armie Hammer acting opposite himself.

I’m also disappointed to see that Black Swan was left off the list.  In typical Darren Aronofsky fashion, they did indeed come close to going over the top.  The fact that they didn’t is exactly why they deserve to be honored.

(I found this list of semifinalists on AwardsDaily.com but I’m not including a link because the site is run by an elitist dumbfug who apparently thinks that she’s the end-all/be-all of Oscar commentators.  Yes, she’s a commentator and not just some grubby little blogger like the rest of us.  Or, as she once put it — “I know the game.  Hell, I am the game…”  When I call someone a toadsucker, that’s the type of person I’m talking about.)

Film Review: Salt (Directed by Phillip Noyce)


I have long come to accept that, when it comes to issues of gender equality, most movies are like Iron Man 2.  If you’ll remember, that’s the film in which Gwynneth Paltrow said she was better suited to be a secretary than a CEO, Scarlett Johansson beat up an army but only because she was given permission ahead of time by a very manly Samuel L. Jackson, Jr., and the world was saved because Robert Downey, Jr. made peace with the patriarchy.  While the inherent sexism of most movies has never ceased to bother me, I’ve come to accept it because I love film. 

(For the record, I enjoyed Iron Man 2 even if I did roll my eyes more than once.)

Still, hope continues to rest at the bottom of Pandora’s box.  With the year only a little more than a half over, American movie screens have played host to a handful of unusually strong and independent female characters.  (It’s the independence that sets them apart.)  From Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone to Katie Jarvis in Fish Tank to even Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning in the Runaways, they have challenged the standard movie stereotype of the weak, ultimately helpless female.  The best known of them is, of course, Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and its sequels.  However, if the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo features the strongest woman to appear on American movie screen this year, the just-released Salt features the second strongest.

In Salt, Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent who is married to Mike (August Diehl), a nice guy who happens to be the world’s leading authority on spiders.  On the day of her wedding anniversary, Salt finds herself tasked with interrogating a Russian defector named Orlov.  As Salt listens (and her fellow agents watch), Orlov tells a story of how, decades earlier, hundreds of Russian children were secretly smuggled into the U.S. where they served as “sleeper” agents, working their way into American society until such time as they might be activated.  Orlov goes to explain that one of these sleeper agents is going to assassinate the President of Russia.  That agent, Orlov adds, is named “Evelyn Salt.”  While Salt’s co-workers react to this accusation by attempting to arrest her, Salt reacts by escaping from custody and fleeing in an attempt to both find her husband, who has mysteriously disappeared, and prove her innocence.

Or is she?  There’s a lot of twists and turns in Salt’s plot and while they don’t always make sense, they’re a lot of fun to watch.  Director Phillip Noyce keeps the action moving and, in the lead role, Angelina Jolie brings a wonderful sense of moral ambiguity to the character that you’re never quite sure whose side she is really on.  Jolie makes the character seem real even when she’s jumping off a bridge and landing on top of a speeding truck without so much as even a bruise as a result.

Admittedly, I enjoyed Salt for much the same reason that I enjoyed the far superior Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  It was fun to not only see a woman in a movie do stuff that usually only a man is allowed to do but also manage to do all of it a lot more convincingly than most contemporary male action heroes.  With the exception of a very intense torture scene at the start of the film, Salt is never shown with tears in her eyes.  She is never shown begging for mercy.  Most importantly, she is never portrayed as being helpless.  Considering just how much importance society puts into the idea of all women being inherently helpless, movies like Salt are a refreshing change of pace.

Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that pretty much everything Salt did in the film was basically done to save her marriage.  As strong a character as Salt was, its unfortunate that the film had to make sure we understood that it was all due to the purifying love of one man.  It’s as if the filmmakers were worried that if they made Salt too independent, they’d lose the audience and they were probably right.

Still, 2010 may very well be remembered as the year that women in movies were finally allowed to kick some ass.  After an eternity of serving as decorations (with their every action governed by some male filmmaker’s infantile Whore/Madonna complex), women are finally being allowed to do something other than scream and wait to be rescued.  Will this trend continue?  Probably not.  It’s a bit much to ask of a country that can’t even bring itself elect a female President.  However, while it lasts, I’m enjoying the trend and I’ll miss it once it’s over.

2010: The Year In Film So Far


Everyone views history in their own individual way.  Some people remember past years by what they saw on the evening news (hence, 2004 becomes “the year Bush was reelected”) but I define them by what was playing at the nearest movie theater.  Ask me when I was born and I won’t tell you, “1985.”  Instead, I’ll tell you that I was born the same year that Terry Gilliam’s Brazil was butchered by Sid Shienberg.  For me, the quality of a year is determined by the quality of the movies that were released during those twelve months.  You may have hated 2009 because of the economy.  I hated it because it was the year of the overrated movie, the year in which otherwise sensible people ignored great films like An Education, A Serious Man, District 9, and Inglorious Basterds (which, praised as it was, deserved considerably more) in favor of Avatar and The Hurt Locker.

2010, however, is shaping up to be a far better year.  Though a final judgment can’t be passed on 2010 until 2011, here’s a few thoughts on the year so far.

Best Film (so far): Exit Through The Gift Shop, a quasi-documentary that might just be one of the most perfectly executed mindfucks in modern history.  Runners-up: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Fish Tank, Please Give, Winter’s Bone, A Prophet, Toy Story 3, and Inception.

Best Male Performance of the year so far: John Hawkes, in Winter’s Bone.  Hawkes has been overshadowed by Jennifer Lawrence but he dominates every scene that he appears in.  Just consider the scene where he “talks” his way out of a traffic stop. Runners-ups: John C. Reilly in Cyrus, Ben Stiller in Greenberg, Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception and Shutter Island, and Sam Rockwell in Iron Man 2.

Best Female Performance of the year so far: Noomi Rapace as the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire.  Rapace is my new role model, a Ms. 45 for the 21st century.  Runners-up: Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone, Katie Jarvis for Fish Tank, Rebecca Hall in Please Give, Greta Gerwig in Greenberg, and Chloe Grace Moretz in Kick-Ass.

Best Ending: The final shot of Inception.

Best Horror Film: The Wolf Man, which should have been oh so bad but instead turned out to be oh so good with Anthony Hopkins and Hugo Weaving both giving brilliant supporting performances. 

Best Bad Movie: Sex and the City 2.  Yes, if I’m going to be honest, it was a horrible movie.  But it was fun. the clothes were to die for, and the film managed to bring new depths of shallowness to the examination of the oppression of women in the Middle East.

Worst Film Of The Year (so far): Chloe.  Oh, Atom Egoyan, poor baby, what have you done, sweetheart?  You made a trashy, campy softcore movie and then you forgot that these things are supposed to be fun!  Runner-up: Robin Hood, because the entire freaking movie was a lie.  However, it did feature Oscar Isaac screaming, “Outlawwwwww!” and that saves it from being named the worst.

Worst Horror Film So Far: The Black Waters On Echo’s Pond.  So.  Fucking.  Bad.

The Get-Over-It-Award For The First Half Of 2010: The makers of Prince of Persia, who just had to try to turn an otherwise entertainingly mindless action film into yet another half-assed cinematic allegory for the Invasion of Iraq.  Ben Kingsley will probably be playing thinly disguised versions of Dick Cheney for the rest of his life.  I was against the Invasion of Iraq from the start but seriously, I’m so bored with every movie released using it as a way to try to fool the audience into thinking that they’re seeing something more worthwhile than they are.

The Read-The-Freaking-Book-Instead Award: The Killer Inside Me.  A lot of viewers are disturbed by the violent way that the main character deals with the women in his life.  I’m more disturbed by the fact that all the women in his life are presented as being simpering idiots.  The original novel is by Jim Thompson and it is a classic.

The worst ending of 2010 so far: Splice with the Killer Inside Me as a strong runner-up.

Future Film I’m Not Looking Forward To: Roland Emmerich’s Gusher, an ecological thriller based on the BP oil spill, starring Will Smith as the President, Dev Patel as the governor of Louisiana, Paul Bettany as the head of the evil oil company, and Ben Kingsley as Dick Cheney who will be seen cackling as oil-drenched doves wash up on the shores of California.  (How did the oil get to California?  Emmerich magic.)  Of course, the nominal star of the movie will be Jake Gyllenhaal as the young engineer who says stuff like, “This well is going to blow!” and who is trying to reconcile with his estranged wife (played by — does it really matter?  Let’s just say Emily Blunt gets the role this time around).  And let’s not forget Robert Duvall, who will play a grizzled old-timer who says a lot of grizzled old-timer stuff.  Look for it in 2012.

My prediction for which film will be the most overrated of 2010: The Social Network, which has not opened yet but Sasha Stone at awardsdaily.com seems to think that it’s a slam dunk for greatness which is usually a pretty good indication that the end result is going to be a predictable, bourgeois crapfest.

So, that’s 2010 so far.  It’s shaping up to be a good year.  I’m still looking forward to the release of Blue Valentine, Animal Kingdom, Get Low, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, The Last Exorcism, Wall Street, and the rerelease of Godard’s classic Breathless, which is one of my favorite movies and now I’m going to get a chance to see it in a theater!  Life is good.

Review: Iron Man 2 (dir. Jon Favreau)


In 2008 Marvel Comics released it’s very first in-house financed film through it’s Marvel Studios. That film was called Iron Man. It was a film that definitely was given buzz and hype by the comic book crowd, but wasn’t highly-anticipated by the general public. Even the prospect of Robert Downey, Jr. as the character of Tony Stark was received by the fanboys with trepidation and by the rest of the film-going public with apathy. When the film finally came out the reaction wasn’t what industry experts had expected. The film became a bonafide hit and it was all due to one man. That man happened to be the very person people thought was wrong for the part: Robert Downey, Jr. His performance as Tony Stark and as Iron Man was one of those which makes a franchise. Robert Downey, Jr. was born to play Tony Stark and it showed on the screen. The film was a major success not just for RDJ but for the fledgling Marvel Studios.

It is now 2010 and the follow-up to Iron Man has finally come out. The road to this second film wasn’t as difficult and mired in trepidation as the first, but now people wondered whether the first film was just a fluke and would lightning be caught once again in the proverbial bottle. The complaints this time around prior to the film’s release was that there were too many new characters both villains and allies being introduced. Would the action scenes be as average and all-too-brief as they were in the first film? Would Robert Downey, Jr. be able to handle the pressure of being the foundation of a world Marvel Studios was building with not just the Iron Man franchise but the other films coming down the pipeline like Thor and Captain America then the big boy in the room: The Avengers. These were all credible worries, but in the end this sequel made a great leap forward into calming down these fears. Iron Man 2 definitely lives up to the first film and improves on certain weaknesses of the first film, but not all which just keeps this sequel from being on the same level as past Marvel superhero sequels like Spider-Man 2 and X2.

The film opens up literally just as the first film ends as we see a Russian TV rebroadcasting Tony Stark declaring himself as Iron Man in front of a crowd of reporters. It’s who is watching this broadcast that moves the story along from start to finish. We meet Ivan Vanko (played with inherent menace by Mickey Rourke) who finds out from his dying father that Tony stark and Iron Man was to blame for their family’s hardship and lost legacy. That very theme of patriarchal and familial legacy becomes a running theme throughout the film. This opening intro sequence shows the audience that Tony Stark wasn’t the only one capable of creating the very power source keeping him alive and powering up the Iron Man suit. The extended intro also does a good job of introducing a main character right from the start and giving us his background, motivations and skill set and why he makes a credible opponent for a one-man army which Iron Man truly has become. But Ivan Vanko, or Whiplash as the credits have dubbed him, won’t be the only problem Tony Stark has to face throughout the film. All the problems he’s having to deal with since becoming Iron Man and publicly declaring himself as such comes from that very declaration.

The U.S. government now sees Iron Man as a problem, despite having stabilized the world by his very existence, and has been trying to force Tony Stark to relinquish the suit and the technology necessary to operate and replicate the Iron Man suit/weapon. Whether it’s his self-inflated and fame-fed ego or his new-found ideals to rewrite his family’s warmongering and war-profiteering past, Tony Stark refuses to give up the suit and even embarrasses the senator (played by Garry Shandling) heading up the subcommittee trying to get Stark to relinquish the suit. The other more immediate and personal problem Stark now has to find a solution for happens to be the very thing keeping him alive. The minituarized ARC Reactor in his chest is gradually poisoning him due to it’s palladium core. While the poison levels slowly builds as he continue to wear the reactor it jumps up in levels whenever he uses the suit. Without a suitable replacement to the toxic palladium all the good work Tony Stark thinks he has done will be for naught as death was something he couldn’t fight against.

Right in the middle of both Vanko and the US government sits one Justin Hammer of Hammer Industries. Hammer (played with weasly and loser aplomb by Sam Rockwell) runs a competing arms manufacturer to Stark Industries. A company who took the opportunity of Stark ending all arms manufacturing and sales to become the government’s newest primary defense contractor. Hammer also looks to replicate the Iron Man suit and arc reactor technology either in-house or through less reputable means. Hammer is instrumental in giving Vanko and the government the resources needed to take on Tony Stark. Most of the comedic aspect of the film involves Hammer trying to help out these two competing antagonists with hilarious and, in the end, lethal results.

Not everything about the film centers on Stark’s problems. The film also works in further building up and rounding out the cast of characters supporting Tony Stark. Pepper Potts has now turned from being Tony’s personal aide and secretary to actually becoming Chairman and CEO of his company by his choice. His military liaison and best friend Lt. Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle replacing Terence Howard for this sequel in the role) returns with conflicted agendas as he’s caught between his friendship to Stark and his commitment as an Air Force officer to the military and this to the U.S. government. We get more screentime with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Nick Fury as he appears in the middle and very end of the film. Another ally to join this core group is Natasha Romanoff as the Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johannson). These people try their best to keep Tony Stark grounded and focused throughout the film.

Iron Man 2 pretty much equals what the first film did in providing the audience with some very good performances from all the actors. Great performances despite another script which definitely needed some help in tightening up the story and it’s many converging subplots. While the screenplay done up by screenwriter Justin Theroux is not bad it does fail to capitalize on the very good origin story of the first. The dialogue was pretty average with some lines bordering on uninspired. The adage of great actors making even the worst script sound great definitely stands with the one for this film.

Robert Downey, Jr. returns to elevate the script and dialogue with his very presence and personality. RDJ is Tony Stark and once again proves that he was born for to play the character and personify it on-screen. Every screentime he has with the rest of the film’s actors pop and sizzle especially those with the two female support of Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Scarlett Johannson as the Black Widow. The chemistry between RDJ and Paltrow has improved even though it was already one of the strongest positives of the first film. We see their relationship evolve beyond the mutual attraction from the first film to something much stronger this second time around. Paltrow’s performance was more defined as she goes from being just Stark’s gal Friday to one in a position of power. She becomes the everyman/woman who bears witness to the fantastic going-ons of a world suddenly becoming full of superheroes and the subsequent villains and enemies.

While the two leads in RDJ and Paltrow continue to do a great job in their roles, and the rest of those returning and even the newest faces keeping up with their own performances, the one actor who almost steals the film has to be Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer. Some have called his performance as being too campy and over-the-top. I think his work as Justin Hammer was actually one of the best in the whole film. It’s right up there with RDJ’s work as Tony Stark. Where people saw a character that seemed over-the-top was actually an actor playing the role exactly how it should be played. Hammer was a character always in the shadow of the more popular, charismatic and confident Tony Stark. Hammer thought himself equal to Stark in every way when in truth his mannerisms and affectations only made him seem more the loser each and every time he was on-screen.

One thing which the film improved on over the first was the staging of it’s action sequences and the length with which they lasted. In the first film, the action was quite minimum to say the least as the film really focused on Iron Man’s origin. While the action in the first film wasn’t bad in any way the fact that they didn’t last long was a sore point for even the ardest fan of that film. This time around the action had better staging and a much improved choreography. The visual effects work by Legacy Effects Studio (formerly known as Stan Winston Studios) improved on the original with the different Marks of Iron Man suits looking distinct whether it was the newest Mark VI worn by Stark in the climactic battle or the “pimped-out” War Machine worn by Rhodes.

One thing which should excite comic book fans, and especially those who fanatically follow the Marvel line of titles, is the many little references to future Marvel Studios titles. While the script itself could be seen as average with some above-average moments it still was coherent enough that all the little easter eggs about Thor, Captain America and The Avengers didn’t seem out of place. This sequel played less like a sequel to a stand-alone franchise, but more like another piece to the world Marvel was building and adding to with each new film. It is for this very reason that I’m more than willing to give some of the deficiencies in the story and dearth of new characters a break.

I think it would be difficult to look at any Marvel Studio film as a stand-alone or even for a franchise to be self-contained. Both Iron Man films belong in a world where other characters with their own films will inhabit and interact with each other. Thus we get all these little references even though it may bloat up the particular film they appear in. The final judgement will come once all the films planned have been released and the overall effect and payoff has been met or not.

In the end, Iron Man 2 was a sequel which more than matched it’s predecessor but still had problems in its screenplay work to keep it from being great. The performances were excellent from everyone involved with some even elevating their roles to higher levels. The action was better than the original with some great work from the visual effects studios whose task was to keep the action coherent and easy to follow (unlike Michael Bay’s action work). For those who follow the comics this film should definitely be a must-see and shouldn’t disappoint. For the casual viewer the film should be a fun and action-filled two-hours that also happens to have some very great actors doing good to great work. I must also recommend that people not leave the theater once the end credits begin to roll. Like the previous film in the franchise there is a suprise scene at the very end of the credits which should be seen as it hints at a future Marvel superhero film and one that will tie in with this particular franchise.

Song of the Day: Thunderstruck (by AC/DC)


Another entry to continue marking down to the day of Iron Man 2‘s US release.

Our latest song of the day has been used quite often during the trailers and tv spots for the film. I am talking about AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” off of their 1990 album, The Razors Edge. The song starts off with one of the best opening guitar riffs with lead guitarist Angus Young machine gun picking every note of that riff before the rest of the band moves in and Brian Johnson chanting “Thunder! Thunder!” .

I can honestly believe that this song was inspired by the band seeing a Combined Arms Live Fire EXercise in Ft. Hood. The song definitely has a bombastic tone to it with just enough of the military shock and awe. It’s no wonder this song is one of the most used by YouTube uploaders as the background music to military live-fire footage both in and out of battle.

So, it is only appropriate that Marvel Studios has chosen it to be one of the songs to accompany the trailers and tv spots for Iron Man 2.

Thunderstruck

(Thunder)(x10)

I was caught
In the middle of a railroad track (Thunder)

And I knew there was no turning back (Thunder)
My mind raced
And I thought what could I do (Thunder)
And I knew
There was no help, no help from you (Thunder)

Sound of the drums
Beatin’ in my heart
The thunder of guns
Tore me apart
You’ve been – thunderstruck

Went down the highway
Broke the limit, we hit the town
Went through to Texas, yeah Texas
And we had some fun
We met some girls
Some dancers who gave a good time
Broke all the rules, played all the fools
Yeah, yeah, they, they, they blew our minds

I was shakin’ at the knees
Could I come again please?
Yeah the ladies were too kind
You’ve been – thunderstruck, thunderstruck
Yeah yeah yeah, thunderstruck

Oh, thunderstruck
Yeah

Now we’re shaking at the knees
Could I come again please?

Thunderstruck, thunderstruck
Yeah yeah yeah, thunderstruck
Thunderstruck, yeah, yeah, yeah

Said yeah, it’s alright
We’re doing fine
Yeah, it’s alright
We’re doing fine
So fine

Thunderstruck, yeah, yeah, yeah,
Thunderstruck, thunderstruck, thunderstruck
Whoa baby, baby, thunderstruck
You’ve been thunderstruck, thunderstruck
Thunderstruck, thunderstruck
You’ve been thunderstruck

10 Movies I’m Looking Foward To and 5 That I Am Not And 1 That I’m Kinda Sorta Undecided On


I had all six of my wisdom teeth extracted on Tuesday.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Not only where my all my wisdom teeth impacted but I had two extra ones as well.  I was passed out during the operation and, to be honest, I wish I could be passed out for the recovery as well.  I’m bruised, puffy, and it hurts to talk.  In short, even with a healthy supply of Vicodin, I am miserable.  Boo hoo.

However, one thing never fails to cheer me up and that’s watching, discussing, thinking about, and writing about film.  Since Tuesday, I’ve had a lot of extra time to think about some of the films that are due to come out during this year.  Below, I’ve listed 16 of them.  Ten of them are movies that I’m looking forward to seeing, five are movies that I know I’m going to end up seeing and hating, and finally, one is a movie that I’m genuinely undecided on.

The Ten I’m Looking Forward To:

1) Iron Man 2 — Iron Man 2 is opening tomorrow and I’m exciting for several reasons.  First off, I loved the first movie.  Super hero adaptations usually bore me to tears but the first Iron Man was actually a lot of fun.  Traditionally, sequels are disappointing but most of the people behind the 1st movie — director Jon Favreau, Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwynneth Paltrow — are returning.  As well, you’ve got Mickey Rourke chewing the scenery and blowing things up, Sam Rockwell (who I love! love!  love! — go and rent Moon if you haven’t seen it!) as a villain, and Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation is one of my all time favorite movies) kicking ass in black leather.  

On a personal note, my friend Jeff once referred to me as “the Black Widow.”  At first, I was a little taken back because I thought he was suggesting that I devoured my mates but fortunately for him, he then explained he was referring to a comic book character who, like me, has red hair.  Anyway, for the longest time, that’s been an inside joke between the two of us.  I’ve always been the Black Widow even though I have no idea who she actually is.  So, imagine my delight when I found out that this is apparently the same character that Scarlett Johansson is playing in Iron Man 2!  For that reason alone, I have to see this movie. 

Finally, when I’m not obsessing on films, I work as a receptionist/secretary/file clerk/personal assistant and there are times when I’m sitting bored at my desk and I start to think about myself as if I were the character played by Gwynneth Paltrow.  I’ll sit there and wonder if maybe my boss is secretly a costumed super hero.  (I’m fairly sure that he’s not.)  Strange as it may seem, Iron Man has become the fuel for my fantasies. (Release Date: May 7th, 2010 — T0morrow!) 

2) Robin Hood — When it comes to English folklore, I tend to gravitate towards stories involving King Arthur accidentally sleeping with his half-sister and thousands of cocky knights vainly searching for the Holy Grail and getting killed in various macabre ways as a result.  As a result, I really don’t know much about Robin Hood beyond the basics.  I know that he was apparently some sort of socialist and that he liked to hang out in the forest with a bunch of “merry” men.  To be honest, the whole idea of Robin Hood has always struck me as being childish and the character bores me.  But I’m still looking forward to this latest Robin Hood film and I can explain it in 2 words: Russell Crowe.  If anyone can make Robin Hood into an interesting — even compelling character — it would be Crowe.  Director Ridley Scott also seems to be the ideal director for this movie and then toss in some speeches about taxation without representation and you’ve got the potential for the perfect Libertarian film. (Release Date: May 14th, 2010)

3) The Expendables — Yes, I am usually not a huge fan of action films and I’ve never quite understood how Sylvester Stallone ever became a star but I’m still looking forward to this movie.  Why?  Just judging from the trailer, every actor on the planet appears to have a role in the this film.  I find Jason Stathan to be about as appealing as Sylvester Stallone but Jet Li and Mickey Rourke should both be fun to watch and who wouldn’t jump at the chance to see Eric Roberts play yet another villain? (Release Date: August 13th, 2010)

4) Splice — I nearly included Splice on my list of films that I’m not looking forward to because, I swear to God, the trailer for Splice is so dull that it could be used to torture prisoners at Gitmo.  Add to that, I’ve never quite seen the appeal that Adrien Brody supposedly possesses as an actor.  However, I’m willing to take a chance on Splice because 1) it also stars one of my personal role models, the wonderful actress, director, and activist Sarah Polley and 2) director Vincenzo Natali has promised to take a very European approach to the film’s horrors (i.e. lots of casual sex with the monster serving as a symbol for something deeper than just box office receipts).  I’m looking forward to seeing if Splice can overcome Adrien Brody and live up to that promise. (Release date: June 4th, 2010)

5) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One — Okay, I admit it.   I’m a fan.  Don’t judge me.  (Though I will also say that I think J.K. Rowling needs to get over herself in a major way.)   It’ll be interesting to see what Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson do with themselves now that their indentured servitude is done with.  Radcliffe, in particular, is capable of playing a lot more than just Harry Potter.  (Release Date: November 19th, 2010)

6) Howl — James Franco as the late poet Allen Ginsberg?  Strangely enough, I think the idea might work.  (Release Date: September 24th, 2010)

7) Machete — Robert Rodriguez finally makes a film for someone other than his kids.  How can you not be excited about the chance to see Robert De Niro and Jeff Fahey on-screen together?  Plus, Lindsay Lohan (who really should just be allowed to live her life) gets a chance to remake her image playing a socialite with a gun.  My hope is that if Machete finds success at the box office, Eli Roth will make Thanksgiving.  (Release Date: September 3rd, 2010)

8 ) My Soul To Take — Wes Craven has had an odd career and, to be honest, I struggle sometimes with whether he’s truly a great horror filmmaker or if he’s just a journeyman director who has occasionally gotten lucky.  Looking at his career, it’s hard not to wonder how the same guy who made the original Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes could also be responsible for something like Cursed?  Regardless of how the actual film turns out, My Soul To Take will add another piece to the puzzle.  This will be the first film to be both written and directed by Craven in 16 years.  Hopefully, as in the majority of his better movies, Craven will be able to balance his commercial side with his sadistic side. (Release Date: October 29th, 2010)

9) Inception — My tastes usually run more towards horror than sci-fi but I find myself growing more excited about Inception with each passing day.  Not only does the plot sound like it could have easily come from a long-lost book by Philip K. Dick (one of the few sci-fi writers that I enjoy reading, A Scanner Darkly being my personal favorite) but the film is being directed by Christopher Nolan who proved with Momento that he can make the surreal compelling.  And just check out that cast — Leonardo DiCaprio, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who I’ve been crushing on ever since (500) Days of Summer). (Release date: July 16th, 2010.)

10) Salt — I love it when girls get to kick ass in the movies and, when she’s at her best, nobody kicks ass like Angelina Jolie.  (Release Date: July 23rd, 2010)

One That I’m Kinda Looking Forward To But I’m Kinda Not

1) Sex and the City 2 — Why are they in the desert?  How exactly can you have Sex without the City?    (Release date: May 27th, 2010) 

The Five I Am Not Looking Forward To

1) The A-Team — Yay!  It’s an action movie based on a show I’ve never heard of.  I love Liam Neeson and it’s good to see that Sharlto Copley’s underrated performance in District 9 has led to him getting more work but, sorry, I think I’ll pass. (Release Date: June 11th, 2010)

2) The Social Network — I know a lot of people are looking forward to this movie about the founding of Facebook and it is true that it’s being directed by David Fincher.  However, there are a few things that lead me to fear that this is not going to be the movie that so many people think it will be.  First off, it was written by Aaron Sorkin who is probably one of the most overrated screenwriters working today.  He may be best known for The West Wing but most of Sorkin’s work resembles the heavy-handed sermonizing of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip.  Remember how Sorkin reacted when a few bloggers criticized his show?  This is not a guy who is comfortable with the Internet.  Secondly, the film is being produced by Kevin Spacey, another overrated talent who doesn’t so much act as much as he smugly pretends to act.  Third, and most important, The Social Network has got to be one of the worst titles I’ve heard in a long time.  Everything about this movie just screams “misfire.” (Release date: October 1st, 2010)

3) Paranormal Activity 2 — Because, you know, the first one was so good. (Release Date: October 22nd, 2010)

4) Twelve — I loved Nick McDonnell’s novel and I usually enjoy movies about decadent rich kids destroying themselves with lots of drugs and promiscuity.  I mean, if you’re going to self-destruct, you should at least look good doing it.  Unfortunately, Twelve is directed by the American Umberto Lenzi, Joel Schumacher.  Schumacher’s films aren’t even enjoyably bad.  They’re just bad.  Interestingly enough, Joel Schumacher tends to turn up in just about every movie star biography and Hollywood history book that I own.  He’s someone who has obviously been around for a very long time and who has cultivated a lot of friends.  I imagine he must be very likable in person.  But, seriously, isn’t it time to revoke his DGA membership? (Release Date: July 2, 2010)

5) Saw VII — Sorry, I got bored with the Jigsaw Killer about five movies ago.   The film’s in 3D so I’m sure we’ll get to see a severed limb fly directly at the camera.  (Release Date: October 22nd, 2010)

Song of the Day: Iron Man (by Black Sabbath)


I think it would’ve been quite remiss of me to not set this as song of the day just days before the release of Iron Man 2.

Black Sabbath’s iconic song from their second studio album (Paranoid) should be well-known to everyone by now. I’m not even talking about metal and rock fans, but even those who wouldn’t be caught dead listening to the so-called “devil’s music”. If people have seen 2008’s superhero film Iron Man then they’ve heard of this song. This song is pretty much classic heavy metal before all the different metal sounds started appearing years later.

Iron Man wasn’t your typical current heavy metal where sometimes speed and overly complex playing has been the choice of some metal bands. Not with Sabbath and definitely not with this song. It’s pretty straightforward and still has some of the progressive stylings that Led Zeppelin introduced with their third and fourth album. Where Black Sabbath really made the song their own was how heavy they made it. Whether it was Iommi’s lead guitar starting off the song right up to Butler’s near Bonham-like tree-trunk drumming.

With the sequel to Iron Man right around the corner I wouldn’t be surprised if this song ended up on iTunes top ten song download for the whole summer of 2010.

Iron Man

Has he lost his mind?
Can he see or is he blind?
Can he walk at all,
Or if he moves will he fall?
Is he alive or dead?
Has he thoughts within his head?
We’ll just pass him there
Why should we even care?

He was turned to steel
In the great magnetic field
Where he traveled time
For the future of mankind

Nobody wants him
He just stares at the world
Planning his vengeance
That he will soon unfold

Now the time is here
For iron man to spread fear
Vengeance from the grave
Kills the people he once saved

Nobody wants him
They just turn their heads
Nobody helps him
Now he has his revenge

Heavy boots of lead
Fills his victims full of dread
Running as fast as they can
Iron man lives again!