Film Review: Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (dir by Rod Hardy)


Uh-oh, Hydra is up to something!

If you don’t know who Hydra is, they’re an international group of villainous superspies. The organization was founded by a Nazi war criminal named Baron Von Strucker and they’re always trying to take over the world or destroy it. Hydra hasn’t had much success on either front but it’s not for lack of trying. Fortunately, there’s another super secret organization that’s been founded to keep Hydra from reaching their goals. The name of this organization is S.H.I.E.L.D. and they are headquartered in a big flying helicarrier thing. So, if you work for S.H.I.E.L.D., you not only get to save the world but you also have a hell of a work commute.

Anyway, Hydra’s latest plan is to steal the body of their founder and somehow not only bring him back to life but to also spread a deadly virus across the world. S.H.I.E.L.D. knows that it’s going to take the world’s greatest secret agent to defeat this plot but, unfortunately, Nick Fury (David Hasselhoff) is retired and living in an abandoned mine shaft in the Yukon. Nick wears an eye patch, smokes a cigar, and speaks in a permanently annoyed tone of voice. Nick’s done with saving the world. Or, at least, that’s what he thinks. When S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Lina Rinna) informs him that Hydra killed an old friend of his while stealing the Baron’s body, Nick emerges from the Yukon in search of revenge!

Long before Samuel L. Jackson donned the iconic eye patch and brought Nick Fury to life as one of the mainstays of the MCU, David Hasselhoff played the character in this made-for-TV movie from 1998. The movie was meant to serve as the pilot for a Nick Fury television series. (Hasselhoff, by this point, was looking to move on from Baywatch.) Of course, it wasn’t picked up and today, whenever this early Marvel film is mentioned, it’s usually in a somewhat dismissive manner.

And, believe me, I can understand that instinct to preemptively dismiss Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. I mean, it’s David Hasselhoff and its from the 90s and it was made for TV. I get it. But, having watched the movie on Saturday night, I have to say that it’s actually not that bad. It’s low budget. It’s campy. It’s thoroughly silly. The film is full of actors giving uncertain line readings. And yet, it’s also fast-paced and, when taken on its own admittedly “special” terms, rather entertaining. In the role of Nick Fury, Hasselhoff plays the role with just enough self-awareness to indicate that he’s in on the joke. He delivers his lines with just the right amount of deadpan humor and he chews on that cigar as if the fate of the world depends upon it. In short, as opposed to almost everyone else in the film, Hasselhoff appears to be having a good time. In fact, one could argue that David Hasselhoff is a good Nick Fury for the same reason that Samuel L. Jackson is a good Nick Fury. Both of them play the character as if he’s someone who secretly realizes that he’s a character in a comic book film and who is determined to have as much fun with the role as he can.

The film’s plot does occasionally border on being incoherent but, honestly, who cares? Are you really watching a film like this for the plot? There’s a lot of explosions and one-liners. Hasselhoff has fun with the lead role, as does Sandra Hess in the role of Strucker’s daughter. It’s a dumb but entertaining. It’s also only 90 minutes long so it’s not like you’re having to sacrifice a major part of your life to watch it. Explosions and a short running time, who can complain about that?

Super Bowl Trailer: Captain America: The Winter Soldier


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It’s becoming a sort of yearly occurrence to have a Marvel Studios film premiere a special trailer during the live-broadcast of the NFL’s latest Super Bowl event. Last year, it was a special Super Bowl trailer of Iron Man 3 (an extended version soon coming out after). This year it will be Captain America: The Winter Soldier that will get the special Super Bowl treatment.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier has been gaining some major buzz since the release of its first teaser trailer from a couple months back. Where Thor: Dark World used fantasy as an overall theme for its look and story, with the sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger the filmmakers have taken on the look and feel of a techno/conspiracy-thriller. The Winter Soldier looks to be like something that wouldn’t seem out of place if made during the cynical and distrustful era of the 1970’s when conspiracies and distrust of those in power dominated the headlines.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is set for an April 4, 2014 release date.

Also, we have the UK and Ireland version of the trailer which show a brief glimpse of Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) who is the descendant of Peggy Carter from the first film.

SDCC 2011: The Avengers Line-Up Concept Art Posters


One great thing Marvel has done this year for San Diego Comic-Con 2011 was the begin the major media and ad campaign for their 2012 summer tentpole blockbuster in The Avengers. This is a superhero team project which has been 3-4 years in the making. It all began with 2008’s Iron Man and finally concludes with 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. In-between these two films we got other members of Marvel Comics’ iconic Avengers team make their introduction through their own films and/or make appearances in all the films like Thor, the Hulk, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Hawkeye and SHIELD.

One of the coolest things to come out of the Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures part of Comic-Con 2011 was the release of the concept art posters for not just The Avengers but for all the characters who make up the team. Each character poster shows each team member (even SHIELD gets their own with Nick Fury leading the agents) in a striking pose with background images showing scenes from past films which comprises what is being called “Marvel’s Cinematic Universe”. That term is just one way of saying that these films do not follow the timelines set down in the primary Marvel Comics universe (Marvel-616).

I’m not exactly sure who was the artist responsible for these concept art, but they’re great and brings to mind such cover artwork as Alex Ross, Drew Struzan and Dave Dorman. I’m sure someone over on Twitter or on Facebook will be able to figure out just who this awesome artist is. Some of the details in the background should make the comic book fans quite happy like the Quinjet in the Black Widow poster and the SHIELD Helicarrier which appear in both the Hawkeye and SHIELD posters.

With Comic-Con winding down the hype machine for The Avengers will definitely be on full swing with New York Comic-Con this October up next. Captain America: The First Avengers is now out in the theaters earning universal acclaim. The Avengers will assemble for a May 4, 2012 release date.

Source: Marvel

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.

Iron Man 2: Second Official Trailer


May 7, 2010 is still two months away but it sure is a long wait after seeing the second official trailer for this summer’s most anticipated blockbuster. I am talking about Marvel’s Iron Man 2. The trailer premiered on the post-Oscar Jimmy Kimmel Show episode and I will say that it was the highlight of the night.

There’s been some concern about Iron Man 2 after the release of the first official trailer. Some said that trailer gave them feelings that the sequel was going to be way over-the-top and almost crossing the line into ridiculous. Others thought there may have been too many bad guys involved. Then there are those who are still bitching about the look of the main villain, Mickey Rourke as Whiplash.

I’d like to say that the second trailer went a long way in dispelling some of the concerns. There were more scenes about Tony Stark and the Iron Man suit (in its many variations). There seemed to be more explained about Whiplash and his role as the main villain. Even Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer character comes to the forefront. The clincher was the sequence when the Hammer Iron Men showed up to battle not just Iron Man but the War Machine. This sequel may not be all about the Iron Man story-arc called “Armor Wars” but it sure seems to borrow a lot from that arc and, for that, this self-confessed comic book geek is giddy. GIDDY I SAY!

Oh yeah, one last thing: On-The-Go Mk. V Iron Man suit!