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Archive for the ‘Comic strips/Super heroes’ Category

Dark Phoenix

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

Man, I guess they’re considered kinda antiquated now, society has moved on, but I still love the X-MEN movies. Here is the only super hero series to span the entire post-BLADE era until now. Their first movie was eight years before IRON MAN started the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Put another way, it was only three years after BATMAN & ROBIN seemed like it might’ve ended Hollywood’s affair with comic book movies.

You super heroes now a days don’t know how easy you have it. The X-Men come from a time when the filmmakers felt they had to give them black leather outfits and make a disparaging joke about yellow spandex if they wanted audiences to take them seriously. And I’m pretty sure they were right. But seven movies and five spin-offs later (not including next year’s NEW MUTANTS) they’ve fought the government, giant robots and an ancient god-like tyrant, solved the Cuban Missile crisis, traveled through time, died and come back to life, gone to space, and yes, even wore yellow uniforms. From “maybe we better call them by their first names” to nobody batting an eye at a six-member space mission team with 50% blue representation. That’s progress.

Through much of that the movies retained members of a brilliant ensemble centered on the obvious but perfect (famous bald man Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier) and the counter-intuitive but ingenious (Australian stage actor Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Shakespearian Ian McKellan as Magneto). Though this final chapter is the new timeline younger cast of FIRST CLASS, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and APOCALYPSE, it ends storylines begun 19 year ago. (read the rest of this shit…)

Richie Rich

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

Somehow I saw the movie RI¢HIE RI¢H when it was released in 1994. I never planned to watch it again, but I did while researching that ’90s comic book movie piece a while back, so what the hell? You guys seemed to like when I did a review of CASPER. Maybe it’s good to beef up the Harvey Comics portion of the archive.

Not particularly popular in its time, and based on concepts from a comic book started in the ’50s, it might not be entirely fair to look at this movie as representative of our attitudes in the ’90s. Still, it says something that Warner Brothers felt this was a story people would want to see, and that it should be presented in this specific way.

I looked up some of the other family movies of ’94, and they include THREE NINJAS KICK BACK, LITTLE BIG LEAGUE, ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD, THE SANTA CLAUSE and THE PAGEMASTER. I haven’t seen any of those and I don’t know how they open, but you can imagine throwing stars, baseballs, footballs, Christmas presents or books dancing around some of those titles when they appear on screen. For RICHIE RICH, the magic of sports or holiday fantasy or reading is replaced by, you know, extreme wealth. So a fantastical Alan Silvestri (BACK TO THE FUTURE, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, SUPER MARIO BROS., AVENGERS: ENDGAME) score plays as a vault opens to reveal the shimmering title. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

Recently Kazuo Koike passed away of pneumonia at the age of 82. A legendary and prolific manga writer, Koike’s comics were the basis of several movies I’ve reviewed: HANZO THE RAZOR: SWORD OF JUSTICE, LADY SNOWBLOOD, THE DRAGON FROM RUSSIA, CRYING FREEMAN, and most famously the LONE WOLF AND CUB series (for which he was also a screenwriter). I love his stories, which often combine interesting historical detail with colorful pulp concepts, and are always centered on characters who live casually, confidently extreme lives. Though some are hired killers and outlaws bitter toward a society that has betrayed and rejected them, they live by codes of honor that frequently lead them to fighting for the oppressed against the cruel and the corrupt. This is definitely the case in LOVE SONG OF VENGEANCE, the only sequel to LADY SNOWBLOOD. Criterion released the pair as a set a couple years ago and this sad occasion finally inspired me to pick it up. (read the rest of this shit…)

Avengers: Endgame

Monday, April 29th, 2019

THIS IS AN ALL SPOILER REVIEW. Duh.

It’s hard to review a movie like AVENGERS: ENDGAME. I don’t think there’s much point in reading about it before you’ve seen it, or in seeing it if you haven’t seen most of the IRON MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA and AVENGERS movies, at the very least. This is a giant event movie but it’s not working on the traditional level of a movie. It’s more of a movie/comic book crossover/TV series hybrid. Some mad king becomes a show runner and spends all his nation’s capital trying to make the biggest season finale in history.

So I’m assuming you’ve seen it, and we’ll discuss some stuff about it. And the review will be as long and all-over-the-place as the movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Guyver: Dark Hero

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

“I prefer the second one because the first one I had no control over the content. I got into big fights with the producer because he wanted to make a kids film and I wanted to keep the tone of the original anime. In the end, the film turned out like crap in my opinion. I did GUYVER 2 on my own for less than 1/4 the budget of the first GUYVER, but in exchange, I had total control of the film.” –Steve Wang to Nerd Society, 2009

GUYVER: DARK HERO (a.k.a. THE GUYVER 2) not only improves on the Tokusatsu-inspired martial-arts-‘n-monsters fun of director Steve Wang’s earlier work, but does it with vastly improved cinematic storytelling and the confidence to take itself seriously. This is a legit sci-fi/martial arts movie that starts as a dark super hero vigilante story, veers into weird ancient alien alternate history, and builds to a bunch of monster battles that are kinda like Power Rangers except the monsters might get their eyeballs poked out or cough up a bunch of blood. I’m not saying an R-rated version of that is subversive, I’m just saying it’s fun to watch. (Note: stunt coordinator Koichi Sakamoto was and would continue to be a director, producer, writer and choreographer on Power Rangers shows for 20 years.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Guyver (a.k.a. The Guyver)

Monday, April 22nd, 2019

GUYVER, a.k.a. THE GUYVER is a 1991 sci-fi/martial arts b-movie that I saw back in the day and decided to revisit when I did that Polygon piece on ’90s comic book movies. The idea comes from a manga that had also been turned into anime, which is pretty apparent just from the look of the main character.

Jack Armstrong (STUDENT BODIES) plays Sean Barker, a blandly handsome karate student who finds an alien super weapon hidden in some garbage (much like Stanley finding a magic mask in the river in THE MASK) and it merges with his body, giving him the power to encase himself in bio-mechanical armor and weaponry. We know he’s mixed up in an ancient intergalactic war because of some detailed text and narration that opened the movie. It started by saying:

“At the beginning of time, aliens came to the Earth to create the ultimate organic weapon. They created Mankind. By planting a special gene into man they created the ZOANOIDS — Humans who can change at will into super monster soldiers.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Fist of the North Star

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

FIST OF THE NORTH STAR is a straight-to-video live action manga adaptation post-apocalyptic white people martial arts b-movie that I’ve been meaning to watch for about 20 years even though everybody said it was garbage. And I’m sure if I knew the comics or the anime version I would hold it to different standards, but coming to it fresh I gotta tell you this one checks off alot of boxes of the type of shit I enjoy in a movie. I am here to tell you it has merit.

The villain is the head of the Southern Cross martial arts school, who rebuilds a city after World War III and becomes its dictator, and the hero is the last heir of the rival North Star school, whose powerful fighting style is the only thing that can defeat Southern Cross. And even though their names are Shin and Kenshiro they are played by two white dudes, Costas Mandylor (VIRTUOSITY) and Gary Daniels (COLD HARVEST).

Today this would be frowned upon as whitewashing, and fair enough. But I guess I’ve grown up fascinated with white adoptees of martial arts from the ’70s and ’80s kung fu, karate and ninja booms, and to me there’s something sort of awesomely stupid (in a good way) about these muscular dudes with mullets and leather vests without shirts being the last great martial arts warriors of the future. And I have no right to impose this policy on the outside world, but in my mind there’s a statute of limitations that says since he’s not pretending to be Asian in any way Gary Daniels is grandfathered in to be allowed to be named Kenshiro as he practices moves on the bones of western and/or eastern civilization.

One complaint: why no headbands? I have rarely seen two dudes more worthy of cool headbands. (read the rest of this shit…)

Captain Marvel

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Marvel has been on a roll for a while now. I guess it’s inevitable that when you release extra colorful and ambitious movies like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, THOR: RAGNAROK, BLACK PANTHER, and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR all within two or three years then some of the other stuff you put out is gonna seem less impressive. Like, DOCTOR STRANGE was pretty good fun and ANT-MAN AND THE WASP has plenty of laughs and now we have CAPTAIN MARVEL, a perfectly fine movie I enjoyed watching similar to how I enjoyed watching the first THOR. Like that one it’s a pretty cool, well-cast new character who comes to our world from sort of an iffy fantastical one, has some pretty cool, sometimes funny fish-out-of-water interactions with humans, and fights some bad guys from her world in a small town without many people around.

Not bad, but how are you gonna get ’em back on THOR once they’ve seen RAGNAROK? We take the cool characters for granted now and we expect better style, better jokes, better spectacle. At least that’s how I feel. It’s worth mentioning that most of the women I’ve talked to about it liked CAPTAIN MARVEL better than most of the men I’ve talked to, so there may be things we’re not appreciating. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Mask

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

When I was invited to write my recent Polygon article about comic book films of the ’90s, I looked over a list and was a little surprised that I had seen and was very familiar with close to all of them. I checked out a few I hadn’t seen, like TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III (not great, but not really my thing), and there were a few I felt I really needed to rewatch because I hadn’t seen them since they were released. In the case of THE MASK, holy shit, that was 25 years ago. I’m not sure it’s a movie anybody talks much about anymore, but I thought it was interesting enough to earn a full review.

I believe that wave of movies I wrote about were all ripples that came out of the giant splash that was Tim Burton’s BATMAN in 1989. More than just a hit, BATMAN was a cultural phenomenon. It’s hard to explain to people who weren’t there, but the hunger for Batman caused by that movie does not have a contemporary comparison I’m aware of. Wearing of bat symbol clothing (licensed or bootleg) rivaled Seahawks gear around here during playoffs. It was a time when they made Converse with bat symbols on them and then I swear to you they made a phone shaped like Converse with bat symbols on them. So studios scrambled to find another old character who could capture the zeitgeist like Batman had, and all those movies being in production paved the way for adaptations of lesser known comics (we didn’t call them “properties” back then because we didn’t want to sound like assholes). (read the rest of this shit…)

Alita: Battle Angel

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Man, we’ve been hearing about James Cameron doing this manga/anime adaptation since 2005, well before AVATAR. We’re talking Obama’s first year as a United States Senator, Christian Bale’s first year as a Batman, three live action Spider-man actors ago, before the Marvel Cinematic Universe even started, when Chris Evans was still The Human Torch, George Lucas was still making Star Wars movies, Saddam Hussein was still alive, the word “sexting” was just invented, Youtube was just starting, and Twitter didn’t exist yet. A long time ago.

So I can’t say I was thrilled when, after that decade plus of hopes, Cameron announced “Just kidding, Robert Rodriguez is gonna direct it.” Fresh off of SIN CITY 2. But also I wasn’t stupid enough to scoff at it. Cameron co-wrote and produced the thing. The only other time he did that was STRANGE DAYS, and that turned out pretty good. (read the rest of this shit…)