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Archive for the ‘Comic strips/Super heroes’ Category

Gundala

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

I gotta admit, I barely knew Indonesian cinema existed until I saw MERANTAU and THE RAID. We all loved THE RAID and THE RAID 2 and then THE NIGHT COMES FOR US came along and that was arguably even more impressive. It was directed by Timo Tjahjanto, who’d already done another Iko Uwais martial arts movie I loved called HEADSHOT with his long-time collaborator Kimo Stamboel. They also did a horror one called KILLERS that I had to turn off in the opening scene because it was too much for me at the time. Some day I’m gonna get up the guts to go back. These days Stamboel has a heavily hyped horror movie called THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC, written by Joko Anwar. Anwar is the guy who directed SATAN’S SLAVES (which I enjoyed) and IMPETIGORE (which I haven’t seen yet but it was on some best of the year lists).

So clearly there are healthy action and horror scenes over there, and those are my primary interests. But did you know they also have a local answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The aforementioned Anwar wrote and directed the 2019 film GUNDALA, based on an Indonesian comic book character created in 1969, and will be overseeing a series called the Bumilangit Cinematic Universe (BCU), with seven more films planned in Volume 1.

I knew there’d be something interesting about an Indonesian take on modern super hero movies, but once again I was caught off guard because you guys, this movie is really good. It certainly takes some inspiration from the Marvel films, and there’s a costumed hero with some powers and some colorful super villains, but mostly it’s a legit martial arts movie with lots of really well directed fights. And it’s interesting to see how a character like this compares and contrasts to the ones that have caught on here. The main difference is that his life has been way harder than any of our guys. (read the rest of this shit…)

Batman: Soul of the Dragon

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

I don’t normally review Batman cartoons (I think the only time I have before is the Suicide Squad one, ASSAULT ON ARKHAM), but I think you will agree that this one falls into my jurisdiction. In fact, it’s so weirdly specific to my particular areas of interest that during the ‘70s-inspired opening credits montage with funky theme song, after seeing the names Mark Dacascos and Michael Jai White, Mrs. Vern turned to me in disbelief and said, “Did they make this only for you?

Yeah, actually, it seems they did, so thanks, guys!

No joke, this is an animated movie set in the 1970s, based in the DC Comics universe but taking most of its template from kung fu movies. Its spy movie opening and funky, wah-wah heavy score are clearly homaging ENTER THE DRAGON, and there’s definitely some Jim Kelly/Blaxploitation influence in there, but its flashback structure mostly splits between an old school kung fu training movie and a getting-the-band-back-together type story. Two of my favorite plot structures in one. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wonder Woman 1984

Monday, December 28th, 2020

WONDER WOMAN 1984 (actual onscreen title: WW84) is, due to a strange confluence of events, in an unprecedented position. As the first sequel to a big-cultural-phenomenon comic book movie it was highly anticipated and also something of a question mark – I think we were pretty optimistic, but didn’t necessarily know if director Patty Jenkins (who hadn’t done a big movie before, just MONSTER and some TV) could repeat the magic, or build on it, or if the audience would be as hungry for it a second time. And then the pandemic kicked the world’s ass, America’s in particular, so the movie got pushed back until the Warner Brothers executives panicked and dumped a year’s worth of movies to streaming and it became the highest profile meant-for-theaters blockbuster released directly to streaming on Christmas day.

I enjoyed the movie, and what I enjoyed most is Jenkins’ apparent disinterest in making it a modern Marvel-esque or (even moreso) Snyder-esque comic book movie. Though the action is of the modern volume and contemporary FX-based style, the tone and storytelling are more reminiscent of the Christopher Reeves SUPERMAN movies, some of the corny ‘90s adventure movies I like, a tiny bit of the Burton BATMAN movies, and even (not in a bad way) SUPERGIRL. As I write this I realize that there wasn’t a single moment where I thought, “Ah, that’s setting up for the next one.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Bloodshot

Monday, December 7th, 2020

Seeing a new Vin Diesel movie brings me joy. They’re usually not gonna be as good as FAST FIVE or RIDDICK, but I can live with that. It doesn’t even need the heart. It can just have the silliness. I can still love a CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK or a xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE. Even seeing a middling one like THE LAST WITCH HUNTER on the big screen (usually without many other people in the theater) is an enriching experience for me.

In many ways Diesel is a throwback. Some people think he’s arrogant and dumb, and that perception (whether true or false) connects him with the action icons of the ‘80s and ‘90s. So does his vanity when it comes to his bodybuilding and the outsized awesomeness of his characters (both in battle and in love). But beneath the macho posturing is a sincere passion for what he sees as the integrity of his creations, for better or worse. He has left and returned to two franchises of his own accord. He’s turned his supporting character in a minor cult movie into an improbable sci-fi franchise, at one point mortgaging his house to somehow keep it going. He’s adapted his Dungeons & Dragons character into a major motion picture. With one performance he turned a silly drag race exploitation movie into a smash hit, and with 20 years of diligence he shepherded its sequels into a massive pop culture institution. So even something like BLOODSHOT – which looked pretty cheesy and lost a ton of shine when the JOHN WICK directors left and a guy who previously just worked in video games (David S.F. Wilson) took over – is an event for me. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Old Guard

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

THE OLD GUARD is a pretty good Pandemic Summer blockbuster, because I’m sure it would’ve felt underwhelming if it had been advertised for months and played on the big screen, but as a movie I read mentioned once or twice and never saw promoted until shortly before it dropped on Netflix, it was enjoyable.

In the opening scenes it almost seems like another one in the tradition of CLOSE and EXTRACTION – militarized elite mercenaries or whatever, all geared up with their guns and armor and headsets, on a mission to rescue kidnapped kids in a Muslim country (South Sudan this time). But there are little hints that something else is up – wait, is that guy carrying a sword? They have a team, too, instead of one burnt out loner who’s messed up about losing a kid. Their leader is Andy (Charlize Theron, with hair and physicality that reminded me she was AEON FLUX), who thinks they should be laying low, but reluctantly agrees to meet with this ex-CIA guy Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor, TRIPLE 9) for intel.

It turns out to be a trap. They breach the place and the walls close in on them and some guys come out and machine gun them. A minute later is when we get to the real premise – the team wake up, the bullets drop out of their wounds, they heal and they stand up and kill those motherfuckers with that sword and a cool ax and some kung fu and shit. (Fight coordinator: Daniel Hernandez, xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE, AVENGERS: ENDGAME, VENOM.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril

Monday, May 4th, 2020

LONE WOLF AND CUB: BABY CART IN PERIL is #4 out of six LONE WOLF AND CUB films, and comes pretty directly out of the stories from the late Kazuo Koike’s manga about the former Shogun’s-executioner who was framed by the god damn Yagyu Clan (fuck those guys) and now travels Japan with his young son Daigoro, working as a freelance assassin along his “Demon’s Path” toward vengeance and damnation. He usually ends up doing something very honorable that seems a little more like redemption, but he doesn’t see it that way. He thinks he’s the devil. This was before heavy metal, too.

This one’s kinda got an A and B plot. One of them (take your pick which letter it is) involves the badass Oyuki (Michi Azuma, who played a different character in BABY CART AT THE RIVER STYX – they should do that in more American movie series), a former “sword mistress” gone rogue so she can avenge her former mentor for raping her. One of her trademarks is to cut off the top knots of all the motherfuckers who come after her, which in their culture seems to be even more humiliating than when Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake used to badly shave the heads of those he defeated in the ring. (read the rest of this shit…)

Birds of Prey

Friday, February 14th, 2020

BIRDS OF PREY AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN is the movie that says “Okay, we fucked up that SUICIDE SQUAD movie, but Margot Robbie was great as Harley Quinn, right? Didn’t we kinda have something there?” And the answer is yes and yes, so luckily they gave her another movie. It’s the second feature for director Cathy Yan, whose 2018 debut DEAD PIGS takes place in Shanghai but stars Zazie Beetz. She obviously has Robbie’s pre-existing character and David Ayer’s SUICIDE SQUAD sensibilities to build off of here, but I think she makes it distinct – it feels to me like a studio hiring a promising new director to do her thing, not to follow instructions.

Formerly the abused girlfriend/sidekick of The Joker, this is the story of Harley’s life after breaking up with him. No longer enjoying the immunity provided by association with a famous psychopath boyfriend, Harley gets herself into trouble with various factions including but not limited to the gang run by Roman “Black Mask” Sionis (Ewan McGregor, MILES AHEAD, JANE GOT A GUN), police detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez, DANCE WITH THE DEVIL, Widows), somebody she punched in a roller derby bout (stuntwoman Keisha Tucker), and somebody who blames her for his face being tattooed like a clown and can’t fucking believe it when she doesn’t remember what he’s mad about (Matthew Willig, FULL CONTACT [1993], 3 FROM HELL). (read the rest of this shit…)

Joker

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

I think my favorite movie by director Todd Phillips (ROAD TRIP, STARSKY & HUTCH) is still his 1993 student film HATED: GG ALLIN & THE MURDER JUNKIES. It’s a documentary about an infamously transgressive punk singer skipping parole to do a tour where he kind of plays music, but the shows usually end soon after he shoves someone’s banana up his ass or smashes a woman’s nose with a beer bottle or shits on stage and throws it in the crowd. Phillips was clearly aware of the absurdity of his subject, but also in awe of someone living their life as a human middle finger. The director’s new film, JOKER, won the Golden Lion at the 76th Venice International Film Festival, and shows an evolution in his film craft, but not necessarily in his world view.

Let’s take a moment to consider that when BATMAN & ROBIN came out there is no way in hell any of us could’ve guessed that in 22 years one of our generation’s most respected actors would star in a super-fucked-up hard-R ‘70s period piece Scorsese knockoff character study vaguely based on (and officially branded as) an iconic Batman villain. Much less that it would be controversial only for reasons other than “it’s too scary for kids.” It’s a crazy world we’re living in. Almost like… the Joker. Oh my god. (read the rest of this shit…)

Yor, the Hunter from the Future

Monday, September 2nd, 2019

No – you’re the hunter from the future.

It’s fair to say that YOR, THE HUNTER (spoiler) FROM THE FUTURE is a cheesy movie. And though its 89 minutes are whittled down from an Italian mini-series of four 50-minute episodes, I don’t need to see the other 111 minutes. But 89 of it is just right. I dug it.

Like CONQUEST for Lucio Fulci, YOR is director Antonio Margheriti (SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT’S EYE, CODE NAME: WILD GEESE, CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE) trying to ride the wave of savage shirtless musclemen left in the wake of CONAN THE BARBARIAN. But this story combines the ax-wielding stone age warriors with futuristic sci-fi elements. In that aspect – and in Reb Brown’s blond wig and furry shorts and boots – YOR reminds me of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which started the year before. (read the rest of this shit…)

Shazam!

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

SHAZAM!, as a super hero premise, is no Batman. Or Aqua Man. Or Plastic Man. Or Meteor Man. He’s just some kid who meets a fuckin wizard in a cave who gives him the ability to turn into your standard adult muscular flying off-brand Superman-type cape guy. For the several years that they were talking about making a SHAZAM! movie, even when The Rock was gonna play the bad guy, I assumed I wouldn’t bother to watch it. But when it finally got made by LIGHTS OUT director David F. Sandberg – The Rock has a producer credit, but isn’t in it – it had a good enough trailer that I gave it a shot on video.

It begins in the past, when a kid (Ethan Pugiotto, MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2) and his dad (John Glover, MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS, BATMAN & ROBIN) and older brother (Landon Doak) are involved in a car accident, and as it’s happening the kid somehow flashes from the backseat of the car to the cave where the wizard (Djimon Hounsou, ELEPHANT WHITE) explains the mythology of the movie, which involves magic powers he has to pass on to a new hero, and monster statues representing the seven deadly sins. But after some simple testing I guess the wizard determines this kid is a dick and not worthy of the powers in question, so he turns him away. (read the rest of this shit…)