"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Comic strips/Super heroes’ Category

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER has so much more to live up to than just being the next Marvel movie. As the first sequel to a genuine cultural phenomenon, meeting everybody’s expectations would’ve been a high bar. Then its beloved star Chadwick Boseman died unexpectedly and the whole story was reworked to make supporting character Shuri (Letitia Wright, THE COMMUTER) the lead, while the cast and crew mourned, and also dealt with a pandemic. And they kept it on the down low how the fuck it was even gonna work; I will of course be discussing how the fuck it works, so this will be a HEAVY SPOILER review.

Luckily it was Ryan Coogler at the helm. His best movie CREED shows that he’s a not only a highly skilled filmmaker, but one capable of investing a franchise type movie with deep personal meaning. And I think he’s done about as good as anyone could have in his situation, creating a sequel that I don’t think flows as well his first one, but that builds off of it, reminds us of what we loved about it, introduces new worlds and yes, turns mourning into commercial art. (read the rest of this shit…)

Samaritan

Thursday, September 1st, 2022

It seems to me like Sylvester Stallone has been talking up this retired super hero movie SAMARITAN (not to be confused with THE SAMARITAN) for ridiculously long. That’s because, I’m reading now, it was intended for a theatrical release in November of 2020. A pandemic happened, it got delayed, Amazon bought MGM, now it’s finally out, but released straight to Amazon Prime. I can see why they’d do that – it doesn’t have the scope people expect from theatrical movies, but it’s also not a serious indie movie, or a cheapie where he shot all his stuff over a weekend and green-screened him in with the other actors. I think it’s a mid-budget movie! Like they used to make!

In my opinion SAMARITAN doesn’t go the distance to completely working, but honestly it’s much better than the bullshit I always pictured. Off brand super heroes aren’t all that appealing to me, and Stallone playing one kinda seemed like a concession. He’s keenly aware that super heroes have replaced his style of action hero in the popular imagination, so playing one sounded like a sad “Okay, kids, I guess this is what you want then” surrender. What I didn’t really consider is that Stallone already played super heroes in JUDGE DREDD and DEMOLITION MAN. It turns out SAMARITAN is sort of like that type of movie for the Old Man Stallone era – scaled down, grittier, with some melancholy to it. And, admittedly, without the satirical elements that have helped those survive in our memories. But it’s more interesting than I expected. (read the rest of this shit…)

Thor: Love and Thunder

Thursday, August 11th, 2022

I’m very late to this one, but I have finally seen and written down words about Thor picture #4, THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER, directed by the suddenly controversial Taika Waititi. I see most of the Marvel movies right away, but various other happenings conspired to make me wait until three weeks later on this one, and honestly it was kind of nice to miss most of the conversation and see it after the storm had passed. I’m curious to see if this review will still generates anything close to a new release level of discussion, or if the interest in such topics dissipates with exposure to oxygen. I honestly don’t know the answer.

It was also good to see later because I was aware that the response had been much more widely negative than for most MCU movies, and especially than the in-my-experience-universally-popular THOR: RAGNAROK from the same director and general attitude. Before that I had taken for granted that it would be one of the better Marvel movies. I concede that it’s the opposite. But maybe the lowered expectations contributed to me still being entertained and not hating it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Monday, May 9th, 2022

So far I have watched all the Marvelous Cinematical Unabomber motion pictures and related Disney+ streaming television works, and I have enjoyed the majority of them. But fuck all that. What’s important here is that DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS is the first movie Sam Raimi has directed since OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL nine years ago. I liked it quite a bit more than that last one, but my feeling about it is kind of similar: it’s just fun to see him working on a giant canvas, putting his spookablastian spin on this other thing, even though I’d much rather see him working with his own creations.

MCU movie #28 with Raimi’s fingerprints all over it is not as good as, say, an original western with Raimi’s fingerprints all over it, let alone an original comic-book-inspired character he made up, but it is, at times, thrilling. MULTIVERSE opens mid-battle as ex-surgeon-turned-ex-Sorcerer-Supreme Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, the guy in the dragon costume in THE HOBBIT) and a teenage girl named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez, SHADOW WOLVES) are super-leaping across chunks of debris floating in space while a tendril-covered demon blocks access to a pedestal holding a magic book called the Book of Vishanti. It’s the good counterpart to the evil Darkhold, which in this context suddenly I realize is the MCU equivalent of the Necronomicon. They’re leap-frogging and parkouring and the camera is deftly moving around them in impossible ways, a natural evolution of all the groundbreaking web-slinging sequences in Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN trilogy. (read the rest of this shit…)

Morbius

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

MORBIUS is a movie I have been semi-anticipating. Not because I expected it to be particularly good, but because I have an interest in these sort of misbegotten wannabe blockbusters that seem already rejected by the public by the time it’s too late for the studio to turn back. I’m talking about movies that are the kind of pulpy lowbrow crap I enjoy, but seem somewhat misguided or clueless about what the public wants in such a movie, and therefore might do something kind of interesting. I think of them as big budget b-movies, as discussed in my review for SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS. Although I waited for video on that one I tend to see them at sparsely attended matinees – that’s what I did for STEALTH, KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD, HERCULES, ROBIN HOOD and THE LAST WITCH HUNTER.

I did kind of enjoy this thing, but I think I got more out of all of the above mentioned movies. This one’s officially a part of Sony’s In Association With Marvel Cinematic Universe with VENOM and VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE, and I think it’s a little less clunky than those on a narrative level, but not as good because it lacks the magic of Tom Hardy having a blast playing two bickering characters inhabiting one shapeshifting body. It does have the novelty of an Academy Award winning weirdo serious actor (Jared Leto, URBAN LEGEND) who’s usually in a supporting role trying to carry a questionable mainstream franchise on his shoulders. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Batman

Friday, March 11th, 2022

(there will be spoils)

Yes it’s true, comic book super heroes hold too much of a monopoly on movies and television right now. I agree, we get it, but also I enjoy the genre. And of all the ongoing super hero franchises the one I get most excited about is Batman.

Tim Burton’s 1989 BATMAN was a foundational movie for me, and I believe it kicked off the first real era of comic book movies, since SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE didn’t have many riding its coattails. I don’t think it could’ve happened with another character. There was something about the zeitgeist at that time, that the world was ready to see Batman on screen, and the marketing ingeniously took advantage of that. More importantly, the specific psychological and visual qualities of the “dark” Super Friend and his evil clown nemesis attracted Burton and gave him a weirdly perfect canvas on which to fuse his particular talents with blockbuster filmmaking, and create something that felt simultaneously of our past and completely new.

Because that was the first one, a distinct, stylized look was an expected element of comic book movies throughout the ‘90s, paving the way for the likes of DICK TRACY, THE CROW, TANK GIRL… I’d even throw in gaudier digital age ones like SPAWN and THE MASK for at least having their own looks. And Burton’s followup, BATMAN RETURNS, is still one of the most beautiful looking comic book movies to date. It only makes sense, being adaptations of an illustrated medium, but it’s a tradition somewhat neglected in the era of shared universes and realistic CG. I think THE BATMAN is one of the ones that brings it back. It looks stunning, and completely unlike other movies of the same genre, or even about the same character. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022

“I don’t have a life. I have a half life!”


I’ve discussed in the previous TOXIC AVENGER reviews how I watched THE TOXIC AVENGER and THE TOXIC AVENGER PART II over and over again in my teenage years and that they helped form my weirdo sensibilities. I remember that all very vividly. The part I did not remember is that THE TOXIC AVENGER PART III: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF TOXIE came out the same year as part II! It doesn’t seem that close together in my memories. I guess time passes slower in the mind of a high schooler.

I did not like this one as much, so I didn’t watch it as many times, and all I remembered was thinking it was funny that he gets to fight and kill the Devil. Many of our great franchises such as ROCKY and THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS have not yet been able to face off with Satan. Toxie already got to do it in part III. Good for him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cutie Honey

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022

CUTIE HONEY, like DEVILMAN, is a 2004 live action movie based on a manga character created by Go Nagai. This one is much more comedic than DEVILMAN and comes from a more pedigreed director: Hideaki Anno, the anime auteur behind the Neon Genesis Evangelion series. I would like to try to watch those some day because I know how much people love them, but for now my impression of him comes from the excellent 2016 Godzilla reboot SHIN GODZILLA. That one has a really cool, weird Godzilla in it but is most notable for its really funny satire of bureaucracy (though at the time it came out it also worked for me as an appreciation of people actually trying to pool their knowledge and resources to solve problems). It was recently announced that Anno will be overseeing a shared universe combining his Shin (new) Godzilla with Shin Ultraman and Shin Kamen Rider. But before all that he made a live action movie based on one of the most famous manga by the guy who played the food critic in THE TOXIC AVENGER PART II.

Honey Kisaragi (Eriko Sato, DOOMSDAY: THE SINKING OF JAPAN) is a bubbly young woman who lives alone and works a temp job at an office where everybody hates her except a janitor lady. One interesting fact about Honey is that she’s actually dead but her late father built a robot body for her so her consciousness could survive. Another interesting fact is that she wears a choker with a heart shaped button on it and when she pushes it and says “Honey… FLASH!” she can change her appearance and disguise herself, or she can turn into the sword-wielding super heroine Cutie Honey to battle monsters and stuff. However, she has to eat rice balls and drink green tea to build up the energy to do this stuff, so in the opening she has to run through the streets wearing a garbage bag until she has enough energy to create her work clothes. So it’s not all glamour. It deals with the gritty real life hardships of being Cutie Honey. (read the rest of this shit…)

Devilman (2004)

Tuesday, March 1st, 2022

DEVILMAN (2004) is a live action fantasy-horror-action film based on the manga and anime of the same title created by Go Nagai – that guy who had the cameo as a food critic in THE TOXIC AVENGER PART II. Like THE TOXIC AVENGER PART II, DEVILMAN begins with friendly narration by its hero, in this case Akira Fudo (Hisato Izaki, CROWS ZERO), calmly telling us about his life and adventures.

The story is about a lifelong friendship between clutzy Akira and his more athletic friend Ryo Asuka (Yusuke Izaki, also CROWS ZERO). We see in the opening flashback that as a little kid Ryo “was a bit strange,” meaning he had grey hair, was obsessed with monsters and said he was one of them. Now Akira is known for his awkward smile and Ryo is known for his creepy lack of ever smiling at all. When some jerks at school beat up Akira a guy with long brightly colored braids (Masaki Nishina) warns them that one time he bullied Akira and Ryo came into his class and cut off two of his fingers with hedge clippers. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Toxic Avenger

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022

THE TOXIC AVENGER (1984) is a classic of ‘80s smartass b-movies – the ones that carried the drive-in exploitation model of boobs and blood into the VHS era, but did it with a wink. It was directed by Michael Herz & Lloyd Kaufman, founders of Troma Entertainment. Kaufman had been peripherally involved with respected ‘70s classics including ROCKY, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, but as a filmmaker and distributor he specialized in sex comedies (SQUEEZE PLAY, STUCK ON YOU!, THE FIRST TURN-ON!!) with the occasional horror movie (SILENT NIGHT BLOODY NIGHT, MOTHER’S DAY). But when he combined a little bit of those genres with super hero action he came up with a cult classic, a video hit, a figurehead for the studio, and a house style that he and other low budget smartasses would try to duplicate for decades with – according to my calculations – mostly poor results.

It’s a movie that’s crude in every meaning of the word, it’s in very poor taste, it also makes me laugh quite a bit, and it’s so dorky it feels kind of sweet and well-meaning, despite all kinds of ignorant jokes and requiring a “WARNING: THE TOXIC AVENGER CONTAINS SCENES OF EXTREME VIOLENCE” disclaimer at the beginning. Or maybe that’s all nostalgia because I loved this movie so much growing up, after me and my friends somehow managed to rent a copy while we were in middle school. (I seem to remember it being in an adults only section.) We’d never seen DEATH RACE 2000 and didn’t have driver’s licenses, so we thought the bad guys purposely running over people for “points” was one of the funniest things we’d ever seen. (read the rest of this shit…)