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Posts Tagged ‘Marvel Comics’

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

Believe it or not, I kinda consider myself kind of a Shang-Chi guy. As in, I dig that comic book character, before there was a movie. That’s definitely overstating it, because I don’t know that much more about his history than the next guy, but I’m attached to him because of my fascination with the period that created him, just a couple years before I was born, when American pop culture was catching on to the existence of kung fu and kung fu movies, and trying to cash in.

Shortly after Luke Cage debuted in June 1972 as a super hero response to SHAFT (both SUPER FLY and the coinage of the term “Blaxploitation” happened a few months later), Shang-Chi was conceived as the Marvel Comics version of the hit TV show Kung Fu, and he debuted in the midst of ENTER THE DRAGON mania. He showed up one month in Special Marvel Edition, and two issues later it was retitled The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu. I can’t resist titles like that – that’s why I also know about the DC character Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter (as seen in BATMAN: SOUL OF THE DRAGON) and why I was introduced to Shang-Chi by buying back issues of The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu.

That’s a ‘70s Marvel Magazine, the type you know is gonna include a full page ad for a “complete audiovisual home study course in dynamic KUNG FU & KARATE” for less than 16¢ a lesson with a 10 day no risk money back guarantee. But it’s mainly black-and-white comics about martial arts characters including Shang-Chi, Iron Fist and The Sons of the Tiger interspersed with crude martial arts-related articles. In issue #1, writer J. David Warner visits the Fred Hamilton All-Dojo Martial Arts Tournament, reviews THE CHINESE MECHANIC starring Barry Chan, and has a news column previewing upcoming Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest releases, as well as western movies with co-stars from Asian cinema, like YAKUZA, STONER and PAPER TIGER. It also mentions WHEN TAEKWONDO STRIKES, GOYOKIN, and Ken Russell “preparing for production” of a martial arts movie called KARATE IS A THING OF THE SPIRIT. (If that had gotten off the ground I’d probly obsess over it the way people do THE DEVILS.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Black Widow

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

Poor Scarlett Johansson. After 8 movies appearing as Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff in a supporting or cameo role, across 11 years (lengthened by global catastrophe related delays), her Marvel super spy character finally gets to star in her own movie… and it’s only okay. I mean I enjoyed watching it and I’ll say some nice things about it, but I can’t deny it lacks the kick of most Marvel movies without being different enough from them to feel like its own thing. Maybe this would’ve been cool if it was the one they made early on with plans to improve on the formula in subsequent adventures, but instead they made it after the character has been killed off and Johansson is presumably ready to move on with her life. If this is all she gets in the end I almost wish Emily Blunt had stuck with the role (she was cast but couldn’t get out of GULLIVER’S TRAVELS!) so Scarlett would’ve had more time to do her more adventurous roles like UNDER THE SKIN, LUCY, MARRIAGE STORY, JOJO RABBIT and hell, I’ll even say GHOST IN THE SHELL. More problematic, but more interesting.

The good news for people who like Marvel but get overwhelmed keeping track of all the shit is that this one is low on continuity and tie-ins. It references the basic Black Widow backstory and I don’t remember what that’s all about, but I didn’t feel like I missed anything important. It takes place however many movies ago when she’s been set up and is on the run, so that eliminates most “what does this mean for the larger Marvel universe?” concerns. (It also makes me realize how much more attached I am to Star Wars than the MCU: Star Wars makes me say, “Ah, this must be not long after Order 66, interesting,” and the MCU makes me say, “It’s after CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR – who gives a shit?” I treat Marvel more like the serials Star Wars was emulating – on to the next chapter, no time to look back. But I’m sure there’s a whole generation who feel differently.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME continues the charming “teen comedy, but in the Marvel Universe” vibe of 2017’s SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, but instead of situating it on the outskirts of the MCU it’s more in the middle this time. It’s pretty much an epilogue to the whole story that culminated in AVENGERS: ENDGAME, or a bridge to the next one. It starts by making light of the fictional tragedies of that movie (a hilariously awful teen-made video tribute to fallen heroes) and pretty much addressing everything I wondered about after ENDGAME (AVENGERS that is, not HIGHLANDER) pertaining to a world where half of all teens are five years younger than their ID says.

And then it’s kind of like it should be called SPIDER-MAN IS… IRON MAN 4. Peter Parker (Tom Holland, BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE) is on a school trip to Europe, and his mind is on a plan to tell M.J. (Zendaya, SUPER BUDDIES) he has a crush on her, though she seems to be spending her time with Brad (Remy Hii, CRAZY RICH ASIANS), who is somebody’s little brother who grew big and handsome while the rest of them were dusted. (read the rest of this shit…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is the 7th motion picture starring Spider-Man (not counting unauthorized Turkish ones), the second Sony In Association With Marvel movie of 2018, and probly only the third biggest Marvel Comics movie of its year. But I honestly think it’s revolutionary. Not necessarily for super heroes – its story of colliding alternate dimensions is clever, but built on familiar comic book traditions – but for animated features. Somehow Sony, who had been considered so clueless about what to do with Spider-Man that they had to farm him out to Marvel, found people who knew how to celebrate the vast history, meaning and potential of the character in a completely new cinematic way.

So much has been done in computer animation since TOY STORY. There have been many great achievements in the form, including two funny super hero movies in the INCREDIBLES series. But the kineticism and print-inspired graphic playfulness of SPIDER-VERSE feels completely new. The Spider-men-and-women run and flip and swing and glide in exaggerated splash page poses true to the history of cartooning but rarely possible in computer models. They’re (mostly) rendered in three dimensions, but with line art details and outlines and Zip-a-Tone dot shading. Some shots or characters are done in traditional hand drawn animation. Backgrounds sometimes have spray paint coloring in honor of the movie’s graffiti writer protagonist. Comic book description boxes, sound effects and motion lines – most importantly Spidey-Sense wiggle lines – appear on screen. The filmatism includes split screens, pseudo time lapse, jump cuts and hotshot flying camera moves that seem more at home in this cartoony animation than in the special effects movies where they have to pass for live action. (read the rest of this shit…)

Venom

Friday, October 19th, 2018

VENOM is the red-headed step child of 2018 comic book movies. It’s in the off-brand world of Spider-man supporting characters still controlled by Sony but not allowed into the official Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a character that was hugely popular with a certain type of dude twenty-some years ago, but not really in line with current tastes in super heroes, and arguably having lost some stature after being played by Topher Grace in the unpopular (though I liked it) SPIDER-MAN 3. And many have noted that the script – credited to the diverse trio of Jeff Pinkner (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, THE DARK TOWER), Scott Rosenberg (DISTURBING BEHAVIOR, KANGAROO JACK) and Kelly Marcel (SAVING MR. BANKS, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY), based on the character by David Michelinie (made Tony Stark an alcoholic) and Todd McFarlane (SPAWN) – doesn’t seem that different from what it would’ve been if this was made in the late ’90s.

Let’s not get carried away though. The digital FX are like ten thousand times better than SPAWN’s, and you can’t call it a ’90s throwback if it’s not copping the style of THE CROW. This is filmed in normal locations and the end credit songs are by Eminem and Run the Jewels instead of, you know, Incubus or whoever it would’ve been. (read the rest of this shit…)

Avengers: Infinity War

Monday, April 30th, 2018

(Honestly it would be hard to spoil everything major that happens in this movie, because it’s hard to keep track of it all. But this review is loose and reckless with SPOILERS)

I learned in 2012 when THE AVENGERS came out to never underestimate Marvel. So on the third AVENGERS movie, INFINITY WAR, I figured they could pull it off – they could combine most of the main characters developed over 17 previous movies (people from the IRON MAN movies, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, the CAPTAIN AMERICA movies, the THOR movies, the AVENGERS movies, the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movies, DOCTOR STRANGE, SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING and BLACK PANTHER) into one big super hero monster mash. But back when I had first learned that lesson, when they introduced the purple CGI space monster villain Thanos after the credits, I gotta admit I was still skeptical. I didn’t know how they were gonna make that guy cool.

They did it. To me he’s their best villain outside of Killmonger. It’s a cliche to say that comic book characters are the Greek gods of the modern age, but Thanos (Josh Brolin, JONAH HEX) is the villain that most lives up to that description. In fact, one minor problem I had with the movie is that he seems so convincingly powerful I wondered what the hell the Avengers and the Guardians thought they were doing repeatedly going after him. Like, come on Star Lord (Chris Pratt, ZERO DARK THIRTY), why are you pointing a laser gun at this guy and acting like that’s gonna do anything? Are you stupid? (read the rest of this shit…)

Black Panther

Monday, February 19th, 2018

(SPOILERS)

BLACK PANTHER is the first Marvel movie I was anticipating mainly because of the director. FRUITVALE STATION was very good, but of course it was CREED that made me think Ryan Coogler is one of the most promising young directors we have. Best and most miraculous movie of 2015 that didn’t star Charlize Theron with a robot arm. I’d be up for whatever Coogler wanted to do next, but this seemed like a particularly good match for him after CREED’s mix of moving personal drama, immaculate filmatistic style and 21st century pop mythmaking.

#2 reason: Chadwick Boseman. The guy playing the title character shot to the top of my most exciting actors list when I saw his incredible performance as James Brown in GET ON UP. I didn’t know how anybody could pull off playing The Godfather and here is this actor I barely heard of before transforming himself into crazy old man James Brown, young James Brown, all kinds of James Browns. And dancing and strutting and grunting and referring to himself in the third person and pulling it off. He didn’t get all that much acclaim for it, definitely not any awards – somehow he got to skip that step before becoming a super hero.

If you want to call him that. T’Challa isn’t a vigilante or anything, he’s the King of Wakanda, a culture where part of the job is getting supernatural strength and wearing a panther costume to defend the kingdom. It’s like if the president also had to be Superman. What’s cool about this is that Black Panther has to think about things none of his peers do. He has to be a symbol much like Captain America, but with the responsibilities that Thor skipped out of when he turned down the throne. Here he’s challenged to not only defend his rule from a dangerous usurper, but convince his people to shift the direction of the country in order to make a better world. (read the rest of this shit…)