Movie Review – Looper

Plot: In the year 2072, time travel has been invented, but it soon becomes outlawed.  The Mob uses it illegally to transport people back 30 years, where specialized assassins called ‘Loopers’ make the clean kill.  When Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a very successful Looper, has to kill his future self (Bruce Willis) and fails, it puts both Joes in great danger.

Whether it’s Star Wars, the Terminator, or Inception, sci-fi is the one genre that when done right, creates an instant classic.  Looper has now joined those ranks.  Especially when you can make time travel work, that’s a bonus.  But just like with the films I mentioned before, it’s not the bad ass sci-fi action that makes these movies legendary – it’s the story and character development.  Looper delivers this in spades.  I care about Joe not because he’s good with a gun (which he is), but I’m emotionally invested in him due to a great character arc.

The first act gives us a simple run of the mill cool movie.  The acting is great all around, especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is starting to become one of my favorite working actors.  This guy is a total drugged out douchebag, yet I still found him charismatic, and was more than happy to go with this guy as the protagonist.  Jeff Daniels was also a treat as Joe’s mob boss employer Abe.  He’s that quiet calm scary mob boss who wants to be your best friend.  Daniels plays it very friendly, but gives you just enough of that ‘evil twinge’ to know that this is a guy you don’t want to fuck with.  One of my biggest criticisms is that I wish there was more of him.  It’s a stylish first act where the rules and exposition are efficiently explained.  But it’s not until Bruce Willis comes into the picture as future Joe where the movie takes a drastic turn and becomes something much more.

The big turning point of the movie is where these guys finally hash it out at a simple diner.  It’s a phenomenally written scene, both tense and exhausting.  As the two start talking about time travel, and what future Joe coming back could potentially mean, you can see the pain and headache Willis gets when talking about it, so much so that he doesn’t want to get into the perils of time travel.  Willis plays this so well, I even got a headache myself watching it.  Levitt is also fantastic in this scene, as this is the moment that really draws a line in the sand of what these guys both want.  And without giving too much away, what’s so fascinating to me is that you’ll end up siding with one of the Joes at the end of this scene, but as the film plays out, these guys almost have reverse character arcs, and watching this take place is both heartwarming and repulsive at the same time.  But I’m not going to dare say anything else.

The two Joes aren’t the only strong characters though.  Towards the middle of the film, a child named Cid is introduced, and let’s just say he plays a critical part in the movie.  He’s played by Pierce Gagnon, and it’s an intense performance.  Gagnon is awesome, albeit a little over the top at times, but I think he’s supposed to be.

The other two characters of note are Kid Blue (Noah Segan) and Sara (Emily Blunt).  Kid Blue is basically the comic relief.  He’s a mafia screw up, and while he is legitimately funny and well played by Segan, his character got a little too much play towards the end.  The movie made it seem like he was bigger then what was portrayed at the beginning.  Blunt is solid as Sara, the female lead of the film.  And while I enjoyed Blunt’s character, present day Joe spends a lot of time with her in the middle of the film, and this is where the movie sort of drags.  There’s some well written dialogue, but it’s fairly slow, and a little yawn inducing mid-way through the second act.

But as much as the second act drags, the third act more than makes up for it.  The last 10-15 minutes especially are absolutely pulse pounding.  This is where it’s okay to use the cliché ‘I was on the edge of my seat.’  I have to give credit to writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick, the Brother’s Bloom), because his script was brilliant all the way through, and the end was a perfect resolution.

It’s hard to talk about this film without spoiling it.  Looper has everything that makes movies great: story, character development, acting, tension, and last but not least, great direction.  Rian Johnson is someone who will absolutely move up the lists of today’s great directors.  Especially when you’re dealing with sci-fi, the potential for screwing up is pretty damn high.  But everything in Looper is explained very well, and with very little exposition, whereas something like Green Lantern is nothing but exposition, exposition, exposition, exposition, ‘we don’t trust the audience to figure it out,’ and did I mention more exposition?  The only scene that was sort of confusing was an alternate version of one of the bigger moments of the film, but I won’t say anything more.  Other than time travel, they also use another overdone sci-fi trope, but they use it so well, I didn’t mind, even if it did seem a little shoe-horned in.  Bottom-line: This movie kicks ass, and easily one of the best films of the year.

Rating: 9 out of 10 (OMG)    

Advertisements

Movie Combos: The Big Lebowski meets Dumb & Dumber

Welcome to my new series, ‘Movie Combos.’  Basically what we’ll do here is imagine that two movies are in the same universe, combing them into one singular movie.  What would the plot be?  What are some of the stand out scenes?

For our very first attempt at this, let’s combine two comedy classics:

The Big Lebowski and Dumb & Dumber:

Main Cast:

Jeff Bridges: Jeff ‘the Dude’ Lebowski
John Goodman: Walter Sobchak
Jim Carrey: Lloyd Christmas
Jeff Daniels: Harry Dunne
Julianne Moore: Maude Lebowski

The Plot: Jeff ‘the Dude’ Lebowski and Walter take a road trip to Aspen, Colorado for a bowling tournament.  On the way there, Walter’s car dies.  The Dude loses it because he didn’t even want to go to the bowling tournament in the first place.  Walter is noticeably offended.  Suddenly a van that looks like a dog pulls up.  It’s Lloyd and Harry.  They offer to give the two a ride to Aspen, as they are headed there themselves because Lloyd left his lucky jacket behind from last time.

The Scene Stealer: The four stop at a diner where they run into Sea Bass who wants revenge on Lloyd and Harry from the previous movie.  Walter gets upset and pulls a gun on Sea Bass telling him, ‘Sea Bass, your entering a world of pain.’  The Dude urges Walter to take it easy, as Lloyd and Harry sink into their seats freaked out by the whole situation.

Notable Funny Moments:

-The Dude gets annoyed at the Mocking Bird sing along in the car, but Walter likes it.

-The Dude tells Harry and Lloyd their worm store idea (I Got Worms) is a bad idea.  The Dude responds with ‘Nobody wants to own a fucking pet worm, man!’

-The four have to stop at a motel for the day because it’s the Sabbath, and Walter refuses to ride in a car.  Harry and Lloyd get the concepts of Sabbath and Bris mixed up, and want to help Walter out.  In the middle of the night, they approach Walter’s room and attempt to, you know…

Love Interest: Maude returns, and Lloyd immediately falls in love with her.  Lloyd asks Maude what the chances of a ‘girl like him, and a guy like Maude’ have ending up together.  Maude tells him it’s 1,000 to 1.  Lloyd gets really excited, creating a love triangle between Maude, Lloyd, and the Dude.  The Dude tells Lloyd to stay away from his ‘lady friend.’

Big Revelations: It’s revealed that Harry and the late Donny were actually brothers.  From this point on, Walter continuously tells Harry to ‘Shut the fuck up, Harry.’

Memorable Dialogue: ‘So you’re saying that parakeet really tied the room together, huh man?” –The Dude on Harry’s deceased pet bird Petey

Surprise Cameo: John Turturro returns as Jesus Quintana, and ends up alone in a bathroom stall with Lloyd.

The End: The foursome finally arrive in Aspen and realize Walter had the date wrong on the bowling tournament.  It’s actually next weekend.  The wealthy Lebowski also shows up again, and is so disgusted with the idiocy and ineptitude between all four characters that he literally has a heart attack and dies screaming ‘the bums lost.’  Walter convinces the Dude to take on his identity as ‘Jeff Lebowski’ and claim his fortune for himself.  The two end up living in his large mansion.  Meanwhile, Lloyd and Maude make love, but Maude only uses Lloyd to bare another child.  Lloyd does end up finding his jacket, but their van breaks down on the way home.  As Lloyd and Harry walk home, Lloyd reveals he stole Walter’s bowling ball as a final prank and the two laugh hysterically into the sun set.

Superhero Movies on Steroids Series: Movie #119

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Plot: Eight years after the death of Harvey Dent, Gotham City has enjoyed a period of peace. Still distraught by the death of Rachel Dawes and Dent’s turn as Two-Face, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) hasn’t been Batman in all this time, becoming a total recluse. When a violent mercenary known as Bane (Tom Hardy) threatens Gotham, it forces Wayne to don the cape and cowl once more.

It was arguably the most anticipated movie ever made other than Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.  I know for me, I had never analyzed and thought about a film more than this one prior to its release.  I could go on all day reflecting, contemplating, and talking about how much this film means to me, but screw it – let’s just get into the movie itself:

While the Dark Knight Rises wasn’t everything I hoped for, it’s still one of the greatest cinematic achievements I have seen in the last few years.  I usually have this type of assessment every time I see a Christopher Nolan movie.  The two elements that stand out most to me in this film were Christian Bale and the development of the John Blake character, played wonderfully by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Even though this movie is stockpiled with a shitload of characters, this is Bale’s show.  He has to play so many different emotions and personalities in this film, but what he does best is that Batman voice.  I don’t care what people say, Bale sells that voice.  This is an Oscar worthy performance.  But my favorite story arc may have been with Levitt’s John Blake, a young idealistic cop in Gotham City.  I really can’t say too much about this character without spoiling anything, but what they did was absolutely brilliant, and for die hard Batman fans like me, it couldn’t have gone any better.

With a Nolan Batman movie, there also comes a great villain.  Bane is awesome.  And ironically, the best part about his character was the thing everyone was nervous about: the voice.  Actor Tom Hardy does a marvelous job of crafting this character’s speech.  He reminded me a lot of Darth Vader in not only his voice, but also in his personality, and that’s saying something.  It also helps that Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan wrote superb dialogue for him.  This is especially apparent in the first fight between Batman and Bane in which Bane’s dialogue is addictively quotable.  This fight scene in general is the definition of heart pounding.  It’s filmed perfectly, and is as brutal as you can get in a PG-13 rated movie.

The rest of the acting is through the roof as you can probably imagine when looking at the cast involved.  Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman are Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman.  What else is there to say?  Michael Caine was a real stand out here though as Alfred, and has moments that will make you want to unload an entire box of tissues.  Anne Hathaway is a perfect Catwoman, and Marion Cotillard is a great addition to the Bat cast as well.

As much as I love this movie, it’s not without its flaws though.  The editing seems rushed at times, it’s almost too predictable, and the plot is sort of a re-hash of Batman Begins.  But at the end of the day, this completes the second greatest trilogy ever made.  The last thirty minutes of this movie is bat shit crazy in terms of the action, and I can’t think of a better last shot to end the trilogy with.  We’ll get a new incarnation of Batman sooner rather than later, and the character will continue to live on because he’s that great.  But I promise you, we will never get a better interpretation of this character than what Christopher Nolan gave us…period.

P.S. Hans Zimmer’s score is amazing.

Rating: 9 out of 10 (OMG)  

Category Rankings (Spoilers Throughout):

Best Performance: Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman
-Out of all three movies, this was Bale’s best turn as the character.  Bale’s Bruce Wayne was always a multi-layered performance, but this time around even his Batman added some new dimensions.  My favorite moment of Bale in this film is when he screams ‘WHERE’S THE DETONATOR’ at a beaten down Bane towards the end.  Like I said…Bale sells that Batman voice.

Worst Performance: Daniel Sunjata as Captain Jones
-This is the Special Ops Captain that gets smuggled into Gotham City after it’s overtaken by Bane.  This guy was in about three scenes, but I don’t know, I just didn’t like him.  Yea, I had to dig deep for this category.

Best Line: “Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark…I was born in it, molded by it.  I didn’t see the light until I was already a man.  By then it was nothing to me but blinding!” –Bane to Batman as he beats him down
-Are you kidding me!?  Just read the damn line…awesome!  It’s Tom Hardy’s delivery though that makes it that much more special.

Worst Line: “So that’s what that feels like.” –Batman after Catwoman leaves the rooftop while his back is turned
-This line is just a miss.  And as much as I love Bale’s Batman voice, it’s not really joke friendly.

Best Fight:
-The first fight between Batman and Bane in the sewers is really one of the greatest superhero fights I’ve ever seen.  Even though it’s one-sided, watching Batman not being able to do anything against this guy is so shocking, you can’t look away.  And the dialogue throughout this scene is beautifully written.  And all Batman fans know the iconic shot of Bane breaking Batman’s back in the comics.  When this happens in the film, it genuinely surprised me.  Once Bane repeatedly punches him in the face cracking his cowl, I thought that was it.  Kudos to Nolan though for catching us off guard, because the back breaking moment comes out of nowhere, and it’s so quick, which is a good thing.  I also love that it’s filmed at this odd sort of faraway angle.  It’s just a great scene, albeit a little hard to watch if you’re a Batman fan.

WTF Moment:
-I have to admit, the one silly moment is when the bridge in Gotham is lit up, and it makes a fiery bat symbol.  Yea, it looks cool, but come on?  The Dark Knight Rises is probably the most nit-picked film in existence, which annoys me to no end, but this is the one nitpick I will agree with.  How did Batman find time to do this while his city was under sieged…was this really necessary?  It reminded me of the Robin symbol Robin makes in Batman & Robin when he crashes through the museum wall.  Are the two really that far off?  Okay, I went too far there.

Best Scene:
-There’s plenty to choose from, but for me, it’s not even close.  I don’t care if people say it’s cheesy, but when Bruce Wayne climbs out of Bane’s prison as all the prisoners chant ‘rise,’ and the bats fly out, I got chills.  That scene is the Rudy moment of superhero movies.

Worst Scene:
-For the most part, the ending is great, especially when Blake rises on the platform in the last shot.  But I have to disagree with the decision to keep Bruce Wayne alive, which means my least favorite scene is him showing up at the Café at the end with Selina.  I buy that Bruce no longer needs to be Batman.  But if we consider Blake will need years of training to become the next Batman, I don’t buy that if in a year or two, a new threat comes to Gotham where Batman is needed, and Blake isn’t ready, that Bruce is just going to stay in Europe sipping lattes with Selina.  He’ll want to save the city not because of a need to be Batman, but because he cares about Gotham City too much.  That’s why I feel Bruce should have actually died, or have been severely injured that he could no longer physically be Batman, but he would still be around to train Blake.  At the end of the day, this is open for debate, and it’s not something that derails the movie or anything, but just my own personal opinion.

Funniest Moment:
-I love the guy in the bar wearing the Hawaiian shirt that gets shot, but is still able to muster to Selina, ‘call me’ as she walks out.

Bad Ass Moment:
-The Bat.

Superhero Movies on Steroids Series: Movie #118

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Plot: When high school loner Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) uncovers information about his now lost parents, it leads him to Oscorp, a high profile science and research facility.  There he gets into an accident with a spider, leaving him with strange new super powers.  Peter must adapt to his new abilities as he continues to uncover more about his parents’ research, while also facing the trials and tribulations of high school.

*Warning: If you really like the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, this article is going to make you very upset.  I spend most of this review ripping those films…fair warning.

Let me say off the bat that I am not a fan of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies.  So when people were complaining about how it’s ‘too soon for a re-boot,’ my response was ‘this re-boot couldn’t come fast enough.’  One of the biggest criticisms of this film is specifically the origin: ‘been there, done that.’  And I say ‘like hell we did!’  This is an origin that needed to be re-told.  Let’s revisit how Peter Parker got his abilities in the 2002 film, shall we?  He’s standing in the science museum taking lame pictures of Mary Jane as actress Kirsten Dunst giggles horribly.  Then a random spider dangles down and bites Peter…yay.  Let’s take a look at how it’s done in this movie.  Peter cleverly and amusingly sneaks in as an intern to Oscorp, wanders off from the group, intelligently figures out how to get into this high tech research room, observes this fucked up cold environment with all these genetically enhanced spiders, and then almost goes into a seizure after getting bit.  And that right there in a nutshell is why this version of Spider-Man is 900 times better than the dumb, big cartoon that was Sam Raimi’s 2002 lackluster original.

What speaks to this film the most is that the relationship between Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is so damn good, I didn’t even need them to get to the superhero stuff.  In fact, the superhero action is almost a distraction to all the great character moments going on.  But comparing Garfield and Stone to Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst is like comparing the Dark Knight to Batman & Robin.  This relationship is charming, funny, and you immediately buy their bond from the first meeting.  You also buy Garfield as Peter Parker right away.  What I loved here is that in the first scene, Parker is shown standing up to the bully, even though it means getting his ass kicked.  The problem with Maguire’s Parker is that he only gains confidence after getting bit by the spider.  Garfield already has it.  But aside from the two leads, the supporting cast is just ridiculous.  Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May…awesome!  Sally Field may be my favorite performance of the movie.  Whereas Rosemary Harris was annoying and cold in the Raimi films, you really feel for Field’s Aunt May.  When Peter comes home late, beat-up, and doesn’t tell her anything, you really want to berate Peter along with Aunt May, because you really feel for her character.  It also helps that the writing for Uncle Ben and Aunt May is so much better than it was in the original trilogy.  Denis Leary was also surprisingly entertaining as Captain Stacy.  He really sold you on why Spider-Man was a menace to his city, even though we have a natural inclination to side with the hero.  One of the weaknesses of the film though is the villain, Dr. Curt Connors/Lizard played by Rhys Ifans.  Ifans is fine in the role, and I really liked him pre-lizard, but once he becomes the bad guy, it’s pretty standard.

At the end of the day, I tend to elevate this movie a lot more because of how much I detest the previous series.  This is just so much damn better.  The biggest difference aside from the acting is that I simply cared about these characters as opposed to the Bugs Bunny cartoons from the original trilogy.  We also get a real guy in the Spider-Man costume as opposed to the atrocious CG mess flying around New York.  I can’t wait to see how this series progresses now that the origin is out of the way.

Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)

Category Rankings (Spoilers Throughout):

Best Performance: Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy
-This was a legit three horse race.  I considered Sally Field, but she’s just not in it enough.  As awesome as Garfield is, Emma Stone just brought something to this movie that not many superhero films can say they have: a female lead you care about.  I thought her writing was strong, but I can’t envision anyone else in this role.  She elevates every line of dialogue.  She’s funny, compelling, and most importantly, she’s a strong character.  She’s willing to make the antidote in the heat of battle, or walk right up to the lizard in the school hallway to try and save Peter, whereas Mary Jane would have screamed a lot before getting kidnapped.  This movie doesn’t work without Emma Stone…period.

Worst Performance: Chris Zylka as Flash Thompson
-I couldn’t really find a performance I disliked.  I even felt this guy was okay, but he did seem like someone who could morph into the Raimi movies, so that loses some points.

Best Line: “I’ve got to stop him, because I created him.” –Peter Parker
“That’s not your job.” –Gwen Stacy
“Maybe it is.” –Peter Parker
-The reason I went with this exchange is because it sums up Spider-Man so well as opposed to repeating, ‘With great power, comes great responsibility’ 500 times.

Worst Line: “Oh no.  Somebody’s been a bad lizard.” –Spider-Man
-Spider-Man’s quips and lines are usually pretty funny in this movie, but this sounded more like a Tobey Maguire Spider-Man line.

Best Fight:
-The fight between Spider-Man and Lizard in the high school was pretty solid.  There’s a lot of web shooting, some jumping around…it’s all good.

WTF Moment:
-I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I HATE THE STAN LEE CAMEOS.  And this was the worst one!  We’re in the middle of this cool fight between Spider-Man and Lizard, and all of a sudden it has to get goofy and silly as they fight in the background while Stan Lee listens to classical music on his big head phones.  Oh, isn’t that funny?  He can’t tell what’s going on.  How hilarious.

Best Scene:
-I like when Peter Parker comes home after one of his early nights as Spider-Man, completely bruised and messed up.  The look of horror on Sally Field’s face is heartbreaking.  This is a dynamic we’ve never really seen in superhero movies.  The worried mother (because that’s what Aunt May basically is) scared shitless of what this guy is doing.  It was very well acted between both Field and Garfield.

Worst Scene:
-I absolutely hate when Curt Connors talks to himself as the lizard, ala Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn with Green Goblin.  This makes no sense, and is just one of those, ‘Oh, we have to pay tribute to the 2002 film somehow.’  No you don’t!

Funniest Moment:
-There’s a lot to choose from, but for some reason the way Peter wakes up and immediately smashes his alarm clock with his new powers gets me every time.

Bad Ass Moment:
-After Peter gets shot, he has to whip around the city and get to Oscorp.  For some reason, these web slinging shots were the best I’ve seen in all four Spider-Man movies.  Maybe it’s because Spider-Man had to fight through some pain, but they just looked awesome and heart wrenching.

Superhero Movies on Steroids Series: Movie #117

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

Plot: When the Asgardian Loki (Tom Hiddleston) steals the Tesseract Cube, S.H.I.E.L.D. calls together a group of heroes to get it back, and to stop the impending alien invasion Loki has threatened.

The best way I can describe the Avengers is that it’s an awesome Transformers movie.  It has action where you can actually tell what’s going on.  It has much better acting.  And the humor is actually funny, as opposed to the Jar Jar Binks level comedy of Michael Bay.  While I prefer my superhero movies to be in the vein of the Dark Knight, I’d be lying if I didn’t say this put a big smile on my face.  There isn’t anything in this film that blew me away, but there aren’t many flaws either.  The cast is pretty damn good all around.  Robert Downey Jr. is Robert Downey Jr., Jeremy Renner does a lot with a little as Hawkeye, and even know my favorite Avenger Thor gets a little short changed, Chris Hemsworth gets a lot of meat in terms of his conflict with Loki, a role in which Tom Hiddleston knocks out of the park once again, and who was a perfect villain for this movie.  While I liked Black Widow’s story, Scarlett Johansson just can’t hold a candle to these other actors.  A better actress could have really taken this part to better places, but she’s okay.  The two standout performances though were Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner (Hulk).  I liked Evans a lot in Captain America: the First Avenger, but I got even more on board with him in this film.  Evans just has this aura around him that makes it so easy to get emotionally invested in his character, and you totally buy why he’s the leader of the team.  And even though I would have preferred to see Edward Norton back as Bruce Banner, Ruffalo is no slouch.  Even though his character is a walking time bomb, you easily believe this guy can get along with everybody on the team.  While everyone bickers throughout the team, Banner just wants to focus on the task at hand, even more so then Rogers.  But as great as the cast is, the MVP goes to director Joss Whedon.  This was a tough movie to pull off, but Whedon really does give everyone their moment.  Even in a giant action fest such as this, the movie still has great character moments, and that’s what really surprised me about the Avengers.  One of my biggest problems with the film though is that it’s just kind of a blur.  When thinking about what my favorite scene was, everything just kind of ran together.  I can’t pinpoint that one ‘wow’ moment, even though Hulk was pretty bad ass.  And as good as the humor is, the film’s biggest flaw is that it gets way too jokey.  Whedon had a major hand in the script, and he comes dangerously close to making this a comedy.  Every scene has to have a clever quip.  And it’s not that the humor is bad, ala a Peter Parker Jazz Club dance, or an Iron Man spinning records/drunken brawl scene, but the comedy really needed to be trimmed down.  As much as I like this movie, the jokes almost make it a parody of itself, and that really keeps it from reaching the upper echelon films of this genre.  Oh, and the aliens who invade Earth, and the ones who show up at the beginning of the film are terrible.  I’m sorry, but this was Power Rangers level voice acting and aesthetics.  Yea, I said it.  The Avengers: it’s a great movie…but let’s calm down.

Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)

Category Rankings (Spoilers Throughout):

Best Performance: Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
-From the first moment we see him boxing quietly in a gym, there’s just something about Evans’ laser like demeanor where you instantly sympathize with him.  And even though he’s not the Hulk, or has Thor’s hammer, or Iron Man’s weaponry, I found him the most compelling in terms of the action scenes.  He also had the best moment in the film, but more on that later.

Worst Performance: Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
-It’s not that her performance is bad, it’s just frustrating because there is actually some really good stuff written for her, and Johansson just can’t deliver.  If this was somebody like Anne Hathaway, it could have significantly elevated the movie.

Best Line: “That’s my secret Cap…I’m always angry.” –Bruce Banner
-Bruce Banner/Hulk has been in three movies now, and this is the best thing he’s ever said.  I love that he says this as he’s transforming into the Hulk, and Ruffalo nails the delivery.  We are all salivating to see what the Hulk was going to do in this last action scene, and this line was the perfect way to transition into that.

Worst Line: “I don’t think we should be focusing on Loki.  That guy’s brain is a bag full of cats.  You can smell crazy on him.” –Bruce Banner
-This line just doesn’t work.  Maybe it’s because I can only think of the crazy cat lady from the Simpsons when I hear it, but regardless, it’s a dumb line.

Best Fight:
-Well, there are about 20 to choose from, but I got to go with Thor Vs Hulk, because if for nothing else, watching Thor strike Hulk for the first time with his hammer was just glorious.  The complexion on Hulk’s face was damn good CG, and I’m not one to compliment CG a lot.

WTF Moment:
-I may be the only person on the face of the Earth who hates this moment, but I did not like when Hulk punched Thor after they destroy a bunch of aliens.  Maybe it’s because Thor is my favorite Avenger, so I didn’t like him getting humiliated, but the real reason is because we are at the final action scene of the movie, and we just saw Thor and Hulk tear apart this room, posing in bad ass fashion.  I just think this punching moment cheapened it…WTF.

Best Scene:
-Cop to Captain America: “Why should we take orders from you?”  Captain America’s answer to that question is the best moment of the film.

Worst Scene:
-One joke that I just hated is when Agent Coulson calls Black Widow, but he has to hold the line while she takes out some bad guys.  Watching Coulson wait on hold during this scene, you can almost hear the elevator music playing.  These are the types of things I can’t stand in superhero movies, because it takes away a level of seriousness that these movies should have, and almost turns it into a Bugs Bunny cartoon.  In fact, a lot of the humor with Coulson just didn’t vibe with me in this movie.

Funniest Moment:
-It’s obviously a Tony Stark line, and I choose this one: “Phil?  Uh, his first name is Agent.”

Best Bad Ass Moment:
-Hulk smashes Loki…the end.

The Ninja Turtle Controversy

Like a lot of people my age, I was a die hard Ninja Turtles fan as a kid, and still am to this day.  I still have the movies, DVDs of the show, action figures buried in my garage, yadda, yadda, yadda.  I could go on all day.  But bottom-line: I love the Ninja Turtles.  So when I found out there was going to be a revamped live action turtles movie, I got pretty excited.  This will be a re-boot, and I think the time is right for one.  2007’s animated TMNT was a solid film from the old universe, but it’s time to move on and take the Turtles to a bigger stage.  When I found out that Michael Bay was producing, my feelings were…mixed.  There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding this film, and it’s still well over 15 months away.  I have a lot to say, so let’s stop being a Michelangelo and wasting time, and let’s get into this whole Turtle debacle.

There are both positives and negatives to Michael Bay’s involvement.  Let me be very clear about this: I hate the Transformer movies.  I’ll repeat that: I hate the Transformer movies.  But the one thing I can say about them is that they were given a big stage, and had a shit load of money behind them.  With Bay producing, I can only assume the Turtles will get the same treatment.  And my assumptions have already proven to be correct.  The film will open on Christmas 2013.  That’s a big boy release date.  This logically means the film will get a huge budget, something the Turtles have never really had.

So what are the negatives?  Well, it goes back to the Transformer movies.  What I detest most about those films is the humor.  It’s Jar Jar Binks level comedy.  And the Transformers aren’t even supposed to be that funny.  With the Turtles already being somewhat comical characters at times, I can only imagine what hi-jinx Bay will subject my childhood to.  Will Michelangelo fart and go, ‘Whoa dudes, looks like I had way too much quac and pepperoni pizza.  Cowastinka, dudes!’  Yea…this is a real possibility.  But thankfully, Bay isn’t actually directing.  The guy they got however might be worse.

The director for this movie is Jonathan Liebesman.  For those who don’t know, Liebesman directed not only my least favorite movie of last year, but one of my least favorite movies of all time: Battle Los Angeles.  Filmmaking doesn’t get much worse then this atrocious display.  The shaky cam is out of control, and you can’t tell what the hell is going on.  Imagine watching a climactic Splinter/Shredder fight, but you can’t even see it, because this guy thinks its hip and cool to shake the camera while filming it (shudder).  Now thankfully, I saw Wrath of the Titans a few weeks ago, a movie directed by none other than Jonathan Liebesman.  While it’s not a great movie by any stretch, the action at least was pretty stellar, but it still had some shaky cam here and there.  Hopefully by the time he sits down to direct Ninja Turtles, the shaky cam will be out of his system.  But one of the other issues I have with the Transformer movies is that you can’t tell what’s going on in the action either.  With Bay and Liebesman working together, I’m obviously nervous.

Those are really my two biggest concerns: Bay’s influence, and the director.  But let’s get to the real controversy surrounding this film.  Bay confirmed that the Turtles aren’t going to be mutants, but actually aliens from another planet.  We all know the original Turtle origin:  They are four baby turtles, they fall down a sewer, they get into green radioactive material, and we’re off and running.  But now this entire origin is gone as they are supposedly now coming to Earth as aliens.  So how do I feel about this change?

I’m not one of these fanboys that bitch about things getting changed from the source material.  As long as you make it good, I’m happy.  In fact, when a story element is kept the same just to please fans, it can be a recipe for disaster.  Sometimes you got to change it up.  I always use the Dark Knight example for this argument.  People flipped out when the entire origin of the Joker was changed from a guy getting doused in chemicals inflicting him with permanent white skin to a guy who has scars and splashes white make-up on his face.  Director Christopher Nolan changed the Joker for the better. 

But here’s the problem with Ninja Turtles – we aren’t talking about Christopher Nolan…we’re talking about Michael Bay.  I’m not concerned with the fact that the Turtle origin is getting revamped, I’m concerned that it’s Michael Baydoing the revamping.  But to be honest, this whole alien race thing doesn’t concern me as much as the concerns I expressed earlier with the humor and shaky action.  I think the alien race thing could actually work.  And if I may point out, there was an episode of the original cartoon series where the Turtles visit the Planet of the Turtleoids where they encountered an entire planet of Turtles, and that was a pretty damn good episode.  And who knows…with aliens and other planets getting introduced, that could leave the door open for Krang to make an appearance, something Turtle fans have been clamoring for to be in a live action movie for years.

At the end of the day, I pray this movie is awesome.  I’m not going to sit here and tell you the Turtles are this serious property that can be taken to the heights other superheroes like Batman and X-Men have been taken to, but it’s not a dumb silly concept either, alright!  The Ninja Turtles mean a lot to me, and I’m just hoping for something good that keeps the Turtle brand going…and if sucks, I can always pop in the original 1990 classic.

TURTLE POWER

Superhero Movies on Steroids Series: Movie #116

Justice League: Doom (2012, animated)

Plot: When the immortal super villain Vandal Savage (Phil Morris) obtains Batman’s (Kevin Conroy) secret files on how to defeat each member of the Justice League, he and the Legion of Doom implement a plan that will destroy more than half the world.

This might be the best of the superhero team-up movies.  It opens with some pretty epic music, and lives up to it for the most part.  But what makes this movie so good is that it further shows us why Batman is the most bad ass superhero, despite not having any super powers.  Now we’ve seen this song and dance a hundred times, but what’s especially cool about this movie is that we see part of Batman’s brilliance that we were never meant to see: his contingency plan for immobilizing the Justice League.  Now that’s interesting!  This film shows us just how dangerous Batman would be if he ever became evil.  But there’s more to this film then just Batman.  We get to see all the Justice League members in their element, going up against some of their fiercest villains.  I definitely can’t complain about not seeing enough super power awesomeness.  We get plenty of bad ass Green Lantern constructs, a robot breaks his hand against Superman’s forehead, and the Flash runs a lot…so there you go.  In fact, Flash’s match-up with Mirror Master was probably the most fascinating.  That’s a bad ass villain, and really makes me want to see a live action Flash movie where he’s the villain.  I even liked Cyborg, the newest member of the Justice League.  Although I still think Aquaman should have been there in his place.  Poor Aquaman…no respect.  Now I can’t say I was in love with all the characters though.  Martian Manhunter was pretty underwhelming, and Wonder Woman seemed kind of like a dumbass in this one.  I also can’t get over the villains calling themselves the Legion of Doom.  I get this is what it is in the comics, but it’s time to change the name.  Justice League is hard enough to buy as it is.  But what makes this movie work is just watching the brilliance of Batman’s plans come to fruition, even though they were never meant to happen.  The way Superman was taken down was brilliant.  Although the one I have the biggest complaint about is Green Lantern, which just seemed confusing and really far-fetched.  Bane also shows up, which was pretty cool, as he’s one of my favorite Batman villains.  What he does to Bruce Wayne in this film is pretty sick.  But aside from all the action, the movie manages to build a strong camaraderie among the Justice League.  There’s a great moment where they all surround Superman as they try and save him.  All in all, this is a very solid team-up movie, and even though I haven’t been a big proponent of a live action Justice League film, there really is a lot of potential for it to be absolutely incredible…but time will tell on that one.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)

Category Rankings (Spoilers Throughout):

Best Performance: Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern
-I could have easily given it to Kevin Conroy again, but for some reason Fillion’s voice just represented the character of Green Lantern so well.

Worst Performance: Carl Lumbly as Martian Manhunter
-I couldn’t understand him at times, and he just kind of seemed like a dick.

Best Line: -“If you people can’t see the potential danger of an out of control Justice League, I don’t need to wait for a vote.  I don’t belong here.” –Batman
-Wow, what an epic Batman line.  Batman could potentially get kicked out of the Justice League, and when asked to defend himself, he doesn’t flinch once.  He’s not at all sorry for what he did, and he basically gives a big ‘FU’ to the whole League.  I love Batman.

Worst Line: “That’s three you owe me.” –Green Lantern
                            
“We keeping score?” –Batman
                            
“Not literally.” –Green Lantern
                             
“Because if we are, it’s 8-7, my favor.” –Batman
-This is just a little too jokey for Batman.  Plus it’s during a battle, and Batman would never engage in these conversations during a fight.

Best Fight:
-The overall brawl between the League members and their villain equals was pretty awesome, although Batman defeats Bane by snapping his venom wire with a batarang.  How many times have we seen that?  Lame.

WTF Moment:
-This is a double entry.  There are a couple of Batman lapses here that I just don’t buy.  In the first action scene, Batman is seen standing on a high pillar by one of the bad guys.  That wouldn’t happen.  Later, Batman gets into the batmobile and definitely notices a flash of Mirror Master sitting behind him.  He looks back again, and nothing is there.  Batman ignores it.  No way!  Batman would have torn that batmobile apart to make sure no one was there.

Best Scene:
-Building off of the best line, it’s Batman defending himself to the Justice League on why he kept files on how to neutralize everyone.  I also love his ‘whatever’ attitude, like he doesn’t care if the League kicks him out.  But the real heart of this scene is later when Superman talks with him privately.  They come to an understanding, and Superman gives him a piece of kryptonite for safe keeping if he should ever get out of control.  It’s a great moment between the two greatest superheroes of all time.

Worst Scene:
-This goes back to my worst line, but Batman gets a little too jokey for my liking in that scene with Green Lantern.

Funniest Moment:
-After Batman explains what happened with his secret files, Superman says, “None of us would ever do that to you.”  Batman calmly retorts with “Then you’re damned fools.”  It’s just funny, because you think this is going to be a Superman one ups Batman moment, but Batman hits him right back instead.  And I’m not saying Superman is a fool, but it sums up both character personalities perfectly.

Bad Ass Moment:
-Green Lantern creates a giant sling shot construct…awesome.