"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Comic strips/Super heroes’ Category

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…)

Spider-Man 3

Monday, January 31st, 2022

SPIDER-MAN 3 is Sam Raimi’s most financially successful movie to date, having raked in $894 million at the worldwide box office. That’s about 41 ARMY OF DARKNESSes. But it’s also his first (and only?) infamous movie. Looking back at the reviews surprised me – they were more positive than I remembered. But it almost immediately became one of those movies that the conventional wisdom decides is bad, and that reputation has stuck. Remember how I showed you all those articles declaring SPIDER-MAN 2 the best super hero movie ever? Well, a list on Comic Basics ranks part 3 as the #4 “Worst Superhero Movie That Hollywood has Ever Puked Up,” Goliath ranked it #5 “Most Terrible Superhero Film,” the much more thorough Comic Vine calculated it as #53 “Worst Superhero Movie,” but that means they consider it worse than GREEN LANTERN. In recent years, C-Net, Business Insider, comicbook.com, Complex and Gizmodo all included it on lists of the worst superhero/comic book movies. If it’s ever mentioned positively, it’s in the context of defending it,with the understanding that it’s an uphill battle (for example Sandy Schaefer’s 2020 Screen Rant piece “Is Spider-Man 3 Actually Bad? Why Marvel Fans Hate It So Much.”)

Of course, you know how I am. I always kinda liked it. In my review at the time I said it was “more flawed than Part 1 or Part 2. But not by much,” and concluded, “This movie is worse than the other two in some ways and better in other ways. Lots of interesting characters, great action scenes, good emotional climax, some sloppy writing and a weird tangent for the history books.“

Watching it now, I still like what I always liked, and not a single one of the things I used to dislike bothers me anymore. In fact, what seemed like its big weakness at the time – the hurried, three-villained plot – now makes it feel refreshingly different from other comic book movies, and honestly more faithful to these stories as they once existed in their original medium. (read the rest of this shit…)

Spider-Man 2

Thursday, January 27th, 2022

Raimi started work on SPIDER-MAN 2 immediately after the first one, and had it ready to go two summers later. Since it really is about following up on the events of the first film, it starts by running the credits over some of them, as depicted in paintings by Alex Ross. (He’s celebrated for his realistic portraits of comic book super heroes, which are more impressive when they come from his imagination and not photography we’ve already seen, but still, it was cool that they got him). The end of the sequence reminds us that in SPIDER-MAN Peter chose not to be with Mary Jane, who he loves, so that he could be Spider-Man.

Which does not seem to be working out great so far. The painting of Mary Jane dissolves into a closeup of her face on a perfume billboard that Peter has to walk under every day, reminding him of his pain. Though he tries to hide it, it’s clear his world crumbles when she is not near. He’s in college now, and living on his own in a small apartment. Much like part 1’s opening about all the ways Peter can be humiliated on the way to school, this one piles it on real thick about what a shit sandwich life still hands to him every day. (read the rest of this shit…)

Spider-Man

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

“He had an uneventful childhood. He played baseball with the other kids on the block, became fascinated with the antics of what later became his heroes – The Three Stooges, read Spiderman comic books, thought Jerry Lewis was hilarious and the Little Rascals even more so. What influenced Raimi to become the ‘horror meister’ of slash and gore films is not found in his past.”

Dead Auteur: How a 20-year-old ex-college student carved out his horror niche in Hollywood by Sue Uram, Cinefantastique, August 1992

 

Immediately following Raimi’s very serious director period, his career changed drastically again. After so many stabs at the mainstream, he finally made the leap to genuine blockbuster filmmaking, bringing one of the most famous characters in the history of American pop culture to the big screen for the first time. This is not the use-Intro-Vision-to-stretch-the-budget-enough-to-try-to-compete-in-summer of DARKMAN and ARMY OF DARKNESS, or the work-with-huge-stars-but-scare-off-boring-people-by-doing-something-different-with-them of THE QUICK AND THE DEAD. I’m talking a super hero event movie with ten times the budget of DARKMAN, working with Sony Digital Imageworks to pioneer effects techniques that nobody was even sure would be possible, and finally sharing his talents with pretty much the widest audience possible for a movie. (read the rest of this shit…)