Saturday, May 25, 2013

IGN Comics: My Review for the Final Issue of Geoff Johns' Green Lantern Run!

Reviewing comics is never work to me, but I was beyond enthused and even a little bit honored to review the final issue of Geoff Johns' Green Lantern series. Green Lantern has been the most integral part of my time as a comics reader right up there with Archie and Y: The Last Man. It is of course sad to see it go, but when an ending is this good, it's hard to complain.

"Geoff Johns ends his Green Lantern masterpiece with a resounding blockbuster bookend. Just wow! After nine years and over one hundred issues, he took a cheesy character whose weakness was the color yellow and turned him into one of the most consistently thrilling, compelling, and outright enjoyable heroes in comics. He did this by bringing the key element of the emotional spectrum into the fold. The rings now take something special to wield them – rage, avarice, fear, will, hope, compassion, love – and over the course of this series, Johns gave us plenty of reasons to feel those same emotions right along with the characters on the page. This final issue will take you on a tour of the entire emotional spectrum, and that’s exactly the point of the journey of Hal Jordan."

Check out the rest on IGN!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cover Comparison: Batman and the Red Hood vs Age of Ultron

Homage? Parody? Ripoff? Marvel and DC aping each others covers happens with such frequency these days it's hard to say.

MTV: 'Iron Man 3' -- Where Does It Rank In The Marvel Cinematic Universe?

My friend Brett White who works over at MTV asked me to weigh in on Iron Man 3. 

"When the smoke clears and the armor is plugged in to charge, where does 'Iron Man 3' rank? Is it the best of the 'Iron Man' trilogy? Does it come close to 'The Avengers'? Do Captain America, Hulk or Thor's solo films give it a run for its money? We rounded up a panel of specialists to put 'Iron Man 3' in its place." Keep reading on MTV!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Ranking Every Modern Superhero Movie

I just came across a list of The Best Superhero Movies Ever I wrote at the end of 2011 where I ranked every superhero movie I'd ever seen (ie, all of them). It just includes movies from 2000 onward, because I mean how do you compare anything to the first two Superman movies? Unfortunately, this also leaves out the likes of the original Punisher and Blade movies, but they get representation by their more recent additions here.

A lot has changed with the release of The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man, and, of course, The Avengers, so I thought I'd revisit the list. I also added in Iron Man 3, which I saw just last night.

New additions are in blue.

After recently re-watching Superman Returns, Ang Lee's Hulk, and Watchmen, I advanced them up the list a bit because they are still coherent movies with strong narratives, but they fell victim to their lackluster tone and misused themes. Green Lantern was originally the Worst Ever second only to the unwatchable Punisher: War Zone, but after viewing GL again I realized that it wasn't quite that bad and advanced it up some, but not much.

As for the movies that went down, Captain America swapped places with Thor and went down a notch. Thor didn't have as much heart at Captain America, but I enjoyed its humor and marrying of science and magic quite a bit. Captain America was such a good movie until he actually became Captain America, turning the movie into a montage of awkward action hero scenes, letting him join Wolverine in the not-so-illustrious club of Marvel heroes who have walked away from an explosion in slow motion without looking.

In all of this, I realized how much I didn't like Kick-Ass. I enjoyed the humor at the start, but its overt violence without consequence became more crass than anything by the end.

Movies that went up are green, down are red.

It's also worth noting that I haven't seen The Spirit, Jonah Hex, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and probably a few others, but given their critical reception, I'm sure they'd wind up being neighbors on this list with the likes of Catwoman and Elektra.

And in case you're wondering why Spider-Man 2 beats The Dark Knight, it's because of two key reasons.

One, SM2 is paced better. There's never a wasted moment in SM2 all the way up to the end. You can say the same for TDK right up until the end when it gets two awkward climaxes, neither of which are wholly satisfying.

And two, SM2 is thrilling. All of the encounters with Doc Ock are breathtaking fights that could only happen between those two characters. They fight up and down a wall; inside, outside, and on top of a high-speeding train; and in the wreckage of a tragically failed science experiment. TDK had its fair share of cool moments, but they don't give me chills every time like SM2 does.

TDK does have the Joker, who is certainly the best super villain ever filmed, but Doc Ock is no slouch and fills the villain role perfectly.

And with that, the revised list:

  1. Spider-Man 2
  2. The Dark Knight
  3. X2: X-Men United
  4. Blade 2
  5. Iron Man
  6. X-Men: First Class
  7. Sin City
  8. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
  9. The Avengers
  10. Batman Begins
  11. The Dark Knight Rises
  12. Iron Man 3
  13. Spider-Man
  14. X-Men
  15. Thor
  16. Captain America: The First Avenger
  17. Daredevil
  18. Hellboy
  19. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  20. Hulk
  21. The Punisher
  22. Watchmen
  23. The Incredible Hulk
  24. Iron Man 2
  25. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  26. The Amazing Spider-Man
  27. Superman Returns
  28. Kick-Ass
  29. X-Men: The Last Stand
  30. Blade: Trinity
  31. Spider-Man 3
  32. Fantastic Four
  33. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
  34. Green Lantern
  35. Elektra
  36. Ghost Rider
  37. Catwoman
  38. Punisher: War Zone

Iron Man 3 Movie Review

Beware of spoilers!

Tony Stark is a wicked amalgamation of Batman and Superman. He’s a billionaire with an endless array of gadgets, and he can fly, shoot lasers, and take all sorts of damage when in his Iron Man suit. But he lacks Superman’s humble Kansas demeanor and Batman’s unbreakable No Killing Rule, so how does he get away with still calling himself a superhero? He makes us laugh.

Director Shane Black earned his name combining hard-hitting action with gut-busting comedy in Lethal Weapon, and the same formula works wonders when applied to Iron Man. The laughs come from all angles in an endless stream from Robert Downey Jr.’s quiptacular mouth. Whether he’s talking to girlfriend Pepper, best pal Rhodey, or a little boy in rural Tennessee, he’s determined to dominate the conversation with his superior witticisms, even if it means calling the kid a pussy. No zinger is off limits for the Man of Iron.

The Marvel cinematic universe continues to grow as Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian brings Advanced Idea Mechanics, or A.I.M., into the fold, not to mention Roxxon Corporation also plays a small role. With HYDRA, Hammer Industries, and other villainous organizations popping up in other Marvel movies, it’ll not be long until the cinematic universe is as fully developed and addictingly convoluted as the comics.

Not using the A.I.M. from the comics = GOOD IDEA
Through revelations big and small, we learn that Killian was wronged by Stark in the past and now he’s back with the unstable Extremis techno-virus that can regrow limbs and turn your hands into blowtorches, with the small side effect of sometimes causing you to explode. The Extremis-infused goons are a new and frankly refreshing threat to Iron Man. What use are all his weapons when the enemy can regenerate? What protection does his armor provide when they can effortlessly tear chunks out of it? Pearce exudes a brazen charm as he banters and manipulates and seduces his plan into motion. He’s certainly no Heath Ledger Joker or Alfred Molina Doc Ock, but he’s a welcome improvement over yet another guy in a robot suit.

Killian works with the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), an international terrorist with a Bin Laden beard and Unabomber shades. Given that in the comics he wields ten magic rings -- a concept that Marvel’s quasi-realistic tone might not readily accept -- the makers of this movie were faced with the challenge of how to convert the Mandarin to the big screen. Their solution? They didn’t. I’ll let you watch to find out what that means, but suffice to say that some fans will be pissed at the treatment of Iron Man’s greatest nemesis, while others will be tickled at the surprise twist that inspires a great bit of acting from Kingsley. Count me among the latter.
Now do you see why they didn't use the rings?
Rhodey, Pepper, and Happy are all back, but Tony spends most of his time away from his familiar cohorts, and that’s what gives the movie its unique feel and sense of freedom. Iron Man 3 takes a page out of The Dark Knight by having Stark use his vast array of technology to play detective. He also spends a majority of the movie out of the suit -- never mind that he’s now able to remote control it -- which lets us see firsthand what the Man is without the Iron.

The result is a fascinating look at a man with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder -- if you saw aliens pour out of a portal in NYC then you would, too -- and an extreme dependency on the machinery that gives him his identity. Watching him figure out how to live a life in a world without ready access to his limitless resources and a battle suit for every occasion is the bread and butter of the movie.

It’s unfortunate that the PTSD arc fizzles out just before the third act. Instead of an emotional climax based on the intriguing character work that invested us in Tony Stark the Man, we get the equivalent of a toddler upending his toy box on the floor and smashing together all his action figures with delight. A few dozen Iron Men descend on a shipyard full of glowy bad guys, but with the suits being pilotless and the villains being largely immune to harm, it’s hard to care about anything that transpires.

And a note about the Extremis baddies: they seem to be all but immortal, but then we see them die for random reasons that contradicted their previously demonstrated durability. The bald Extremis lived through quite a bit, but then died to a focused beam through the chest. The female Extremis that attacked Tony in the bar died in an explosion, but when Tony detonates his suit while on Killian, he survives. Yet when Pepper kicks a missle into his face and detonates it, Killian dies. I would argue that a concentrated explsion spread across one's entire body is more intense than one just next to you, but it seems like they needed Pepper to have her "moment" at the end.

This also brings to light that Pepper was relegated to being the typical girl tied to the tracks for half the film. She's shown captured and in pain as the villain salivates over her as his prize, only to then show her dangling upside down in a sports bra before falling to her "demise." With only one female on the Avengers -- one without powers, at that -- and most female Marvel leads existing as love interests and little else, it's a shame that the one woman who can verbally spar with Tony is only given half a movie's worth of compelling material.

Getting back to the robotic finale, the different armor designs are cool at first glance, but they only work to point out a glaring plot hole of the film. If Stark had a fleet of battle-ready suits ready to launch at the push of a button, then why didn’t he use them when his mansion got attacked? When he had to save thirteen people jettisoned from an exploding plane? When he had to do anything, really?

The best suit was the Hulkbuster one with its distinguishing bulkiness. The physical manifestation of heavy metal. But even that follows the trend of wasted potential when, instead of fighting, it acts as a support beam and is never seen again. I wanted to see one of its elephant-sized feet come down on an Extremis baddie, crushing them into sparks like putting out a cigarette with your shoe.

Why Hulkbuster no smash?

It also would have been nice to see it in a green color, perhaps acknowledging Tony’s bromance with the Hulk’s Bruce Banner. This would also act as a clever response as to why Tony doesn’t immediately call on the Avengers for help: he’s already built suitable replacements. But the movie does answer this question in its own way. The Avengers only assemble when a threat appears that no one hero could stand against. Clearly, Tony could handle this one all by himself.

But despite any nitpicks, the film is a win. Anything that can move me to laughter gets a bonus in my book, and this movie succeeded despite every flaw because of the effortlessly humorous RDJ. It’s better than the misguided-but-still-watchable Iron Man 2, but too overreaching in its need to dazzle to best the original. It’s certainly a solid follow up to The Avengers and the start of Marvel Phase 2. Speaking of future Marvel movies, perhaps the oddest bit comes at the start of the credits when we see: “Tony Stark will return.” Even though we just saw him all but relinquish everything that makes him Iron Man, Marvel made sure to blatantly state to audiences that there’s more coming. As if there was ever any doubt.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Awesome Cause: Bring the Hulk to the Northlake Public Library

If putting a 9-foot tall Hulk statue in the lobby will help a library, then it's a cause worth donating for!

My high school librarian ripped the pages out of a comic book because she thought it was inappropriate -- right in front of me! -- so it's great to see those at Northlake Public Library going in the opposite direction by encouraging their patrons to read comics, create their own comics, and MAKE THEIR OWN ACTION FIGURES!

Why haven't you donated already?