Posts Tagged ‘Marvel’

Now that January 2017 is past, and I’ve had some extra time to see more of last year’s films, its time to look back at 2016 in the movie world. Later, you’ll be hearing from “Where Did They Come From?” – detailing the source material for all of 2016’s films, and Friday brings “Oscarwatch,” my first round of Oscar winner predictions.  will be the 10 films I’m most looking forward to in 2016.

 

Today though, its my ten favorite films from 2016, and (as a bonus) the ten films I’m most looking forward to this year.

10. Eye in the Sky

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The acting is a little thin as you go down the cast list, but Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman (R.I.P), and Barkhad Abdi do more than enough to carry this very topical film. Forced to choose between letting a suicide bomber go free and saving the life of an innocent family, a seasoned military commander (Mirren) must navigate through both political bureaucracy (Rickman), and agents on the ground (Abdi), as she decides whether or not to push the button and blow up a Middle-Eastern compound.

9. Kubo and the Two Strings

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One of the most beautifully animated films to come along in years, Kubo is another chapter in the amazingness of stop-motion film-making. The story is pretty standard, but the beauty of the film will take your breath away. Oh…and Matthew McConaughey voices a giant anthropomorphic beetle.

Of significance is also this films Best Visual Effects Oscar Nomination. It is only the second animated film ever to garner such a nomination, and the first since The Nightmare Before Christmas in 1993.

8. Green Room

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In the “you learn something new every day” category is Green Room. I had no idea that a green room was a real thing (it’s where bands/singers/etc hang out and wait to go onstage).

Anyway, this is a great indie film. A small-time punk rock band find themselves performing in an isolated, neo-Nazi, bar. They see something they shouldn’t, and end up in a battle for their lives. This is one of those “real-life” horror films that shakes you up a bit.

 

7. The Jungle Book

12891156_1173244646027634_7360654356410055621_oI’m a sucker for Kipling and the animated version of this story is one of my favorite films, so of course this film makes the list.

Not only does this version end better than the classic one, but there’s Easter eggs galore, if you know Kipling’s original work, and the cast is priceless. Who wouldn’t want to hear Bill Murray sing “The Bare Necessities?” And mad props to Neel Sethi, who played Mowgli and was the only actor physically on set during filming.

 

6. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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This film, fresh from New Zealand, hits all the right buttons. There’s humor, tragedy, a great villain, compassion, a fun car chase, and a talented youngster (Julian Dennison) that carries the film, with help from Sam Neill. The comedy might be too dry for some folks, but if you’re a fan of that sort of humor, make sure you see this one.

5. Hell or High Water

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This is a film that sneaks up on you, both in real life and on screen. I was one of the few folks who had this film on their Oscar list going into last October (I was able to snag 100/1 odds on it on GoldDerby), and it surprises plot-wise as well.

Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Bridges are the driving forces here, but what really makes the film is the slow burn of a story. This modern-day western only gives scraps of motivation and back-story at the start, but when you get to the finish line, everything comes together and hits you between the eyeballs.

4. Doctor Strange

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Although it suffers a little bit from “origin-story-itis,” the latest addition to the big screen portion of the MCU is a resounding success. The cast of this film may give the best combined performance in an MCU film since The Avengers, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Benedict Wong all perfectly cast.

Of course, the visuals are what separates this film from every other film made this year. Anyone who missed seeing this on a theater big screen is really out of luck.

3. Captain America: Civil War

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Spider-Man was in it. ‘Nuff said.

2. Hacksaw Ridge

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You can read my review here for why exactly I liked it so much. In this space, it can just be said that you will very rarely find a film like this. A true story of sacrificial heroism that will tear at your heartstrings and bring you to applause.

1. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Ha ha. Just kidding. No way.

1. La La Land

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It wasn’t the suburb acting chops of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, the gorgeous cinematography, the catchy music, or even the fulfilled dreams that made this film the best of the year. Instead, it was how well the story can relate to our own lives. It’s a Hollywood story without a “Hollywood ending,” a reality wrapped up in a fiction for most of us, whether we are in La La Land or not. And even if we do reach our dreams, we never forget what we lost along the way.

BONUS!!! The 10 Films I’m most looking forward to in 2017. BONUS!!!

  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  2. Thor: Ragnarok
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2
  4. Beauty and the Beast
  5. My Friend Dahmer
  6. Logan
  7. It
  8. Murder on the Orient Express
  9. The Dark Tower
  10. Marshall

After finally seeing American Sniper last night (my friend will apologize later for making me wait so long), I’m ready to put the lid on 2014 (Oscars aside of course) with my 10 Favorite Films of 2014. And so, without further ado…

#10) Selma

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There were some really great things about this film, the best being David Oyelowo, who was one of the few true Oscar snubs this year. It would be higher if the story was a little more driven. The film is pretty much Point A to Point B, which is fine, but it doesn’t feel propelled forward. Plus Tom Wilkinson is pretty unbelievable (in a not so good way) as LBJ. His performance is great, but he doesn’t look a thing like the former POTUS.

#9) Coherence

coherence-movie-poster-2013-large-fantastic-fest

A little-known indie flick available to watch on Amazon Prime, this is a true sci-fi thriller. And by sci-fi, I mean actual science fiction, with actual science. It is amazing what some great editing and a small, tightly-knit cast of actors can do. I love being drawn into a film and experiencing what the characters are, and this film accomplishes that in spectacular fashion.

#8) The Grand Budapest Hotel

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What a work of art by Wes Anderson. This is the most beautiful picture of the year, with great set pieces, make-up, and costumes. The cinematography was incredible as well. This is storytelling at its cinematic finest. Ralph Fiennes is perfect in his deadpan quasi-humorous lead, and the rest of the cast follow suit.

#7) American Sniper

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I’m not really sure what all the controversy is about. Oh, gosh, Middle Easterners are depicted as evil people…well that’s what happens when all the good people get out of town because the aren’t terrorists and don’t have interest in staying in a war zone. Were they supposed to throw a few Australians or French folks in there to make it more fair? Anyway, this is truly a masterpiece from the heart of Bradley Cooper and Clint Eastwood. Of course, with the trial of Chris Kyle’s real-life murderer beginning today, this story is still being written.

#6) The Lego Movie

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Yes, I’m a bad person for putting this above American Sniper, but this film was just a blast of fun. A hilarious script, wonderful animation, and a good story as well. It would have been so easy to go the “do whatever you want and break all the rules” route, but this film actually shows kids that there are certain instructions that need to be followed, and from there we are free to let our imaginations roam.

#5) Boyhood

Boyhood

This film is more of an experience than a movie. I don’t think any other film has captured what growing up is like as well as Boyhood does. Its an emotional ride, a journey through a life. You can really see the American experience through the lens of this film. Broken families, broken hearts, triumph over adversity, mistakes, successes, wonderful coincidences, its all here in a tapestry of humanity.

#4) Captain America: The Winter Soldier AND Guardians of the Galaxy

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I really felt it wasn’t fair to everyone else that Marvel is doing so well, so I’m putting both of their films here. What a year for Marvel Studios (again)! In a year where all other comic book films were either awful (Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesThe Amazing Spider-man 2, and Sin City and 300 sequels) or members of the “The-Effects-Are-So-Good-I’m-Not-Gonna-Think-About-How-Lame-and/or-Nonsensical the story actually is (Big Hero 6X-Men: Days of Future Past) Marvel Studios released two more gems. Can’t wait for their 2015 work, including Avengers: Age of UltronAnt-Man, and their new Daredevil Netflix series.

#3) Birdman

Michael Keaton in Birdman

Michael Keaton in Birdman

Its true, some people just don’t understand this film. I think its because they are looking for a straightforward story, but this is more of a parable, just like Gravity last year. You know how in the Bible, Jesus always is explaining his parables to his apostles because the general public seem clueless as to what they mean? I used to think that perhaps people just were dumber back then, but now I know that isn’t true. Most people seem to have a lack of ability to see past the base foundation of a story. In the case of Birdman, people see a story about a washed up actor who kinda goes crazy. They miss the internal warfare between fame and art, the mirror within a mirror of this film. Its brilliant, it really is.

#2) The Imitation Game

Quad_BC_AW_[26237] Imitation Game, The

I love puzzles, I love problem solving, and Benedict Cumberbatch is one of my favorite actors. He’s uncanny in this film, and so is the story. A great biopic with a sad ending, every American and Englishman should see this film and learn about the man who saved thousands of lives and helped halt Adolph Hitler’s reign of terror.

#1) Calvary

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Another parable-like film that some people couldn’t wrap their heads around. Brendan Gleeson and Chris O’Dowd carry this film, which is possibly the most painful film of the year. Its hard to watch, but it perfectly encapsulates the current tumult afflicting the Catholic Church. But this isn’t a film shaming Catholics, or the Church, or victims, this is a film about sacrificial love from a person who is deeply flawed himself. Its not a crime-thriller, but it does solve the mystery of the priesthood, and why so many men are still around, still following God’s call, still standing up for truth. The priesthood isn’t convenience, its about sacrifice, down to the bitter end.

Bonus Round – My 10 LEAST Favorite Films of 2014 (#1 = Least Favorite)

The gang's all here!

So disappointing…

  1. The Interview
  2. Noah
  3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  4. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
  5. Fury
  6. Muppets Most Wanted
  7. Magic in the Moonlight
  8. Dear White People
  9. Locke
  10. X-Men: Days of Future Past

The Blockbuster Report

Well, here we go again. Two weeks after Guardians of the Galaxy stormed into cinemas and saved the summer from being almost a complete waste, we’re back to underwhelming films. There was so much to look forward to this year, and with the exception of Marvel Studios two blockbusters, the Lego Movie, RoboCop (which was pretty much exactly what I expected), and Godzilla, all of my anticipated films left me disappointed. This week continues that trend. 

I was excited to see The Giver, not so much because of the book, but because it seemed like a decent story and the film stars Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. But no, it falls flat. Another Expendables film? No good. 

Michael Fassbender is Frank, in Frank.

Michael Fassbender is Frank, in Frank.

On the positive side, if you dig into the limited release films, you’ll find a gem this week. My Film to Catch is Frank, starring Michael Fassbender, about a talented musician who goes through life wearing a paper-mache head for a mask. The Trip to Italy might be ok if you like a film that is almost just comedy routines strung together. And finally, we have…wait for it…SEPTIC MAN! Yes, its a superhero flick, and yes, he does get his powers by…well, you know. Yeah, you don’t want to see this one. 

Must See: None

Worth Your Time: Frank

Meh: The Giver, The Expendables 3, The Trip to Italy

Stay Away: Septic Man

Where do They Come From?

Got some catching up here.

  • The Expendables 3: Sequel
  • The Giver: Adaptation from the novel of the same name by Lois Lowry
  • Let’s Be Cops: Original, written by Luke Greenfield and Nicholas Thomas
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Adaptation of the comic books by Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird
  • Step Up – All In: Sequel to Step Up
  • Into the Storm: Original by John Swetnam
  • The 100 Foot Journey: Adaptation of novel by Richard Morais
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Adaptation of the Marvel Comics series
  • Get on Up: Original
  • Hercules: Adaptation of The Thracian Wars mini-series by Radical Comics
  • Lucy: Original, written by Luc Besson
  • And So It Goes: Original, written by Mark Andrus
  • The Purge: Anarchy: Sequel to The Purge
  • Planes – Fire and Rescue: Sequel to Planes
  • Percecuted: Original, written by Daniel Lusko

Original: 30

Adaptation: 28

Sequel/Prequel: 12

Remake: 1

Re-release: 1

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY. This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films not included until end of year if Oscar potential exists. Numbers in parenthesis are indicative of how many places the film moved from week to week.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) Boyhood ( – )
2) The Grand Budapest Hotel ( – )
3) The Lego Movie ( – )
4) Captain America: The Winter Soldier ( – )
5) Guardians of the Galaxy ( – )
6) Rise of the Planet of the Apes ( -1 )
7) Snowpiercer ( +2 )
8) Calvary (NEW)
9) How to Train Your Dragon 2 ( -3 )
10) Blue Ruin ( – )

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If you follow me on Twitter (@JesseMeehl) or have taken a gander to the left here on Haunted by Humans, you may have noticed quite a few Marvel Comics volumes appearing in my “recently read” widget. Well, there’s a method to this madness. I’ll let you in on it.

I have begun a quest to read EVERY series from Marvel Comics (starting back in their Timely and Atlas days). Yes, that’s a lot of comics, and yes, I’m starting at the beginning. I’ve been a huge Marvel fan since I was a kid, have basked in their renaissance of late, and can never get enough of any kind of super hero. So instead of just reading the big storylines and crossovers (like I did with DC), I’m reading it all, even through the bumps.

My Five Rules:

1) My first mission is the 616 Universe, which Marvelites will recognize as the Marvel Universe where all the main stuff happens. I may delve into some parallel universe stuff, but I’ll take it as I go. This applies to non-fiction and adaptations of other works etc.

2) I reserve the right to opt out of series that are either to hard to obtain (this is rare), or if they aren’t up to snuff. This latter cause is even rarer than the first. Generally it will only happen if a series becomes too monotonous for me. The key is I need to at least read one story arc from every volume.

3) In the Timely Era, I made sure to read material from every available series, but as that is pre-Marvel, I’m not requiring myself to read all the series. Same with the Atlas Era.

4) As much of the reading as possible will be in reading collected volumes. If an issue or series is missing from volumes, I may be forced to skip it or obtain a hard or digital copy.

5) I’m not reading early romance comics (nuff said), or series that just collect previously published stories.

Currently I’m making my way through the 60’s, paging through the early tales of Iron Man, Hulk, Spider-Man, Daredevil, the X-Men, and more. The villainous Dr. Doom, Mandarin, Magneto, Juggernaut, Green Goblin, and Baron Zemo, among others, have stepped from the shadows to terrorize the world, and thank goodness we know, over 60 years later, that the good guys win in the end.

Every month I’ll keep you updated as to my progress. Follow me on Twitter if you want “up to the book” updates.

As this is the first official mention of the Marvel Project, I’ll catch you all up!

Series Currently Reading

–  Strange Tales, Vol. 1 (1951)

– Journey Into Mystery, Vol. 1 (1952)

– Tales of Suspense, Vol. 1 (1959)

– Tales to Astonish, Vol. 1 (1959)

– Fantastic Four, Vol. 1 (1961)

– The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 1 (1963)

– The Avengers, Vol. 1 (1963)

– The X-Men, Vol. 1 (1963)

– Daredevil, Vol. 1 (1964)

Completed Series

– Menace (1953)

– The Black Knight (1955)

– The Yellow Claw (1956)

– Amazing Adventures/Amazing Fantasy (1961)

– The Incredible Hulk, Vol. 1 (1962)

Dropped Series

– Sgt. Fury, Vol. 1 (1963)

Ok, so contrary to what the title may sound like, I actually did enjoy this film…when I was watching it. But, much like The Dark Knight Rises, as soon as you stop and think about things, the whole film is just nonsensical. What makes it worse is that this film could have been so much better very easily. None of the pressing questions I have would require big changes in the plot. I’m not sure whose fault it is, but I’m pretty sure it’s another case of director Bryan Singer just needing to throw “cool stuff” around instead of things that actually make sense. And actually, the “cool stuff” is REALLY cool. Storm and Magneto get an amazing team-up, Blink, Iceman, and Bishop are awesome, and Beast actually looks great. So what’s the problem? Spoilers follow, so be warned…

1) Blink and You’ll Miss It.

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Blink is probably the coolest X-Man in the film. Basically, she can play Portal in real life, which makes for amazing fight sequences. She gets Sentinels to fly right through her portals into attacks by Warpath, Iceman, and others. There’s even a time where a Sentinel’s arm gets caught, on accident, in a portal as it is closing. The robotic arm clangs to the floor, and is not regenerated. Of course, this begs the question: “Why didn’t you close your portal on the Sentinel and cut it in half, or cut its head off? Would have saved a lot of trouble.

2) Walking on Sunshine

Look ma, one hand!

Look ma, one hand!

A big question leading up to this film was “How can Xavier walk again?” Well, turns out that Beast comes up with a serum that can both cure paralysis AND dampen your mutant powers. Aside from the fact that Beast and Xavier had a flipping CURE FOR PARALYSIS that they weren’t sharing with the world, there’s another issue here. Nobody would confine themselves to a wheelchair constantly for the rest of their life if they had a way out of it, so why isn’t Xavier out of his wheelchair more often? In fact, Beast also takes the serum, with no harmful side effects. There’s no reason for Xavier to not take a few days off from his wheelchair now and then.

3) Magic Bullets

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Turns out that Magneto is in prison for killing JFK. Thus explaining the curving of the magic bullet. However, once freed from prison, Magneto says that he actually was trying to save the president. When Xavier challenges him on this, mentioning that only the Master of Magnetism could curve a bullet, Magneto says that the actual people that wanted Kennedy dead stopped him before he could guide the bullet out of the way. What? I gotta think that curving a bullet out of the way would be pretty high up on your list of things not to do Mr. Magneto. How about stopping it in mid-air? Moving the car out of the way? Taking the gun away from Oswald? This is a guy that weaves metal fibers into multiple huge Sentinels at the same time, without looking at them, and he couldn’t stop one bullet?

4) Speaking of Bullets.

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Wolverine, Beast, Professor X, and Magneto set out to stop an assassination from happening that will trigger a horrible dystopia. Since he’s still walking around, Xavier’s powers aren’t working. So that leaves Magneto, Beast, and Wolverine. None of those people have powers that would allow them to sneak around easily. Well, maybe Nightcrawler wasn’t born yet? Ok, so its too bad that they couldn’t find someone that could sneak places. Oh, wait, except they just tracked down Quicksilver, who used his superspeed to save all of them from being shot the day before. And of course, there’s always Magneto, who should be able to stop a bullet…but he couldn’t stop one in the case of JFK, and he’s also the most unstable of all of them.

5) Blue Hulk

Beast Smash! Oh, wait, hang on...

Beast Smash! Oh, wait, hang on…

In a clear case of “needing” to get Nicholas Hoult more facetime, they went with the “I turn into a monster when I’m angry” route. Pathetic.

6) Phasing Out

See, it says "intangibility," nothing to do with time travel.

See, it says “intangibility,” nothing to do with time travel.

Can someone explain how Shadowcat, who has the power to phase through objects, can also send someone’s brain back in time?

So yeah, that’s a pretty bad job putting things together. But in the end, the movie is STILL great. Why? Because it erases or heavily changes the events portrayed in EVERY other X-Men film, except First Class! Brilliant! Also, the after credits scene is awesome!

But seriously, Bryan Singer, get your crap together and make a movie that still makes sense once you’re done thinking about it. And while you’re at it, we can go without hearing an F-bomb, or seeing Hugh Jackman’s nude bum. (Yes, both of those things happened in DOFP.)

My rating: 6/10 stars.

This Weekend in Cinema

Also out this weekend, the (bi-)annual stupid-fest that is an Adam Sandler film (Blended), Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, and forgettable films Words and Pictures and The Angriest Man in Brooklyn.

Must see: None.

Worth Your Time: X-Men: Days of Future PastStand Clear of the Closing Doors

Meh: None.

Stay Away: BlendedWords and PicturesThe Angriest Man in Brooklyn

Where do They Come From?

  • X-Men: Days of Future Past: A sequel yes, but directly adapted from the comic book story line. 
  • Blended: Original

Original: 20

Adaptation: 20

Sequel/Prequel: 6

Remake: 1

Re-release: 1

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY. They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely.

International films not included until end of year if Oscar potential exists. This weekend’s releases not included. Numbers in parenthesis are indicative of how many places the film moved from week to week.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) The Grand Budapest Hotel ( – )

2) Captain America: The Winter Soldier ( – )

3) The Lego Movie ( – )

4) Blue Ruin ( – )

5) Locke ( – )

6) Chef ( – )

7) Veronica Mars ( – )

8) Joe ( – )

9) Godzilla (NEW)

10) Belle ( – )

Absinthe USA

New deal –  if I’m doing a new release film review, then it will accompany TWIC. So…here goes.

Captain America and Falcon

Basically, Marvel’s done it again. Captain America: Winter Soldier is one of their best, safely making the top tier along with The Avengers and Iron Man. Marvel has an amazing knack for putting people in perfect roles. The Russo brothers, best known for the TV show Community, completely knock it out of the park, and a great cast is along for the ride.

Simply put, this is the best fight choreography I’ve seen in a film (martial arts films aside), and everyone gets in on it: Captain America, Falcon, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Winter Soldier, (the soon to be) Crossbones, everyone. The dialogue is witty, but not too over-the-top funny, well crafted, and not full of hot air.

For some of these actors, this is their second or third time around with these characters, and you can tell that they have grown into them. Chris Evans has always been great as Cap, but Scarlett Johanssen (Black Widow), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), and Toby Jones (Dr. Zola, in flashbacks) all take their characters to the next level. Thr0w in newcomers Robert Redford (Alexander Pierce), Anthony Mackie (Falcon), and Frank Grillo (Brock Rumlow), and you’ve got an amazing cast. UFC legend Georges St- Pierre, making his debut on the big screen, shows that he’s , delivering an engaging performance (and fight) as Marvel D-List villain Baltroc the Leaper.

As some people have already said, this is a spy movie dressed up in super hero clothing, with a story very relevant to what’s happening in the U.S. these days. And in a cinematic universe where the villains can be as charismatic as the heroes, Cap isn’t overshadowed, although we get a clear antithesis image of the shadowy Winter Soldier, a polar opposite to Steve Rodgers.

Whether you’re a comic book fan or not, you should really see this film. Oh, and on a side note, stay until after ALL the credits, or you’ll miss something really neat.

My rating: 9 out of 10 stars.

Also out this weekend in wide release: Afflicted, a new found-footage horror film.

Where do They Come From?

  • Captain America: Winter Solider : Sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers
  • Afflicted: Original

Original: 11

Adaptation: 15

Sequel/Prequel: 3

Remake: 1

Re-release: 1

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY. They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely.

International films not included until end of year if Oscar potential exists. This weekend’s releases not included. Numbers in parenthesis are indicative of how many places the film moved from week to week.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) The Grand Budapest Hotel ( – )

2) Captain America: The Winter Soldier (NEW)

3) The Lego Movie ( -1 )

4) Veronica Mars ( -1 )

5) Gimme Shelter ( -1 )

6) A Birder’s Guide to Everything ( -1 )

7) Mr. Peabody & Sherman ( -1 )

8) Muppets Most Wanted ( -1 )

9) Afflicted (NEW)

10) Grand Piano ( –2 )

The Blockbuster Report

Well, summer blockbuster season is officially upon us with the debut of Iron Man 3. As a huge Marvel fan, I was looking forward to this film a bunch, and I really enjoyed it. It obviously is my ‘Movie to See’ of the weekend. Here’s my review.

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In limited release this weekend, we have Michael Shannon starring in The Iceman, the romance Love is All You Need, western Dead Man’s Burden, and what could be a heart-wrenching modern rendition of What Maisie Knew. Oh yeah, and, Midget Zombie Takeover, sure to be an instant classic.

Where do the Movies Come From?

We only add one wide release this time. Iron Man 3 is a sequel in my counts, as it is a continuation of the Iron Man film series. It is the fifth sequel of the year.

Original: 17

Adaptation: 14

Sequel/Prequel: 5

Remake: 2

Re-release: 2

Oscarwatch (Not including this weekend’s films)

1) Mud

2) Upstream Color

3) The Place Beyond the Pines

4) 42

5) Side Effects

6) The Croods

7) Warm Bodies

8) Stoker

9) Evil Dead

10) Oz, the Great and Powerful

New additions: Mud (#1)

Departures: Oblivion

 

I get to write this while people all over are enjoying midnight showings. Yay for me!

This was always going to be a tricky one for Marvel. How to follow up The Avengers without building on it really, but still make a good film. I would say they were once again successful with Iron Man 3. However, this is the most polarizing Marvel Studios film to date, which I think is unfortunate. Most negative reviews I’ve read are not very well thought out or nit-picky, a consequence of having to deal with post-Avengers syndrome.

From the start, you can tell a new director is at the helm. This is a movie that is well written and funny, adding new darker tones to the quippy Stark, who can no longer sleep after the events in New York. The acting is great. Downey is his usual self, Cheadle gets to shine a bit and take the lead from time to time, Pierce and Kingsley are great villains, and Paltrow does fine as Pepper.

There’s a strong tinge of darker emotion in Iron Man 3. We’re not allowed to be light-hearted until the end, when we get a breath of fresh air. We see an emotionally wrecked Tony Stark, suffering from panic attacks and malfunctioning suits, undertaking a mission to save the woman he loves, we see Pepper Potts, taking a new role in protecting Tony and putting herself in danger, we see brutal attacks on the President and Stark, which leave savage distruction in their wake, and in the end, we see Stark trying to put a chapter of his life behind him.

There is one particular thing that is going to have many people upset, and it is odd that I am not one of them. I’ll just say this, don’t be bitter when you realize that Shane Black and Marvel completely had you fooled, hostage to the slight of hand. Also, I think it is fair to point out that Tony Stark does more detecting here than Batman does in the entire Dark Knight Trilogy, so thanks for that Chris Nolan.

You should go see this film, it is emotional, funny, and satisfying. Here’s hoping Downey is back for the next one.

Rating: 8/10

With the new trailer for Iron Man 3 out today, the buzz around the first Marvel Studios Phase 2 film is increasing. Interestingly, so are the voices comparing Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin with Tom Hardy’s Bane, from The Dark Knight Rises. And while it is somewhat understandable that these parallels are drawn, as they both are terrorists, and (oh my gosh), there is an exploding plane in Iron Man 3 AND in The Dark Knight Rises, that’s really where the similarities should end, because I tell you what, the Mandarin, from the look of these trailers, will completely blow Bane out of the water. Here are five reasons why:

iron-man-3-new-posters-featuring-the-mandarin

#5) His voice

No, I’m not that guy who thinks Bane was lame because of his voice. I thought it was a good touch, unique and menacing. But did it scare you? I was never scared by Bane’s voice, it was his look that was creepy. The way the Mandarin says “You’ll never see…me…coming” in the last trailer gave me goosebumps. And it was just his voice. Plus we will have the added benefit of being able to understand the Mandarin.

#4) He attacks a country, not a city.

Bane’s vendetta takes him to Gotham, his whole focus is bent on the destruction of Bruce Wayne’s city. Obviously the President knew about Bane after this happened. In Iron Man 3, the Mandarin is a Bin Laden type character, and he’s causing enough damage to make the President of the United States take notice and start a manhunt. These are international incidents. Bane, not so much. He’s en route to Gotham, wanted by the CIA yes, but he’s never the source of widespread media attention, and he is only addressed by the White House after he attacks Gotham. Mandarin is addressed as a global threat while remaining in the shadows, Bane isn’t the media’s concern until he arrives in Gotham and shows his face.

#3) He’s been there the whole time.

We’ve had hints that the Mandarin has been Stark’s nemesis for perhaps the duration of three films. The 10 Rings pop up in the first film as behind the terrorist cell that kidnaps Tony in the first place, and in the second film, it appears that the 10 Rings also got Ivan Vanko the paperwork to get into the car race that Stark had entered. Bane, he’s there for one film, and he hasn’t been behind the scenes in any of the other ones. Does that make him less tough? Not necessarily, but the Mandarin has been a thorn in Iron Man’s side without being seen for years. Bane can’t say the same.

#2) He (probably) won’t rely on plot holes

As great a job as Tom Hardy did as Bane, and he was great, his character relied on too many plot holes to do his damage. My favorite is that a terrorist can walk into a major stock exchange, with dozens of witnesses, and trade away Bruce Wayne’s wealth. This much is plausible, but if you’re trying to tell me that the U.S. Government wouldn’t reverse those trades within 24 hours, especially considering they were all done through Wayne’s account, and not some secret one that required hacking, then I have some seaside land in Kansas I’d like to tell you about. Put it this way, if that happened in real life to Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, the feds would certainly step in. And then the GCPD inexplicably sends all their manpower into the sewers at the same time, making it easy for Bane and his minions.

#1) He’s not a lackey.

Ok, and this is where my worry comes in if DC/Warner Brothers are letting Christopher Nolan change essential parts of characters and stories. It WRECKS them. In the comics, Bane is a master tactician who carefully plans Batman’s downfall. He exhausts Batman, who is at the top of his game, and then comes in and breaks him. In the film, Bane shows up when Batman is a pansy, hiding away for eight years, who has a wrecked body. This is the Batman that Nolan’s Bane breaks, an out of shape Batman. Any Batman villain with any strength could have broken him – Killer Croc, Clayface, maybe even someone like Hush or Prometheus. That is a major watering down of a huge comic book moment.

Side note, it looks like Marvel might actually have a similar storyline to Knightfall (the Breaking the Bat storyline mentioned above), but instead of Bane breaking Batman, the Mandarin will be breaking Tony Stark. That’s embarrassing. Having a great storyline, having a chance to execute it, missing that chance, and letting your main rival walk right in and use a similar story in their next big film. Fail. 

Even worse than wrecking Bane’s ‘Breaking the Bat,’ was his treatment at the end of the film. It turns out, Bane was just Talia’s lackey all along. So much for his being a master tactician. There’s no way this happens with Mandarin, just as there is no way War Machine will show up with a bazooka and kill him like Catwoman did to Bane, as if the screenwriters just said, “Dang, the end of this film is coming up quickly, we better bump Bane off!”

So there you have it. Mandarin wins. Yes, all these reasons come with just under two months before Iron Man 3 comes out, so I may be assuming some things. But I’m coming off a 20 for 24 night of picking the correct Oscar winners, so I’m feeling good about my predictions. Maybe if Nolan had respected the source material it would be different.

I really love this time of year. Christmas is coming up, there are great movies coming out and the awards season is upon us. I went to see Lincoln last night, and I’ll have a review of that coming next week in tandem with the first Hobbit film, which I will be seeing tomorrow. I always wait until the end of the calendar year to make official predictions and Top 10 lists, but in a truly great year for cinema, I feel the need to break the following news to certain people.

Jennifer Lawrence: Silver Linings Playbook, not The Hunger Games.

This happens every year. People think the Oscars, Golden Globes, etc. are all just a popularity contest. And although one shouldn’t deny that the Academy has their favorites, it is important to realize there are no teenagers involved in Oscar balloting. No, Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t deserve any nominations for her outing as Katniss Everdeen. I’d be surprised if The Hunger Games receives any nominations at all. It’s outclassed by plenty of more deserving films, and it can’t stand up to other blockbusters, who routinely snag the “lesser” awards in special effects and art direction. From an artistic standpoint, it hasn’t a chance, and films like The AvengersThe Dark Knight Rises, and Prometheus will bury it in the blockbuster categories. It was a decent outing for Lawrence, but really nothing amazingly special. 

No Major Awards for Bond, Batman, or the Avengers. 

While they did plenty of things right, there’s no way The AvengersThe Dark Knight Rises, or Skyfall will be taking home major hardware. The Bond flick could procure some nice nominations, as Javier Bardem and Judi Dench have seen already, but nothing in the manner of Best Screenplay or Best Picture. The Avengers, the movie of the year at the box office and the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater ever, isn’t the type of film the Academy likes, although it should get some special effects love. And Batman? Sorry, but your movie just wasn’t that great. I enjoyed it sure, but too many plot holes and stupid death scenes. Plus, I wouldn’t nominate any of the actors, even the supporting ones, because they didn’t have enough to work with. Again, we could see some “minor award,” but  nothing big, and that’s fine.

Argo and Zero Dark Thirty Could be Sneaky

Don’t be surprised if these two sneak up on everything and snag some major hardware. Nominated for five Golden Globes, Ben Affleck’s Argo has flown under the radar since its release, and Zero Dark Thirty is just starting to pick up the pace, and could challenge films like Lincoln and Les Miserables for some key awards, especially in the acting department.

The Special Effects Race will be Tight

The special effects awards could break any which way at this point. Prometheus was mesmerizing, The Avengers was done very well, and Life of Pi has been getting rave reviews in this department. And as disappointing as it was to many viewers, Cloud Atlas has been kicking up some dust as well. A lot of deserving candidates out there now.

That’s all I have for now. Feel free to respond with some input or predictions you have. My Top Ten Films list will come out at the end of this month, and I always like discussing it with folks, so let me know what you think.

P.S. I’m as baffled as you are by the attention given to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. The book is good though.