K & M Commentary: The Many Reactions to Superman/Batman

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One of the biggest bits of news filtering out of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con was that Warner Brothers and DC Comics would be featuring Batman in the Man of Steel sequel slated for 2015. Now you can imagine the plethora of comments and opinions that immediately followed the announcement. They ranged from childlike jubilation to doomsday prophecies! But considering what little information we have so far isn’t it all just speculation at this point? But ya know, we bloggers love to speculate. That’s half the fun.

There are several ways to look at the announcement and several legitimate points of view. Lets look at some of the prominent opinions coming from the news:

1. Some see this as nothing more than a desperate cash grab and an attempt to catch up to Marvel’s bustling movie universe. Now there’s no denying that there is an element of truth to that. Clearly Marvel has taken a huge lead in the comic book to big screen category. With the exception of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and to a smaller degree the recent “Man of Steel” film, the DC Comics universe has failed to really flourish on the big screen. But that doesn’t automatically mean that this is desperation or a cash in. It’s not as if a Superman/Batman collaboration is completely unheard of. The two have shared a largely successful comic book with each other for years now. Therefore it wouldn’t be a stretch to see them together on the big screen. As for desperation, while I had never heard a confirmation, I had heard that the idea of bringing these two iconic superheroes together in a movie had been played around with before. With Nolan’s trilogy in the books, this would be as good a time as any to bring along the next vision of Batman.

2. Some have already written this idea off as a disaster. They believe this will ruin and undermine everything that Christopher Nolan accomplished in his Dark Knight trilogy. Many think that shoehorning Batman into the new Superman franchise does a disservice to the character and runs the risk of alienating fans of the one great property that their movie universe possesses. Again, these are some legitimate concerns but very premature ones. With such little information out there about how and how much Batman will be used, it’s really impossible to say anything with certainty. Again, there is a wealth if history between these two characters so it’s reasonable to believe that Batman’s inclusion could be done really well.

3. And then there are those that are bubbling with excitement. I must admit, when I first heard the news I fell into this category. As a long time comic book reader, the thought of these two phenomenal heroes meeting on film as thrilling. The possibilities are endless. This could be the launching point into the new Batman series. This could be the launching point of the Justice League film that has been talked about for years. In my eyes the potential for something great is off the scales. But optimistic fans have reason to be cautious. Again, we don’t know very much. Will Batman be utilized in a way that makes for a good movie AND keeps the character on the same firm footing where Nolan left him? Will his role be weighty enough to feel justified and warranted? These are real concerns but none are bigger than this: Who will play Batman? For me this is a crucial ingredient to making this whole thing work. There’s a lot of complexity and layers to the Bruce Wayne/Batman character and poor casting could derail every bit of potential. This is enough cause to be a little cautious.

So is there reason to be concerned? Absolutely. Is there reason to write it off? Absolutely not. In fact I think the sheer potential of the idea is enough to get fanboys and movie fans excited and curious. But whatever your position one thing is for sure, Warner Brothers has everyone talking about this and that’s a good thing. Now here’s hoping they deliver the goods. After all, in the end that’s all that matters.

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REVIEW: “The Amazing Spider-Man”

It was 2007 when we last saw Spider-Man on the big screen in the underwhelming and over-blown “Spider-Man 3”. While nowhere near as good as the first two films, “Spider-Man 3” still earned close to $900 million at the box office. In light of that, plans for “Spider-Man 4” immediately took off. But the movie had several problems including creative differences between director Sam Raimi and Sony Pictures which resulted in his departure from the project. The decision was made to scrap “Spider-Man 4” and instead opt for a complete reboot of the popular Marvel Comics franchise. That meant good-bye to Tobey Maguire and hello to Andrew Garfield.

So that brings us to “The Amazing Spider-Man”. Marc Webb takes over the directing duties with James Vanderbilt handling the writing. Vanderbilt goes heavy into the origin of Spider-Man, this time with some new twists but also with the same basic premise. The film starts with Peter Parker’s (Garfield) parents being spooked after their home study is ransacked. In the study, Peter’s father retrieves some secret documents from their hiding place – obviously what the intruders were searching for – then along with Peter’s mother drops Peter off with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) before hurriedly leaving.

We then skip ahead several years. Peter is the quiet, nerdy teen interested in science, photography, and a beautiful fellow student named Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Peter finds out that his father had ties to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), an accomplished scientist working for Oscorp. Connors lost his right arm some time ago and thinks he’s found a solution to his handicap through his cross-species regeneration experiments. After slipping into Connors’ Oscorp lab, Peter begins snooping around and comes across an experiment involving – what else – genetically altered spiders. You know the story – he’s bit which leads to new powers and new responsibilities. Meanwhile events unfold that cause Connors to prematurely try out his regeneration formula on himself and, as I’m sure you guessed, it goes terribly wrong. It transforms him into a super strong, destructive, reptilian creature and Peter, now known as Spider-Man, is the only one who can stop him.

As I mentioned above, the movie spends a lot of time retelling the origin of Spider-Man. It’s certainly not a carbon copy of Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man picture, in fact it seems to go to great lengths to distant itself from the original three movies. Several key parts of the origin differ greatly not only from the previous films but from the comic book source material as well. But originality isn’t a bad thing as long as the source material is respected and it certainly is here. But the film’s biggest problem is also tied into the decision to go heavy into the origin. While it is well written and stands strong on its own, I never could get over the feeling that it was just too soon for a reboot. Even with the fresh approach it still felt too familiar and at about the 1 hour 15 minute mark I was really ready for the story to move on.

But there are some things that “The Amazing Spider-Man” does better than the previous films. On thing is the relationship between Peter and Gwen. I really responded to their complicated romance and it felt more genuine and real than the Peter/Mary Jane relationship in the first movies ever did. Here it felt authentic and I bought into their emotions and affections. I also think more attention was given to fleshing it out whereas Peter and M.J. from the first films were built around a very simple blueprint and they stuck closely to it.

I also think Andrew Garfield was fantastic and his performance was head and shoulders above Tobey Maguire’s. He played the nerdy, reserved introvert very well and even after he gains his powers, Garfield never overplays his character. He throws out just enough witty banter with the criminals he’s putting away and I never doubted the genuineness of his scenes that required more raw emotion. A lot of that is due to Garfield but a lot is also due to how well Vanderbilt handles the character in his writing. I was also a big fan of Emma Stone’s performance. She’s grounded and believable and she sells her character very well. Sally Field and Martin Sheen are serviceable as Aunt May and Uncle Ben and Denis Leary makes for a pretty decent Captain Stacy, Gwen’s father. But the real stars are Garfield and Stone.

The special effects are quite good particularly during the huge, action-packed finale. The spider-influenced fight choreography is a lot of fun and there are several cool tricks used to give Spider-Man’s New York City swinging a different look than in the previous movies. As far as the Lizard goes, he’s a little of a mixed bag. There are times, especially during the fight sequences, when he looks very good. I also remember a specific scene where the Lizard looks awesome as he was walking around in a ripped Connors lab coat. But there are also a few scenes where the CGI was very noticeable and regardless of the attempts at motion capture, it still looked a little unrealistic. But as a whole the visuals are very good. They’re not overused and for the most part they capture exactly what you would want from a Spider-Man picture.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” can’t quite escape the fact that it just feels too soon to be offering up a rebooted Spider-Man series. In light of that, the first half of the film can drag and it seems a little wasted. The movie definitely creates its own unique beginning but the thrust of the origin is nothing all that new. That aside, Garfield is a big improvement as Spider-Man and his character is one I can really invest in. Now with the origin out of the way, I’m anxious to see where the series goes next. If they’re able to keep their components in place and avoid the trappings of “Spider-Man 3”, we could be in for a real treat.

VERDICT – 3.5 STARS

Review: “The Avengers”

Marvel Studio’s “The Avengers” is the culmination of what may be the most ambitious project in film history. For those movie fans who have been living in a cave for the past several years, Marvel has been releasing several individual superhero movies that have all set the table for this huge event film. Two “Iron Man” pictures, “Captain America”, “Thor”, and “The Incredible Hulk” have all been linked together through brief reoccuring cameos and hidden after-credits scenes that refer to something called “The Avengers Initiative”. As any comic book geek could tell you, that’s a reference to the Marvel superhero team that first debuted in comics in 1963. On the surface, the idea for an Avengers film that’s directly tied into other individual superhero movies sounds great. On the flip side, even though the other films have been good, there are still plenty of areas where “The Avengers” could go off track. Well as a movie and comic book fan, I’m happy to say that “The Avengers” not only meets the challenges of it’s vision, but it’s an action packed adrenaline rush that offers some of the most fun I’ve had at the theater this year.

To handle this rather large undertaking, Marvel placed the project in the hands of Joss Whedon. Whedon was a good choice mainly due to his variety of experience. He’s found success in television, film, and comic books and he uses his knowledge of each combined with Disney’s deep pockets to create a movie that would appeal to the fanboy and the casual moviegoer alike. One thing that helps Whedon is that the film doesn’t require your traditional origin story. While we do see the generation of the team, we know all of the characters from the previous Marvel movies so Whedon is able to dive right into the story. That being said, don’t mistake this for a deep, engaging story that will challenge the audience. But I’ll also say that anyone going into “The Avengers” for that has already missed the point.

Throughout the other Marvel films, particularly “Captain America”, we learned about a cosmic energy source known as the cosmic cube. In “The Avengers”, S.H.E.I.L.D. head honcho Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has a team of scientists led by physicist Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) trying to harness the power of the cube, now known as the Tesseract. But suddenly the cube activates and opens a portal allowing the evil Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to entire the facility and steal it. Knowing the immense threat associated with the Tesseract being in the wrong hands, Fury activates the Avengers Initiative. But getting such a diverse group of superheroes to cooperate and coexist proves to be a lot harder than expected.

Fury starts by contacting Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). He sends her to India to find Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) while sending Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) to Stark Tower to speak to Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). While the two are gone, he approaches Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and sends him on a mission to retrieve the Tesseract. Upon hearing of Loki’s involvement, the thunder god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) also entires the mix as does the marksman and assassin known as Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Each of the heroes have their own baggage and their own personalities which often times clash to the point of dysfunction. But their disagreements give us some of the movie’s cooler and often times funnier moments. As you would expect the situation worsens and it’s up to the team to pull together or the world will be taken over starting with New York City.

It’s a pretty cut-and-dry story but it really works because Whedon understand his characters and he knows what kind of movie he’s trying to make. His familiarity with the Marvel comic book universe is clearly seen throughout the picture but nowhere more than in his treatment of the characters. As a comic book fan, I was really impressed with how they all felt right and it’s clear that the source material played a big role in shaping the on-screen versions. But Whedon never falls into the trap of taking things too seriously. The movie is filled with laugh out loud funny moments that are cleverly used and they never feel cheap or forced. They mix perfectly with the razor-sharp dialogue and the jaw-dropping action sequences. But the fantastic action and special effects shouldn’t surprise anyone. Afterall, “The Avengers” is a superhero action picture and Whedon knows it. The action comes at a furious pace and I can see where some may view it as relentless. Personally, I was completely wrapped up in it. The movie sells the superhero action through some of the most spectacular visuals and editing that you’ll see. I was blown away.

I can’t write a review of “The Avengers” without mentioning the incredible cast. One of the reasons the Marvel films and particularly “The Avengers” works so well is because of the amazing casting. Everyone is invested in their character and not one single performer phones it in. Downey, Jr. continues to be the perfect Tony Stark mainly due to his natural ability to use sarcasm and fire off funny quips without hesitation. Chris Evans, known more for his goofier roles,  is also quite good as the serious and straight-laced Captain America. I also really liked Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner. He’s the third actor to take on the role and he nails it. Much like Downey, Jr., Hemsworth is the perfect Thor and he shares some of the film’s best scenes with Hulk. Renner and Johannson also handle their roles very well. But I have to give special time to the wonderful Tom Hiddleston. He’s a remarkably diverse actor and he shows it here. His Loki is mysterious, mischievous, and evil and Hiddleston slithers through his scenes stealing many of them. There are also nice smaller performances from Gregg, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cobie Smulders that are just icing on the cake.

I can see where some people may not respond as positively as I did to “The Avengers”. The action is pretty much start-to-finish and if you’re not interested in the characters you’ll have a hard time embracing the story. There are also a few shortcuts taken with the story for the sake of convenience that could have been done a little better. For me, I have a connection to these characters through all my years of comic book reading and this film exceeded my expectations. But being a comic reader isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying this movie. If you’ve liked what Marvel has put out leading to it, you’re going to love “The Avengers”. Sure, it’s a loud, energetic summer popcorn flick, but it’s also a really good one. It’s honest and it never tries to be something it’s not. Featuring one of the better ensemble casts and some top-notch directing from Joss Whedon, “The Avengers” is a big budget blockbuster that actually deserves all the money it’s going to rake it. When’s the next showing? I’m ready to see it again.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

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Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2012

TOP 10 MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS OF 2012

2011 gave us some memorable movies but overall it wasn’t the best year for film lovers. But fear not, 2012 seems to have a fantastic lineup of potentially great films. The year’s lineup is loaded with big-budget sequels, action-packed ensembles, trilogy finales, historical dramas, and much more. Here are my Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2012:

#10 – “THE BOURNE LEGACY”

The fourth installment of the popular Bourne series brings with it some major changes. Tony Gilroy directs but the biggest draw for me is the addition of Jeremy Renner in the lead role. Renner plays Aaron Cross and is joined by fellow cast members Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Albert Finney, Scott Glenn, and Oscar Isaac. I’m a huge Renner fan and if anyone can capture the intensity of a Jason Bourne styled character, it will be him.

#9 – “THE GREAT GATSBY”

There have been several adaptations of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”. 2012’s big screen version brings a strong cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, and Tobey Maquire. It’s set for a December 25th release which often times indicates that the film is aimed at awards season. Here’s hoping that this classic story gets a classic treatment in 2012.

#8 – “DJANGO UNCHAINED”

Speaking of stellar casts, how can you not be excited about a film that features the talents of Jaime Fox, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Don Johnson? Quentin Tarantino writes and directs this film described as a spaghetti western but I’m sure with a Tarantino twist. With Tarantino you never know what to expect but it’s always new, fresh, and unlike anything you have seen before.

#7 – “PROMETHEUS”

If you enjoyed the “Alien” pictures (particularly the first two), then you have to be excited about Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus”. While it’s said to definitely be connected to the “Alien” movies, “Prometheus” is essentially its own story and as a Ridley Scott fan, I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us. Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Guy Pearce, and Charlize Theron only make the prospects sweeter. The teaser trailer looks moody, mysterious, and downright creepy. I can’t wait.

#6 – “THE AVENGERS”

I’m a long time comic book reader and super-hero fan so Marvel’s “The Avengers” certainly is on my radar. I’ve had loads of fun with the movies focused on the individual heroes and now we get them all together in what could be a really, really good film or a cluttered mess. I’m optimistic especially considering that Marvel has had this in the works well before the individual films were made. That bigger vision could equal one fun summer popcorn flick. Downey, Jr., Evans, Johansson, Hiddleston, Ruffalo, Jackson, Hemsworth, and Renner provide plenty of acting muscle to pull this thing off.

#5 – “THE HOBBIT”

2012 also gives us the first part of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit”. As a huge fan of what he did with “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, I have full confidence that he will give us another exciting experience in Middle-Earth. Many actors reprise their roles including Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, and Andy Serkis. I fully expect this to be another rousing visual accomplishment and Jackson’s familiarity with the material will be evident. Set for a December release, what a way to end the year!

#4 – “SKYFALL”

I have never been the biggest James Bond fan but that all changed when Daniel Craig took over the role in “Casino Royale”. “Skyfall” is Craig’s third film as 007 and the first since 2008. Adding to the excitement is the casting of Javier Bardem as Bond’s main antagonist. Craig’s Bond has passed over the overtly cheesy dialogue and suave sophistication and replaced it with a tougher, grittier Bond that’s more grounded in reality. I’ve loved his first two films and can’t wait for “Skyfall“.

#3 – “THE WETTEST COUNTY”

The Wettest County” is a film that excites me on the sheer strength of its cast and it’s depression-era setting. It instantly makes my list just for starring personal favorites of mine Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, and Gary Oldman plus 2011 breakout actress Jessica Chastain. Australian John Hillcoat, also known for 2009’s “The Road”, directs the Nick Cave screenplay. This film has flown under most people’s radar but I see it as loaded with potential and featuring some brilliant talent. “The Wettest County” hits select theaters in August.

#2 – “LINCOLN”

Some have mentioned having “Spielberg Fatigue” but I can’t say that fits me. But to be honest Steven Spielberg isn’t the reason I’m excited about 2012’s “Lincoln”. Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the most gifted actors in film and his last work in 2007’s “There Will Be Blood” was one of the single best performances I have ever seen. Needless to say I can’t wait to see him portray Abraham Lincoln. A fantastic supporting cast has been placed around him featuring Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, John Hawkes, Hal Holbrook, and more. If Spielberg keeps himself under control, this could turn out to be a true motion picture classic.

#1 – “THE DARK KNIGHT RISES”

Christopher Nolan has made super-hero movies into more than just summer popcorn pictures. His brilliant “The Dark Knight” wasn’t just a comic book movie. It was a dark and complex film featuring perfect direction, great performances, and impeccable sound and visuals. Nolan’s trilogy comes to an end with “The Dark Knight Rises” and everything points to this being another amazing picture. Joining the cast for the final installment are Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Returning is Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman. Nolan is one of the top directors in Hollywood and there is no reason to think he’s not going to finish his Batman run with a phenomenal final chapter.

Agree or disagree? Maybe there’s a movie you’re looking forward to seeing that didn’t make my list. Leave your comments below and share what you think of the 2012 movie releases.