Saturday, September 30, 2017



After the release of Iron Man 2, which truly began to set the wheels for The Avengers, they still had to bring in other superheroes of course. They had already done an "Incredible Hulk" movie, but due to a re-casting of the Hulk, no one really knows if that movie is canon or not. So this was really the first movie in the Avengers series to feature a hero other than Iron Man... with a cast member who actually stayed on. 

Much like Iron Man, Thor takes us into somewhat more obscure territories of Marvel. Norse mythology in the Marvel universe? Seriously? Well, they had to set up the sci-fi part of the MCU somehow since they weren't ready to give us Guardians of the Galaxy yet. 

Thor does indeed center around the God of Thunder and his large hammer with insane power. While he hails from Asgard--another "realm" entirely, also from Norse mythology--much of the movie actually does take place on Earth. Why? Because Thor--heir to the throne--does something really stupid and starts a war. Early on in the movie, he's both arrogant and a bit battle-hungry. So his father Odin strips of him his power and banishes him to Earth. 

So thus he is stuck on Earth, forced to live without his power and to learn a few life lessons and be confused by Earth customs. Meanwhile on Asgard, there's still trouble as Thor's brother, Loki, wants to stir up some trouble of his own. Unfortunately the original trailers never even tried to hide the twist of Loki being the main antagonist--even if it's not that shocking anyway. 

While Thor may throw us quite a bit of Norse mythology--which many may be unfamiliar with--and does some more universe-building, it's actually fairly simplistic. It's actually not that different from Iron Man's origin story in that the titular character ends up in a situation that makes him rethink life and have to become a better person. The only difference maybe being that Thor takes more strides--he's more obviously a hero and changed man by the end of this movie (not to discount Tony Stark's redemption). 

Now one thing that might seem strange to some is that this movie is directed by Kenneth Branagh. A guy who's mostly known for his Shakespearean film adaptions doing a superhero movie? He actually pulls it off quite well. We're given mostly likable and memorable characters--from Thor himself and his love interest Jane Foster to even the antagonist Loki, who got a good start to his long tenure as the most memorable Marvel villain. It's a well-made movie with strong action sequences and special effects and good pacing. The story, even if predictable, is well done too. There's also quite a strong cast, including Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Idris Elba and Anthony Hopkins. Plus Samuel L. Jackson in another post-credits scene. 

While Thor may not be among the strongest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe pack, it's still quite good enough to stand on its own. It's noteworthy in that it was really the first big risk for Marvel Studios--it could've easily misfired--but they pulled it off quite well and continued to set up future movies too. It may not be truly special, but it's still as good a superhero film as any. 

Friday, September 22, 2017



I have to admit, I'm not entirely sure how to introduce this one. Apparently the people who made this weren't either--they start off with a car crash that leads to a voice-over monologue before giving us the incredibly boring setup that we have a hard time caring about. But this is a movie that, despite a strong cast and decent enough looking action, was filmed in 2014 and then somehow took nearly three years to get released. That's not a good sign. 

The film centers around this guy Casey (Nicholas Hoult) in Germany who's working for a drug dealer and falls for a fellow American in Germany--Juliette (Felicity Jones). He gives up his old life to be with her, but trouble comes up in their new life pretty quick when it turns out Juliette needs a kidney transplant. Which they don't have the money for and it can't be done in Germany because reasons. So Casey is left desperate in need of money to help keep his new girlfriend alive. Hmmm... where do you think he'll turn for *that?* 

The tagline for this film is "How far would you go for the one you love?" And the idea is pretty much anything goes if you're trying to save someone you love. (Which of course opens up another can of worms... but that's besides the point.) Kind of like Taken, only this time it's two boring lovebirds instead of Liam Neeson trying to save his daughter. In this case, it ends up being difficult to care about the whole "romance" angle and "I'm doing it for her" deal when their relationship feels rather forced due in part to a very lazy script and sloppy direction. I like Nicholas Hoult and Felicity Jones, but they don't have much chemistry here and they're given very little to work with on their own in general. So ultimately we have a dull plot with questionable direction, some nonsensical moments and two main characters we don't really care about. 

So what is salvageable about this film? Mostly Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley. Yes, they somehow got dragged into this mess. But unlike Hoult and Jones, they make the best of what they're given, resulting in rather gloriously over-the-top performances. Hopkins in particular gives a rather hilarious monologue to Hoult's character before an attempted torture scene. It works quite well, especially given the fact that you've been pretty bored for most of the movie up to that point. 

Also, while most of the action scenes aren't anything special, it is worth bringing to attention that because this movie takes place in Germany, it also takes place on the autobahn at times. In other words, we actually get an autobahn car chase at one point--and that turns out to be pretty awesome. It's the best and arguably only good set piece of the movie (save for *maybe* a climactic bar confrontation). Considering how rare an autobahn car chase is though, it's just a shame that it had to be in a below-average movie like this. And not even in, say, a Fast and Furious movie. 

So yes, Collide has a few fun things about it that make it not a total waste of time--even if most of the first half is pretty boring. But it's still kind of a wasted effort that didn't have a whole lot of hope from the start. The biggest draw is the cast--and many will probably wonder why they signed up for this. I enjoyed watching Hopkins and Kingsley ham it up, though. The film's a mess, but it's an occasionally enjoyable mess. And I guess that's better than being a nonredeemable mess.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword


Who knew it could be this difficult to put out a halfway decent King Arthur movie? The last wide-release outing with the character back in 2004 (simply titled King Arthur) was a complete mess that barely had anything to do with the actual mythology, taking place in the Roman Empire era for some reason. It was also surprisingly boring. Now we have a new outing, and this one's actually a little better... which is not really saying anything at all. 

This one at least actually takes place in Camelot, and it does use the classic Excalibur "sword in the stone" mythology here. It also involves Arthur being unaware of his heritage due to a treacherous relative having taken over the throne who is ruling the general populace with an iron fist. Once Arthur pulls out the sword, a small resistance of sorts immediately bands with him. He is encouraged to use the sword to mow down Vortigern, the kind of Britain who stole his birthright, but he is rather reluctant to accept his destiny. 

The story itself isn't too awful--it sort of adheres to the Arthurian legend a bit more than the last attempt did. And there's a few interesting ideas here and there. Merlin isn't involved much, but there are some more mages in this general version of the King Arthur universe, which is an interesting touch. Excalibur's powers are seemingly upped quite a bit to some slightly cool effect (although the editing kind of robs such scenes of actually being that good). 

The big problem is that the film is rather incoherent. Guy Ritchie's directorial style worked well for his Sherlock Holmes movies, but it does not work well here. We're given an overdose of horrible editing, some awkward camera jumps, confusing transitions, and out of sequence dialogue (discussing what will happen in the next scene while we're actually watching said next scene). Simply put, all too often you will probably have no idea what the heck is happening. 

The action sequences do not fare that well either. Once again, there is a lot of poor editing, as well as weird camera angles, shaky cam, and some weird use of going from slow-mo to overly sped up and back again which really doesn't work well here. It's a shame too, because there's a couple of sequences that would've probably been pretty cool if not for all that.

The acting is a bit iffy as well. I just wasn't sold with Charlie Hunnam as Arthur. He never showed much charisma or much of anything, really. Jude Law fared better as the villain, but the few remaining actors you might've actually heard of (Djimon Hounsou and Eric Bana) aren't given much to work with in general, which also suggests an iffy script.

This movie is pretty close to being a complete disaster. There's a couple of decent things about it here and there, but it's just all too hard to follow and lacks coherence. There are times when you say "that's cool," but then there are other times when you wonder how this actually ended up being the finished product. Thus, this is another failed attempt at adapting the King Arthur legends and it could potentially be the last one for a while. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Iron Man 2


Universe building is a fun thing, isn't it? If they weren't quite fully doing it yet in the first Iron Man movie because they didn't know if it would take off, they certainly were in this movie. It might be called "Iron Man 2," but it's also what begins the actual steps towards The Avengers. But because Iron Man was the first movie they made and the Hulk movie from that year didn't take off as well, it's also an Iron Man sequel. 

Tony Stark is Iron Man now and he's a better person than he was before, but he's still got work to do. And he's trying to make the world a safer place, but again... he's still got work to do. It might be easy at first when no one else is really a match for you, but when some Russian dude builds his own weapon out of the arc reactor technology, that might be a bit of a problem. You know what might also be a problem? Having the palladium core in your arc reactor that's keeping you alive also ironically slowly poisoning you to death. So yeah, Tony's new life isn't so easy. 

Elsewhere in the movie, we also get to deal with the continued dealings with SHIELD and Nick Fury, and we also get to have the introduction of Black Widow, who later becomes a frequent character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series. Oh yeah, and there's a post-credits scene teasing the next film, Thor, so yeah... they're universe building.

When this movie first came out, it was considered disappointing to many for not being as good as the first Iron Man. But it's actually pretty great as well--it stands alongside the first just fine. It has a good enough storyline with various subplots and a couple of twists here and there. Jon Favreau's direction still works quite well. On the action front, the final confrontation is somewhat underwhelming, but there are still some great action scenes--namely the racetrack scene where the villain Whiplash is introduced, Black Widow vs. a dozen security guards, and Tony having a skirmish with his buddy Rhodes--with both of them in Iron Man suits. Things get slightly slow two-thirds of the way through, but they kick up again eventually--otherwise, the film manages to keep one's interest throughout. 

The casting is still pretty great. Robert Downey Jr. owns his role as usual and Scarlett Johansson works quite well in her introduction. Samuel L. Jackson is in this movie more, and he's also great as usual. Although I enjoyed Jeff Bridges' over-the-top performance in the first movie, Mickey Rourke is decently threatening as the main villain in his own right--especially once you see where his character is coming from. Sam Rockwell is also good, and he and Rourke have a lot of pretty hilarious snark with each other. 

Iron Man 2 is actually a pretty underrated film. While it's not necessarily a classic or anything, it still does what it's supposed to do--be an Iron Man sequel *and* start setting up The Avengers--and it does it well. It's not quite on the top tier of MCU movies, but it's not on the lower tier either. Of course, when you have Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark around, it's pretty much impossible for one of these movies to be a complete letdown, isn't it?