Bro-Reviews: Incredibles 2

Not so incredible.

It’s been nearly a decade and a half since the release of “The Incredibles”, one of Pixar’s top films according to most. While some may argue the film told the story it wanted to tell and wrapped it up nicely, many craved for a sequel. It didn’t help that other Pixar films also got overdue sequels in the meantime, such as “Monsters University”, the prequel to “Monster’s Inc.”, “Finding Dory”, the sequel to “Finding Nemo”, and “Toy Story 3”, the third film in the beloved franchise and the one that started it all for Pixar. Brad Bird, the director of the first “Incredibles”, heard the fans’ cries for a sequel, and over a decade later, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, Dash, Violet, Jack Jack, Edna Mode, and Frozone have all found their super suits for one last shot at superhero glory in “Incredibles 2.”

“Incredibles 2” picks up right where the first film ended, with the Parrs/ Incredibles doing battle with “The Underminer”. After a lengthy battle that causes damage to the city, the Parrs/ Incredibles and all other Supers are forced to adhere to their secret identities due to the authority’s concern over the level of damage caused. However, Bob/ Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), Helen/ Elastigirl (voiced by Helen Hunt), and Lucius Best/ Frozone (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) are approached by Wisnton Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk), the owner of telecommunications company and super hero fanatic who wants to bring supers back into the spotlight under a positive image. With Deavor suggesting Elastigirl should be the first to test his strategy and fight crime, Bob finds himself struggling with the day to day duties of being a father to his daughter Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell), his son Dash (voiced by Huck Milner), and infant son Jack Jack (voiced by Eli Fucile), all the while a new nemesis arises, “The Screenslaver”.

At this point, there is very little in the way of slowing down the Pixar machine. Pixar’s animation continues to be the envy of all animation studios, as “Incredibles 2” features their trademark crisp, clear, and colorful animation. One of the more impressive feats in the animation in this film is just how busy and action packed it all is. For a studio that has built its reputation on family friendly vehicles, one could mistake “Incredibles 2” for an animated version of Marvel’s “Fantastic Four” property, as it’s definitely the most violent and action oriented Pixar film to date. This should please most audiences, and it’s worth noting just how high of a bar Pixar has set the animation standard with its latest money printer.

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Helen Hunt, Eli Fucile, and Craig T. Nelson in “Incredibles 2”.

The voice cast does an excellent job once again. Helen Hunt’s southern twang lends itself incredibly well to Elastigirl, as she is a standout in the film. Craig T. Nelson also gets mileage out of playing an exhausted father dealing with the pitfalls of being a stay at home parent, a welcome change from the traditional family roles we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in film. Veteran actors Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener, who voices Deavor’s technologically gifted sister, Evelyn, also do a fine job in their roles as a dynamic brother and sister business duo. Sarah Vowell’s Violet stands out of the Parr’s/ Incredible’s children as an angsty, moody teenager dealing with the perils of adolescence, but Jack Jack does get his due in the film as well.

Unfortunately, despite the near decade and a half wait for the film, “Incredibles 2” comes up disappointingly short. Whereas the first “Incredibles” told the story of a family finally coming together and accepting their differences (*along with a harrowing premonition of how fanatic/ fanboy culture will invade society), “Incredibles 2” feels like a sequel made to cash in, similar to Pixar’s weaker films such as the “Cars” follow-ups. The film definitely has the attitude of “bigger is better”, and while its action sequences are impressive and at first thrilling, they are far too long and lose steam after a while. A subplot involving other, less notable Supers goes nowhere, and the film’s twist is beyond predictable. Other than the film’s gender norms reversal, there isn’t anything that new or inventive here, a disappointingly hallow result considering Pixar’s impressive track record.

While “Incredibles 2” has its moments, the near decade and a half follow up to the first film fails to meet expectations. Despite a great voice cast and expert animation, “Incredibles 2” suffers from the dreaded disease known as “sequelitis”, as the filmmakers have forgone a gripping story in favor of prolonged action sequences that lose your attention they longer they drag on. Despite its titular name, “Incredibles 2” is far from incredible.

Rating: 2.5/4 stars. Pay low matinée price.

“Incredibles 2” stars Craig T. Nelson, Helen Hunt, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Eli Fucile, Samuel L. Jackson, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, and Brad Bird. It is in theaters now.

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Bro-Reviews: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Lost in space.

It bears reminding that Disney’s quest to take over the world came into great focus after they purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion back in 2012. This purchase came with the promise that not only would there be a new trilogy of “Star Wars” films, but also spin-off films of some of our favorite characters. One of the more beloved characters who was announced as getting his own Solo adventure was Han Solo, which was met with a resounding meh. Throw in the casting of Alden Ehrenreich and the firing of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller of the “Jump Street” movies fame, and “Solo: A Star Wars Story” seemed doom from the start. The opening weekend results haven’t been pretty, as “Solo” had the worst opening of the new “Star Wars” films, but the rumors of pre-production problems and box office competition doesn’t mean the film is a bomb, right?

“Solo” sees a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) attempting to escape orphanage on the planet Corellia with his first love, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). After separating during their escape, Han vows to return for Qi’ra but joins the Imperial Navy to escape capture. After being expelled for insubordination and becoming an infantryman for the Empire, Han meets a group of criminals, led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), who plan to steal the valuable resource known as coaxium for the evil crime syndicate known as Crimson Dawn for their leader,  Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). Along with the help of a Wookie named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Solo joins the gang the origin of Han Solo’s legend is revealed.

It needs to be said that perhaps no one could aptly portray a character made so legendary by Hollywood stalwart Harrison Ford, but Alden Ehrenreich is no Han Solo. Ehrenreich doesn’t have much charisma or screen presence, making him a dud as Han Solo. A resounding 90 percent or so of his jokes fall flat, and his sweet talking in negotiations nowhere near matches that of Harrison Ford. And call it nit picking, but the man is barely taller than his female counterpart in Emilia Clarke, so how are we to believe this guy is the legendary space cowboy Han Solo? 

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Aleden Ehrenreich in “Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

Speaking of Ehrenreich’s female counterpart, Emilia Clarke barely resonates as Han’s first lover, and her arch is beyond predictable. Donald Glover, who plays Lando Calrissian, seems to be doing a bad impression of Billy Dee Williams, who was the original Lando. Any hype surrounding Glover’s portrayal of the 2nd most sleazy space cowboy next to Solo is unwarranted, as his performance disappointments. Paul Bettany is an afterthought as a villain, and when your best characters are secondary ones such as the always likeable Woody Harrelson and a character who cannot speak English in Chewbacca, your film more than likely has a tremendous problem on its hands.

It doesn’t help the dialogue is bad, and the actors cannot bring it to life or rise above it. Most of it is exposition, and the cracks of preproduction definitely show in the films’ script. The action in “Solo” isn’t inventive or imaginative, a crushing blow to a film that is surprisingly boring throughout, making this “Star Wars” story a slog to get through. 

The only positive in the film revolves around a cameo appearance from one of the most under appreciated villains in “Star Wars” lore. I found myself nerding out at the appearance of this character, but to have to sit through two hours of the film just to get a two minute cameo is torture.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is a Solo venture that should have never been greenlit. Its preproduction problems undoubtedly seeped into the script, its action never excites, and the casting falls incredibly flat. If not for the one easter egg towards the end of the film, “Solo” would be a colossal waste of time. As it stands, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is the worst “Star Wars” film since “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and gets lost in space. 

Rating: 1 out of 4 Stars. Skip it. 

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” stars Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Joonas Suotamo, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jon Favreau, and Paul Bettany. It is in theaters now.

Bro-Reviews: Black Panther

A marvel for the culture.

Despite its near blemish-less resume, there are some who believe the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, has grown a bit stale and complacent. With numerous sequels to already established properties and retreads when making new films featuring other popular Marvel Comics characters, some of those detractors aren’t necessarily wrong for wanting Disney’s Marvel Studios to be more flavorful than vanilla. However, when trailers dropped last summer for Black Panther, not only did Marvel seem to answer some of those critics, but also excited the already established fan-base and gained the intrigue of the uninitiated.  Months later, Black Panther has clawed its way into theaters as one of the most daring and original films the Marvel machine has ever released.

Black Panther takes place after the events of Captain America: Civil War, as the new king of the secret African nation Wakanda, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), assumes the throne shortly after the assassination of his father and former king of Wakanda, T’Chaka (John Kani). While T’Challa struggles with feelings of uneasiness in taking over, some of Wakanda’s greatest resource, vibranium, has been stolen by the nation’s arch nemesis and his unknown associate, “Klaw” (Andy Serkis) and “Killmonger” (Michael B. Jordan). With the prospect of their treasured resource being used as weapons to harm others and the threat of dark secrets of Wakanda possibly being revealed, T’Challa must don the armor of the Black Panther to put a stop to these enemies and protect Wakanda.

Black Panther is without a doubt the most involved film the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever produced. While some have noticed the parallels of recent additions to the MCU, such as Doctor Strange and its similarities to Iron Man, Black Panther takes one of the most beloved black comic book characters and gives him the most original film Marvel has released in quite some time. The setting of Wakanda is realized in a way no other Marvel world has ever been before, as its vibrant colors and cultural personalities of each of the Wakandan tribes living there are on full display, making the world feel like a character in its own right. Much praise must be given to director Ryan Coogler, as the young director has graduated from small to medium budget independent and studio films to blockbuster level films with astronomical budgets with ease. The fact that Disney, a studio who has been marred by controversial interpretations of race over the years, allowed for a $200 million budget for a film with predominantly black actors and filmmakers to express their artistic capabilities with one of the studio’s most prized money makers and didn’t meddle with the production is astounding, and the results are nothing short of revolutionary.

Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan in “Black Panther”.

Black Panther also weaves a complex plot unlike any blockbuster, let alone a Marvel film, before. So often blockbusters are only popcorn flicks, where the mindset is to turn your brain off, watch things blow-up on screen, and have a good time without thinking too much. Not only does Black Panther provide such thrills, but it also highlights key social issues that continue to plague the world today. Important social commentary on the subjects of racism, colonialism, and nationalism are present throughout, and the storytellers do not shy away from them. This makes Black Panther even more incredible and groundbreaking not only in the MCU, but for Hollywood blockbusters as well, proving filmmakers can not only put their cultural stamp on a big-budgeted film, but can also emphasize important historical subject matters as well.

The main benefactor from the aforementioned themes is the film’s main villain “Killmonger”, played by Michael B. Jordan. Jordan and Coogler have created magic in the past as collaborators in Fruitvale Station and Creed, and it continues in Black Panther. “Killmonger” is a villain the audience not only understands, but can empathize with on many levels. His arch and motives incorporate the social issues highlighted earlier, and while understandable, also makes him a diabolical villain. Make no mistake about it, Jordan breaks ground as the villain, the best the MCU has ever created, and trumps even the great Andy Serkis in the film.

Somehow, this makes Boseman’s somewhat stoic T’Challa one of the less interesting characters in the film, but we as an audience understand his plight as a king not only wanting to protect his nation, but also atone for its previous sins. Black Panther also features the strongest female characters in the MCU, most notably from Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright. It’s refreshing to see such strong female characters on screen, and the fact the film highlights them as Wakanda’s warriors and protectors is daring and pays huge dividends. The rest of the ensemble cast, rounded out by Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker, Martin Freeman, Winston Duke, and Angela Basset, also acquit themselves well in the film, as each character shines in their own way.

Black Panther matters. It proves predominantly black filmmakers and actors can not only make a movie oozing with black culture competently, but also in a groundbreaking fashion. It’s still jaw-dropping Disney in no way, shape, or form interfered with the production of the film and allowed the artists to fully realize their artistic ambitions, and the result is not just a beautiful and thrilling game-changing addition to the MCU, but for Hollywood blockbusters as well. If this glowing review along with the many others Black Panther has garnered results in huge box-office receipts, more films such as Black Panther should be on the way.

Rating: 4/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Basset, John Kani, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis. It is in theaters February 16th.

 

 

Bro-Reviews: 2017 Summer Box Office Winners and Losers

Whether you’re a winner or a loser, box office revenue is down significantly compared to last summer.

The Summer movie season is officially over, after 4 long months, it’s finally over. While this summer had it fair share of winners that won the box office, their were plenty of losers, and boy did they lose. It’s now time to asses the winners and losers of the 2017 Summer box office.

Winner: Wonder Woman

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Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman.”

The highest grossing film of the summer by a significant margin, Wonder Woman was a much needed win for the DC extended universe and showed girl power is alive and well in Hollywood. The film saw unprecedented holds from weekend to weekend over the summer, playing similarly to 2002’s Spider-Man en route to $406.8 million domestically, making it the 7th highest grossing super-hero film of all time and the highest grossing film ever directed by a woman.

Loser: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

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Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevigne in “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.”

Valerian is a prime example of what happens when you let directors go into a CGI candy shop and allow them to lose their minds on screen. While visually striking, Valerian lacked star power and chose style over substance in this over-long, over-budgeted Star Wars wannabe. The film’s box office receipts didn’t help matters either, as it grossed a puny $39.8 million at the North American box office compared to its $172.2 million budget. A bomb indeed.

Winner: Marvel Studios

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“Marvel Studios.”

At this point, Marvel Studios has perfected the blockbuster formula. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 grossed $389.4 million in May, showing that Star Lord and the gang won’t be going away anytime soon. Marvel Studios was also able to reap the rewards of re-booting the Spider-Man franchise with Spider-Man: Homecoming in July, grossing an impressive $321.2 million during its theatrical run.

Loser: Former Franchise Tent-Poles

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“Transformers: The Last Knight”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”, and “Cars 3.”

Alien: Covenant, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Cars 3, Transformers: The Last Night. What do they all have in common? They are all franchises that at one point were box-office giants who presided as the kings of the summer movie season but have now all but exhausted ideas to the point that audiences have grown tired of them. While the international box office receipts helped prevent them from flat-out bombing and in some cases made them profitable, it’s time for studios to re-think their strategies in regards to tent-pole franchises.

Winner: War for the Planet of the Apes

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“War For the Planet of the Apes.”

A stunning achievement in motion capture and special effects, War for the Planet of the Apes is nothing short of technically brilliant. Add in the emotional component most summer box office films are missing along with enthralling action, and War For the Planet of the Apes proves you don’t have to be brainless to be a successful summer blockbuster.

Loser: Baywatch

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“Baywatch.”

On paper, Baywatch seemed to be a no-brainer. A summer comedy filled with beaches, bikinis, and the Rock would surely breed box office success, right? Unfortunately, incompetent direction, lazy joke writing, and exploitation of female bodies made Baywatch unwatchable, making it one of the biggest duds of the summer movie season.

Winner: Rotten Tomatoes

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“Rotten Tomatoes.”

If there were ever a time where the influence of the review aggregate site flexed its muscles, it was this summer. Films that boasted overwhelmingly positive reviews such as Dunkirk ($175.5 million) and Baby Driver ($104.3 million) enjoyed box office success and long theatrical runs. Maligned films such as The Mummy ($80.1) and The Dark Tower ($46.1 million) on the other hand saw their hopes and dreams of launching franchises either stall or end due to dog piling bad reviews.

Loser: The Summer Box Office

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For every financially and critically successful film released this summer, there was an even more financially and critically disastrous film released. Add in an August with very few appealing films, and the summer box office is down nearly 16% compared to last year and movie going attendance is the worst it has been in 25 years. One can only hope the looming Fall movie season can pick up the slack, but the 2017 box office appears to be experiencing diminishing returns.

Bro-Reviews: Spider-Man: Homecoming

A friendly neighborhood homecoming.

Spider-Man is not only one of the most beloved comic book heroes of all time, he’s also one of the most prized possessions in Hollywood, with Sony and Marvel Studios/ Disney currently sharing custody of the web slinger. How we got to this point is simple, Sony kept making awful movies (*Cough* Spider-Man 2, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 *Cough*) in an effort to retain the rights to the property, and fans and movie goers alike eventually rejected the films. Not only did these films lead to Sony cancelling plans to their planned spideyverse with The Sinister Six, but also led Marvel Studios/ Disney to finally step in and show Sony how it’s done. After a spectacular debut in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man has returned for another solo outing in the re-boot Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Spider-Man: Homecoming sees high school prodigy Peter Parker struggling to remain interested in his mundane high school life while wanting to expand his reach as the popular super hero, Spider-Man. He sees an opportunity to prove himself as a capable hero to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) by going after Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a former salvaging company owner who turns to selling weapons made by the Chitauri aliens from The Avengers, including creating his own vulture suit, to make a living.

There’s little doubt the change of setting to high school makes Spider-Man Homecoming the funniest Spider-Man film to date. This is thanks mostly to Peter’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), who has many laugh out loud moments in the film. Zendaya also has quirky moments as Michele, and proves herself to be an up and coming starlet. Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker is probably the best in terms of the high school version of the character, as his nerdiness and awkwardness are captured brilliantly particularly when he attempts to win the attention of his love interest Liz (Laura Harrier). This could be because the entire film takes place in this setting whereas the previous films didn’t spend much time focusing on Peter’s high school experiences, but it’s still nonetheless done well.

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“Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

Even though most of the jokes surrounding her are “wow look how hot she is”, Marissa Tomei gives a solid performance as Aunt May. She may not reach the tear-jerking levels of Rosemary Harris, but Tomei does a fine job of portraying a caring, worrywart aunt we all have. Michael Keaton (*A.K.A. Batman*) delivers a menacing performance as the Vulture. Keaton is undeniably likeable as the little guy who’s just trying to stick it to the man, and It’s a delight to see him take on villainous roles at this stage of his career. If his turn as the central villain proves anything, his career renaissance has taken yet another legendary turn.

During the first act, however, I was relatively unimpressed with the film. The angle of Parker being the young hotshot who wants to have more responsibility is a trope we’ve seen played out over and over again. On top of that, lackluster action sequences weren’t helping the film either. To be honest, the film during the first act felt like an exercise Marvel Studios/ Disney was doing just to cash-in. It didn’t have the same handcrafted feel Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man had back in 2002. And Holland, while very good, comes nowhere close to Tobey Maguire’s expert performance as Peter Parker/ Spider-Man.

Once the stakes are raised during an impressive action sequence on-top of the Washington Monument, Spider-Man: Homecoming knocks off the cobwebs and swings into high gear. It’s during the second and third acts we see more of Keaton, who comes across as the best spidey villain since Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. Also, the relationship between Tony Stark and Peter Parker is expanded during these acts, and Robert Downey Jr. is not only as snarky as ever as Stark, but is also a great motivator and father figure to Peter in the film. The action sequences get more consequential and exciting as the film goes on, as the battle on the ferry and the climatic battle serve as impressive scenes that showcase Spider-Man and Vulture’s tremendous action chemistry.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is without a shout of a doubt better than the last four Spider-Man movies. It’s funny, contains great performances, and filled with enthralling action. However, due to it’s familiar themes, it never quite reaches the levels of the near perfect 2002 Spider-Man. While it’s definitely the second best Spider-Man film released to date, by its own merits, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a step in the right direction for the previously entangled web slinger.

Rating: 3/4 Stars: Pay Full Price.

Ranking the Spider-Man Films

Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man has had quite the film history.

Spider-Man: Homecoming swings into theaters this weekend. Critical buzz surrounding the film has been nothing but positive, but the same cannot be said of all of Spidey’s films. With five films to his name, here is the definitive ranking of the web slinger’s films.

5. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

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“The Amazing Spider-Man.”

It had been just five years since the last release of a Spider-Man film, but that didn’t stop Sony from wanting to go to the bank again. In an effort to retain the rights to the hero or risk losing him to Disney’s Marvel Studios, Sony hired 500 Days of Summer director Marc Webb to direct a re-boot of the web slinger. Andrew Garfield was cast as Peter Parker/ Spider-Man, and Emma Stone was cast as Peter’s original love, Gwen Stacey. While all of these elements should’ve made for a compelling film, The Amazing Spider-Man was a woeful misfire. From boring a villain (*Rhys Ifan’s Lizard was nothing short of a mini-Godzilla knockoff*) to a love story that made the Twilight films’ love triangle look eventful by comparison, The Amazing Spider-Man is a prime example of a soulless studio film made to retain the rights to a popular property in an effort to cash in. Many believed Marvel Studios/Disney and Sony should team up after the lack of success for the film, but that didn’t happen until after the release of…

4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

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“The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”

The Amazing Spider-Man is marginally better than The Amazing Spider-Man thanks to Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of Max Dillon/Electro. Yes, the filmmakers made up his powers as the film went along, but he’s one of the coolest comic book villains to ever appear on screen. Otherwise, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a prime example of franchise fatigue. The Green Goblin appears as a villain once again, the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey reaches embarrassing new heights despite ghost dad Captain Stacey appearing numerous times to warn them of their doomed relationship, to the blatant product placement, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a mess. Sony’s plan of creating their own cinematic universe/ spideyverse by teasing the costumes of the Sinister Six, Spider-Man’s arch rivals, fell through due to the film’s lack of commercial and critical success, leading to them sharing custody of their beloved hero with Disney/ Marvel Studios.

3. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

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“Spider-Man 2.”

*UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT.* Spider-Man 2 is not a good movie. Why does Doctor Octopus rob a bank when he could just steal the equipment needed to re-do his experiment of creating a mini-sun? Why is Peter Parker, a scientific genius, turned into an idiot who can’t deliver pizzas on time and doesn’t realize he could sneak through a window to see his girlfriend’s play? Why do Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson fall into the typical romantic comedy trope of not communicating and have relationship problems? Why is Doctor Octopus fat? Call it nit picking, but Spider-Man 2 is not one of the best comic book movies ever. Turning Doctor Octopus into a sympathetic figure was a mistake, having Spider-Man’s powers start to fade due to Peter’s complicated life made little sense, and the climatic battle sequence was one of the biggest yawn inducing affairs of all time. Had it not been for the subway action scene, Spider-Man 2 might have placed even lower on this list.

2. Spider-Man 3 (2007)

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“Spider-Man 3.”

Director Sam Raimi wanted to have the Flint Marko/ Sandman be the main villain. Sony interfered and wanted Eddie Brock/Venom. As a compromise, both were included in the movie. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with Topher Grace as Eddie Brock/Venom and the lack of Venom in the movie, he served his purpose. While making Flint Marko Uncle Ben’s killer was a big-middle finger to the audience, his back story was still well done. Mary Jane Watson continued to be the worst girlfriend ever, but those signs were seen back in Spider-Man 2. Yes, the ending is terrible. But the action sequences deliver and are thrilling. The rivalry between Harry Osborne (*played by a gleefully over the top James Franco*) and Peter Parker is palpable. Peter Parker’s battle with the black suit/ symbiote personality is compelling and sees one of the most comical moments in super-hero film history as a dressed in all black Peter Parker dances around New York City to James Brown. Many will disagree with me and say Spider-Man 3 is an awful film, but I believe Spider-Man 3 is misunderstood and should be regarded as one of the better films in the series.

1. Spider-Man (2002)

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“Spider-Man.”

Spider-Man to this very day rests towards the top of my all-time comic book movies list, easily making it the best Spider-Man film to date. With the exception of having Mary Jane Watson appear as Peter Parker’s first love, the origin of Spider-Man is done perfectly. From Peter taking down school bully Flash Thompson all the way to his heroic display at the World Unity Fair, Spider-Man’s origin was done correctly. Tobey Maguire’s portrayal as the web slinger is still one of the best super hero performances of all time, and Kirsten Dunst gives Mary Jane Watson the “girl next door” vibe that would’ve melted any man’s heart. Cliff Roberston’s Uncle Ben had the emotional resonance needed to propel Peter into the life of a hero. While many scoff at his costume, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin is frightening and intimidating, making him one of the finest super villains ever. It’s a wonder how in their first attempt at one of Marvel’s most popular heroes that Sony was able to make a near perfect super hero film. One can only wonder what could’ve been had the other two sequels lived up to this first film and had the franchise not been re-booted far too soon.

 

 

 

Bro-Reviews: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Dead men tell better tales.

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is an indication of just how powerful of an influence Disney has on our society. Disney turned one of the worst rides at Disneyland into arguably the biggest movie franchise of all time. Pirates of the Caribbean’s first three entries shattered box office records, although most would argue the series started experiencing diminished returns during that time. All would agree the fourth entry, On Stranger Tides, was unnecessary save for seeing Penelope Cruz in a pirate outfit, and that the ending left no reason for there to be a fifth entry. Six years later, however, captain Jack Sparrow and the pirates have returned for another adventure on the Caribbean.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales introduces Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), attempting to break the curse that bounds his father to remain the captain of the Flying Dutchman. His only hope is to obtain the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact that not only breaks all of the curses of the seas, but allows one to rule them as well. To obtain the trident, he enlists the help of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and a feisty female astronomer accused of witch-craft Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) to accompany him on his quest. However, trouble awaits them on the deadly waters of the sea, as Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), who has sworn to rid the seas of pirates, seeks revenge against the man who killed him, Jack Sparrow.

If we’re being honest, the character arch-types of Dead Man Tell No Tales mirror the ones of The Curse of the Black Pearl. Yes, he is the son of Will Turner after all, but the humble beginnings of Henry nearly match the ones of Will. As a woman of science, Carina is just as doubtful of the myths of the seas just like Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann as well. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the young actors Thwaites and Scodelario are improvements over the barely resonating younger cast in On Stranger Tides. While the romantic subplot between the two is cliche’, there’s no doubt the two have sizzling chemistry on screen.

And of course, Jack Sparrow is the same carefree swashbuckling drunkard who first graced the screen nearly 14 years ago. We go see these movies for Depp’s portrayal of the legendary pirate. When he isn’t mumbling his way through scenes, we’re reminded of just how great of a character Sparrow is and why the Academy nominated Depp for his portrayal of Sparrow back in the 2004 Academy Awards. The rest of Jack’s rag-tag crew also reappears, and it’s Kevin McNally’s Joshamee Gibbs who remains as grounded and honest as ever, a welcome aspect of these films. Veteran Actor Geoffrey Rush returns as Captain Hector Barbossa as well, and given the material he’s given, he comes across as a more heartfelt character than we’ve seen him be in the previous films.

Unfortunately, it’s Bardem’s Salazar who keeps the curse of lackluster villains alive for the series. His whole goal in life to rid the seas of pirates is fascinating, but the explanation of why he is doing so is merely glossed over instead of deeply explored, robbing the audience of any sort of connection to the character other than “oh hey it’s the dead bad guy.” It’s a shame, because then the audience might have actually been conflicted over who to root for had that dynamic been examined further.

The one aspect of the series that appears to grow larger in scale with each entry is the action. For starters, dead sharks as dangerous weapons should have been introduced to the series a long time ago, as they provide for one of the most thrilling action sequences the series has seen. Pirates robbing banks is always a hardy good time to experience as well, after all they are pirates, it’s what they do. And the final sequence, as implausible as it is, is something to behold, even though it almost ruins the entire movie. If you want the full scale of the action, see the movie in IMAX 3-D as I did, you won’t regret it.

Lastly, we get more closure than we did in At World’s End and On Stranger Tides. While it shouldn’t be characterized as leaving the series on a high note should they choose to do so (*apparently this film is supposed to be the first of a new trilogy of Pirates of the Caribbean films*), it should be characterized as less of a low one than the ones we got from At World’s End and On Stranger Tides. While there are still many flaws present that have consistently plagued the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales sails on better tides than most of the previous sequels. However, Jack Sparrow and company should sail on this tide into retirement, as it’s evident there are no more tales to tell after the dead have told the most competent tale since Dead Man’s Chest.

Rating: 2.5/4 Stars. Pay Matinée price.