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    Saturday
    Jun292013

    The Avengers : How A DC Fan Attempts To Make Nice With Marvel's Big Team-Up Film.

    So I searched The ThinkMcflyThink site, and I didn't come across a review for The Avengers.  Thinking I must have just missed it, I searched again, and still found nothing.  So, I am fixing this issue by publishing my own review of the movie.  Considering how Man of Steel turned out, some readers may find my "letter" to Zack Snyder at this end of this review quite spot on.

    So The Avengers eh?  Not being a Marvel guy myself, I can say I was curious how this would turn out.  I don’t have any ties to these characters per se, other than enjoying Iron Man and Captain America.  The First Avenger especially was a very nice surprise.  It was great to see a so-called “old-fashioned” character pulled off so well in a modern movie.  

    There were no apologies made for Cap, he was presented straight from the pages of the comic complete with stars and stripes and a clear sense of right and wrong.  I really respected what the filmmakers did with him, especially amid all the talk about changing Superman in the future movies to fit a more cynical, jaded age.  This was very much a “take it or leave it” take on Captain America and that excited me on its own.

    I always thought that if there were one character I would really take to in the Marvel universe, it would be Captain America based solely on his heroic qualities and strong moral compass.  He’s very much the Superman of the group, a leader who takes charge when the moment calls for it and can also be a bit naïve and headstrong as well.  Imagine my surprise when I found myself loving Iron Man just as much.

    As I mentioned earlier, before seeing the first Iron Man film, I knew next to nothing about the character.  I didn’t except much from it, but I thought the casting of Robert Downey Jr. was an interesting choice.  Sure, the villain was pretty weak, but it had this sense of fun (and who am I kidding, he flew!) that made me overlook nearly every other problem I had.  Downey nailed the role and really elevated the material.  To this day, I have a hard time deciding which film I like better, so I just call it a tie.

    But enough about the set-up films, this is an Avengers review right?  It’s with this background, that I sat in the theater this weekend and watched what many comic book fans have waited their whole lives to see.  A team-up of the greatest heroes in the Marvel canon (sans Spider-Man for reasons I still don’t understand).  I knew the bare essentials; Loki, Thor’s brother and main antagonist from last year’s Thor, was once again, the main baddie in this one.  This was a good decision in my opinion because Thor was a nice surprise as well and Loki as the villain was outstanding and really conveyed a sense of menace and dread.  If there’s one complaint I can level at all recent superhero movies, outside of the recent Batman films, is that I’ve found almost all of the villains to be uninspiring.  When I watched Thor for the first time a few weeks ago as preparation for Avengers, I found Loki to be the best villain in the Marvel films by far.  

    I actually find this movie to be hard to review simply because I view it as a piece of a much larger whole, the culmination of something that was started back in 2008 with Iron Man.  Even as a DC guy, there was a part of me that always wanted to see Marvel pull this off, simply because it had never been done before.  My questions always were; how will they manage having four main characters in one film and treat them all equally?  The script, I was sure, would be a giant mess, juggling the action and trying to have enough character moments to try to keep fans of all four happy. There was no way this would be any more than a curiosity, a stepping stone to show the next wave of superhero filmmakers what not to do.  Well, I was wrong.  I can say, as a DC fan at heart, Marvel pulled it off and they pulled it off big.  I LOVED this film!

    I’m not going to rehash the plot, because I’m sure most of you reading this have already seen it.  The character interaction is what sells this movie for me.  Seeing Steve Rogers and Tony Stark go at it, where you can see their conflicting ideologies so clearly, and yet still root for both of them, was amazing.  During that scene, all I could think of was that I was watching the Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne of the Marvel universe and how perfect each actor had nailed their respective characters.  

    Chris Evans was spot on in Captain America and I thought he was even better here.  I’m not a religious man in the least, but his line about how there is only one God and “I don’t think he looks like that” was perfect.  That’s exactly how Cap would respond and it put a big smile on my face.  The scene in Germany where he references the last time he was there, what he had seen and how he will never stand for it, the whole subplot with the trading cards, the giving of orders to a NYC policeman, this was a Steve Rogers willing to do whatever it took to win, a true leader.

    Downey Jr. was all aces again in the role of Tony Stark.  I can say that outside of Chris Reeve as Superman, Downey is my favorite piece of superhero casting ever.  He steals nearly every scene he’s in, which in this movie is no small feat.  He’s the comic relief, but if things get serious, he can be counted on to do what needs to be done.  The scene where he threatens Loki alone is worth the price of admission.  I still find the Iron Man flying effects a sight to behold.  It just looks like so much fun and again, not since Reeve have I seen that on film.

    That brings us to Hulk and Thor.  Hulk has had two films previously, both of which failed to ignite the box office.  Marvel hopes his inclusion in this will spark resurgence on film.  While I am not of the belief that he steals the film, this is the best version of the character since the 70’s TV series.  Mark Ruffalo makes a very believable Bruce Banner and I loved how they built up to showing the Hulk.  Ruffalo did a great job of showing remorse for his actions and trying his best to look out for the other members of the team.  When he does finally switch to Hulk form, the audience, while excited, feels bad for him.  Therein, lies the greatness of the Hulk; he’s a Frankenstein’s monster like character sure, but he has a real heart, something that can be hard to translate to the screen and I think the scenes with Bruce Banner do a fantastic job of bringing that point home.

    Thor is someone I had no interest in, only getting around to seeing his solo movie a few weeks ago, but now I’ve done a complete about face.  The movie was better than it had any right to be and most of all, Chris Hemsworth in the title role made me believe.  Yes, Thor is a God among men when he lands on Earth, but by the end of the film he has all but transformed.  Being introduced to love and truly seeing what an ego can do how it can separate family members and above all, how important siblings are, whether right or wrong, was something I didn’t expect from the film.  Hemsworth delivered a performance; really taking what could very easily be a one note character and making him much more.  In Avengers, with his brother causing the destruction, you really see the fine line he walks between caring for his brother and being disgusted by him.  Granted, he doesn’t have as much to do in the film as Cap or Iron Man do, in my opinion, but when he is on screen he commands it.

    In all honesty, I haven’t enjoyed a superhero movie this much in years.  This hit all the right notes for me and really has persuaded me to take more of an interest in these characters and their worlds.  Well done Marvel.  You got a DC fan to admit to loving the holy hell out of your big team-up film.  

     Now, if I may close with a note to Zack Snyder:

    You see this Zack?  You see the excitement surrounding the film?  How fathers are bringing their sons and daughters, how it’s crossing generations?  This is what I need you to do with the best superhero of all time next year.  Make them believe, show them something they have never seen before, and make sure Superman is the only guy who can make everything all right again.  Help everyone remember why they loved Superman in the first place.  I don’t want to see moping around, a Clark Kent full of uncertainty, and a threat the Avengers could fix in 45 minutes.  I want to see a take charge Superman, with a threat that only he can solve.  Do that and you’ll have a winner on your hands.  I want to see excitement, lines stretching around the theater, like I saw this weekend.  Superman can make all this happen.  It’s your turn Zack, don’t let me down.  

    Love, Adam

    Wednesday
    Jun192013

    "Man Of Steel" Review - A Fan's Take

    The perspective of the fans is just as important as those of critics or the general public, especially when pertaining to comic book related films. When I found out loyal THINKMCFLYTHINK.COM reader and Superman fan Adam Davis was going to provide his thoughts and write a review after seeing Man Of Steel I immediately wanted it to be published on the site.

    ~Peter Georgiou

    “We’re approaching this as if there are no other Superman movies.”
    ~~Zack Snyder~~

    With that rule in place, Man of Steel is off and running.  Director Zack Snyder paints with a large brush, deftly handling all aspects of one of the most well known origin stories and updating it for today’s ever demanding and critical audiences. Beginning with the birth of Kal-El, who will grow to become mankind’s savior, the film does a great job of showing Superman fans  a scope and scale they never thought possible.

    Watching it for the second time earlier today, I realized just how happy this film makes me.  I can’t remember when I first saw the original Superman, it’s one of those movies that has always been a part of my life.  Christopher Reeve has not only been my Superman, but a role model in the strongest sense of the word.  As I grew older, I began to not only realize the flaws the four original movies have, but also the fact that Reeve himself elevated the material.

    That realization helped me come to terms with the idea of a rebooted Superman franchise.  Seeing Spider-Man and Batman experience huge success on the big screen over the last decade or so drove home the fact that it was time for the king to reclaim his throne. I’m sure that everyone reading this knows the story of the film, the hiring of Zack Snyder, the casting of Henry Cavill, Amy Adams and the rest of the cast.  There is also no reason to re-hash the plot.  What I wish to focus on instead is how the movie makes me feel.  It’s one thing to walk out of a movie thoroughly entertained, happy you spent the money.  It’s another to feel as though what you just spent the previous two and a half hours watching is the realization of a cinematic dream.

    While the beginning twenty minutes or so on Krypton is very sci-fi heavy, it never feels like it’s gone overboard with it’s complexity.  In my opinion, that has a great deal to do with Russell Crowe as Jor-El.  He grounds the film in believability from the very first frame and adds a new dimension to the character, played previously on the big screen by Marlon Brando.  Within the first few minutes on screen, it’s easy to feel his desperation and the love he feels for his newborn son.  The film needed an actor of his presence for the role and he handled it flawlessly. His interactions with Kal later on and especially his scene with Lois are among the best parts of the film.

    At it’s core, this is a movie about fathers and sons, destiny and choice and being comfortable in your own skin. Sure, the action is great, and it’s a sci-fi superhero film, but it’s really the heart of the piece that transcends the genre.  The early scenes deal with a young Clark who is trying to get a handle on his powers.  Whether it’s learning how to control his x-ray vision or his super hearing, they add a new layer that’s never been explored on the screen.  The autism overtones are very apparent, intentional or not, and it made me consider for the first time, just how hard life would be for young Clark Kent.

    This is driven home in an exemplary way by Kevin Costner’s heart-wrenching turn as Jonathan Kent.  When all is said and done, he may be my favorite character in the film.  He has one goal, to keep his son safe and that goal colors every decision he makes.  The scene where he shows Clark the ship he was found in contains a line that encapsulates all that Pa Kent stands for.  When Clark asks if he can just continue to pretend to be his son, Jonathan replies “You ARE my son” and his voice cracks as he pulls Clark close.  It was at this point that any fear I had going into the film melted away.  They had me by the heart and the movie never let go.

    I’ll be honest.  When Zack Snyder was announced as director, I was scared.  I’ve never enjoyed any of his previous work, and I even considered walking out of Watchmen.  I thought that he was the absolute worst choice for a job as important as Superman.  This was a property that deserved to be handled with care and reverence and I was afraid Snyder, with his constant slo-mo and overly masculine take on cinema would rip the heart out of the character.  I have never been more happy to be wrong in my life.  As perfect as Richard Donner was for the ’78 version of Superman, I feel Snyder is the perfect director for this take on the character.  It may seem to be hyperbole, especially from such a huge fan of the original, but there is nothing I would change when it comes to the style of the picture.

    Is the film perfect?  Not at all, but I feel as though I have reached a point in my life where I can no longer pick apart every detail of any film.  As I mentioned at the beginning, I never thought I’d get a Superman film of this magnitude.  I sat in the theater during the midnight showing and couldn’t get my head around what I was seeing.  In a sense, Man of Steel is the cinematic equivalent of Superman The Animated Series.

    I couldn’t imagine any actor taking up the cape in this story other than Henry Cavill.  He’s able to embody the strength and majesty of the character while also infusing the Last Son of Krypton with a tremendous human heart.  Reeve was  Superman for an entire generation and his performance will never be forgotten.  That said, I’d put Cavill’s take toe to toe with Reeve’s when it comes to being strong enough to carry the character on his shoulders.  Cavill is able to be incredibly caring and understanding but also strong and forceful.  He’s very serious but also balances the ability to allow his human side to shine through.  I immediately bought him in the role  and believed in every action he took. His immediate reaction to taking a life at the end of the film sells the moment as being one of horrible regret.  It’s handled with incredible care, he makes a choice which is the only one he feels he can make.  It doesn’t bother me that he doesn’t have everything figured out.  As humans, we are not perfect, and I expect him to learn and grow as the series progresses and I cannot wait to see more of him in the role.

    Amy Adams is truly my favorite Lois Lane.  It’s fantastic to see her as an actual headstrong reporter that stands for something.  I love that she is willing to give up her entire career to protect Clark.  As her reaction to Kal’s story of losing his father shows, there is a genuine feeling of empathy she has for him. I’m not sure what it is about Adams, she’s adorable, but I totally buy her as a tough, investigative reporter.  Much like with Cavill, I couldn’t imagine anyone but her in the role.

    I could go on and on about Michael Shannon’s General Zod and his multifaceted performance.  I love this movie with all my heart and Zod is one of the main reasons why.  From the beginning, it was easy to understand his motivations, even in the twisted way he approached it.  A hero is only as good as his villain and Shannon is just perfectly cast.  He always plays an odd, slightly off putting character and there is so much going on behind his eyes.  He is able to convey so much emotion with only his facial expressions.  It was nice to finally have a villain who I feel is worthy of Superman on screen and not another land grab real-estate scheme.

    It’s fantastic that Superman is back on top of the box office heap and I’m glad to see that audiences have responded in large numbers. The sequel cannot come soon enough for me and I hope to have a chance to talk more about the movie and this review in the future.

    Thursday
    Jun132013

    "Man Of Steel" Review

    "I will honor the man you were Zod Superman, but not the monster you have become."

    ~~Jor-El (Man Of Steel)~~

    Heralded by many to be a monster at the box office Man Of Steel is a tale of two different movies. The first being an angst filled drama about a boy who doesn't quite fit in and develops into a man who still can't seem to find his place in the world. The second a building toppling, missile firing, superpowered alien boxing match, of which almost completely destroys Smallville and the city of Metropolis without any remorse for human collateral damage.

    The film opens on the still doomed sci-fi/medieval mashup of Krypton, think Star Wars with a pinch of Avatar, where we witness the birth of Kal-El. The visuals are more than impressive but the flying dragons and butler robots are a tad askew. As Krypton is falling around them Zod, Faora, and their minions fail miserably at a strangely timed attempted coup and are swiftly jettisoned to the Phantom Zone.  The  naturally birthed and therefore illegal infant Kal-El is shipped away along with a skull stolen by Jor-El, which is generically called "The Codex.

    Cut to 33-year-old Kal-El a.k.a. Clark Kent as he struggles with odd jobs as a fisherman and bartender. The "Super Nomad" stills finds time to engage in some Superdickery with a logger's truck, save a group of men from a burning oil rig, and steal somebody's clothes. Between flashbacks of Pa Kent insisting his son hide his powers from mankind, Clark stumbles upon a Kryptonian scout ship and intrepid reporter Lois Lane. The ship contains the secrets to his origins and somehow when unlocked, the consciousness of his Kryptonian father who implores him to "keep testing your limits."

    Henry Cavill always looked the part and he certainly has his moments as both Superman and Clark Kent, but it's hard to stand out on screen amongst such a well versed cast. Cavill spends some touching moments basking in the Kansas sun with Ma Kent, played wistfully by Diane Lane. However, he takes on the role of spectator while being lectured by veteran thespian Russell Crowe as Jor-El.

    Henry really fills out the new stylized suit, he's the most powerful and macho version of Superman yet and once he puts on said suit, he owns it. Superman understanding that America looks at him as a threat allows himself to be handcuffed and interrogated by the feisty Lois Lane. It's a well done modernization of the Lois & Superman rooftop interviews. Superman eventually busts out of the cuffs and tells military personnel behind two way glass that "You're scared of me because you can't control me, but that doesn't mean I'm your enemy." He's not. Zod is, and he's on his way.

    Amy Adams is refreshing as Lois Lane, we're finally treated to a version of Lois straight out of the pages of the comics. Searching the country for the next big story she can relate to the wandering lifestyle of Clark and the chemistry between Cavill and Adams is evident. Kevin Costner steals every scene he is in providing fatherly advice to young Clark incessantly reminding him "he's going to change the world." You hope for more of Pa Kent and wish that one of the many changes to the mythos applied to the character.

    Michael Shannon is at his best as the villainous Zod and overcomes yet another comic book movie featuring a far fetched plan. The Kryptonian general ends up deciding to create New Kyrpton on earth when all else fails to execute his original plan. Hello Superman Returns. Antje Traue is divine as Zod's loyal and lethal sidekick Faora telling Superman, “For every human you save, we will kill a million more." She executes this promise as thousands upon thousands of citizens in Metropolis are mowed down by falling buildings and gravity machine induced flying cars. The problem is, Superman doesn't really seem to notice.

    The theme concocted by David Goyer, when he was supposed to be fighting writer's block on The Dark Knight Rises, involves how the world would really deal with an alien on earth in a post 9/11 world. The answer is he would be considered a threat. As the under utilized Laurence Fishburne playing a gruff but suave version of Perry White says, "Imagine how our world would react if they came face to face with this." Chris Meloni as Colonel Hardy has to learn to work with Superman in order to save the world and Superman fighting in tandem with military is truly one of the highlights of the film.

    Zach Snyder has delivered a film that breaks the sound barrier with action but combined with David Goyer's script, faces incredible pacing issues. The flashbacks although memorable, a young Clark seeing inside the bodies of his classmates and teachers frightening him into a closet, they stunt the growth of the film. Leaving the emotional story arc behind, the last hour of the film is a visceral experience never  before seen in a Superman film. The action is monstrous and in your face, everything Superman fans and the general public have wanted to see from the Last Son Of Krypton.  If you want to see Superman punching things, you won't be disappointed in the action packed Man Of Steel. If you were hoping this was on par with the Batman Trilogy because Christopher Nolan's name is on the print you just might be.

    Monday
    May272013

    Review: Fast & Furious 6

     

    It's an extreme rarity, if not unprecedented, that a film franchise get better and more profitable as the series goes on.

    Yes, the Star Wars franchise or even perhaps Indiana Jones had extremely profitable films in recent times, but both critics and audiences were less than enthusiastic about the newer installments compared to the earlier ones.

    That is certaintly not the case with Universal's now monster-like, Fast & Furious franchise.

    Since Vin Diesel returned to the series in 2009 with the 4th entry, Fast & Furious (along with all the original cast members), the car racing series has successful transitioned into something more: a full-fledged action franchise that attracts every demographic possible, from males to females, from whites to urban youths.

    With 2011's Fast Five earning the best reviews for any film in the series along with the addition of Dwayne Johnson, the entry led to over $600 million worldwide with high anticipation for this year's Fast & Furious 6 (or as titled in the opening credits, Furious 6).

    This 6th film also marks the return of Michelle Rodriguez, who we were led to believe was dead in the 4th film, only to be teased in an after-credits sequence in Fast Five as being alive.

    The film begins with the whole crew living the good life with their $100 million each payday from the Rio job.  Dom is with Elena, Brian and Mia just welcomed their baby, and Roman, Tej, Han, and Giselle are all on easy street as well.  Things get complicated though when Dwayne Johnson's Hobbs shows up on Dom's doorstep, needing help with taking down international criminal, Owen Shaw (played decently by up-and-comer Luke Evans).  Dom isn't at all interested in helping Hobbs until Samoan Thor (you'll get that joke if you've seen the film) reveals Letty is still alive and helping Shaw's crew.  Dom decides to get his crew back together to take down Shaw and bring Letty 'home'.

    Not wanting to go into more specifics of the film's plot - as its best discovered for your own viewing pleasure - I'll cover what seems to work about this entire film, and my one complaint that doesn't.

    As far as action, FF6 tops Fast Five in nearly every way.  There's great action set pieces, well-done choreographed and realistic fight scenes, and probably in terms of visuals, the best job director Justin Lin has done with this franchise (Lin's directed the past four films including 2006's franchise outcast, Tokyo Drift, though stay tuned after the last scene to see how this all connects).

    Also in terms of story and character development, pretty much every actor here is given their own time to shine and sub plot to work with (surprisingly, Vin Diesel seemed to take a backseat throughout the middle of the film only to be rewarded with the big finale at the end).  Paul Walker is finally given something to do as well and shows off some impressive fight skills along with Tyrese seemingly stealing the show with his great comedic timing.  

    My only complaint against the flick is the almost unrealistic, over-the-top action.  I mean, I get it.  Each film has to outdo the one that came before it.  However, the liberties taken with keeping this franchise grounded in reality is all but thrown out the window in two specific scenes, one involving Dom saving Letty, the other taking place on what is obviously the longest flight runway known to mankind.

    Any negativity aside, Fast & Furious 6 is a damn good action film and succeeds in topping Fast Five in almost every way, though I think the latter was just a better film, overall.

    This franchise is obviously in the best shape it's ever been with it's near $120 million four-day weekend holiday take, along with close to $300 million worldwide.

    Fast & Furious 7 is already set for July 11th next year with new director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) at the helm (great choice) and a new supervillian played by a very famous action star set to take the big stage.

    Overall: A-

    Thursday
    May162013

    REVIEW: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

    Star Trek Into Darkness is a film that simultaneously does nothing special, yet does everything right. 

    SPOILERS AHEAD.

    When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis.

    With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.

    It's well made, in terms of costumes, sets, and sounds; the cast is fun and never boring to watch- especially Cumberbatch, who totally hams it up as the "perfect" bad-guy; and the plot is fun, understandable, and sometimes emotional. The only flaw with Star Trek Into Darkness, however, is that it feels too much like a big "two-parter" TV Episode.

    There's no real Star Treking involved. No travel, no sense of how large and expansive the universe is- unlike with Star Trek (2009) where you would go planet-to-planet, encountering all sorts of fantastical creatures, exotic locales, etc. With Into Darkness, you spend a few minutes on some cool looking planet at the beginning, then the rest of the time is spent between San Francisco, London, and Kronos (for a brief few minutes).

    Another thing was Into Darkness's painfully obvious 9/11-George Bush allegory that wasn't even cleverly hidden or done in an interesting way. I felt like I was watching Total Recall (2012) at times rather than Star Trek just because it was an Earth-centered conspiracy story that really had no reason to be a sequel to 2009's fast and fun summer hit.

    Also, I've never seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan but I can assure you I know the infamous "KHAAAAAAAAAN!" line as it has slipped into pop-culture parody. Well, what better than to bring that line back and use it to kill an emotional moment just to satisfy the sweaty nerds in the crowd?

    Lastly, I'm kind of glad J.J. Abrams won't be back for Trek 3; because he handles action-scenes as well as Christopher Nolan in The Dark Knight, i.e, not very well and you can't honestly tell what the hell is going on.

    I didn't hate Into Darkness though- I really had a fun time watching it. It's a movie that puts a smile on your face if you just accept it at face value. Fun space action with some sexy young stars, tension, and some clever exchanges of dialogue and some of the best costumes and performances you're likely to find this summer movie season.

    Setting my complaints aside, Into Darkness is a film I'd see again for the sheer fun experience of it. It might not be as good as the first; but It's a movie that definitely shows the exciting prospect the future cold hold for this franchise, even if Abrams leaves for Star Wars.

    Into Darkness doesn't break the bank for creativity, and you won't leave the theater going "Wow! I've never seen THAT before!" but it rides a fine safe line for a comfortable and engaging sci-fi action-film that will please the masses; but struggle to be accepted by the hardcore nerds and cinema-goes looking for a truly substantial experience.