Iron Man vs Superman vs Star Trek

29-Apr-13 12:01 PM by
Filed under Films, Trailers; 1 comment.

The summer movie season kicks off this week, with dozens of big-budget blockbusters maintaining the momentum through Labor Day. Although our attention may be piqued by many films, from Pacific Rim to The Wolverine to Now You See Me, only three film have bubbled to the top of my must-see list. For each one, I am cautiously optimistic, as each has the potential to be awesome — or to soar too close to the sun and plummet spectacularly.

I have purposely avoided trailers for each of these three films. If the purpose of a trailer is to sell its audience on seeing the movie, then mission accomplished: I'm sold. Many trailers do so by featuring the film's best moments, and I'd prefer to avoid such spoilers and see them in context. If you're of a similar mindset, you're welcome to skip over the trailers embedded below.

Despite ignoring these media, I've still absorbed critical details about each of the films. So here is my breakdown, which I'd like you to use to answer the question: If you could see only one movie this summer, what would it be: Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, or Man of Steel?

Iron Man 3 (May 3)

  • Jon Favreau, director of the excellent Iron Man, is not at the helm of this sequel. How good can it be?
  • Jon Favreau, director of the mediocre Iron Man 2, is not at the helm of this sequel. How bad can it be?
  • Written by Shane Black, who also wrote the excellent Robert Downey Jr. noir comedy, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
  • It's been only a year since we last saw Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark; his Avengers teammate, Thor, is also returning to the silver screen later this year. Is Marvel running the risk of saturating the superhero genre?

Star Trek Into Darkness (May 17)

  • Likely J.J. Abrams' swan song in Gene Roddenberry's universe before he departs to play in George Lucas's sandbox.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch is the villain — but do we know yet what character that is? Could Paramount be playing this too close to the chest?
  • Star Trek XI was the highest-grossing Star Trek movie of all time; it earned almost as much as Star Trek Generations, First Contact, Insurrection, and Nemesis combined. Can lightning strike twice?

Man of Steel (June 14)

  • The first Superman film reboot since Christopher Reeve's 1978 movie.
  • Smallville was on the air for a decade before signing off in 2011. Is it too soon for more Superman? Or is this just the right time to capitalize on the character before he fades from public consciousness?
  • Directed by Zack Snyder, who's had mixed critical success with past films 300, Watchmen, and Sucker Punch.
  • Produced by Christopher Nolan, who directed the recent Dark Knight trilogy. He knows how to make a superhero relevant and cool — but Batman and Superman are the dark and the light. Will Superman become a brooding badass?
  • The film's title does not actually say "Superman", in much the way the first seasons of Enterprise did not include "Star Trek". That didn't work out so well, either. Are the producers trying to cast this as something it's not?
  • This film holds the potential to set up a Justice League team-up movie. If well-executed, could DC finally begin to rival Marvel in silver screen popularity?

Fortunately, we can have our cake and eat it, too: I'll be seeing all three of these films in due time. What about you?

Avengers Assemble

11-Oct-11 10:08 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 2 comments.

Ladies and gentlemen… boys and girls… I present to you: the summer blockbuster of 2012.

Marvel superheroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, and Thor join forces as the Avengers, under the direction of Joss Whedon of Buffy and Firefly fame. The team's individual films have, on the whole, been good to great, so even I, only an occasional fan of Marvel Comics, find myself with high hopes and expectations for this collaboration.

This raises the question: Why can't DC Comics do this with their stable of legendary heroes? Their Batman franchise is going gangbusters, but they've so far failed to gain traction with Superman (though a reboot is coming in 2013) or Green Lantern. The IMDb lists a Wonder Woman TV show coming later this year, with a movie in 2015. By contrast, Marvel assembled their team in just four years.

We'll likely not have an answer until well after The Avengers' May 4, 2012, debut.

UPDATE: Do not be fooled by cheap imitations!

Or wanna-bes!

Summer Shorts: Office 2010

21-May-10 11:00 AM by
Filed under Films; Comments Off

Shorts can take many forms: cartoon, parable, excerpt, vignette. Sometimes the teaser for a film is the film itself. Trailers are created for nonexistent movies with no intention of expanding it into a feature-length production. Popular examples are the World's Finest trailer for a Superman/Batman team-up, as well as Grayson, a project by the same team that puts Robin in the leading role after Batman's death.

It's easier to create a standalone trailer based on an existing property, as with so little time in which to draw viewers in, using familiar characters will quickly bring them up to speed sufficiently to appreciate the tale being teased. At the same time, creative types can still use such trailers to reinvent established franchises, taking them in bold new directions. No more dramatic effort has ever been witnessed than in this trailer for Office 2010: The Movie.

Even if the popular yet despised productivity suite is not destined for the silver screen, it does have its share of stories. At ROFLCon II, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Kevan Atteberry, creator of Clippy, the much-maligned assistant found in Microsoft Office 1997–2003. He disavowed responsibility for the loathing Clippy incited — "I only invented the chracter; I did not invent the functionality" — but is nonetheless happy with the fame it brought him, saying that he still gets 3-4 letters a year about Clippy. "It doesn't matter to me if you like him or not. As long as you know who he is, I'm happy."

Should the above trailer ever prove fodder for a feature film, expect fans to be dismayed at the source material being betrayed:



The Technology and Security of Iron Man 2

17-May-10 10:49 AM by
Filed under Reviews; Comments Off

Iron Man 2 Three years ago, my then-new employment at Computerworld partnered me with security maven Angela Gunn to produce a series of articles on a topic of mutual interest: geeky films. To make it appropriate for our employer's audience, we dissected the IT in films, she from a security perspective and I from a cinematic one. We wrote three such articles before Angela found employment elsewhere.

Movies are not a core topic for an enterprise IT magazine, so the series was put on the backburner. Fortunately, I recently found a new co-author with whom to collaborate. Bill Brenner of CSO Online, a publication affiliated with Computerworld, and I decide to revive the "Security Goes to the Movies" brand with a few changes. Instead of writing in two voices with one commenting on the other, we tried integrating our commentary into a consistent tone, making for a less jarring reading experience.

Our first outing was to see Iron Man 2 opening night with former Computerworld copyeditor Gene Demaitre, with whom I wrote the similarly cinematic IT piece, "Do Sci-Fi Films Get Advanced Tech Right?". Angela and I had reviewed the original Iron Man, and I was eager to put its successor to the same scrutiny.

The first fruit of this labor is now online:

The summer blockbuster season officially kicked off last Friday with Iron Man 2, an action-packed superhero flick that had the fifth-highest-grossing opening weekend in Hollywood's history. Whether you like the movie or not, at least one thing about it rings true — the plot and the characters provide a striking reflection of today's tech security industry.

Marvel's metallic superhero was first portrayed on the silver screen by Robert Downey Jr. in 2008's Iron Man. In that film, playboy industrialist Tony Stark has a crisis of conscience and brings the manufacture of weapons at his defense company to a halt. To chase down terrorists who have misappropriated his munitions, Stark builds himself an armored, weaponized exoskeleton suit (that can fly!) and becomes Iron Man, making his invention an object of desire to military profiteers.

The sequel is much the same, with more villains, more conniving and more suits. A montage catches us up on what's happened since the previous movie: With no country's military able to match Iron Man's technological superiority, Stark's vigilante action and deterrent policy have brought about a worldwide détente.

Since Stark is the only person who knows what makes Iron Man tick, the world's security rests entirely in his hands. Not surprisingly, the U.S. government wants to reproduce the Iron Man suit for its own militaristic purposes; the debate over private vs. public security forms one of the movie's core conflicts.

You can read the rest of our story at Computerworld.com (or CSO Online, if you prefer). Bill and I pretty happy with it and look forward to working together again.

One passage was rightfully left on the cutting room floor as it had little relevance to security technology, but Showbits readers may find it helpful to know:

There is a scene in Monaco in which Stark acts heroically without his suit, underscoring the fact that superpowers do not a superhero make. But the pendulum swings both ways, as later, we see an armored Stark making an ass of himself, akin to the Iron Man comic book plot "Demon in a Bottle." When he does battle evildoers, the film focuses tightly on the action, which provides less context for the overall scene; had the director pulled back on the camera a bit more, we'd have a better grasp of what's happening when.

Have you seen the film that kicked off the summer blockbuster season? What did you think, from any perspective?

How It Should Have Ended

02-May-10 12:37 PM by
Filed under Humor, Star Trek; 1 comment.

Film directors must work with an intrinsic limitation: whatever story they've set out to tell, they have only two hours in which to tell it from beginning to end. Wrapping everything up in time sometimes requires either a deus ex machina or a dramatic climax that strains readers' suspension of disbelief. Given that we checked such logic at the door, it's rarely a problem to continue accepting the movie's reality up until the end credits — but does that mean it couldn't have been done even better?

How It Should Have Ended is a series of animated re-imaginings of popular film endings. Having assumed you've seen the original film, the shorts present their own interpretations of key points of the stories, resulting in dramatically different endings. The series was started as a fun side project that non-viability threatened with extinction; fortunately, Starz media network provided HISHE's creators with the incentive to keep going.

With Iron Man 2 due out in a few days, it seems timely to review its predecessor's conclusion. That last battle always did strike me as a bit forced. Here's how Iron Man should have ended:

The confab with Superman, Batman and Spider-Man is a running gag that alludes back to earlier videos.

Not all HISHE shorts are consistent within their films' universe; sometimes, their non sequiturs apply a sort of meta-awareness of Hollywood. A good example is how Star Trek should have ended:

I imagine hardcore fans might not cotton to their favorite films being parodied in such a manner — the Lord of the Rings spoof is especially threatening to such fanboyism — but we're here to enjoy ourselves, and anything that uses film to get us to laugh at ourselves as well is a means to that end. Check out HISHE's full library of over two dozen reinterpretations. What film ending would you like to see added to their collection?

Iron Man 2 Gets Whiplashed

06-Jan-10 2:39 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 4 comments.

Iron Man was one of the most realistic and enjoyable superhero films of the last decade (Oughts? Noughts?). It captured both the struggle and the enthusiasm that we imagine anyone bequeathed superpowers would experience. (And it made for a dang funny RiffTrax.)

Though Iron Man may not be one of Marvel's most recognizable superheroes, being overshadowed by the likes of Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Incredible Hulk, his theatrical debut paid off and quickly warranted itself a sequel. Last summer's purchase of Marvel by Disney hasn't slowed down the fast track our tin-can hero is on. The summer blockbuster season kicks off on May 7, 2010, with Iron Man 2:

The trailer shows Iron Man joined in combat by Rhodey as War Machine, as foreshadowed in the first film. The Mandarin was also a hinted villain in Iron Man, but I didn't recognize the enemy above; I had to consult IMDb to determine that it is Mickey Rourke as "Whiplash". Whoever that is (I don't follow the comic book), it's better than rumors that Stark's villain would be alcoholism, as seen in the 1979 comic book storyline "Demon in a Bottle" — that plot was already handled by 2008's Hancock.

What are your thoughts for Iron Man 2? High hopes, or low expectations?

Last-Minute Costume Ideas

31-Oct-08 10:54 AM by
Filed under Humor; 1 comment.

We can always count on MST3K to help us celebrate the holidays. Just as they always have a special Christmas message, today they help us dress up for Halloween:

It's hard for me to top the costume I wore to work four years ago… but every Halloween is a new opportunity. Perhaps this year I'll carve a Death Star jack-o'-lantern! (Hat tip to meancritter)

Iron Man Faces His Greatest Foe

15-Sep-08 10:27 AM by
Filed under Films; 2 comments.

Iron Man: fights corporate moguls, ancient wizards, and … cancer?

Iron Man 2, currently slated for release on May 2, 2010, is offering fans the opportunity to be a part of comic book history. By bidding on this eBay auction, you can win a walk-on/extra role in the sequel, as well as a meet-and-greet with the cast, and a walk down the red carpet at the film's premiere. How much fun would that be? I can imagine smiling and waving at the papparazzi as they ask, "Who's that?" "I don't know, but he must be famous!"

Of course, there are caveats: "Role and length of screen time to be determined by Marvel"; "Role and length of screen time to be determined by Marvel, and there can be no assurance that the role will appear in the final version of the film"; "If experience cannot be fulfilled, Marvel will provide alternative set visits/premieres based on Marvel’s availability". Them's the breaks of working in Tinsel Town.

I've detailed my experiences working as an extra and how ot requires patience for long hours and minimum wage. If that wasn't appealing enough, now you can pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege! It might be cheaper to just move to L.A. and sign up for any of the many casting companies that handle such crowd scenes. But if you're bidding on this auction, chances are your goal is not to grab your 15 seconds of fame, but to support a noble cause: proceeds from the auction go to Stand Up To Cancer (a charity I could find listed at neither Charity Navigator nor GuideStar non-profit profile and rating services), making this bidding war a more philanthropic exploitation of geek culture than some other auctions.

As a sci-fi geek and a former participant in cancer fundraisers, the angles of this auction piqued my interest. Though I'm not sure if an eBay auction can be limited to pre-qualified bidders, this one claims to require screening of interested parties. Curious, I filled out the last Wednesday, back when the going price was only $8000. I received a call back Thursday afternoon on my voice mail. I returned it on Friday and left them a voice mail. No progress has been made beyond this game of tag, and with the auction ending in 13 hours, it looks like I will not be able to contribute my entire life savings toward this auction.

(Hat tip to ComingSoon.net)