You Can't Have Iron Man Without IT

15-May-08 3:32 PM by
Filed under Films; 4 comments.

It's summer blockbuster season, which means it's time again for a dynamic duo team-up. No, not Batman & Robin — Angela Gunn and I have joined forces to review the technology in yet another explosive film. As we did last year with Live Free or Die Hard and The Bourne Ultimatum, we now turn to the IT in Iron Man.

As submitted to Angela, my initial review was rather lengthy and leaned more to the cinematic side, so to accommodate the IT angle called for by the publication venue, some content had to be cut. But Showbits is first and foremost about films, so I present to you that missing content, with ellipses used to indicate where in the final product it would've gone:

… we know that Stark's kryptonite and our own are one and the same.

Though Iron Man ostensibly shares the same world as his Marvel cohorts, the movie is not replete with clever cameos and geeky nods to his literary origins. Nonetheless, there's enough fine detail to reward those with even a passing knowledge of the Iron Man comic. There is a tease of Iron Man's sidekick, War Machine, that I honestly didn't know which way it would go. I was surprised to find myself holding my breath the potential of a surprise superhero. (Speaking of which, be sure to stay through the end of the credits for a bonus scene!)

There's little that Iron Man does badly, though perhaps it does some things less well than it could've. Gwyneth Paltrow's character of Pepper Potts has more depth than a Bond girl but still comes across as a bit weak — more a result of the scripting than the acting, I suspect. There's also plenty of borrowing from other genre films, including Marvel's own library. The villain's origin and appearance is similar to what we'll see next month in The Incredible Hulk; we've already seen the "bring the enemy into the atmosphere until his jets cool" trick in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer; and the hero and villain having an unmasked showdown is a staple of the Spider-Man line.

But hey, you're not here because you're a comic book geek; you're here because you're an IT geek. (There's a difference?) What makes this hero super is the technology, and there's plenty of it …

… Parts in a diagram can be rotated, separated and dragged to the trash, or worn like a glove. Très cool.

The less traditional machines in his house are more like versatile pets. With natural English speech recognition, Stark easily commands them to adjust variables, record logs, and assemble parts, though some machines exhibit personality traits that make them as annoying as helpful. It may not be flawless artificial intelligence, but they won't be threatening us with global thermonuclear war anytime soon, either.

Stark also sports a digital butler …

Read the full review at Computerworld.com »

Quarterly Review

08-Aug-07 2:45 PM by
Filed under Films, Star Trek; 3 comments.

The June/July issue of Geek Monthly has a cover story on what a great year 1982 was for geeks. We may not have noticed it at the time, but it is astonishing what a plethora of great sci-fi films came out all in that one year. Unfortunately, some of these films I did not see upon their initial release, and some are not as great today as they were 25 years ago. Nonetheless, here in brief is my rundown of their list:

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Considered "the zenith of the Trek feature films", I agree this film began the even-numbered successes that persisted until Nemesis. The tie-in to the original series, Ricardo Montalban as the villain, and the ending were all fantastic facets… but for all that, I still think I prefer the more lighthearted The Voyage Home.

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How Ironic

30-Jul-07 9:30 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 2 comments.

Courtesy Ctrl+Alt+Del comes this trailer of the film adaptation of the Marvel comic book, Iron Man:



For those (like me) who are far less comics-savvy than Showbits reader Gene D.: no, that isn't War Machine in the trailer. "Iron Man's original suit in the comic books was gray," writes Gene; "Later, it became the familiar red and gold." So the early appearance of ironclad Robert Downey Jr. should not be confused for his similarly-equipped, monochomatic sidekick.Until this film releases on May 2nd, you can sate yourself with the direct-to-DVD animated origin story, released this past January.

By Your Powers Combined…

27-Jun-07 3:49 PM by
Filed under Reviews; 2 comments.

My belated report on Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is that it's a better film than I expected — yet ironically, that may be because I wasn't expecting much.

I've previously written how disappointed I was in the first film, which I saw only a few scant months after watching the canned 1994 flick of the same name. Even now, I'm challenged to keep the two straight — not that it matters, as they were comparable in quality. I was disappointed by the goofy antics of the Fantastic Four, especially after the roller-coaster rides of action and drama that were the first Spider-Man and X-Men films. Since I've specialized in in DC comics, not Marvel, I didn't know any better. Maybe the dynamic duo times two have always been this silly.

This sequel is much the same, with gratuitous acts of wanton stretchiness and laughably bad dialogue. But this time around, I knew what I was getting myself into, so I accepted such comical romps as this film's definition of "fun". Contributing to its entertainment value were that Julian McMahon did a better job as Victor Von Doom than he did in the previous film, though he did seem to be trying too hard to channel Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor. Laurence Fishburne was wonderfully, stereotypically mysterious and melancholy as the voice of the Silver Surfer. And Stan Lee's cameos, unlike Hitchcock's and King's in their horror films, are getting just too obvious.

Regardless of my perception, Rise of the Silver Surfer actually was superior to its predecessor — the action, characterization, and conflicts were all a bit more complex than before. But this time, it was okay that those elements were not on par with their more successful comic book kin. Let this comic book be comical; for anything more, I have the first two Spider-Man and X-Men.

A Great Big Bang-Up

10-May-07 3:53 PM by
Filed under Reviews; 11 comments.

Spider-Man 3 was to fans like honey to flies. Having contributed to that success, I now offer this perspective on a film that I very much enjoyed, but nowhere near as much as I did its predecessors.

I skimped on the previews for this third adaptation of the Marvel superhero: trailers are unnecessary selling points for a movie that had me at "hello". I'm glad I abstained, as the trailers contained multiple spoilers, including the presence of a major character whom I did not expect to see in this movie (despite all the clues being there). It was fun to watch all these icons come to life and duke it out, even if the first fight was my favorite and the rest seemed too frenetic and CGI-ish to follow.

But ultimately, that character's appearance contributed to the film's greatest flaw. I didn't have to see Batman & Robin to know that it was a victim to (among other things) its own ambition: introducing Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Bane, and Batgirl was too much for one film to handle. Spider-Man 3 suffers similarly (if perhaps not as severely). Who will Spider-Man fight next: Sandman? The son of the Green Goblin? Or the black suit? Is he preoccupied by reliving the night his uncle was killed, not giving Maryjane the attention she deserves? Is she the love interest, or is Gwen Stacy?

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Fantastic Faux

26-Dec-06 11:15 PM by
Filed under Films; 6 comments.

And now the trailer for the next Fantastic Four film is up.

I know why I watch this stuff: after watching the best parts of a bomb excerpted into trailer form, I'm saved the time and money of watching the rest of the movie. Here, we have Johnny Storm chasing the T-1000, who has some pretty nifty powers but whose motivations are unclear. I'm happy for them to stay that way.

I saw the first Fantastic Four film at KansasFest 2005 as our annual geek field trip; other such titles have included Superman Returns, Terminator 3, X-Men, Planet of the Apes, and both Bourne films. Obviously, we've had both hits and misses. But based on past experience, I think we can safely rule out this Marvel flop as a likely candidate for KFest 2007.

It's a shame that Marvel's cinematic adaptations can't be more consistent, as they have great potential. I rewatched Spider-Man 2 today, and the original X-Men last week (more on that in a future post). So far, four-fifths of these two franchises are fantastic; but the other Marvel films I've seen, such as Daredevil and Hulk, were simply painful. I'll take my Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno DVD sets anyday.

Trailer Sense is Tingling

22-Dec-06 9:36 PM by
Filed under Films; Comments Off on Trailer Sense is Tingling

Spider-Man 3 trailer is up.

I don't even know why I bother watching this stuff. It's not like they need to sell me on the film.

Looks like they're playing around with comic book continuity. I'm okay with that, especially since I'm sure we're seeing only a fraction of the truth this early in the game. I just hope this franchise doesn't go the way of the Batman films by having too many villains in each…