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?

Alpha Wolverine

16-Dec-08 10:00 AM by
Filed under Trailers; 1 comment.

DC and Marvel are going gangbusters at adapting their comic book licenses to the silver screen. Of the two, Marvel has had more releases, and also more bombs. Though their debuts of the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises were financial and critical successes, I was less impressed with the third installments. So I'm not quite sure what to make of the upcoming X-Men spinoff that puts Hugh Jackman in the starring role he technically already had in the previous trilogy:

X-Men Origins: Wolverine comes out May 1st, 2009. Will you be in line?

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)

Hulk (a) Smash!!

27-Jun-08 11:05 AM by
Filed under Reviews; 1 comment.

Bill Bixby's Hulk impressed on me the quintessential rendition of the monster, which made Eric Bana's take all the more monstrous. I have spent the last five years submerging memories of that 2003 Hulk film, and I worried that this summer's second attempt at the green giant would be more of the same. But with the reassurances of Marvel devotees, I paid my admission and steeled myself for the worst.

It's amazing what a difference is made when a film's star shares my opinion. As Ed Norton said on Jimmy Kimmel, "We're trying to rescue this franchise from the crapper!" He thus took a heavy hand in the scripting and editing of this outing, resulting in a much more engaging and fluid tale.

From the opening, it's clear this film is neither sequel nor remake. Dr. Banner's backstory is told primarily through brief vignettes that play out under the opening credit sequence. This encapsulation suffices for comic book buffs; others will pick up the details from ensuing dialogue. The story is clearly an homage to its television namesake: Within the first few minutes of the opening is a cameo by Bill Bixby, and later there's Lou Ferrigno in a much more noticeable and respectful appearance than in the last Hulk film. This is not a movie-length episode of the television series, but there are many common elements, such as a protagonist on the run, looking for a cure, which could not be present in an "origin" story such as Ang Lee's. The renewed focus on character development is a welcome change from the 2003 version that featured arena-type combat, a ridiculous villain, and a hero we could neither understand nor sympathize with.

The supporting cast here creates a valuable context for Banner to develop in. Like Jeff Bridges in Iron Man, William Hurt has aged into an excellent villain almost unrecognizable from his usual throwaway fare in films such as Michael and A.I. His brassy, hard-as-nails general is someone whose motivations we can almost understand, smartly keeping him from being the true villain. General Ross is also a more interesting father figure than the one Nick Nolte tried to play in the last Hulk film; Banner's relationships are sufficiently complex and painful without introducing unnecessary and villainous family.

As for the Hulk's actual adversary, I was hesitant by what the trailers suggested: essentially an evil Hulk, manufactured through the same means that brought us our original hero. Yet the smallest of details banished my concerns and instead subtly incorporated the Hulk into the rich Marvel mythos. It seems the gamma radiation which put Banner on the lam was a byproduct of research into creating the perfect "super-soldier" — a phrase that should hold meaning to any fan of the Marvel universe.

The Incredible Hulk has a good mix of action and dialogue. Banner is subjected to only three transformations, and in the style of Alien, his first appearance is kept almost entirely in the dark. Action fans may've expected more of the title character and less of his human counterpart, but I think the film's focus is exactly where its cinematic predecessor showed (by counterexample) it should be. (There could've been even more; I'm told there are over 70 minutes of deleted scenes, several of which are visible in the trailers.) Director Louis Leterrier deftly works the threat of the Hulk into even non-action sequences. There's a tense scene in which a metamorphosis begins and Betty climbs atop the thrashing figure to offer calming words, piercing Banner's confused haze to remind him who he is. Perhaps this act struck me for being so similar to my mother's own actions when my father had a seizure.

There are a few inconsistencies. When Banner is driving at night with "a person of interest", he ducks down in his car seat; but the next morning, he feels comfortable strolling through an open glade with her in broad daylight. When threatened, he pushes his love interest away for her own safety — but later, when he knows he's about to transform, he makes no such gestures. Is this guy a brilliant scientist or not??

More to the point: is The Incredible Hulk a brilliant film? I'd say yes, and it's almost enough to make me wonder if the 2003 film was Marvel Comics' attempt at New Coke to make us appreciate the reboot all the more. Iron Man is still the summer film to beat, but as superheroes go, Ed Norton has created an unexpectedly incredible movie.

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 »

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?

(more…)