Aisle of the Damned: 4/7/17- Mighty Morphin’ Wrist Cutters

What about Ranger Smith?

It’s a passionate discussion this episode as we tackle some news dripping with Sony’s flop sweat. They’re working on a stand-alone, R-rated Venom movie. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has been talking to Joss Whedon about making a full-blown Batgirl film.

More importantly, we discuss the American remake of Ghost in the Shell and the big-screen adaptation of the ’90s kiddie kaiju show, Power Rangers. (Or is that Saban’s Power Rangers? Might depend on how you feel about adding “John Carpenter’s” to the title of films.)

We also discuss a slew of summer and fall trailers that have come out since the last episode. How are the studio marketing teams trying to sell us the biggest and smallest films of the season? Don’t forget our regular recommendations. All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
They Might Be Giants- Sensurround

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Iron Man 3

Does whatever an iron can

Tony Stark may be battling one of the funnier bouts of PTSD in filmic history.

In Iron Man 3, the guy that had a bomb put shrapnel in his heart, escaped from a cave full of terrorists, fought blood poisoning and faced off against Loki finally has been pushed over the edge into anxiety attacks and insomnia by his experience fighting the war against the Chitari at the end of The Avengers. His reaction to his near-death experience is a logical step from his dealings with what seemed to be a slow slide towards his demise in Iron Man 2. We’ve already seen Tony unbalance. Here, he’s testier, sharper and meaner and ever, which makes this the perfect opportunity for Shane Black’s particular style of sardonics to stretch their legs within the Marvel universe.

I’m sure a lot of critics who are familiar with his work, especially his previous effort with Downey, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, will note that for all its building off the work of Jon Favreau and Joss Whedon, the threequel is a Shane Black movie to its very core. The pacing, the dialogue, the narrative bookends, the plot holes (sorry, it’s true) and even the Christmas setting harken to his earlier works. The economy of his screenplay is in many ways remarkable. Building off a throwaway line from the first film, Black creates a peek back into Stark’s past as it proceeds to swim back and bite him in the ass. (Strange how the same night led to so much of his destruction and salvation.)

The narrative is certainly cleaner than the second go-round as the film concentrates almost solely on Stark being stripped down to his barest essentials and having him (and the audience) rediscover who the man is inside the can. Who is Tony Stark when you wrench away the technology? The support staff like Rhodey and Pepper? His overbearing confidence? In doing so, Downey is given a chance to not only give the character some vulnerability and pathos after the huge affair of Avengers, but to reestablish Iron Man as more than just a suit and reground him, even as the nature of his sci-fi equipment begins to go from retro-futuristic to ridiculous. Unfortunately, the ending, while exciting and fun, seems to be contrary to this entire theme as well as creating some rather obvious questions. For some reason, while I certainly think there could have been some better plotting, I just didn’t really care much while I watched it. I doubt it will bother me much in the future, either. The dialogue is so good and Downey hits such a high note with the character that it just didn’t seem to matter.

Also, there is very little in terms of “world building” this time around. While the events of The Avengers are mentioned (and they continue to use the arrival of Thor as a watershed moment in the history of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” as it is being called), there is no Fury, SHIELD or crossover situations with Cap and the other Avengers.

Stepping in to fill the shoes of the villains this time are The Mandarin and Aldrich Killian. If Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer was a comedic, impotent version of Tony, then Killian is Hammer reflected through the mirror darkly. He actually is a genius and, though he certainly doesn’t start that way upon first appearing, charming in some of the same ways as Stark. Guy Pierce manages this well, including his transformation after a decade. The Mandarin’s use was somewhat disappointing given his pedigree as a heavy, being in many ways Iron Man’s main rogue in the comics. However, Ben Kingsley is so good in the role, it definitely does not come down to him. It just seems to be a sacrifice to the alter of political correctness in the name of international box office. There are certainly many ways to handle The Mandarin without resorting to the seeming “Yellow Menace” origins of the character. I’m just a little disappointed they went with this one. Speaking of secondary characters, can I just say how glad I am that Favreau was nice enough to return as Happy Hogan even though he had a somewhat public falling out with Marvel? I’m glad that everyone seems to be getting along again, because he’s a welcome presence.

Between the narrative questions and the fact that in many ways Killian is similar to Stain and Hammer, Iron Man 3 can’t be called perfect, but it is absolutely good enough to stand head and shoulders with the rest of its Marvel series precursors. I would put it below the first and above the second in regards to the franchise. As far as the 3D goes, it’s not bad given how dark a lot of the film is. It’s certainly better than the awful job that was done with Thor, just a couple of years ago. But it is ultimately very skipable. You’re fine seeing this one in two dimensions.

(Four damns out of five)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: The Avengers

Repulser? I just met her!


There is an internet phrase that originated some time ago in regards to entertainment that flashed across my mind shortly after seeing The Avengers.
To put it delicately (ie incorrectly) for grandma, it is known as the “Eff yeah moment.”

The term that means a scene that is badass and/or unexpected. The more of each are combined, the better. A moment that makes you want to throw your fist in the air and yell… well, you get the idea. I can say with absolutely no doubts in my mind that Joss Whedon’s The Avengers contains more of these moments per hour than any other film I have ever seen. Every character seems to get at least one bit that made me want to stand up and cheer. Based on the nigh-continuous applause at the midnight screening I attended, I was not the only one.

There is such a joy in the writing for the characters, that none of the principles get lost in the shuffle. None of the Avengers. Not Nick Fury. Even most of the secondaries get their chance to shine. The plot itself is, perhaps not weak or thin, but very simple when you get down to its bare bones. (I will not reveal that plot, lest I become the newest super villain of the internet.) But part of the reason the plot isn’t incredibly complicated is because the characters and their relationships are. This is not an origin story for the characters. The previous films in the “official” Marvel series have taken care of that, and thank goodness. But this is the origin of their relationship. With the exception of a few, mostly Iron Man and various members of SHIELD, the clandestine organization that houses Fury, Black Widow and the fan favorite original creation Agent Coulson, these characters are meeting each other for the first time and their dynamic is thoroughly explored with each other. Iron Man, Thor and Captain America bounce off each other with surprising economy as the confluence of events leads them to quickly find who they are in relation to each other. Oddly, while Iron Man quips his way through with the kind of aplomb you would expect and Hulk is used like a desert to add perfectly to the few scenes that the giant Green Meanie is attached to, it is Captain America that seems to benefit most from this approach. “Maybe we need something old fashioned,” Fury remarks early in the recruitment. He seems to be right. While Cap may not have as many moments of pure badassery, when he emerges as a leader (only a spoiler if you haven’t been aware of the comics at all for the last fifty years) it not only feels natural, but necessary.

(In many ways the treatment of Iron Man and Captain America feels like the excellent character work of Superman and Batman in the DC comics animated series that ran on the now-defunct WB. Characters that personally create friction, but manage to find common cause out of adversity, not being “Superfriends,” but also never seeming to snipe just because the story needed a dramatic beat.)

That’s the balancing act that Whedon pulls off, and it’s done in a way that makes it seem like most of his work was a first draft for this film. He manages to fold exposition into character development and character development into fun setpieces that are as big or bigger than any of the summer blockbusters of the last ten years, yet manage to feel far more intimate and personal than anything Michael Bay is capable of. The interactions are reminiscent of his season-long arcs on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, already comic book/horror hybrids, but boiled down to their essence.

The actors bounce off each other like flubber, creating more energy with each blow. The only newbie on the team, Mark Ruffalo, does a decent enough job, even if I personally preferred Ed Norton in the role. It is his Hulked out alter-ego that steals the show. If you have kids, expect them to be wanting Hulk hands for Christmas this year. Cobie Smulders plays the other unknown quantity, SHIELD agent Maria Hill and she does so well enough, mostly being frontloaded in the film.

Everyone else brings their A-game, continuing on what has turned out to be miraculous casting over the course of the previous five films. While the dialogue threatens to become, to steal his trick of slapping a “Y” on the end of anything to make it an adjective, too Whedon-y at times, the actors manage to make it compatible with their past films so it doesn’t seem like as big a shift as the use of someone with such a notoriously stylized use of language could be. With a television series that he’s created or a film like Cabin in the Woods, that’s not an issue. With a film that’s part of a series in which each of the individual directors has to create something that works individually, but also with each other, the results could be less than desirable. The script teeters on the brink on more than one ocassion, but it always manages to pull itself back.

In the end, this is probably the most raucous, joyous, utterly preposterously fun blockbuster in recent memory. I smiled. I pumped my fist. I said, “Eff yeah!”

(Five out of five stars)