Posts Tagged 'thor'

Reaction: Marvel’s ballsy PHASE THREE lineup announcement

Phase Three logos

I began writing this post on Tuesday, October 28, the day Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige did a Steve Jobs/Apple style keynote address in L.A. announcing Marvel’s entire slate of films through 2019, which will comprise “Phase Three” of this interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a very ambitious lineup of 9 films, which shows just how confident Marvel has become given their success since “Phase One” began with the original Iron Man in 2008. It includes several already established characters and properties (Captain America, Thor, Loki, Hulk, the Guardians of the Galaxy) along with brand new films and characters that Marvel hopes/assumes will each turn into their own hit franchises. The newbies include the already announced Doctor Strange movie (which will now presumably star Benedict Cumberbatch), a Black Panther movie, a Captain Marvel movie, the third Avengers movie (with the awesome Infinity War subtitle), which will be split into two parts, and finally, The Inhumans.

In case you can’t read the photo (click on it for the bigger version), here’s the full lineup:

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Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

Cap America 2 poster

Captain America: The Winter Soldier marks the unofficial start to the 2014 summer movie season (yes, I know it’s the first week of April, but that’s how Hollywood does business now). It arrives riding a wave of massive fanboy approval and some of the best reviews any Marvel movie has received thus far. A lot of people are calling it the best Marvel movie yet*, while some are boldly using the “it’s better than The Avengers” line to drum up hype and/or to get their name on the TV ads. I was actually hoping that those things were true. I wanted a more story-centric Marvel movie, and from the two amazing trailers, it looked like we might finally be getting one. In the end, kinda, but not so much. This movie is almost great. It’s almost what I wanted it to be, but in the end it succumbs to a lot of the issues that plague the other Marvel flicks; large gaps in logic, a weak villain, an overabundance of action in lieu of story in order to keep 12-year olds hooked, and an overdone visual effects extravaganza for a finale.

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Review: IRON MAN 3

iron_man_three_ver2

Iron Man 3 marks the beginning of Marvel’s “Phase Two” series of films in the buildup towards The Avengers 2 in 2015. Between now and then, we get Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World (11/8/13), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (4/4/14), and the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie (8/1/14). However, Iron Man 3 is very much a movie about Tony Stark, which I think is appropriate. It does not exist merely to help setup The Avengers 2. There are no big Avenger cameos during the film, no appearance by Sam Jackson or really any mention of S.H.I.E.L.D. The story deals a lot with Tony’s personal struggles after the events of The Avengers, but that’s really the only Avengers connection we get. One of the complaints a lot of critics had about Iron Man 2 was that the S.H.I.E.L.D./Avengers stuff was too central to the story. I sort of agreed with that. This one is a much more personal, character-driven film than the other Iron Man movies, and I found that refreshing. There are really only 3 major action set pieces, which may leave some ADHD viewers scratching their heads, saying, “DERP!?”

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REVIEW: THE AVENGERS (PLUS the fallout of its massive success, and looking ahead in the Marvel movie universe)

Before we get into the review, I just wanted to do a little bookkeeping, especially with regards to the money this thing is bringing in. The Avengers is officially a cultural phenomenon. People who don’t normally see movies in theaters have seen it. People who don’t normally see comic book movies have seen it. People who don’t talk about these kinds of movies are talking about it. People who don’t talk about box office results are talking about it. The fact that everyone on earth was talking about how much money it made helped it make even more money. I was watching Bill O’Reilly‘s show the Monday after that huge opening, and even he made mention of the crazy records it’s breaking. It’s insanity. I am finishing this piece after seeing it 3 times (at 3 different theaters!) and having thus contributed $19 to that billion-plus dollar haul. Let’s face it, without me, this movie is a total bomb. You’re welcome, Marvel.

Continue reading ‘REVIEW: THE AVENGERS (PLUS the fallout of its massive success, and looking ahead in the Marvel movie universe)’

My Top 5 Concerns Going Into THE AVENGERS

The Avengers is now but 2 Fridays away, after 4 years of buildup through 5 other superhero movies. One of the most unique and challenging attempts in history at a cinematic merger is complete. That fact alone makes this a really big deal. Nothing like this has been attempted before in the hundred-plus years people have been making movies. I always had serious doubts this movie would even happen, let alone come together this smoothly. Now that it’s here, despite my excitement and trust in the talented people involved, I’m still a little hesitant to believe it will work. Or at least work the way I want it to (that’s a big caveat there).

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The Worst Sports Losses of My Life (And More!)

I write this because sadly, I believe the reign of consistent, multiple, championship-caliber Boston sports teams is coming to an end. From 2000-2010, we were lucky enough to see our teams win 6 championships in 3 different sports, reach the finals of 2 more and have at least 3 of the 4 major sports teams in playoff contention almost every year. I don’t have the research in front of me, but I’d be willing to bet that’s the best decade-long run any city in America has ever enjoyed. In short, we’ve been kind of a big deal. Though there were several missed opportunities along the way, Boston sports fans like me have had little to complain about in the big picture, and need to thank the sports gods that we were alive and young when all of this unfolded. I certainly don’t expect anything like it to happen again in whatever time I have left on this earth. I for one haven’t taken this for granted for a moment. We all know the highlights; the Patriots won Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX, the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 & 2007, and the Celtics won the NBA title (over the Lakers!) in 2008, but this post is about the terrible lows we also had to endure. Because I just can’t get over the fact that this decade could have been (and I’d argue should have been) even better.

These are the worst losses that I personally have experienced, that I was able to watch live. This is not meant to be a definitive list of the worst losses in Boston sports history, although I think at least 3 of these would make that list as well. I didn’t become a big pro sports fan until the late 90’s, so I can’t recount the glory days of Red Sox failure, nor can I recall the joys of the 80’s Celtics.

I’m going to rank these from least epically painful to most epically painful. Anybody who hates Boston sports will be able to take great pleasure in recalling these games, but I think as our teams begin to look to the future, it’s cathartic to reflect on the worst of times as well as the best of times. Let’s face it, prior to 2001 and 2004, we were the preeminent experts in sports misery.

First, a little history about my ‘career’ as a sports fan, because everything on my list happened in the last 10 years, which may seem odd to anyone who’s been a sports fan their whole life. I grew up mostly in a single-parent home with my mom, my brother and sister. I always loved playing sports and being athletic, but other than the one organized sport I played (soccer, for almost 10 years), I didn’t understand or care about college or pro sports. I was never taught early on that I should be a fan of Boston teams, and it never occurred to me since I rarely went to any games. Even though I was a kid during some of the most important moments in the history of the Red Sox and the Celtics, I was largely unaware of any of those events because it wasn’t a big deal in my house. If my dad had been around and taught me about pro sports in my formative years, I wonder how different things would be now. Then again, as best as I can tell, my dad wasn’t then or now a huge sports fan, so it may not have been very different at all.

I sometimes wonder what would have become of me if I grew up a jock instead of a geek. I tend to think my personality would’ve gotten in the way of being a jock regardless, but given what I think of most jocks now, I’m just fine with not having gone that route. Though it’s funny now, because I do remember specific moments in high school where that door was open to me. The only thing I’m really curious about is how it would have altered my lifestyle, my career plans, etc. Hell, I might be normal, and be married with kids by now. Yeah, maybe not. Anyone who’s known me long enough knows ‘normal’ isn’t in my DNA. In the end, it was Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg who had the biggest influence on me as a kid, not Larry Bird, Roger Clemens (thank god!) or Jim Rice.

I didn’t really become a fan of professional sports until I was 14 or 15, and even then, the first team I was a fan of was not a Boston team. It was the Orlando Magic. The first pro sport I got into was the NBA, and as I began watching and learning about pro basketball, Shaquille O’Neal quickly became my favorite player. Naturally, that meant I was rooting for the Magic whenever they were on TV. Then, the Magic got Penny Hardaway in one of the most significant draft day trades ever, and that dynamic, entertaining as hell one-two punch was all I cared about for a few years. I didn’t get into the NFL until 2000 (I was just never interested in football as a kid), and oddly enough, I hated baseball until I watched one of the games listed below.

With that said, let’s get into it:

#4 – Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, ALCS Game 7 (October 16, 2003) – Also known as “the game that made me a Red Sox fan.” Like I said, prior to this, I’d always ignorantly hated baseball. I would throw out all the clichéd reasons people that hate baseball still do now – it was boring, nothing ever happened, it was too long, etc. etc. At the same time, I always knew about the Red Sox’s tormented history, 1918, and all that. I was also keenly aware that Red Sox-Yankees was one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports. I hadn’t been following the Sox in 2003, but as they made this memorable playoff run, I became interested in what would happen to them. Was this the year? I thought that would be cool, but I still didn’t really care a whole lot. Actually, I remember to this day being in line outside waiting to get into Avalon Boston (may she rest in peace) on Lansdowne Street behind Fenway on Saturday, October 4 when Trot Nixon hit an 11th inning walk-off homerun in Game 3 of the ALDS against the A’s. I was standing there in line talking to my buddies when Fenway suddenly exploded into joy. It was quite an experience fucking awesome just being in the vicinity. As happy fans filed out of the park, I went about my business into the club to drink and dance to some electronic music, like I’d done so many nights before. I’d wager to say the night was even better because of the mood in the city that night. I’m willing to bet that brief moment primed me for what was to come.

As the Red Sox advanced to the ALCS, I still wasn’t motivated enough to watch, but I did keep track of the results. On the night of Game 7, I didn’t have anything else going on, so, with a chance for the Sox to advance to the World Series, I decided I’d give it a go and watch what transpired at Yankee Stadium. I didn’t know shit about the intricacies of baseball, but a Game 7 is a Game 7. We all know what happened during the game. We all remember Grady Little “allowing” Pedro Martinez to pitch into the 8th, and just how swell that turned out. It was during the game, watching Yankees fans, that I began to understand why this rivalry was such a big deal, and I slowly felt myself getting into it, and more importantly, I began hating those arrogant fucks in New York. Their presumptuousness irritated me. They expected to win and advance to the World Series, and you could read that through the TV. It seemed offensive to them that they even had to go through with the ALCS. To me, it seemed like Yankees fans expected once the regular season ended, their team should just be given the AL’s spot in the World Series. It pissed me off.

When Tim Wakefield threw that sad knuckleball to Aaron Boone, who then took it upon himself to instantly end the Red Sox season and send the Yankees to the World Series once again, something ignited inside me, like a phoenix. I realized I had just experienced one of those classic miserable Red Sox moments live. I instantly got it. The only way I can describe it is to say that there’d been a diehard Red Sox fan lying dormant inside me my whole life, and that one homerun, and seeing the Yankees celebrate, and seeing the Red Sox players’ shocked dismay in the dugout all mixed together, released that fan, woke it from its 23-year coma. I’ve been following baseball, and despising the Yankees, ever since.

Going into 2004, I certainly had no expectation the Sox would end the curse. In fact, I quite relished the opportunity to live through more of that Sox misery, except this time I’d get to experience it with friends instead of alone in my bedroom. I assumed, like everyone else, that it would be a long time to come before the Sox won the World Series, and like I’d heard so many Sox fans say before, I just hoped it would happen once during my lifetime. Would I have become a Red Sox fan if I hadn’t watched this particular game live? I suspect so, only it would have happened one year later instead. But I’m glad I became a fan after the worst of times than after the best of times in ’04. I’m glad I got to experience that pain once before the incomparable joy of October, 2004. Still, at the time, it was extremely painful. At the time, the only satisfaction I was able to get was seeing those same Yankees lose to Josh Beckett and the Marlins.

I still can’t watch Boone on ESPN’s baseball coverage today without thinking at least once…Aaron Fuck’n Boone.

I’m sorry, guys:

#3 – New England Patriots vs. New York Jets, AFC Divisional Round (January 16, 2011) – This one is still fresh in most of our minds, and it hurts because of what an incredible season the Pats had just finished going into this game. A 14-2 regular season that had seen some of the most interesting roster moves in the Belichick-Brady era. It was Belichick’s best coaching performance (done without an offensive OR defensive coordinator), and Brady, who would become the first-ever unanimous NFL MVP, had put up the most spectacularly efficient stats of his career (his 36:4 TD:INT ratio (9:1) was by far the best in NFL history). They did it with a young team (featuring a fantastic draft class playing key roles, most notably Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and the punter with the comic book name, Zoltan Mesko), with breakout players nobody else wanted (BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead) who could only have done what they did on this team. And of course, there was Brady’s epic hair.

In probably the most anticipated game of the season to that point, they’d beaten the hated Jets 45-3 at home on Monday Night Football in what I repeatedly called the single most satisfying football game I’ve ever watched, embarrassing Rex Ryan and shutting up some of their mouthy, douchebag players like Bart Scott, LaDanian Tomlinson and Antonio Cromartie. There was that awesome win in the snow in Chicago, another Monday Night blowout in Miami, a win against the Colts, and a sweep of the NFC North (including a W over Randy Moss and the Vikings that saw Brett Favre carted off the field after being smashed in the jaw). It was an amazing regular season, and the Patriots had set themselves up perfectly for the playoffs, getting the number 1 seed and a bye. This was a likable, ego-free team that Pats fans were immensely proud of, one that deserved win a championship.

Then the Jets came in and fucked up our hopes and dreams. It was a miserable game, one that you never felt good about as it unfolded. Even though it was close throughout, I never felt like the Pats were going to pull it together. They weren’t successful in doing anything they’d done so well the entire season. They couldn’t complete a long pass (because without Moss, they had no legit deep threats), and they could barely complete anything short, which had become their bread and butter. Tom Brady threw his first INT in 8 WEEKS (great timing) on the opening drive. There was the Patrick Chung fake punt. It was just a fucking disaster; a pathetic end to a brilliant season. Having the friggin Jets knock us out of the playoffs AT HOME like this was, how shall I put it lightly…difficult to accept. It was yet another early playoff loss (they’d been obliterated at home by the Ravens just one year earlier), and had every Patriots fan scratching their heads in bewilderment or pulling their hair out in disgust.

The reason this was so painful is because I hate wasted opportunities, and this was about as great an opportunity as we are ever gonna see for another Super Bowl. Again, this was a team that Patriots fans adored. Seeing this group of players go all the way would probably have been even more satisfying than any of the previous 3 Super Bowl wins. They’d beaten almost every team in the playoffs already during the regular season (including the Jets, Bears, Steelers and Packers). I personally was very excited to see this team play in the Super Bowl at Jerry JonesCowboys Stadium football Death Star in Dallas.

The Patriots were better than that fucking Jets team, yet they got outcoached and outplayed when it mattered most. I hate that, and like I said at the time, it made me reevaluate how passionate I should get about sports going forward, because I felt like I’d just wasted 3 months of my life being emotionally invested in this team. If THIS group can’t even win their first playoff game (at home!) – if a near-perfect regular season means NOTHING – why am I getting so excited for these games? If they’d gone 10-6, it wouldn’t have bothered me so much. But they were 14-2, an elite team, and still were barely able to put up a fight. It was goddamn depressing. I didn’t watch SportsCenter or look at ESPN.com (or any other sports site) for a week after this game, and to be honest, I’m still not fully over it. The only consolation Pats fans got was seeing THIS the next week as the Jets lost to the Steelers. Meanwhile, the Patriots have not won a playoff game since they were 18-0 in early 2008. More on THAT a bit later. Yes, it’s coming.


Oddly enough, he’d have made the same face had they won the Super Bowl.


Go literally have sex with your own mother, Bart Scott.

#2 – Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers, NBA Finals Game 7 (June 17, 2010) – As incredible as watching the Celtics beat the Lakers in the 2008 Finals was, seeing those same Celtics LOSE to the Lakers in the Finals 2 years later was doubly worse. On top of that, anytime you lose a Game 7, it’s that much more difficult to accept. This new incarnation of the Celtics’ “Big Three” understood fell well that the perception is that in order to truly be remembered amongst the Celtics greats, you had to deliver multiple championships. It now appears as though one is all we’ll get from the Pierce-Garnett-Allen tandem. I’m not among those who insist on that standard of excellence, but it sure as hell would’ve been nice, wouldn’t it? And it was certainly possible. If Kevin Garnett hadn’t suffered that season-ending knee injury in February of ’09, we may have been talking about a Celtics three-peat heading into this series last summer. And if Kendrick Perkins hadn’t blown out his knee in Game 6, most of us have no doubt that the Celtics would have again defeated the Lakers to bring home Banner 18. It’s sad that shitty luck with injuries may be what prevented this group of Celtics from winning multiple championships, but I would argue that’s exactly the case. The primary reason the Lakers won this Game 7 is because they butchered us on the boards with their size in Gasol and Bynum, something that would almost certainly have been negated with a healthy Perkins on the court.

The sad fact is even without Perkins, the Celtics should have won this game. Rasheed Wallace finally showed up, playing probably his best game in a Celtic uniform, and the Celtics were up by as many as 13 points in the third quarter (goddammit!!!). However, foul trouble, a lack of scoring and a lack of rebounding became their undoing, and we all had to watch Kobe Bryant dance around the court as time ran out. We had to watch that stupid llama Pau Gasol pumping his fists and screaming like an idiot, and we had to see purple and gold confetti falling from the ceiling as the dejected, exhausted Celtics walked off the court. It just sucked.

In particular, I hated seeing Kobe’s pride in that title, because he knew how it important it was to beat the Celtics in the Finals, especially after being embarrassed just two years earlier losing a closeout game by 39 in Boston. The title also put the Lakers just one behind Boston in all-time championships, 16 to 17. I was dreading the idea of seeing them potentially tie the Celtics this season, but thankfully, the Dallas Mavericks put a quick end to that possibility, and likely ended the Lakers’ chances at a title for the foreseeable future, with Phil Jackson likely retiring, Kobe only getting older, and big roster moves seemingly on the horizon.

The final vomit-inducing moment occurred with the horror of having to see Bill Russell on the podium during the postgame ceremonies, being forced to hand the Finals MVP trophy to Kobe in L.A. (which happened only because that trophy was recently named after Russell), surrounded by the rest of the team, with those a-hole fans having a circle jerk in the stands. This is the very definition of being kicked while you’re down. I’m surprised they didn’t bring Larry Bird out at gunpoint and have him kiss Magic Johnson‘s shoes, and then have Kareem Abdul-Jabbar curb stomp Kevin McHale American History X style on the street outside Staples Center. Was that too much?

If ALL of that wasn’t enough, Ron Artest got a championship ring. And that’s just wrong.


My reaction to this image is simple:

Surely, it doesn’t get worse than a Game 7 Finals loss to the Lakers, does it? Unfortunately, yes it does. Brace yourselves, New England sports fans. You know what’s coming.

#1 – New England Patriots vs. New York Giants, SUPER BOWL XLII (February 3, 2008)


YES!!! Oh, wait…

This wasn’t even close. It’s the worst sports loss of my life, and probably in the lives of everyone in New England who’s ever been a football fan. I hate even writing ‘Super Bowl XLII’. I typically refer to this game as “the events of February 3, 2008”. For my sake, and the sake of every other Boston sports fan reading this, little needs to be said in the way of a setup. We all remember the 2007 season. Spygate. Blowout wins early, nail-biting wins late. 50 touchdowns. 16-0. Just about everyone in the media openly despising our team.

Losing in the Super Bowl is already crushing enough. But this was a chance to go 19-0, to secure the perfect season- something most people rightly thought was impossible in today’s NFL. It was a chance to put the 1972 Dolphins’ record (and Mercury Morris‘ mouth) into obscurity once and for all. That’s something EVERY NFL fan should’ve been rooting for, by the way. It was gonna be one final EFF YOU to all the haters (fans, media people and players on opposing teams) who’d been bitching about the Patriots’ “running up the score” and about Spygate since the beginning of the season.

I don’t need to rehash why the Pats lost this game. We all know why. But here’s why it was especially devastating to me. The fact that I wasn’t living in New England made it a lot worse. At least back home, I’d have people around me who were sympathetic. You guys don’t know how lucky you were to have that support network in place. Here, I’d been arguing with Steelers fans, Cowboys fans, Redskins fans, and Eagles fans all season long, sometimes teasing them because their teams were inferior (the Patriots beat all of those teams that year), other times being openly boastful about how great the Patriots were. I know maybe 3 other Patriots fans down here, and none of them were as serious about this game as I was. I had to work that following Monday, and I seriously wanted to call out. You wanna talk about a walk of shame? That’s me walking into Best Buy on February 4th. And good GOD did I hear about it. All day long for days on end. Pointing, laughing, taunting, sarcasm. I got it all, and I took it as best I could. It was adult bullying. I was the toilet water absorbing everyone’s defecation. In other words, I got shit on. And this lasted probably a week. Had I still been in New England, this would not have been an issue. Were I the religious type, I’d have asked for your prayers.

Add on to this the fact that we lost to a New York team, and above THAT it was a New York team we’d already beaten in the regular season, and the volcano of pain is now fully erupting. Again we also have Bill Belichick and Tom Brady winning Coach of the Year and MVP (as they did in 2010). Unfortunately, it seems when that happens, it’s a bad omen for the Pats’ Super Bowl chances. The simple fact is the Brady-Belichick Patriots should have FIVE Super Bowl wins right now, not 3. Instead, this era is fizzling out with disappointing playoff loss after disappointing playoff loss, and the time we have left with this historic coach-quarterback combo continues to get shorter and shorter as the gap between our last Super Bowl win (now at 6 years) gets longer and longer. Again, opportunities for greatness wasted. It drives me nuts. This one season made the Patriots one of the most hated teams in the NFL, and I don’t necessarily mind that, but if that’s gonna be the case, I’d have been much more comfortable with it with a 19-0 perfect season to hold over the haters’ heads.

And of course, just in case ending the 2007 season on this apocalyptic note wasn’t torture enhanced interrogation technique enough, the Patriots opened 2008 by losing Tom Brady for the entire season to a fucking kneeplosion, thanks to the Chiefs’ Bernard Pollard. Then, despite a breakout season by Brady’s backup Matt Cassel, they became the first 11-5 team to miss the playoffs. Life was grand.

I won’t torture you or myself with video from this atrocity, but…


One of the 18.5 BILLION times Brady was hit as he threw during the game.
Great time for the previously superb Patriots o-line to EPIC FAIL.


Catch the fuckin ball!!!
The game would’ve been OVER!!!
You FUCK!!!


Literally the only significant thing David Tyree ever did on an NFL field.

Conveniently lost in the media’s jizzing over this catch is the horrible officiating that allowed Eli Manning to even throw the pass, as his offensive line held the SHIT out of the Pats’ d-line prior to him getting the pass off. FUCK YOU!


The superstitious fans like to point out that he hadn’t worn a goddamn red hoodie the entire season prior to this game. What the F were you thinking, brah?


Well, at least he dressed well after the game. That’s a relief.


Then there were the oh-so-clever t-shirt designs.

There you have it. The worst of the worst in my 15 or so years of watching sports. I’m hopeful these rankings stand forever, as I hope to never see anything like them again. If sports truly were religion (I know college football fans here in the South would argue it is), there would be two numbers representing Heaven and Hell on the spectrum of my Boston Sports Fan lifetime: “18-1” is on one end representing Hell, and “2004” is on the other, representing Heaven. I suspect I’m not alone in that belief system.

I had originally titled this post “The Five Worst Sports Losses of My Life”, but I couldn’t come up with a fifth one that came even close to resonating as powerfully as these four. One of the other options that came to mind was last year’s Bruins collapse against the Flyers (where Philly became one of only 5 teams in the history of American pro sports to come back from an 0-3 hole to win a playoff series), but I’m not a true hockey fan, and though it pissed me off, I was more embarrassed as a Boston sports fan than I was emotionally devastated. Also, if you recall, the New York Yankees swept a 5-game series AT Fenway from August 18-21, 2006 in a horrific turn of events that is sometimes referred to as the Boston Massacre. THAT fuckin sucked, but because it wasn’t in the playoffs (though it pretty much killed the Red Sox’ hopes of making the playoffs that year), that too was more embarrassing than anything else.

Let this serve as a reminder to both haters and supporters of Boston sports; though we had a magical decade of championship glory, for every moment of jubilation and success there were equally powerful moments of heartbreaking failure that few other cities can match.

As promised…here’s MORE!

-I thought my Thor review turned out pretty well last week, but then I read A.O. Scott‘s blistering review in the New York Times. I didn’t hate the movie like he did, but nothing inspires hilarity better than when a well-spoken critic truly despises a big Hollywood movie. This stuff is so much more interesting to read than glowing praise. Here’s a quick sample, “Mr. Branagh has not failed to make an interesting, lively, emotionally satisfying superhero movie, because there is no evidence that he (or the gaggle of credited screenwriters, or Paramount, the sponsoring studio) ever intended to make any such thing.” I implore you check out the whole review [HERE].

-AMUSING: The Chicago-area house that was the setting for much of Home Alone is on sale! For $2.4 million, you can own (and live in!) a piece of movie history. [THR]

-On the trailer reel to Bridesmaids was the newest clip for the second of this year’s casual sex/fuckbuddy comedies, the Justin Timberlake/Mila Kunis flick that’s aptly titled Friends with Benefits. But this isn’t about that trailer or that movie. I’m concerned about Justin Timberlake’s VOICE. If you didn’t know it, would you have guessed that Timberlake turned 30 this January? Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy. I’m a fan of his music (where’s the next album, brah?) and I think he’s improving as an actor. That said, the dude still sounds like he’s 19 or 20. And that’s not even an exaggeration. If you listen to him now, and then listen to him in the NSYNC heyday, there’s maybe a 15% difference, if that. This guy has dated some of the hottest women in Hollywood, but apparently still hasn’t hit puberty. He’s starting to play adults now (he’ll also be seen in Bad Teacher this summer playing a grade school teacher opposite Cameron Diaz), and I’m having a very hard time taking him seriously in those adult roles. Fear not! I have a solution. Where most Hollywood stars get plastic surgery to maintain their looks, I propose Justin Timberlake undergo voice surgery or a voice transplant. Surely, this technology exists, some kind of voice-deepening procedure. They can install a miniature subwoofer in his throat to give him some bass. Right? SOMETHING has to be done. If I’m gonna be forced to watch him play adults in high-profile movies, I, as a paying audience member, insist that the man sound like an adult. And get rid of the curly hair, dude. You look 10 years younger with that shit.

-ABC has just cancelled V. For the most part, the show was average at best, but it was good enough that I DVR’d and watched every episode. I was introduced to some new actors, and was glad to see the underrated Scott Wolf featured prominently (seriously, get this guy some more work!). I also enjoyed V because I prefer good serialized TV to good episodic TV. I had originally thought the show was set up to be just one season, but then it ended on a cliffhanger, and of course that final episode was the first truly great episode of the series thus far (it had solid acting, solid action, unexpected character deaths and solid drama). What a fuckin bummer. Now I feel like I wasted 22 hours, now that I’m not gonna find out what was intended to happen next. Fuck you, ABC. And fuck Dancing with the Stars while you’re at it.

-I’ve been flip-flopping on whether or not to do a reaction post to the news of Osama bin Laden‘s death (and the myriad issues branching out as a result of it), but I found interesting the news that mere days after the raid, Disney applied for a trademark to the term “Seal Team 6.” Huh? DISNEY!? The same studio that openly doesn’t make R-rated movies anymore? The most bland, least creatively brave studio in Hollywood is gonna make a movie about this? I can understand that this story will eventually become a movie (there will likely be several movies made about it), but what does fucking Disney intend to do with it? Make a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced PG-13 action-fantasy about it? Is that gonna be the subtitle of Pirates 5? Pirates of the Caribbean: Seal Team 6? In which Jack Sparrow ventures into Pakistan seeking out terrorists so he can collect the $25 million reward the U.S. government had on bin Laden’s head? And since when can a company trademark the official name of a military special ops unit? This is baffling to me. Regardless, I’m sure it’ll be absolutely thrilling watching Osama bin Laden take a double tap to the head in 3D one day.

Mike Huckabee just announced he will NOT be running for President again in 2012. And the world rejoiced!!! I don’t have anything personal against the guy (other than the fact that it’s unfathomable to imagine a “President Huckabee”), but one can make the argument that it was his run in 2008 that handed John McCain the Republican nomination, and thus Barack Obama the presidency. In the GOP primaries, Huckabee’s nagging presence split the vote between him and Mitt Romney (their best candidate then and probably now) in several key states, so given the choice between Huckabee and McCain, the weak-minded Republicans instead were basically forced to nominate the safe choice in McCain. And look how that turned out. I’m so not ready to start talking about the 2012 election, but this was good news if you’re not a fan of Mr. Obama’s policies. [POLITICO]

-Finally, I wanted to give a quick shoutout to Bill Simmons‘ new column, which focuses on Phil Jackson as his storied coaching career appears to draw to a close. As I’ve said before, I don’t always love Simmons’ stuff (I could do without his constant reality TV show references, and his opinions on movies are painfully ignorant), but he’s passionate about the NBA, and his NBA-centric columns are always great as a result. I learned some stuff about Jackson that I didn’t know, and he even manages to make a good case against the “he only won so many titles because he had Jordan and Kobe” argument. I own Jackson’s fantastic book The Last Season (which I read on my 2-day bus trip across the country from L.A. to Myrtle Beach) and I’ve always found him interesting beyond the fact that he’s a great coach. [ESPN]

Today’s Recommended Listening is some Massive Attack for yo’ ass. This track, “Paradise Circus” can currently be heard on those new Lincoln car commercials that star my boy John Slattery. Love it. 

THOR review


OH, HAI Loki. OH, HAI Thor.


Pass through my portal? Sheeeeeee-it.

As a disclaimer, I went into Thor having read none of the comics (I was not a comic book reader as a kid) and with no expectations or loyalty to the characters. I thought it looked cool, I liked the casting, and I was very interested in what Kenneth Branagh would bring as a director, given that he was known primarily as a Shakespearean actor and director, and not someone who comes to mind when you think of “summer entertainment”. I was also curious what drew Natalie Portman to the project. Was the script that good (unlikely) or is she really a closet geek? She certainly doesn’t need to do this kind of movie anymore. If I were to rank this among the 4 big comic book movies this summer (X-Men: First Class, Captain America and Green Lantern being other others) according to my level of anticipation for them, I’d probably have ranked it second behind X-Men. I liked the idea of being introduced to a new fantasy universe in Asgard, but I was hesitant because the effects work shown in the trailers was not all that impressive. Also, almost every advance review I’d seen claimed that the two-thirds of the film that take place in Asgard were not as good as the one-third that takes place on Earth. No matter! I went in with an open mind, not expecting anything great, but hoping it would pleasantly surprise me. Ummmm…it did not.

I didn’t dislike the movie, and I didn’t really like it, either. It was just okay. It’s certainly harmless in the sense that it’s entertaining. I’m willing to bet it will be well-received by general audiences, but I thought there was more potential here. In the end, it just looks like Kenneth Branagh was not ready to be handed the reigns to a $150 million comic book/action/fantasy movie. At the very least, he wasn’t ready to deliver one in the short window that the studios now demand for these summer blockbusters. I blame the movie’s failures first and foremost on the script, and then on the inexperience of the director. Since this seems to be working well for me, we’ll again do the liked/didn’t like format. I’ll try to keep it spoiler free, but where I do delve into spoilers, I shall let you know.

WHAT I LIKED

Chris Hemsworth as Thor. He does a solid job with the opportunities he’s given, but never really gets the chance to shine. Like most critics, I agree that he’s at his best in the Earthbound scenes, where he does a very good fish-out-of-water routine (this is where the film gets most of its humor). He has the best line in the entire movie when he walks into the town’s pet shop and demands, “I need a horse!” That was one of maybe 2 times I LOL’d during the flick. I look forward to seeing him return in The Avengers, as I trust Joss Whedon will have a better idea what to do with him than Branagh and the screenwriters here did.

Idris Elba as Heimdall, the gatekeeper dude at the end of the rainbow bridge (which is what they actually call it). I like how they modified his voice, and he has an almost Klingon-like sense of duty and honor, which I really enjoyed. He was easily my favorite character in this movie. Heimdall is white in the comics, but apparently the filmmakers noticed the utter lack of minorities in their cast (Elba is one of two non-whites in the cast), and decided to throw the colored folks a bone ala Michael Clarke Duncan playing Kingpin in Daredevil. The fact that he doesn’t die is a fucking miracle.

-I also liked Anthony Hopkins as Odin, though I just wish the script were worthy of his talents. Regardless, it’s cool to see him hamming it up in a genre movie, and he certainly brings the required gravitas to the role of king of Asgard.

-And of course, it’s always good to see Clark Gregg playing Agent Coulson. An underrated actor if ever there was one. This may actually be the most screen time he’s had in any of these Avengers tie-in movies. Speaking of which, look for a couple of very quick references to Tony Stark and The Hulk.

-I liked Jeremy Renner‘s cameo as Hawkeye (who he’ll also play in The Avengers), but it was such a brief, throwaway scene that it may have been best if they actually threw it away.

-I REALLY liked Kat Dennings at the Thor premiere:


It’s great to see a young actress with some…curves.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

The script. The story and screenplay here are credited to 5 different writers, which is typically not a good sign. Some of these people have done great work individually in the past, but once you start putting rewrite on top of rewrite on top of rewrite, overall cohesiveness begans to evaporate. There are no truly memorable scenes, conversations end abruptly, and there are awkward one-liners. For instance (SPOILER AHEAD), the last line of the entire movie is literally, “She searches for you.” After that, it cuts to the end credits, and I was left sitting there going, huh? Very strange.

The lack of a memorable score/set of themes. This has been a continuing, inexplicable problem with comic book movies. If I think back to all the comic book movies since X-Men started this craze in 2000, only a few (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and that’s about it) had memorable music that I wanted to own. I don’t understand why this isn’t a priority for the directors of these films. Look, I’m not asking for “The Superman March” every time out, but I strongly believe every big superhero should have a strong theme, and all of these films should have their own motifs and unique musical stylings. In reality, most of them have incredibly bland scores, and sadly, Thor is no exception. Patrick Doyle is a good enough composer, but I think it’s pretty clear this genre is not his area of expertise. The score here isn’t bad, but it’s completely forgettable, and features no themes that I can recall. Unfortunately, it seems that there are only 5-10 composers working today who can truly handle this kind of movie properly. Off the top of my head, I’ll put John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, Danny Elfman, James Newton Howard, Don Davis (the Matrix trilogy), Tyler Bates (300) and David Arnold (Stargate, Independence Day, all of the recent Bond flicks) in that group.

Most of my problems with the film have to do with how the Asgard parts of the movie were handled. During the Asgard scenes (which I’d guess take up 60% of the screen time), it’s a pure fantasy movie, and I think for the most part it falls flat on its face in giving us good fantasy.

The CGI. The visual effects throughout the film are average at best, but especially lackluster with regards to the Asgard scenes. You can tell about 90% of Asgard was created in a computer, and the place never felt real in the way that the fantasy worlds of The Lord of the Rings did. In fact, the filmmakers and effects guys should have followed the brilliant example set by the LOTR team. Apparently, no one on this crew has heard of a miniature, or a model, or realized that you have to combine practical effects with your CGI to make these fantasy worlds look real. Instead, they went the Star Wars prequel route and simply made EVERYTHING in the computer. When Thor and his boys go to the ice world (whatever it’s called), at no point did I feel they were even on a set. It looked exactly like what it probably was, 4 or 5 people standing on a soundstage surrounded by massive green screens. If you’re gonna do that, your CGI better be Avatar-good, and it certainly wasn’t. The main ‘castle’ of Asgard looks like a giant golden church organ.

The action. Despite having Vic Armstrong, one of the all-time greats, supervising the action and second unit, the fight choreography is incredibly boring and poorly shot. When Thor infiltrates the S.H.I.E.L.D. compound in an attempt to get his hammer back, he dispatches the soldiers mostly by punching them in the chest and/or pushing them to the ground. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that. When Thor and Loki fight at the end of the film, it should be an epic clash between rival brothers. Suffice to say, it is not.

-I was also disappointed by the sound design. There were a lot of opportunities here for the the creation of cool, new sound effects, and for the most part those opportunities are squandered. When Thor uses his hammer, it should be an EPIC auditory experience. Instead, it’s just meh. And again, I have to blame the lack of emphasis on this on Branagh, because he had two of the best sound mixers in the industry working on the film. Ugh.

-The main bad guys in the Asgard world are the Frost Giants. No, really. I’m sorry, but I don’t see how anyone above age 12 is supposed to find creatures called “frost giants” imposing. On top of that, the fact that they’re all CG doesn’t help, nor does the fact that they look cheesy. They’re 12-foot tall grey demons with dark orange eyes who walk around in their skivvies. Instead of using actual weapons, they turn their arms into giant ice swords. Ooo. And their primary power derives from what appears to be a blue Energon Cube. It’s just really f’n goofy.

-I don’t like that Thor only wears his helmet in one or two scenes the entire movie. It’s a small gripe, and I know the reason is so that we see the star’s face, but come on, that’s a badass helmet! His armor doesn’t look complete without it.

Rene Russo, who is completely wasted in a tiny role as Thor’s momz. She hasn’t done anything since Yours, Mine and Ours in 2005, and THIS is what she comes back for? I don’t get it. I’d say she came back for a payday, but Marvel is notorious for being stingy with their actors’ salaries.

Back in the real world:

-I’m supposed to believe that Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgard‘s characters, who are super smart astrological scientists, choose to live in this tiny, no-name town in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico? This made no sense at all to me. It’s funny, because the Earth/New Mexico scenes are relatively low-budget. This tiny town required very few sets and interiors, and looks to have no more than 3 different roads in it. It looks very cheap, too cheap even. And they give no logical reason why scientists of this caliber would be calling it home. On top of that, they work out of what appears to be an abandoned restaurant or something. It just didn’t seem right. The movie reportedly cost $150 million, and I’d say that about 20 of that was spent on the New Mexico scenes. The rest appears to have been spent on manpower creating the mediocre CGI.

From reading this review, it probably comes across that I didn’t enjoy the movie more than is actually the case. I just thought there were a lot of blown opportunities from top to bottom. If you’re not as nerdy or picky as I am, you’ll probably enjoy the flick a lot more than I did. If you were interested in seeing the movie at all, I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t, but if my concerns mirror yours, your expectations should be drastically lowered. I had fun watching Thor, but it didn’t click with me the way I hoped it would. Plus, it’s easier (and more fun) to point out a film’s flaws than it is to praise what it did right. I’m not expecting this summer to produce a lot of high quality films, but summer movie season is always fun and I’m glad it’s underway. But if you’re choosing between this and Fast Five this week, go see The Rock vs. Vin Diesel instead.

POST-CREDITS BONUS SCENE SPOILERS AHEAD:

I of course stayed for the bonus scene at the end of the credits, as has become the custom for Marvel movies in the leadup to The Avengers. In this one, Stellan Skarsgard is brought into a S.H.I.E.L.D. ‘base’, where he meets Sam Jackson‘s Nick Fury, who opens a mysterious briefcase to show some glowing blue object that Fury proposes is potentially a source of unlimited power. I’ll have to do some research into what this thing was, but I didn’t recognize it from the Thor movie. The big reveal is that Loki is in the background watching them (he’s invisible to them), and we’re lead to believe he will soon make an attempt to take and use this power source. It doesn’t have that wow factor that previous bonus scenes had (like the one after Iron Man 2 where we first see Thor’s hammer), mainly because in Thor, we’ve just seen Loki as a primary villain, and he wasn’t all that impressive. My concern is the rumor that Loki is going to be the main villain in The Avengers, and the fact that this scene gives those rumors credibility. I’m not sure if it was the writing, Tom Hiddleston‘s performance, or the nature of the character itself, but I wasn’t that impressed with Loki as a bad guy, and I don’t know that he could be the memorable villain that The Avengers requires. The rumors could be false, but all of these bonus scenes have eventually led to something else, so Loki didn’t appear there just for shits and giggles. What I’m personally hoping is that it was merely a setup for the Thor sequel and not for The Avengers. If that’s the case, I’m fine with it, but if it’s a wink and a nudge that Loki will feature prominently in The Avengers, I may have to throw the red challenge flag. Anyway, that’s my two cents on that.

I gave Thor 2.5 stars out of 5 on Flixster, and a 6/10 on IMDb.

As summer movie season continues, I actually have pretty high hopes for Bridesmaids next weekend. I’m hearing good things, and the trailer is very funny. I think guys will be able to enjoy it, and women have been waiting for their own raunchy, R-rated comedy like this for a long time. Let the inevitable “it’s The Hangover for girls!” comparisons begin.


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