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BlokeBusting The Essentials #40: Megamind

Yo, listen up; here’s a story about a blue guy that lives in a….. CG world!

#40: Megamind

Or

The Battle Of The Egos

This one is actually something that breaks a personal rule that I have. You’ll find out what that is in just a little while…

First Impressions

This film kinda came out of nowhere when it arrived in the cinema (at least in England). Suddenly there was an animated film about superheroes/villains that actually focused on a villain and made you understand a side of the equation that you may have avoided thinking about. And I think I managed to see this without knowing who played Megamind. This is key, and connected to my earlier comment. So, let’s dive right into the cast!

The Cast

  • Megamind: Will Ferrell

    So that rule I have, the one that this film breaks, basically centres on Will Ferrell. And here it is: Any straight comedy with WF as a main character is terrible. Yep. I cannot stand the sort of comedy films this guy makes. Anchorman, StepBrothers, Elf, Ballard Of Whatever-His-Name-Is. None of them are watchable for me. Now give me a solid dramatic performance or a nuanced role (Stranger Than Fiction, The Other Guys <– Tell me the guy doesn’t give you solid meta humour here! ) and I’ll happily watch it. But his style of “I’m an idiot, isn’t it funny!” just doesn’t work with my sense of humour. Now, this film can arguably be called not just a straight comedy, but given the role he plays it still falls squarely in there. But he’s good. Really good. Just the right levels of ego/confidence/”humanity”/depth, not to mention the fact that a gimmick of mis-pronouncing words that REALLY should have gotten old fast but still works throughout the film. So yeah, I really liked Will in this one.

  • Metro Man: Brad Pitt

    Be honest, without looking it up/being told beforehand you had no clue that this was Brad Pitt. The cadence, the deep(er) voice and the smarminess really helped build this character of a superhero who was exactly what you’d expect a superhero to be and EXACTLY what would be so annoying about a superhero like that. The strangest thing is that you would have expected Patrick Warburton to have done the voice, since the character really looks like it was modeled on him!

  • Roxanne Ritchie: Tina Fey

    I’ll admit that I thought that the portrayal was pretty much ok but compared to the energy of Will Ferrell, she could get a little lost in the crowd. I did enjoy the fact that she was quite the go-getter and not just a damsel in distress (and though the film does really switch it up quite creatively at times, it does fall back on that trope towards the end). You needed a character who actually could sway Megamind and make him yearn for something more and Tina Fey did well as that. I think it could have gone just a little further and maybe had her discover his secret herself rather than the accident. But again, I’m nit-picking!

  • Hal/Titan/Tighten: Jonah Hill

    This guy was a really annoying character. Luckily that’s the point, but it’s still a bit annoying when he’s on-screen. The fun thing is that it does make it so that the actual main villain of the film is

    1) Literally of Megamind’s own making.
    2) A jilted obsessed fanboy.
    3) Paper-thin as villains go.

    And given the sort of film this is, that’s actually a really good use of the character and the plot. If you’re going to subvert the whole idea of the villain, why not just go nuts with the new villain!

  • Minion: David Cross

    Best character in the film. Hands down. He’s just funny, charming and fun to look at. Huh, if I didn’t know better I’d say I was attracted to a talking fish. Well nothing could be further from the truth! Isn’t that right, little home-made plushie of Minion? *does a horrible imitation of Minion* “That’s right, you’re just a big fan!”

The Setting

The setting for this film is no different from every other Superhero-From-A-City film you’ve seen. Metropolis, Gotham, New York, Insert-Others-Here, it’s just a big city with plenty of loving citizens and a hero-battle problem. But given the theme of the film is basically “Look, here’s a standard story and we’re flipping it on its head”, we can kinda give it a pass. The only problem you might have is that because of that, the entire cast and setting outside of the main guys (and even sorta including them) are basically parodies of others that came before them and have no real depth to them. And that’s not to the film’s detriment but it doesn’t push it up either. You couldn’t have explored the character of Megamind and what it means to be destined to be a villain if you’d taken the time to flesh out the rest of the story. Well, you could but it would have been a 2-2.5 hour long film and no young kid is going to sit through that. Hell, even some adults would struggle. So I get it, but it does mean that there’s not much here to discuss.

The CG

The CG in this film was quite good. It doesn’t drop anywhere close to uncanny valley, but it didn’t try to. Much like most Dreamworks films, the focus is on polished looks and a signature style. Everyone fits the pattern, everyone looks different enough to clearly be identifiable (except for the crowd scenes, which…. obviously!) and that’s what they do well. There’s nothing that looks super realistic or terrible, which is what you hope for, and so nothing pulls you out of the viewing experience. So let’s go for a general “Good job everyone!”.

Alrighty, you’ve heard from me and now you get to hear from our own Metro Man-in training: Bubba!

I’ve really loved this movie since the first time I saw it. It’s such a great parody of superhero movies at the time while still having well developed characters and doing something interesting with all of them. Megamind is an incredibly sympathetic character that is extremely entertaining with all his supervillain grandstanding. But he’s also believably socially mal-adapted where he doesn’t really understand social interactions and has his quirk with mispronunciations. Hal is another character that’s become more relevant as time has gone by. He’s more or less what would be referred to as an incel by today’s standards. He believes that he’s a nice guy, but he also believes that his desire for Roxanne Ritchie requires her to like him in return. It takes on the tropes of the back and forth villain/hero routine while still having a background of “you are who you choose to be”. It works on several different levels.

As for the relevance, this is really one of the best superhero parody movies out there next to Deadpool while still being family friendly. It had a decent box office with $150M domestically and $320M worldwide. Unfortunately it was eclipsed by the relatively similar Despicable Me which made nearly double, spawned two sequels and a spin-off. Which makes sense as the kids and the Minions were more marketable than a reference to Donner’s Superman and David Cross’s Minion fish in a gorilla mech-suit. It’s a quality film with quality humor throughout that never talks down or panders to a kid audience.

Well spoken Mr Wheat, as always. And so, we must render the answer to the following 3 questions:

  1. Would I recommend this film to others?
  2. Does this film deserve to be on the list?
  3. If so, where does it appear on the list?

And since we must do as we always have done, let’s take it from the top.

1) Yes. The film does a good job at sending up the superhero genre and really handled the nuanced Supervillain well. It’s worth seeing even if you only want to see something more unique than the 6th installment in a Superman franchise!

2) Yes. For the same reasons I listed above, it definitely holds a place in the list. But where to put it. Hmmmmmmm…….

3) The list has been updated, the crocodiles swam around it a bit and the sp-ee-ider has been dangled in front of it. Here is your updated rankings:

  1. Hellboy
  2. Captain America: The First Avenger
  3. The Crow
  4. Men In Black
  5. Dr Strange
  6. Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
  7. Megamind
  8. Batman: The Killing Joke
  9. Superman 3
  10. The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
  11. The Meteor Man
  12. Supergirl
  13. Howard The Duck
  14. The Fantastic Four (1994)
  15. The Punisher
  16. Batman & Robin
  17. The Amazing Spider-Man
  18. Batman Forever
  19. BvS: Dawn Of Justice

    Potential Substitutions:

    Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)
    X-Men: The Last Stand (replacing Catwoman)
    Turbo Kid (replacing The Incredible Hulk)

Yeah, it didn’t quite eclipse Dr Horrible for me. A better take on the whole “What if the bad guy wasn’t fully bad/unjustified?” and a way more subtle take but Megamind still did well and it feels good to come runner-up to such a good body of work.

Ok, that’s it! The death ray has been put back in the closet for a while and the army of flying kill-bots has been put on standby. As a heads up, I am going on holiday at the end of the year, so there may only be one more review before the New Year. However I do plan to do a short year-in-review when I come back, so if there’s anything you want me to go back over, any rankings you disagree with or anything you wish to yell at me for no reason, please do leave a comment down below.

And so, until next time, I Love You, Random Citizen!

BlokeBusting The Essentials #90: Batman Forever

#90: Batman Forever

Or

Riddle Me This, Riddle Me That: Who Even Remembers This Bat?

Oh yeah, this film exists!

First Impressions

I remember watching this on TV when I was younger, but I don’t recall if it really made that much of an impression on me. I could clearly remember TLJ’s Two-Face and Carrey’s Riddler, as well as the major plot beats, but I don’t really have any moments from the film that jumped out when I tried to think about it. So, will a re-watch change that?

The Characters

  • Bruce Wayne/Batman: Val Kilmer

    Ok. Here’s the thing: Bruce Wayne is the playboy-philanthropist billionaire who is coolness personified and Batman is THE NIGHT, dark and stoic and (quite often) brooding. Val Kilmer manages to play one of those in an ok-for-the-time way. Care to guess which one? Yeah, Batman in these films is fairly boring. Maybe that’s why we actually don’t get as much Bats as you’d expect during the film. Based on my calculations*, we get to see Batman on screen for maybe 20% of the runtime. And that’s actually a little more than I think we needed. However, this film did manage to give us the basis for a smiling Batman meme, so maybe that’s good?


    *100% factual and in no way disprovable
  • Two-Face/Harvey Dent: Tommy Lee Jones

    In no way is this the definitive Two-Face version. There’s many other more nuanced portrayals, loads of better written examples and pretty much every other version shows way more of the chaos and depths behind the character. However, can you tell me a more fun version to watch? Nope, didn’t think so. TLJ was clearly told to take the script and run with it. I’m convinced that there were many things we saw that came just from him reacting to the rest of the cast that was so good they kept it in. His script was ok, the film is not set up for a proper Two-Face portrayal and yet he brought the fun and camp that we needed to see to accept the character given the tone of the film. I’d love to see TLJ take more of these kinds of roles. Ok, moving on!

  • Edward Nigma/The Riddler: Jim Carrey

    *coughs* Um….

    This film is pretty camp already. Carrey’s Riddler is the equivalent of bringing a squadron of drag queens to “help camp it up more”. Honey, you didn’t need it but we appreciate it anyway! By the time we see The Riddler, you’ve effectively written off any chance of this film accurately portraying the comic books (except Alfred as of the time of recording the film). So when Jim is allowed to very much let loose as the green menace, you’re on board. And if you aren’t, I feel sorry for you. What we got was a codpiece wearing (prove me wrong) fairytale villain who uses “science” to absorb brainwaves via television to get smarter and…. that’s his plan. There is literally no other aspects to his plan. The whole “Who is Batman?” part is solely to get Two-Face on board to help finance his brain thing. Our co-main villain folks! But Carrey portrays him as whimsical-insane, which is probably the best choice for this film and is actually fun to watch. Horribly written, over-the-top acted but still fun.

  • Everyone Else: Everyone Else

    Quickfire, here goes:

    Alfred is good. Well done Michael Gough!
    Robin is boring.
    Chase Meridian is pointless.
    Hey, Drew Barrymore is in this one!
    And hey, is that… Ed Begley Jr? Neat.

    That’ll do.

The Setting

As I may have mentioned, this film is camp. It’s not done perfectly and there’s really nothing to the script, but it’s not as bad as other films in the Batman franchise (you can probably guess which ones I’m referring to…). This film also suffers from the same problem that all the live-action Batman films of this time had. A combination of the visual style of the franchise and the fact that there’s no way studios were going to start trying to make a serious comic-book film meant that what we got was the Loony-Tunes version of Gotham. Specifically the Who Framed Roger Rabbit version of Gotham. It’s very bright. If there’s one thing I usually take away from my experience of Gotham, it’s that it’s not bright. At all. But, of course, this was when these films needed to be bright enough and fun enough to bring in the kids, because that’s who like Batman. Nobody wanted a gritty Batman, that would be insane. What’s next, a well-made female-led action film? Yeah right!

So yeah, the setting is not really right for a proper Batman film. But if you are willing to accept that it was never going to be the right setting given the time, you can find the good in what they did. Now, there is one more thing I have to bring up.

The Props

Oh dear. I’m effectively lumping the props, costumes and vehicles into this. Everything, and I do mean everything, that Batman wears, uses or has in his possession looks like it’s made from that hollow fibreglass that would never hold up to any actual scrutiny. The car actually wobbles in a few shots, the Batsuit might as well have been a Batman doll that got blown up by Wayne Szalinski and then hollowed out for use and that hood is just flimsy. I honestly think that the entire budget went on getting the A-list stars and then they had to “that’ll do” for the rest. They even had a “chase” scene where instead of having a car actually go fast, they clearly drove at 5mph while swinging the camera around and dutch-angling it as much as possible to give the illusion of speed. Which it didn’t. But obviously somebody in charge didn’t care enough (or worse thought it actually looked good) to either give more money or ask for another try.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say here is: “Batman Forever, I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed…”

Ok, let’s see what Bubba has to say about this one!

I’ve seen this film several times at this point and I always remember it as the better of the two Schumacher Batman films. Watching it again, I really noticed the strong influence of the Adam West Batman and unfortunately it’s some of the worst parts of that version. Where Two-Face and Riddler have their own personalities and backstories, here they feel very much like variations of the Joker. Much like most of the villains in the Adam West era were cookie cutter personalities with different shticks. None of the personalities are very deep and Chris O’Donnell was one of the worst choices possible for Robin. Looking past how they didn’t work for the characters they were given, Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones seemed to have a lot of fun and chew the scenery as coin flipping Joker and riddle telling Joker and Val Kilmer was a decent replacement for Michael Keaton. It was lighthearted but the jokes only started creeping into the movie without completely overtaking it. It’s still a fun watch more or less.

But in the overall superhero cinema, this was more or less the beginning of the end of this incarnation of the Batman franchise. It was held together by the star power of Jim Carrey and grossed $184M domestic and $336M worldwide, outpacing Batman Returns even though it didn’t hit the mark set by the first Batman. This was the first instance of a major comic book movie franchise re-casting the main character in a series of movies and even though Tim Burton didn’t direct this movie, he stayed on as a producer so there’s still a hint of his overall influence despite Schumacher’s much more brightly neon colored Gotham. It’s not quite the first sign of a franchise going down the wrong path as the same thing happened with Superman before it, but it’s still an overall important big movie in the still relatively early days of superhero cinema. At least the early days of what superhero cinema as we know it today.

Nice one Mr Wheat! And with that summed up, let’s take a zip-line dive into the 3 main questions:

  1. Would I recommend this film to others?
  2. Does this film deserve to be on the list?
  3. If so, where does it appear on the list?

Well, in keeping with tradition, we’ll start at number 1:

1) Given the caveats that I outlined before, yes. TLJ is amazing and once Carrey goes full Riddler, he’s almost on par. The rest is kinda dull, but that’s no reason to avoid it!

2) I do think it’s really close this time. On one hand, it’s a better film than Batman & Robin, and does have some good performances in it. On the other hand, it’s not bad enough to be a lesson and not good enough to be the best. However, I think I would suggest leaving it on the list if only because it’s still an early enough attempt to bring more of the comic-book world into the mainstream, even if it takes another several years and a lot of CG to really bring it to life.

3) Ok, so where does it fall on the list? Well, even with what I’ve said, I think it’ll surprise you yet again!

  1. Hellboy
  2. Captain America: The First Avenger
  3. The Crow
  4. Men In Black
  5. Dr Strange
  6. Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
  7. Batman: The Killing Joke
  8. Superman 3
  9. The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
  10. The Meteor Man
  11. Supergirl
  12. Howard The Duck
  13. The Fantastic Four (1994)
  14. The Punisher
  15. Batman & Robin
  16. The Amazing Spider-Man
  17. Batman Forever
  18. BvS: Dawn Of Justice

    Potential Substitutions:

    Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)
    X-Men: The Last Stand (replacing Catwoman)
    Turbo Kid (replacing The Incredible Hulk)

Told you. Even though it’s better than B&R as a film, I feel that the nature of B&R serves as a warning for how far is too far, while BF is simply more of the same as before, which was novel for the time but doesn’t give much weight in the rankings. But please, let me know if you disagree/agree/couldn’t care less and I’ll be willing to change my mind if you make some good points!

Alright, that’s it for now. The Paul-Signal is lit and that means….. nothing really. I’m just surprised someone made one. I should probably see what they want. Ok, Bye!

BlokeBusting The Essentials #41: Men in Black

I don’t think the title is obvious enough…

#41: Men In Black

Or

Don’t Be A Menace To New York While Chilling With Aliens In HQ

There’s waaaaay too many Will Smith references that we could start this one off with. Nah, forget it. Yo homes, to the review!

First Impressions

I recall going to see this film with a friend of mine, my family and his. We took the train there (since that’s a thing that you can actually do if you live in the UK), we watched the film and I’m moderately confident that I spent the majority of the train ride back talking about various things from the film. So I think it’s fair to say that I enjoyed this film the first time. Did it hold up? Let’s find out…

The Characters

  • Agent J/James Darrell Edwards III: Will Smith

    So here’s the thing. There was a show called The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air. It starred a young, fairly unknown guy (at least in TV/Film-land) called Will Smith. Then he basically managed to become known as the king of Blockbusters by starring in Bad Boys, Independence Day and MIB. Was his character in this fairly similar to what we’d seen before? Yep. Does that matter? Not at all. Will Smith can play these characters perfectly, and does so here too. He’s shown to have the right kind of thinking but also has that overconfidence that is kinda fun to see burst by the genuinely experienced K as he’s being shown the ropes. He’s also amazingly charismatic, which always helps! And besides, the two other main choices for this role were Chris O’Donnell and David Schwimmer. Yeah, THAT would have been something to see…

  • Agent K: Tommy Lee Jones

    Do I really need to explain just how good this character is? Not only does he manage to balance Will Smith’s presence on screen, he’s able to PERFECTLY counterweight everything that is Agent J. And TLJ is so much fun to watch here. His delivery is brilliant, his facial expression (for there is only one) is on point and he’s clearly been around for a loooong time. Yeah, he’s great!

  • Edgar/The Bug: Vincent D’Onofrio

    Yeah, this guy. For starters, D’Onofrio is a bloody chameleon. I’ve seen him in several roles now and I can never recognise him without looking up who plays the role. And Edgar is just great to see on screen. You’d think it would be difficult to portray something 3 times the size of you wearing your skin, but he manages to pull it off. It’s actually astounding that he’s not been given more accolades. But anyway, he’s as much fun to watch as you can have watching a giant bug wearing a human skin!

  • The Rest

    There’s too many other characters to give them their own sections, so let’s just do a quick run-down here:

    – Zed: Rip Torn. He’s delightfully dour here!
    – Dr Laurel Weaver: Linda Florentino. Not bad, but I feel like she wasn’t given that much to do. Though she does get the kill-shot!
    – Jack Jeebs: Tony Shaloub. “Do you have any idea how much that stings?” Enough said.

The Setting

If you don’t know the film by now, welcome! I’m glad you got this far! Sorry about that spoiler in the previous section…

Anyway, this film starts off perfectly. It sets the tone, it gives you just enough to know that the MIB are clearly both well equipped & well connected and it lets you know exactly who the main two characters are without a lot of exposition. Honestly a lot of modern films could learn a lot from this one. And the style works really well even now, so the film doesn’t really look or feel dated (outside of the obvious leap in technology since then). And I was unaware that this was based on a comic book until relatively recently, so bravo for managing to pull off a successful CB film in the 90’s!

The Effects

Ok, the CG is outdated. Anything that’s bigger than a dog REALLY looks bad compared to today’s graphics. But that’s to be expected. Everything else actually holds up really well. There’s plenty of practical effects that still look fantastic (looking at you, opening scene!) and the coffee aliens are always brilliant. Honestly the worst effects are when The Bug is actually out on screen. And, as I said, that’s no surprise. It’s a GIANT alien bug walking around on Earth in a film from the late 90’s. It was NEVER going to look realistic! So there.

Ok, now it’s time for Bubba to put on his suit and lay it all out for us. Take it away Agent B!

I watched this again pretty recently after the latest rebootquel Men in Black International came out on home video so I could make a list of top 10 aliens in the Men in Black series. There’s just so much that this film has going for it right out of the gate. It creates this world within our world full of aliens in plain sight. The chemistry between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones is palpable and there cannot be enough said about Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance as Edgar. He just has this amazing physicality and voice that captures something completely otherworldly and not at home in its own skin.

While some may call it a stretch to call this a superhero movie, there’s no denying its importance in film history. It was a box office juggernaut with a massive $589M worldwide, it spawned two sequels, a cartoon, and a reboot, there were talks of a combined franchise with 21 Jump Street though that never materialized. It was ingrained as a part of Will Smith’s overall rise as the king of the summer blockbuster. It was a comic book movie that didn’t sell itself as a comic book movie, and it’s actually technically a Marvel movie. It was loosely based on a Malibu comic book series shortly after the Malibu brand was bought out by Marvel comics. It’s still typically regarded as the best of the four movies and it’s just all around fun.

So true Mr Wheat, so true. And now we must move into the last section of the review. Our big three questions. And for anyone suffering from a Neuralyzer blast, those questions are:

  1. Would I recommend this film to others?
  2. Does this film deserve to be on the list?
  3. If so, where does it appear on the list?

And in true MIB fashion, I shall answer them in the order received.

1) Hell yes. And not just for nostalgic purposes, this film is genuinely well made, well acted and just plain fun!

2) Despite the fact that I do think it’s stretching the definition of “superhero” a little past where it usually falls, yes. Because what is a superhero really, if not someone/something that does all they can to fight evil, right wrongs and protect the innocent? I’ll tell you what, a no good bum, that’s what!

3) Well, let’s see where it landed in our list:

  1. Hellboy
  2. Captain America: The First Avenger
  3. The Crow
  4. Men In Black
  5. Dr Strange
  6. Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
  7. Batman: The Killing Joke
  8. Superman 3
  9. The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
  10. The Meteor Man
  11. Supergirl
  12. Howard The Duck
  13. The Fantastic Four (1994)
  14. The Punisher
  15. Batman & Robin
  16. The Amazing Spider-Man
  17. BvS: Dawn Of Justice

    Potential Substitutions:

    Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)
    X-Men: The Last Stand (replacing Catwoman)
    Turbo Kid (replacing The Incredible Hulk)

Yeah, I think it’s that high. This film managed to do several things so well in a time when doing any of them is a tall order. It helped cement Will Smith’s legacy as a screen legend, it was a HUGELY successful comic book film and it managed to use a lot of CG in a way that honestly works WAY better than you’d expect from that time. So into number 4 it goes!

Well, that’s me done for another couple of weeks! And so, I should probably get out of here before Agent J realises that I took his Noisy Cricket. I’m sure that hole in the wall will patch itself right up…..

BlokeBusting The Essentials #91: The Meteor Man

At least they worked in a good reason for the fact that that costume looks VERY cheap!

#91: The Meteor Man

Or

It’s a….. Middle-School teacher?

Given my (essentially) middle-class upbringing in the South East of England, I feel that I’m totally empathetic towards these characters!

First Impressions

The first time I ever heard of this film was when I was looking through the list of films that Bubba had put together. Watching the trailer didn’t really help either, since it comes from a time where you actually got a trailer that didn’t give away THAT much from a film. And I’ll be totally honest here and say that the majority of the cameos are totally lost on me. There were 2 that I knew (which I’m sure you can guess), Bill Cosby and Sinbad. Yes, that means I had no idea who the gang members were. Pretty much any of them. I’m not good with that realm of culture! Anyway, onto the main cast!

Read the rest of this entry

BlokeBusting The Essentials #42: The Incredible Hulk

Who’d have thought that only one name from that poster would return to the MCU!

#42: The Incredible Hulk

Or

Wait, was that the Ang Lee one or the other one? You know, it’s just so confusing…

And now to write the entire review attempting to draw as few comparisons to the other Hulk films as possible…

First Impressions

I’ll be honest, I did not enjoy this film the first time I watched it. I recall being bored, I recall having a lot of trouble getting any satisfaction with the final battle and I also recall not enjoying Norton’s take on Banner. So going into this re-watch I sat down fully intending to re-evaluate my stance and cast a more critical eye over the film than the personal lens that I originally used. Let’s see how that went!

Read the rest of this entry

BlokeBusting The Essentials #92: Howard The Duck

So strange, we had to use a poster from another country to do it justice!

#92: Howard The Duck

Or

How Did This EVER Get Made?

Uuuhhhhhhhhhh…….

First Impressions

…… Right. This film was one that I’d heard of before but had never bothered trying to watch. And when I say I’d heard of it, my entire knowledge of it is that:

1) The Nostalgia Critic did a review of it.
2) There are female duck breasts on screen. I’m not joking.
3) It’s based on a loved but obscure Marvel comic character.

That’s it. That’s my entire previous knowledge of this film. I didn’t even look anything up about it before I watched it because I wanted to go in blind. I’m fairly sure I made the right call, so if you also haven’t seen it yet, I would suggest doing so before reading this review (unless you don’t mind spoilers or just want to prove me wrong).

So I hit play, I watched it and now I need to talk about it. Be prepared, this review is going to some weird places.

The Characters

  • Howard The Duck (Ed Gale/Chip Zien)

    There’s honestly way too much to unpack here for me to not make this the longest review I’ll ever write. So here’s what you need to know. He’s brought from a duck planet to ours by Deus Ex Machina, he’s supposedly a master fighter but manages to not really show that at all, he effectively forgets that he has a girlfriend from the moment he meets Lea Thompson and his jokes don’t land. However, for a product of its time, he actually works quite well. And compared to the live action TMNT of the 90’s, it’s astounding how well the duck costume works! But this character was definitely one that should have been on the back burner for a while before being brought forward, not the first Marvel live action film main star!
  • Beverly (Lea Thompson)

    So remember when Lea Thompson played Lorraine in BTTF? Well, take the young version of that, imagine her as a punk rocker who spends a fairly long scene in her underwear and then accept that she’s the love interest of the film. Yeah, you’ve got this character down. She’s fun, she’s very odd and she works really well. The only issue I had was that the bed scene (yep, there’s a bed scene) kinda looked like she was attempting to canoodle with a large kid’s toy. And that I just had to write that last sentence…
  • Phil Blumburtt (Tim Robbins)

    I….. honestly don’t know how to describe this guy. He’s insane, he’s very annoying and he’s kinda hard to watch. At least until the demon arrives. Then it’s as if Tim Robbins simply said “Screw it, I’m just going to have fun here!” and he hits the right level of snarky and over-the-top. And anyone who hasn’t seen the film is probably more interested in the demon bit. Don’t worry, he’s next! But seriously, this film has two very different versions of this character, with the latter half making up for the former half. So an overall “ok” grade then.
  • Dr Walter Jennings (Jeffrey Jones)

    And in this film about space ducks and a very odd 80’s Cleveland, OH, we reach the strangest character in the film. He starts off just fine. And then he’s possessed by an ancient evil from outer space (just roll with it) and starts to talk as if Judge Doom (the REAL JD) had a total laryngectomy. And he stays just like that for about 80% of his screen-time. This was a VERY odd choice. And I don’t know if it was the right one. It really is difficult to get used to. I’m sure many people love this guy, but it really didn’t work for me.

The Setting

I’m going to simply type out how this film is set and let you do the jokes in your own head.

“A 27-year old Howard from Duckworld gets sucked into space and lands in 1980’s Cleveland, Ohio. He meets (in chronological order) the front lady for an all-female rock band, a scientist who’s actually a janitor and a scientist who becomes a demon. He then saves the world.”

Yeah, there’s nothing I can say that could poke more fun at that premise than the premise itself. So, moving on!

Who Is This Film For?

I’m honestly not sure who this was made for. Clearly the people involved were passionate about the project, since it’s just so odd that anyone not invested would have just given up or underperformed. I’ve done a little research into Howard and it seems like there’s quite a huge lore and rich history there. He even fights a Hellcow. I bet you wish they’d put that in this film! But anyway, back to the question at hand. I feel like everyone involved had an idea in their heads, but it never lined up. This also feels kinda like a first draft that nobody ever bothered to go back to before filming started. It’s definitely not one of the worst films of all time, but it’s nowhere near good cinema!

Anyway, on to Bubba’s thoughts on the whole thing.

I’ve actually seen this a few times now and I think the more I see it, the more I appreciate it although I would never in my right mind call this a good movie. There’s a lot to appreciate here, front and center is Lea Thompson’s Beverly. One of the most talked about scenes in this movie is when she is coming on to Howard, but I think it’s actually a more subtle performance and it’s more like they are joking around with each other and she is calling Howard’s bluff. You can see it in her face right before she starts going at him. Most of the rest of the movie just plain doesn’t make sense though. There’s nearly adult humor, like how Howard gets a job as a mop boy at what appears to be a sex motel. There’s an odd chase scene with an ultralight plane. Nearly every person in the film reacts differently to the fact that Howard is a duck, they either scream or act like it’s completely normal. And the rest of the acting is way over the top. It’s tough to know if they were really going for action, comedy, love story, or adventure and it fails at most of them.

Without going too much farther, it’s an odd thing to say but this is the first theatrical adaptation of a Marvel comic. Instead of going with one of their A-list characters, or even their B or C list characters, they go with the adult satirical non-superhero Howard the Duck. Not only that, but they get a pedigree behind it, George Lucas helped push to get this film made. And while it was originally considered as an animated film, they pushed up the release date and decided to make it live action to shorten the production time. This caused plenty of headaches with the duck suit and ultimately it became a box office bomb. It only grossed $37M worldwide on a $36M budget. In 1986. Nowadays it’s a bit of a cult film but overall it’s still considered one of the worst comic book movies ever made. But even so, nothing can take away from the fact that this was the first theatrically released Marvel movie.

Thanks once again Mr Wheat! So, let’s dive right into the last part. It’s time to ask those three important questions:

  1. Would I recommend this film to others?
  2. Does this film deserve to be on the list?
  3. If so, where does it appear on the list?

And before a Dark Overlord turns up, let’s get those answered!

1) Yeeeeeeeesssss? It’s something that a few of my friends would find fascinating. However I’d never suggest that someone who isn’t fully prepped. So make sure you adequately prepare anyone you suggest this to.

2) Yes it does. Despite any particular feelings you may have about this film, it is the first proper Marvel Live Action film (if you don’t count the 1944 Captain America B&W serial, which you shouldn’t) and as such should have a place on the list. And speaking of that…

3) Well, here it is:

  1. Hellboy
  2. Captain America: The First Avenger
  3. The Crow
  4. Dr Strange
  5. Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
  6. Batman: The Killing Joke
  7. Superman 3
  8. The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
  9. Supergirl
  10. Howard The Duck
  11. The Fantastic Four (1994)
  12. The Punisher
  13. Batman & Robin
  14. The Amazing Spider-Man
  15. BvS: Dawn Of Justice

Potential Substitutions:

Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)
X-Men: The Last Stand (replacing Catwoman)

I’m sure you guessed where it would go. It wasn’t quite the earliest Superhero film, but it was obscure and an attempt to bring a more interesting character to the masses. And possibly with more care and attention (and just better effects overall), we can get a remake/reboot that will do the character justice in the not-too-distant future.

And so, with all that being said, I better get out of here before I have to lay some Quack Fu on a local band manager!

BlokeBusting The Essentials #43: Captain America: The First Avenger

#43: Captain America: The First Avenger

Or

Ice, Ice, Nazi!

A film by Marvel featuring an actor who previously played a Marvel character in a totally different role? That’s so crazy it just might work…

First Impressions

So this film was originally one that I didn’t enjoy much. Now I liked the comedy, I found the premise fun but it just didn’t stick with me and didn’t grip me the same way the other MCU films of the time did. And now, having seen Endgame and seen the ultimate arc of all the characters involved, it’s time to revisit and re-review. Let’s see how it holds up…

The Characters

For the sake of all our sanity, I will be focusing on who I feel are really worth mentioning from the film.

  • Steve Rogers/Captain AmericaChris Evans

    In case you all forgot, Mr Evans originally starred in the two Fantastic Four films from the mid 2000’s. And he wasn’t bad. He didn’t come off as great, but that might have had more to do with the script (more on that down the line). So when Marvel announced that they’d picked him to play The First Avenger, we all gave a collective “NANI!!!” in response. And in this film, he’s good. You can see the rough edges to his character and he does a great job of being the boy who just wants to help fight the war, even when the government just says “Put on a suit and look pretty!”. And with hindsight, this portrayal clearly had notes from a company that really could see the big picture. There’s moments that seemed so throw away but end up being the seeds of a big moment down the line. And the fact that there wasn’t a lantern hanging on them was a big feather in his “Cap”! So yeah, “Flame On” Steve, because you were very rightly cast.
  • Peggy Carter – Hayley Atwell

    Just more of this. More and more please. The fact that Agent Carter got cancelled so early (yes, I consider 2 seasons early) is still astonishing to me. If my daughter grows up to be even remotely like Hayley’s portrayal of Peggy in these films/shows, I will be a very happy father. She’s got style, class, a fiery temper and is more capable than pretty much anyone else at what she does. So yeah. Moving on.
  • Bucky Barnes – Sebastian Stan

    This character felt a little forced for me back then. And, with hindsight and foresight, it’s still a little ham fisted seeing him in this film. I know we accept that him and Steve have been friends forever and that he still only sees Cap as his buddy, but his character really does only seem to exist for Cap to have somebody to lose at the end. Which is kinda odd since he also loses Peggy (technically she loses him, but semantics…), so I still felt like his character needed a little more fleshing out. Now, down the line we see him get WAY more to do, and so this was probably the best way to do it at the time since a longer runtime might have scared people off back then. But still, a bit more Bucky story would be a big improvement for me.
  • Col. Chester Phillips – Tommy Lee Jones

    This guy is funny. It’s like they walked up to Tommy Lee Jones and simply said “You know that role in MIB you had? We want you to do that again but this time even more grumpy and straight-faced!”. Leslie Nielson said that the funniest moments come from acting totally straight in a comedy, and TLJ proves that here. “He’s still skinny.”, “I’m not kissing you”, “If you have something to say, right now’s a perfect time to keep it to yourselves.”. The man can deliver the lines flawlessly. I’m totally serious when I say that he is the funniest character in the film. And I am really glad they got TLJ to play him!

The Setting

If you aren’t aware by now, which would be rather impressive, this film is an alternate WW2 scenario. Steve Rogers is made in a super soldier and then good ‘ol USA kicks some Nazi butt. Except there’s sooooooo much more than that waiting here. There’s so much detail that they squeeze in and so much groundwork set. It really is only on a re-watching after the fact that you can appreciate what they did with this film. And despite the war setting, it really doesn’t feel too much like a full-on war film. So yeah, well done Marvel!

Context Is Key

This film was obviously judged as a mostly stand-alone film when it came out. There were very, VERY few people who knew the scope of what Marvel had in store back then. And obviously we couldn’t see what had been put in front of our eyes until we started getting callbacks. So here’s my suggestion to you:

If you are going to watch these, watch them in order once. Then watch them in order again. After the second viewing, make your decision about the film.

There’s many people I know who don’t enjoy this film when it came out. There’s many I know who LOVED this film, and still do!. I fell into the camp of “Meh” when I first saw it, but I think you can feel where I stand on it by now. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that context matters with this film, as with many of the MCU entries. We can’t judge it by itself because it very much does not stand by itself. And I know that will be a recurring theme in the months to come, so I shall try not to repeat myself too much. “Dormammu!”

Right, let’s see what Bubba has to say before we pass sentence on this film!

I don’t think I had actually seen this since I watched it during the first couple months of this site shortly after going through the all the Superman movies. At the time, I thought it was decent but had a few cliche moments and felt that the Tesseract weapons were a poor excuse for PG-13 violence. This time around I really appreciated it a lot more and loved how much they called back to this original movie as time has gone on and Captain America has appeared in many more films. The friendship with Bucky, the “I can do this all day”, to the relationship with Peggy Carter. Captain America was really fully formed by the end of this movie. He’s evolved through the later movies, but they really hit the core of his character right off the bat. There were still some rough around the edges moments and Red Skull looked great but was lacking as a real threat.

This is the origin of the top tier Phase one character next to Iron Man. Chris Evans has really made the role his own and this is where it all started. It’s the lowest grossing MCU movie aside from the Incredible Hulk with $176M/$370M worldwide and it was the last Phase one movie to come out before the first Avengers. It helped make the Avengers into the cinematic juggernaut, it gave Peggy Carter a spin off series a few years later. It’s a great film with a retro feel to it as director Joe Johnston had cut his teeth on the Rocketeer in the 90’s. And as a hero, Captain America is someone who gets chosen because of his character and made into the hero that he always should have been. Plus, it has Cap punching Hitler in the face.

Nicely done Mr Wheat. And so, with all the subtlety of Cap’s stage punches, let us move to the 3 big questions:

  1. Would I recommend this film to others?
  2. Does this film deserve to be on the list?
  3. If so, where does it appear on the list?

Ok, in short order…

1) Yep. A great origin story, a fun romp and some fantastic ground work for the series. Next question!

2) Yep. See above!

3) Well, I’m sure you can assume roughly where this is going. So here’s the updated rankings!

  1. Hellboy
  2. Captain America: The First Avenger
  3. The Crow
  4. Dr Strange
  5. Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
  6. Batman: The Killing Joke
  7. Superman 3
  8. The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
  9. Supergirl
  10. The Fantastic Four (1994)
  11. The Punisher
  12. Batman & Robin
  13. The Amazing Spider-Man
  14. BvS: Dawn Of Justice

Yep, bet that surprised you! Despite all the good about this film, the fact that it does require some outside context to fully appreciate it means that I just can’t give it the top spot. It’s still a lot of fun though!

So stay true to your ideals, keep your friends close and (until next time) always watch out for that little sneaky Hitler creeping up behind you!

BlokeBusting The Essentials #93: The Fantastic Four (1994)

#93: The Fantastic Four

Or

The Not-So-Invisible Movie

Ok. Well. Right. Erm…

First Impressions

So this film exists. That’s a thing that happened. I’ll admit that I first heard about this film maybe 10 years ago and I had never once actually considered watching it. I went into this viewing totally blind (outside of my general knowledge of the characters and setting from other sources) and I think I made the right call. So, let’s dive right in.

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BlokeBusting The Essentials #44: Hellboy

#45: Hellboy

Or

GDT’s BPRD

This one is going to be quite fun to discuss, so let’s just go for it!

First Impressions

This film was my introduction to GDT. And I think that was a great way to start. I still haven’t seen some of his more “out-there” stuff, but his style fits this film (and material) down to the ground. I recall really enjoying this film when I first saw it and I had no knowledge of (and still don’t really) the comics that it was based on. So what made this film so enticing to me? I think I should go the usual route and get into the nitty gritty.

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BlokeBusting The Essentials #94: The Punisher (1989)

Despite what it says on the poster, we assure you that it is indeed called
“The Punisher”

#94: The Punisher

or

The Punisher That Time Forgot

Ok. Ok, Ok, Ok. This one was….. different. And I don’t think I can really say more without jumping right in!

First Impressions

Right. So this film exists. That was surprise #1 for me. I had never heard of there being a Punisher film (or anything else, come to that) before the 2004 entry with Thomas Jane. And after watching this entry, I’m not 100% sure I can say that there IS a Punisher film before that. It’s a little like the Dollar Store brand version of a popular drink, or a cheap knock-off watch with “Rulex” on the underside. It bears the same idea but has somewhat different execution. Does that make it less enjoyable? Let’s find out…

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