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Men in Black International

Things have been slowing down a bit here, but I’ve still managed to make it to the theaters once again to catch the latest non-Disney Marvel movie that wasn’t Dark Phoenix. Ok, so technically it’s an extra step removed from being a Marvel movie since it’s the latest sequel in a series of movies that were originally loosely based on a Malibu comic that was purchased by Marvel comics. But this is kind of a rebootquel as it reboots the series with two new leads replacing Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, but still connects it to the previous three movies with references to Agents J and K as well as Emma Thompson as Agent O. The film was fun enough but it had a difficult time capturing the wonder of the first film while tossing in an undercooked mystery. And as this is a new release, I will be discussing the mystery in full so here’s your spoiler warning.

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BlokeBusting the Essentials #45: The Crow

#45: The Crow

Or

Quoth The Raven…

Well, well, well. Here we have quite the interesting entry. It’s not everyday that you get to discuss a film that has such a morbid history and an almost literal cult following. So let’s get going while the night is still young!

First Impressions

This review gave me a reason to do something that I’d never done before and had never actually spent the time to try and do before. This was my first ever viewing of The Crow. I’d heard of the sad tale of Brandon Lee, I’d understood that many people quite liked the film and I figured that I’d eventually see it one day. And that day just kept bobbing away on the horizon year after year. So now I’ve finally seen it and I get to talk about it. This should be fun!

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Brightburn

Brightburn 2019

While much of the marketing of this movie focused on the well known director of Guardians of the Galaxy James Gunn, it was actually from two of his relatives who wrote the screenplay and it was given to director David Yarovesky, friend of the Gunns who directed the 70’s inspired music video for Guardians of the Galaxy starring David Hasselhoff and not a whole lot else. The movie itself is quite obviously a “What if?” story as in “What if Superman didn’t grow up to be a hero, but grew up to become a villain?” It’s a story that has been done before in the comics, and to a certain extent Chronicle also covered similar ground, but this takes it into full blown horror movie territory. That turns the movie into something quite different, and yet it was still relatively predictable as to what direction it was going. Despite that, it was still a creepy, fun ride.

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BlokeBusting The Essentials #95: Catwoman

#95: Catwoman

Or

How Warner Bros Lost 1 Of Its 9 Lives…

Ok guys, here’s another film that’s best known for how bad it was. It was nominated for 7 Golden Raspberry awards and won 4 (Worst Picture, Actress, Director & Screenplay). But more on that later. For now, let’s dive right into the review.

First Impressions

This film was not one I saw in the cinema. It was one that I ended up getting on DVD when it was on sale (I think maybe £2) at Woolworths. Why did I buy it? I have no idea. I went through a phase, from ages 14 to 22-ish, where I simply expanded my DVD collection and watched as many films and TV shows as I could. So yeah, a cheap film in a bargain bin was right up my alley back then. And I will also say that a few nights ago was the first time I’ve watched this film since I unwrapped that DVD and hit play all those years ago. Take from that what you will. And now we move onto…

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Rendel

Rendel: Dark Vengeance 2017

This post partially came about as voted by members of my Patreon. Each month, I offer four movies and it’s up to the patrons to help decide what I get to watch. If you would like in on this, all I ask is just $1 a month to help this site continue and to grow. This movie is hailed as Finland’s first superhero movie, and while I can’t verify that statistic myself, I do know that it’s the only one that I’m aware of. At least until the sequel comes out. It’s a lower budget film, but one that really uses the budget quite well. And while the popular opinion on it is fairly low to middling, I actually quite enjoyed this take on more or less the Punisher with a few other odds and ends thrown in as well as a couple nice expectation subversions. There were definitely some storytelling and pacing issues, but overall it was quite violent with a touch of very dark humor.

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Star Kid

Star Kid 1997

Once again I’ve come across a film that straddles the line of what would be considered a superhero movie. I think the biggest argument that I could make in favor of this film being a superhero movie is partly based on something that I read in the IMDb trivia section that I completely agree with. Apparently, this was inspired by the Guyver and if that movie series is considered a superhero movie, than this kid version of the Guyver definitely should be as well. It’s basically a 90’s era typical kid wish fulfillment fantasy that contains pretty much all the tropes. And similar to the Guyver in general, pretty much everything about the movie is pretty bad except for the creature effects.

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Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of The Dark Knight

Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of The Dark Knight 2008

This is the second to last documentary style special that’s available to watch on the DC Universe streaming app, two of them were connected to Superman Returns and this was the second one that was attached to the Dark Knight. One of the interesting things that I noticed about the three that I’ve watched so far, and I believe it continues onto the last one, is how differently they handle their source material. In the Superman special, it embraced all sorts of different variations of Superman across movies and television. But the two Dark Knight specials seemingly prefer to completely ignore Batman’s past outside of the comic books and only show clips from Batman Begins and the Dark Knight. Just like the previous two specials, this has a mix of interviews, clips from the first two Nolan movies, and comic book style graphics as they discuss different aspects of Batman’s personality as well as some of his villains and how they relate to psychology. It’s fun, but similar to Batman Tech, it felt less like a stand alone documentary, and more like just promotion for the Dark Knight.

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BlokeBusting The Essentials #46: Doctor Strange

doctor-strange

#46: Doctor Strange

Or

Movie-Goers, We’ve Come To Bargain

Well folks, we’ve finally hit the first proper MCU film in the list. So, let me get a few things straight before we continue:

  1. I love the MCU. I’ll admit that happily. However, I want to be clear that I will still be looking at the MCU films (as much as possible) as individual entries and judging them by how they hold up, any flaws and/or great parts, good/bad acting and so on.
  2. I am a Cumberbatch fan. Sherlock is one of the best TV shows created as far as I’m concerned, he was fantastic as Hawking in the TV film of the same name and he’s an overall lovely man. Again, I bring this up to be transparent. But also I hope it’ll help you give me a little slack a bit further down the article…

Ok, on with the review!

First Impressions

This film was one that I really was looking forward to when I heard about it. I was not a comic reader, though I did know a few things about it through basic osmosis and the fact that I’m a nerd with an internet connection. I heard the rumours, I really enjoyed hearing the casting news and I was a little thrown by the controversy surrounding The Ancient One. However, I went into the cinema to watch this very ready. What followed was a visual feast and some interesting choices. I have rewatched this film twice since then, for two different reasons, and it remains essentially unchanged as far as I’m concerned. So, how did it do?

The Setting

This film marked a bit of a risk for the MCU. Where as GOTG had a whole team of funny (for different reasons) characters to use for comedic effect throughout the film, thus making the “lesser known” gang easier for new audiences to digest, Dr Strange is different. The premise and ending are just as out there as GOTG, but we only really have Strange to lean on throughout the film. Perhaps it was a mark of Marvel realising that we will happily watch new IP’s, since GOTG did so well, or a sign of how much the studio trusted the actors and director, but what we got was a film stepped in fantastical spiritual messages, a couple of sequences that were clearly dreamt up after a very good LSD trip and some stunning visuals. All this, including symbolism and setting from Tibetan culture, led by a cast that’s primarily Western. I will say that I feel kinda conflicted about that. I refuse to believe that there were not many great actors/actresses who could have done the job, though I do understand that the studio clearly wanted well known and established actors/actresses to help deliver the strangest (pun-intended) MCU film of them all to date to the average patron with the minimum of difficulty. Anyway, it wasn’t as bad as the live action GITS film. That one hurt. As in physically hurt…

Characters

  • Dr Strange

    BC is a joy to watch, in everything else. He’s also very good at what he does in this one. He’s smarmy with just the right amount of character development throughout the film, he’s really good at reacting to the incredible things with distrust/disbelief/acceptance and he really does look cool once he gets fully decked out as the Sorcerer Supreme. So I’d say he totally killed it. Well, 95% killed it. There’s one small, tiny, little thing. That accent. In case you didn’t know, BC is English. Even his name, Benedict Cumberbatch, is a HUGE giveaway. But whoever decided that he needed to put on an accent that harsh, that extreme and that strong needs to be talked to. It’s VERY distracting. Every scene where he has a lot of dialogue just has you watching knowing that he’s putting on a show. As I said, everything else is great! That voice is simply grate…

  • Sorcerer Supreme (The Ancient One)

    Tilda Swinton is always fun to see. She’s played a rather wide range of characters over the years. And I thought she did very well as the leader with a dark secret. However, I was kinda surprised to learn that the community was very thrown by her casting. The character is designed to be gender-neutral in the film, and I feel that they do that well. But the character in the comics was of Tibetan descent and many people were dismayed that a white actor was playing the role. Again, I think that the studio had a reason for doing this and I fully acknowledge that the MCU is a different beast to the comics, but it would have been nice to see a more accurate representation (although a little research will tell you that the director felt that the original comics treaded too close to racist territory in that regard and didn’t want to risk that in the film). Regardless, what we got was still very good and I appreciated that the character clearly acted using their own morals and rationalisations. It was kinda fun to see a character die without a solid, neat ending to everything.
  • Wong

    I really liked Wong. He was the comic relief, he was a straight man to Strange’s rogue manner and he had some of the best lines in the film. And despite being used mostly for comedic effect, he was possibly the character that most people were drawn to. There’s not much else to say here, he’s just a great character that was used well. Go Wong!
  • Mordo

    I know that this actor has done a lot of stuff. However I will say that I’ve seen him in just this and Serenity. So he has a type apparently. Anyway, this character felt a little stiff. He only existed to be the one that gets disillusioned and leaves the path of righteousness. And we already had that with the primary protagonist. They did give him the WiFi joke though, so there’s that.

  • Kaecillius

    Mads, Mads, Mads. You were perfectly cast, though this villain was a bit of an odd one. He was powerful, more so than most of the main characters, and he knows it. However he’s also adept at using said power, which actually makes most of the film turn into a chase scene when he’s on screen as Strange runs away. He actually is interesting and could have had some fantastic moments, but this film had to hold back. I would have been more interested in having him in the second film, possibly connected to a different entity. that way you could have spent more time on his story. Ah well.

  • Dormammu

    Yes, that’s BC again. Bet you didn’t notice that one! Anyway, this character is VERY interesting and this film only touches on him a little. But it REALLY uses him well. Anyone who doesn’t start grinning during the “I’ve come to bargain” scene just doesn’t know funny. I’m very intrigued to see what they do with him moving forward. That’s it, moving on.

 

Taking Risks

 

The MCU had already taken its big risk with GOTG, as I mentioned earlier. However this film was possibly a bigger risk than that. It has by far the weirdest visuals in the entire franchise, it’s based on characters that can work on paper but would actually be tricky to get properly balanced on film and the main villain is only actually on-screen for less than 5 minutes (that’s 13 minutes less than Beetleguese!). All-in-all, this would have been THE film that showed Marvel if they had earned enough clout with audiences to get bums in seats when it’s not a more well known character. There’s no gang of intrepid heroes, there’s no space battles and there’s no talking tree. It’s a man who loses the use of his hands and simply wants them back stumbling into the mysteries of the cosmos and coming away with astonishing magic powers. Benedict Cumberbatch is the face of the film, and he’s the one who needs to carry it forward. The film made roughly 3 times its budget in the Box Office and really showed Marvel that they were doing things right and could now not worry about bringing in other characters. And bloody hell, did they! But that’s a conversation for another time.



Now it’s over to Bubbawheat to see whether he felt this film was worthy of the Cloak Of Levitation:

While I had only watched this film once before, it always stuck with me. In part because I had watched and enjoyed the cartoon version of Doctor Strange’s origin story that had come out several years before so I knew more or less what I was getting into. Benedict Cumberbatch was an obvious choice for the role and he plays the arrogant know-it-all as well as anyone. And while the MCU didn’t really need another rich and talented white guy superhero alongside Tony Stark, it’s nice to bring in a mystical element to the MCU, and Scott Derrickson brought a unique visual style that really captured the mind bending alternate dimensions that the Doctor Strange comics are known for. That, and I’m a sucker for a little time travel mixed into a movie. The love story was a nice touch that didn’t overwhelm the narrative, it was given just enough weight to ground the character and the visuals are just absolutely gorgeous to look at. It’s a fun movie with a handful of serious moments.

As far as its place in the MCU, there was a bit of controversy in the form of the Ancient One. While the character was traditionally a stereotypically elderly Asian man in the style of Confucius, the filmmakers decided to avoid the stereotype while still taking the role away from an Asian actor and instead gave it to Tilda Swinton. For my part, I think she does an amazing job, and at least they kept one Asian actor with Wong, but for a story that has so much to do with Asian culture, it was a bad call to have so few Asian actors in it. In terms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and box office, this actually ranks in the lower third but that still comes with an $85M opening weekend and a $677M overall take, certainly nothing to sneeze at. It’s a little early to tell how much of a role he will play in the later Marvel movies, though he is definitely coming back for a sequel. This also continued somewhat of a trend with horror movie directors given superhero movies like Sam Raimi before him and James Wan after, as Derrickson was most well known for Sinister before this film.

Our Epic Conclusion

Alrighty. So, we’ve reached the main 3 questions again. Just in case you weren’t sure what they were, we wrote them down here beside the Wi-Fi password:

1) Would I recommend this film to others?
2) Does it deserve to be on this list?
3) How do I rank the films thus far?

And, without further ado, beating around the bush or other idioms, here we go:

  1. Yes. If you’re an MCU fan, you need to see this. The character is quite important, for one, and the entire cast is really fun to watch. If you’re not an MCU fan, you need to see this. The creative decisions within this film make it a visual joy to behold and need to be seen on the biggest screen you can find.

  2. I would say yes, for all the reasons mentioned above and more. Though I think you guys could probably have worked that out by now!

  3. Good question me! Here’s the current rankings:

    1) Dr Strange
    2) Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
    3) Batman: The Killing Joke
    4) Superman 3
    5) The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
    6) Supergirl
    7) Batman & Robin
    8) The Amazing Spider-Man
    9) BvS: Dawn Of Justice

    Potential Substitutions:
    Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)

    Yeah, I couldn’t justify placing this anywhere else. The visuals, the cast, the subject matter, the overall feel of the film and more just add up to a fantastic and very well made Superhero film. Congratulations Dr Steven Strange on your victory over Dr Horrible!

And so another review draws to a close. We’ll be back next month with a look at another film on the list, one that many will assume that I won’t like. As if I would be that catty…

Anyway, always be sure to carry your Sling Ring with you, just in case!

 

Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame 2019

Even though it’s only been out for a little over a couple weeks, it feels like everyone has already seen this movie considering that it’s about to top Avatar to become the second highest grossing movie in the US of all time. The MCU in general has become the biggest franchise of all time in short order, offering up 22 movies over the course of only 10 years, and while most of the films follow a similar overall formula, the specifics of each film tends to vary wildly among secondary genres. The MCU films are safe, and yet they still manage to take chances, whether it’s giving unknown characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy a chance to shine, or what it does in this movie: it spends time to show the audience how the characters react to loss. This film feels like a culmination of all the previous MCU films in more ways than one, it revisits moments from earlier movies, and it generally offers closure for the majority of the original six Avengers in a rather satisfying way. And while the official spoiler has ended, I am still offering my typical spoiler warning from here on out.

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Graphic Horror: Hardware

Hardware 1990

This is another somewhat interesting story when it comes to comic book movies. When this film was released in 1990, the comic book publishers of 2000 AD which was the home of Judge Dredd noticed the striking similarities to a short story they published years earlier called Shok. It was a very short 7 page story but the similarities are striking. Both the movie and the comic feature a guy bringing home a robotic head that reassembles itself to terrorize a woman who is holed up in a highly secured apartment. There’s even a moment in both stories where the woman uses a freezer to disguise herself against the robot’s heat vision. As for the film itself, it’s very much schlock, ultra-violent horror which oddly enough reminds me of another comic book movie Virus that would come out 9 years later. Those two stories both have killer robots that reassemble themselves, have a slow start, are trapped in a relatively small space, and ultimately have a low body count. And while there are some major issues with this film, it’s actually much better than the latter movie.

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