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“Thor”
a review by Darby O’Gill

When Gods become superheroes… or something like that. Thor is the latest odyssey in the Marvel Studios journey towards the all-star extravaganza that will be The Avengers. To be honest, I’m not much of a Marvel Comics fan, or a Thor fan for that matter. I’m more of a DC Comics man myself, but that’s not to say I can’t enjoy a good Marvel movie. Sadly, Thor is not one of them. It’s not a horrible movie, I mean it’s no Jonah Hex, which by the way was last year’s Death Coach winner, which should dispel any thoughts of publisher loyalty that you might find in this review. But, Thor does have its fair share of problems, as well as nice moments, however few.

In Thor, King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) of Asgard tries to prepare his two sons for the challenges they may face one day as future kings. His eldest, the Mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is cocky and arrogant, and only wishes to show off his superior strength and fearlessness at any chance he can get. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) on the other hand, likes to use his head, and manipulate situations and others to help mold events to his liking. They don’t call him the God of Mischief for nothing. The ying to Asgard’s yang is Jotunheim and its people the Frost Giants. When a small group of Frost Giants breach the palace’s security, Thor wishes to go to Jotunheim and strike fear into the heart of its people to never try such a thing again. Odin strongly forbids it, but Thor and his men, consisting of the Warriors Three (Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, & Josh Dallas) and Sif (Jamie Alexander), along with his brother Loki, sneak-off to Jotunheim and unwittingly start a war. Yeah, I don’t get that either! What did they think would happen? Anyway, Odin strips Thor of his powers and banishes him from Asgard. He is cast to Earth as a mortal man, but his Mjolnir (Thor’s Hammer) is also sent to Earth as a “Sword in the Stone” to restore Thor’s powers once he’s learned his lesson. While on Earth he meets astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), and S.H.I.E.L.D., and bla babla babla. You get it right?!

Okay, so let’s just say Thor didn’t make me a fan of Thor. It’s too bad too! I was really hoping having director Kenneth Branagh behind the wheel of this one would have done for Thor, what Jon Favreau did for Iron Man. That’s not to say Branagh didn’t do a good job! If it wasn’t for him, we could have easily been looking at next year’s Death Coach Award winner here. The problem isn’t so much the directing, as it is the writing. The script isn’t horrible, but it does feel like it’s just jumping from plot point to plot point to keep the story moving, and it never lets you really care about the characters, or even the story for that matter. The storyline in Asgard is much more defined than that of the story on Earth, but that comes as of no surprise with Branagh’s Shakespearean background. Chris Hemsworth is perfectly cast as Thor! He did an incredible job of bringing the mighty comic book God to life. We also get to see Thor and his powers unleashed pretty early in the film when he battles the Frost Giants on Jotunhein, and I’ve got to say some of the hammer tricks were pretty bad-ass! It’s just too bad I didn’t get to have that feeling again by the end of the movie. I would have really liked a second helping of that fight scene later on in the film. I can’t for the life of me figure out why Thor’s best fight scene would be at the beginning of the movie, and not at the end? I also don’t know if it was just me, or the once again pointless 3D conversion, but the CGI at times seemed to be a little too CGIy. The other realms looked fantastic, and had a grand sense of space to them, but I felt like I was watching a video game at times, and actually had to remind myself I was watching a movie! I know that this is Kenneth Branagh’s first real CGI venture, and with that in mind it’s really not that bad. But next time, less is more. I’m starting to feel like I’m being unfair. They say that this is the first official movie of the summer season, but I’m going to give that title to Fast Five! Also, that way my summer can start on a high note, and not this middle of the road shit! Thor does its job of introducing the movie going public to the Mighty Thor, but ultimately it’s just not worth it.

Rating:


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Comic Con 2010

Well, another Comic Con has come and gone, but your old friend Darby is here once again to give you all the news you need to know, and 100% Nerd Flu free.


“Tron: Legacy”

Tron: Legacy was back at the Con this year, and this time Flynn’s Arcade was also able to transport you into the game itself! After you had your fun playing free video games, you are escorted to Flynn’s workshop, where you get zapped into the game and find yourself at the “End of Line Club” a haven for rogue programs. This re-creation of a set from Tron: Legacy was one of the most impressive things at Comic Con this year. I almost didn’t want to leave the room.






“Burn Notice”

It was announced at this year’s Burn Notice panel, that there will be a straight-to-DVD Burn Notice prequel, starring Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe, and will tell the story of Sam’s last mission before Miami.





“Predators”

Sadly, Robert Rodriguez announced Thursday, that 20th Century Fox will be releasing a sequel to this month’s new Predators incarnation. I know, not everyone disliked the new movie, but let’s be honest; it was crap, and I’m sure Predators: Electric Boogaloo isn’t going to be much better.




“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”

At the end of the panel for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, director/co-writer Edgar Wright announced that a surprise secret screening was about to take place. He then took a select few of the audience members from Hall H, and lead them Pied Piper style through the streets of San Diego to a theater not far from the convention center. Let me just say, that this is hands down the best movie of the summer! A review will be up here closer to the release of the movie, but take my word for it and buy your tickets now!




“The Walking Dead”

AMC‘s new series The Walking Dead, based on the Image comic, definitely had the biggest presence at the Con this year. You couldn’t go any where without seeing a horde of zombies, or footage from the upcoming show, stopping people in their tracks… Literally. At the panel on Friday we got to see some bloody amazing footage, and I mean bloody in both senses of the word. The cinematography on this show is going to blow you way. The sparkly vampires and teenage werewolves have had their time in the sun, well maybe not the vampires, but I do believe it’s about high time for the zombies. Long live the zombies! Can you say that about the undead?




“Saw 3D”

I was able to attend the press event/panel for the new Saw 3D, or Saw VII whichever one you prefer, and got to see the first eight minutes of the movie. They also unveiled the new eye popping poster, and also announced that this will be the final chapter in the Saw series.





“Green Lantern”

After thousands of people, along with Ralph and myself (Ralph was out there much longer than I), camped out all night just for the chance of getting in to Hall H for the Green Lantern panel, it was finally 11:45AM and thanks to Ralph and Lenny we made it in! On hand for the Q&A was Mr. Hal Jordan himself Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong, Peter Sarsgaard, and directory Martin Campbell. The panel wasn’t overly flashy, but we did get to see a few minutes of footage in the form of a somewhat trailer. It’s less than a year away, but I think I might just have to get in line now!




At the Warner Bros. booth, there was also a floor display of Abin Sur’s body.





“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”

At the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides panel, the audience received a special message from Captain Jack Sparrow himself! Does this mean we can stop calling it a trilogy?




“The Stabbing”

Okay, so here’s where Saturday gets a little pear shaped. Two men started arguing over space, or lack there of in Hall H, just after the Resident Evil: Afterlife panel, and just before the Paul panel. It was at this point, that of the one guys ends up stabbing the other guy near the eye with a pen. When news of the event quickly made its way around the Con, the only thing that shocked me was that it doesn’t happen more often. You’ve got thousands of antisocial people all huddled together with other antisocial people, add to that most haven’t eaten or slept in days, and at some point the nerd-rage is going to fly. The best part of all this was the costumes that followed on Sunday.





“Cowboys & Aliens”

Thanks to the amazing Jon Favreau, for the first time in Comic Con history, Harrison Ford graced the Con with his presence, and in handcuffs no less. The handcuffs could have had two meanings; 1) that’s what it took to get him to his first Comic Con, or 2) it was trying to make light of the stabbing that took place earlier. Either way, the crowd erupted when they saw Han Solo being lead to the stage by security.




“The Avengers”

For the first time ever, the cast of the up-coming Avengers movie were assembled in one place, and that place was Comic Con! The video says it all!

Avengers Assemble!!!



But it’s not just all about the movies at Comic Con. One of the best reasons to go to Comic Con is to get your hands on the exclusive toys and action figures only available at the Con… Well that is until they’re put on eBay for five times the original price. This is just a few of them; there really are way too many to list.



Plastic Man

This one was a “Must Have” for me this year!



Attack of the Show

These Gentle Giant Comic Con exclusives, are mini-busts of the Attack of the Show hosts Kevin Pereira & Olivia Munn.



Doctor Who

This years Doctor Who figure is a two-pack of the Eleventh Doctor and one of those lame Dalek redesigns.



Venture Brothers

These old school action figure dolls of Henchmen 21 and 24, were almost impossible to get.



Mo-Larr vs. Skeletor

By far the funniest exclusive at the Con this year, based on the Robot Chicken skit, this two-pack features for the first time ever Mo-Larr and a gapped toothed Skeletor.



One last thing before I go. Every year the studios at Comic Con make these giant bags for people to carry their stuff around in while at the Con. Well the best bags this year, without a doubt, go to the SyFy Channel.

One side of the bag reads “Mega Tote,” and the other “Giant Backpack.” But the thing that makes it so great is that in the fold of the bag it reads “vs.” You’ve got to love that!



Well, that does it for another Comic Con, but Comic Con 2011 will be on July 21st to the 24th next year, so start making your plans now.

“Iron Man 2”
a review by Darby O’Gill

A lot of things can go wrong, and often do, when making a comic book movie sequel. But gladly none of those things seem to be happening in Iron Man 2. Most comic book movies, namely the 1990’s Batman sequels, tend to find themselves spreading their stories ridiculously thin when adding way too many new characters to a storyline, but director Jon Favreau somehow manages to avoid this pitfall. Not only does Iron Man 2 work, but it also manages to do so while maintaining it’s fast pace, and it’s very well executed sense of storyline. Even with a handful of new characters being introduced, at no point does the audience, or the storyline for that matter, feel bogged-down by a bunch of origin story telling. I think Iron Man 2 should be the text book example of how to tell complex storylines to an audience without spoon feeding them at the same time.

In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., not only finds himself dealing with the U.S. Government wanting the ownership of the Iron Man weapon, but also the fact that the very thing saving his life, could very well be killing him at the same time. If that weren’t enough, the Avenger Initiative has also started to lose their faith in him as a proper hero, and begin to question his future role in the Initiative. Topping it all off, Stark finds himself paying for the sins of his father, and dealing with a new enemy known as Whiplash, masterfully played by Mickey Rourke.

Now I figured with the addition of so many new characters, characters we’ve already met like Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, would become secondary characters; making way for the new ones. But, I’m glad to say this wasn’t the case. Pepper’s character plays just as big of a role, if not bigger, in this film as she did in the first film. Also Don Cheadle’s replacement of Terrence Howard as Lt. Col. James Rhodes was seamless. I really liked Cheadle’s choice to play Rhodey the exact same way that Howard did. It really made the role more about the character, and less about the actor playing the character, which is not something all actors would choose to do. Scarlett Johansson is well under played as the Black Widow, but in a good way. The movie doesn’t rely on her as new eye candy, but rather uses her as needed for the story, which is a refreshing change of pace for movies like this. Which brings us the show stealing performance of Sam Rockwell; I don’t know what else to say other than… Wow! He really does bring his ‘A’ game to his performance as Stark Industries’ rival competitor, Justin Hammer. You’ll see what I mean when you see it. That guy needs to work more! Last but not least, Robert Downey Jr. continues to effortlessly capture the essence of Tony Stark, a role he was clearly born to play.

Is Iron Man 2 better than Iron Man? It’s hard to say. They’re two completely different movies. In the first Iron Man, there is this nice slow story pace that helps to ground the movie, but in Iron Man 2 you hit the ground running and it just feels right. With most sequels it’s easy to say which one is better, but with this one it’s truly is a continuation of the original movie, and feels like they are one and the same. Yes, I do realize that I just contradicted myself by saying they’re completely different and yet the same movie, but it’s true. I really hope all the other franchises out there are paying attention, because this is how it’s done. I think it’s safe to say that the 2010 season of summer movies is officially upon us, and the bar has been set very high thanks to Iron Man 2.

Rating:



“Inglourious Basterds”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Quentin Tarantino is in the business of two things, killin’ Nazis, and reclaiming box office supremacy. And cousin, business is a-boomin’. Inglourious Basterds takes place during World War II in German occupied France, where a team of Jewish American soldiers, known as “the Basterds,” are taking out the Nazi Party, one scalp at a time. In true Tarantino style, there is more than one story being told, and both tales converge at the films climax. It’s really nice to see a film like this again. For the last ten years, Tarantino has been focusing more on telling his story set in pre-set format, but in Iglourious Basterds he triumphantly returns to his Pulp Fiction roots.

The first thing I noticed when watching this movie is that independent film isn’t what it used to be. For the last few years, independent films like Juno are not so much artsy films, as they are just good movies that Hollywood refuses to make. Thankfully, Inglourious Basterds takes us back to that glorious golden age of indie filmmaking, and who better than Quentin to take us there. When the movie started, I was instantly reminded of those 1990 heydays. From breaking up the story into chapters, to the unmistakable dialogue, Tarantino effortlessly reclaims the indie title. Brad Pitt’s performance as Lt. Aldo Raine for some reason makes me think of George Clooney. I think it might be his character’s gruff southern accent, or maybe it’s the mustache. It also just seems more like the type of character Clooney would be cast to play. But don’t get me wrong I think Pitt did a great job. I loved the somewhat subtle hangman’s scar on Raine’s neck that is never explained or talked about. It would also lead you to believe it had something to do with Raine’s gruff voice. It’s that kind of attention to detail that makes Tarantino’s character development so top notch. Although, I heard that Tarantino asked the actors to develop their character’s back stories in this film, so the credit in this case might go to Brad Pitt. When I first found out that director Eli Roth was going to be playing one of the major roles in this film, I got to say it wasn’t a plus for me; but I’m glad to report that he does a good job in the role. I always hate when Tarantino puts himself into his movies, and Eli has done the same in the past. But with no Tarantino cameo, and a strong performance from Roth, there’s not much to hate. I was a little disappointed that they ruin a nice surprise cameo from Mike Myers by putting his name in the opening credits. I know, you wouldn’t expect Mike Myers to be in a Tarantino film, but he delivers an almost Peter Sellers-esque performance of a British General. Also, keep your ears open for other A Band Apart alumni cameos from Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel. Inglourious Basterds might not be the best Tarantino movie, but it’s definitely in the top five.

Rating:

4 Little People