Category Archives: Best Of

Avengers… ASSEMBLE! Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

Avengers European posterFifty years ago, that simple phrase ushered in a vision of comic book excitement and sheer imagination. And let there be no doubt, this film lives up to The Avengers storied past.

With a brisk pace, compelling character plot and backed by a motivating Alan Silvestri score, The Avengers is an excellent ‘movie’. It meets the requirements of a Saturday matinée popcorn flick, an action movie and a damned epic comic book film. The dialogue stays fresh while mixing comic relief, drama and Steve Rogers’ archaic sense of civility. Joss Whedon and his staff did a fantastic job of sharing the ‘heavy lifting’ between characters while remaining true to Stan Lee’s original visions.
Loki DemandsMarvel’s answer to DC’s Justice League of America, The Avengers took several of the comic line’s mid-level characters and created Marvel’s first true “Super-Team”. With the Silver-Age revival of Captain America in issue number 4, the Avengers never looked back. This film, the culmination of plot bits and end of credit scenes from Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America (I still don’t get why people left during the credits… ) we finally get the epic telling of Marvel’s most elite team. Sure, many in the comic world will debate who really comprises the best incarnation of Avengers (as they will X-Men), but this assemblage of heroes is it. It harkens back to the Silver Age while keeping a purely modern feel (which propelled Iron Man from background character to comic media sensation in his debut film) for the characters, the story and the idea that such fantasy could indeed seem so real.
Assembly RequiredBelieve me, this is the film that will dictate the future of the comic book film industry… and it is the film that has to make Warner Bros./DC stand-up and take note. Easily the second greatest comic book film of all time, Avengers mixes its comic lore against The Dark Knight’s gritty realism. Marvel, who for years plodded in a non media landscape and survived bankruptcy to give us the Blade Trilogy, Spider-Man, Iron Man only to score the slaughter in 2011 (perhaps thanks to their purchase by Disney) with such summer blockbusters as X-Men: First Class, Thor and Captain America have reached a definite new level of epic storytelling with The Avengers.

The TrioAnd let’s not forget, we still have Iron Man 3, a Captain America sequel and a Thor sequel before we get to the next installment of The Avengers and their previewed antagonist, Thanos (who makes a showing in the surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy to delay his Infinity Gauntlet appearance, aka Avengers 3 & 4).
ShwarmaReaching comic book epic, grab the popcorn and snow-caps and absolutely no bathroom breaks. And yes, you’ll be seeing it at least twice in the theatres.

5 Stars

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“With Great Power comes Great Responsibility”… Iron Man (2008)

Iron Man TeaserOK, it went to another very popular Marvel Comic flick but the message was loud and clear, especially throughout the second half of the film. An excellent role for the roller-coaster known as Downey Jr. (whom Disney repeatedly did not want in the role), who really seemed to enjoy and excel playing the troubled genius ill-fated billionaire.

Did it follow exactly as the 60’s story did, no, but damn it was still a good story. Combining elements of yesterday and today.. just as the Batman series (part deux) has been able to do. Let’s hope the sequels will follow suit where the X-Men films and Spidey’s have faltered and failed.
I Am Iron ManComic book epic for sure… bring the popcorn and no bathroom breaks.

5 Stars

Saturday Matinee at it’s finest… Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

RaidersThe film, as we all know the love child of Spielberg and Lucas, was an ode to the Saturday matinée serials they grew up with.

Indiana

As if ‘Star Wars’ wasn’t enough, the film shot Harrison Ford well past superstardom and into a box office all his own. It also cemented the fact that both Spielberg and Lucas were the best at their crafts.
Save the dayEpic in scope, awesome in story with an excellent pace this film does what it needs to; Takes you on the journey.  Easily the best of the now quadrilogy, with ‘Last Crusade’ a close second.

Pinball

If you can see it in the theatre, do so.  Popcorn, SnoCaps and don’t even think about the bathroom.

5 Stars

Completing one of the Best Trilogies on Film… The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

235402id1a_MagnusMask_27x40_1Sheet_VER3.inddYes, even surpassing the Original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy and ‘The Godfather’ Trilogy only because the third installment for each of those was the weak link. Though not the strongest film in its own Trilogy, this film can nearly stand alone, lose little in transition as an indirect sequel to ‘Batman Begins’ and neatly tie the strings from both predecessors with a minimum of fuss while delivering on the journey.

Drawing from 3 very important storylines in the Batman mythos; ‘No Man’s Land‘ (Gotham in disaster), ‘Knightfall‘ (Bane) and most importantly Frank RetiredMiller’s groundbreaking and industry changing ‘The Dark Knight Returns’, the film does at times feel a bit ‘smushed’ between the three. Set eight years from the close of ‘The Dark Knight’ (10 years in Miller’s ‘TDKR’), we find the lost soul of Bruce Wayne in need of transition. Here, to me, is one of the few failures in the script. In Miller’s ‘TDKR’, Bruce is an older retired bored still physically imposing but brooding man waiting to find the right death suitable to a crime-fighter of his former self…. in ‘Rises’ we have a Howard Hughes-esque recluse, a shell of the vibrant crime-fighter who traveled the world, who simply withdrew from the world and appears to be waiting for something worthwhile to do in the cape n’ cowl (Alfred has to elude it may be his death). If the script had simply given three minutes more screen time and explanation to this (aside from the Rachel Dawes tidbits), I feel a lot of the story would have situated itself better in the following acts.
A ReturnThat said, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is still a worthy closure to such a hard-hitting epic telling of a comic book journey. As usual, Nolan takes us on the realistic journey of such a legendary fictional universe and delivers us a cast of characters who we easily can recognize with in both scope and circumstance. Just as with ‘The Dark Knight’, we are again shown a comic book world that we easily can watch in awe telling ourselves “Yeah, I can see that happening in today’s society.” And that was the idea that clicked in the very first ‘Batman’ back in 1989 before it got so lost in its sequels… the idea that finally brought Marvel’s comic book heroes to the forefront in the last decade… realism. Comic Books have, for several decades, not been about good versus evil and Boys saves Girl but about the realistic approach these fictional characters, be they hero or villain, take to their lives. ‘Rises’ like ‘Spider-Man’, ‘Iron Man’ and its own ‘Batman Begins’ fulfills that promise (unlike Spidey and Stark as their sequels never lived up to the original).
The BraveWith great turns from returning stars like Bale and Oldman we get just as great support from Nolan players such as Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and of course Michael Caine in a slightly more limited turn.
The BoldThough not perfect in the ‘Bat’ scheme of things, it certainly does reach epic. Popcorn, SnoCaps and no bathroom breaks!

5 Stars

Hollywood “Bombshell”: Sophia Loren Turns 80

From Yahoo!:

Sophia 2013“Sex appeal,” legendary actress Sophia Loren is quoted as saying in her sexy Italian accent, “is 50 percent what you’ve got and 50 percent what people think you’ve got.”

The screen siren — often referred to as an “Italian bombshell” in the press — turns 80 on Saturday. Incredibly, Loren is still as much of a bombshell as ever. But what exactly is a bombshell? Through the years, the definition hasn’t changed all that much.

The textbook bombshellHarlow

Long before Loren came along in the ’50s and ’60s, the first women described as Hollywood’s “bombshells” were blonde. Mega-movie star Jean Harlow — whom many consider the original bombshell in pop culture — sashayed onto movie screens in 1933 in the title role of Bombshell, a screwball comedy about a bleach-blond woman men couldn’t resist seeking to be taken seriously. Ever since, women considered to be sex symbols — those that not only had beauty, but often curves and also a certain je ne sais quoi about them — were labeled with the term.

HayworthOf course, there have been times when the typical bombshell, with her voluptuous hips and breasts, wasn’t the ideal female form. In the ’60s, a stick-thin Twiggy-like figure was all the rage; Kate Moss and her almost emaciated appearance referred to as “heroin chic” ruled fashion runways and magazines in the ’90s. However, even during those times when less has been more, bombshells continued to thrive. During the ’40s, Monroewhen America was embroiled in World War II, alluring women such as Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable were referred to as pin-ups. But make no mistake, they were still bombshells… just under a more socially acceptable name. Marilyn Monroe, who became the most famous bombshell of all time, came along in the ’50s, pushing aside all those other curvaceous beauties. And then, there was Loren.

With her exotic looks and graceful walk, the Italian-born-and-bred actress mesmerized and captivated audiences around the world. And it wasn’t just that she was gorgeous — she was good! Loren became the first Oscar winner in a foreign language performance in 1962 when she won best actress for her turn in the Italian film Two Women. The American Film Institute announced Wednesday that it will pay tribute to the star during its annual AFI Fest in Hollywood.

Sophia sexpot

Donelle Dadigan, president and founder of The Hollywood Museum, explained that Loren, with her striking good looks and impressive work, stood out even among other bombshells of her day.

“She was different in that she wasn’t the blonde stereotype,” Dadigan told Yahoo. “She was tall, she was statuesque, and … the world has a love affair with everything Italian. And of course, [there was] her body, but all this time, she oozed this confidence and sensuality. When she was up on the screen, everything else melted away.”

‘The most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen’

Another film buff, TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, stops short of calling Loren a bombshell, even though he considers the actress “the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

Sophia Loren“The reason why, I guess, I never thought of her [as a bombshell] is because that feels unfair to her, even though she probably meets whatever standard there is, I think of her as too talented,” he told Yahoo. “Even though I know many of the women who are on many bombshell lists are ridiculously talented also. And then I think the phrase ‘Italian bombshell’ minimizes her even more. I think of her as having too much class to be a bombshell. And I say that without any intent to [offend] any bombshells,” he added with a laugh.

“I feel like a bombshell is marketed,” Mankiewicz said of the term that was often used by the movie studios to advertise films. “And I definitely feel like Sophia Loren is not marketed. Sophia Loren is authentic.”

Marketing was likely at play, however, when a famous quote attributed to Loren circulated decades ago. Now, it’s so closely tied to Loren’s bombshell mystique that she was asked about it during a December 2009 interview with CBS Sunday Morning. It goes like this: “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”

“I never said it,” Loren insisted. “I owe everything to the spaghetti? It’s not true. They put it in my mouth and it still goes on. It’s not true… So silly. Can you imagine?”

The reason people latched onto the quote is easy to understand. Audiences love a woman who’s confident enough to talk about her love of food (when she looks like she occasionally eats it) and speak of her body not derisively, but in a way that shows she doesn’t take it too seriously. Confidence and boldness is key for bombshells; the cultural role is about that fearlessness just as much as it is about body type.

Sophia

Modern bombshells

Hollywood beauty expert Kym Douglas described the bombshell phenomenon well: “[It’s] a woman who walks in the room and takes command of the entire party. Her presence says… I have arrived. A true bombshell is a woman who has confidence in who she is and what she does, someone who is totally comfortable in their own skin whatever size she is or isn’t. Having said that, a bombshell is a woman who has lots of sex appeal and shows it but doesn’t give it away.”

Women such as Scarlett Johansson, Christina Hendricks, and Sofia Vergara have helped to keep the bombshell tradition alive today, whether or not that’s how they choose to be described.

Johansson

However, the latest wave of bombshell actresses will never be as famous as their forerunners; there’s too many of them! Now, Mankiewicz noted, movie stars and TV stars are often the same people. Kim Kardashian, who’s considered a bombshell by many, has hardly any experience on the silver screen.

Today’s so-called bombshells also aren’t thought of as being as glam as the stars of the old days. Their images are no longer so tightly controlled by the studio. There’s social media, paparazzi photos, and live interviews. It’s not easy to remain a glamorous bombshell when photographers catch you doing a morning grocery run without hair and makeup! For better or worse, their personality and those unscripted moments are also part of their image.

Upton VF

“What we’re realizing is being a bombshell is about more than just a visual,” Dadigan said. “It also comes from inside.”

To remember the bombshells of yesteryear, including Loren, Mankiewicz noted that audiences can’t go wrong by sitting down to watch any of Loren’s early films, which include El Cid and Marriage Italian Style.

“When she’s young and it’s in black and white, those are all worth seeing,” he said. “If you can stand it, I’d see them in Italian.”

Not that you’ll be able to peel your eyes away from Loren.

Sophia tub

 

It’s not just one of the Greatest Westerns… The Searchers (1956)

The Searchers Lobby PosterIt’s not just one of the greatest John Wayne films… it’s one of the greatest films of all times. Having inspired directors such as Spielberg and Lucas, ‘The Searchers’ mixed John Ford epic with Saturday afternoon serial western and achieved new heights.
Ethan EdwardsThe story moves along at a good pace, keeping you involved and in the dramatic adventure mix, while the characters stay crisp. As always, Ford’s cinematic rendering of western landscapes is inspired and at times, breathtaking. If you have a chance to see it on the big screen… do so.
John Wayne Jeffrey HunterOtherwise buy it and prepare for an epic.

5 Stars

And Oscar makes two… Boys Town (1938)

Boys TownSpencer Tracy won his second consecutive Academy Award for this turn as Father Flanagan, the architect and operator of Boys Town. Following up ‘Captains Courageous’, Tracy cemented himself as an actor’s actor.

Surrounded by an outstanding supporting cast, and pitching a great script, this film makes the ‘Best’ list and with little question. Well paced and with excellent delivery, ‘Boys Town’ is definitely one to watch if you really consider yourself a film buff.

Save PeeWeeBring popcorn.

5 Stars