The Losers (2010) – in your face, over the top

As long as there are comic books that haven’t been adapted (or adapted successfully) to big screen, we’ll be regularly  assaulted with over-the-top, self-aware, tongue-in-cheek, archetypal, good vs. evil, paper-thin stories. Most of comic book culture revolves around fallen heroes, and every once in a while a movie is made that perfectly translates that comic book tone into a film. Everything is life or death, everyone has a specific role, nothing is as it seems and almost nothing has any consequence or logic. On a rare occasion, an action film can successfully subvert tired cliches. The Loses manages to do that, keep a straight face with its characterization, and still look good in the process. It’s just fun to watch.

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Batman Begins (2005)

The franchise that was successfully squandered by a well known director (see Joel Schumacher) gets a well-deserved reboot in this origin story. Directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia), and written by David S. Goyer (Blade, Dark City), this film is a prequel that sets up all adventures to come. Darker, more violent, even scarier than any of Tim Burton’s noble early films, Batman Begins is a return to stylish, sensible comic-book adaptations. No flash, no rubber nipples, no awful one-lines (anyone remembers Mr. Freeze?)

Usually I review movies and point out the inconsistencies, flaws and downright insults that some of today’s films fling in their audience’s faces. This time, I’m afraid it’s going to be all praise. No, I’m not schilling for a studio (unlike many movie reviewers online these days). I have seen the film, will see it again, and would recommend people to go and see it. And guess what – in a few months when it comes out on DVD, I will snap a few copies – for myself, and a few like-minded people. The movie is great – by itself, and as a reboot of a once-popular franchise. It works for people who are just looking for an action flick, and it also satisfies die-hard fans who have the comic-books memorized start to finish.
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Sin City (2005)

I’ve drooled in anticipation ever since I saw the trailers, and that makes me biased. However, bias or not, you gotta hand it to Robert Rodriguez – he’s known for pushing the envelope for directing style, editing style, casting decisions. And, at the end of the day, if you only know him from the El Mariachi/Desperado/Once Upon a Time in Mexico trilogy, or from the Spy Kids trilogy, if you only know him as the guy who co-wrote From Dusk til Dawn, you would be drooling with anticipation as well.

The thing about Robert Rodriguez, is he’s either a very convincing person, or he has dirt on everyone in Hollywood – how does he get these actors in his movies – is beyond me. He’s not quite a cult director like Woody Allen, or late Stanley Kubrik, so I cannot imagine actors of all levels and ranges lining up for every one of his projects. Yes movie after movie he lines up people who don’t seem to have anything in common. Except, in his universe, they make a great ensemble cast.
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Constantine (2005)

When I went into the theater to see Constantine I thought I prepared myself for the worst. I didn’t read the graphic novel this movie was based on. I decided not to look it up. I made that mistake before—I looked up The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel before I saw that movie. BIG MISTAKE—I almost walked out of the theater on that one. I wanted to go to the theater with an open mind. I even read a few negative reviews about Constantine, so that I would not expect much and would surprise myself by really enjoying the movie. That didn’t happen.

I was so frustrated with this movie I didn’t want to write a review. I thought, why bother. I would be too negative. I would turn people off when in reality it’s not that bad if you’re a Keanu Reeves fan.

Before I get all over Keanu’s ill-acting ass, let me state for the record that I love movies that deal with the occult. I was a fan of Buffy and Angel. And now that Medium is out I watch it too. Because of my love for the occult I sat though movies far worse—like Lord of Illusions. It was only few years ago when I saw it again I realized how bad this movie really was. Brrr.
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The Incredibles (2004)

Being a sucker for Pixar movies, I tried to see this on the opening day, the very first show, before the crowds flooded in, but I was late. So I gave this movie about 10 days, to dissipate the hype, and cool off the madness. And after having seen it, I wish I saw it on the opening day – so I can tell everyone I knew just how good and delicious-looking the movie is. This is big, expensive, but well put together film, and is worth your time, and your attention. Check it out this very weekend, and then go out and buy it on DVD when it comes out. Your kids (and some friends) will thank you for it.
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Superman is Dead (1952-2004)

Christopher Reeve is dead at the age of 52. Most of you know him as Superman, and recently, the “guy who fell of the horse, got paralyzed, and is getting all the media attention”. However, he was also in Noises Off, Speechless, Somewhere in Time, The Bostonians, Remains of the Day, and many made-for-TV movies. Sure, playing Superman made Reeve popular and easy-to-recognize, but it was the smaller films, and his campaigning for embryonic stem cell research that made him a good person, and a fascinating actor. It was a shame you were popular for your less demanding roles, and it was a shame you ended up in that wheelchair. We are forever grateful for your involvement in stem cell research, and we will miss you. Check out the movie clip of “Noises Off”
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Hellboy (2004)

Another comic book adaptation is brought to the big screen. It’s not a familiar Marvel universe, and things are definitely not “been there, seen that”. Still, the unusual casting, the direction, and quirky geek references make this a worthy entry.

It seems that every comic book out there longs to get on the big screen, open with $50 million, and gain thousands of new readers over the weekend. Sometimes, this works (remember how quickly “Superman” got to $200 million), very rarely it works again (“X-men United” was well-received and it made decent dough). With “Hellboy”, however, I’m a little torn. I would like the saga to continue, and am impressed by character development, but it seems the writers have ended up in a corner. The movie spends so much time establishing the characters and setting up the first showdown (all good by me), by the time it’s over, there’s no setup for the sequel.

Let me restate that – “Hellboy” is open-ended, but there’s no looming conflict there, to threat. We just know the adventures will continue, but have no clue about the villains, only the existing conflicts between the characters. Then again, having never read the comic book, maybe these conflicts are at the core of Hellboy, and the villains are on the side. In this case, the movie worked.

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