For those unfamiliar with this segment (here’s the last one), it’s basically a round-up of a few items from around the Internet that I found interesting and thought were worth sharing. Do with them as you please.
First up, my friend and cartoonist, Max West, has a new Kickstarter starting up soon. It’s for Dominic and Claire Circus. I have the minicomics from the previous Kickstarter and they are a hoot. Go here to learn more about Max West and watch the video below to see the comics from the previous Kickstarter.
I missed sharing this on social media at Christmas time–thanks Broadcast Mode–so I’m going to share it here. It’s a parody of “Let it Snow” called “Make it So.”
As you know, I love newsletters and prefer them as a solid form of communication from creator to reader. Piers Anthony–whom I had the privilege of publishing in the Bits of the Dead anthology–has a monthly column that acts as his newsletter. He’s always up to something interesting even if his views and mine don’t always line up. His newsletter can be found here.
Lastly, Wil Wheaton’s blog is quite good and, while he’s well-known in fandom, he’s also a really down-to-earth guy so I check in on his blog now and then to see what he has to say. Please visit Wil here.
In personal news, the week is coming along. Finishing up things so I can move on to new things. All this is logged in my weekly newsletter, so if you haven’t already subscribed, be sure to get on board and join me and my other subscribers on Saturdays to wind down from the week. Hope to see you there.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) Written by Joss Whedon Directed by Joss Whedon Runtime 141 min. 5 out of 5
In an effort to protect the world from future alien attacks, Tony Stark uses the artificial intelligence inside the gem of Loki’s scepter to complete his Ultron program. It works but, unfortunately, the now-sentient Ultron AI has taken it upon itself to destroy the human race.
Time for the Avengers to assemble.
Recruiting the Maximoff twins, Ultron uses them to take on the Avengers while he attends to building a robot army. Soon the Avengers are taken out and must re-assemble if there is any hope they can stop Ultron before his plan of global destruction comes to pass.
With the fate of the planet hanging in the balance, can the Avengers stand against a seemingly unstoppable foe?
Sequels are tricky business, especially when creating a sequel to not only a quality film, but one that was a hit at the box office. Usually, sequels pale in comparison to their predecessors, but now and then—and more often than not in the superhero genre—the sequels outshine the original and Avengers: Age of Ultron did just that. As good as the first Avengers was, Age of Ultron is better.
I don’t want to give away any plot points to those who haven’t seen it yet, so these are more my thoughts instead of notions on specifics of the film.
One of my greatest fears for this movie was its giant cast. Not only did the standard Avengers team return—Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, Nick Fury, Maria Hill—but it was greatly added to with the addition of War Machine, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Vision and, sorta, Falcon. All these characters could have quickly made the movie go the way of Spider-Man 3, but instead more or less equal screen time was given to the majority of the cast, with supporting roles coming in to do their job without making the film feel overly crowded.
On the acting front, the main Avengers team have really come into their own, the actors having now portrayed their characters a minimum of three times prior to this movie and it really shows through. There’s an air of comfort about who they’re playing and each one has made the character their own while also staying true to that character’s comic book roots. Even the humor in the movie was fitting and not once did it feel forced or cheesy or slapstick. Most of the humor was off-the-cuff comments, which made the team more human and relatable.
Ultron was a terrific bad guy. He was smart, dangerous, evil, but at the same time had a humanity to him that helped connect him with the audience. He wasn’t just some evil robot and that’s it. He was also a formidable foe for the Avengers and it did take the entire team to take him down.
The addition of Vision worked well and was a good progression of the Jarvis character. He had a specific purpose in this movie and fulfilled it to a T. I’m curious to see what role he plays either in the stand-alone Marvel movies or in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War flicks.
On a fanboy note, there were some amazing iconic superhero action shots in this flick, the kind that makes you gush and squeal (yes, I’m that nerdy). There is one particular moment—you’ll know it when you see it—where I was just, like, “Wow, oh wow.” And the action on the whole was well done, with each character fighting according to their skillset.
Going to have go back for a second outing to the theatre on this one and, of course, will be adding it to my personal movie collection when it comes out.
Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther (2006) Written by Greg Johnson Directed by Will Meugniot and Richard Sebast Runtime 73 min. 4 out of 5
Picking up pretty much right where Ultimate Avengers left off, Ultimate Avengers 2 starts off in Wakanda and the kingdom falls under attack from Herr Kleiser, who kills the king and sends the prince, T’Challa, into action by taking up the mantle of the Black Panther. Black Panther then heads to the city to find Captain America. The Avengers are assembled and head to Wakanda to stop the Chitauri threat, resuming their battle from the first movie.
I liked the first movie a bit better, but probably because it was the birth of the Avengers vs them in full swing but that’s just me: I like origin stuff. Ultimate Avengers 2, however, is still a solid flick and falls right in line with its predecessor. (Always recommend watching these two back-to-back if you have the time, and with a little-over-an-hour runtime each, that’s definitely doable.)
The battles in this flick are awesome and showcase some all-out superhero-vs-alien mayhem. Like the first, each character gets their moment to shine and it’s like being reacquainted with old friends.
I love the depiction of the Avengers in this. Everyone is their stereotypical selves, something that they captured in the live action movie, but, to me, got even more right in this flick. Totally adds to it.
Like the first, the art direction is top notch. Everyone matches the way they looked in the first movie, giving it that sense of continuity. They had the same voice talent as the first for this as well. I love it when animated flicks keep the cast consistent outing-to-outing.
Watching this flick along with the first makes it a good final act to a stellar movie, but can also stand just fine on its own.
Glad I have it as part of my superhero movie collection.
Ultimate Avengers: The Movie (2006) Written by Greg Johnson Directed by Curt Geda and Steven E. Gordon Runtime 71 min. 4 out of 5
In World War II, the Nazis tried to launch an intercontinental missile and was thwarted by Captain America, but at great cost: Captain America fell into icy waters and was presumed dead. Some sixty years later, he was found and revived by S.H.I.E.L.D., who ends up convincing him to join their fight against the alien Chitauri. When the Chitauri attack, S.H.I.E.L.D. implements Project Avenger and begins assembling together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to take on the Chitauri and put a stop to them once and for all.
This ensemble flick is one of the greats and is a solid introduction for the uninitiated to the Avengers—Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Giant Man, Wasp and Hulk—all led by Nick Fury.
It’s evenly paced, exciting, and gives each member of the team enough screen time to give them a chance to lock in with the viewer and make that viewer-character connection before moving on to the next guy.
Marvel’s direct-to-video efforts have been lacking and haven’t been that great because they’ve been very busy—albeit very successfully—focusing their efforts on bringing their heroes to the big screen. Ultimate Avengers and its sequel are the major exceptions to their animated shortcomings and this movie is every bit as good as their live action counterparts. I also think that’s the secret to making a good animated movie: treat it with the same care and seriousness as a live action film and you’ll hit it out of the ballpark every time. It works in Japanese animation. No reason why it wouldn’t work here in the West.
This movie was good start to finish. Had a story that spanned decades, and made you care about what was going on from first frame to last.
You have multiple plotlines going on, ranging from the Avengers dealing with the Chitauri to Bruce Banner trying to find a cure for the Hulk, to Captain America trying to find his place in the world. The amazing thing is they fit all these plotlines into a very short runtime (just over an hour).
The art direction was superb and I enjoyed how everyone looked in this, especially Hulk. (For me, he’s one of those guys that don’t always come out well.)
While there’s a pretty good dose of violence in this movie, it’s much more kid-friendly than the majority of DC’s animated features and is safe for kids (depending on your household rules for this sort of thing). Personally, I let my kids watch it but don’t let them watch the DC movies.
Whether a Marvel fan, an Avengers fan, or a superhero fan in general, Ultimate Avengers is a fantastic flick worth watching many times over. What’s cool is it’s basically part one of two and goes right into its sequel, Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther, without missing a beat, so if you have both, you’re in for a doubly-good time.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely Directed by Joe Johnston Runtime 124 min. 4 out of 5
It’s World War II and the US Army needs to up its game in its war against the villainous Nazis under the command of Adolf Hitler.
Enter Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a little guy from Brooklyn with all sorts of health problems, but who has possibly the strongest sense of morals and courage than any man on the front line. Unfortunately, due to his fragility, Steve is not allowed to join the American army despite multiple tries. A scientist experimenting in a super soldier serum for the US army notices this and offers him a chance to take part in a dangerous procedure that, if it goes well, will grant Steve superhuman-like abilities and enable him to be an ultimate man, athlete and warrior. Steve accepts and transforms into the world’s first super soldier: Captain America.
Meanwhile, the first test subject of the serum, Johann Schmidt—aka the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving)—has come into possession of the Tesseract cube, a powerful energy source rumored to be from Asgard. His plan? Nothing less than overthrowing Hitler himself and taking over the world.
If only we had a super soldier to stop him. Wait . . . we do.
His name is Captain America.
Like all good fanboys, I saw this movie in the theatre. Having grown up on the cheesy Captain America movies starring Reb Brown and, later, the 1990 version with Matt Salinger, a part of me, I admit, was waiting for a repeat of the 1990 film (in the general sense). I was more interested in how Captain America: The First Avenger would tie into the then-upcoming The Avengers and this movie didn’t disappoint.
The introduction of the Tesseract—which would be key in The Avengers—was real smart on the filmmakers’ part because not only did it point to the forthcoming ensemble film, but also gave a quick link to the Thor movie as well.
Watching Chris Evans as Steve Rogers was fantastic. He really suits the role and played it perfectly. I wasn’t sure how the once-Human Torch—all witty and sarcastic—would fare as the famous super soldier, and I’m glad Chris Evans proved he can play a kind of Superman-like character as well. Seeing him play both the small, frail Steve Rogers (facially, anyway, as someone else’s body was used), to playing the suped-up Steve made the film truly a story about how our greatest power lies within as opposed to externally.
Likewise, Hugo Weaving as Red Skull did a great job, especially since playing villains is no strange task to Weaving (Agent Smith, anyone?). Even with the German haircut he looked different never mind later when his red skull visage was revealed.
The story was simple and, like the first Spider-Man movie, I left the theatre underwhelmed. After seeing it a second time, I saw it for what it was and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, the end battle was anti-climactic. It didn’t need to be an all-out brawl between Cap and Red Skull, but it felt brief considering these two are the heads and tails of the same coin. Some sort of super soldier/titan clash would have punched up the ending. Speaking of which, the ending of this movie has one of the best last lines to a flick ever. It was the kind of line I try to end my own novels on, one that finishes the tale but also has a punch to it.
As far as superhero stories go, the World War II setting gave the genre a breath of fresh air movie-wise as, thus far, pretty much every super flick to come out recently is all set in the modern day. Alternate times and/or worlds with a superhero figure are few and far between. The Spirit is the only one that comes to mind in this regard.
After this movie and The Avengers, I’m excited to see Captain America: Winter Soldier, which is presently set for 2014.
Captain America (1990) Written by Stephen Tolkin Directed by Albert Pyun Runtime 97 min. 3 out of 5
Taking part in a secret super soldier experiment in the 1940s, Steve Rogers becomes the American icon Captain America. After an altercation with the Red Skull, he is trapped in ice for fifty years before being thawed out in 1993. Upon awakening, Steve must come to grips with being a man out of time and also that the Red Skull is still alive and is leader of a powerful crime family. Steve must track down the Red Skull, with each clue giving more insight into his own past and bringing him one step closer to his arch enemy to settle a fight that began half a century before.
This flick is your classic Captain America story, that is, his origin, his World War II beginnings, battling Red Skull, being frozen, awakening in the future and reconnecting with his old enemy who is still active.
I remember seeing this as a kid and liking it. Saw it recently a few years back and still liked it. It’s not the greatest superhero movie, but it still holds its own all these years later.
It’s very much Steve Rogers’s story as he’s Captain America for a little bit then isn’t for a good while, then is again in terms of him getting into costume. As a kid, you don’t care about story and just want to see the superhero. As an adult, you see the big picture so don’t mind the non-costumed parts. It’s a story about a journey, both for Steve and even for Red Skull as you watch Steve wrestle with himself for being from the past and how everything’s changed, and also the different things he finds out as he searches for his enemy.
The Captain America costume is very rubbery, but it’s way better than the one that appeared in the 1979 movies and looks pretty good overall. The shield rocks and when Captain America throws it, it’s got that cool swooshing-through-the-air sound effect, adding to its power.
I was totally fine with Matt Salinger as Steve Rogers. He had that all-American sensibility about him, was naïve in the right ways, learned in others, and filled out those big red boots nicely.
This is a solid Marvel movie that was made well before the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe of today and should be on the shelves of every superhero movie enthusiast out there.
The Avengers (2012) Written by Joss Whedon Directed by Joss Whedon Runtime 143 min. 4 out of 5
When Thor’s mischievous brother, Loki, makes a deal with the alien race the Chitauri to help them secure the Tesseract Cube so they can conquer the galaxy, the Earth suddenly falls into great peril. With even the powerful top secret agency S.H.I.E.L.D. having difficulty containing Loki, there is only one call S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury can make: Avengers Assemble!
The team is gathered—Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye—and they set out to do battle with Loki and his alien cohorts. If they don’t overcome their differences and learn to work together as a team, the Earth will fall and Loki will rule the planet.
The Avengers brings together Earth’s mightiest heroes to combat a force of evil so great they either stand together or fall together, with the fate of the planet—even the galaxy—hanging in the balance.
The Avengers is a difficult movie to review, more so, give a proper rating to because this movie is very much black and white between its story and its presentation, so that said, I’m going to quickly go over both and you’ll see where I’m coming from at the end.
The story: This is a single-plot movie, very much an A-to-B narrative and incredibly simple—too simple. Aliens are coming, we need to stop them so we’ll get the Avengers to do it. That’s it. From a storytelling perspective, it’s too simple and too predictable. Big bad guy, big good guy(s), let’s fight, good guys win. The end.
However, if you view The Avengers as an end cap/final act to all the movies leading up to it: Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America—then you have something that definitely serves its purpose and more or less lets each character shine for the same amount of time. In this case, a simple story works despite, um, the many continuity flaws from the previous movies (i.e. Thor is somehow now able to come to Earth, which renders the ending of Thor’s movie moot; Tony Stark called upon to be Iron Man in The Avengers despite being banned from doing so in Iron Man 2; the characters communicating to each other without earpieces or any communication devices. Maybe they’re telepathic?).
The presentation: this movie is a nerd’s dream come true from start to finish. Assemble your favorite superheroes—of which each were spotlighted in their own movies, almost—put them together and have them go toe-to-toe with a larger-than-life threat that will squash the planet if they don’t come through.
From an eye candy perspective, this movie nailed it. Huge battles, lots of explosions, combat action, hammer throwing, Hulk smashing, shield boomeranging, repulsors firing, arrows shooting, girl fists punching—yeah, it has it all.
It’s also very important to point out that the casting of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk was an amazing choice. I honestly wasn’t too thrilled with the news when I first heard it, with Ruffalo being more of a chick-flick romance guy, but he got the role done so well that if there’s a spin-off, I hope he gets the job. He’s definitely earned it.
Chris Evans as Captain America—a Superman performance, which is good and brought a traditional superhero element to the team. As the running joke was throughout the movie, a little “old-fashioned” was what was needed.
Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man—do I really need to talk about this? He’s the same Tony Stark from the first two Iron Man movies, the only difference being he’s mellowed out a bit because, despite his arrogance, he understands life isn’t all about him and there are other people out there, too. This bit really comes through in this movie.
Chris Hemsworth as Thor—bold, poetic, commanding, everything his character is supposed to be so kudos to him for carrying on with a great performance from the stand-alone movie.
Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye—I don’t know much about the comic character other than he’s like Green Arrow, but perhaps with a more military-mind-set, so I can’t comment. Renner did sell me on Hawkeye though, but why couldn’t they give him that awesome mask? Maybe in the sequel.
Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow—she really comes into her own in this flick because in Iron Man 2, it was more a back-up appearance so we didn’t know much about her. I’m glad she got the screen time she deserved and, come on, her fight scenes were fantastic.
Tom Hiddleston as Loki—he’s the bad guy you love to hate, the one that, even just looking at him, you want to punch in the face. I appreciated how Loki, to a degree, was a villain to sympathize with because of his exile, but you also get mad at him for being such a jerk about it.
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury—an excellent portrayal of Samuel L. Jackson being Samuel L. Jackson—but under a fictitious alias. Yeah.
The Avengers is a solid good-times-turn-your-brain-off-action-fest that is great for escape and is recommended for that reason. As a spoiler warning, if you want just the action parts, start the movie around thirty minutes in.
Honest assessment is 3.5 out of 5, but because it’s the first movie of its kind and because of all the building up to it that has been going on since 2008, I’ll give it a 4.
Superheroes have invaded film more in the past decade and a half than they have in their entire history. From major blockbusters like Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Trilogy, to DC Entertainment’s line of fantastic direct-to-video animated films, to other super-flicks like The Incredibles, superheroes are enjoying a major resurgence in popular culture and fans have now entered a golden era of superhero cinema.
Lifelong superhero fan and author A.P. Fuchs has made it his mission to see every superhero movie that’s been brought to screen. Collected here are his first one hundred reviews, covering the major blockbusters of today to the lesser-known super flicks of yesterday along with everything in between.
Reviewing such classics as the original Christopher Reeve Superman films to the jaw-dropping Marvel Phase One series that include Iron Man 1 and 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers, to the movies that arguably started the current age of superhero cinema: The X-Men franchise, he’s got this amazing genre covered. Also included are a multitude of animated features, superhero movies that didn’t quite hit at the box office, pulp heroes and more.
Look, Up on the Screen! is a collection of reviews for the serious superhero filmgoer from a diehard fan who’s seen nearly all of what the superhero motion picture field has to offer. Whether your theatre is at the cineplex or in your own home, this is one collection that’s a must-add to your bookshelf of behind-the-scenes goodies, movie guides, superhero film novelizations and graphic novels.