Maybe it was the fantastically long lead-in to this movie, or all the hype Disney's stellar marketing team built up around it's release, but I found myself slightly disappointed with their new Avengers: Age of Ultron.
To be fair, this sequel had a lot to live up to. Not only was it expected to top 2012's Avengers, but there have been four other Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies released between that year and 2015 - Iron Man 3, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Then you have the two television shows, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Daredevil. It's a wonder this super franchise hasn't collapsed yet under the weight of it's own continuity.
But predictably, it's now made more than $201M in it's first weekend internationally, and with no real competition until May 13 when Mad Max: Fury Road is released, it looks like it's on track to become the biggest movie of 2015.
At least until Star Wars: The Force Unleashed arrives.
It's hard not to compare Netflix's first Marvel show, Daredevil, with Fox's Gotham. Both are based on superhero comics that are relatively well known, and both are kind of experimental in a way. The former is Marvel's first foray into video-on-demand programming through US Internet subscription service, Netflix, and the latter is a Batman show without Batman. However, both of them share a strong crime drama bent; they focus more on the crime and corruption in their cities, rather than the superhero aspects of their heroes.
After watching 5 episodes of Daredevil, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that Marvel's experiment succeeded, while DC's has failed incredibly.
I gave Gotham a shot, but it suffered from so many issues that I could never get into it. Start with the fact that it is a prequel, so we essentially know what's going to happen (Bruce Wayne grows up to become Batman and he fights all the supervillians). Nothing really feels like it matters since we know Penguin's going to live, Catwoman's going to become a super-thief, E. Nygma becomes Riddler, and eventually the Joker's going to show up somehow. Oh, and Gordon won't ever die, because he's supposed to be Commissioner.
On top of that, it feels like the showrunners never had a plan for the show. They came up with this high concept gimmick, "Hey, what if we saw what Gotham was like before Batman?", and didn't layout any kind of overlying plot to give people a sense of continuity. As a result, the series is episodic, as if they write it on the fly.
Thankfully, Daredevil doesn't suffer from the same lack of vision.
In the series, Charlie Cox plays Matthew Murdock, a lawyer who helps those who live in his hometown. Growing up in Hell's Kitchen, a neighborhood in New York City which provides transport, medical, and warehouse infrastructure to Manhattan, young Matt saves an old man from being hit by a truck carrying toxic chemicals. Hurt in the accident, Matt loses his eyesight but gains enhanced senses that grant him abilities beyond most men. Learning that the law can't always help those in need, Murdock takes matters into his own hands as a masked vigilante.
The first episode sets the tone for the series right off, and it's not the campy superhero show of the CW DC universe. The Netflix Marvel-verse is tied lightly to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and mention of the alien invasion that devastated Manhattan sets the scene of the first season. In the void after the attack there are new heads of organized crime, and they've bought out the politicians, the police, and the media.
This is a straight up crime drama.
Matt is assisted in his crusade by Foggy Nelson, his partner in the new law firm that he's started in the center of Hell's Kitchen. Elden Henson plays Foggy well, and is a prime example of how none of the characters in this series go to waste. Foggy is Matt's heart, keeping him on the straight in his moral path.
Others help Matt from time to time as well. Deborah Ann Woll plays Karen Page, Nelson & Murdock's first client. Framed for murder, she is saved from a prison sentence by Foggy and Matt and becomes their secretary. Vondie Curtis-Hall plays Ben Urich, a reporter dead set on exposing the corruption in the highest levels of the city government. Rosario Dawson is Claire Temple, a nurse who patches up Murdock after his nights on the town.
On the flip side, we have Vincent D'Onofrio playing Wilson Fisk. He's never called "The Kingpin" in the show, but his performance was every bit worthy of the name. He plays the role like an animal just barely kept in check by the trappings of civilization, and he becomes more and more unhinged as his plans for the betterment of his city are torn away.
Because the show isn't on network TV, it has a license to be more intense and grittier than other programs. One benefit of this is the foul-mouthed Stick, Murdock's mentor who appears towards the middle of the season. He's ably played by Scott Glenn, and is one character I want to see more of in future seasons (or in the coming follow-up, Iron Fist).
You also see this freedom in the brutal fight scenes. Each episode has at least one well choreographed and well shot set piece. If you've watched The Raid, or Old Boy, you'll find the fights very familiar. There's one single-take hallway fight that is just sublime. Murdock's style is less super mystic ninja, and more down and dirty bar room brawler. There's a roundhouse kick or two somewhere, but most of the time he's taking damage as well as giving it. Not an episode goes by where he's not injured in some way or other.
Which makes the show all the more human. He's not super-powered, just very, very ornery.
I was never one of those that really hated the Daredevil movie. It was entertaining, but I realize it never aspired to be anything more than that. Its approach to it was that it was a campy comic book, but from my admittedly meager knowledge of the character, that was never the tone of the original material. Frank Miller, famous for his dark take on Batman, also did some seminal work for Daredevil. Other creators have also taken a pass at the character and it's more of a noir piece than anything else.
The themes of the book, the questions about morality, Matt's Catholic guilt, his father's influence on his life, and the all encompassing corruption are the same aspects that make this series probably the best comic book adaptation out there. I'd put it even above Nolon's The Dark Knight.
And I haven't even mentioned the subplots that the series has hinted at. There's easter eggs about The Chaste (an ancient group of samurais), The Hand (an ancient group of demon ninjas), and the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven (warring mystical cities that tie this in closely to the Iron Fist mythos). Exciting stuff!
To sum it up, Marvel's Daredevil is by and large worth the 11 hours or so that it'll take you to binge-watch the entire first season. Since it's a Netflix show, all 13 episodes were released last week, which is a good thing.
It just sucks that now we've got to wait a year to see any more of it.
There are only a few shows that catch my attention straight out of the gate. Even one of my favorite programs of all time, Firefly, didn't wow me when I first watched the pilot episode. So when Hollywood comes out with a winner like this one, I feel I need to spread the word.
iZombie is a series that airs Mondays on CW, the home of other great comic-based tent pole shows, The Flash and Arrow. It's a little different from those two shows in that it's less superhero action, more crime/buddy cop comedy, and that it stars a woman in the lead role.
The story focuses on Liv Moore, a med student who has a happy, stable life with her loving family, sweet fiance, and bright future as a Doctor. One night she decides to live a little and go to a big party she's been invited to. Unfortunately, a zombie decides to crash the party and Liv is among the casualties lying in a body bag on the beach in the morning.
Naturally, she gets back up.
What's a young woman to do?
The show really does feel like Veronica with zombies in it. The lead actress, Rose McIver, has almost as much adorable pluck as Kristen Bell did and still manages to portray Liv with a vulnerability that makes you hate the fact that she can't tell her family that she's actually already dead.
Speaking of, Liv's family and friends look like they'll play a pretty big role in the show. Aly Michalka of Hellcats plays Liv's best friend, Molly Hagan is her mother, Eva, and Robert Buckley plays her estranged fiance, Major Lilywhite. The pilot episode's B plot is focused mainly on how worried these folk are that she's changed so much since the boat party and essentially become a closeted shut in, dropping out of school, leaving Lilywhite, and spending all her time at the new dead end job.
Her job is where we meet the two supporting cast members, Rahul Kholi as Dr. Chakrabarti, Liv's boss in the morgue, and Malcolm Goodwin, Detective Clive Babinaux, a cop who thinks that Liv is a psychic thanks to Chakrabarti.
The second episode introduces David Anders as Blaine, a former drug dealer who turned into a zombie at the same boat party Liv attended and is apparently going to play the main antagonist of the series' first season.
The first two episodes that have aired show us a quirky little show that offers a much lighter tone than other zombie media out there. If you want gory, depressing melodrama, then you should probably be catching up on The Walking Dead. If you want campy B-movie type action, you should try out ZNation.
But if you're looking for something a little bit funny and sweet, but with just a hint of that undead color (or lack thereof) you should give iZombie a try.
Last year I wrote out every single movie I wanted to see this year at GeekOut.ph. Despite my best efforts, I've only been able to see some of the films I posted about on that article. Some were moved to later release dates (Jupiter Ascending and Tomorrowland), others were put on the back burner after some pretty awful reviews (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transcendence), but I was able to see a good number of them in the theater, which is where movies should be watched.
2014 turned out to be a pretty fantastic year for movie lovers. Even if some of the worst films I've ever experienced came out this year (yes, I'm looking at you, Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Amazing Spider-Man 2), some of the absolute best have also been fielded. Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy immediately come to mind, but we also saw Edge of Tomorrow, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Lego Movie, Big Hero 6, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
Now that the new year is coming up fast, I'm excited to find out what 2015 has in store for cinephiles. So in no particular order, while the Metro Manila Film Festival is clogging up cinemas with (mostly) garbage, let's look at what's coming up.
Neill Blomkamp's follow up to 2013's Elysium stars Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, and of course, Sharlto Copley. Chappie sounds like a sequel to the classic Short Circuit (1986) and tells the story of a robot who learns about life from a couple of criminals who find him at his inception.
Frankly, I love what Blomkamp's already done, so it's unlikely that this will be in my crap pile at the end of the year. Chappie opens in March.
IN THE HEART OF THE SEA
It's been awhile since I saw a Ron Howard film and I love anything with Cillian Murphy or Chris Hemsworth in it. In the Heart of the Sea is based on an account of a 19th Century whaling vessel being stalked at sea by a great sperm whale. It was this incident that inspired Moby Dick.
19th Century maritime movies are films that I find very interesting and I'm looking forward to seeing what Hemsworth does when he's not in the Thor costume. It's opening in theaters March 12th.
KNIGHT OF CUPS
Terrence Malick's new film starring Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, and Cate Blanchett among other great actors. There's not much I know about the plot, but watching the trailer for the movie, I can't help but be totally absorbed into it.
Can't wait to see this on the big screen.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
There's really not much to say here. After the utter disappointment that came with the prequel trilogy, I can't help but be stoked for this release. That moment when the theme music comes up and the Millennium Falcon jets up into the sky...
I can't believe we've got to wait until December 18th for this.
SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion is a global terrorist organization created by novelist Ian Fleming to be a foil to his super special agent 007, James Bond. Filming this year and set for release in early November, the 24th film in the series looks to be a good one with both Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes coming back after the awesome Skyfall.
The cast this time around includes Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci, Dave Bautista, Ralph Fiennes, and Léa Seydoux. Along with Mendes, that's enough for me to buy into this completely.
Based on Andy Weir's self-published book from 2012, the film is the story about astronaut Mark Watney who is stranded on Mars after his team mistakenly leaves him for dead after a catastrophe. He has to survive on the alien planet despite air, food, and water being in short supply as he waits for the next scheduled mission to arrive in 4 years.
Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, and several other great actors are included in the cast, and word is that Sir Ridley Scott is attached to direct. We haven't had much luck with Mars movies in the past decade or so, but if any of them have a shot at greatness, it's this one.
Here's a look a the book trailer:
If you haven't already seen the trailer, do yourself a favor and take a look at it below. Sure it's cheesy as fuck, but goddamn, did you see the shark get chomped?
Look, I've liked all 3 of the Jurassic Park movies. You put dinosaurs in almost anything, and I'll probably like it. Every series that comes out about dinosaurs shoots right up to the top of my list of must watched TV. This has dinosaurs. And Bryce Dallas Howard. And Chris Pratt. And Chris Pratt on a motorcycle with a pack of velociraptors.
I am terrified of heights. I get weak in the knees just looking over a balcony in the mall. This movie is about Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a tight rope walker who dreams of walking across the gap between the two World Trade Center towers in New York.
The film is directed by Robert Zemeckis who consistently puts out quality entertainment, and it's being presented in 3D which freaks me out just thinking about it.
I can't wait.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Quentin Tarantino, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth and Kurt Russell. That's awesome.
If you've never seen Django Unchained then you definitely should put that on your list.The Hateful Eight continues Tarantions love affair with spaghetti westerns (ok, Django wasn't technically a western...). After a leak of the script a while back, Tarantino lost his shit and said that he would no longer be making the movie. He eventually changed his mind and now it's finally going to happen!
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
Oh my god. Did you see this trailer after the Comic Con? Holy shit.
Really all you need to do is to watch the new official trailer to see why I'm excited by this film, but if you need more, it's directed by George Miller, the dude who created this particular post-apocalyptic world back in 1979, It's been nearly 30 years since the last Mad Max movie, and that film was pretty silly. This looks nothing like silly.
With a cast that includes Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, and Zoë Kravitz I think it'll rock. Expect it to hit theaters in May.
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 5
Man, December 2015 is going to be crowded.
Tom Cruise and Jack Reacher director Christopher McQuarrie team up again to bring your favorite NOC agents from Brad Bird's installment, Ghost Protocol. I honestly don't know if this will be as great as Bird's 2011 film, but maybe this is his chance to move up.
It helps that Abrams is still onboard as producer, and that Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, and Simon Pegg are all coming back.
80's arcade games, alien invasions, and Peter Dinklage in a mullet.
KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE
There are so many big comic properties coming to the big screen these days that it's easy to over look ones like these. Based on the comics by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, the film is about a super-spy (Colin Firth) recruiting a young man (Taron Egerton) into the fold.
With a cast including Michael Gaine, Sam Jackson, and Mark Hamill, and directed by Matthew Vaughn, it's hard to see how this one can go wrong.
I was floored when I first saw this trailer. Peter Pan is one of my favorite stories, and this new take on it looks amazing.Hugh Jackman looks almost unrecognizable as Blackbeard and Rooney Mara looks awesome.
I've got no idea how well my fascination with the trailer will translate when I see the film in it's entirety, but that's half of the fun!
I'll admit that I'm mostly listing this here because I just NEED to see if this adaptation can possibly be as bad as the filmmakers, actors, and marketing team have made it out to be. They have been releasing one awful announcement after the other. First was the fact that the Storm siblings would be related by adoption rather than by blood, then that Reed Richards would be a troubled teen instead of an accomplished scientist, then that Doom would be a whiny blogger who accidentally stumbles into his powers by accident.
Despite the casts protestations that they are proud of the work they did while filming, it's hard to see how this can really go right when every thing coming out since we first heard about it has been so wrong.
Still, I can't help but think that it can't be worse than Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and definitely not as bad as this:
Putting aside the ridiculously misspelled subtitle, those truly awful marketing shots in Entertainment Weekly, and the reveal of the plot details, the trailer for this new installment in the franchise has gotten me interested. It doesn't look like it's aiming for Terminator 2: Judgement Day awesome, but it looks like genuinely stupid fun.
Don't know much about this one, but Brad Bird really proved that he could bridge over from animation to live action with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Knowing how well this guy can do adventure and drama from his animation work, I can't wait to see what he does with this film about a jaded scientist and a curious teen pairing up to find Tomorrowland.
The trailer is nothing but tease, but my beak has been wet and I'm raring to see more!
I was one of those people that was really interested to see what Edgar Wright was going to do with Ant-Man, but just because he's off the director's chair doesn't mean I'm no longer going to watch this. While I may not be a big Ant-Man fan, Paul Rudd is a likable actor in the films I've seen him in, and with Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly playing opposite him, this should be at least watchable.
Have you seen either of the Despicable Me films?
This is a story all about how the minions found Gru. It's a prequel staring Kevin, Stuart, and Bob from the first two films. Looking at the trailer, it looks to be more of the same, which is perfectly fine with me.
Another Chris Hemsworth project that's not Thor is coming up in 2015 and it's about high-level cybercrime. Aside from Mr. Hemsworth, this film is directed by the guy who did Heat and Collateral, both awesome movies everyone should see. Michael Mann makes awesome crime movies and this looks like something right up his alley.
While I'm not sure how close the Hollywood hackers are to the "real" thing, I'm sure that this will be entertaining.
Pixar's track record speaks for itself. I don't recall ever seeing a film from this studio that was anything short of watchable. Even the worst if them are still on my must own list. Inside Out looks to be another winner.
This particular film is about Riley, a little girl whose family has just been moved to San Francisco due to her dad's new job. Riley's emotions inside her head (voiced by the Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, and Phyllis Smith) try to sort our her feelings on the matter. It sounds weird, but Pixar can do weird.
Been awhile since we had a good disaster movie in theaters. The last one that I recall is 2012's 2012, which was pretty terrible. This year we're getting another one from director Brad Peyton called San Andreas.
I am really not sure about this one, since the only thing this guy's done is Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. Still the supporting cast looks to be pretty solid for an action film (Kylie Minogue, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, and Paul Giamatti), and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has proven to be a pretty good lead.
Opening in January, Ex Machina is an interesting new science fiction movie about a young prodigy who wins a golden ticket to spend time with his company's CEO and participate in an experiment in artificial intelligence and perception of consciousness.
The film is written and directed by Alex Garland who wrote Sunshine, one of my favorite movies of all time. Looking at this trailer, this thing looks like something just as thought-provoking.
Guillermo del Toro is back doing gothic horror and it is fantastic!
The story of Crimson Peak is that of author Edith Cushing finding out that her husband is not exactly as she expected. It stars Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, and Jessica Chastain. The director's described it as a "classical gothic romance ghost story", which totally pushes all my buttons.
And last but not least...
AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
Do I really need to explain why I am so excited by this?
I'm sure that you've each seen at least one of the films that Marvel Entertainment has fielded since Iron Man first arrived in theaters. If you haven't seen the first Avengers movie, then I honestly feels sorry for you. It is the benchmark for ALL comic book movies and this is the sequel to that.
It has all of the great stuff that the first one had (the cast is back, Whedon is still directing, and all the awesome movies that have come out since their first outing), but now it's got that fantastic James Spader Ultron voice, Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch, and the motherfucking HULKBUSTER! With Agents of SHIELD upping the ante with the whole Inhumans thing, I can't wait to find out what they're building up to, how it's all going to pan out, and what the ramifications are for the mega-franchise as a whole.
Is there a chance this could suck?
Sure, but it's about the same chance of me walking out of my door tomorrow morning to the sight of snow in the Philippines.
So that's what I'm looking forward to watching in 2015. Here's hoping that next year turns out equally good as this one has.
What are you guys planning on seeing?
Return to Komikon!
It's been a couple of years since I was able to visit Komikon at the Bayanihan Center in Pasig City, but last Saturday I was able to stop by after it opened and catch up on the local comics scene. I gave a bunch of my copies of favorites titles away recently so I needed to get some replacements as well.
Word to the wise for next year, it opens at 10am, but unless you're trying to get first in line for something, it's probably better to arrive around 11am so you don't have to wait in line to enter the convention floor.
Mazes & Mutants is one of the best episodes of the most recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series. In it, the four turtles decide to play the eponymous game and eventually to cosplay their chosen characters, turning it into a Live Action Role Play or LARP.
Things get hairy when another young mutant, Sir Malachi, decides to turn the role play part into reality with his hallucinatory powers. They have to defeat the dragon, save the girl, and win the day.
With the help of Mikey's +1 Ring of Awesome.
Despite all the awful reviews for Christopher Nolan's new film, Interstellar, I decided to give it a shot and watch it in IMAX. I felt that a movie about space travel really deserved to be seen on the really big screen.
While I'd have to agree that Nolan's film has it's problems, I was genuinely interested in what was happening on screen. The action scenes were very well done, the images very engrossing, and the science not completely Hollywood. Clocking in at 2 hours and 49 minutes, the movie's a hard sell to regular audiences, though, and I'd agree that most won't get as much bang for their buck as I did.