A few years back, before we had kids, my wife and I spent some time at her parents’ house in New Hampshire and I happened to see one of HBO’s documentaries on mob hitman Richard Kuklinski. I was instantly captivated by his seemingly honest, simple and concise recollection of over a hundred murders, some of which he was paid to commit and others that came as a result of simple misunderstandings or perceived insults from random people. After getting caught by police, he spoke to plenty of people about what he did and why and those people have written books and made documentaries. The Iceman by director Ariel Vromen is a dramatic retelling of some of those events plus healthy doses of fiction thrown in for added drama.
Basically, Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) grew up in an abusive family that eventually lead him down a life of violence and crime. Before long he found himself married to Deborah (Winona Ryder), but also working for mobster Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) who made him an enforcer and hitman. As his life progressed, Kuklinski branched out working for other people, with a fellow killer Mr. Freezy (Chris Evans), knocked off a few of his friends and eventually got caught by the cops.
In addition to being somewhat familiar with the film’s subject, I was also very interested in this cast. Shannon, who I’ve only ever seen as Zod in Man Of Steel, turned out to be positively captivating. I haven’t gone back and looked at the tapes, but his performance made my brain buzz with memories of that viewing experience. On top of that, he also has a real quiet menace to him that makes him scarier than an alien overlord. Captain America himself Evans also stars in the film as a fellow killer who’s a bit looser and crazier. Frankly, the scenes they were in together were delightful in a creepy way.
As far as the actual story goes, it’s pretty solid, though ends abruptly. I guess that’s how it works in real life sometimes, but after reading about Kuklinksi on Wikipedia, I found out about this huge sting operation in the works that was eventually sprung on him. This film is completely told from his perspective (I’m fairly sure there aren’t any scenes where he’s not present, but can’t be positive) so it would make sense that he wouldn’t know, but it felt like a bit of a let down.
And you can’t completely chalk that up to the whole “life is like that sometimes” idea because they definitely made changes to his story for the film. In the movie, his first hit for Demeo is a bum. In real life it was apparently a guy walking his dog. Does that change matter? Not when it comes to showing what they’re trying to show about these characters, but there’s also something to be said about sticking with the facts if the point is to show how complex this guy’s life was. I mean, being a sociopath is one thing, we see it all the time, but to be one with a wife and kids who have NO CLUE what he does is a lot more interesting. Then again, I’m always more scared by the idea of the maniac who blends into the crowd than the one holed up in his house.
At the end of the day, The Iceman is an interesting character study. Shannon and the rest of the cast pull their weight and give solid performances that seem to capture these real life people. While some of it might play off like plenty of other mobster movies, this one benefits from the real life aspects incorporated into the proceedings.
Norse mythology and star Dominic Purcell take center stage in this spot from Epic Pictures Releasing’s Vikingdom which hits theaters and VOD on October 4th.
The word is still out on whether the Weinsteins want to cut 20 minutes from Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer starring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Kang-ho Song, Ed Harris and Jamie Bell or not. But you can still check out this mostly-in-English French trailer for the all-of-humanity-on-a-train revolution film which hits August 1st in the States.
The Last Days On Mars is probably more of a space-adventure-horror film, but this trailer from Magnet featuring Liev Shrieber, Olivia Williams and Elias Koteas is pretty intense. The film opens on December 6th.
If you’re a fan of The Hub’s Transformers: Prime or just morphing robots in general, you might want to check out the original home video presentation of Transformers Prime Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising on October 8th.
Finally, this trailer for The Tiger Mask is like one big “getting ready for something awesome” scene without the actual “something awesome.” Still, the movie as described by Asian Movie Pulse sounds pretty rad.
One of the hallmarks of the geek community is comparing things we love and seeing how they stack up. Of course, the problem with doing this is that we wind up comparing things that don’t even match up. Back when The Dark Knight came out the big question was whether it was better than Iron Man and I thought it was incredibly annoying. It’s like comparing Die Hard to The Usual Suspects, they’re both somewhat dramatic action films, but that’s where the comparisons end. One’s a balls-out auctioner while the other is a really serious, more cerebral outing…with punching and costumes.
The same thing happened this year when people started comparing The Avengers to The Dark Knight Rises and I thought it was an equally foolish comparison. However, while watching Avengers for the second time at the drive-in last night I realized a few things about the two movies that made me like one over the other and, seeing as how this is the internet, I figured I’d share them with whoever will read them.
Right off the bat (heh, PUN!), Avengers is more fun and a more enjoyable watching experience. It’s the perfect movie to check out on a Saturday or Sunday. It also has a lot of great moments that made me geek out, but I realized something while watching Avengers again. The moments in that movie that I dug the most (Iron Man reflecting his blasts off of Cap’s shield, Hulk sucker punching Thor after a team up) were great moments that reminded me of ideas from comics, but those same kind of things in Dark Knight Rises reminded me of specific moments from Batman comics. This is obviously completely subjective, but I can’t separate those very personal moments of awesomeness form my childhood, so why not embrace them? It doesn’t discount anything from Avengers, but just gives DKR a leg up in my book.
I know a lot of people thought DKR was bleak and sad, but I actually found it really uplifting. The character of John Blake completely embodies the never-give-up attitude that’s kept humanity alive for all these centuries. That same attitude is something Batman had to rediscover and use to his advantage to save the city he loves. There’s some of that in Avengers, but I never really thought they’d be in trouble. That wasn’t going to happen, but with rumors swirling that Batman would die in this flick and Christopher Nolan being an incredibly ballsy filmmaker, there was a small part of me that thought it might happen and even that it should have happened. I left Avengers feeling pumped up and fueled by geek-love, but I actually felt good about humanity after watching Rises.
So, Dark Knight Rises has the leg up in my mind, but that doesn’t mean I like Avengers any less. They’re both hallmarks of filmmaking that should be appreciated by all kinds of audiences. It’s amazing the kind of things that can come from comic book source material.
I’m 29 this year. When I was a kid and falling in love with comics, I didn’t have a lot of good comic book movies to fall in love with. I didn’t really get into Batman, but wound up loving Batman Returns. The Superman movies never did it for me because they were just so far away from the Superman I knew from the comics. Heck, I remember getting excited about the Generation X and Nick Fury TV movies. Then we got Blade and X-Men and things changed. Eventually X2, Batman Begins, Dark Knight and Iron Man really made the comic book-based movie a thing to be reckoned with both in the box office and compared to other movies.
As the movies got better, I found the mediocre ones less interesting, but a little more disappointing. If you know how to do these things well, why not just keep doing them well. Is it so difficult to get someone who understands the material to make something good on a proper budget? Christopher Nolan did it, Jon Favreau did it and god damn, did Joss Whedon do it with Avengers.
My wife and I decided to head to the drive-in with some friends to see it. It kind of snuck up on my how excited I wound up being for this flick. I really like the Iron Man movies, didn’t like Ed Norton in Incredible Hulk, kinda sorta liked Thor and had a pretty good time with Captain America: The First Avenger, but the ad campaign, plus the fact that I wrote about the movie a bit for Spinoff Online got me pretty excited. Then I started hearing people I know and respect coming back raving about the movie. People were comparing it to Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Note that both of them are die hard Marvel fans and, like me, never thought they’d see a movie like this in the real world, on the big screen, done this well.
And man, this movie is done well. Whedon did an amazing job trying together the very different movies, bringing in new characters, pumping up ones we’d only seen briefly and making them all work in ways that make sense. It just makes sense that Tony Stark’s flip attitude toward everything would eventually rub Captain America the wrong way or that Thor would find the petty complaints of mortals well, petty. But, this movie is so much more than great character beats. The action is spectacular in every sense of the word. The attack on the hellicarrier? Wow. I wasn’t sure if the rest of the movie could top that, but the end battle was magnificent. Those long tracking shots that don’t cut away moving throughout the city from small battle to small battle with different characters flying in and out and wrecking shop in different ways was one of the coolest things I’ve seen. Ever.
I could go on and on. The moments with the Hulk? Amazing and hilarious. Possibly my favorite Hulk of all time. That small moment where Iron Man shoots his repulsors off of Cap’s shield or the shockwave sent out when Thor hit the shied? So awesome. Hawkeye calling the shots and using his ingenious bow and quiver? So cool. My wife poked fun at me for giggling with excitement throughout half the movie. I wasn’t sorry, I reveled in it. I really can’t remember having more fun at a movie in a long time. It was basically Expendables, but instead of starring actors I’ve known forever, this was characters.
Okay, now someone needs to get me a Justice League movie.
I’ve got to say, I’m digging what Marvel Entertainment is doing with their Marvel movies. Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger might not be my favorite movies or even on the same level with each other (Thor and Hulk haven’t aged well in my mind) but, as a comic geek, I do appreciate all the little bits and pieces they throw in for us to slobber over. Plus, the connections between the films leading up to The Avengers have just been fun. I have no idea if normal people care about this stuff at all, but I get giddy.
Cap is packed with those kinds of things, even if they don’t match up with the comics. Guys, Arnim freaking Zola was in this movie! The original Human Torch (or at least his costume) were on display! Howling Commandos! Union Jack! I don’t even care that Bucky Barnes knew Steve ahead of time and all that. His costume looked kind of like Winter Soldier’s! Ahhh! I don’t remember geeking out this much at a comic movie in a long time, so that was fun.
It also helped that it was a fun adventure story that even my inlaws liked (we watched it over the weekend). Someone in the room mentioned that it was like Indiana Jones and I think that’s a very apt comparison. This movie sets up an evil bad guy, a great good guy, gives him a solid, important missions and pits the two against each other. I even like how they changed Red Skull’s origin to put him more on par with Cap physically. I didn’t quite understand what the deal with the Cosmic Cube was this time around (the baby was making noise, so I might have missed some exposition) but I did like how it was connected to the World Tree and thus the alien gods seen in Thor.
One other quick thing, I was so, so, SO glad to see a comic book period flick. I know X-Men: First Class did the same thing last year too, but I haven’t seen that one yet. When I was at Wizard there was talk of a Fantastic Four movie being done as a period piece, set in the 60s. I don’t know if it was an actual rumor from somewhere or something we just got to talking about, but the idea struck me as kind of revelatory at the time. A swinging 60s FF would have been great! I’m glad that this idea whether something we just made up or not eventually became a reality. I know it would never happen, but I’d love to see a 30s-set Superman flick done with modern special effects tech! It works for Cap because he came back from WWII to be in the present day and the X-Men because they’re a team that have been around for a while. Speaking of which, all this Cap stuff got me even more jazzed for The Avengers! Is it out yet?
Man, I had a great time watching The Losers tonight. As I said a while back, I was really looking forward to this movie along with The A-Team and The Expendables, one of which I haven’t seen yet and the other I loved. All three movies are action movies with tough badasses up against a tough mission, with Losers and A-Team both being about a team that was set up and attempting to clean up their good names. The Losers is a military team consisting of dudes with cool nicknames like Clay (Henry Dean Morgan), Roque (Idris Elba), Cougar (Oscar Jaenada), Jensen (Chris Evans) and Pooch (Columbus Short) who get burned by a guy named Max and set out to get revenge on him, later adding bad ass chicj Aisha (Zoe Saldana) to their little gang. First off, this cast is pretty rad. I haven’t seen Elba in The Wire but did enjoy him on The Office, plus the movie stars the Comedian from Watchmen, the blue chick from Avatar, one of my favorite characters from Studio 60 and the Human Torch. Fun stuff.
More fun, of course, is the flick, which doesn’t seem to go more than 10 minutes before getting into another rad action scene. The movie’s pretty easy to follow, though it does get a little wild with a weapon that seems to disintegrate islands, though I was glad they didn’t go with the regular old MacGuffin and actually showed the weapon of mass destruction in action. Other than that you’ve got the usual amount of ass kicking and plot twisting. I guess it’s a little by the numbers as far as the plot goes, but there’s enough other stuff going on that I didn’t really notice until looking back on it now.
The action scenes are top notch. There’s one earlier in the film with Aisha facing off against Clay that involves trashing a hotel room that catches on fire. It was such a visual fight without getting too wrapped up in the jerky fight scenes we’ve been assaulted with lately. Sure there’s speed-up then slow-down moments, but they seemed to serve the fight to my eyes. In fact, I was doing some writing while the movie was playing, but every time an action scene kicked off, I was drawn away from the computer and couldn’t take my eyes off the TV. The movie’s bright color palette in general helped with this as well, especially with scenes like the one with Cougar and Jensen working in a doll factory.
I also really dug the characters who all felt well acted and well rounded without having too much bogging them down. You get a good enough sense of who each one is thanks to the role they fill on the team and what we see here and there throughout the movie. Evans and Morgan really shined for me with the former’s humor and the latter’s general bad assness. Evans as the torch was one of the few bright spots in the otherwise boring Fantastic Four movies and I had only seen Morgan in the shark jumping episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and his role as the Comedian, so it was nice to see him get some more screentime and flex those cool muscles instead of getting murdered either by his girlfriend or Ozymandias.
My only real problem with the movie was the character of Max (Jason Patric) who was just a bit over the top for my tastes. He makes lots of lame jokes and changes his mind about huge plans all the time. I get wanting to add a layer to the character, but I started questioning how a man this flighty could run an organization big enough to mess with the Losers, which kind of breaks up the foundation of the movie a little. Not a good move. There’s also a bit at the end that will be considered a SPOILER. In a rad moment, Max throws a pressure switch off a high point where he and Clay are having a standoff. Clay dives into the water, grabbing the device in just enough time, but when he gets out of the water, the rest of the gang roll up in a yellow stretch Hummer limo. But I don’t understand why Cougar, the sharp shooter of the bunch, wasn’t still at his post to take Max out. Or any of the other guys on the team. It’s a little weird, but not a bad enough moment to completely kill the movie for me.
All in all, I had a great time with this movie, which is good because I really didn’t like one of the other two flicks I watched today. It can’t be ignored that The Losers is based on a comic book of the same name by Andy Diggle and Jock. The only reason I hadn’t mentioned it before is because I haven’t read them, though after watching the movie, I want to now and will probably start tracking them down on Sequential Swap.