Aug 3 2011

Critical End! (The Podcast) #98: Eldorado Chase


REVIEWED: Captain America: The First Avenger. This episode ain’t kissing ya. PLUS: We talk about some POSITIVE theater experiences!

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Jun 8 2011

Critical End! (The Podcast) #94: Ted Vaniman


REVIEWED: X-Men: First Class. Maybe pause your aging process at She’s Having a Baby Kevin Bacon. PLUS: We’re planning the 100th episode and we need your help!

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May 11 2011

Critical End! (The Podcast) #92: Avengers in Babysitting


REVIEWED: Thor. What’s YOUR definition of goofy? PLUS: ReBoot, Power Rangers continuity, and the rules for multi-part films.

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May 9 2011

What a wonderful time to be a nerd


I was at the movie theater this weekend and saw this…

It’s an ad for X-Men: First Class and it isn’t new.  It’s been standing there for more than a month, but its importance only struck me recently.

Blade was probably the true beginning of the modern resurgence of superhero movies, but for me, the most important was X-Men in 2000.  As a longtime comic fan, it seemed crazy to believe that Hollywood was not only capable of taking superheroes seriously (Singer’s movie was about social equality as much as guys who can shoot lasers from their eyes), but that they could manage to turn a profit in the process.  In other words, the people who scoffed at spandex and capes went to see the movie too.  The casting of Patrick Stewart, literally everyone’s first choice for Professor X, put the icing on the cake, proving that those involved were fans themselves.

After X-Men, came another Blade, Spider-Man (finally!), Daredevil, an even better X-Men, Hulk, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hellboy, Punisher, an even better Spider-Man, Catwoman, yet another Blade, Elektra, Fantastic Four, and the most well regarded of the lot, Batman Begins.  This was all in the first five years of what was then still being called a fad, even by me.

Certainly these are not all excellent films.  I had forgotten Elektra even came out. But to a lot of fans it was important that they simply existed and be just good enough to prevent the critics from saying “Well, that’s it for superhero movies!  Trend’s over!  Pack it up, Hollywood, this cash cow is dry.”  Because then the party would end and we’d all go back to the universe we came from, where superheroes are silly.  Neither profitable nor respectable enough for  theaters.

We endured Singer’s yawnable Superman reboot, as well as the film it spawned through neglect, the bitterly disappointing third entry in the X-Men trilogy. We cringed nervously at Ghost Rider and hoped Nicolas Cage would shoulder most of the blame.  We had high hopes for the Fantastic Four sequel.  It looked better than the first one.  And it was.  Though not by much.

We pretended Spider-Man 3 was “fun”.  Then we saw Iron Man and remembered what fun actually meant. There was another Incredible Hulk for some reason, but that was okay because there was another Batman too.  A dark and moody (as well as long and preachy) tale of the Dark Knight we knew from the comics.  Re-imagined for the screen, but only by degrees.  The tone, the themes, and most importantly the characters that made Batman great were present.  And right.  And the rest of the world liked it too.

There were others, of course.  Niche ones like Watchmen and Kick-Ass.  Flat-out imitators like Sky High and Zoom.  Blatant cash grabs like My Super Ex-Girlfriend and Superhero Movie.  But the point is this: It’s been over a decade since X-Men was released.  And amazingly, we are still here.

I just paid good money to see a movie about Thor (hear my thoughts on this Wednesday’s podcast!)  Not the regular old Norse god, I mean Marvel Comics’ Thor. What’s more, Sam Jackson shows up as Nick Fury, and there’s a three-line cameo by an Academy Award Nominee playing Hawkeye.  GODDAMN HAWKEYE.  The high school version of me never thought he would see anyone play Hawkeye outside of a convention.

And more are coming, folks!  We’re going to see a Captain America movie that contains the line “A weak man knows the value of strength.”  YES.  They get the character.  There’s a Green Lantern film that not only acknowledges the cinematically expensive proposition that there are thousands of other alien Green Lanterns, but actually makes them a central part of the plot.  The guy who did Firefly is directing an Avengers movie that will actually attempt to tie together Marvel’s cross-movie continuity in the same way the comics do.  These are pipe dreams made manifest.

That ad for the new X-Men prequel (which I hope is as weighty and thoughtful as its most recent trailer makes it out to be) made me realize that for ten years I’ve been holding my breath.  Waiting for the other shoe to drop and the superhero fad to end.  I don’t think that’s going to happen.  I think, at least for now, the dream has come true.  Superhero films are just another sub-genre.  An offshoot of fantasy, sci-fi, whatever you want to call it.  There will be good movies.  There will definitely be bad ones.  But there will be movies.  For the first time, we live in a world where it’s possible for the heroes we love on the page to come to life on the screen.

If this is just one big What If… story, nobody tell me.

Jul 12 2010

Calling all Hulks!


Guess what, you guys?  Marvel has dropped Edward Norton from Avengers, meaning that a THIRD actor will be called upon to reboot the characters of “Bruce Banner” and “Guy Whose Face Serves as The Very Loose Basis for a CGI Hulk Puppet.”  Now, Marvel’s probably going to go with an unknown who they can get for pennies on the dollar, but there are plenty of alternatives they’re not even considering.  For example…

Arnold Schwarzenegger
By the time they film Avengers, Schwarzenegger will be out of the governor’s office and raring to return to acting.  Clearly, the Incredible Hulk is the perfect comeback role.  Well into his sixties, Schwarzenegger will bring a more mature, world-weary quality to the part.  Now, I know what you’re thinking:  “Ryan, you sexy bastard, Arnold may have the Hulk’s physique, but didn’t Batman and Robin prove that he can’t play a nerdy scientist?”  Well, I’ll answer your question with one of my own.  Which is more expensive: creating a CGI Hulk that rips a helicopter in half?  Or creating a CGI Bruce Banner that sits pensively in a lab, contemplating the duality of man?  Exactly.  Let Arnold play the hulk, and leave Banner to the boys at ILM (and Rainn Wilson who will provide the nebishy voicework.)

Jonah Hill
The biggest problem with Bruce Banner?  He’s so depressing!  “Oh woe is me!  I can’t control my darkest urges!  The inner-torment is unbearable!”  SHADDUP ALREADY!  Jonah Hill’s unique brand of offbeat comedy (being fat and saying “fuck” a lot) is just the refreshing tweak this character needs.  Imagine the Hangover-style hijinks he and Tony Stark will get into!  Plus, instead of being insanely muscular  and driven by rage when he Hulks out, he’ll be morbidly obese and driven by his insatiable craving for KFC.  Product placement!

Katherine Heigl
It might be time to go a whole different direction and throw She-Hulk into the mix. Heigl’s a big box office draw (especially for the lady types that typically pass on superhero flicks).  And she’s sure to do it on the cheap, because she’s so notoriously difficult to work with that the only way for her to guarantee a longterm career is to attach herself to a franchise where she doesn’t actually have to appear on-set with any of her costars.  All the action will be CG, and whenever she’s Jennifer Walters, she’s got to be completely isolated due to…her…contagious radiation sickness!  Done.

The possibilities are endless.  Actually they end right there.  So, pick one and get back to me, Hollywood.  I’m sure we can negotiate a reasonable fee for my services (whatever Edward Norton wanted, double it.)