Punisher:War Zone

“Frick I forgot the BULLETS!”

Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Lexi Alexander
Starring: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz, a bunch of copper shell jackets
Production Company: Lions Gate Films
Release Date: Dec 5, 2008

Punisher: War Zone reads less like “revenge”, and more like “re-hash”. This is the Punisher’s third time at bat, with a new production company, new director, and new star Ray Stevenson. This version wasn’t anything horrible, yet between the plot holes and one dimensional characters, it all feels a little flat. Granted, no one in Punisher: War Zone is going to walk away with any statuettes, but the screen writer should at least examine what makes the comic book character tick.

Frank Castle is the NYPD cop whose family is massacred after witnessing a mob slaying. Frank, the lone survivor takes it upon himself to punish the unjust that the cops can’t touch by donning black garb and using a skull as his symbol. He’s been doing this a long time, as NYPD’s finest can attest to; the special Punisher unit has an entire basement full of evidence and an exceedingly high body count. Along with this, they have his true identity, but no leads to his whereabouts. Listing off all those facts, the cops stick up for him at every turn and actually let him go every chance they get since they believe he’s doing the city a favor; It’s nice knowing that mass murderers are held in such high authority by the people paid to protect us. Frank unknowingly kills an undercover FBI agent posing as a mob strong arm in an opening scene. In the process, he horribly mangles Billy Russoti (Dominic West) in a glass recycling machine, the set up there is that Billy becomes Jigsaw, the stitch faced killer out to do Punisher in.

“Now where did I put that girdle?”

There’s at least some motivation there. Billy wants to kill Punisher because he’s screwed with his face, and of course the big P is ruining his whole mob-drug-trafficking-trade as well. So there’s the set up; you got two bloodthirsty guys, each with their own sets of tools who will inevitably meet up for one final death match. Along the way we’re introduced to a whole bunch of throw away characters like Julie Benz, who I have to say looks waaaaay better raven haired than blonde, a stone eyed Colin Salmon and a completely wasted Wayne Knight as Microchip. I really wanted to like this movie, as I was disappointed with Jonathan Hensleigh/Thomas Jane’s Punisher, I figured a new addition, or a reimaging under Marvel Knights more explosive, bloody line would kick things up a notch as the Vertigo line for DC did a few years back. I didn’t get anything this time around, just another shoot em’ up action-fest that plodded along trading an actual storyline for bloody head count.

Guess he didn’t like the Fantastic Four movies either

For all the bashing, I do have to say the lightning, costumes and sets were beautifully done right. The atmosphere for each setting played nicely to each character, showcasing the darker traits that I didn’t see before. The lightning used particularly in Punisher’s Lair against the neon drudgery that was the Bradstreet hotel was refreshing. Not only did the ample shadows give good hiding spots, it also garnered a few points in my books.

The Punisher series of movies can’t take many more outings; probably one more film will be the final nail in this coffin. The franchise is either handled badly or just isn’t worth reviving, believe me when I was a kid watching the Dolph Lundgren version I was enthralled. Although these days my tastes have matured and I’ve moved onto more ‘Dark Knight’ reboot worthy films of late.

2.0 out of 10

Movie Review: Iron Man

Iron Man

Year Released: 2008
Directed by: John Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, Gweneth Paltrow
Production Company: LivePlanet

As farfetched as having a guy build an exo-suit that can fly, punch through tanks, is bullet proof, and filled with more technology than the state of California, sounds pretty out there. But John Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. sell it, and sell it excellently. The Marvel comics roots are still there, yet thankfully, the realism is intact and the physics and storyline all make perfect sense. Bravo, Marvel studios, Bravo.

“I was sure I left my keys in here somewhere…”

Iron Man is the story of billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, played to perfection by the fast talking, ingenious Robert Downey Jr. whose company, Stark Industries supplies the United States military with high tech armaments. Stark is kidnapped by a Middle Eastern faction during a weapons test, and must find a means of escape with only his mechanically inclined mind. During the kidnap, his own manufactured weapons are to blame for shrapnel coming perilously close to his heart; as a result he’s tethered to a car battery powering an electro magnet making sure the shrapnel doesn’t kill him. He’s being kept alive by the terrorists so he can build them a weapon of mass destruction, a little something his company whipped up that can basically destroy a whole shit load of towns.

“Dammit, I just want to use the john”

With a little bit of physics, Stark creates a miniature Arc Reactor with which he can ‘power his own body for 50 lifetimes, or something really big for 15 minutes’. So what’s a billionaire industrialist to do? Build a sweet looking gigantic monster suit that can shoot 50 foot flames and can fly short distances. That’s what. Well, he does and it can. And it’s all believable (in the confines of this movie world at least). Stark high-tails it back to the good old U.S. of A and first thing he does is chomp down on a hamburger. At which point, he calls a press conference to tell the world he’s no longer making weapons of mass destruction. The decision doesn’t sit well with business partner Obidiah Stane (one bald Jeff Bridges), who’s in the business for pure profit rather than the consequences of destructive weapons. Meanwhile, Stark takes his original prototype used to escape and improves it with some bad ass technology; namely Marvel’s repulsor ray, coupled with a newer, more powerful arc reactor attached directly to his heart. The new exo-suit itself if believable and ultra-cool. Take the Robocop suit, add in super mobility, flight and the fact that Downey Jr. isn’t a re-animated corpse and you got yourself Iron Man.

Stark sets his sights for on Gweneth’s tight sweaters

Being a comic book geek, I should point out that Iron Man is Marvel comic’s version of the classic Batman. Batman was a billionaire son of Gotham city, who lost both his parents in a brutal robbery, and dedicated his life to improving his mind, body and fighting crime with the aid of bat-fear symbolism. Iron Man lost his father to a heart attack, was always mechanically inclined, had a shit load of money and used his cash to finance wars, and build an indestructible suit to fight crime. So, Tony Stark is who Bruce Wayne would be if his parent’s weren’t killed in front of him, and he enjoyed a drink or two once in a while. If I could pick between the two, I’d have gone the Iron Man route.

The real gem comes from the comedic timing of Downey Jr.’s attempts at creating the suit; between test flights in his garage where there’s at least a million dollars worth of classic cars, he’s shooting repulsor rays, falling through ceilings and getting a fire hose in the face from his pet robots. He’s able to weigh down his heavy pathos and genius mind with the carefree spirit needed to imagine these fantastic toys. Plus, he’s got a smoking hot assistant in Pepper Potts (Gweneth Paltrow), why a guy whose worth more than most third worlds would rather give it to Vanity Fair reporters instead of his assistant is beyond me; it could have been a writing flaw.

“Can you point me in the direction of Canadian Tire?”

The special effects are awesome, try picking out the parts that are CGI versus live action. The late, great Stan Winston himself had a hand in creating the goliath first prototype suit; sadly it was the last project he was involved in, and the mythos of special effects wiz Winston was just the icing on the cake. The pacing is adult and doesn’t once make you feel like you’re watching some kids movie repackaged into a re-release, all the parts fit together nicely, and if you watch past the credits, you’ll be in for a little treat.

Marvel studios is gearing up for something big; since they own most of Hollywood, thanks to titles such as X-Men, Incredible Hulk and to a lesser extent Fantastic Four, the company is more on the lips of the populace. The comic book giant is keeping the characters and storylines canon in the movie universe and there might be a little mixing and collaborations in the future, so just keep your eyes peeled for that little special mega-blockbuster all the fanboy geeks have been waiting 20+ years for.

If Iron Man is any indication of the level of quality to come from the house of words, then I’m sold on the plan.

8.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Year Released: 2007
Directed by: Tim Story
Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Julian McMahon
Production Company: 20th Century Fox
Review done 4:45 PM 5/16/2008

As you probably know, this is the story of four superheroes enbued with powers that fight crime. I think I just summed up the entire likeability factor in once sentence. That being said, I wish I could stop here, but I try to commit myself to writing a bit more than ‘don’t bother’. As it is, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is the dismal sequel follow up to the original Fantastic Four movie. Same director, same characters, some new nuanced plot, even the same villain (Dr.Doom) makes an appearance. I would probably be more forgiving, but seriously, I’m insulted as a comic book fanatic.

The characters are still one tracked and static. They all have the same goals and the same damn personalities plus a few more special effects to add ‘weight’. Additionally I’ll break down the characters as you’d expect. Although, this might sound familiar if you read my review of the first movie:

Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) is smart and a scientist because he’s constantly playing with new technological gadgets.

The Thing (Michael Chiklis) should focus on getting a Hulk/Thing cross over. Seriously.

Human Torch (Chris Evans) excels at being a dick. He is however, the most fun character and automatically the coolest character, and for some reason is the only person to have any sort of personality. This is INCREDIBLY sad.

Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba) looks good in skin tight blue spandex.

Silver Surfer (voiced by one very cool Laurence Fishburne) looks cool, an act cool, and is a complete and utter TOOL to Galactus. Plus, they screwed up his source, scope, and majesty of power.

The tone you’re hearing is the one of complete annoyance, basically because Hollywood decided to hand the keys to the FF franchise, which was built on over 60 years of excellent stories over to the guy who directed ‘Taxi’ starring that guy from SNL who can sing pretty good. And that movie sucked! If there were any justice left in the world, the producers would have made Silver Surfer the main character with the FF in a cameo role. Who really cares if Reed and Sue Richards are getting married? It’s not like there was any sort of impending doom that could stop this huge crux of marital vows, right? Oh, the Silver Surfer showed up. And he’s not really doing anything, he’s just scoping out the earth as a tasty treat for his boss, Galactus. So the Fantastic Four have to stop him from….looking around.

As an added treat [sic], Julian McMahon reprises his role as ├╝ber evil Dr.Doom – who in the comics was a horribly scarred maniac despot ruler of Latvia, hell-bent on destroying the world with his superior scientific knowledge, some magical powers and GENIUS intellect. The movies however, opted for a good looking all American boy that prances around in a cape and is a millionaire industrialist, y’know: because business is evil. Anyway, Dr.Doom shows up, helps the military and the FF capture the Silver Surfer in perhaps the silliest way possible. At this point, he harnesses the Surfer’s power and it’s up to the most immature character, the human torch to take him down. All this is happening while: Galactus is on his way to make earth his next dinner. God, I wish this was made up – oh wait, it IS.

There’s quite a bit of build up to Galactus, he’s basically the quasi villain, the be-all, end-all of the earth. The ultimate destroyer of all humanity. And what are we treated with? A BIG FUCKING BLACK CLOUD. How entirely menacing is that? Even on paper it sounds ridiculous and it somehow got past the special effects team. If this thing eats worlds, it defies all logic of internal organs, stomachs, this thing must have a brain and reasoning if it gave powers to the Silver Surfer, yet it’s just A BIG FUCKING BLACK CLOUD.

***********some spoilers, like I care***********
Somehow, in this entirely too long, too loud, too stupid movie, the writers thought it would be smart to have the Surfer destroy Galactus WITH THE POWERS GIVEN TO HIM BY GALACTUS IN THE FIRST PLACE. And it was this bit of scientific writing that was supposed to bring all the events of this sitcom together and make sense.

FF: Rise of the Silver Surfer is just like 70’s big bellbottoms – utterly forgettable, short, loud, preposterous and full of stupid.

1 ouf of 10