Archive for Marvel Comics

Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) Review

Posted in Amazing Spider-Man 2 with tags , , , on August 29, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

*** Out of 5

Tagline- His Greatest Battle Begins!

Release Date- May 2nd, 2014

Running Time- 141-Minutes

Rating- PG-13

Screenplay- Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner

Director- Marc Webb

Starring- Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Paul Giamatti with Campbell Scott and Sally Field

When it comes to the Hollywood blockbuster films I can’t honestly say I’m not much of a fan at least starting in the mid-90s with the beginning of the Michael Bay era. Now sure there are plenty of big Hollywood films I’ve loved, but the good bulk I either find decent with little desire to see again or I disliked them. The Spider-Man series is one of the exceptions as I’ve enjoyed them and I might even lean towards the Amazing Spider-Man being my favorite and I’m a big Sam Raimi fan and while I loved the first two as stated I might lean more towards the Amazing Spider-Man, but its a close call. I’ve heard a lot of negatives comments about the 2nd film and due to the running time (and not being again a big Hollywood person despite enjoying this series) I decided to hold off until home video. I went it hoping for the best, but kind of expecting the worst since I was told its the Batman & Robin of the Spider-Man series. When all is said and done I didn’t find the Amazing Spider-Man 2 to be a terrible film, but its also far inferior to the first film (or 4th depending on even if the last was the start of a new series). I think the best way to put it is while I didn’t hate this I also have no real desire to see it again.

The screenplay was written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner and from a plotting standpoint it isn’t very well done and it seems to me the film runs in circles in particular with Peter and Gwen (Stone). It just felt like the sane scene written over and over again. The new editions to the cast make zero impact as Harry Osborn (DeHaan) and his whole story arc is weakly written and just not very interesting and his transition to the Green Goblin for me fails. In the Raimi series I liked the relationship between Peter and Harry, but here there’s no depth to it. The main villain here is Electro (Foxx) and while in someways he was a sympathetic villain, but he’s so underused I found myself not even caring at all. Amazing Spider-Man 2 relies on story and character, but neither is nearly as strong as the first and this could have used more action as it would have helped covered up the subpar screenplay. The script isn’t a compete mess as there are some fun moments and solid ideas, but again I just felt as if the script kept going in circles.

Director Marc Webb returns and what a difference between films. The Amazing Spider-Man was one of my favorite films of 2012 to be exact my 3rd favorite (Django Unchained and Dark Knight Rises were my top 2). As much as I love Sam Raimi I would again probably favor the Amazing Spider-Man, but this film is quite sluggish in its pacing and at 141-minutes its way too long. While a lot of the issues could be placed on the script, but Webb fails to bring much to the film as well. Webb does handle the action scenes fairly well and he does bring some excitement to them, but there’s no energy in the story side of the film and as mentioned the film relies on story and characters and it makes for a film that’s more boring than anything else. The biggest issue though at least for me was the death of Gwen Stacy; quite honestly I found it quite anti-climatic and underwhelming and it lacked the emotional impact. I’m not sure what went wrong here as it feels like a different filmmaker and like I said a lot of the issues were on the writing and I’d blame that more than the direction, but I did expect more since Marc Webb made a truly wonderful film with the Amazing Spider-Man and this was just sort of blah.

Really what salvages the film and at the very least keeps it watchable were the once again terrific performances by Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. They both work so well together and have a natural onscreen charisma (Stone in particular). Whenever I think of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield will be the first person that comes to mind. While the rest of the cast is also strong, but are all totally failed by their writers, but while Garfield and Stone are also failed by the writing to some degree, but both are so fun to watch they make the material seem a little better than it actually is.

Overall the Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t really a bad film, but it isn’t all that good either. For me this was quite a disappointment, but its a major step backwards for the franchise and while it turned a profit it didn’t gross as much as the studio expected and I’m not surprised. The film gets off to a pretty good start, but soon begins to unravel and it really could have used some editing since the story wasn’t strong enough for 141-minute film. As mentioned the action takes a backseat and this film could have very much used more to cover up the flaws. The first film had the perfect balance of both and if anything I’d go as far to say the Peter Parker scenes were the strongest of the film, but the sequel is the complete opposite. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are truly wonderful and help make up for some of the flaws, but too bad their performances weren’t rewarded with a better film.

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The Punisher (2004) Review

Posted in Punisher (2004) with tags , , , , on August 12, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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THE PUNISHER

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- The Punishment Has Begun

Release Date- April 16th, 2004

Running Time- 125-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Jonathan Hensleigh & Michael France

Director- Jonathan Hensleigh

Starring- Tom Jane, John Travolta, Roy Scheider, Ben Foster, Laura Harring and Rebecca Romijn

Released in 2004 this wasn’t the first time an attempt was made at launching a series a series based on the Punisher. The first Punisher film came out in 1989 and starred Dolph Lundgren and while it did receive a theatrical release in certain countries, but went DTV in the States and while the film has a cult following it is semi forgotten. 15-years later another attempt was made and the 2004 version had better results in terms of quality and finances. The Punisher while a very good film is also one of the most frustrating films I’ve seen since there was potential for it to be great, but it’s sort of held back by a few flaws that keep the Punisher from reaching the next level though with that said it is an enjoyable film.

An undercover mission led by Frank Castle (Jane) leads to the death of the son of crime boss Howard Saint (Travolta). Howard puts a hit out on Frank, but his wife Livia (Harring) wants the entire family killed. During a family reunion, Saint’s men show up and murder Frank’s entire family including his parents and wife and son. Frank is severely wounded, but survives and than turns vigilante and seeks revenge on Howard Saint.

The screenplay was written by Jonathan Hensleigh & Michael France and character wise, the Punisher was terrific as its filled with interesting characters with depth. The plotting is fairly strong and this version unlike the 89 & 2008 version gets deeper into the origins of Frank Castle and really Frank doesn’t become the Punisher until the very end. The script sets things up for a sequel, which never came to be as the next film was another reboot. While the origin of Frank Castle is changed a bit I think however it works well. The problems though with the script is Hensleigh & France wanna write a dark and gritty film, which they do, but there are also a number of scenes that are written for more camp value and this does hinder the film as it seems out of place. The script works best when it’s played off a straight up revenge/thriller, which is it for the most part, but the more campy aspects of the script do slightly hinder things.

As director Jonathan Hensleigh crafts a well made and fun film, but at 125-minutes the Punisher is a little overly long in spots. As I mentioned how the script tries to play it straight in spots and campy in others and the direction is very much the same. Certain scenes like with the Russian (Kevin Nash) while a lot of fun does in my opinion hinder the film as in my opinion the Punisher works best when played straight. For the most part Hensleigh does play the film in a more serious tone and the campier moments sort of break the flow of the film. The action scenes are played well and the film quite exciting, but my issues are again the pace can be a little sluggish in spots and the campy moments just don’t really fit.

The cast is quite strong with Tom Jane making an excellent Frank Castle. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews for this series is the casting of Frank has been great with each actor bringing something different to the role. John Travolta is a terrific actor who doesn’t always get his credit. Films such as Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Blow Out and Pulp Fiction very much showcase his talents as an actor, but I don’t think he was the right choice for Howard Saint. While not a bad performance by any means he just doesn’t really fit the role.

Overall the Punisher is a solid film and had the potential to be great, but instead turns out to just be a good film. I like how the film handled Castle’s origin even if it slightly strays to some degree. I’d rate this film above the 89 version, but isn’t quite as enjoyable as War Zone. My only other complaint is the score, which doesn’t quite fit at times and more often than not has a campy feel even in the more serious scenes. The Punisher flaws and all is still a solid watch, but again could have been so much more.

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Captain America (1990)

Posted in Captain America (1990) with tags , , on August 6, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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CAPTAIN AMERICA

*** Out of 5

Release Date- December 14th, 1990

Running Time- 97-Minutes

Rating- PG-13

Screenplay- Stephen Tolkin

Director- Albert Pyun

Starring- Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin, Kim Gillingham and Scott Paulin

Before Captain America became a big Hollywood franchise there was the 1990 version, which was originally planned by Cannon Films in the 1980s, but it never ended up happening and when Menahem Golan left Cannon part of his severance were the rights to Captain America, which finally ended up being made, but only got a limited release in the UK in 1990 as well as a couple of other countries, but it didn’t get released in the States until July 22nd, 1992 and rather than any kind of theatrical release it was DTV. Actually even before this version there was a 1979 TV movie, which starred Reb Brown as the title character, which if not mistaken was meant to be a Pilot for a TV series, but ended up just being a TV movie and than later in 1979 a sequel aired and that was it for the Captain until the 1990 version. In the modern era comic book themed films have become a huge business, but they’ve actually always been around. There were the Batman serials in the 30s and 40s as well as Captain America and Superman. Of course there was the Batman TV series in the 60s and there was actually a Spider-Man TV series back in the 70s. I suppose Superman: The Movie in 1978 is the superhero film that opened the door for these kinda films and Superman would become a successful franchise and than when Batman came out in 1989 these films started to take off and while a few were made in the 90s it was the 2000s when these films really began to dominate. In between all of this were plenty of animated shows throughout the 80s and 90s.

Despite the popularity of superhero themed films (or shows) they were never really taken seriously despite the acclaim films such as Superman and Burton’s Batman received. Even with positive reviews these films weren’t seen as classic films. Perhaps overtime some of these films are now seen in that light, but it was Chris Nolan more so with Dark Knight than Batman Begins that took a genre of film that even when serious also had camp value and played it straight and it actually worked and now these films often get massive critical acclaim and aren’t just seen as very entertaining films, but great films. But back in 1990 that wasn’t the case.

Steve Rogers (Salinger) undergoes an experiment by scientists and becomes the super soldier Captain America and goes to battle in WWII against the evil Red Skull (Paulin). Frozen for decades Steve is found in revived and once again has to battle the Red Skull.

The screenplay by Stephen Tolkin is quite subpar, but works well in some regard due to the cheese factor. The origin of Steve Rogers doesn’t go into much detail, which is fine since it didn’t need a deeper explanation, but a little more could have been done with it. The characters lack depth, but are also fairly decent, which probably has more to do with the cast. The middle sections focuses more on characters and this is where the film encounters some issues since the writing and characters aren’t strong enough to carry the film. For some reason Red Skull is Italian rather than German and I don’t know if that was a mistake or just a creative choice. There were some good ideas presented such as Red Skull being involved in the assassination of John & Bobby Kennedy as well as Martin Luther King. The script overall is quite sloppy despite some good ideas presented, but with that said the cheese factor does make the script better than it actually was.

Director Albert Pyun does the best he can with a limited budget, but it’s also not an excuse for the film turning out the way it did. Captain America does feature some pacing issues, but I’d put more of the blame on the writing than the direction. Pyun does deliver a fun film that does work on the so bad it’s good level, but with that said to Pyun’s credit he does deliver some fun and energetic action scenes and sure they aren’t classic, but they are effective. Captain America does have a fun tone for it, but the middle is where it begins to slow down and again I’d put more of the blame on the script, but Pyun doesn’t really make up for it. The film does get back on track in the final act and like I said the film works on the so bad it’s good level (though I don’t exactly think it was poorly made, but just limited by its budget).

Captain America does feature a very good cast with accomplished actors such as Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty and Scott Paulin. These actors handle their roles well despite their characters lacking depth. Paulin is quite a joy to watch as Red Skull. Matt Salinger the son of Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger actually makes for a very good Steve Rogers/Captain America and while he isn’t often talked about in the role given a better production I think more people would have seen how good he was in the role.

Overall Captain America is not a good film by any means, but if you like B-movies this film can be enjoyable. It does have a fun cheesy feel, but the middle is when I did begin to lose some interest until the final act. There was potential here though even with a proper budget I’m not sure results would have been any better if I’m being totally honest. While Captain America isn’t gonna be in my top 10 superhero themed films I can however enjoy it for what it was and what it wanted to be. The films reputation isn’t exactly positive and I can’t say I’m shocked even if I did get some enjoyment out of it.

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The Punisher Issue 3-5 (2014) Comic Review

Posted in Punisher (Comics) with tags , , on May 8, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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THE PUNISHER ISSUE 3

**** Out of 5

Publisher- Marvel

Release Date- March 5th, 2014

Pages- 24

Frank continues to hunt down the dangerous drug cartel that plans a chemical attack in Los Angeles. This was yet another solid issue that puts a little more focus than story this time around. The only complaint I have is things move a little too quickly and could have been set up a little better, but regardless so far I’ve found this Punisher series to be quite enjoyable.

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THE PUNISHER ISSUE 4

**** Out of 5

Publisher- Marvel

Release Date- April 2nd, 2014

Pages- 22

Frank is captured by the Dos Soles gang who plan to sell him to his enemies and while Electro is torturing Frank he manages to escape, but the Dos Soles gang have escaped and are continuing to put their terrorist plan into attack all the while the commandos have been ordered to take out Frank quickly. This was a fast paced action packed issue, but also had some terrific character moments for Frank. While all 4 issues thus far have been solid, issue 4 was the best since issue 1 and the this issues has some nice plot twists setting things up for issue 5 and ongoing issues.

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THE PUNISHER ISSUE 5

**** Out of 5

Publisher- Marvel

Release Date- May 7th, 2014

Pages- 22

With the Dos Soles terrorist attack ready to go, Frank has to figure a way to stop it. The team of commandos are hot on Frank’s trail and are getting ready to strike. Issue 5 in my opinion was the best since the first issue. This issue is pretty much action packed and exciting. Maybe it’s just me, but each issue in particular this one very much reminds me of the TV series 24.

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George A. Romero’s Empire of the Dead Issue 1 (2014) Comic Review

Posted in George A. Romero's Empire of the Dead Issue 1 with tags , , on February 10, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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EMPIRE OF THE DEAD

*** Out of 5

Release Date- January 22nd, 2014

Pages- 30

Writer- George A. Romero

When it comes to the zombie film legendary filmmaker George A. Romero reinvented the sub-genre with the classic Night of the Living Dead and than did it again with Dawn of the Dead. The Dead series continued with Day of the Dead, which at the time of its release in 1985 drew more subpar reviews, but over the years its gained in popularity. After that the series gets very mixed reviews, but more or less I still liked them, but the last 3 aren’t as strong as the first 3. Now after Survival of the Dead rather than another film the series continues in comic form with Empire of the Dead.

5-years after the Dead came back New York is now overrun by zombies

I was quite excited about the release and based off issue 1 in my opinion there’s a lot of room for improvement. The Walking Dead it isn’t. The thing I love most about Romero’s Dead films and actually his films in general is he often writes very interesting characters with a lot of depth and when I’ve written reviews for his films I often say he’s a great director, but an equally great screenwriter. However the characters in Empire of the Dead in issue 1 I found kind of bland now of course its only 1 issue. Even in the Walking Dead outside of a couple of characters it took me a while to fully connect with them. As the series went on the more attached I got to the characters so perhaps being a different medium than film it’ll take a little longer. But based off issue 1 of Empire of the Dead I just didn’t find the characters interesting.

One point of interest for fans will be is this issue does tie into Night of the Living Dead. If you remember in the film towards the end Barbara gets pulled out of the house and that’s the last we see of her. In Empire of the Dead we find out her actual fate as the main character in Empire of the Dead is the sister of Johnny and Barbara.

Through the Dead film series we’ve seen the zombies evolve and honestly by Land of the Dead they were a little too evolved for me. Here in Empire of the Dead we continue that as zombies even retain some memories and thoughts.

And there is also a new twist, which isn’t a spoiler since it was part of the press release, but zombies aren’t the only undead out there.

Overall I have to admit I wasn’t overly impressed with issue 1 of Empire of the Dead. It was a decent read, but also for me at least a little forgettable, but again its only the first issue and there is potential for something at least I hope.

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