Netflix Movie of the Day: PUNCTURE


PUNCTURE – If all you know Chris Evans from is the Captain America movies (as enjoyable as those are), I urge you to try another facet of him, with the excellent bio-pic PUNCTURE by director and star Mark Kassen.

A moving and I fear unknown chapter in recent health and American history. At least it was definitely unknown to me, the story of syringes, and how the choice of one over the other, was paid and continues to be paid in Millions of lives.

A moving, riveting film… told as well as it could be told. Strongly recommended.

There is a line that… stays with me, from Kenneth Branagh’s take on Shakespeare’s HENRY V.

Branagh’s first film, and still my favorite of his film, he plays the young Henry on the bloody trudge through France, and upon witnessing the horror there, they churn his outrage, they raise his ire, they offend him to his core, and he says to sum all that rage up… “I was not angry till I came to France”.

That line comes to me when I am outraged.

It is to the great credit of PUNCTURE, that it brought that line to mind.

I was not angry till I came to France.

The only way I know to deal with that… ire, is to act in small ways and in large. Each giving acoording to their gifts and getting according to their needs.

I was not angry till I came to France.

Here are some ways… to get involved:

I just donated $50 to Unicef using the link above, and signed up for their email list. I charge you to do likewise. In all honesty it would have killed me not to give. If you feel the same, please use the link above. Give according to your gifts, and get according to your needs.



2012 MOVIE Review : THE Verdict is in! AVENGERS… Avenged!!! :)

You are reading this either because you saw the film and want to compare your experience with others, or haven’t seen the film, and want to get a general idea of what people thought of it. I’ll answer both demographics, without going into details about the film.

I think most of you coming to this blog know, my grumpy persona aside I’m not a contrarian. I’m not one of these IMDB idiots who rate all films either 1 or 5 (on a 5 star system, I use a 4 star system), the concept of grading and gradations seemingly lost on them.

That said neither am I a bandwagon jumper who is going to praise a film when it’s trendy to do so, and eviscerate it when it is trendy to do so.(SUPERMAN RETURNS and TITANIC being two movies with more than their share of flip-floppers).

I often listen to pod-casts, and it is amazing how often you can hear one person excited by a film, but then his friends don’t like the film, so you can hear the person backtrack from his/her position, so they can be in line with the likes of their ‘friends’.

An anthropologist might define it as a clannish race survival technique (“Bubba let’s go lynch that thar 12 year old boy, for looking at that thar white woman.” “Why Bubba Senior, that thar’s a fine idea. Hyuck. Hyuck. Hyuck.”), I’ve always just defined it as cowardice.

I’m saying my good opinion or my bad is not formed by the whims of the mob.

Never has been. Never will be.

So if I give you a review you can be sure it is my review, my considered opinion… and I stand behind it.

So my considered opinion on the AVENGERS movie?

Joss Whedon, whose other film this year CABIN IN THE WOODS I wasn’t a fan of (more due to the first time Director on that film, than to Whedon’s script), here in his role as Director and Writer, knocks this film out of the park.

THE AVENGERS is… I’m trying to avoid hyperbole here, leaving that to everyone else, but it has to be said… it is a FANTASTIC film.

It’s as smart as CABIN IN THE WOODS, but with Whedon behind the camera you also get characters and moments you really care about. You get the pathos to go with the pomp and circumstance.

I mean how do you pull this off? The culmination of all these films, all this planning, all these actors, how do you pull it together and make it work and make it live up to expectations? It is really an amazingly ambitious film, a daunting prospect, and Joss Whedon… does it.

It’s really rare for me to laugh out loud in a film, I laughed out loud numerous times in this film, just because it is so knowing, and so sharp, and so biting, and so friggin fun!!!

I’m so glad I went into this film without watching a bunch of trailers or features, or ruining any surprises because I just had a ball. And along with the fun, Whedon gave space and weight to the tragedy, something that is glossed over sometimes in epic films. The weight and cost of this battle. Whedon never loses sight of the street level view, the common men and women caught in the midst of a war of Gods and Monsters.

The humanity he imbues the attack scene with is reminiscent of Mimi Leder’s phenomenal direction in the criminally underrated Clooney action film PEACEMAKER. Where every loss and every life… was felt.

The Peacemaker (Widescreen Edition)

And going along with that, for a big, loud, blow stuff up action flick on par with Bay’s TRANSFORMERS:DARK OF THE MOON (which the battle scenes bear a resemblance to) everyone gets a chance to actually act and emote in this film. Whedon’s TV/Buffy dialog/experience serving the film well.

Every principal actor really gets a chance to shine, Scarlett Johanson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo (Who I didn’t think could fill Ed Norton’s shoes, is phenomenal. Both as Banner and the Jade Giant he has some of the great scenes/lines in the film), Downey, they all bring it. And big kudos to Tom Hiddleston who plays Loki as more than one dimensional, but with charm and depth to match his machinations.

Anything more would be me… gushing. Suffice to say, if my math is correct this is the 6th Marvel Studios film, the culmination of half a dozen years, and their shared Universe experiment, and they pull it off. Creating a cinematic climax to this multi-year and multi-film storyline that is actually bigger and better than the films leading up to it.

I’m seldom the guy to tip my hat to MARVEL, but you have to give them their due. STAR WARS couldn’t do it (RETURN not quite living up to the greatness of EMPIRE), STAR TREK every other film is bad and they are all one off stories, BOND also is one off stories, INDIANA JONES no, MATRIX… no, LORD OF THE RINGS … no, but Marvel Studios managed to end their ambitious story… even stronger than they began it (Though it is worth noting that the heart of this whole AVENGERS cinematic concept, starts with one writer, Mark Millar of WANTED and KICK-ASS fame. His vision is what Marvel Studios followed from page to screen. And in the dozen years since his ULTIMATES comics, his involvement is perhaps not credited as much as it should be).

The AVENGERS storyline that began with the first IRON MAN, went out on a high-note with this film. Arguably only Harry Potter could claim to have as effectively told a story over multiple films. Plus they give us a great teaser at the end, can you say…. awww but that would be telling! 🙂

Go see the film. It’s earned its praise. Highest Recommendation A+.

And read more about the Avengers, here [Definite spoilers :)]:

The Ultimates: Ultimate Collection

The Ultimates 2: Ultimate Collection

Ultimate Comics Avengers by Mark Millar Omnibus

Avengers: Kree/Skrull War

And these books will get you up to speed with the teaser at the end of the film:

Essential Warlock – Volume 1

Essential Captain Marvel, Vol. 1 (Marvel Essentials) (v. 1)

Essential Captain Marvel, Vol. 2 (Marvel Essentials)

Infinity Gauntlet


So I was at the post office flirting hard, with the fetching postal worker behind the counter. And to her credit she was throwing it back pretty capably, and we got on the subject of the AVENGERS movie. She has no interest in the AVENGERS movie or any superhero or action flick.

She was much more psyched by THINK LIKE A MAN and WOMEN THOU ART LOOSED and other relationship tinged flicks. I must admit I died inside a little to know my future wife has no interest in slam, bam action flicks, but oh well. Diversity they say makes a happy home. 🙂

On a serious note, taking a page from her book, I’m glad the AVENGERS movie is finally here, and I’m glad Joss Whedon is helming it, but I’m not really that wowed by the trailer I’ve seen, or the poster.

Of course I’m going to go see it, and I hope it’s great as everyone thinks it’s going to be, but I’ll be happy with good. Let’s put it this way, on anticipation level, not crazy about the default AVENGERS poster, this one:

The poster just bothers me, because it’s so un-artfully done, if you take my meaning. I can’t quite define what grabs me the wrong way about it, but it does. It definitely puts me off. It is so bad it actually has me worried about the movie. 🙂

If you can’t take the effort to make a decent poster it just hints at sloppiness or laziness somewhere else in the film. I’m hoping that’s incorrect and the buck stops with a lazy marketing department (which is far from an isolated thing in Hollywood, unfortunately.)

So I went searching for AVENGERS posters that did look good, and found these top 5! (Some of the best ones are fan created) Enjoy!

First the honorable mentions. The solo posters with Scarlett Johansson for obvious reasons 🙂 :

Now counting down to the best, #5:



#2 A great poster from Australia!

And my #1 favorite AVENGERS poster, is this simple but sumptuous use of open space and duality in this Japanese poster. I show the logo and logo free posters. It’s great!

Well I don’t know about you, but I feel better for having seen those nice looking posters! Easily pleased aren’t I? 🙂

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Movie Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA : THE FIRST AVENGER aka why AMC and REALD 3D should be ashamed

Just came from seeing Joe Johnston’s CAPTAIN AMERICA. Verdict In six words or less?

‘I can do this all day.’

The above being a quote from the film, and translates into me saying: “Yeah. I dug it.”

CAPTAIN AMERICA:FIRST AVENGER is an exceptionally well written encapsulation of a character I grew up with, and yet tweaked to make an easy jumping on point for those coming into the film without any prior knowledge of this character.

The script by the screen-writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely delivers the universals of courage and sacrifice, that are as old as the race of man; as old as our ballads of heroism and blood.

Plus I was quite impressed, with how well the movie does touch on much of Marvel Comics’s rich mythology. Offering easter eggs for those in the know, from Bucky Barnes to Stark to the Howling Commandos to Arnim Zola (his first appearance his face framed in glass, ala the comics) to a quick view of the golden age Human Torch, while not bogging down newcomers with exposition on this minutiae… it’s an impressive script.

Impressive, even touching performances, Chris Evans laying to rest any qualms about his ability to own the role, Derek Luke as the howling commando Gabe Jones (I like this character in the comics, and I like the fact of this character in the film. I like the fact the film notices, if only peripherally, the large number of people of color, some would say disproportionate number, that serve in every war, but particularly WWII). Hugo Weaving, even acting under tons of latex, delivers the gravitas, as of course does the great Tommy Lee Jones. And Stanley Tucci and Sebastian Stan of KINGS fame, are also highlights of a very strong cast.

All capably directed by Joe Johnston of the much maligned (unfairly maligned) WEREWOLF. Plus, I did like the present day framing sequence. Nicely done.

All that’s to the asset column. The minus is… while THE FIRST AVENGER is a very good movie, it never really feels great.

You don’t leave the theater going, “that was amazing!”. Like you might… having just left the theater from seeing Spiderman II or Empire Strikes Back or Tombstone or SuperMan The Movie.

So THE FIRST AVENGER is a very good movie, but even while watching it, you’re aware, acutely aware, that it is never more than very good.

And that’s fine, it doesn’t have to be great, though, I guess that’s the hope. But it hits all the points it needs to, and does it in a serviceable manner, I mean even with hindsight being 20/20 I myself can’t say how they could have made the movie any better than it was, and accomplish the inherent goals of an origin and lead-in movie.

It suffers from the needs of its duties.

As must we all.

It does have a tendency to feel long and episodic, but it is not a long movie, so there’s something pace-wise there, that is off just enough to be noticeable; But not enough to be disappointing.

And another problem with the film is you are not with any character long enough for them to be more than caricature.

In fact, I’m thinking through the movie that the film would possibly work better, pacing wise, as one of those 6 part BBC or HBO tv seasons rather than a film. Just because every character is touched on in just such a cursory manner.

And if this occurs to you while watching the movie in the theater, then you do have a pacing issue. And the final battle with Red Skull, both battles actually, come off as anti-climatic. Neither one really wows.

This is coming across as if I didn’t like the film, I did. I liked the film, and will add it to my DVD collection, when it comes out. I just think it could have been more.

I think Marvel Studios is to be applauded for in a market where quality is a crapshoot at best, creating consistently well written and over-all satisfying films, that not only stand alone but integrate into a larger cinematic tapestry. You have to go all the way back to the silent films of Fritz Lang, to get anything close to as cohesive and ambitious a cinematic mythology.

That said, the films CAPTAIN AMERICA and to some extent THOR, I do think illustrate the… lack of climax to Marvel’s individual films. They are being thought of in many ways as episodic television, episodes in a larger serial, which is great for the long term plan, but I think leaves you with a safe, but less then sensational individual movie.

It’s a hard tight rope Marvel Studios is walking, and to this point a quite successful walk. The telling moment will come with their AVENGERS movie, that all these half dozen films have been building toward, and to some extent… sacrificed toward.

Will the Avengers be that amazing, climatic movie that stands the test of time and is the worthy culmination of all this buildup?

Because failing that, failing a really great film (not an okay film, not a good film, not a B grade film, but a GREAT film)… failing that, then the studio that trained audiences to sit through credits to see teasers and trailers (a brilliant move by the way, that if you had asked me if it was possible to do in the age of Attention Deficit Disorder… I would have said no, and am glad to be wrong)… this same studio, may end up training audiences to wait for the DVD when it comes to future comic movies.

Marvel Studios needs a HUGE homerun with the AVENGERS film. Especially with chains like AMC pulling stunts to make the crappy and more expensive REALD 3D versions of the film, the only versions available most of the time.

I went to see a matinée showing of CAPTAIN AMERICA. Turns out that one was in REALD 3D (that was not advertised as being in 3D when I checked the times. It’s like theater chains are starting to hide which versions are in 3D so they can surprise you with the higher price when you get there).

So I’m already at the theater, and no other options available, so not only do I end up seeing this flick in REALD 3D, a crappy process that darkens the screen too much, and the stupid “one size fits none” glasses, sits on your nose just at the right spot to give you an annoying headache, but you have to pay MORE for this mediocre viewing experience??!!! Really???!!!

Anyhow, I spent most of the movie holding the glasses away from the bridge of my nose, and completely taking them off in night scenes so I could actually see some brightness in the picture.

AMC is on my frigging list. AMC and the stupid Sony Backed REALD 3D process.

This is why I say Marvel Studios is going to need a homerun with THE AVENGERS, cause people are not going to continue putting up with this price gouging from the theaters, and annoying viewing experiences, for simply okay films.

AVENGERS needs to be outstanding (and not offered in Reald 3D) or from now on Marvel Studios films gets relegated to the wait for DVD list.

Time will tell.

So Final Thoughts: CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST AVENGER is a solid B movie. But it’s low on re-watchability and the ‘wow/impressive’ factor. If you haven’t seen it in the theater, if you can get a standard 2d Matinée showing cheap, go for it. Otherwise just rent it on DVD. If you, like me, enjoy DVD commentaries, and are looking forward to cast and crew discussing the film then go ahead and purchase. Otherwise… stick to rental.

The Crucifixion of Tim Story and The Fantastic Four

Today, five years after its cinema release, I finally got around to watching 2005’s FANTASTIC FOUR directed by Tim Story.

I have had the DVD for some time now, I got it as a gift, but based on a/ The across the board scathing reviews the movie had garnered and b/ the underwhelming sense that the cast and previews filled me with… I had no interest or intention of viewing this film/DVD.

I immediately put it online to resell. Fast-Forward a couple years, and the DVD hasn’t sold and is still taken up valuable space in my abode. I’m looking around for a DVD to make me feel halfway clean again after sitting through a particularly dire film, 1978’s extremely odd, THE MAFU CAGE (avoid).

So I unwrap the DVD of the FANTASTIC FOUR (still in its original plastic) pop in in, and prepare for some campiness just to wash away the MAFU CAGE.

Instead of a diversion, I find, much to my surprise quite an entertaining movie, with some indeed fantastic set pieces.

I found the film exciting, fun, action packed, well performed and well directed. None of which the vicious reviews would lead you to believe.

And yes the film does make changes to the source material, but that is a film’s right and to a great extent its duty. You want the comic, go read the comic (I’m a huge fan of the original Lee-Kirby run, as well as some of the books from the 70s, and definitely Bryne’s stories of the 80s), this is a movie and the adaptation is ultimately its own beast and must answer to different criteria and different expectations.

And that’s something this film does, and does well. Prior to seeing this film, I personally wouldn’t have cast Tim Story as Director, for the simple fact that it is directors more than anything else that defines a film for me, and while succesfull in BARBERSHOP, there is nothing in that pedigree that screams he could handle a huge budget Action/FX flick.

The same reservations extended to the cast for me. Particularly Jessica Alba, struck me initially as miscast for the pivotal role of Sue Storm.

And having seen the film I can now say both reservations were unwarranted. Jessica Alba isn’t the Sue Storm of the comics, just as the film’s Doom isn’t the Doom of the comics, etc. And you know what… that’s perfectly fine. Because the characters they do craft work very nicely in the confines of a summer movie Blockbuster. Jessica is hot and young, and she fills out a skin tight suit very well, and she’s equally adept at filling theater seats with the requisite warm blooded young guys. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And beyond that I thought she gave a good performance. True to this movie’s version of Sue Storm.

And the changes work for the story they want to tell. I really enjoyed the movie, it had some real wit to it, courtesy of Chris Evans in many scenes, and the story progresses briskly, and the action rousing and larger than life.

It was a fun, fun movie. Tim Story rising to the challenge (and make no mistakes that’s what it was… a challenge). Producers looking at his abiliy to quintuple BARBERSHOPS’s budget of $12000000, give him a budget nearly ten times of that for this movie, expecting lightning to strike again.

The problem with that is… its unlikely. It is the Peter Principle in effect. A director who is brilliant at bringing in a movie at one budget and one genre, taken out of his comfort zone and asked to repeat his success.

It’s quite frankly from the get-go a recipe for lack of consumer confidence. It is also a recipe for failure.

But to Tim Story’s and the casts credit, they pull it off, manage to make money with the film, and tell a tale that I found quite entertaining.

The 2007 FF followup, again subject to scathing reviews, and while that makes less money still manages to break even via domestic sales alone.

And getting back to the 2005 FF, the cast is great, particularly Chris Evans.

Unfortunately for Tim Story I think the damage is done. Per the Peter Principle he was advanced to his level of (assumed)incompetance, so now his star is in definite decline.

Which is a shame because I think with FF he showed he was a filmmaker of some versatility and would have liked to see a third film with this cast. He would have been better off bulding his reputation gradually rather than following the dollar into potentially a career ending couple of films.

You see that particular dynamic more and more, of the disposable director. Producers instead of getting an established director for these films, hire these video directors and untried directors, that they can get cheap, and if necessary use as a scapegoat should the pic not make the return expected.

Tim Story has become the focus point for I think undeserved negative reaction, to a film that end of the day I found far more enjoyable than such ‘celebrated’ flicks as SIN CITY or BATMAN BEGINS.

Final Grade on FF: C+/B-. It’s a good natured movie, with real heart. Performed and crafted by people with love, passion, and a little bit of fun. And I’ll take a movie like that over the cynical, brutal, pessimistic fare, that too many people equate with quality.

Heart, baby. The whole world is crying out for movies with a little bit of heart and a lot of fun, and this movie has both in spades. And that counts for a lot with me. And the DVD offeres a great commentary with the cast. It’s one thing to have not seen the movie, but to have seen the movie and not been able to enjoy it and have fun with it, as it is, for what it is, says sad things about the viewer I think, rather than the viewed.

Recommended Flick!