Film Review: Iron Man (2008)

Release Date: April 14th, 2008 (Sydney premiere)
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Written by: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Based on: Iron Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby
Music by: Ramin Djawadi
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau, Paul Bettany (voice), Samuel L. Jackson (cameo), Clark Gregg, Leslie Bibb, Tom Morello (cameo), Ghostface Killah (scene cut), Peter Billingsley (cameo)

Fairview Entertainment, Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, 126 Minutes

Review:

“[reading the newspaper] Iron Man. That’s kind of catchy. It’s got a nice ring to it. I mean it’s not technically accurate. The suit’s a gold titanium alloy, but it’s kind of provocative, the imagery anyway.” – Tony Stark

I decided that it’s time to go back and rewatch the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the beginning, as the world patiently waits for the release of Avengers: Infinity War in less than three months. It’s been a really long time since I’ve watched the Phase One films, so I figured I’d start with the first, a film that I can’t believe is a decade old already. Man, time flies.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t watched the Phase One stuff in so long, but I truly forgot how great the original Iron Man is. It’s definitely the best of the Iron Man films and much better than most of the Phase Two and Phase Three movies. It was smaller, simpler and actually told a story instead of being a dozen big action sequences strung together by a fragile plot thread.

This is the origin story of Iron Man and really Tony Stark, even though some of the sequels to this flesh out his backstory more. This doesn’t get too bogged down in the origin stuff though, as it does a great job of focusing on the main story and moving forward. Plus, that post credits scene sets up what’s to come with the formation of the Avengers and a hint at something much larger than just Stark’s world. In fact, Nick Fury even states that Stark isn’t the first superhero, alluding to Captain America and possibly even Captain Marvel, who ten years later, still hasn’t gotten her movie.

Iron Man is just so well acted, well constructed and Jon Favreau did a fine job directing it, even though he got to play a role in it and other Iron Man-related films after this one.

This is small in comparison to the Marvel films that would come later but I think that’s why I like it so much. It’s a bit more grounded in reality, emotion and something actually genuine.

Robert Downey Jr. is the perfect Tony Stark but we all know that by this point. It’s like he was born to play the role and everything else before this, as great as many of his films were, was just preparation for this role, the biggest thing he’s ever been a part of.

Jeff Bridges was fantastic as the first ever Marvel Cinematic Universe villain. He was a powerful and charismatic choice and still, better than most of the other villains that have come and gone. Granted, other than less than a handful of characters, Marvel has had an issue with managing their bad guys in these pictures.

This was a perfect start to the larger Avengers universe. I think we knew how good this was, at the time, but seeing it now, with so many other Marvel movies having come out after it, helps put into perspective how good this motion picture was.

TV Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Season 1 (1985)

Also known as: Action Force (UK)
Release Date: September 16th, 1985 – December 13th, 1985
Directed by: John Gibbs, Terry Lennon
Written by: various
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast (voices): Michael Bell, Arthur Burghardt, Corey Burton, William Callaway, Brian Cummings, Dick Gautier, Ed Gilbert, Chris Latta, Morgan Lofting, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, Bob Remus, B.J. Ward

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, Claster Television, 55 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“As of now, your little project is deader than disco! Hmmm… Deader than disco… I like that… I would have made a great stand-up comedian.” – Cobra Commander

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is the original G.I. Joe cartoon series that ran from 1983-1986. It actually became a full series in 1985, after two separate five-part miniseries in 1983 and 1984. It was created as a big marketing vehicle for Hasbro’s G.I. Joe toy line. It also paved the way for a similar series, The Transformers in 1984. Both of these Hasbro toy franchises followed the same marketing path and also had their shows created by Marvel-SunBow. Both also had ongoing comic book series produced by Marvel.

I already reviewed the three miniseries events that lead to this regular ongoing series. However, I wanted to review just season one here, as there were a lot of big changes between seasons one and two. I will follow up with a season two review in the near future.

G.I. Joe has had several television series come and go throughout the years but none are even as close to the greatness of the original. This series, along with Transformers, created a megafranchise that was only rivaled by Star Wars, at the time.

The series created a lot of heroes and villains that were all cool and still very memorable. Cobra was, and still is, the coolest villain organization in all of fiction. G.I. Joe were the coolest heroes. As a kid who always sided with the baddies, it was hard not to love the good guys too. This was an animated show with surprisingly good character development.

The characters, for a cartoon about toys, had really good backstories and unique personalities. The stories about Shipwreck were always phenomenal. The show could tap into horrific things but serve it in a way that was okay for kids to handle. It took a lot of risks, offered up a lot of serious lessons but did it in a way that was so cool, at that age, you didn’t realize you were being taught anything. It was a perfect package of badass, cool and educational.

The art was top notch for the mid ’80s. The tone of the show was always adventurous. It was like someone took the best of James Bond, the best of The Avengers, mixed it together and gave it a military twist. G.I. Joe are mortal men without any real powers but they are superheroes. Cobra is essentially a much cooler version of SPECTRE or Hydra.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is still the best version of G.I. Joe ever created in animation form. I’m still waiting for a movie or a series that gets it because nothing since has even come close.

Film Review: The Black Panther (2018)

Release Date: January 29th, 2018 (Dolby Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Written by: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole
Based on: Black Panther by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Ludwig Göransson
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Sebastian Stan (cameo)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 147 Minutes

Review:

“The world is changing. Soon there will only be the conquered and the conquerors. You are a good man, with a good heart. And it’s hard for a good man to be a king.” – King T’Chaka

*There be spoilers here!

The world around me turned Black Panther into a political and social film. I wanted to go into it and just enjoy it for what it is, whether the end result was good or bad. But you’ve got Hollywood and and critics pimping it out like its the greatest superhero film of all-time. While that happens almost every time a new Marvel movie comes out, there was the SJW twist this time, just as there was with Wonder Woman. On the flip side of that, there were the anti-SJW whiners who were trying to trash the film before seeing it and even going as far as to sabotage ratings and reviews on interactive movie websites.

I just wanted to see this movie and judge it on its own merits. I had to shut out the outside world (thankfully I deactivated my Facebook long ago) and I had to walk into the theater, sit down and experience this film for myself and without prejudice, bias or some sort of white male guilt weighing heavy on my brain because the media wants to constantly remind me what I’m responsible for throughout history.

All bullshit aside, I thought Black Panther was pretty damn good. Now I didn’t like it as much as the last Thor movie or as much as those Guardians of the Galaxy pictures, but this is certainly one of the best Marvel movies to take place on Earth. Granted, most of this takes place in the fictional and fantastical nation of Wakanda but it is very much a movie about our home planet.

What makes Black Panther so interesting and probably really gratifying and inspirational for black people, is that it shows black people being at the forefront of trying to fix the world’s problems. It shows that they’ve always had something of extreme value to offer but because of the state of the rest of the world, have withheld it and kept it safe. Sure, it’s metaphor, but it’s an effective metaphor and has a deeper meaning than just being a plot device created by Marvel Comics decades ago.

I have been a massive fan of Chadwick Boseman since I saw him play Jackie Robinson in the grossly underappreciated 42. Seeing him get to star in a film directed by Ryan Coogler, alongside Coogler’s go-to guy Michael B. Jordan, was something I couldn’t pass up, regardless of what this movie was about. And luckily, for us, Boseman and Jordan have good chemistry and both actors carry each other to a higher level.

The philosophical differences between Boseman’s Black Panther and Jordan’s Killmonger are both clearly understood and, as a viewer, you respect Panther’s vision of keeping the peace but it is hard to not get swept into the emotion and justice Killmonger feels he needs to enact. Part of me actually hoped that the two would fight it out and would both survive and diplomatically find a solution together. I mean, they’re long lost cousins and it was obvious Killmonger was reconsidering his iron clad stance in those final moments, where a part of him learned to love his true king and cousin.

The rest of the cast is exceptional, especially the three main ladies.

It was nice seeing Lupita Nyong’o playing a human being and not a motion capture character. While I enjoyed her work in Star Wars and The Jungle Book, I haven’t seen her in much else. It was nice being able to feel connected to her and her performance in a more organic way. Danai Gurira, who I really only know from The Walking Dead, finally got a role that allowed her to break free from just being known as sword-wielding badass Michonne. Letitia Wright was probably my favorite person in the film, overall. She played the Panther’s sister, was a scientist and also got into the thick of it and proved that she is far from being just some damsel in distress; she is a friggin’ warrior.

The rest of the cast is comprised of Martin Freeman, playing the same role he did in Captain America: Civil War, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and Daniel Kaluuya, in his first role since Get Out. Newcomer Winston Duke was great as Panther’s rival, M’Baku. He is a warrior king from the mountains who challenges Panther for the throne but ultimately, is instrumental in helping Black Panther save Wakanda.

It was really cool seeing Andy Serkis return as the villain Klaw, who was briefly seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s also always fun to see Serkis play a character that is him, in the flesh. He’s synonymous with motion capture characters so we don’t often get to see his actual face in a big blockbuster film. He was superb as Ulysses Klaue a.k.a. Klaw. His personality was infectious and insane. In all honesty, Marvel has had a hard time of creating great villains but Serkis’ Klaw is now one of my favorites. I just wish Marvel would stop killing all the baddies because we’ll never get a Masters of Evil story that way.

As far as the film’s look, it is pristine and beautiful. Wakanda is one of the most enchanting places in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The special effects and cinematography are spectacular and there isn’t a shot in the film that doesn’t look like it wasn’t meticulously crafted.

Black Panther was a film that came in with a lot of hype and a lot of political and social concerns. Getting beyond that and staring into its core, it is a fine film, crafted by a solid, up and coming director who has already accomplished a lot with only three pictures under his belt. I hope that Coogler returns for the eventual sequel.

Film Review: G.I. Joe: The Pyramid of Darkness (1985)

Also known as: The Further Adventures of G.I. Joe
Release Date: September 16th, 1985 – September 20th, 1985 (first run syndication, 5 parts)
Directed by: John Gibbs, Terry Lennon
Written by: Ron Friedman
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas, Rob Walsh
Cast (voices): Michael Bell, Arthur Burghardt, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, B.J. Ward, Frank Welker, Christopher Collins, Zack Hoffman, Kene Holiday, Neil Ross, Keone Young, Corey Burton, John Hostetter, Bill Morey, Lee Weaver, Pat Fraley, Hal Rayle, Will Ryan, Ketty Lester, François Chau, Morgan Lofting

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, 5 Episodes (first run syndication), 22 Minutes (per episode), 100 Minutes (movie cut)

Review:

“Let’s reconnoiter, Snake Eyes. Try not to attract attention… Sure. Who’d notice a wet sailor with a parrot and a silent masked man with a timber wolf.” – Shipwreck

Like the two five-part miniseries events before it, G.I. Joe: The Pyramid of Darkness was made to be combined into a feature length film for VHS release and for weekend replays. Also, this was the first five episodes of the regular G.I. Joe television show. This feels like the third part of a trilogy with the two miniseries releases before it but it is also the start of a much larger G.I. Joe television run. This would also be the last five-part miniseries until the start of season two, which would kickoff with Arise, Serpentor, Arise!

The Pyramid of Darkness really ups the ante. We have all the major Cobra officers from the previous two miniseries but we now get introduced to my favorite fictional twins of all-time Tomax and Xamot, the Crimson Guard commanders. They also run Extensive Enterprises as a corporate front for Cobra and they basically function as Cobra’s CFOs.

We also get the debut of several new members of G.I. Joe. Three of the coolest characters Alpine, Bazooka and Quick Kick have a pretty big spot in the story. In fact, I like their chemistry as a group and they are a good comedic addition to the show.

Like the other miniseries before this, Cobra has a superweapon. In this one, it is the Pyramid of Darkness. The way this one functions is a lot more interesting and cooler than the previous two superweapons. Basically, Cobra positions four giant black cubes around the Earth. They also send the Dreadnoks to space to overtake a G.I. Joe space station, which is needed to link the four cubes. Once all five points are secured and operational, the top half of the Earth is covered by an electric pyramid that works like an EMP, killing the electrical power of anything within its massive reach. This gives Cobra a huge advantage in world domination. The Joes have to then battle it out with Cobra in exotic and dangerous locations once again.

The Dreadnoks in space element is really cool, especially when their genetically engineered beasts, the Fatal Fluffies, grow to monstrous proportions. I actually wished that the Fluffies would have returned to the show and also had toys, back when I was a kid. With Duke on the space station, this makes the third time in three stories that he is a Cobra captive. Really, Duke? Get it together, bro! You’re the leader of G.I. Joe until General Hawk comes along in season two.

I also wanted to mention the character of Satin. She was a pop singer that worked the Cobra nightclub circuit. Really though, she was working her way into the organization because her father was framed by Cobra for crimes he didn’t commit, which ruined his life. Satin works as an ally to Shipwreck and Snake Eyes and was instrumental to the story, yet we never see her again after this.

The Pyramid of Darkness is my favorite story of the Marvel/Sunbow G.I. Joe universe. Actually, it’s my favorite Joe story, period. Well, not counting Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe comic books because that dude wrote some amazing shit.

Film Review: G.I. Joe: The Revenge of Cobra (1984)

Release Date: September 10th, 1984 – September 14th, 1984 (first run syndication, 5 parts)
Directed by: Dan Thompson
Written by: Ron Friedman
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast (voices): Michael Bell, Gregg Berger, Arthur Burghardt, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, B.J. Ward, Frank Welker, Christopher Collins, Zack Hoffman, Kene Holiday, Neil Ross, Will Ryan, Buster Jones, Keone Young

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, 5 Episodes (first run syndication), 21 Minutes (per episode), 98 Minutes (movie cut)

Review:

“Remember, Cobra’s a snake, and “snake” is “sneak” spelled sideways.” – Flint

After the huge success that was the miniseries G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Hasbro commissioned Sunbow to follow it up with this miniseries, which also was released in feature film length for home video and weekend replays.

The Revenge of Cobra is everything that was great about A Real American Hero but with even more cool stuff added into it. This massive G.I. Joe story has a special place in my heart because it was the debut of the Dreadnoks, my favorite branch within the Cobra organization. It also introduced Cobra members Storm Shadow, Firefly, Scrap-Iron and some others. On the G.I. Joe side we got some other awesome debuts: Flint, Mutt & Junkyard, Shipwreck, Lady Jaye, Roadblock, Spirit, Cutter and more. I also realized that G.I. Joe leader Duke spent most of his time in these first two film length stories as a prisoner of Cobra. I guess I never realized he spent more time as a P.O.W. than a hero in the earliest stories.

In this massive tale, Cobra once again has a super weapon. This time the weapon is the Weather Dominator. At one point, it gets split into three parts, which all end up in different locations around the world. This is sort of a rehash of the first G.I. Joe story, as the Joes and Cobra race against one another for three MacGuffins located in dangerous exotic locations. But that’s not a bad thing, as these situations made for the best G.I. Joe stories.

The highlight of this story is the big battle at the derelict carnival that the Dreadnoks call home. The Dreadnoks are holding the last MacGuffin ransom, waiting to see who bids highest for it between G.I. Joe and Cobra. We get a three-way battle at the carnival that is pretty friggin’ glorious. This then segues into the big finale that sees G.I. Joe raid Cobra’s desert fortress.

While the first miniseries was a great kickoff to what would be a long running series, The Revenge of Cobra is where the show finds its stride and style.

Film Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Debut Miniseries (1983)

Also known as: Action Force (UK), G.I. Joe: The M.A.S.S. Device (alternate VHS title)
Release Date: September 12th, 1983 – September 16th, 1983 (first run syndication, 5 parts)
Directed by: Dan Thompson
Written by: Ron Friedman
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast (voices): Michael Bell, Arthur Burghardt, Corey Burton, William Callaway, Brian Cummings, Dick Gautier, Ed Gilbert, Chris Latta, Morgan Lofting, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, Bob Remus, B.J. Ward, Frank Welker, Peter Cullen

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, 5 Episodes (first run syndication), 21 Minutes (per episode), 97 Minutes (movie cut)

Review:

“Nobody’s perfect.” – Breaker, “No. But we do okay.” – Duke

This review isn’t for the G.I. Joe cartoon series as a whole. I wanted to review the early miniseries stories as their own bodies of work, as each was five episodes long but edited into movies for home video release and for two hour long weekend broadcasts on television.

This is the first of those miniseries releases and the story that popularized the reinvented G.I. Joe franchise in the ’80s. Some know this as The M.A.S.S. Device, as it was marketed that way on VHS and to differentiate it from the long-running cartoon that shared the name G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

In this inaugural chapter of the modernized G.I. Joe mythos, we meet everyone for the first time. On the G.I. Joe side there is Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Stalker, Gung Ho, Breaker, Clutch, Cover Girl, Snow Job (I still can’t believe that was his name) and a few others. On the Cobra side we are introduced to four of the big leaders: Cobra Commander, Destro, the Baroness and Major Blood.

We also get introduced to the concept of the show and it’s heavy emphasis on science fiction and Cobra’s love of super weapons.

In the ’80s, probably due to the popularity of the Death Star from Star Wars and all the classic James Bond movies, there was always a need for super weapons. Cobra probably had more than any other fictional organization in history. Here, the super weapon is the M.A.S.S. Device, which require three special elements to operate. When operational, it can beam massive things to other locations or just straight up destroy them with an energy blast. Cobra actually does a weapons test, as a warning to the world, where we see them beam a nation’s entire army into their clutches, where they are captured.

G.I. Joe builds their own version of the device in an effort to combat Cobra. Most of the story is about the race between G.I. Joe and Cobra to collect the three rare elements from incredibly dangerous locations around the world.

For the time, the animation was top notch. Compared to what else was out at the time in the United States, this was well above its competition. Alongside Transformers, also produced by the same studio, G.I. Joe actually moved kids minds away from other toy franchises and locked them in place to Hasbro’s benefit. Today, G.I. Joe and Transformers are still massive franchises even if the live action movies leave a lot to be desired.

This was a really good kickoff to the modernized G.I. Joe franchise and actually, the cartoon universe improved with each new miniseries and eventually peaked with a full show. Things would go downhill in later eras but this was the start of a few years of stupendous G.I. Joe animated material.

Top 50 DC and Marvel Character Clones

*written in 2014.

Over at io9, they have been discussing which DC Comics and Marvel characters are virtually just different versions of themselves. Being that this is something I’ve debated with friends since the late ’80s, I figured I’d rank my favorites.

1. Captain Marvel/Captain Marvel
2. Bruce Wayne/Tony Stark
3. Batman/Moon Knight
4. Darkseid/Thanos
5. Deathstroke/Dead Pool
6. Superman/Sentry
7. Lex Luthor/The Kingpin
8. Aquaman/Namor the Sub-Mariner
9. The Flash/Quicksilver
10. Green Lantern/Nova
11. Green Arrow/Hawkeye
12. Catwoman/Black Cat
13. Hawkman/Angel (or Archangel)
14. Black Canary/Black Widow
15. Dr. Fate/Dr. Strange
16. Swamp Thing/Man-Thing
17. Winter Solider (Bucky Barnes)/Red Hood (Jason Todd a.k.a. Robin II)
18. Doom Patrol/X-Men
19. The Atom/Ant-Man
20. The Shi’ar Imperial Guard/Legion of Super-Heroes
21. Red Tornado/Vision
22. Nightwing/Daredevil
23. Wonder Woman/Thor
24. Clayface/Sandman
25. Cyborg/Deathlok
26. Perry White/J. Jonah Jameson
27. The Spectre/The Living Tribunal
28. Saturn Girl/Jean Grey
29. Cassandra Cain/X-23
30. The Vigilante/The Punisher
31. Batman Beyond/Spider-Man 2099
32. Ra’s Al Ghul/The Mandarin
33. Killer Croc/The Lizard
34. Deadshot/Bullseye
35. Plastic Man/Mr. Fantastic
36. Lady Shiva/Elektra
37. Bumblebee/The Wasp
38. Captain Boomerang/Boomerang
39. Solomon Grundy/Grey Hulk
40. Metallo/Ultron
41. Mr. Mxyzptlk/Impossible Man
42. Carny/Arcade
43. Martian Manhunter/Skrullian Skymaster
44. Lord Havok/Doctor Doom
45. Dreamslayer/Dormammu
46. John Constantine/Pete Wisdom
47. Suicide Squad/The Thunderbolts
48. Gorgon/Doctor Octopus
49. Scarecrow/Mr. Fear
50. Detective Chimp/Howard the Duck