Monday, September 10, 2012

Recommended: Super-Hero Film Reviews

I haven't done a Recommendation post in ages, and now feels like a good time to mix things up a bit... Surprises let you know I care, right?

I promote other reviewers a bit here and there, sure, but not often. Now, I'm boosting two for a second time. For expert opinions on super-hero movies, see the pair I backed for their work on the Batman franchise. They recapped the story of each movie, reviewing scenes, characters, and themes as they went. It was actually worth surfing a comic book-focused website to read their thoughts.

After they covered TDK, Dave Uzumeri and Chris Sims went on to Blade, then the Superman series. They're still going at it now, tho Dave had to sit out the current franchise - the X-Men series. I'm sure Dave will be back after his substitute and Sims finish X: O: Wolverine and X: First Class.

Part of the pleasure is their style: they alternate paragraphs, going back and forth in their points and with each other. Every review ends with three extra sections - High Points, Low Points, and Final Thoughts. It's a conversation between two friends, full of great jokes, digs at each other and (best of all) valid, smart, informed film criticism.
David: Again, just like with the Donner movies, so many individual parts [of Superman Returns] are so great. It's like a $500 Lego set put together by a one-year-old. All the individual pieces rule, and there are plans and instructions that could get you to a good movie, but instead they're all thrown together in the wrong configuration.
The other part is being using fun and film critique as a measure for mere action movies. These guys focus on smart flaws, admit when they're having fun, and make excellent points. They're not slaves to their love of comics, either. Check out the High Points section from Batman Forever:
Chris: And I have to confess that I love how over-the-top and shameless [Kidman's] character is in trying to f*** Batman. Like, it's so insane that I can't really hate it.

David: She's about as professional as a sixteen-year-old stoner working in the pet accessories section of Wal-Mart....

Chris: Any other high points?

David: Tommy Lee Jones played a pretty great TAS-era Joker, he was just completely in the wrong costume.

Chris: You're sure you want to be on record as saying that Tommy Lee Jones was good in this movie? I'm giving you a chance here, Uzi.

David: He's a great actor, he just didn't play Two-Face.
They're a bit unpredictable, too, with some opinions that you wouldn't expect. Sims and Uzi trashed 1987's well-loved Batman, quite badly, yet praised the atrocious Batman & Robin ; they said the latter was absurd and fun and had fewer thematic problems than Tim Burton's run on the series.

And the real shock? Dave and Chris somehow made their points so well that I can start to see what they're getting at, despite how much I hated that movie. B&R is a film that I found as repulsive as... oh, let's say Adam Sandler's Waterboy...

Another surprise: the reviews often have several typos, errors where they must've hit Cut & Paste twice, and awkward sentences. And yet none of it really matters, since you'll still understand what they're driving at  and they're so damn entertaining. I'm a little tough on professionals who make such mistakes, but the work is so strong.

Chris Sims and Dave Uzumeri tease each other, make obscure comics references I never look up, and discuss anything and everything under the sun. These are intelligent, well-rounded guys. These reviews are like MST3k in referring to old movies, famous events, or random novels/painters/etc. You're in clever, thorough hands.
David: [Superman Returns] even uses the same damn score. The ROI on the money they gave John Williams back in 1978 must be insane. They used it for four damn movies.

Chris: I think what we're getting at here is that this is not a very good film, and that it's bad in a very frustrating way. You can see how good it might've been as it all plays out, but instead you get a movie so awful that when I started watching it on my phone this week, Siri wouldn't talk to me for an hour. 
Each film is tackled in 2 (or 3) weekly installments, and the site usually publishes them on Mondays, after noon. If you get frustrated trying to find the reviews, look at Chris Sims' page on the site - all these super-hero entries go under his name. Links to the prior posts in each series can usually be found at the end of each entry.

I should note that their individual work is great, too. The best example: Chris' excellent article on why super-hero movies often turn non-lethal protagonists into killers. Generally, heroes don't kill unless they have to, but Burton's Batman run, among others, show us a champion who smiles when he ices someone. Sims neatly explained why movies run counter to the old stories.

David Uzumeri does less film-specific work, but if you want to read his thoughts on pop culture and/or comics, you should check out his articles on the CA site. This Canadian writer is very funny, and he's very good.

Super-hero movies shouldn't be anyone's favorite sub-genre; most aren't really deep enough, thematically, and it's not healthy to truly love mindless entertainment. And, sadly, most comic book films really do tend to be mindless entertainment. Not all of them can be Cronenberg's A History of Violence or Nolan's Batman Begins, right?

If you want food for thought on these movies, tho - real, serious analysis mixed in with tons of humor and smart observations - then I strongly recommend Uzumeri and Sims. I'm a fan of the pair, as they put some brains into a distraction that's usually intellect-free. I check in on Dave and Chris at least once a month, and I'm grateful for their contribution to film reviews...
David: It's astonishing. This is a widely mocked scene from this flick, and with very good reason. Superman spies on a family that includes his ex girlfriend, who he dumped and abandoned. This happened.

Chris: After that, Superman flies out to space and listens to things for a little bit, and I'm not sure if this is intentional on [Bryan] Singer's part or if we're just reading into it, but he definitely hears sirens and gunfire and babies crying, but doesn't move an inch until he hears the alarm from someone robbing a bank. Superman is all about the 1%, y'all.

David: I never picked up on that. Oh my God, he really has truly messed up priorities. This is another good action scene, though!

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