Friday, May 2, 2008

Reviewed: The "Iron Man" Previews

There is, no doubt, a glut of reviews for "Iron Man" being posted across the internet today. I have opted to not review it, only to simply say that you should see it. See it, or be kicked in the nuts. Also, it featured the best Stan Lee cameo of any of the comic book films.

Yes.

There were five trailers before Iron Man, many of them brand new trailer for highly anticipated summer films. I will review them instead.

The Love Guru (a.k.a. Mike Myers isn't Dead, We Promise) - Myers has been MIA. Oh, sure, there was that dismal third installment in the Shrek series, but we haven't seen him in a major live action movie since Austin Powers 3 oh so many moons ago (unless you count that cinematic abortion of a children's movie "The Cat in the Hat". Which I don't. And even then, he was under 93 lbs of make-up). So now he's back. And he's brought Mini-Me with him. And has an incredible beard. Yay.

The good news is that the damned thing actually looks pretty funny. Myers plays a man raised in India who grew up to be the definitive authority on romance. The trailer is a wealth of site gags, from an elephant in a pet carrier to a Vern Troyer sized office to a digitally-rendered 10-year-old with a Mike Myers head... it goes on and on. The bad news is that this is a Mike Myers vehicle, and things can get a little out of hand. He has this annoying tendency to tell the same joke four or five times at a go. Odds are, the sequel to this has already been green-lit (maybe it's called "The Love Guru Saves Christmas" or "All You Needs is Love... Guru") and then we watch which MM pattern it follows. Will it go the way of Shrek and Austin Powers, producing a sequel that's even better than the original before completely dropping the ball with the third installment? Or will it pull a Wayne's World and get straight to the #2 with #2?

Prediction: worth seeing.

You Don't Mess with the Zohan (a.k.a. Adam Sandler isn't dead Either, but we Won't Swear to It) - Another promising-looking comedy featuring a familiar face with some unfamiliar facial hair. In this one, Sandler plays an Israeli counter-terrorist paramilitary specialist who decides to move to the States to become a hair stylist. Until his past catches up with him... What can we say? If the execution is half as funny as the premise, it should be in good shape. And Adam Sandler certainly has the capacity for humor, assuming his handlers can keep him under control. Sandler sort of reminds me of Jim Carrey. Both are good actors who can be incredibly funny at times but will take things completely over the top if you let them. And it's hard to laugh at someone when you're embarrassed for them.

So we'll see. Character-acting is definitely something we more naturally associate with people like, well, Mike Myers, but this may be a great role for Sandler. This may end up being his Zoolander. On the other hand, the foot joke in the trailer was moderately stupid, and this is the same comic team (Adam Sandler starring with Dennis Dugan directing) that brought you "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry".

Prediction: worth renting... probably.

The Dark Knight (a.k.a. Batman Begins 2 a.k.a. Batman Continues) - This is the second full-length trailer for what is possibly the most yearned-for movie of the summer. The trailer will no doubt be given the frame-by-frame analysis by fans after it premiers online Sunday, but the gist of this trailer is to introduce us to Harvey Dent, the Joker having been a major focus of the previous trailer. We hear a lot of Dent dialogue, see him with his face being pushed into a puddle of... something... which may be part of his transformation into Two-Face.

Chris Nolan's directing is generally superb, and with the last Batman he did a fabulous job of naturalizing the source material and humanizing the characters. I'm sure the end product will be great, but there are a couple of hurdles to overcome. Unlike Batman Begins, The Dark Knight will feature two villains who've both appeared on film in the last twenty years, and who were originally portrayed by A-list actors. Granted, Tommy Lee Jones' ham-fisted Two-Face impersonation won't be much to trump. The Joker a la "Jack" is another animal entirely. Nicholson's performance will no doubt be the bar by which this film is measured. And then there's the whole Heath-Ledger-being-dead thing. While it seems to have taken some of the wind out of the viral campaign, it may be good for the movie in the long run. This one is supposed to take even a darker tone than its predecessor, and the ghost of Ledger may give the film the same kind of added mystique that propelled The Crow to cult popularity in the 90's.

Prediction: ass-kick-er-oo.

The Incredible Hulk (a.k.a. Pay No Attention to that Other Hulk Movie) - I can't help but wonder if the epic battle at the end of this film will be a symbol for the uphill battle this film will have to make to get some traction in the theaters. Is it The Incredible Hulk v The-Abomination-as-played-by-Tim-Roth, or The Incredible Hulk v That-Abomination-Ang-Lee-directed? After only 5 years, this not-quite-sequel isn't quite making it out of the shadow of that uncharacteristically bad film "The Hulk". While it doesn't appear to be re-telling the origin story, it is basically a series re-boot, since they've replaced the entire cast and toned the monster's shade down from "candy-apple" to a more filmic "sewer-water" hue.

While there is nothing to indicate explicitly that this hulk is any more or less "credible" than the other hulk, it seems to have learned from past mistakes. There is less over-bearing plot and lots of tank-ripping action and monster-coolness. And that's really all we want. I do, however, take a slight issue with Edward Norton. He just seems mis-cast. And the fact that he also co-wrote the screenplay leads me to wonder if this isn't a little bit of a vanity project. And why does his chin-scruff evaporate when he becomes the monster? I think a grizzled, lightly-bearded Hulk could be interesting. Or perhaps not. Actually, I'm trying to think of anything that might make the character of the hulk interesting--and I'm coming up blank. And that may be the second-largest hurdle for this film to overcome. Not only must it deal with the fact that Hulk fans have already been pissed on by their movie hero, but it's titular character is defined by his one-dimensionality. The Hulk is a force of nature, not a tragic hero. You wouldn't make a movie based on a tornado, would you?

Wait.

Prediction: good, but not great, and it will only fare modestly at the box office

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (a.k.a. Indy 4, Liverpool 3) - I trust Steven Spielberg to make a good movie more than I trust George Lucas to shit all over his beloved franchises. And that's why I'll be seeing this one the day it opens. I'm not worried. It will be great. What could go wrong with Indiana Jones? Other than the Temple of Doom, I mean. Okay, while I trust it to be a very good movie, I have some reservations:

First, 4th films in franchises do not usually turn out well, especially when movie 4 is a money-maker tacked onto a perfectly good trilogy years later. See Star Wars. See also Die Hard. See also Star Wars. Then there's the fact that effects technology has changed a great deal in a very short while since Indy 3. This gives you the opportunity, if not the obligation, to include grand cinescaping effects shots that simultaneously betray the vibe of the first movies and look really fake by comparison. See Jurassic Park 3. See also Star Wars.

In fact, I could sum up most of my list of "Things That Could Go Wrong with Indy 4" by pointing at a list of "Things That Did Go Wrong with the Star Wars Prequels". And note that I don't include Shia LeBoufe on my list. I think he'll do just fine. And it's worth noting that this chapter in the Indy series has actually been in development since 1989. And they've acknowledged that the character has aged by placing this film 20 years after the previous installments, so they've dodged a few of the bullets that would normally get me nervous about a sequel. And I'm ever so glad that they got away from Nazis as bad guys... but why did they have to replace them with the Russians?

Whatever. The historical pantheon of traditional Hollywood villain archetypes is populated by Nazis, Russians, Indians, black people, aliens, and the occasional ambiguous European. Still... argh. This post has gotten long and that's a rant for another time, so I'll wrap this up by saying that Indy 4 will be an entertaining film and it will sell more tickets than a tent-revival hosted by God himself.

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