Tagged: Nick Fury

Box Office Democracy: The Hitman’s Bodyguard


I have to imagine production of The Hitman’s Bodyguard started with director Patrick Hughes gathering the whole cast together and giving them some kind of speech along the lines of “Look, we all know this script is a piece of garbage but if we pull together we can elevate it way past tolerable” and then there was some big cheer and they ran out to the set like a sports movie.  It’s a laughable script that doesn’t hold together under the smallest bit of scrutiny, but the cast absolutely crushes it.  It’s the best bad movie I’ve seen all year and I don’t mean that as faint praise.  The world is full of people doing average work with average material but seeing fantastic work come from a wretched foundation is something special.  This is a diamond found in a coal mine.

The chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson is basically driving the whole movie.  We’re getting a Deadpool-lite version of Reynolds thick with meta commentary on the events of the movie and sort of action movie in general.  This plays well with the standard action-comedy version of Jackson we’ve been seeing since Die Hard with a Vengeance.  This interplay drives the whole movie dragging a murky nonsensical plot and a seemingly endless numbers of big pauses for jokes that just aren’t that funny.  Everything that’s Reynolds and Jackson bickering is great, every scene that has Selma Hayek in it is good, everything else is pretty bad.

The action in the movie is good enough, but it feels more like a greatest hits compilation than any kind of new composition.  The best sequence in the film is one where Jackson is walking through a Dutch square seemingly oblivious to potential attackers while Reynolds stealthily takes them down.  It’s a good sequence but it feels an awful lot like a knock-off of the Waterloo Station sequence in The Bourne Supremacy and while it’s 10 years later feels a bit slower.  There’s also a reasonably thrilling chase through a canal with Jackson in a boat being chased by bad guys in SUVs while Reynolds on a motorcycle harasses them.  It’s a nice idea salad mixing bits from a number of other movies.  Maybe greatest hits is too reductive, more like a remix of some old favorites, you ought bop your head a few times but odds are you’ll go back to the original.

Most of the story of The Hitman’s Bodyguard is just low-level stupid.  You know, stuff like trial scenes that were written by someone who has only experienced the legal system from their drunk friend describing Law & Order episodes to them.  But then toward the end they try to pretend like there’s some big moral quandary between a life spent protecting terrible people versus a life of killing bad people for money.  For one, I don’t believe that you can make a great living as a contract killer just sitting around and waiting for bad people to need killing that badly.  Also, people who decide to hire assassins to deal with their problems aren’t people who are on the highest of high grounds to start with.  It’s not an interesting moral quandary, and it directly detracts from the stuff that’s actually entertaining in the movie.  Wikipedia says that when this script was named to The Black List it was a drama— maybe this is an artifact from those days, but it has no place in this movie. (I also can’t imagine this was a better movie as a drama.  I’m bored just thinking about it.)

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is good because you get to see Deadpool interact with Nick Fury.  They had to file off all the serial numbers, superpowers, and sci-fi gadgets— but that’s what it is.  We’ll never get the actual pairing because of all the various rights headaches (and honestly, what would need to be happening in the MCU for it to even happen) but we can get it here stitched on to a wretched story about the trial of a dictator who commands an army of mercenaries while imprisoned at The Hague.  Come for the cast, stay for the cast, leave with a smile on your face, pick it on Netflix 18 months from now, never think about it after that.

Mike Gold: The Wrong Captain America

Captain America StatueYesterday, I awoke to the news that the should-be city of Brooklyn was honoring the 75th anniversary of Captain America with a 13-foot tall bronze statue, to be planted in Prospect Park next month after visiting the San Diego Comic Con. “Pretty cool,” I said to our cats, who I believe responded with “Yeah? Does he have a pro pass?”

Then I saw the sketch. In case you haven’t seen it, look to the left.

That is not Captain America. That’s the guy who starred in the past several movie adaptations. That one hasn’t been around for 75 years, but he has been around for over five billion dollars.

I really hate it when the media adaptations are conflated with the “real” thing. The biggest event in the history of comic books should have been the marriage of Lois Lane and Superman. Instead, it was just another episode of Lois and Clark – an afterthought that was unceremoniously (comparatively speaking) ported over to the comic book. Getting rid of that fiasco actually justified one of DC’s many, many reboots.

Not all stories work out, no matter what the medium. Movies and teevee adaptations are made for their times. This is understandable when a $200 million budget is on the line. I don’t get angry when they “get it wrong” as long as the end result is an entertaining experience. That’s why it’s called an adaptation. But I do get concerned when the adaptation becomes canonical.

There’s a reason why Captain America has lasted 75 years (admittedly, with a couple years off during the 1950s and 1960s). There’s a reason why Superman and Batman have lasted almost 80 years each. Quite frankly, there’s a reason why the reboots of Doctor Who and James Bond worked so well: both were extremely faithful to the source material. Neither character became somebody or something else. Their re-creators understood what made those characters work.

Andy GumpThat’s why I feel it was a mistake for Marvel Comics to replace the Lee and Kirby version of Nick Fury with the Samuel L. Jackson version in their mainstream comics universe. I’m certainly a very strong advocate for diversity in comics. That’s why I asked Joe Corallo to do a weekly column here at ComicMix covering that very issue. But SHIELD is an organization that employs about a zillion people and presumably is a diverse place; coming up with another Nick Fury to track the movies wasn’t necessary.

Statues are likely to last a long while. There’s still a statue of Andy Gump in downtown Lake Geneva Wisconsin – in fact, when some drunken idiot smashed it to pieces in 1967, it was replaced with another. Andy starred in a popular newspaper comic strip called (of course) The Gumps. It ended in 1959 and today very few people know of either the strip or the character. But that statue lives on. It is nice to think it inspires some to Google the name and learn a thing or two about comics history.

Captain America? The movies will be with us in one form or another pretty much forever. The comic book? Sad to say, that’s somewhat less likely – but, clearly, over the course of time more people will know Cap from those movies than from the comics.

I sure hope they get to meet the real guy.

Tweeks: Experience The Marvel Experience

TweeksMEXthumbnailLast week, we went to The Marvel Experience during its stop in San Diego.  Taking place in seven large domes, visitors become S.H.I.E.L.D recruits who undergo training in order to fight alongside the Avengers against Hydra in a final showdown. It reminded us of a Marvel themed amusement park, but is it worth the ticket price (ranging from $24.50 to $34.50) when it comes your city?  Watch our review to find out.

Mindy Newell: EW Does SDCC

Nick Fury

My geek overdrive continues to overwhelm me. But I’m not the only one.

Less than a week away from this year’s San Diego ComicCon (which opens its doors this Thursday, July 24th, and closes them on Sunday, July 27th) Entertainment Weekly joins the national geek fest that is summertime with a bang-up double-size issue featuring a cover shot of Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man and Chris Evans as Captain America with Ultron looming behind them. The issue is a stuffed-to-the-gills San Diego Comic Con preview…

And I read every single page. Including the adverts.

Now I know how those fans at the 1976 SDCC felt when Charles Lippincott (then head of Lucasfilm’s marketing, advertising and publicity department) showed some of the first production slides of Star Wars, and (writer) Roy Thomas and (artist) Howard Chaykin previewed their Marvel Comics adaptation of the film, because the cover story,an “exclusive first look” at Avengers: Age Of Ulton, does an admirable job of leaking just enough info to make me want to go out and see the move right now – only, goddamn!, it’s not due to hit the theatres for a frakking ten months! (May 1, 2015, which makes it nine months and 12 days, to be exact, and if I counted right.)

That’s incredibly unfair, EW!

By the way, that Star Wars teaser was the beginning of SDCC becoming the first exit ramp on the expressway to marketing love and box office bonanzas, for better or for worse. Most comics fans believing it was for worse, as SDCC has increasingly become more and more about film and television and less and less about the four-color world.

Along with articles on upcoming films, small and large (The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies; Air; Mad Max; Fury Road; Horns) and television shows – which Mike Gold did a wonderful job of discussing here. Although you missed Outlander, Mike, an adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s eight-volume (so far, according to EW) saga which successfully – based on its millions plus fan base and its mega-profitability for the author and her publisher – blends the genres of romance and science fiction, and which Battlestar: Galactica rebooter Ronald D. Moore is exec-producing for cable channel Starz. It premieres this summer on Saturday, August 9th, although you can stream the first episode on the channel’s website, starting on August 2nd

Excuse me. I got diverted… to paraphrase Peter David.

A nice surprise in the issue is a piece about Jim Steranko. Now a lot of you may be to young to remember Mr. Steranko, but many, many professionals and fans say that it was his work on Nick Fury: Agent Of Shield in the ‘60s (that decade of the Beatles, Andy Warhol, “tuning in, dropping out, and turning on,” the pill, Vietnam, burning bras, the Chicago Democratic Convention… that decade of social revolution) which bumped up comics from pulp rags to line the birdcage with to a new American literary and artistic medium.

Me, I was too young to understand just how revolutionary Mr. Steranko’s work was, but it definitely sunk into the deeper reaches of my pre-adolescent psyche, influencing my (much) later work in the field, i.e., Mr. Steranko was – and is – an individual in the very best (and maybe sometimes the very worse) sense of the word, “travelling to the beat of a different drum,” as Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys sang in 1967. (Here’s a question for you music trivia buffs out there. Who wrote “Different Drum?”*)

There’s also an oral history of The Terminator, which is interesting, but a little sycophantic, IMHO, although in fairness these types of interviews usually are, and also because I’m not really a fan of Mr. Cameron’s, who has become a Hollywood financial powerhouse and player despite the constant charges of plagiarism leveled against him. Notably Avatar, but also Titanic and the above-mentioned Terminator.

Don’t get me wrong. I love his Titanic. It’s compelling and historically pretty damn accurate. But many film aficionados, including director and writer Peter Bogdanovich, noted the *ahem* similarity between Cameron’s 1997 film and History Is Made At Night, a 1937 film by Walter Wanger, directed by Frank Borzage, which tells the story of a love triangle between a financial magnate (Colin Clive), his beautiful (and unhappy) wife (Jean Arthur) and a French headwaiter (Charles Boyer). Just where do Jean and Charles meet? On an ocean liner. On her maiden voyage. And guess what? The ship hits an iceberg.

And I love Terminator. But have you ever sat through the credits and seen the acknowledgement to Harlan Ellison? Do you know why? Mr. Ellison filed a suit that complained that elements of the film were sourced from two episodes of The Outer Limits that Mr. Ellison wrote, “Soldier,” and “Demon with a Glass Hand.” Hemdale, Terminator’s production company, and Orion Pictures, its distributor, settled out of court with Mr. Ellison. Part of the settlement included that film credit.

You’d have to ask Bob Ingersoll, who writes The Law Is An Ass column here at ComicMix, about this, but it’s always indicated some degree of guilt to me. Meaning that it’s not worth the hassle and the mucho dinero and time to the defendant to fight a charge that contains enough truth in it that the defendant could conceivably lose.

I wouldn’t do it.

I’d give the money and run.

Wouldn’t you?

*Mike Nesmith of The Monkees wrote “Different Drum.”

•     •     •     •     •

As I filed this week’s column, I heard about the passing of James Garner, 86, on Saturday, July 19, 2014. Though perhaps best known as gambler Brett Maverick and cantankerous private detective Jim Rockford on the eponymous television shows, my favorite Garner roles were U.S. Army Major Jeff Pike in 36 Hours, Lt. Bob “The Scrounger” Hendley in The Great Escape, and King Marchand in Victor Victoria. He will be missed.

James Garner


Mike Gold: The SHIELD Gambit

Marvel has a bunch of great characters that have never been able to hold down their own books for any length of time, yet manage to play a continuing major role in the Marvel Universe. At least three of them, Nick Fury, the Sub-Mariner and Doctor Strange, are at the top of my personal pantheon.

Therefore, I was pleased to note that when it came time to build the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU; sounds like a college) they put SHIELD at the hub. To me, that meant they got it. They understood what we fangeezers knew since Fantastic Four Volume 1 Number 12: cancelled comics count!

I thought the Agents of SHIELD series was a great idea, as long as it stayed within the MCU’s tight continuity. I saw it in my mind’s eye as a modern-day Man From UNCLE, which is ironic as SHIELD was created to capitalize on UNCLE’s success. In that, I was not disappointed. Yes, the first half of the season moved slowly, and it seemed overcrowded. But each week I saw enough to appreciate that they still got it

…as long as “it”doesn’t mean ratings. The numbers were not dismal, but they weren’t anything to text home about. But they still got it, and they fixed it, piggybacking on the storylines in this year’s Thor and Captain America movies…particularly the latter.

Over the past two months, the show has propelled to the top of my list. I watched last night’s season finale, pissing off my schizophrenic editor for deadline jumping. I wanted the season to go out with a bang.

Not a problem. Most storylines were resolved, a few were started, there were a couple of surprises, and a sweet more-than-passing performance from Samuel L. Jackson. Clark Gregg was strong, witty and always in-the-moment; Ruth Negga is amazing in a role that requires enormous strength through subtlety. Nice season finish.

One thing more, since I’m still gushing. For those who saw the Marvel One-Shot Agent Carter mini-movie, Cap’s 40s flame will be getting her own mini-series. I loved the One-Shot (and in fact, I like all the One-Shots) and I’m looking forward to the show.

Yep. I’m in fangeezer heaven!

The Point Radio: Final Memories For WAREHOUSE 13

We circle back to WAREHOUSE 13, spending time with Saul Rubinek and Aaron Ashmore as they share their memories of the show just a couple of weeks before the doors close for the final time. Plus one of the building blocks of The Marvel Age Of Comics passes away.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

John Ostrander: The Super Glass Ceiling


Well, I finally saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier this past week. Yeah, I’m a Johnny-O come lately. Got to see it in my preferred format these days, IMAX 3-D, and I and My Mary had a really good time. To me, Chris Evans’ portrayal of the Star-Spangled Avenger ranks with Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of Superman, and that’s top of the heap.

The movie also asked some interesting and morally murky questions. How far should we go to make things “safer”? CA:TWS was a political thriller as much as it was a big time action feature (and it was a big time action feature). It paid homage to its comic book roots, taking elements from comic book continuity, treating them with respect, and frequently bettering them.

There were also great performances all around. How the heck did they get Robert Redford to agree to be in it? One explanation I hear was he has grandchildren but I have to think that the other was he had a well written character and some great lines. It was a good part. Anthony Mackie made Sam Wilson/The Falcon a high flying character and more than a sidekick, as Sebastian Stan did for Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier. And, of course, there was Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, with some choice action sequences, some twists and turns, and a persona that places him morally between Cap and the villains. He was like a male Amanda Waller and I mean that in the bad-assest way.

And then there was Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow. The one question I had as I left the theater (in addition to “When am I going to see it again?”) was “When are they making a Black Widow solo film?” I already knew the answer to that. She’s scheduled to be in the next Avengers outing and she might be in the next Captain America or Iron Man film but there is no solo film yet scheduled for her.

That brings us to this week’s real topic: Why the hell not?

The Black Widow is as badass as they come. She is a consummate fighter and an accomplished spy. She is beautiful, sexy, funny, and with the suggestion of an interesting backstory, she can be ruthless and can hold her own with not only S.H.I.E.L.D. but the The Avengers as well. She’s played by Scarlett Johansson, who is gorgeous and sexy and an incredibly talented and accomplished actress. What more do they want?

They’re making a movie about Ant-Man, for crying out loud. Ant-Man. And a little later this summer they’re bringing out Guardians Of The Galaxy. The previews look like fun and I’ll probably see it, but The Black Widow has got to have better name recognition and so does Ms. Johansson.

Over on the Warner Bros lot, they’re making a film featuring Superman and Batman and shoehorning in several other characters, including Wonder Woman. There is no talk of a Wonder Woman solo film. I read the studio head make a wistful, “We’d like to do it” sort of noise but, again, nothing is on the horizon.

Why the hell not?

I’ve heard the past rationales: they don’t think the audience will support it. They point to Catwoman and Supergirl as proof. Here’s an answer: don’t make a sucky superhero film. Batman And Robin or Superman Returns didn’t kill off those franchises. They gave them pause but both franchises got re-boots and started again. This time, they made good films that found an audience.

Would a movie starring a female protagonist sell? Look at Katniss in The Hunger Games movies. Tough warrior, good with a bow and arrow, complex character and the movies sell. Role model for young girls everywhere. Do they seriously expect us to believe that the Black Widow or Wonder Woman can’t do the same?

We’re left with one conclusion: Wonder Woman, for all her powers, can’t punch her way through the glass ceiling. And that’s a damn shame.

Jen Krueger: What Is Dead May Never Die

Jen Krueger: What Is Dead May Never Die

Spoiler warning: read no further if you haven’t caught up with the season two premiere of Orphan Black!

When it comes to character body count by the end of a first season of TV, Orphan Black is no slouch. Considering the hook of the pilot involves a woman witnessing her doppelganger jump in front of a train, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that by the end of episode ten, the list of dead characters is of a decent length and appears to still be growing. But even though the season one finale added Helena to the show’s list of killed roles, the end of the season two premiere scratches her right back off that list seconds before cutting to the credits. Usually I don’t like seeing characters purported to be dead waltzing back into a tale, and I certainly didn’t like it in this case.

I loved it.

A big part of why I generally can’t stand watching supposedly dead characters brought back to narrative life is that faux deaths meant to fool the audience are almost always too transparent. Watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I was surprised the movie would bother trying to convince viewers that Nick Fury was actually dead. Even taking public real world knowledge out of the equation by ignoring the fact that this movie is only the sixth of Samuel L. Jackson’s nine-picture deal with Marvel Studios, Fury is obviously too important to the Marvel Universe to be unceremoniously killed in the middle of the Phase Two releases. Since it’s one of few things I can imagine making Captain America and Black Widow truly trust and rely on each other, I don’t quibble with the movie letting the other characters think the attempt on Fury’s life was successful. But trying to fool the audience into the same misapprehension ruined the emotional resonance this might otherwise have had for me by making the scene in which Black Widow says goodbye to what she believes to be Fury’s dead body seem like it was less about her character than it was about the movie attempting to provide enough evidence to trick the audience into believing Fury’s death. Faux character deaths are too often accompanied by this kind of overt attempt at selling them to the audience, and with a hand clearly trying to pull the wool over my eyes, I’m not likely to look at anything else.

But that isn’t to say I never care about character deaths when I can tell they’re fake. All it takes to get me to feel for characters that falsely believe somebody’s dead is for the story to simply back off the hard sell about the supposed demise. In Pacific Rim, I had no doubt Mako and Raleigh would have a happy ending, but I still got choked up watching Mako think she lost Raleigh in the last few minutes of the movie. I didn’t buy that he was dead, and I may even have thought to myself that Raleigh actually being dead would make the narrative stronger (I know, I know, I have a real dark streak), but I was able to see the ending as a trope of the genre rather than a genuine attempt at surprising me with his survival, because I didn’t feel like the movie was trying to convince me Raleigh was dead. Even when I’m moved by a fake death though, I can’t help but think how much more I’d enjoy whatever I’m watching or reading if the story managed to unfold without clear attempts at fooling me as Pacific Rim does, yet somehow actually get one over on me in the end as well.

And that’s where Orphan Black hits it out of the park. I was genuinely surprised to see Helena stumble into a hospital at the end of the season two opener after watching Sarah shoot her and presumably leave her for dead in the season one finale. The show didn’t treat Helena’s assumed death with any more or less weight than other deaths that had preceded it, and by not trying to dictate my assumptions about Helena’s fate, Orphan Black kept me from realizing there was anything to assume other than Helena’s actual demise. Of course, just successfully surprising me isn’t enough to make me feel positively about a character returning after seeming to die. In fact, there’s probably no faster way to lose my goodwill as a reader or viewer than by surprising me with the return of a character all logic dictates should be dead (*cough cough* Shameless season four).

Giving credit where credit is due, Tatiana Maslany is so phenomenal in every one of the many roles she plays on Orphan Black that I was ecstatic to realize I’d be seeing more of Helena after all. Sure, there are plenty of other clones with which to watch Maslany show off her acting chops, but she manages to portray each role so uniquely that I sometimes forget I’m watching the same actress in several parts. This made the thought of Helena dying feel like a big loss to the cast, and also makes me think I’d even be fine with the show bringing back other clones that have been offed in previous episodes. It’s a rare case in which my emotional investment overrides narrative logic, but when a show gets me this hooked on its characters, I’m more than happy for the narratively dead to rise so that I can be fooled. Heck, pop a blonde wig on Maslany to give her the part and I’d even accept Aynsley being resurrected.

REVIEW – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Marvel’s promise that everything will change after Captain America: The Winter Soldier was no understatement.  A solid plot, witty banter, some very surprising returns and couple seeds for future films resulted in what may well be the best Marvel film yet.  Marvel seems dedicated to show that not all comic book movies are the same.  The upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy is clearly set up to be an action comedy, and Winter Soldier is at its heart a political intrigue thriller.  It still carries the hi-tech trappings and gadgets of a superhero story, but it’s a much more grounded film, touching on rather sober topics like dealing with life back home after a term in combat, the eternal questions of how much freedom will people surrender in the name of safety, and the simple question, “Who do you trust?”.  There’s no way to discuss the film without hitting numerous spoilers, so before we do this, does anyone want to get off?  (more…)

ComicMix Quick Picks: April 2, 2014

ComicMix Quick Picks: April 2, 2014

A Wednesday Window Closing Wrap-Up™ for y’all. Here we go:

Anything else? Consider this an open thread.
(Poster art by Tom Whalen)