Thor Blu-ray Review

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Film length: 1hr 55min
Theatrical Release: April, 2011
Blu-ray release: Sept, 2011

I didn’t like Thor when I first watched it a few years ago, but I have warmed up to the character since.  I thought he was a nice fit in The Avengers and so I have been eager to give this one another shot.   A lot of people didn’t like Iron Man 2, for instance, until some time had passed since its theatrical release.  It seems then it is easier to appreciate these films for what they are instead of how they didn’t live up to what they were made out to be.  So maybe we can say the same of Thor?… or maybe not….

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The film (2/5)

“Did it work?”
After a cold opening, Thor begins on the planet of Asgard where the King of the Nine Realms, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), resides.  A milliena ago, Odin had won a hard-fought war against the Frost Giants and had taken the source of their power, The Casket of Ancient Winters.  This has allowed Odin to rule his realm in peace, which includes Earth.  Odin is now ready for retirement and is about to anoint his first-born son, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), as his predecessor.  The ceremony is interrupted, however, when a small group of Frost Giants attempt to steal the casket and they are quickly stopped before any harm could be done. Thor wishes to go to Jotunheim to confront Laufey (Colm Feore), the head of the Frost Giants to stop any further breaches into Asgard.

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Odin is convinced the attempt was made by a small faction of Frost Giants and was not the work of Laufey.  He forbids Thor (who isn’t King yet) to begin taking any actions which could start a war.  Thor goes against his father’s wishes and travels to Jotunheim  with a few friends and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).  Thor and his mates are immediately overwhelmed by a Frost Giant army and are saved at the last moment by Odin.  As punishment, Odin sends Thor to Earth to live as a mortal with no powers.

With Thor gone, Loki is next in line to sit on the throne, but while he was on Jotunheim he discovers that he is actually the son of Laufey.  Odin had kept how he adopted Loki as a small baby during the war hidden from both of his sons.  When Odin suddenly falls ill, he is placed into a deep sleep to recover. Loki takes this opportunity to seize the throne and plots with Laufey to kill Odin and his now mortal brother, Thor.

Thor has a simple story that is not told well at times.  Some events are not clearly explained and the characters make quick leaps in progression that can be jarring.

Thor’s character arc, for instance, is so simple it begins to not make sense.   He start off as an arrogant young man.  After he is punished for defying his father wishes, he learns to become less selfish and the hero we know.  And that is it.  There is no experience Thor had where I could see how he would grow out of his selfishness, he just does.  At one point he tries to lift his hammer but can’t because his powers are gone.  He gets a little bummed out and starts feeling sorry for himself.  Next thing you know, he is making eggs  for his friend’s breakfast and later sacrificing himself to save them… Whaaa?  At one point later on in the film he says he changed… and I’m sure I said “Why?” out loud to the empty room I was in.  (Sarah rightfully refused to watch this a second time.)  For the first time he didn’t get his way and he bacame a better person because it.  If only it were that easy.

Then there is the love story between Jane (Natalie Portman) and Thor.  Thor shows up and the two fall in love.  That is it.  I have no idea why.  There are a few moments where the two appear to have a connection but it never feels genuine.  The first sign of affection Thor shows Jane is when he kisses her hand.  Her giddiness jumps from 0 to 60 faster than a post World War II Chuck Yaeger.  Gee, Jane, is that all it takes?  There is a scene where he is walking around without his shirt on and she liked that.  Maybe that is what did it?  I don’t know.  I thought women were supposed to be above that.  I guess Jane isn’t.

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You know, I’m going to heap praise on Demolition Man of all things.  At least in that film Huxley (Sandra Bullock) had an infatuation with the time period that John Spartan (Sly Stallone) came from.  So you could understand how she, as a woman of the future, would be curious to be with a man from the 90’s.  In Thor, Jane is an astrophysicist who specializes in Einstein bridges (wormholes).  In this film the wormholes have a connection with Norse mythology.  They could have included the Norse mythology element into Jane’s fascination, and you could then see how she might be attracted to Thor.  Instead they go with this lame “Is Thor who he really is?”  angle which is a waste of time for the audience who already knows the answer.

Prior to Thor, director Kenneth Branagh spent nearly two decades starring, directing, and adapting Shakespeare’s plays into films with critically acclaimed results.  You would think that he could easily…. nail a good story.  But here we are.  I guess the two genres do not translate well.

Story aside, the action scenes and special effects are well done.  The fight in the New Mexico desert town with Destroyer, a shape-adjusting being that can shoot fire beams from its eyes, is the stand out.  Pre-gunslinger Idris Elba has a nice role as Heimdall,  the dedicated watcher of all things wormhole. Agent Colson from the Agents of Shield TV Show received bunches of screen time, and there are some genuinely amusing “fish out of water” moments while Thor was on Earth.

Memorable Moments / What Stood Out to Me

No RDJ!

Yep, this is the first Marvel film where both Tony Stark or Iron Man are nowhere to be seen.  He is on the disc, however, but it is the same bonus scene from The Incredible Hulk.  See the special features section for the details.

Hey, it’s the girl from Two Broke Girls.

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I have yet to see a full episode.

Hawkeye’s cameo is the most useless cameo I have seen in any film

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Filmmaker 1: Hey, the studio wants us to have a Hawkeye cameo in this Thor movie to better connect it with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Filmmaker 2: Well darn it we didn’t write a place for him in this film.  It wouldn’t make sense for him to help Thor and a confrontation betweem the two heroes wouldn’t sit well with the fans.  What are we going to do?
Filmmaker 1: I know… let’s make it easy and have him aim an arrow at Thor but not fire it or anything.
Filmmaker 2: You mean you are going to have a Hawkeye cameo where he does nothing?
Filmmaker 1: Yes.
Filmmaker 2: Works for me.

 

Bonus: Stan Lee cameo review! (4/5)

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Hey, how about a GOOD cameo?  This was a treat.  Stan the Man is only on-screen for a split second but it did get a verbal laugh from me.  Some rednecks hook the back of a pickup truck to Thor’s hammer when trying to move it.  They only succeed in tearing off the back-end of the truck before the shot switches to the driver, played by Stan.  He only delivers one line, but it is a good one.  I may have hinted at what it is earlier in this review.

Video (4/5)

Thor has many scenes filled with a rich colors and some are downright pretty to look at. The gold interior shots of Asgard really pop and the exterior New Mexico shots look bright and clean.  But the overall quality is just a long blonde hair under the previous Marvel movies.  I won’t say it has heavy film grain but it is ever-present, and especially noticeable on the dark ice planet, Jotunheim.

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Audio (5/5)

Thor boasts a lossless 7.1 DTS-HD mix and it is excellent even when experienced through my 5.1 setup.  The dialogue was clear throughout, and the score blended well with the heavy explosions and hammer throws during the action.  The audio during the fight Destroyer was another layer that made that scene so great.

Special Features (2/5)

Even bad films, like Backdraft, can have some killer special features to make the disc worth owning.  That is not the case with Thor.  To be fair, the amount of content is fine but, none of it is all that interesting.   There are several featurettes that range from 2 to 20 minutes and they are all done on the set when everyone is in full promo mode.  It sucks listening to these guys go on about a movie that ended up being not all that great.

I skimmed through director Kenneth Branagh’s audio commentary just to get a grasp of what he was thinking when he made this.  Every time I checked out a scene that puzzled me, instead of giving some behind the curtain details he was busy explaining the plot.  It was as if he understood how unclear the storytelling could be.

The other odd extra on here is something called a Marvel One Shot.  It consisted of about five minutes of Agent Colson and another Shield agent setting up the “bonus scene” when Tony Stark is meeting Colonel Ross in The Incredible Hulk.  Yeah… I guess it is a comic book thing where everything needs to be explored in detail.

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Final Verdict

Overall, Thor is a watchable movie as it isn’t as dumb as a lot of other action flicks.  If you think of it as light fluff  to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, or as an OK set up for a character in The Avengers you might feel entertained for a while.  Other than that, if you have watched it before there is no reason to revisit Thor.  Just enjoy the character in The Avengers where he is part of a better story.

 

An Awful Tweet

I have the day off today (Canadian Holiday!) and I so wanted it to be about playing video games, and maybe finally getting to Thor.  Instead, I made the mistake of reading Twitter this morning which put me in a serious funk.  I’m hoping writing about this will help me shake it out a bit.

My “in case you missed it” section on Twitter had a bunch of people arguing back and forth about bigotry and whether someone is trans-phobic or not.  I followed the tweets to the originator and this is what I read:

bad tweet

My heart sank.  I don’t know “Avalanche” Jared from a hole in the ground but I do watch his videos on YouTube when the subject matter tickles my fancy.  I consider him to be someone who I may not always agree with, but his opinions are well thought-out.  So it was odd to see him refer to another human being as “this”.  I needed context.

After going down a mini internet rabbit hole, this is what I found out.  The photo is of a writer for the geek-culture/heavy-on-the-video-games website Kotaku, named Heather Alexander.  Heather wrote an article about the original Earthworm Jim, a Sega Genesis platform game that came out 23 years ago.

It’s a pretty standard “click bait” Kotaku article where a younger writer will write about their personal experience with a retro game.  Rose-colored glasses and nostalgia do not play a factor in the writer’s view, and the post’s title is designed to rev up a majority of Kotaku readers who hold these games up on a pedestal.  I’m a fan of Earthworm Jim and I read the post.  I didn’t agree with a lot of the criticism, but it was fair and the opinion of only one person.  Nothing to get worked up about.

I know most adults on the internet can handle a disagreement with maturity and it pains me to say that Earthworm Jim‘s creator, Doug TenNapel, is not one of them.  His response to Heather’s Twitter post for her article was disappointing :

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“You’re a good man”.  Some jumped to TenNapel’s defense from the get go saying it was a mistake despite Heather’s feminine name and Twitter handle identifying her as trans. Sadly it was not an error.  TenNapel’s follow up tweets confirm that the insult was intended.  Gross.  So, not only did Jared’s tweet suck, the creator of Earthworm Jim does too.

First thing I did after was let Jared know what I thought of his tweet:

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I see it as awful not because he might be defending what (at the time) might have been a possible mistake, but for the complete dismissal of the person TenNapel attacked. Imagine if someone kept referring to your wife, mom, or sister as a man.  Would that not piss you off?  Wouldn’t you take “offense” because you would know how hurtful it would be to someone you care about?  Why is it not okay to do this to a straight person, but it is “justifiable” when the person is transgender?

At this point I shouldn’t have to give you context as to why this has my “panties all up in a bunch”.  I should be justified in pointing out how gross someone’s take is on a situation when it is gross.  Unfortunately, it is not reality.

There are too many now who troll the internet with an air of superiority, looking to pick fights with people on social media with despicable opinions about race and sexism, only so they can feel good about how they “took the moral high ground”.  They are known as the Social Justice Warrior or SJW for short.  They spend their time labeling those on the other side of the keyboard as bigots or sexists doing little to sway them.  It is all garbage and a waste of time.

Meanwhile, the people who are living through it get dismissed among the SJWs.  As a white male just hitting 40 and married to the super sexy blogger extraordinaire, Sarca Sim, I am in a very lucky situation.  My marriage has the benefit of being socially acceptable since it became uncool for men to club women over the head and drag them into a cave to start a family.  So, it would be very unlikely that I would know the pain, stress, anxiety, social pressure, and family strain someone with a gender identity crisis or change is going through, but I do.  Someone very close to me is going through this right now and it isn’t easy.  I missed a month of recording Retro Fandango because of it 18 months ago and it is still working itself out.

So now that you have an idea of my situation maybe you’ll understand better why I will speak out against garbage like what Jared tweeted out.  His take on the situation stinks, and for the people who joked around with/defended him – not your finest moment either.

I might not be able to make the hardship better for the person I know and love, but I will speak out when I see harmful behavior aimed at making it worse. Dismiss me as a SJW if you wish, but that will not stop me to continue to point out when you are being awful.  I know how deeply it can hurt.

 

I’m Thorry

The number one rule my Retro Fandango co-host Richard (aka THE Ram Vox) and I have on our podcast is to NEVER promise anything.  By that we mean never promise any content.  Never promise you’ll make a video, write a blog, post a podcast, etc.  Because when you do, you create an expectation for you to deliver that content, and sometimes you just can’t or don’t want to anymore.

My situation this week falls into the former.  I just could not get to reviewing Thor this week.  Now technically, I never promised to do it this week but I do feel my weekly schedule might have created an expectation.  So, since I’m outta time to review Thor, I’m going to write about what took up the time and get a little shameless self promotion in as well.  I know at few people here only know me for this blog and as the husband of the super sexy blogger extraordinaire, Sarca Sim.  But I also podcast, make YouTube videos on occasion and…  listen to a ton of music.  Yes, I’m a music fan too!

There was a lot of yard work, a PC issue, and a couple of podcasts to prepare for this week; but what took up most of my time was Mars’ MixTape.   It’s a spin-off of Retro Fandango where I pretend to be a radio DJ and play some music for 90 minutes.  I’m wanting to get these out once a season and there isn’t much summer left if you can believe it.  So, time is ticking.  Plus, with the Barrie Game Exchange coming up (Big time game swap with a lot of friends from all over the US and Canada attending) I knew a lot of people will be traveling.  And maybe my show could entertain them for a bit during the pilgrimage.

The show is a mix of blues, metal, country, 80’s/70’s pop, Motown and mainly rock ‘n roll.  My taste is pretty much anyone influenced by Chuck Berry.  The episode I worked on is the fourth episode and you can check it out here…

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If you’re hooked, here are the three other episodes:

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Mars' MixTape Halloween editionMars' Mixtape

I do take requests as long as it fits the format of the show and I like it.  Just shoot me and email at buriedonmars@gmail.com, or do the facebook/Twitter thing.  Or even leave a comment here.  You can subscribe to the feed in iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, etc if you like.  The show shares a feed with Retro Fandango (which is a mighty fine podcast, IMHO) so just search for that.

Thor is coming.  I’m planning on working on it this coming week and to have it posted… but no promises.

Iron Man 2 Blu-ray Review

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Film length: 2hr 4min
Theatrical Release: May, 2010
Blu-ray release: 2010

Iron Man 2 might be the most important film in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.  With Thor and Captain America coming next, Marvel needed to show how Iron Man‘s success wasn’t a fluke.   It speaks to how difficult it is to get the funding for these major motion pictures.  You’d think it wouldn’t be after Iron Man made bank, but it can be. This is how we have the third film in the MCU be a direct sequel to the first with still two more main characters to introduce with their own solo films.  It was very likely if Iron Man 2 didn’t deliver, the MCU might have died along with it.  Fortunately Iron Man 2 kicked major bum at the box office, raking in  $623.9 million Worldwide according to IMDB.  But if Michael Bay’s career tells us anything, box office cash doesn’t equate to a quality film.

I remember liking Iron Man 2 a lot back when I first saw it while it was still a fresh rental at Blockbuster.  Since then I have heard a few negative reviews by some.  I kept my mouth shut about how I liked it since my Swiss cheese memory couldn’t recall why.  Well, this fresh viewing has refilled my brain and now I can say why I like Iron Man 2.

The film (4/5)

“I don’t wanna join your Super Secret Boy Band.”
When the news of Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) reveal that he is Iron Man reaches Russia, it catches the attention of Russian physicist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke).  Ivan recalls how his father worked with Tony’s father, Howard Stark (John Slattery), and begins building his very own arc reactor with the aid of some old blueprints.

Six months later, Tony is now in full control of Stark Industries, but he is much too distracted to run the company.  Not only is his alter ego taking up his time, but the arc reactor implanted in his chest is beginning to slowly poison his blood.  Convinced he will not find a cure before it is too late, he doesn’t tell anyone about his condition.  He becomes reckless which is not helping his case against the United States Government who is attempting to take control of the Iron Man suit.  They believe the suit is a powerful weapon that shouldn’t be in the hands of only one man.

As a distraction, he enlists himself to drive the car he sponsors at the Monaco Grand Prix, but it is here where he is confronted by Ivan on the racetrack.  Ivan is using an arc reactor he built to power two electric whips.  With this he becomes Whiplash, one of the rogues in Iron Man’s gallery.  Iron Man is able to stop Whiplash, but not before his point has been made in front of the public.  Tony’s technology can be copied to use against him and Iron Man is not invincible.

Ok, so Iron Man 2 does have some minor problems but it is far from poo.  Let’s get the bad out of the way first.  The one scene that left me puzzled both times I watched this is when Happy (Jon Favreau) drives a 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom onto the racetrack, with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) in the back seat, into Ivan’s legs.  Not only is it a hokey premise, but the impact into Ivan should have crippled the man.  I looked it up and Whiplash’s suit not only powers the whips but an exoskeleton as well.  The movie doesn’t make any attempt to explain this.

The other scene that bothers me is when Tony and Rhodey fight.  Rhodey (Don Cheadle) works for the US military and is under a lot of pressure to get one of Iron Man’s suits for them.  He becomes annoyed instead of concerned with Tony, when Tony is obviously in some sort of funk.  Rhodey decides to take off with the Mark II (AKA War Machine) suit right after slapping Tony around for a bit.  This doesn’t sit right with me.  It felt like it was something that wasn’t true to Rhodey’s character but it was convenient for the plot.

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Other than that, this is a fun, well-paced action flick.  Rourke, who was fresh off of the success of The Wrestler, brings the gold teeth, arm tatts, and greasy hair.  His version of Whiplash looks like a bondage scene gone bad.  Teaming him up with the greasy d-bag, Justin Hammer(Sam Rockwell) (who is in way over his head when competing with Tony for sweet government contracts) makes Ivan a growing threat as he gains the same amount of unlimited resources asTony has.

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A large portion of the film is spent on setting up for The Avengers.  Scarlett Johansson makes her debut as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow.  Her scenes were probably designed for her to steal the show and she pulls it off.  We get even more Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) than we ever had before too.  It is cool to see the building blocks of what will become The Avengers coming together.

 

Memorable Moments / What Stood Out to Me

Did you know that Senator Stern, played by the late great Gary Shandling, is named after radio icon Howard Stern?  Screen writer Justin Theroux, Favreau, and RDJ are all huge Stern fans.  If you a constant listener of the Stern Show like I am, Howard will remind you of this on a regular basis.

Tony’s 2010 Audi R8 Spyder

Look at it… so pretty… Tony uses it to drive to the coast and pick up strawberries.  I need to buy a lottery ticket…

Bonus: Stan Lee cameo review! (4/5)

So far these Iron Man cameos have been home runs!  This time Stan-the-Man plays Larry King!  Suspenders and all!  You only see him for a second or two but it is worth a verbal chuckle.  Good times!

Video (5/5)

Excellent.

Audio (5/5)

Excellent.

Special Features (5/5)

Jam-packed full of features.  This is what you want from a Blu-ray.  I’m just going to focus on some highlights or we will be here all day otherwise.

  • Solid audio commentary by Jon Favreau.  Time didn’t allow me to make it all the way through but I will go back and finish it.
  • 30 minute doc on the making of the Iron Man 2 suit
  • 20 minute doc on post production.  Editing, film score, touch ups, etc.  I found this most interesting since not many extras focus on this part of film making.
  • Alternate opening with commentary
  • A ton more featurettes, trailers, and even a music video for AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill.

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Final Verdict

Perhaps Iron Man 2 hits the same notes as its predecessor one too many times, considering Tony’s character arc is almost a carbon copy from the first film. Maybe this had some fans… steaming… but I was entertained and had a good time.  The effects are good and the action does payoff in the end.   It did have a lot to live up to with Iron Man being a great film, so I guess I can’t fault the team too harshly for staying safe.  Well, time to put the… irons in the fire and get working on Thor for next week!

The Incredible Hulk Blu-ray Review

Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, William Hurt, Tim Roth, Ty Burrell, Tim Blake Nelson
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Film length: 2hr 15mins
Theatrical Release: June 13th, 2008
Blu-ray release: 2008

I was a kid during The Incredible Hulk TV series first run from 1978 to 1982, and of course I loved it.  The adventures of the tormented scientist Dr. “David” Banner (Bill Bixby) who after a failed experiment with some gamma radiation turns into a 7 foot tall, muscle-bound, green monster known as The Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) when agitated was a treat.  Every week Dr. Banner would enter into someone’s life and help them with a problem with science.  When that didn’t work he would get angry, turn into The Hulk, and like a one man A-Team would smash things until they did.

The Hulk was a misunderstood hero and considered dangerous by some (mostly one reporter with an axe to grind) so, he was always on the run as he could never stay in one place for too long.  It was a fun show for the most part but there was always a sad tone. Especially towards the end when the melancholy theme would begin as Dr. Banner would say his goodbyes before moving on to the next town.  There was some who complained how the show didn’t closely match the fantastical comic book (which would have been too expensive for a network show to pull off back then), but it nailed that Hulk vibe. The core of the book would be Dr. Banner’s struggle to deal with this angry beast in him and the show delivered.

Since I was disappointed in Universal Studios’ first attempt to bring the Hulk to the big screen (Ang Lee’s melodramatic Hulk from 2003 was a steaming pile), I was all on board for Edward Norton taking on the role of Bruce Banner.  Hopefully he and director Louis Leterrier would steer the ship in the right direction.  I don’t remember much from my first viewing of the film from almost a decade ago other than a large part of it was shot in Toronto.  Well, lets see if this one nails that Hulk vibe.

The film (3/5)

“Is that all you got?”
US military General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) enlists colleague Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) to revive the top-secret “super soldier” program (the same one that gave Captain America his abilities) from World War II.  When an experiment fails and exposes Banner to high levels of gamma radiation, he is left with the curse of turning into a large green monster known as the Hulk for an uncontrollable period of time whenever his heart beat rises above 200 BPM.

Banner begins looking for a cure but Ross wants the Hulk to be made into a  weapon.  The two clash heads and it escalates into the Hulk trashing a military lab and injuring many people.  Banner avoids capture and he successfully remains in exile for five years in the slums of Brazil while working on a cure.

An accident at a bottling plant Banner is working at tips the military to his whereabouts.  He barely escapes before circling back to the US to enlist help from his former girlfriend Betty Ross (also the General’s daughter) and another scientist, Mr. Blue (Tim Blake Nelson) who he only knows through a long distance relationship.  After missing Banner in Brazil, General Ross decides to kick it up a notch and enlists the Russian-born British Royal Marine Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) to capture him.  Blonsky allows the General to inject him with super soldier serum, but the mission of capture turns into revenge for him after failing to ensnare the Hulk during their first encounter. Blonsky tracks down Mr. Blue who adds some of Banner’s blood into his own, and he becomes The Abomination; a beast just as strong as the Hulk who is hell-bent on killing Bruce Banner.

Although The Incredible Hulk doesn’t always nail it in the execution department, there is a lot to like about this one.  The entire back/origin story of the Hulk is told in the opening credits and they are done with a big salute to the TV series.  With “how Banner becomes the Hulk” out of the way, the film is able to then focus on him trying to find a cure.

Banner is just beginning to learn how far he can push himself before he changes into the Hulk, and constantly checks a heart rate monitor while learning breathing techniques to control his temper.  There are moments that someone like myself, who at times struggles to control my own temper, can relate to.  Banner even helps out the bottling plant he is working at with some equipment failure and finds the time to help out a pretty co-worker who needs saving from a creepy co-worker.  This was, by far, my favorite parts of the movie as it felt like an extension of the TV show.

The rest of the film is well paced, seeing Banner and Betty seek out Mr. Blue for a possible cure, and try to stay one step ahead of General Ross.  Blonsky makes for an interesting match against the Hulk until he becomes the Abomination.  After that, the last 20-30 minutes of the film becomes bogged down with obvious CG-heavy battles between the Hulk, the Abomination, and a helicopter.  It’s fine for what it is, but it is just not as interesting as what led up to it.

Memorable Moments / What Stood Out to Me

There is A ton of “Hey Look” moments in this film, like:

Bill Bixby

Hey look, it’s Bill Bixby.  Bruce is flipping through the channels on his TV and watches a few seconds of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father starring a young pre-Hulk Bixby.

Stanley’s Pizza

Hey look, it’s Stanley’s (Stan Lee’s) Pizza… Get it?… This was a lot funnier in my head….

Norton 360 Antivius

Hey, it’s Ed Norton using an Antivirus program called Norton 360….  This was a lot funnier in my head….

Hey look, it’s the guy from Modern Family pre-Modern Family

I never could get into that show but I do like this guy when I see him.

Cap incognito alert!

I’ve noticed characters in the MCU pull out the ol’ ball cap whenever they go on the DL and wish to be unseen.  I’ll be keeping an eye our for this for all future entries in the series because it is important.

Bonus: Stan Lee cameo review! (3/5)

This time, Stan accidentally ingests some Hulk blood when having a drink from the bottling plant Dr. Banner is hiding out in.  The reporting of his unusual illness tips off General Ross that Bruce is hiding in Brazil.  I give credit for making the “Stan the Man” cameo into a part, but he is really just filling in for a d-list actor.  Clever-ish but not clever.  But, in fairness, they did have to work in a Lou Ferrigno cameo too…

Video (5/5)

Like Iron Man, this is another perfect-looking Blu-ray. Crisp, deep colours with just a hint of film grain.  I expect nothing less from a 2008 Blu-ray.

Audio (5/5)

The audio for this film was spot on.  Every speaker was working hard during that action sequences.  A great DTS-HD audio track.  No complaints.

Special Features (3/5)

There is a solid bit of extras here but nothing you really need to see unless you REALLY liked the film.  Let me bullet point what we got:

  • A 30 minute “Making of” documentary.  Since this is a first run Blu-ray it is all shot on set, so everyone is in full on promo mode and expecting nothing but greatness from the “upcoming” film.  I prefer these to be retrospective made years down the road when you have people reflecting on the good and bad.
  • There is a bunch of extra scenes that are in SD.  All stuff that was cut all in in the name of pacing.  I agree with the director’s choices after watching them.
  • A couple of short documentaries about the CG Hulk and Abomination.  A lot of thought went into the look of the beasts, but there wasn’t much for me to appreciate since I didn’t find the CG to be all that great.
  • There is an alternate opening which at the time gained a lot of internet buzz for showing a sneak peek of Captain America.  It is really just a “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” kind of cameo though.  It is mostly about Banner heading to the Arctic where he attempts to commit suicide… yeah, I can see why it was cut.  It is apparently referenced in The Avengers, so there is that.
  • The audio commentary with director Louis Leterrier and Tim Roth is standard stuff but I did listen all the way through.  Locations, special effects, Stan Lee’s cameo, etc are all discussed.  The conversation moves well and is constantly about what is currently being shown.  Nothing ground breaking, but entertaining.
  • Finally there is a scene from Hulk Grey #5 done with an animated comic book that the film took inspiration from for the scene with Betty and Hulk hiding out in the park.

Final Verdict

What I remember about Hulk in The Avengers is how he was the stand out character and Mark Ruffalo’s take on Bruce Banner was better than Ed Norton’s.  So, even though I hardly regret how this film wasn’t greatly received and we didn’t get a continuation of this version, there are a couple of things I think we miss out on because of it.

For one, it is highly likely that a direct sequel would have had Tim Blake Nelson coming back as The Hulk’s main foe, the Leader.  The Leader is featured in some of my favorite Hulk comics and TBN would have been fantastic at portraying him.

The other is the unlikely chance of another stand alone Hulk film.  This was the second time Universal Studios put the dough up for a Hulk film and didn’t get the return they were expecting.  So a third kick at the can right now is very unlikely.  Coincidentally enough (notice I didn’t say IRONically?) Mark Ruffalo just publicly gave Universal a big knock for leaving a ton of dough on the table by not using his more popular version of the Hulk in his own film.  Don Cheadle was with him and was busting his chops by telling him it was too late since he is so old now.  He was joking, but he isn’t wrong when he says he is getting up there.

Perhaps there is a chance for another Hulk film to receive a green light if his appearance in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok is well-received.  For now, its fit into the MCU is awkward, but lettuce celebrate the only non-made for TV live action Hulk film that is worth relishing.

Iron Man Blu-ray Review

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, Gwyneth Paltrow
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Film length: 2hrs 6 mins
Theatrical Release: April, 2008
Blu-ray release: September, 2008

I remember my disappointment after hearing the lead role of Tony Stark for the new upcoming live action Iron Man film would be going to Robert Downey Jr.  I had watched what at the time would be three recent films he was in (A Scanner Darkly, Tropic Thunder and Zodiac).  I thought he was weak sauce in all as I found he mumbled his lines and I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.

So, I was surprised when I finally did see Iron Man.  Not only was the film good but RDJ did a solid job, too.  I can’t say for sure how much of his real life played into it (which closely mirrors Tony Stark’s; they both came to outgrow their father’s accomplishments and have had struggles with drugs/alcohol), but I did get a genuine vibe from the character.  Most importantly to me, however, was how every word he spoke was enunciated clearly.

But, that was waaaaay back in 2008 and here I am in 2017 and can only remember Tony building the “Mark 1” suit in a cave and Terrence Howard playing “Rhoady” instead of Don Cheadle.  Well, time to see if the film that kicked off an entire cinematic universe still holds up!

The film (4/5)

“Give me a scotch. I’m starving.”
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) lives many roles.  He is a multi-billionaire, an engineering genius, the head of the world’s largest weapons manufacturer that bares his family name (Stark Industries), and a womanizer.

During a visit to Afghanistan for a demonstration of his latest creation, the state of the art Jericho missile, the Humvee Tony is being transported in is ambushed by a terrorist group known as the Ten Rings.  They imprison Tony, who barely survives an injury to his chest where shrapnel shards are embedded close to his heart.  Tony is operated on by a fellow captive Dr. Yelsin (Shaun Toub) who implants an electromagnet into Tony’s chest.  The device is designed to keep the shards away from his heart and allows Tony to live.  Ten Rings demands Tony build them a Jericho missile in exchange for his freedom, which Tony pretends to do, as he secretly builds an iron suit powered by his new electromagnet.  The suit is crude, but it is good enough to allow Tony to escape.

Tony has a new lease on life when he returns to America, and no longer wishes for Stark Industries to be a weapons manufacturer.  He improves on his iron suit idea and builds one designed to fight crime and terrorism, but not everyone is so thrilled with the company’s new profit-losing direction.

Well, 2017 me thoroughly enjoyed Iron Man.  The build-up to Tony getting his suit in the first 3rd of the film is grounded in reality and resembles something that could happen in real life.  It must have been tempting to start the film off by showing Iron Man take down baddies in some over-the-top fashion, but this direction lends to a better pay-off when we finally do get to see Tony in his suit.

The Yelsin character helps with the tension in the opening too.  You know in the back of your head that Tony will make it out of the cave alive (it would be a short cinematic universe if he didn’t), so much of the suspense relies on if Yelsin will follow Tony out of the cave alive.

The rest of the film is your standard comic book affair.  It’s a “greed makes what seems to be a good guy, a bad guy” kind of story but it is a solid script with plenty of action and humor.  Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) makes for a great villain as he slowly reveals his true nature and he represents Tony letting go of the old way of doing things.  The rest of the cast (Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Terance Howard), and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau)) round out Tony’s team and they allow him to shine as the central figure.  It was nice to see Tony get some room to breath instead of being in a “Joss Whedon-y” ensemble cast where everyone is in a constant competition to be one upped.

Memorable Moments / What Stood Out to Me

Tony’s robots steal the show

Tony’s super computer, Jarvis, takes a bit of a back seat in this one to these helper machines that assist Tony with building his suit.  So much expression from a robot arm holding a fire extinguisher that make for a few cute/funny moments.  It is good times.

I want the Stark 4 

The Stark 4 is a 2008 Audi R8.  My desire for wanting one of these is from how well they handle and sound in the Forza Motorsport series of video games.  Tony treats this thing like an everyday car for fetching groceries.  Give it to me.  It is old now and you don’t want it anymore.  I will treat it nicely.

Bonus: Stan Lee cameo review!

Stan-the-Man cameos began as a regular feature in X-Men and Iron Man carried on the tradition.  Here we see Stan at one of Tony’s parties playing Hugh Hefner and the likeness is… Uncanny… One of the all-time best uses of Stan. (5/5)

Video (5/5)

Yeah, Iron Man was made for the Blu-ray format and it shows.  The film has the crisp look, with deep colours and just a hint of grain.  I don’t expect anything less from a 2008 film and on.

Audio (5/5)

Iron Man is a great example of a perfect True HD 5.1 mix.  The bass was deep and rumbly from the early scenes in Afghanistan and on.  The dialogue was clear during the action and the surround speakers got a nice work out throughout.  Good times.

Special Features (2/5)

My copy is used and missing the 2nd disc which contains most of the bonus material… sniff.  So I will revise this review and probably boost the score if I ever do find the 2nd disc somewhere.  For now, I can only review what I have on disc one which is a bit underwhelming.

First up is some 3D renderings of the different Iron Man suits featured in the film that you can look at in “360 view”.  It is a clunky experience and what you’d expect from when publishers were still experimenting with Blu rays a decade ago.  Meh.

Next is a 45-ish minute documentary about the Iron Man comic books. It starts off gang busters with Stan Lee talking about his original concept and it is interesting to see what the film makers chose to adapt into the film.  It starts to drag after a while though as it begins to focus on the current adaptation of the character (with “current” being 2008).  It is understandable to want to give the books a plug but I didn’t find it all that interesting.

Finally we have about 20 or so minutes of deleted/extra scenes.  They are interesting enough but not a must watch.  These were deleted for a reason, after all.  Plus, Rhody wrecks that Audi R8 in one of them.  Screw that!

Final Verdict

Iron Man got the Marvel cinematic universe started on the right foot and it has aged gracefully.  The special effects can look a little CG-ish at times (when Iron Man’s suit comes on or off specifically) but it is only a…. small wrinkle for a script this good.  Nothing else to… iron out with this one… Think I’ll go to the gym now and…

 

State of the Blog Address, July 2017

Some of you might have noticed how there was no new Blu Ray review from me this morning, but it is cool if you didn’t.  Part of the reason why is I played 55 to 60 hours of Horizon Zero Dawn this week on my PlayStation 4.  (For you gamers out there who care, I beat the game and got the platinum trophy.  It was good times.)  This left me with only time to take in one film which unfortunately was Rising Sun starring Wesley Snipes and Sean Connery.  I found the movie to be kind of blah and began working on a review but I wasn’t feeling it.  If I was getting paid, I would push on and force myself to get ‘er dun but I’m not.  So, I decided to drop it for now.

To be honest though, the biggest roadblock for me is not being able to write what I want to.  Part of the reason why I started this blog is because I have trouble remembering movies.  Writing about them helps me and allows me to go back to read what I wrote if I don’t.

The movies I wish to revisit the most right now are the ones in the Marvel universe.  I watched most in the series only once and can hardly remember what happened in them.  I have been watching the new ones as they come out and try to piece together the back story with my Swiss cheese memory.

What I want to do is watch them in the proper order and hammer out a review for each with the previous movie(s) fresh in my mind.  I haven’t been able to do so yet since my collection is missing a couple in the “Phase One: Avengers Assembled” series.  “Phase One” are the five films that led up to the Avengers and Avengers.  I didn’t want to commit to reviewing all of them without the proper pieces.  I’d then be under pressure to find the ones I was missing, but now…. I got them ALLLLLL!

Marvel Phase One

Yep, I was able to find Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger so my journey to review these bad boys can begin!

I have enjoyed all of them for the most part and don’t care about how they change things from the comic books they are based on.  I have read my fair share of Spider-Man, The Hulk, and Daredevil through the years, but when it came to the extended universe, my brain checked out.  I thought it was stupid to have to buy a bunch of books, including ones from characters I didn’t like, to get one complete story.  I was more into the Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis, Kevin Smith, and Mark Millar one offs or graphic novels that contained a story with a beginning, middle, and end.

At the pace of one review a week it will take six of them to get through these, so I’ll see about continuing Phase Two right away when I get there.  I am still missing Guardians of The Galaxy from that series and don’t want to be pressured to get it. With the sequel just wrapping up a successful run in the theaters, the first film is red hot right now and hard to come by if I want to pick up for a deal.  So I’ll need to bide my time for now.  Maybe Amazon Prime day will be good to me.

So that’s what you have to look forward to for the rest of July and most of August.  I hope you like super hero movies!  If not, I hope you like reading reviews about them!