All Defiant on the Western Front in Wonder Woman

Early on in Patty Jenkins’ confident and electrifying big-screen Wonder Woman epic, after getting rescued by the film’s hero (a robust yet appealingly vulnerable Gal Gadot), our guy in distress (a somewhat charming gritty Ken Doll with a sense of humor, Chris Pine) upon being asked about how he stacks up to other men says, “I’m above average.” In some ways, that’s the best way to describe Wonder Woman in comparison to every other superhero movie. It’s above average. But to leave it at that would be deny the film’s subversive charms and contextual place in the pantheon of fantasy films as mirrors into the audience’s psyche.

Let’s not dismiss, however, just how fun it is to simply watch an above average film in this over-saturated genre. Jenkins and her crew show great creativity and tactical savviness in their treatment of all the genre clichés while choosing a relaxed and serialized pacing in the action, following each big set piece with moments of more intimate drama and character development (witness celebratory Belgian villagers and our heroes dancing in the streets in the evening snowfall that seems ripped from a great war-time romance).

The film’s inherently silly exposition (routed in Greek myth) is made palpable thanks to beautifully rendered Renaissance-style paintings of Greco-Roman fantasy come to life – smartly linking the lore and art of old with modern comic book pages and colorful cells flipped through feverishly by childhood’s fingers. Playful camera angles bring to life a rousing aeronautical flyover of an exploding enemy bunker and battle horses and motorcycles racing through war-torn woods, while slo-mo is used judiciously when warranted and not just for the sense of style. Continue reading

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The Avengers or In the Name of Phil

What is this? Some kind of bust?

Let’s get one thing straight – Scarlett Johansson is so smoldering in The Avengers, I was aghast.  I mean can this woman get any sexier?  And director Joss Whedon wisely places her in tight-fitting outfits and under perfect lighting and has her kick wall to wall ass as super assassin Black Widow.  As ho-hum as some of the rest of this film was, for me, bottom line – Johansson and how Whedon utilized her assets were worth the price of admission.  But enough of that…

Break out the extra-large, layered butter, heavily salted popcorn and enjoy this thing for whatever deviant or nostalgic or escapist reasons you so choose.  Here’s the patented Schleicher Spin rundown: Continue reading

Captain America Wants YOU to Get Excited about The Avengers!

Stop...and look at these great period details!

 
I’ll be the first to admit to suffering from superhero fatigue. It seems every summer is overrun by comic book adaptations and superheroes, most of them wallowing in mediocrity and indistinguishable from each other only in levels of awfulness. I choose my poison carefully, and this year I’ve found it refreshing that Hollywood has decided to do comic book period pieces, first with the fun 1960’s set X-Men reboot, and now with the workmanlike 1940’s set Captain America.  This is essentially one of many prequels to Marvel’s upcoming Avengers multi-superhero-mega-comic-book-all-star-uber-blockbuster-spectacular, which we get a preview of after the credits. I can’t say that I’m very excited about it, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy Captain America on its own merits.
 
Joe Johnston, your poor man’s Steven Spielberg and long-time likeable hack director, channels his Rocketeer roots with this WWII-based expository film about Captain America’s origins and his battle with Red Skull. Continue reading