Push” (2009) is a movie-length version of what TV’s “The Gifted” would later show: people with superpowers on the run from government agents. Director Paul McGuigan’s film makes a strong case that this material works better in a movie than in a drawn-out TV series. One thing is notably missing: character development. But there is no padding to the narrative, and no melodramatic ennui.
Iappreciate that “Jonah Hex” (2010) is only 82 minutes long – the length of some episodes of “Westworld” nowadays – because it makes for a fairly painless viewing experience. Unfortunately, it’s also brainless. This adaptation of DC Comics’ Western superhero invented in 1972 is short for a reason: Writers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor tell the thinnest possible story. And it’s directed by Jimmy Hayward, who primarily does animated films. As such, “Jonah Hex” has the simplicity of an animated kids’ movie; it’s for adults only because of the violent revenge narrative.
Tom Hardy gives one of the best turns in a thankless role you’ll ever see. Known behind the scenes as Sony’s attempt to cash in on a “Spider-Man” character it has under its creative control, “Venom” (2018) is about a journalist, Eddie Brock, who gets possessed by an alien Symbiote. When Eddie is in the throes of possession, the sweat-drenched Hardy is sympathetic and funny; when Venom takes over, the performance is lost in a black CGI blob with white eyes and teeth.
The Crow” saga moves the action from Detroit to Los Angeles for its first sequel, “City of Angels” (1996), and I expected a slicker entry in a thriving metropolis with a love story and a Goo Goo Dolls song. But I was mixing this up with 1998’s romance movie “City of Angels,” from which the ubiquitous GGD song “Iris” comes. As it turns out, “The Crow’s” gritty Los Angeles looks the same as its Detroit; the whole saga takes place in an alternate near-dystopian reality.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” (1993), like most animated films based on properties best known for live action, made only a blip at the box office. (See also 2008’s “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” movie.) It was released on Christmas Day 1993 to tide Bat-fans over between 1992’s “Batman Returns” and 1995’s “Batman Forever,” and it’s regarded by many as being better than all of the 1990s live-action entries.
Idon’t know if anyone keeps track of this sort of thing, but Vin Diesel must hold the record for most franchises for a B-list action star. Joining “Fast & Furious,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “XXX” and “Pitch Black” is “Bloodshot,” the first entry in the Valiant Cinematic Universe. An actor who no one hates and no one lines up for, Diesel plays the title character (real name: Ray Garrison) who speaks gruffly and seeks vengeance for the murder of his gal Gina (Talulah Riley).
Has anyone had a better three films in one year than Jim Carrey’s 1994? He broke into the mainstream with “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and later delivered my favorite comedy of all time, “Dumb and Dumber.” In between came “The Mask,” which is his best superhero performance/movie (sorry “Batman Forever” and “Kick-Ass 2”), even though it comes up in conversation less than other roles from his vintage period.
Hellboy” (2019) inadvertently teaches a lesson about the way we perceive modern cinema. The CGI creatures and landscapes in director Neil Marshall’s film are technically creative and visually convincing, yet they are only impressive as individual moments; they don’t improve the overall film. Maybe it’s not a universal truism, but in this case, the movie is hurt by telling so much of its story via CGI – even though all of the CGI is very good.
Will Smith returned to his Fourth of July blockbuster stomping grounds – and tried his hand at playing a superhero slightly before it was cool – in 2008’s “Hancock.” His smooth ability to make a drunken and depressive superhero into a sympathetic person is the strength of the movie, which plays like a just-for-fun, see-what-sticks effort from co-writer Vince Gilligan and director Peter Berg, who have done better work elsewhere.
In 1990, I got into “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and eventually learned that the source material was adult-aimed comic books. The same year, the “Toxic Crusaders” cartoon was on TV and the Playmates action figures were right next to “TMNT” toys on the shelves. The source material here makes “TMNT’s” look tame by comparison, and I can only hope not too many kids checked out the 1984 “Toxic Avenger” movie and became traumatized.