And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


X-Men: First Class (2011)

Well, this is embarrassing. I purposefully avoided X-Men: First Class for a variety of reasons I hope I’ve explained in past X-reviews. Come to find out, not only is it better than it has any right to be, not only is it easily the best X-Men movie of the series…for me, it’s also the best superhero movie of Summer 2011.

But after eleven years and four increasingly crappy movies, can you blame me for being skittish? No. Of course you can’t. Even the so-called “good” X-movies are lousy with basic plot and story problems everyone ignored at the time because we were too busy being happy they existed in the first place. Along comes First Class, a film that feels like its makers kept one eye on a gargantuan check-list of those problems…and the other on the clock. It still has the multitudinous problems of a Superhero Team Movie, and especially a superhero Team Movie made by Fox, but unlike every other superhero movie of Summer 2011, First Class feels like an actual film. Continue reading

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X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Oh crap. I put in a Twilight movie by mistake.

Oh crap. I put in a Twilight movie by mistake.

Doc Psy’s Journal: May 26, 2006. Shitty movie in theaters this morning. Finger pints of meddling executives all over the remains. This entertainment industry is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. Its corporate boardrooms are blood-stained abattoirs where good ideas go to die, tortured by bean counters and business school graduates even more cynical than I am. If that’s possible.

The hatred I feel now’s been a long time coming. For two movies, I watched as fanboys and -girls the world over sang the praises of X-Men. They jumped for joy when X2 managed to avoid outright sucking. And then it happened. Bryan Singer jumped ship to do Superman Returns. Wouldn’t you? Yes, you would. You would abandon the franchise you’d spent half a decade building for the chance to do Superman. I don’t blame Singer for taking the opportunity to make that film. I blame him for the crappy film he eventually made . The rest of the blame is fitted for the shoulders of 20th Century Fox, the movie company that can’t pass a shark without jumping it. Continue reading



X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
The cost of DADT climbes higher every day.

The cost of DADT climbs higher every day.

I’ve never liked Wolverine for the same reason I’ve don’t like most antiheroes: most of the time, he’s an asshole. Originally created by Len Wein so Bruce Banner could have someone to punch, Wolverine went to to be (arguably) the most popular and certainly the most recognizable asshole in the X-Men’s roster…for better or worse. Without him, odds are the X-Men books wouldn’t be nearly as popular as they are, and their three-and-counting films almost certainly wouldn’t exist.

That’s why the X-Men trilogy’s attempts to soften and humanize Wolverine always felt forced to me…a little too…disingenuous. True, apart from the occasional Odious Comic Relief piece, Logan’s softer side only surfaced when he was protecting The Children or trying to get into Jean Gray’s black leather pants. Both were noble goals that nevertheless annoyed me, bored me, and pulled the whole trilogy down into their gravity well. I spent three movies wondering just who this Hugh Jackman character was and why the films were trying so hard to convince me he was Wolverine? He was too damn nice, and his accent has a bad habit of shifting southwards. So for nine years I told Hollywood, “Quit pussyfooting around and give Wolverine his own film.”

I hate it when they listen to me. Continue reading



X-Men (2000)
"What did you expect...a group shot full of action? Go back to your Rob Leifeld comics then, you posers,"

"What did you expect...a group shot full of action? Go back to your Rob Leifeld comics then, you posers,"

Now here’s a case study in adaption, a simultaneous example of how to successfully make a comic book movie and how to cock it up even as you’re supposedly doing “right” by both your fans and your studio backers. An unqualified box office success, X-Men ignited what I’ve come to call the Silver Age of Comic Book Movies, inaugurating trends and best practices that hamstring the genre to this day, despite elevating superhero flicks up to a level of respectability they’d never previously enjoyed…save, perhaps, for about a minute and a half there, after Tim Burton’s Batman.

Batman was a filmmaker’s film by a man who’s gone on to admit he’s never read a comic book in his life. (“Which,” as Kevin Smith put it, “explains Batman.”) At least X-Men‘s Bryan Singer had the good since to claim making his “comic book” movie helped him see the light. Before this, Singer was known for one decent thriller (Unusual Suspects) and one half-decent Stephen King adaption (Apt Pupil). Seeking to do a sci-fi picture, he nonetheless turned X-Men down three times…until producer Avi Arad convinced him to actually read the damn books…and watch some of the wonderful animated series Arad brought to Fox Kids for five season’s in the 90s. Continue reading



Hulk Vs. (2009)

Lionsgate Entertainment and Marvel Comics have quite the partnership going on. Hoping to tide us over between summer blockbuster seasons, the (I don’t quite feel right about calling them “dynamic”) duo of media conglomerates have put out a steady stream of direct-to-DVD cartoon features starring Marvel’s heaviest-hitting heroes. I’ve already spoken about Ultimate Avengers. The fact that I’ve seen it’s sequel, along with the animated Iron Man, and was not impressed enough to write either of them up, should tell you all you need to know about those two. You can understand why I went into tonight’s subject with a mixture of high hopes and lowered expectations.

My love for the Hulk knows few bounds, and I’ve been disappointed by most of his live-action outings. I’ll defend Ang Lee’s Hulk until the day I’m forced to save humanity from the despotic rule of my power-mad future-self, but last year’s Incredible Hulk left me cold. Desperate, I once again looked to Ultimate Avengers and the 1970s Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno live action show for my genuine Bruce Banner fix.

I still do. {More}



X2: X-Men United (2003)

I went into this farce with no expectations.  In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a natural pessimist. So much of a pessimist I was prepared to write X2 off completely, like all the idiots I criticism for their blatant hypocrisy, dismissing “comic book” movies without daring to sully their eyes by actually viewing  one. Then the maintenance man comes by at nine in the morning, screwing my sleep schedule all to hell. And he tells me I should see this movie. It apparently, “kicked serious ass.”

So off I go to Target. Twenty minutes, two cigs, and one neutered anti-theft device later, I returned the proud (if ambivalent) owner of X2, second in what will no doubt be the epic superhero movie trilogy to end all epic superhero movie trilogies. For, like, ever.

As if. I say “ambivalent” whenever I’m faced with something like this…like almost any movie from the summer of ’03…with one notable exception…something that makes me feel anything but united. I love glitz and glamor as much as the next Red Blooded American Male, but I’m getting mighty tired of leaving a movie feeling hollow and gypped. After all, didn’t they used to make movies with something more than a few hundred million dollars of special effects? Something that engaged its audience? That challenged us? Was that just a dream? I swear they were still doing it a few years ago… {More}