Sunday, August 9, 2009

GI Joe review and Incarnate review

Now, let’s be frank. This is not Shakespeare by any means, nor is it as bad as Gigli or The Phantom. I got out of the theater last night with a huge grin on my face and not the bad taste in my mouth I had expected after seeing the final trailer. ESPECIALLY the TV spots with Kid Rock’s “American Badass” song during it. So I went at a midnight showing, expecting a “meh” reaction, or something that would make forsake my childhood idols altogether. What Stephen Sommers did was make me feel like I was nine years-old again, playing with my figures (my brother being JOE and myself being Cobra) and I really had a good time. A really good time. There were so many nods, winks and nudges to the old fans and will jump start a new generation of younglings to discover the joy of it all.

Spoilers are blasting away like red and blue lasers!

We begin the movie with the first of many flashbacks. I like telling the origin in passing because you can get straight away to some heavy fight scenes. It’s 1641 and James McCullen is being sentenced for selling weapons to both Scotland and France. He is sentenced to wear an iron mask for all his days, but not before going off on a tirade about Clan McCullen taking it’s place in history to rule the world. Fast forward to the “not so distant future”, James McCullen XXIV (played by former Doctor Who and Heroes star, Christopher Eccleston) and surprise, he’s an arms dealer. His project are nanomite warheads that can be turned off so casualties and damage can be controlled. The warheads are to be taken somewhere and guarding the weapons are Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans, because when I think of sci-fi/military movie, I think of a Wayans). On the way to their destination, Duke, Rip and their entourage are jumped and have their collective ass handed to them by Baroness and Cobra troopers. It turns out Baroness (Sienna Miller sans over-the-top accent) and Duke were once lovers. I know it’s sort of a long shot and detour from the original story, but I guess they need to tie things up.

So, it looks as though all hope is lost until you see Snake Eyes (Ray Park aka Darth Maul) jump out of a helicopter and starts kicking all sorts of trooper ass. I found myself laughing as helpless minions fell by Snake Eyes’ swordplay, and then laughed some more when Snake was joined by Shana “Scarlet” O’Hara (Rachel Nichols) who just blasts guys left and right with her trademark crossbow. And yes, then a red and blue laser shootout ensues, but not in favor of Cobra. The warheads are safe…for now. Duke and Rip then are introduced to General Hawk (Dennis Quaid, flight jacket and all) and soon after we are introduced to GI JOE headquarters, the Pit. It gets gadget-heavy, which is a good thing, but when they talk about invisibility suits, I remember watching something on the History Channel a few years back about how the military, is in fact, developing such a thing. In the Pit we see Duke and Rip training to be one of the Joes and finally getting accepted. There is some flirtation between Rip and Scarlet that reminds me of the old Zelda cartoon where Link is just a pest, but can you really blame Rip for trying to make a move?

McCullen reports to Hawk to check up on the warheads to make sure they are not damaged and so forth. Turned out McCullen actually activated a tracking device and is coming for them. It is here we also see the Destro/Baroness relationship. Turns out, though, Ana/Baroness is actually married to a French Baron and is using his money to help fund for McCullen’s weaponry and such. So then we have the attack on the Pit led by Baroness, accompanied by Storm Shadow (played by Korean actor Byung-hun Lee), Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) and a plethora of troopers. This fight scene is just a taste of what is later to come. There is a Scarlet/Baroness throwdown, Duke taking out troopers, Rip (yes…MARLON WAYANS) kicking some major ass, as well. And of course…Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. All of that in about 5-6 minutes but it felt like it lasted longer because my brain transformed me into that same nine year-old with all the action figures. There are some casualties as well, Cover Girl is killed by Zartan and Hawk is sliced up pretty bad by Storm Shadow.

At the end of the fray, Duke confronts Baroness about how she’s changed and why and to hand over the warheads she just obtained. He even puts a gun to her head, though she knows he won’t pull the trigger and the bad guys get away. Soon after we get some back stories. Duke was engaged to Ana and went to war with her brother, Rex, (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Well, things didn’t turn out so well for Rex in a scene that is reminiscent of GoldenEye with Agent 006. We also delve into Snakes’ and Storm’s origin a bit. Yes, there is a Hard Master cameo and we learn why Snake doesn’t talk.

From there, Baroness takes the warheads to her husbands laboratory and weaponizes them. Since McCullen has a sort of bloodfued with the French, he decides to test the first one out on a national treasure. Now is the scene that you’ve probably all seen by now: the French chase scene with the accelerator suits and Snakes Eyes doing back flips over cars. The commercials and ads for it are a bit overplayed by now…HOWEVER, the things Ray Park does as Snake Eyes is truly awesome to see. Rip and Duke do some interesting things as well, but some of them are just mindless and destructive for the sake of being loud and explosive. And again, the bad guys get away, and this time with a good portion of Paris destroyed and Duke has been kidnapped. On top of it all, Rip, Scarlet, Breaker and Heavy Duty are all attained by the French government. Things are not looking well for the Joes at this moment.

Back on the chopper where Duke is being held hostage we see a little more in the history of Ana and Duke as well as the conclusion to Storm Shadow’s origin. When they reach their headquarters Duke tries to grab the warheads and run. At first it seems like a stupid move, even from my perspective, because I said out loud “Now where the hell is he going?” Ah, but sneaky Duke…he reactivated the tracking device that McCullen had used earlier. So then Duke is introduced to the Doctor and McCullen who have something special in line for Duke. Turns out the Doctor is really Rex and is taking revenge out on Duke by making him a slave for his new army. I was impressed by Gordon-Levitt’s voice and how creepy he actually made him sound. Nothing over the top, but a hint of old school Commander was there in how he exaggerated his f’s and s’s.

Meanwhile, the Joe crew is coming to the rescue and there’s another showdown, this one is the big melee fight between our favorite ninjas. Also, a bit of a surprise in the development in the Baroness character and she actually turns on McCullen and her brother to save Duke. In the process, setting McCullen on fire! Yikes!
During this, there is a huge underwater dog fight and Rip is going after the other warheads which have been launched. Though at the end of it all, the good guys save the day, but I know what you’re thinking…the subtitle is called “Rise of Cobra”. Oh…there is a rise. Rex calls himself Commander, and yes, McCullen becomes Destro, just like how we all wanted him to look like. It’s obvious how they are setting up for a sequel and I’d love that! I had more fun with this movie than any other I can remember all year long. Maybe Watchmen. Though I knew how that one ended.

I love how the script borderlined what was made for kids and what was made for old school fans. There’s no masturbation jokes/references here or over sexual shots or racist stereotypes. I haven’t gone through a whole bag of popcorn in a long time like how I devoured one while watching this movie. If you have kids to this movie, take them, it’s just that damn fun. The special effects were pretty sub-par, so I hope they get the right people on them next time. They felt dated and almost SyFy TV special-esque, and took me out of the movie at times, but then some fight would break out and I’d snap right back into it.

If I had to rate the movie using a number chart: 8.5/10. I plan on seeing it again, just in case I missed some hard-to-find Easter Egg.

Now for something a bit different.

Incarnate #1 of 3
Written and Pencils by Nick Simmons
Inks by Matt Dalton
Colors by Brian Buccellato
Assisting Art by Nam Kim. Ben Harvey, Shi Hua Wang
Published by Radical
Available Now

Now usually when a celebrity or TV personality announce they have a comic book in the works, it's just an idea they have, and then a team of professionals are assembled to make sense of it all and flesh it out. That doesn't seem to be the case here with Radical's new mini-series, Incarnate, created and written by Gene Simmons' (who has had a few comic series under his name, but was written by other people. Namely Dominatrix, which was written by Sean Taylor) son, Nick. Now, with a lineage like that, I don't think doing a story like Spider-Man or something run-of-the-mill will have to do. And something not involving spandex. Incarnate is definitely not run-of-the-mill, and is actually pretty bloody fun.

Emphasis on the bloody.

Now, it's not perfect by any means. At first, I was sort of turned off by the "AmeriManga" style of it all. That soon wore off, as I then got turned off even more by the...interesting vernacular and dialogue. Though, I'll give the kid credit and shrug it off as a rookie mistake. After a few pages into it, I really took a good look at the art and Nick has got some serious skills. Now, I'm not sure what the ratio of him was to the assistant artists. Maybe he had some help with the flow of the story and panel configuration...who knows. The art does shine, though. It's not for everybody: even if you happen to just dismiss it at first, I'd suggest you give it a try.

The main character, Mot (who for some reason loo ks like Nick himself) is an ancient vampire/demon who is reborn after of being in some sort of trance for a period of time and he quickly seeks out others like him. However, there is a threat to his kind's existence: humans have found a way to slay the immortals. Some of them have denounced this theory, but soon thereafter, they are discovered at their lair and are killed off, leading to a showdown between Mot and the leader of the demonslayers, who call themselves "Sanctum".

Like I mentioned, it's a set-up for the next two installments, and it's a valiant effort on Nick's part, but a co-writer would have been better to have, at least on the first issue, to help better the dialogue. Don't get me wrong, it was a fun read, and pretty creative. Hopefully young Simmons will learn from this experience and better his craft.


Zaius said...

[re G.I. Joe]

I couldn't agree with you more - what a really enjoyable film. I think it achieved everything (pretty much) it set out to achieve: fun without ever being silly, character led without becoming a soap opera, largely respectful of 'Joe' legacy (I believe) without being constricted by it.

I can't remember seeing a more enjoyable film this year.

[more of my thoughts about this film:]

Lan Pitts said...

I totally agree with you, Doc.