Super Cops III (Bad Boys for Life, 2020)

Bad_Boys_For_Life_posterWho wasted a perfect title for a fourth film???? Seriously people… Bad Boys 4 Life.

Seventeen years after the last film, Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett are back. A little older, a bit…um…thicker…but they are back. Burnett is desperate to retire and spend time with his wife and new granddaughter. Mike wants to keep being the badass cop.

But when there is an assassination attempt on Lowrey, they are called into action to try and determine who the killer is.

Bad Boys for life focuses on the impact of past choices, getting older, family and trust. Like, this is the first film to not make a joke about the closeness of these two men.  It treats their friendship as noble and good, not something to be embarrassed by.

The stakes get raised and while certain twists are not super original, they do work. The action sequences are incredibly easy to follow along with, yet still exciting.

Seriously, this is the best film in this franchise and I found myself curious for the clearly set up fourth film.  Bad Boys for Life is exciting, has depth the other two films lacked and was just a lot of fun to watch overall.

Super Cops II (Bad Boys II, 2003)

Bad_Boys_II_POsterThe Boys are back. The bickering couple stuff returns.  The hot babes as props returns.  The Gay subtext of the relationship of Lowrey and Burnett is here again. The fast and confusing visuals are back.

Honestly, I found the second Bad Boys film painfully tedious. There are few bright spots. I mean, Gabrielle Union is good. Peter Stormare is always fun. But this film tired me out quick.

Super Cops (Bad Boys, 1995)

Bad_Boys_PosterIn 1995 Will Smith was still primarily known as the Fresh Prince (with a lot of acclaim for his role in Six Degrees of Separation) and Martin Lawrence was riding high with a successful sitcom, stand-up and supporting roles in film. And Michael Bay? He had directed music videos.

Bad Boys is set in Miami and follows the exploits of two risk taking cops with attitude, Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett.  When there is a heist that steals all the drugs from a recent major bust right from under the noses of the Drug Task Force’s vaults, they start trying to  determine how it happened. When a call girl, Julie, calls in demanding to speak with Lowrey. This leads to “comic hijinks” as, since Mike is not in, Burnett pretends to be Lowrey.

This forced Mike to stay with Marcus’ family as they pretend to be each other to keep the trust of Julie. They take shots at each other via putting themselves down and so on.  This is the Bickering Couple style of buddy cops, in the vein of Riggs and Murtaugh. Except, Mike has no death wish, instead he perceives himself as super awesome and is very into style and appearance.  Like, I have no idea what a detective in Miami makes, but I still feel like it is very likely they cannot afford the lavish lifestyle of Mike Lowrey.

This film kicks off poorly aging humor about how it sure seems like they are a couple and both men getting hyper sensitive about it. Bay’s use of women as either unpleasant scold wives/authorities or hot objects is on full display here.

It can be hard to follow the action and the film often feels more like it is a bunch of rock videos strung together.

Bad Boys really cemented Bay’s style very early on and not really for the best.  A lot of his weaknesses on display here have carried on through his career.

 

It Runs In the Family (Percy Jackson & the Olympians: the Lightning Thief, 2010)

Percy_Jackson_Lightning_Thief_PosterStudios are always on the hunt for their franchises.  And Harry Potter had everyone convinced they knew the formula. And so 20th Century Fox brought in Chris Columbus, director of the first two Harry Potter films to adapt the Percy Jackson and the Olympians by young author Rick Riordan.

Percy Jackson has lived his life with his mother and a terrible step-father.  His only solace is swimming and his friend Grover. He struggles with dyslexia and is easily distracted.  One day on a school trip he makes a rather startling discovery.  He is the son of Poseidon, the Greek God of the Sea. Grover turns out to be a satyr and his protector and takes Percy and his mother to a place where Percy will be safe.  See, it turns out that everyone in Mythdom believes Percy has stolen Zeus’ lightning bolt.  And so everyone is trying to get it from him to start a war.

A minotaur interferes with their attempt to reach Camp Halfblood.  While Percy and Grover make it, his mother is taken by Hades.  Along with Grover and Annabeth, the daughter of Athena, Percy goes on a quest to free his mother from Hades.

The film draws from various Greek stories, bringing Percy against the Hydra, Medusa, and the underworld.  It is filled pretty richly with creatures of myths like Centaurs and furies.

The first two Harry Potter films were faithful to the source to the point of near detriments, but on the other hand the casting of the instructors was downright inspired. Now, I have not read the books, so I am not sure how closely the films follow their inspirations.  But while the cast is good, there are really no…”That person now defines how I would see them in any incarnation”.  Again, the cast is good.  You have Sean Bean, Joe Pantoliano, Uma Thurman, Catherine Keener, Rosario Dawson, and Pierce Brosnan in your supporting cast. And really, Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson and Alexandra Daddario connect well as a team.

A lot of the creature designs are pretty good.  Some, are hampered by being very obvious digital monsters.  And honestly, the film makes the same flaw in their choice for Medusa as the Clash of the Titans remake…she is to seductive looking.

However, there are some inspired moments, for example, the hydra begins as five men who combine into the beast.

The Lightning Thief has an interesting enough idea at it’s core that I did find the film to be fairly entertaining.  Not a classic or must see, of course, but it is certainly passable light entertainment.

Blind Faith (Daredevil, 2003)

Daredevil_PosterOh… Daredevil…

On the heels the success of the X-Men, Marvel pushed forward to get other properties going.  Spider-Man was in the works and so was the Hulk.  This was before Marvel Studios existed and the company was working with other studios.  There was no cinematic universe, because different studios had the rights.  Then the Marvel brass worked out a Daredevil deal.  Daredevil was getting a resurgence due to the Marvel Knights line (being one of Kevin Smith’s first gigs for the big two).  Daredevil had a classic background among Marvel books and certainly, would be less costly than Spider-Man or the X-Men.

Add to that the interest from some high profile actors and everything seemed good on paper.  And so the film got greenlit.  Unlike the X-Men, Spider-Man and Hulk, they opted to go with a director who was relatively unknown.  Daredevil was Mark Steven Johnson’s second film, having recently directed Simon Birch.

Casting news was where the strength was.  You had Ben Affleck as the Daredevil/Matt Murdock, Colin Farrel as Bullseye, Jennifer Garner as Electra, John Favreau as Foggy Nelson, Joe Pantoliano as reporter Ben Urich and the most controversial choice…Michael Clark Duncan as the Kingpin.  The fans were unhappy, because the Kingpin was a large and rotund white man.  The problem is, there did not seem to be a way to translate that without it looking pretty comical.  Duncan actually is a large man, and had both the muscle and height to be an imposing threat, as the Kingpin should be.  Granted, this was years before Vincent D’Nofrio made the role his.

Oddest casting complaint:  They totally whitewashed Electra!!! (for those unsure why this is so strange…Electra is Greek but more than one person seemed to think she was Asian)

The film introduces us to Matt Murdock.  He idolizes his boxer father (a nicely cast David Keith) until the day he discovers that his father is also working for the local mob as an enforcer.  Matt gets into an accident as he runs away and gets a chemical splashed in his eyes.  Matt is blinded, but soon discovers his other senses have taken on enhanced sensitivity.  It creates an echo effect that allows Matt to “see”.  What is really neat in the film is that they do let us see from Matt’s perspective.  The way the film shows his powers is pretty wild, a world that is turned into sensory braille.

Grown up Matt is a lawyer, specializing in helping the poor in Hell’s Kitchen by day and dressed up at night as the Vigilante Daredevil.  The police deny he exists, but he does leave telltale signs.  Ben Urich is trying to prove the Daredevil is real.

Daredevil himself is working to track down the Kingpin.  He scours seedy locations for lowlifes working his way towards the Kingpin, as the law has been unable to take the crime boss on.

The Kingpin hires expert assassin Bullseye to take out Nikolas Natchios (Erick Avari).  He and his daughter Electra are in town for a gala event.  Daredevil interferes and had a battle with  Bullseye.  Bullseye succeeds in killing Nikolas using one of Daredevil’s fighting sticks.

Electra goes on a revenge kick and falls in love with Matt/Daredevil.  Meanwhile, Bullseye is now trying to take out the Daredevil and Electra is trying to kill Bullseye, because it turns out she is a ninja because…of course she is.

In a fight with Bullseye, tragedy strikes and Matt finds himself on his own.  He is getting more and more desperate, and eventually takes down Bullseye.  He manages to get to the Kingpin, in a big fight, the Kingpin is taken down.  Happy ending, people!

The film got a very lukewarm reception when it opened on Valentines Day.  This is not a totally unexpected.  It is not a terrible movie, but it is far from perfect.  The story seems to attempt to force a lot of stuff from the comics.  It is clear that the primary source of inspiration comes from Frank Miller years.  No big surprise, as those were part of the innovative years of Daredevil (before his more recent run by folks like Ed Brubaker).

But there seems to be some problems with a single movie that takes a massive character arc and compresses it.  The film tries to take the character from a positive place and drag him through hell, all while also bringing Electra into it and having him take down the Kingpin.  It seems a bit counter intuitive, considering they were attempting to get a franchise started.  The darker edge seems like it might have been better saved for a sequel, as it all feels very rushed and not fleshed out here.

There seems to be confusion in the script as how to present Daredevil as well.  Noble hero or grim vigilante.  You have a sequence where he could save a rapist he failed to put away or let him get killed.  Yeah, he may be a rapist and therefore scum…but it really is not the best portrayal to show Daredevil so callous about death.  Then there is the moment where Daredevil dives in through a window and takes to pummeling one of Kingpin’s enforcers.  Daredevil realizes that he is being watched…by the enforcer’s terrified kid.  This would have been a great bit in a stronger film.  In a sequel, you could have really sold a tale about Matt Murdock wallowing in darkness and being pulled back to reality.  And that is what they are trying to do here…but it never has enough time to make it work.

It is nice the way they try and weave Murdock’s Catholicism into the story (with some great shots of Daredevil standing atop a cathedral to boot).  It is fairly nicely handled with some interaction between Matt/Daredevil and his Priest.

Affleck does pretty well, though he and Garner (ironically for the time) don’t have a lot of chemistry.  I am not sure I feel Ben fully carries the movie as a solo hero, he has little support from other heroes like the X-Men.  Colin Farrel is pretty entertaining and he clearly just decided to really ham it up.

The odd thing with Bullseye is he has no costume.  On the one hand, I get the concerns about his outfit from the comics.  On the other, they gave Daredevil a pretty close approximation to his comic book costume.  Bullseye simply has a bullseye carved into his forehead.

Jennifer Garner is kind of lifeless.  I never really buy Electra’s hearbreak and thirst for vengeance-even though they give us a training montage set to a Evanescence song.  The direction of the film feels pretty pedestrian, resulting in a film lacking real identity.  And nothing really saves it.  There is not a real unique sense of style to the film.

The film does a nice job in addressing Matt’s powers though-including how distracting they can be.  In the film, he sleeps in a sensory deprivation chamber.  And as I said, the times when we see things through Daredevil’s sonar are nicely handled.

But ultimately, while I appreciate the effort, in the end it is a film that is simply “okay”.  The director’s cut is actually a slightly improved version, though the flaws remain.

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