“When kids of all ages discuss comic books and superheroes, there is inevitably one question that comes up time and again: If that one guy and that other guy had a fight, who would win? Comics companies occasionally indulge these debates with special issues pitting Thing against Hulk, or Wolverine versus Spider-Man, but the results are rarely satisfactory. There’s good reason not to kill off — or even damage the credibility of — a profitable character, so the battles usually end in a draw.
Movies don’t have to play like that. And with the apparent decision having been made that X-Men: The Last Stand is indeed the last in the series (future movies are expected to focus on Wolverine and Magneto in solo adventures), 20th Century Fox and director Brett Ratner go for it. Characters fight, and characters die — and those who survive are quite clearly marked as winners or losers. Timeless playground debates are settled at last. ”
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Short takes after the jump
THE CONRAD BOYS
Following the sudden death of his mother (from a sharp pain in the side, apparently), 19-year-old Charlie Conrad (Justin Lo) becomes the guardian of his nine-year-old brother Ben (Boo Boo Stewart), and postpones college in order to support the two of them by working at a restaurant. Matters are complicated when a handsome stranger named Jordan (Nick Bartzen) comes to town and awakens repressed feelings in Charlie; then even more so when the Conrad boys’ estranged, reformed-alcoholic father (Barry Shay) returns. Lo wrote, directed, edited, produced, and stars, most likely out of necessity; but cutting back on the duties might be a good idea next time. The main problem is that he simply isn’t a good actor here, and his character is an unlikable whiner regardless. Somehow, though, the story remains oddly compelling; unlike many first-time directors, Lo isn’t over-indulgent and keeps the story tight, although a forced climax involving a former associate of Jordan’s is awkward. Say this for him, though; he doesn’t make the ending easily predictable.
One day, a truly original screenplay will be written in which churchgoing, beer-drinking Southerners will be portrayed as something other than evil hypocrites. Until then, here’s this, a cautionary tale about what happens when a mean-spirited closet case named Chris (Chad Donella) moves next door to a happy, soon-to-be-domestically partnered gay couple (Seth Peterson and Brian J. Smith) and becomes the immediate prime suspect when one of them is discovered nearly beaten to death. Chris turns out to be the son of a fire-and-brimstone preacher (Bruce Davison) who’s pretty clearly based on Fred Phelps, the infamous “God Hates Fags” preacher known for picketing funerals. Initially, writer-director Tommy Stovall seems to be going for a CSI vibe, with a flashback or two to what witnesses saw before the crime occurred, but eventually the movie becomes a rather simple-minded endorsement of vigilante justice. If Stovall was trying to be morally ambiguous, he has failed by stacking the deck and resorting to stereotyping one side even as he tries to combat clichés on the other.
SEE NO EVIL
You would think that a pornography director would be a decent fit for a slasher movie — both genres feature wooden, often comical acting, and the barest hint of plot in order to facilitate numerous “money shots” full of screaming and bodily fluids. Yet Gregory Dark seems unable to make the transition. Wooden acting and bad story, yes; but waiting a full 30 minutes between the first and second kill scenes is unacceptable, and he manages to spoil most of the gory deaths — and one shower scene — by using overly discrete camera angles and quick cuts (c’mon, man, it’s R-rated!). WWE wrestler Kane (a.k.a. Glen Jacobs, formerly known as The Christmas Creature, Unabomb, Dr. I. Yankem D.D.S., and Diesel II) makes a decent big-screen debut as the retarded nutjob son of religious fundamentalists, now prone to digging out eyeballs with his fingers, and yes, he does use his signature chokeslam. The teenage victims seem inspired by other WWE characters, most notably a Lita lookalike who captivates the killer.