‘Avengers: Endgame’ Review

While I have not loved every entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (see my Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 review), I have loved the franchise as a cinematic endeavor and when others have grown weary of it I have been one of its biggest champions. I unabashedly love the tone of the universe and its emphasis on heroes who fight for all that is good and right in the world.

I also know that endings matter and a rotten ending to a 22 movie arc would be a serious bummer. This knowledge and my less than pumped response to Infinity War had me full of nerves going into the epic final chapter of the Avengers saga that is Avengers: Endgame. Could they pull it off? Could they end this mammoth undertaking of 22 movies in a satisfactorily way?

Well, I’m delighted to tell you that they did end it well. In fact, it may be my favorite MCU film to date! I LOVED Avengers: Endgame!

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There are two aspects that make Avengers: Endgame so strong. First and most importantly, the story takes care of our characters. I felt satisfied in every arc. Unlike say The Last Jedi or How I Met Your Mother where I felt great disappointment at the treatment of our characters, Marvel gave them arcs that felt earned and treated them with respect. There were things I was sure would annoy me after the carnage of Infinity War but it worked. In particular our original six of Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk and Thor were given stories that felt authentic for the characters and gave the closure I needed.

I don’t think it is over-stating to say there is time travel element to the story. This allowed viewers to remember the fun we’ve had along the way but also gave the characters moments of retrospection on how far they had come and the choices they’ve made. Plus, it’s just fun. Time travel stories are a blast! I know some call this fan service but with each reveal my grin got bigger and wider. It was fantastic!

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Another strength of Avengers: Endgame is the pacing. I know that might sound nuts in a 3 hour movie but I found the film clipped right along. Infinity War dragged in its repetitive action where this was constantly changing who we are following and what type of situation they are facing. I was a little nervous going into the film that Captain Marvel would be over-used but she’s not. All the side characters are given their moments and then we move back to focusing on our main 5, which was brilliant.

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I am sure some people will talk about plotholes but so is the nature of time travel stories. I kind of treat this like watching Doctor Who. Sure the Doctor messes with the space time continuum in each episode but for the most part we let this go in the favor of who he saves and what the overall narrative needs to be. It will be fun to pick apart the many little moments of the film but the story won’t be any less effective by any imperfections I might uncover.

Those looking for big spectacle entertainment may find the first hour of Avengers: Endgame to be a little lacking, but I loved it! If you are one of those people, wait until the third act when the film delivers big time on spectacle! There were moments I had my mouth completely agape and a theater full of critics couldn’t help but cheer! It was infectious to see the ultimate heroes defeating the tar out of the villain Thanos!

In the end, Avengers: Endgame had it all. It was funny, moving, epic and everything else you could want. It is big spectacle entertainment topping off a cinematic achievement that many have attempted to mimic and failed. What the MCU has done is phenomenal, and I’m so happy they ended it well.

It is the perfect ending to our story.

Go see it! It’s great!

9.5/10

smile worthy

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Captain Marvel Review

Let me start off this review by mentioning a personal accomplishment that came along with seeing the film. Captain Marvel, the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is the first time I was able to see a Disney film as a member of the press. This has long been a dream of mine as Disney does not offer early screening opportunities for their films like the other studios do (I used to have to enter a lottery and then wait 2-4 hours before the said film to hopefully be admitted). When I got added to rottentomatoes it gave me the clout to apply and be accepted as a full member of press and that meant I could go to the Disney early screenings! Yay! It’s a dream come true!

Does that mean I give this movie a pass? Nope. If anything I was very conscientious of not doing so and may have been more critical than if I was just watching an every day movie.

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All that out of the way, what did I think about Captain Marvel? As an origin story for a superhero movie I quite enjoyed it. It’s not without flaws but overall I had a good time and it did a particularly good job pumping me up for Avengers: Endgame coming up next, which is part of its job.

Captain Marvel starts off with her being trained as part of the Kree people who’s mission is to fight and defeat the Skrulls (they kind of reminded me of klingons in Star Trek). As she trains with Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg, we see flashes into her past: a past that includes a life on earth as air force pilot Carol Danvers. Eventually she ends up back on earth and most of the movie is a mystery as she figures out who she is and what she is fighting for. Along the way we get to meet new characters like her best friend Maria (Lashana Lynch) and have fun with old favorites like Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and of course Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson). The de-aging cgi has gotten really good with some of these characters!

A mixture of old and new characters works to Captain Marvel‘s benefit because the plot can get a little muddled with too much exposition particularly in the 2nd act. I started to get worried the movie was going to become a slog but it manages to pull everything together for a rousing final act (and a particularly great mid and post-credit sequence). However, there are definitely sections where it gets lost in too much plot and not enough fun.

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I’m not sure how most will take them, but I really enjoyed all the 90s references. In particular, the use of music cues was very well done. Some may find them too on the nose but it worked for me. There is also some dialogue that was very cheesy, but I like a little cheese in my comic book movies, so I enjoyed it. It reminded me of a cross between the first Guardians of the Galaxy and a phase 1 MCU movie like Thor. Unfortunately, Captain Marvel does not have near the gravitas or moral weight of Wonder Woman (I never cried even once), but I don’t think it needed too. We will get all of that in spades in Endgame.

The job of Captain Marvel is to introduce us to the character, provide some laughs/action and get us pumped for Avengers: End Game. In my opinion, it totally accomplished this task and was a good time at the movies.

As far as family audiences, there is some action obviously and a few mild profanities but this should be a good film for all ages with nothing upsetting like in Wonder Woman. I wish it was 15 minutes shorter but at least it isn’t close to 2.5 hours like Aquaman. Kids should really enjoy it, so I recommend going as a family.  Also for the record, Alita: Battle Angel is a lot of fun as well, so go see both. This only benefits because I’m so invested in this universe and had a great time seeing characters like Nick Fury and Agent Coulson again (also George is the best!)

8.5 out of 10

smile worthy

Avengers: Infinity War Review

So Avengers: Infinity War has come and gone and I am left with mixed to positive feelings. I gave my review on my youtube channel last night and I would love if you guys would watch and give the video a thumbs up if you have a chance. But let’s talk about Infinity War:

Most of Infinity War is pretty awesome. I have a great affection for Marvel and have enjoyed almost all of their movies. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is really the only one that left me deflated. The original Avengers is still one of my favorite superhero movies of all time because of the way it blends the great characters with snappy dialogue and energetic action. Having Loki as your villain also never hurts! That film was the culmination of 5 films with their heroes into one epic team-up film.

Now with Infinity War Joe and Anthony Russo have the mammoth task of culminating 18 previous films into 2 epic films. One of my big worries going into it is if all of the many characters would be able to shine (how could they?). Naturally the directors have to pick and chose characters to focus on, but I felt like almost everyone got a good line or moment to shine. The dialogue was snappy and funny like I have come to expect with Marvel films. I also thought the action was uniformly entertaining and enjoyable.

They were very smart with how they teamed characters up. I loved seeing Starlord and Thor take jabs at each other. Doctor Strange and Iron Man were great together. There’s an awesome scene where Black Widow, Scarlett Witch and Okoye fight a female henchman of Thanos I loved. All the team-ups worked and didn’t make me annoyed at the characters like I was with Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 although Drax is still kind of irritating if you ask me.

Thanos played by Josh Brolin is a good villain although I certainly don’t think he is better than Loki. Many villains have wanted to purge the earth and start anew. Most recently we had this same motivation in Apocalypse in X-Men Apocalypse but this is handled about a billion times better. At least he has some motivation rather than being a evil man in a suit like many Marvel movies. I also liked that all of Thanos’ henchman were really strong and not just mindless drones.

So over all, this is a fun film. It has witty banter and great action with people that I really like. My only real problem was the ending. I hate movies where I feel like the creators think I am stupid. I remember feeling this way at the ending of Batman v Superman. We all knew Superman was coming back for Justice League so when they try to play off that he is dead it is hollow and manipulative rather than moving.

Something happens at the end of Infinity War that you would have to be a moron to believe is actually going to stick. So this left me frustrated rather than moved, which I think the filmmakers wanted to me feel. How do I cry when I know it isn’t real? It’s not going to last? When Steve Trevor dies in Wonder Woman it felt real so it was tragic and I cried. What happens here is not real and it made what is going to happen in part 4 incredibly predictable and obvious. Also it kind of gives them a massive out for the stakes we were promised which is a problem.

Without giving away spoilers it’s hard to go into details but under no planet is what happens at the end of this film going to stick. Also, it was executed in a way that was really confusing. I wasn’t sure until I got home what had actually happened. It was weird.

It’s frustrating for me because I feel they were so close to having something great but then they didn’t stick the landing. Granted this isn’t the real landing as the final movie is the true ending but still I think they wanted me to feel devastated and I didn’t because I know it isn’t real.

Oh well. It’s still mostly a good movie. (But I prefer Black Panther tbh)

Doctor Strange Review

doctor-strange4In some ways the latest Marvel movie, Doctor Strange, has been quite revelatory for me. You see, over on my youtube channel I had a special podcast with a comics expert friend of mine named Trevor at HowtoLoveComics.com. 

This forced me to dive into the comic books of Doctor Strange before seeing the film, something I have never done with a comic book movie. I was impressed with how understanding the lore and comics helped add to the moviegoing experience. It’s something I hope to continue to do for future films.

I don’t think  reading the comic books make you excuse flaws in the movie but it helps you understand the characters on a bit of a deeper level than may be explored in one particular movie.

Anyway, it was an interesting experience that I would recommend to all of you.

As far as the movie, Doctor Strange, I enjoyed it very much. There are 2 reasons to enjoy Doctor Strange:

doctor-strange9First, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange. I am a huge Benedict Cumberbatch fan and feel this is the best use we have seen for him in the movies yet. He manages to capture the brilliance of Doctor Strange while also getting a desperate humble side of him. I’ve heard many people compare his character to Tony Stark in Iron Man but I think he spends more of this movie humbled and weak than we get from Tony for many movies. He’s also much more awkward than Tony ever is.

Iron Man also has more substantial supporting characters than Doctor Strange gets. Pepper is a more active character in the first Iron Man than Rachel McAdam’s Christine and Rhodey is certainly more important to Tony than Wong is to Doctor Strange.

So, it is up to Benedict Cumberbatch and his character to carry the movie, and I think he does so very well. He’s charismatic and likable despite being arrogant and over-confident at times.

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The second standout is the amazing visuals. I saw this film on IMAX 3D and it was pretty awe inspiring. Doctor Strange learns from the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) that there are multiple dimensions. The mystical realms are accessed when we learn to manipulate and control these dimensions.

The movie does a great job showing these dimensions and not explaining them to us or the magic that goes along with them. We see it and that’s good enough without understanding the background or mechanics.

A lot of people have compared the visuals to Inception and I can see their point. However, I think they are more dreamlike than Inception. There is something a bit more grounded in Inception’s graphics and something more ephemeral about them here in my opinion.

The one caution I will give about the graphics is as spectacular as they are, they did make me a little motion sick. Some of the sequences towards the end I feel went on a little bit too long, and I started to feel a little nauseated. I have a very sensitive stomach when it comes to such things, so it is probably just me. You will have to make your own determination. That was just my experience.

doctor-strange11A lot of people have complained about the casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. It is a tricky thing because casting an Asian man like in the comic book could come across as reinforcing stereotypes, so which is the greater sin? Regardless, I think Tilda Swinton does a great job in the role as there is something other-worldly about her. Also her character has a bit more of an arc than I was expecting or was in the comic books I read.

All the rest of the performances are good but they are pretty brief. This is Doctor Strange’s movie and it is his origin story. Some will roll their eyes at another origin story but I didn’t mind it. The movie is well paced, clipping along quite nicely and the tone is carefully controlled. I enjoyed the more thoughtful moments along with the humor.

I don’t know if I liked Doctor Strange as much as Captain America: Civil War, but it is a very enjoyable origin story. I liked the character of Doctor Strange, and I liked the world we were given. That’s about all I needed to be happy. The story was good enough to engage me

I look forward to seeing how Doctor Strange works within the MCU going forward and how the new dimensions of mystical magic help add a new layer to the storytelling at Marvel.

Overall Grade- A-

Here is my youtube review

Captain America: Civil War and Ranking MCU

Hey guys! I just wanted to share my Captain America: Civil War review I posted to youtube tonight. I will write up a more in depth review after I get to see it again. I was super entertained by the film.

I also did a really fun podcast style video with my friend Matthew where we ranked the MCU films. This is long, 2 hours, but if you are looking for something while doing work or driving I think you’ll enjoy it.

My Thoughts on All Marvel Phase 2 Movies

So I have finished my viewings of all the Marvel Phase 2 movies.  If you want to see my best shots and thoughts on Phase 1 click here. This is all to get ready for Captain America: Civil War coming in a couple of weeks. I haven’t decided if I will do this with the X-men movies but there are fewer of those so why not? I think after that I need to do a Merchant/Ivory series or something like that. It’s kind of nuts that since the beginning of March I will have seen including Civil War and 2 viewings of Batman v Superman 30 superhero movies. That’s madness I tell you!

Anyway, Marvel Phase 2 has its hits and misses just like Phase 1. But I think that Marvel isn’t given quite enough credit for trying new things with these Phase 2 films. They went for it with Iron Man 3 with a very different director in Shane Black. They let the Russo Brothers give us a political thriller combined with great action in Cap 2 and took a real risk with James Gunn and the Guardians of the Galaxy. I don’t think any of these movies are awful but for me the risks sometimes paid off, and sometimes didn’t, but at least they are taking them. I look forward to seeing Civil War and our introduction to Spiderman and the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America coming to a forefront. Then we will be on to Dr Strange, Thor Ragnarok and Infinity Wars!

The thing I like about Marvel movies is I like their heroes. I’ve never been much a villain girl, and I think even in the less successful Phase 2 films we got to know our heroes a little bit better. They are becoming fully fleshed out characters and that was always my issue with comic book movies. They were always too dumb for their own good and the heroes were given the shaft over flashy spectacle action and villains. Marvel also almost always nails the casting and the lighter tone is more palatable to me.

What’s your favorite Marvel Phase 2 movie? What do you think of this group of movies? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Iron Man 3-

This movie has a lot of highs and lows. The lows for me are the cheap twist of The Mandarin.  I don’t know the comics (and evidently it was a betrayal of the character in the comics) but in the movie it felt cheap. Making him an actor and so silly just didn’t work and felt a little insulting to the viewers. If you haven’t guessed by my feelings on M Night Shyamalan I’m not a big fan of twists in movies. At least I usually get really annoyed when I feel like I am being tricked or it is too cute. That said, what I did like about Iron Man 3 is Tony’s struggle with anxiety and PTSD. It makes sense a superhero would struggle with anxiety and I think Robert Downy Jr was convincing in those scenes. It makes the events in Age of Ultron make more sense when you realize how physically and mentally taxed Tony is by his duties as an avenger. So for my best shot I picked a scene where Tony is mid-anxiety attack and you can feel his panic. As someone who has dealt with panic attacks I thought it was very moving.

iron man 3 best shot2Thor: The Dark World-

The cheap gimmick of Iron Man 3 and the Mandarin made me like it less than Thor: the Dark World but it is probably the worst Marvel movie. A lot of the action is murky and hard to make out. Natalie Portman is annoying as Jane and given way too much screen time and the story I didn’t really care about. In fact, after a couple of days since my viewing I’m having a hard time even remembering what it was. The part I did like was the scenes between Loki and Thor.  Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth are so terrific for these parts and they have great chemistry. The final scene where we see Loki laughing on the throne made me smile and so it gets the best shot.

best shot thor dark worldCaptain America: Winter Soldier-

What a great entry in the MCU! The Russo Brothers proved they know how to film incredible action and write a tight, exciting story. I love Chris Evans in this part and we get some emotional growth for the character with him coming to terms with his age and what he has lost along the way. I love the dynamic between Cap and the Winter Soldier. I loved all the action in the film. But when Steve has to fight Bucky it is emotional and exciting at the same time. He even says ‘don’t make me do this’ and you feel for the character. The Nick Fury death was kind of annoying but his car crash was amazing. It’s such an entertaining film.  This shot I feel covers what is great about the movie. Cap with his shield getting ready to face off against his friend the Winter Soldier.

winter soldier best shotGuardians of the Galaxy-

I love Guardians of the Galaxy! Back when I reviewed it on my other blog I said it was one of the ‘great movies of 2014’ and I stand behind that. It was Marvel’s first attempt to create a space opera and I love what they accomplished.  Star Lord and his band of misfits join together over the course of the movie. It is not immediate and they each have different types of outlaw personalities that blend very well together. To me it was a lot of fun watching them zoom across the galaxy looking for the globe/infinity stone. All the actors do a great job and the soundtrack still makes me smile. It is well written with enjoyable action and just what I want from my space operas. I chose this shot because I love this team of characters!

guardians best shotAvengers: Age of Ultron-

I probably like Age of Ultron for unusual reasons. Most people probably like the big action scenes like Hulk fighting the Hulkbuster or the opening action battle. For me I like the back stories and visions we get of each character. I found those scenes gave a depth to these characters we rarely see in a comic book movie. It all starts with Tony getting a vision of his friends slaughtered and Cap (of all people it would be Cap) says to him ‘you could have saved us…’. Going back to Iron Man 3 and his panic attacks this vision is especially chilling. I also thought seeing the sterilization in the past of Black Widow was very moving. Same with Steve and the life he has left behind. I also liked the contrast between Vision and Ultron.  I thought it really worked. I see why many were disappointed as it is more somber and maybe over the top in the conflict but to me it worked emotionally on a different level than Avengers, which was more fun than anything else. So, I picked a shot from Tony’s vision because it captures what I admired most about the film.

ultron best shotAnt-Man-

If you had told me a few years ago that I would like a movie called Ant-Man I would have said you were nuts. They even joke about how stupid the idea sounds within the movie. However, if you get Paul Rudd to play the character suddenly I’m on board (I’ve loved Paul Rudd since I was in high school watching Clueless). I know this film had production problems but what they created was something very satisfying and fun. I like how it feels very small (forgive the pun) compared to Age of Ultron (or really any other Marvel film).  It is at heart a heist movie and it works on that level. I liked all the performances except for Evangeline Lily who I thought was wooden and flat. It made me laugh and the visuals were really cool. I didn’t even mind Yellow Jacket as the villain because I love Cory Stoll. To me it worked and this shot captures the magic of the film. (And no, I could care less about Edgar Wright leaving the film. Get over it!).

best shot antmanSo there you have it! My thoughts on Phase 2. On to Phase 3 in a couple of weeks. I’ve heard great things so I am very excited for Civil War.  It should be intense but also a lot of fun.

Ant-Man Review

antman9Back in 2011 I swore off superhero movies for good.  I had seen the terrible Green Lantern movie and I was done.  They were stupid, moronic, boring, self-important junk and I didn’t want to see another one again.  So, if you had told me then I would be giving a positive review of a movie called Ant-Man I would have said you were insane.  Yet here I am giving such a review for Marvel’s new movie Ant-Man. Nice job Kevin Feige and Marvel.  With Ant-Man you have an entertaining time at the movies.  It’s as simple as that.

Part of what makes Ant-Man work is they have assembled an incredibly charismatic and likable cast.  I’ve been a huge Paul Rudd fan for years going all the way back to Clueless (and totally have a crush on him). He plays Scott Lang a thief who is recruited to be the next Ant-Man.  As always he is a complete charmer in the role.

antman6Scott is trained in the Ant-Man ways by Hank Pym played by Michael Douglas who looks like he is having a blast in a Marvel movie.

antman4Another actor I always love is Corey Stoll who plays the villain Yellowjacket and has a swagger that is magnetic on screen.

antman7 antman5Finally there are 3 friends of Scott from prison that are a riot- TI, Michael Pena and David Dastmalchian.  Michael Pena is especially funny in his part as the Latino crook who knows art and wine.

antman8Ant-man reminded me a lot of Sam Riami’s Spiderman and maybe a little bit of the original Ironman.  It feels light and fun and superhero movies have gotten so overly serious of late.  And yet it isn’t stupid like a Batman and Robin or Green Lantern.

There is a fair amount of humor and pretty much the entire plot of the movie is centered around Michael Douglas’ house so it feels very small (forgive the pun) in its scope.  It is not like an Avengers movie where the entire earth could be destroyed by the rising of a city.  This is a single building with one technology and one madman trying to control it. In truth it is a heist movie.

The training montages are a little ‘seen it all before’ but I liked the way they filmed the interactions with the ants and the CG looked very good in those scenes.  Except for a CG rat which made me shout in the middle of the theater it caught me off guard!

antman3Evangeline Lilly plays Hank’s daughter and I’m sorry but I do not think she is a very good actress.  She was terrible in the Hobbit movies and she isn’t very good here.  Just a bore and no chemistry between her and Rudd at all.

I could see how some might say this is a light weight superhero movie and in a way it is but I had so much fun with it.  Like I said it is funny and for the most part has actors who can pull it off.

It also doesn’t get too mired in the MCU (which I kind of like those clues to the broader universe but I know others hate it).  There is one cameo that is very well done and a few name drops but not distracting at all.

Marvel's Ant-Man..Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..? Marvel 2014If you thought Jurassic World was fun I can’t imagine you not enjoying Ant-Man.  In my mind it is much better silly entertainment.  It’s not deep or profound or going to make you think about life.  Ant-Man is just an enjoyable superhero movie with laughs, a good cast and some decent action set pieces I’ve never quite seen before.

I also liked that Bobby Cannavale plays the new love interest of Scott’s ex and for once he is actually a good guy.  It’s such a cliche for the new guy to be a total jerk (I’m talking to you San Andreas!).

The entire family can go to Ant-Man.  There is nothing offensive or off putting in it aside from a few very mild fighting.

There’s not that much to say about Ant-Man except this is the kind of movie I can have fun with.  It does everything I need it to do and doesn’t distract me with big plotholes, annoying characters or a meandering script.  I really enjoyed it.

Overall Grade- A-

Avengers Age of Ultron Review

Got to see Avengers Age of Ultron and loved it!!  It’s a great movie and right up there with the original and recent strong Marvel movies like Captain America: Winter Soldier.  They have a new villain named Ultron who is an artificial intelligence created by Tony Stark and is perfectly voiced by James Spader.

He’s the kind of villain that is all bad but is extremely dominating.  There were a lot of moments where I didn’t know how they were going to get out of these situations.  I really liked the 2 new additions with Quick Silver played by Aaron Taylor Johnson and Scarlet Witch.  There is also another new character that I won’t spoil for you.

Joss Whedon has done it again with a script that is full of humor but lots of good action and tension.  All the leads are funny but have moments of growth and development.  We particularly see a new side of The Hulk and get to know more about the Hawkeye backstory.

Great music from Danny Elfman and the visual effects work great.  The climax is very exciting and like I said I really didn’t know how they were going to defeat Ultron.  There are also lots of cameos from the MCU.

I loved it.  A very satisfying time at the  movies.

As far as content there is a lot of carnage and a scene where a building is toppled to the ground with all the debris that felt a little too 9/11 inspired for my comfort levels.  There is a tiny bit of language but nothing big.  I’d say it is pretty family friendly.

Overall Grade – A- Content Grade- A