[REVIEW] ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ or That’s How You Tell an Origin Story!

After the successful conclusion of the Marvel Infinity Saga a lot of skeptics wondered if the best days of the MCU were behind the studio. Indeed with the weak entry of Spider-man: Far From Home it was easy to start asking those questions. Fortunately Marvel has not only produced some incredible television with Wandavision and Loki in 2021 but their latest origin story movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is one of their best yet!

Shang-Chi stars Simu Liu of Kim’s Convenience fame (a show I adored) as a young man who has a secret identity as a martial arts fighter having been trained by his father from an early age. As the movie starts he is working as a parking attendant with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) when he gets a message from his father and goes to warn his sister (Meng’er Zhang) of impending peril.

There are a number of reasons this movie works so well but the biggest is its focus on a family and their complicated relationships with each other. Tony Leung is absolutely fantastic as Wenwu, Shang-Chi’s father and leader of the Ten Rings clan. He is handsome and charismatic, not to mention great with the action scenes (of course).

I also loved the dynamic between Shang-Chi and his sister Xialing. It’s a relationship with some pain as all the relationships are in this movie. Awkwafina is fantastic as Katy and her and Shang-Chi have one of the sweetest, most understated relationships in the MCU. The villain is also one of the best in the series.

As expected, the action throughout the film is outstanding. Marvel hired Andy Cheng, the fight choreographer behind many Jackie Chan films like Shanghai Noon and Rush Hour and it shows! It’s a cliche to say but it really is a pulse-pounding great time at the movies. Not only is it exciting action but it is shot with a flair that allows you to appreciate what is happening to the characters.

Simu Liu is charming as Shang-Chi and the whole cast has great chemistry together. The script reminded me of a cross between an Iron Man and Thor film. There is fantasy and mythical lore that you’d see in Thor and the cheeky, likable performance we see in Iron Man. It’s the kind of movie I walk away thinking ‘who won’t have fun at that movie?’. Of course some will but the vast majority will have a great time.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has it all. It’s got great characters with meaningful relationships. It has a cracking script loaded with witty banter, well-choreographed action and a cast with wonderful charisma and personality. It’s one of the best origin stories in the MCU in many years and I look forward to seeing the characters in future entries.

I even liked the winks at Iron Man 3, which is an MCU film I don’t care for.. It also has a terrific mid-credits scene so make sure to stay around.

8.5 out of 10

Smile worthy

[REVIEW] ‘Black Widow’ or Nice to See Natasha Kick-Butt Again

There are many factors which go into making the Marvel Cinematic Universe as successful as it is. The detailed planning, consistent execution and overall inspiring experiences make for films that even at their worst are competent blockbusters people enjoy. However, the most important key to their success is their remarkable knack for casting and ability to build affection for their characters. We are forgiving of the flaws of a film because we love the characters and are attached to their stories within the MCU.

Such is the case with Natasha Romanoff or Black Widow. We are attached to her character and Scarlett Johansson in the role that even in an imperfect film we are happy to be spending time with our old friend. This is especially true in this case because of losing her in Avengers: Endgame so sadly.

It is also our affection for Black Widow that made us all want her to have her own movie much sooner. While comforting to see her again on the screen, it can’t help but feel like a missed opportunity that she couldn’t have been a more celebrated part of the Infinity War narrative and not just a supporting player. In some ways the new Black Widow movie feels a little like an apology for all the fans who wish Marvel had the guts to release a Black Widow film way back in phase 1 as opposed to now in phase 4. Also the fact that both female superhero films in the MCU have been prequels feels more than a little safe and strange. Be braver Marvel!!

That said, what did I think of the film we got? Overall I enjoyed it. I certainly thought it was much better than I expected it to be and I had a good time with it.

If you recall in Avengers Age of Ultron we get a little peak into Natasha’s past with the ‘Red Room’ where she was trained to be the super spy we all know her to be. This new movie, Black Widow, elaborates on that vision and takes us back to the time between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.

Natasha is on the run and trying to find out more information about the organization behind the ‘Red Room’ that is trying to stop her from being an avenger. This includes reconnecting with her ‘family’ played by Rachel Weisz, David Harbour and Florence Pugh.

The best part about Black Widow is the interactions between the family and particularly the dynamic between Natasha and Pugh’s Yelena. They have great chemistry and feel like actual sisters. Weisz is underused as Melina but Harbour is also charming as Alexei or Red Guardian.

Because we like all of these characters it’s fun to see them fighting off bad guys while exchanging witty banter. That dynamic is what makes the MCU terrific. The action was also all enjoyable without being too memorable. It did the job. The villains are serviceable for this story even if I will not remember them by the time the next Marvel movie comes along. The MCU isn’t about villains. It’s about heroes, and I like these heroes.

I do think Black Widow pushes its luck at 134 minutes and there are times it drags. The action isn’t memorable enough to sustain the runtime and because we know what happens with Natasha the stakes are never very present.

Recently on twitter I said

What I mean by that is Wonder Woman 84 (which I gave a marginal recommendation) was narratively messy but it really tried hard to talk about big themes and take its characters on a big story. Black Widow doesn’t do any of that. It is way cleaner and succeeds in making a fun, competent action movie. Like I said, it’s a better movie than Wonder Woman 84 but it doesn’t try as hard either. So it comes down to what you want out of a film. Do you want a satisfying but perhaps forgettable blockbuster or do you want something that swings and a lot of the times misses? I can see arguments for both.

I went to see Black Widow with my niece and we had a great time together. It earns its PG-13 rating but if you do take your teens and pre-teens they will have a great time. It will be interesting to see how they use Yelena in the future (stay for post-credit scene). I look forward to seeing more of Pugh.

While not perfect and a bit too late, Black Widow combines kick-butt action with the best family in the MCU to make for a fun ride!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Current Mini Reviews

Hello my fine movie-loving friends! Today marks an exciting day. Believe it or not I have officially seen every movie of any interest to me in both regular and art-house cinema! That almost never happens to me but with a lot of horror movies coming out there hasn’t been as much that interests me when compared with a typical July.

With so many movies seen this means it is time for one of my much celebrated ‘Current Mini Reviews’ posts! These occur when I don’t have time to write an entire post on a film but want to log my response to help all of you know what’s out there to see. So here goes!

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PLUS ONE

First up is the romantic comedy Plus One starring Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid in the lead roles. This film is available in theaters and on demand and while it is definitely R rated, it is also a pretty charming romcom.

Quaid (who is very charismatic) and Erskine play 2 friends who make a deal to be each-other’s plus one for 10 weddings they have been invited to in one year (I would die going to so many weddings!). As romcoms go, naturally their friendship blossoms into something more, and all kinds of shenanigans unfold. Plus One definitely follows an expected formula but the leads have enough chemistry and it was funny enough to entertain me. If you can handle an R rated movie than I recommend it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

pavarotti

PAVAROTTI

Directed by Ron Howard this documentary on the legendary opera singer Luciano Pavarotti doesn’t break the mold of a standard celebrity biographical documentary but I still enjoyed it because of the stunning music. Howard allows the performances to go on for long stretches so you can get a feel for the experience the audience had listening to such a master tenor. The interviews are interesting but again quite standard for this kind of film. Go see it for the music!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

far from hom5

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME-

I know it is kind of sneaky to put only a mini-review for such a big film in here but my friend Patrick already reviewed this film for the site and I have no desire to compete with his review. Unfortunately I was not as in love with this movie as Patrick or the masses seem to be. It has its pluses but some real problems as well.

First the aspects I enjoyed is Tom Holland as Spider-Man. He’s sweet, vulnerable and completely likable as our teen web slinger. I also liked Zendaya as MJ and pretty much all the ‘teenagers go to Europe’ stuff I liked.

Unfortunately I did not like the villain plot. Without spoilers I found it convoluted, predictable and dull. Similar to Zemo, in Civil War, the amount of steps that needed to make the plan work is ridiculous and it required actions by Tony Stark in previous films that don’t make sense. Also some of the more creative moments felt like too much of a video game for my taste. Even something psychedelic like Doctor Strange still felt more grounded and therefore more engrossing with more stakes than the illusions here. Just not my cup of tea visually I guess.

It’s weird because everyone online seems to love this film but myself, my friend Jen and my two nieces all left disappointed so who knows? It’s not awful but definitely lower tier Marvel (and I’ve seen it twice to verify).

Also do the humans in this world even try any more to fight against the bad guys or just the Avengers because that’s what it felt like? I also don’t understand why Spider-man needs anonymity in this universe. Liberally none of the MCU is secret so why him? I dont get the big deal?

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

yesterday

YESTERDAY

For some reason when the trailer to Yesterday came out there was a big backlash against it. I don’t know if it is just the popularity of The Beatles people wanted untouched or they sensed a dud but many were up in arms about it. I, on the other hand, thought it looked quite charming and was excited to see it.

Unfortunately the doubters proved to be correct, and I was disappointed in Yesterday. A world without The Beatles is an interesting concept and Danny Boyle infuses the film with his trademark optimism but he is unable to overcome a lead character (Himesh Patel) that’s hard to root for and a romance with Lily James that has no chemistry. I was also surprised how sloppily made the film was with some poor editing and some ADR issues with the singing.

In the end, it’s just a bunch of The Beatles karaoke so I’d skip it. (Also the world would be way worse without The Beatles than not having Coke!).

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

echo in the canyon

ECHO IN THE CANYON

The documentary Echo in the Canyon profiles the music scene of the 1960s that developed in LA’s Laurel Canyon area. This includes interviews with bandmembers from The Mamas and the Papas, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield and more. Jakob Dylan becomes are narrator as we learn about the epic recording sessions that mostly occurred in small studios or in the musician’s homes.

Any music fan will love interviews with Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Stephen Stills, David Crosby and more. It was great. Unfortunately I was less enthused with the long sections of the tribute concert put on by Dylan, Regina Spektor, Beck and more. These are very talented singers but it was distracting from the musical story of the classic bands and the time and place the documentary is profiling.

Still, I enjoyed it well enough to recommend to any music fan!

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

papi chulo

PAPI CHULO

An interesting trend I have noticed lately in film is the exploration of male friendship- particularly unlikely male friendship. We even recently had our Oscar winner focus on this subject in Green Book. Another example is this sweet little film called Papi Chulo.

Matt Bomer plays Sean, a weatherman who has lost his husband and is finding the transition process very difficult. He is lonely and doesn’t seem to have any real friends (he goes to a party but he seems to be more worried about impressing them than any kind of real kinship). One day he befriends a house painter he hires named Ernesto played by Alejandro Patiño. The fact Ernesto doesn’t speak English is actually a plus as Sean just needs someone to listen and not respond.

Papi Chulo is a bit too casual in its treatment of moments of serious mental health crisis in Sean’s life but it has a huge heart I couldn’t resist. It is rated R for a little bit of language, alcohol use and background sensuality but it’s overall pretty tame and very sweet.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

‘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

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

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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.