[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

[REVIEW] Zack Snyder’s Justice League: It’s an Event and It’s Fine

I have to be honest leading up to the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League I had no plans on watching it let alone reviewing it. Ever since my experience with Shazam I have been hesitant to note my opinions on superhero properties and have mostly only done so after long delays (see my review of Joker and Spider-Man Far From Home as examples).

The strange thing is I actually consider myself a fan of the genre and am quick to defend it against naysayers who claim it’s not true cinema (nonsense). I know I should be stronger as a critic but considering I am basically unpaid in my efforts it’s hard to muster up the energy to engage when people will threaten to kill you for your opinion.

As far as Zack Snyder I admire the ambition of his films but I find the execution to be frustrating. Man of Steel has interesting ideas but they are belabored to the point of exhaustion. Batman v Superman is bloated and yet rushed, and I hated the choice to kill Superman. Groan. Then we get 2017’s Justice League and I thought it was a hot mess. However, I liked seeing Superman (mustache and all) back to his old ways of truth, justice and the American way. It was a mess but it was my kind of mess and I enjoyed it.

Obviously I was in the minority of enjoying the film and fans clamored for a different version. Some said Snyder had a finished cut nearly ready for release. Others knew better and WB desperate to help their fledgling HBO Max service gave in and spent 70 million dollars for Snyder to finish his film. I’m glad he got to do it, and I’m glad he got to dedicate the film to his daughter.

However, now that I’ve seen it. I’m not even sure it is a film. It’s not a limited series either. It’s best described as an event. Like something you watch at an amusement park- only 4 hours long. Writing a review of this event then becomes difficult. How do we judge its quality when it is such a unique beast?

Honestly my main response after 4 hours is: it’s fine. I liked most everything with Wonder Woman. Aquaman sections were bland. The action felt very video-game inspired, which doesn’t move or excite me. The Superman parts I enjoyed even with the black suit (which I didn’t think I would like). It was nice seeing Ben Affleck healthy again in this world so I liked most of the Batman/Bruce sequences. Flash felt extemporaneous but fine. Cyborg had been oversold to me, and I didn’t think was anything special. Plus Ray Fisher has no charisma as an actor.

I still wish Snyder would use more subtly in his directing but there was more humor than his previous films. To be honest more of what I liked in 2017’s Justice League was kept than I anticipated.

I always try to ask myself when reviewing a film: did it succeed in doing what it’s trying to do? For example, when I watch a Hallmark Christmas movie I’m not looking at it under the same lens as when I’m watching Nomadland. They have entirely different audiences and purposes. That doesn’t mean I give the Hallmark movies a pass either. There are many bad ones. I just ask the question: does this movie succeed at being a good Christmas movie? I ask the same question when reviewing horror movies. Does the film succeed in being scary? Developing tone, having chilling sequences etc?

It’s the same thing with Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Does this movie succeed in what it’s trying to do? Is it a satisfying event for the fans who willed it into existence? The answer is undeniably yes. If the answer is yes (and I didn’t mind watching it) than it succeeds. That may be a convoluted explanation but there it is.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[SPOILER FREE REVIEW] Wonder Woman 84: Is Disappointing the same as bad?

Those of you who have followed my writing know how impactful the original Wonder Woman film was for me in my movie watching career. I didn’t just love it as the best of the DCEU. I loved it as one of my favorite films ever and emotionally bonded with it in a special way. Of course, I am aware of its flaws, but that doesn’t matter when a film has you engrossed in the character and her transformation as she comes to know the frailty and humanity (or lack there of) in man amidst the horrors of war. Even the 3rd act that most people hate I didn’t mind because Diana’s transformation was so moving and honest. Watching Wonder Woman was a spiritual experience for me, and I will always love it for that.

Now after 3 years of waiting with a whole year of delays we have the sequel Wonder Woman 84 and it is…

Disappointing!

Now that doesn’t mean I hated it because I didn’t and even as I write I still don’t know whether to give it a smile  or frown worthy (fresh or rotten). It has a lot of positives but it is not nearly as emotionally resonant as the original film, and the story has a lot of problems. I tried to moderate my expectations because I don’t know if it is possible for a movie to impact me again as much as the first film, but I still wish it was stronger. Darn!

Anyway, let’s talk about the strengths. First up is Diana/Wonder Woman as a character. She has been the best part of all 4 DCEU films she’s in and that continues here. I love her mixture of strength and softness. She forgoes the tired cliches that a woman has to be tough and kick-butt in order to be strong. She is kick-butt but also sweet and charming and finds joy in many things.

She is a WOMAN in all the strength and beauty that implies not a woman pretending to be a man, and I greatly appreciate that dynamic. I also love Gal Gadot and think she being an ex-soldier and a model brings that mixture of femininity and strength to the character.

I loved watching Gadot in Wonder Woman 84 and think she makes me invested in a lot of scenes that would not work otherwise. I also think she and Chris Pine have incredible chemistry. In fact, it’s almost too great because story-wise they probably should have went a different direction, but I understand the desire to put them together again because it is so good.

(Also if you start to think about how this connects to the DCEU and Diana having been in hiding when BvS starts it doesn’t make much sense. I guess DC doesn’t care about continuity any more? I don’t care but for the record it doesn’t make sense).

There are also nice moments in Wonder Woman 84. Nice moments of action, romance, character development throughout. I enjoyed the opening sequence in Themiscyra. Diana and Steve have some touching and humorous interactions and the action scenes are well staged (a lot of lasso work, which I enjoyed). I also liked Max Lord’s (Pedro Pascal) relationship with his son and the humanity that gave what would have been a very one note villain.

The problem with the film lies in its unmanageable length at 151 minutes and the bland, uninteresting story. I particularly found the arc involving Kristen Wiig’s Barbara Minerva to be weak.

They also didn’t do a good job capturing 1984. The hair isn’t big enough. The clothes aren’t flashy enough. Maxwell Lord feels like such an obvious commentary on 2020 and Donald Trump (I understand this is part of the comics character from its origin) that it made it harder to be immersed in the setting of the film. I didn’t have that problem with WW1 in the original film.

It’s not that Kristin Wiig gives a bad performance. Barbara’s just a very bland character we’ve seen in a thousand other comic book movies. I don’t understand why so many of these movies insist on having 2 villains? Rarely can the script justify that choice without some kind of character reveal like in Iron Man 3 or Big Hero 6. Wonder Woman 84 would have been so much better with just Maxwell Lord as the villain.

With so many characters the film also has what feels like 3 endings and then it keeps going. There are several times my friends and I looked at each other and said ‘there’s still ____ left?’… and then it kept going. It wraps things up with a moving message of hope and healing but so much felt wasteful and unfortunately again bland.

I know it’s hard for readers to accept critics can have mixed feelings on a film and rottentomatoes only exacerbates that problem. It forces us to pick a side. Fresh or rotten? Good or bad? Wonder Woman 84 is  in the middle but it feels bad because it is disappointing.

In my review of Justice League I said:

But all this aside I can’t deny that when I saw Superman fighting for truth and justice it made me really happy…I guess since it did make me smile I will give it a smile worthy but just barely

I think I feel the same about Wonder Woman 84. I got enough joy out of seeing Diana back on screen and the character made me smile enough to give it a smile worthy but just barely.

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Also if people can’t be respectful in the comments I will turn them off for this review. Disagreement is fine but threats and unkindness will not be tolerated

 

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ (Guest Review)

Hello Rachel! Yes, it is I, Patrick Beatty Reviews! Taking over your site to talk about Spider-Man: Far From Home (btw, thank you so much for having me on!). Directed by Jon Watts, who helmed the previous Spider-Man Homecoming, this sequel takes place sometime after Avengers: Endgame (so make sure you’ve seen it first. But who hasn’t at this point?). Peter Parker is going on a summer study abroad trip around Europe and is needing some serious R&R, and maybe a shot at romance with M.J. (played by Zendaya). But the work for an Avenger doesn’t end, as his vacation is cut short by Nick Fury, along with a new character Mysterio (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who need Spider-Mans help in fighting a slew of new villains called ‘The Elementals’. That is ALL I can say when it comes to this movie’s plot, but what I can say is it’s the most fun and exciting live-action Spider-Man film to date!

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First, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Tom Holland is a PERFECT Peter Parker. His acting and physical performance as Spider-Man is perfect, and he truly embodies the character we know and love from the comic books. This is Tom Hollands 5th performance as Spider-Man, and you can see that he is in his element as the character. Holland has terrific chemistry with his friend Ned (who gets a great side story) but also with Jake Gyllenhaal and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury). Holland again proves he is up there with the greats with how well he is able to interact with these two acting giants.

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The side characters in the film are also very funny, with great additions, which I can’t spoil but really bring in the humor for this film. Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan) for the scenes he is in absolutely nails his part, and I liked his back and forth chemistry with Holland. Where I may get some flack is I didn’t love the chemistry between M.J. and Peter Parker. I honestly think of the “Spider-Men” and their significant others, the Holland/Zendaya pairing falls the flattest. I had a tough time understanding why they liked each other, but perhaps if they had more scenes together to flesh out the “whys” of their relationship I might buy into it more. Don’t get me wrong, I love both their characters, but I don’t see the sparks just yet.

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Far From Home feels like when a tv show goes on “Vacation”: where you are getting a completely new and fun experience than you’ve felt when the show sticks within its main location. I loved the road trip feel and it’s a fun break from the somewhat serious tone Marvel had with ‘Infinity War’ and ‘Endgame’. The special effects are also amazing, particularly in the 3rd act. A lot of 3rd act superhero films only result in punching and fighting. Far From Home, in contrast, they utilize Spider-Man and his villain in a perfect way, and really energized the entire ending.

So did Spider-Man break new ground in the Spider-Man film-verse? I would say for die-hard fans who have wanted the ‘full Spider-Man experience then yes. This is an exciting, fast-paced adventure, showcasing the best parts of Spider-Man. There are some twists that some may not be expecting, and honestly, I could see people going either way on liking them or not but I had a great time with Spider-Man: Far From Home. I’d love to know what you all thought of it once you see it! Thank you again Rachel for having me!

I’m giving Spider-Man: Far From Home an 8/10

‘Dark Phoenix’ Review

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If you have been following my site for a while you know I’ve had a very rocky relationship with Fox’s X-Men series (For my best shots of the series click here). I like about half of them (I haven’t seen Deadpool or Logan but I strongly disliked Once Upon a Deadpool if that counts). However, I loved X-Men Days of Future Past but was very disappointed by X-Men Apocalypse. I found it irritating and extremely frustrating to watch (I hated the character of Apocalypse soooo much). I actually prefer Batman v Superman over X-Men Apocalypse.

Now we have Dark Phoenix, which has gone through development hell and has been dumped by Disney after their acquisition of Fox. It also features the beloved ‘Phoenix Saga’ storyline which was so poorly handled in X-Men: the Last Stand. One would hope they could learn from their mistakes and end on a high note. Unfortunately Dark Phoenix is a weak movie that even franchise fans are likely to forget very quickly. It’s not the worst of the group but certainly not one I can recommend.

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I must start by saying nothing in Dark Phoenix irritated me the way Apocalypse did in X-Men Apocalypse. In fact, nothing got much of any reaction. It was all pretty bland. Most of the actors do a good job with what is asked of them. The problem lies with the script and terrible dialogue. The one exception is Jessica Chastain: who really needs to be more careful with her big budget film projects. She is terrible in this film.

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The rest of the cast feels laden with a dull and robotic script that even they can’t elevate. For example, James McAvoy does a fine job in his scenes but they decide to write Charles Xavier as an insufferable egomaniac for some bizarre reason. He’s supposed to be the moral center of the saga and it feels very odd to end his character by literally replacing him as leader and calling into question all he has accomplished.

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Michael Fassbender as Magneto does his normal ‘I’m a villain but actually not a villain’ routine that is so tired but he’s a good actor and handsome enough for me to give him a pass. And then Jennifer Lawrence is so obviously done in her role as Mystique that her scenes are a snooze. Nicholas Hoult (Beast) has a super cringe-worthy use of the F word, and Tye Sheridan (Cyclops), Alexandra Ship (Storm), and Evan Peters (Quicksilver) are just arm candy or tools for exposition. The script doesn’t allow them to be anything more.

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As far as the ‘Phoenix Saga’, Sophie Turner is fine as Jean Grey (I also think Famke Janssen is fine in The Last Stand). Unfortunately the script doesn’t allow us to connect with her character, as it takes us from one action set-piece to another. It’s a strange choice because they established her powers in Apocalypse, so they had a jumping off point for her dealing with those powers from the beginning of the film. Why they decide to retcon all that I will never know. The whole point of Jean Grey’s character is she is battling between the light and darkness and here she comes across as more of an unstable crazy person, which isn’t as interesting.

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The only version of Jean Grey that’s gotten it right is X-Men: the Animated Series and perhaps that’s where it belongs? On television a complex character like Jean can have many episodes to flesh out the struggle in a way a movie can’t (yes I am actually recommending television over movies!!).

There are some entertaining action set pieces in Dark Phoenix, and like I said, the acting is decent, but it leaves the viewer wanting more. It’s not a disaster. It just feels like a weird way to end the franchise and a missed opportunity. I liked it better than the other ‘bad’ X-Men movies, but I certainly can’t recommend it.

Frown Worthy

4 out of 10

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Blind Spot 40: ‘Scott Pilgrim vs the World’

It seemed appropriate during the month of an epic comicbook movie release I should finally watch one of the most popular entries from the genre I have yet to have seen for my blind spot series: Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

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Released in 2010, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is based on a graphic novel called Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It tells the story of a dopey 22 year old kid named Scott (Michael Cera) who enters a video game world when he plays with his band the Sex Bob-Omb. He goes through many women, but he in particular loves a multi-haired girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to be with her he must defeat Ramona’s 7 evil exes in the video game using music and sometimes a little action.

For the most part I enjoyed watching this film. It is very well cast with a crop of young talent that would go places including Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman. The visual effects and style of the film is unique and continually surprised me. It both feels like you are inside a video game and a comicbook at the same time. scott pilgrim5I also thought Scott Pilgrim vs the World was pretty funny. The big set up jokes like Brandon Routh having super vegan powers really paid off and made me laugh. I also really liked Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay roommate. He was very funny.

What I didn’t like as much is Scott is kind of the worst. He’s selfish, inconsiderate and doesn’t respect women. He goes through them like candy and yet they all seem more than willing to put up with such nonsense. The main excuse the movie seemed to give is he is lovable and nerdy but that’s not a very good excuse. I got the feeling we were supposed to judge Ramona for having so many ex-boyfriends when we saw Scott go through multiple girlfriends in just a few days!

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All that said, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a pretty fun movie. The soundtrack is great and it has a ton of fresh energy to it. If you are tired of the same old story it’s definitely worth a try. I think I prefer it to the other Edgar Wright film I’ve seen Baby Driver.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

(This is my 40th Blind Spot pick! What a fun series it has proven to be!)

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