Thoughts on Marvel Phase 1 Movies

So last month in preparation for Batman v Superman I watched all the Batman and Superman movies and gave my best shot with a mini review for each film. Even though I’m kind of superhero movie’d out I decided I’d plow forward and do the Marvel movies as well. It’s no secret that I enjoy the Marvel movies much more than DC properties but before Avengers I actually wasn’t into superhero movies at all.

From Catwoman to Green Lantern, it seemed like all I saw were horrible movies, so I was turned off of comic book movies. I didn’t see any of the early Marvel films and had no interest in seeing The Avengers. But my friends told me I had to see it and despite not seeing the earlier films I watched it and to my surprise- loved it.  I liked seeing the formation of the team and all the different personalities.  It had action but it wasn’t too bleak or drab.  It was funny without being stupid and it had a female character that was awesome.

It took me a while to then go back and watch the earlier films, and I enjoyed those as well. I know a lot of people complain about Marvel’s villains but that honestly doesn’t bother me. I guess I like my heroes better than my villains. I’ve yet to see a film from Marvel that I’ve hated.  They just get me!

So I decided to do these mini-reviews Best Shot style like the Batman and Superman posts.  I am going to split these up into 2 posts as it will take me a bit to watch phase 2 and I didn’t want to forget why I picked my phase 1 spots and 13 reviews seemed like a lot for one post. I hope you enjoy them and let me know what your favorite shot or moments are from these films. Thanks!

Iron Man-

Iron Man got the MCU off with a bang and is beloved for a reason. A super satisfying comic book movie with Robert Downey Jr oozing charisma out of every pore. Jeff Bridges is a decent foe but what I like most about this film is how smart Tony has to be. He’s given scraps and is able to build his first suit and then he continually uses his brain to make things better and help more people (and himself). I think you lose a little bit of that scrapiness and intellect as the series continues so it was refreshing to see it again.  I picked this shot because I think it shows Tony thinking and problem solving.

best shot iron manThe Incredible Hulk-

The Incredible Hulk is a weird Marvel movie because it doesn’t really feel like a Marvel movie. It feels like something more out of Birdman than Marvel and in that regard it is interesting.  Edward Norton seems like he is in another movie he is so dark and brooding all the time.  Once Mark Ruffalo takes over you get a little more fun.  There’s also way too little hulking for a Hulk movie.  That said the final showdown is fun and the chemistry between Liv Tyler as Betty is good.  I picked this shot because I thought it was really cool moment in the big fight.

incredible hulk best shotIron Man 2-

Everyone kind of hates on Iron Man 2 and it is a flawed film but I enjoyed watching it. They definitely make Tony too unlikable in this film.  He’s a real jerk and Mickey Rourke is just ok as Whiplash. We also get more of Pepper than we probably need but I don’t hate her like many people seem too.  It’s nice to get our first glimpse of Black Widow in all her Scarlett Johansson sexiness. But the best part of this movie is exploring the idea of a famous superhero.  That’s never really been done in a superhero movie and I found that interesting.  That’s why I picked this shot showing Iron Man playing for the crowd in all his glory.

best shot iron man2Thor-

Thor is probably the character from the MCU that shouldn’t have worked. I mean a Norse God with a giant hammer just sounds so stupid but I actually enjoy this film! First of all, I love the world of Asgard that they build.  It looks beautiful and the dynamic between Loki and Thor is dynamite. I also like how Loki is trying to get the approval of  his father Odin played by Anthony Hopkins.  Where it falters for me is when Thor gets to earth.  Some of those scenes are very amusing but I don’t really love Natalie Portman as Jane and don’t feel that she and Thor have great chemistry. I’m always waiting for it to get back to Asgard. (I also think that Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth are two of the world’s prettiest people so that helps…). My shot for Thor features father Odin and the two sons Thor and Loki- the best parts of the movie!

thor best shotCaptain America: The First Avenger-

This movie could have easily been bland and boring with our origin story of Captain America- the super soldier. However, fortunately for us it turned out to be a ton of fun. In a way it is kind of like the early Indiana Jones movies. The hero defeats Nazis (or in this case Hydra) without it feeling calloused and cheap to real historical tragedies and events.  I love the 1940s touches throughout and the action is really enjoyable. I also like seeing scrawny Steve Rogers turn into the superhero we all know and love. Tommy Lee Jones is also perfect casting as the colonel and I like Hugo Weaving as Red Skull.  I think this shot captures the spirit and joy of the film best. best shot cap 1The Avengers-

As I said above The Avengers brought me back into appreciating comic book movies. It’s one of those movies I can’t imagine not being at least marginally entertained by. I love how the team doesn’t work together or gel immediately. You get their individual stories and journeys to the group so it feels so satisfying when they all do become one. Loki is so much fun as the villain and I love his interactions with all involved. Agent Coulson’s death is emotional and I totally buy it galvanizing all of our heroes. I love each of the Avengers and the witty dialogue Joss Whedon gives them is perfect. I think Mark Ruffalo was a good choice over Edward Norton for the Hulk. The action is tense without being drab or dreary and the special effects hold up. It’s just a great movie, not just a great comic book movie. I love it! It’s probably predictable to pick this shot of our team but it’s honestly my favorite so it’s my pick!

avengers best shot2

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Avengers 2 Trailer Reaction

A few months ago I really geeked out over the Star Wars trailer.  I still think it is one of the most solid teaser trailers I’ve ever seen.  It did what it was supposed to do- it teased us and made the fans excited.  Yesterday the Avengers 2: Age of Ultron trailer came out and I watched it with the same eagerness and my response was more mixed.

Avengers is my favorite super hero movie ever.  I know, I know most of you would pick the Dark Knight but not me. What I liked about the first Avengers is that it was fun without being stupid.  It reminded me of Spiderman 2 (from 2000s).  Some humor mixed with great visuals and a terrific villain in Loki. I give the credit to director Joss Whedon who is so good at finding that balance- whether it be in his TV shows like Buffy that have a cheeky self-awareness to them or Cabin in the Woods that both embraced and laughed at horror movie tropes.

What worries me about the Avengers 2: Age of Ultron trailer is it has a Man of Steel feel about it and for me that is a very bad thing.  The music is ominous, speeches are deep and profound, backdrops and settings look very CGI’ish. I hated Man of Steel.  I thought it was ponderous, preachy, violent, ugly, muddled, and confusing.  It had its director Zach Snyder written all over it.  He loves making CG grim ponderous movies.

Especially for Superman shouldn’t it be a little bit fun? We don’t have to stoop to Superman 3 levels (or certainly Superman 4) but a smile every now and then? Is that too much to ask? There wasn’t even a convincing romance in Man of Steel.  The product placement was also incredibly obnoxious in Man of Steel.  Just all of it I hated.  (I realize some of you love it and that is great! I’m glad when anyone enjoys a movie).

A lot of the things in the trailer feel Man of Steelish to me and that has me worried.  But Joss Whedon hasn’t let me down yet, so if anyone can pull it off it is him.  Fingers crossed!

What did you guys think of the Avengers 2: Age of Ultron trailer?  Would love to hear your thoughts.

Movie 41: Atlantis: The Lost Empire

atlantis poster Today is a good example of why I am glad I started this project.  In 2001 when Disney’s 41st animated film Atlantis: The Lost Emperor came out I was underwhelmed by it.  I remember thinking it was boring (an adjective I try to never use in my reviews because it doesn’t mean anything).  It seems hard to believe because the movie I watched today was a fast paced delight.  I am truly shocked how much I enjoyed it!  (I was 20 by the way in 2001 so it wasn’t like a child who might be more likely to find this boring).

This review is going to be a little different than some of my others because I want to give you guys the chance to go into the film spoiler free.  I am spoiler proof.  For some reason repetition doesn’t bother me and I legitimately do not care if I know the ending to things.   But that said, I think for this type of action adventure movie it will be more fun to not have every detail dissected like other Disney films which most people have seen.

Go out, rent it and give it another shot!!!!  At the very least I don’t think you will have a terrible time at the movies and I bet you will enjoy it!

Here’s the trailer to give you an idea of the story (it is a very good non-spoilery trailer.  They don’t even give away the villain and I won’t either)

The Production-

I can talk a little bit about the production without giving anything away.  After Hunchback the crew wanted to stay together but go in a radically different direction so Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, Don Hahn and others set out to make Disney’s first science fiction movie and one of their few original stories.

There is a definite steampunk feel with its influences from Jules Verne and Victorian/futuristic mashups.  The ship could be the nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

ship2

They visited museums, researched a variety of cultures and created their own version of Atlantis.  According to my research it had Mayan, Greek, Cambodian, Indian and Tibetan elements.

atlatnis language
The Atlantean language was created both written and spoken.

They even hired the guy who created the Klingon language to make one for Atlantis.  That is just cool.

atlantis

They had good writers including Joss Whedon who worked on the project for a while and then Tab Murphey took over and it has a Whedon team feel to it.  Milo is the lead in the movie looking for Atlantis but he quickly gets joined by a rag-tag crew that is very diverse for Disney and full of surprises.  It’s like the Steampunk Avengers!

atlantis crew

The voice acting is mostly unknowns except for Michael J Fox as Milo, James Garner as Captain Rourke, John Mahoney as Whitmore, Jim Varney as Cookie and Leonard Nimoy as the King.

They also hired Mike Mignola, creator of the Hellboy comics,  as a production designer and you can see his influence in the film even down to the hands he uses in his drawings:

“I remember watching a rough cut of the film and these characters have these big, square, weird hands. I said to the guy next to me, “Those are cool hands.”

And he says to me, “Yeah, they’re your hands. We had a whole meeting about how to do your hands.” It was so weird I couldn’t wrap my brain around it”

I love that comic book influence on the film and yet it avoids cliches in a lot of the characters (yes they fulfill certain tropes like the tough talking female mechanic but then she has moments of softness).  There’s a moment where you feel like Milo is alone and it actually seems like he is being left and then the movie is very clever with what happens with the characters and story.

I liked every character in the movie, and I’m not normally a sci-fi person.

They were also influenced by anime at the time and particularly Hayao Miyazaki and his amazing adventure stories, and I think they pull off a lovely homage.

kida

Some of the mysticism is a little convoluted with the blue crystals and everything but for this kind of story I bought it.  And the imagery is beautiful.

The only thing parents will want to be aware of is Princess Kida wears very skimpy clothing and bathing suits throughout the film.

Kida02

The score is by James Newton Howard and it is excellent but there are no songs (funny coming from the troop of Hunchback and Beauty and the Beast!).  But I’m glad because they really weren’t necessary.  The score is all we need to create tension.

The movie is also very funny.  Characters like the Moleman and Cookie were a lot of fun.

It is also one of the few Disney movies that doesn’t really have a strong romance.  It just allows you to focus on the characters.  I like that.

Movie Review/Conclusion-

I’ll say it again I was genuinely shocked how much I enjoyed Atlantis: The Lost Empire.  It was exciting, beautifully drawn, with a fun troop of characters to root for.

atlantis crew1Unlike in 2001, I did not think it was boring this time around.  In fact, it seemed to clip along quite quickly.  There also isn’t tons of exposition.  They just present the world, language and everything else and let you figure it out as the characters do.

I liked the women in the picture.  Kida isn’t the perfect savage you expect.  Mechanic Audrey had some layers to her.  Not every decision was easy, and Helga is not someone to get pushed around (she surprised me!  Totally kicked butt!).

audrey

wilhemina All the characters have their moment and there is humor and tough action.  I loved the sound design.  In fight scenes you hear punches and grunts.  It helps immerse you in the experience.

There are some holes in the story and things happen in relatively tidy ways but isn’t that usually the case for these kind of movies? I mean if you start to take apart Indiana Jones movies they are very tidy too and completely implausible but it’s a B Summer movie with great action and fun characters so you go with it.

In any case, for whatever reason, I didn’t buy it at 21 but really enjoyed it at 33.  Maybe I’m not the same person I was back then?  Go figure!

But seriously, give this movie another shot.  Go out, rent it, and let me know what you think.  I bet a lot of you will be pleasantly surprised like I was!

Overall Grade- A-

It might be a little hard for kids under 7 to follow so keep that in mind.