‘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

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Current Mini Reviews

So I must admit I have been on a bit of a role lately! I not only have been making podcasts I love on both of my channels (Hallmarkies and Rachel’s Reviews) but I have been able to see a lot of movies (I’ve done several double-headers). Some I have reviewed on my channel (and some on this blog) but others I haven’t gotten around to covering. So that means it’s time for my Current Mini Reviews update! I will let give my brief thoughts, whether it is smile/frown worthy and where it lists in my 2018 Releases Ranking. Enjoy!

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Life of the Party

I seem to be one of the few who hasn’t grown tired of Melissa McCarthy’s shtick (I even enjoyed Ghostbusters!).  Now we have Life of the Party and it wasn’t the greatest comedy but it was serviceable. I laughed enough to enjoy myself and the supporting cast is strong including Maya Rudolph, Gillian Jacobs and Molly Gordon who plays McCarthy’s daughter. Luke Benward is very hunky as McCarthy’s boy-fling.

Smile Worthy (barely)

51 out of 71

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Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

This franchise has produced 3 entertaining if a bit unmemorable films and that includes Hotel Transylvania 3. It was an enjoyable sit with some nice animation and good laughs. It doesn’t have the emotional punch of Pixar but it had a sweet message to it.  I think this is an improvement over HT2 which didn’t use its ensemble cast very well.

Smile Worthy

19 out of 71

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Gotti

With a 0% on rottentomatoes and moviepass making it basically free I couldn’t resist watching this trainwreck. And trainwreck it is. Pretty much everything is off in this biopic but the most absurd part is they try to paint the mafia as a persecuted minority that the cops are hounding unfairly. There’s even a title card at the end explaining the efforts the FBI went to take them down and the FBI is the villain!

Frown Worthy

69 out of 71

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Hearts Beat Loud

I think this might have been oversold to me as ‘the next Sing Street‘. Hearts Beat Loud isn’t a bad movie but I left feeling underwhelmed. The performances are nice and a couple of the songs decent but I was never emotionally engaged with the main relationship between the father and the daughter. Both my friend and I agreed that it felt cursory when they could have dove deeper and asked more questions. The only emotion I felt was between the daughter and her girlfriend. Sing Street it is not. I honestly found it kind of boring…

Frown Worthy (barely)

52 out of 71

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Set It Up

Since everyone knows I love romcoms I was told by many to check out this Netflix entry in the genre. My response was it was ok. I liked the lead couple Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell and they had decent chemistry. Lucy Liu is also good as an ice queen boss that gets more character development than the trope typically allows. However, I found the movie to be a bit too cynical for my taste. I like my romances to be a little more light and fluffy.

Smile Worthy (barely)

50 out of 71

Maquia

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms

Very sweet fantasy anime that is about an immortal woman’s struggles to be a mother and watch her mortal child grow up and suffer. The animation was stunning, and I got very wrapped up in it. It has some pacing issues but over all I definitely recommend it. Director Mari Okada has made a fantasy film that is ambitious in its world building and lovely in its emotional depth. Fantasy fans, not just anime fans will really enjoy it.

Smile Worthy

12 out of 71

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Whitney

I love Whitney Houston and was so sad to see her life spiral out of control leading to her eventual death. So naturally I was interested in this documentary and it’s mostly satisfactory. Director Kevin Macdonald does a good job showing all sides to the singer and her impact on music and pop culture. However, there are a few things that felt a little exploitative to me and his attempts to tie Whitney’s life into broader world events felt a little heavy handed. Still worth checking out. Bring tissues.

Smile Worthy

39 out of 71

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Ant-Man and the Wasp-

I really enjoyed the first Ant-Man. I think more than most, so I was excited for this sequel and I left thinking it was just ok. The action is a lot of fun and the cast knocks it out of the park but it wasn’t as funny as the first one and several plot threads got a little boring for me. Still, it’s a decent superhero movie with some fun moments.

Smile Worthy

23 out of 71

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Skyscraper-

This was more entertaining than I expected it to be. There are some entertaining action set pieces like a fight that happens in a room with mirrors. Also I liked that Nev Campbell’s character wasn’t a cliched warrior woman or damsel in distress but just a smart Mom. I’m not sure why they needed him to have an artificial leg except for one kind of gimmicky scene.
The villain characters were very snoozeworthy with lame motivation. Still, if looking for summer entertainment that doesn’t take itself too seriously you could do worse.

Smile Worthy

35 out of 71

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Fireworks-

With the marketing heavily leaning on the ‘producer of Your Name’ I wondered if this would be a disappointment. It didn’t seem to have much to sell of itself but just its similarities to a beloved film. Sadly my worries were correct. Fireworks does have some good things but for each good aspect there was a negative. Some of the animation was beautiful and then others used CG in really terrible ways. Some character moments were sweet and others felt really cheesy. Some parts of the story worked and other parts felt very muddled and confusing. There’s a sexuality in the character design and story that was strange.

Frown Worthy

61 out of 71

 

 

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)

Black Panther Review

Black Panther is the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it is taking the world by storm! It has already made more in its first 4 day weekend than Justice League made in its entire run! Holy cow! It is also one of the most highly praised superhero film ever with a 97% on rottentomatoes.com.

So is it worthy of such results?

Yes, for the most part I would say that it is. With Black Panther you have a thoughtful, extremely well cast comic book movie that feels different and fresh. In much the same way director Ryan Coogler injected energy into the Rocky franchise with Creed, he has done  with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Black Panther.  It isn’t as funny as Thor Ragnarok, which I prefer but it feels unique and engaging.

The best part about Black Panther is the characters. We were introduced to T’Challa (Black Panther) in Captain America Civil War but here we see him as a young, insecure ruler who is just discovering the burden and secrets his father had to shoulder as king. His father has chosen to protect the beautifully realized kingdom of Wakanda from the rest of the world. They have an asset called vibranium (which if we remember in Age of Ultron Ulysses Klaue was after and we see him again played by Andy Serkis) If this vibranium gets into the wrong hands will cause great destruction, so it makes sense why they want to hide it away from the world.

However, the Wakandans are still using the vibranium to develop new and powerful technology.  This is mostly led by T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright who is adorable in the role).There is also a powerful flower that grants strength to whomever earns the mantle of leadership.

Unfortunately for T’Challa conflict comes into Wakanda in the form of Michael B Jordan’s N’Jadaka or Erik ‘Kilmonger’ Stevens. He has a different philosophy of leadership. He believes that Wakanda is a disgrace for hiding from the world and failing to help those who are suffering with their wealth, technology and vibranium. It’s a totally valid point of view that makes the conflict between the two interesting. It kind of reminded me of the conflict between Koba and Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Kilmonger has a point of view.  The problem is he takes it to a hateful place of wanting to conquer others and not just help the despondent. This always makes for an interesting villain when the kernel of their motives is true but they take it to a dark place. It then becomes interesting to see how the various members of Wakanda respond to Kilmonger’s leadership and philosophy. Some remain loyal to country and some loyal to T’Challa. That to me was fascinating.

Like I said earlier, the casting for this film was amazing. I loved Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, Michael B Jordan as Kilmonger (so hot), and Daniel Kaluuya (from Get Out) as W’Kabi who has an interesting character arc. The women were all awesome. Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia is the love interest, Letitia Wright as brainack Shuri, Angela Basset as T’Challa’s mother Ramonda and many more. I would love to see a whole movie about the main 3 ladies of Wakanda!

Some people have complained about the cgi and the action. Honestly, just like with Wonder Woman, I could care less. If the characters are good that’s what matters to me. I was absorbed and entertained so much that it didn’t bother me.

My only real problem with the film is there is a section in the middle where Black Panther is gone and that’s where things began to drag a bit. I really missed T’Challa and his interactions with the women, Kilmonger and others. It began to feel a little exposition heavy in those moments.

If they had tightened things up a little bit and added a touch more humor than I would have it in my top 5 Marvel movies. As it is, I have it solidly in my top 10.

Black Panther is on the violent side for a Marvel movie so I would not recommend it for kids under 8. But for older kids go and then talk to them about the themes of the movie and what they think good leadership does. Do you hide away and protect your people or do you open yourself up to others in order to serve? It’s an interesting question from a darn good comic book movie!

Overall Grade- A-

Thor Ragnarok Review

Today I got to see the latest Marvel film, Thor Ragnarok. This year Marvel has been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I was pretty disappointed in Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 and how it broke up the family/team dynamic of the original film. I liked Spider-man Homecoming for its teen vibe and good script, but I don’t know that I LOVED it as much as others. And so now we get to Thor Ragnarok and fortunately it was great! I’d say it is the best MCU film since Civil War.

The main asset to Thor Ragnarok is the witty script and incredibly likable actors. I LOVE Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston as Thor and Loki respectively. I could watch them riff against each other all day. (Plus they are both so gorgeous I could really watch them all day! I even dug Thor and his short hair. LOL). Every scene with the two of them I couldn’t get enough of. I have liked both of the Thor movies more than most and my favorite part has always been Thor and Loki and that is continued here. They are funny and feel like real rivals. Anyone who has had a sibling rivalry will get a kick out of them.

And then the rest of the characters are great. I LOVED Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie. She was a tough girl that was a little boozy, and they only flirted with romance between her and Thor. There was no damsel in distress here!

Idris Elba is good as Heimdall. Cate Blanchett is a lot of fun as Hela, the God of Death (I don’t mind big bad old-school villains TBH).

Hulk was pretty amazing. We got a lot of time with the Hulk being Hulk and not Bruce Banner. Typically we have only seen Hulk come out before a battle in the MCU so to see him lounging about in hot tubs and the like was new and refreshing (and hilarious).

In the end, this movie will come down to if you think it is funny and I did. I laughed throughout from Taika Waititi’s great script and the comic timing of the actors. It worked for me. The MCU references were minimal and mostly at the start. The pacing works. I was never bored and unlike Guardians vol 2 I never grew irritated with the characters.

My only criticisms of the Thor Ragnarok is the CGI looked pretty bad throughout. There was particularly a giant wolf that reminded me of Twilight, which is not a good thing. It looked awful. Even with all their flaws, the Thor movies have always looked amazing.

Other than that, I was thoroughly entertained throughout. Marvel certainly knows how to make movies that make me smile!

Spider-Man Homecoming Review

Yesterday I had the chance to see the latest big budget superhero movie- Spider-Man Homecoming. This film is important as it is the 3rd reboot for the character in recent years and the first time Sony and Marvel are working together for a film. Spider-Man is now part of the MCU as many fans dreamed and over-all he makes a promising addition to that world. While Spider-Man Homecoming doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it is a solid, entertaining superhero movie aimed at teenagers. Let’s talk about the positives. First of all, the casting is uniformly strong. We all got a taste of Tom Holland as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War but here we get introduced to him as Peter Parker and he’s great. Unlike previous versions, Peter feels like a kid here. He’s learning in every aspect of life- from asking the pretty girl out to figuring out where his role in the world is. He feels real and human, which is no easy task for a character climbing walls and fighting bad guys.

The script is really well done and if I was a teenager I would love this movie to pieces. I particularly liked the dynamic between Peter and his friend Ned played by Jacob Batalon. They felt like actual friends and had terrific chemistry together. I liked how they were constantly amazed at the tech gadgets designed by Tony Stark and Vulture. It felt genuine to see them get a gun or the Spidey-suit and say ‘cool’ with excitement like a real teen boy would probably do. Both of the female characters were misses to me, but I guess they did the job they were asked to do well enough. It’s not the fault of the actresses their parts were under-written. Oh well.

I also loved Tony Stark in Spider-Man Homecoming. I know some were worried this would be the next Iron Man movie but that is not the case. He is used just enough, and I was happy to see a return to the old Tony I know and love from Iron Man 1, 2, and the Avengers. The last 3 films (Iron Man 3, Avengers Age of Ultron and Civil War) he’s been so brooding and angry. While I don’t know if his behavior makes sense given what happened in Civil War, I don’t care. I was happy to have Tony Stark back in my life!

Unfortunately there were some negatives for me in Spider-Man Homecoming. First, I had some issue with the action sequences. There are 2 big set pieces that are fun but they didn’t feel like Spider-Man action. They felt very static to me and more like an Iron Man set piece than Spider-Man. There is very little of him swinging through the city like I want to see. I get what they were going for but if I was a teen and could swing through the city I would probably take full advantage of that! There are a lot of scenes of Peter crashing into pools and backyards and that was fine but I missed the awe of real Spider-Man scenes. Also, some action uses too much shaky cam and was a little hard to tell what was happening.

There are also characters that could use more development. Donald Glover’s role turns out to basically be a cameo. The Shocker support team for Vulture were pretty bland and Zendaya was underused as Peter’s sullen friend (and a reveal from her was meh). Also, Tony Revolori as Flash was very annoying and didn’t work for me at all.

Michael Keaton has gotten a ton of positive reviews for his role as the Vulture, and he is solid as always but I can’t help but feel it is a bit over-praised. To me he seemed like the classic standard Marvel villain. They love having the ‘man in a suit’ who gives into greed and becomes the antithesis of our hero. This is the case here except a blue-collar variety. Vulture is another business man who is wronged by Tony and the Avengers and seeks revenge. This is nothing new or that compelling. Also, there is a ‘reveal’ (this is Marvel we are talking about) that I called after the last trailer. I literally wrote down ‘Vulture will be …..’ and sure enough he was. Evidently others find this a shocking moment but I did not.

Don’t get me wrong. Vulture is by no means a bad villain and Keaton gives a good performance. The MCU has had far worse but people putting him up with Loki are nuts. He is more like Yellow Jacket in Ant-Man if you ask me.

There are also some Sony trademarks that were noticeable like the rampant product placement. For example, even though Peter is only 15 they just had to find a way to have an Audi car chase scene. Oh well…

One of my friends on twitter described Spider-Man Homecoming as a ‘great slumber party movie’ and I think that is true. I can picture high school students enjoying this and relating to it quite strongly, and that’s great! All demographics should have their superhero movies and now teens have one for them. It didn’t have near the emotional resonance of Wonder Woman but I certainly liked it much better than Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2. It could have been a little bit better but I was entertained and that’s what I want out of a superhero movie. Nice job working together Sony and Marvel and I look forward to more team-ups in future Spidey films!

Everyone will want to know where I fit this in my Spider-Man movie rankings. I’d say it’s 2nd or 3rd place but I need more time for it to sink in. Where would it rank for you?

As far as content it’s pretty safe. There are penis jokes and violence but nothing out of line of a standard MCU movie. Little kids might get a little bored with the high school plot but it won’t be offensive or scary for them.

Overall Grade- B

Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 Review (Spoiler Free)

Before diving into my review of Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 let me give you some context into my feelings on the first film. I LOVED it! For me it was a new Star Wars film before we got Star Wars back. It wasn’t a typical Marvel movie but it was a space opera and I loved seeing our team of misfits form and search for their orb/infinity stone. I loved the humor, action, charismatic actors and bright color palate. Just a great movie. 9/10 or A grade from me.

So let’s talk about this sequel. Naturally loving the first film I was very excited for the follow up but I still tried to enjoy it as its own film and not compare it too much. In the end, I feel Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 is at best a mixed bag. It’s not awful but I had major problems with it.

At the outset of the movie  our team is commissioned by a leader Ayesha to guard a series of batteries. This leads to a great opening that heavily features the world’s favorite adorable creation- Baby Groot! Of course, we have seen Baby Groot all over the marketing for the movie and he did not disappoint. Soooo adorable!

This scene also features everything you like about the first film. It has witty banter from the entire team, fun action as they fight a monster and a catchy song. I thought ‘Oh boy! This is going to be awesome!”

Unfortunately just a few scenes later they make a massive mistake that had a large impact on my enjoyment of the film: They divide up the team!!! Peter meets his father and half the crew go with him while half stay behind and end up with Yondu and his crew.

This was such a terrible choice for a number of reasons:

  1. Hurts the humor- When you have a large group of characters the humor can be a mixture of all their types of comedy. So you will get one Groot joke mixed in with Drax, Peter, Rocket etc. When you have just Rocket and Groot then their type of jokes become repetitive and tired very quickly.
  2. Hurts the emotion- It’s the same with emotion. We are with a character and they have an emotional moment. Then they leave that character for a long stretch hurting their story and emotional arc.
  3. Hurts the team- Characters aren’t able to feed off each other and create that winning chemistry I loved so much in the first film. Sometime this can help you get to know characters better like in Star Trek Beyond but that was not the case here.
  4. Hurts the action- Because they are all split up the action is pretty sparse. For instance, Drax is sitting talking almost the entire movie. He’s Drax the Destroyer for goodness sake, and he doesn’t destroy anything.

I guess all of this would be fine if the story was compelling but it is not. They try to set up several different family dynamics. There is Peter and his father, Peter and Gamora, Gamora and Nebula, Groot and Rocket and Yandu and Peter. While I appreciated the message of family, the film became too cluttered with relationships that they weren’t as developed as they could have been.

The villain is another surprise villain. About the 10,000th one I’ve seen in recent years and I’m tired of it. It was so obvious and the plan for world domination makes no sense unless he or she wants to be completely alone in the whole galaxy. Even if he or she did, it still strains credulity to believe this insane plan (and the way it is explained is hard to follow or feel invested in).

I was also disappointed in the Nebula/Gamora storyline. I liked Nebula in the first film when most people didn’t. I thought she had a wounded quality to her that I wish had been more developed. Well, unfortunately she is seen more here but Karen Gillan overcooks it in the villainy department. Also she flips around from good girl to bad in ways that didn’t work for me or feel authentic.

So, from all that it seems like I had a miserable experience at this movie. No. I didn’t but I’d be lying if I didn’t share those major problems I had. However, there are some things I liked.

First, like I said, I liked Baby Groot and a lot of the comedy did work. It would have worked better if they hadn’t divided the group but a lot still made me laugh. Drax gets some funny lines with a new girl named Mantis. Rocket has a lot of humor including a hilarious sequence with Baby Groot getting him things for a jailbreak.

Second, Michael Rooker is great as Yondu. I didn’t think Yondu would be the most fleshed out and interesting character in the film but he was. We learn about his association with a band of ruffians called The Ravagers. He has upset them and we get to find out why through the course of the movie. We also learn about why he took Peter and his connection to Peter’s father. Yondu also has the best action scene in the movie with an arrow thing he uses to take out a fleet of men (Sorry I don’t know what the arrow thing is called).

Third, even if it could have been more focused, I still loved the overall message about family. I think Vin Diesel might have carried this over from the Fast and the Furious movies because they are all about family. I particularly appreciated the focus on alternative families- that families are not always about blood but so much more.

Fourth, it is a beautiful looking movie. James Gunn has done it again with amazing cinematography and special effects. The planet Peter’s father lives on was beautiful and lush. I loved all the bright colors and dazzling world building. The special effects on Rocket and Baby Groot are flawless. You forget they aren’t actual talking raccoons and walking baby trees.

There also is a joyous feeling to the picture which makes it pleasing to watch. While some of the jokes grow tired it never made me angry or annoyed like other fantasy films.  I mostly wasn’t bored although there were a few moments that dragged.

The soundtrack was a bit of a mixed bag. There are some great songs but a few of them felt very on-the-nose Also, I didn’t like that characters mentioned the songs so much. In the original they are this awesome background gift to enjoy (aside from Peter listening to them they don’t work into the story and he doesn’t repeat lyrics or talk about the individual songs). Here there is even one song where the lyrics are repeated verbatim and the life experience fits perfectly into the situation at hand. It makes the song choice feel uncreative and obvious when they were so great in the original. Still, there are some good songs. Cat Stevens and Electric Light Orchestra are used particularly well.

In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 is a mixed bag leaning towards the negative. I have really struggled with what grade to give it and whether to make it smile or frown worthy. Other films I have given smiles to like Ghost in the Shell feel less worthy than this film but this is way more of a disappointment and downgrade from the original film. It’s really tough…

I’m torn but I think my disappointment is going to rule the day:

Overall Grade- C (It is without a doubt in my bottom 5 Marvel movies. No question)

Also  this is pretty raunchy for a Marvel movie. It definitely earns its PG-13.

You can all hate me now…

Check out my podcast with my friend Trevor from How to Love Comics where we break it all down

 

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.

doctor-strange12

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