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!

plus one2

PLUS ONE

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

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

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

pavarotti

PAVAROTTI

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

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

far from hom5

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME-

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

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

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

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

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

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

yesterday

YESTERDAY

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

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

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

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

echo in the canyon

ECHO IN THE CANYON

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

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

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

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

papi chulo

PAPI CHULO

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

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

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

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

‘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!

far from home2

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.

far from home

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.

far from home3

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

‘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!

avengers endgame2

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!

avengers endgame3

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.

avengers endgame4

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

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

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

It is the perfect ending to our story.

Go see it! It’s great!

9.5/10

smile worthy

Captain Marvel Review

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

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

captain marvel5.jpg

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.

captain marvel4

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

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

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

8.5 out of 10

smile worthy

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!

life-of-the-party1

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

hotel transylvania 3

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

gotti

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

hearts beat loud

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

set it up

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

Whitney-UK-poster

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

ant-man-wasp-post-credits-scene.png

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

skyscraper

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

fireworks

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