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

 

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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

Suicide Squad Review

suicide squad cerealI’ve never been the biggest superhero movie person, but over the years movies like The Avengers and X-Men Days of Future Past have won me over. These movies have clever stories, great scripts and charismatic performances by Oscar level talent. 2014 was a particularly memorable year with only 2 bad superhero movies and 4 outstanding films- Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Big Hero 6 and X-Men Days of Future Past. These movies had everything I could want in a superhero movie.

WE WERE SPOILED!!!

Aside from Captain America: Civil War the superhero movies of 2016 have been kind of sucky and unfortunately the latest entry, Suicide Squad does not change that trajectory. Suicide Squad is the latest offering from DC Comics and Warner Brothers and despite promising trailers it fails to deliver on its potential.

After Batman v Superman frustrated many moviegoers in March, Warner Brothers clearly took all the wrong lessons out of the feedback. ‘Make the movies more fun’ is what they heard. So, they rushed David Ayer to write Suicide Squad in 6 weeks and then hacked it to pieces creating a mess of a movie.

suicide squad2That’s not to say there aren’t any redeeming values to Suicide Squad. There are mainly with the casting. All the roles, with 2 exceptions, are well cast. The problem is the script doesn’t give them time to grow as characters or to gel as a unit. Will Smith and Margot Robbie are the standouts as Deadshot and Harley Quinn and I’m curious to see more of them in future films. Viola Davis is also great as Amanda Waller who is an agent forming the Suicide Squad. She is ruthless and you kind of see why she would be interested in super villains.

The story of Suicide Squad is you have this group of villains that are called upon to fight evil metahumans. This is all supposed to be after the events of Batman v Superman but there is never any talk of using the good metahumans like Flash and Wonder Woman (despite briefly seeing Flash in a cameo). And the fact that only 2 of the Suicide Squad are actually metahumans which makes you scratch your head?

The first act of the film starts out clunky with Davis sitting at a table looking through a binder of each of the squad members.  Then we see flashback introductions to the characters. It’s kind of like the gossip montages in Ant-Man but repeated over and over again.

But even with that certain characters aren’t introduced at all like Katana. She just walks onto a helicopter and they say ‘oh look it’s Katana. She’s a crazy ninja” (I’m paraphrasing but you get the drift).

Suicide-Squad-Enchantress-OriginSo what are they called upon to do? Well, they are supposed to stop an evil being named Enchantress who kind of needs to be worse than the squad in order for the story to work but she’s just not. I normally don’t care about lame villains but she did nothing for me and I felt the special effects were very poor. She creates this ‘brother’ that looked right out of Gods of Egypt. Again, I wouldn’t have cared about a bad villain if I had cared about the rest of the film.

SUICIDE SQUADFor a movie like this to work it relies on the charisma of the stars and a witty script (this is not a gritty crime drama like The Dark Knight). And the problem with Suicide Squad is the editing is so poorly done that just when characters are starting to interact it cuts away to something that doesn’t matter.

You are supposed to believe that the characters are becoming a family but I didn’t buy it for a second. There’s a moment where Deadshot has to decide whether to hurt Harley Quinn and their relationship wasn’t near built up enough for me to buy his decision. They had one very brief conversation and they are supposed to be big baddies. It didn’t work.

There’s another scene where they are fighting these glob creatures of Enchantress and the creatures stop coming for some reason and they stop fighting evil and have a drink. If the movie had effectively established them as not caring about the mission or stopping the badder guy than I could have bought it but the way it sits it feels random and jarring.

suicide-squad1The other confusing part about the movie is why have Enchantress when you have DC’s greatest villain in the film for like 6 minutes? You could have made the Joker the villain and instead you have a lame villain. That would be like Marvel having Loki as a villain for a 5 minute cameo. It makes no sense.

But speaking of the Joker…Jared Leto goes for it as this new take on the character and I personally was not a fan. The Joker is an agent of chaos. He thrives on creating disorder. He is the last person in the world that would want to be an organized crime boss like in this movie. It felt too outright bad-guy where the Joker is supposed to be a believer in the philosophy of chaos. He should be more complex than having damaged tattooed on your forehead!

suicide squad3All that said, if you can go into Suicide Squad and ignore the script and just enjoy the charismatic performances and the fun soundtrack I think you may have an enjoyable time. It’s a lot like Batman Forever. There’s some engaging performances in Batman Forever, some decent music and production design but the story and script are terrible. So if you can enjoy Batman Forever than you will enjoy Suicide Squad.

At the very least I didn’t feel as manipulated as Batman v Superman and it isn’t as gloomy (although the forced fun added by the studio is so obvious). To me the two movies are about equal in quality but it is a case of picking your poison and what types of problems bother you more than others.

It’s probably very generous but I did like it better than X-Men Apocalypse which underserved all of the characters I love and became destruction porn. I gave X-Men Apocalypse a D+.

So for Suicide Squad Overall Grade- C- for Will Smith and Margot Robbie but I’d say it’s a definite skip.

ps. Those people who started the rotten tomatoes takedown petition are morons.

X-Men Apocalypse Review

xmen apocolypse2You guys I am so disappointed. Going to see X-Men Apocalypse I had heard the negative reviews but as a big X-Men fan I was hoping they were being too hard on it. After seeing it I actually think they are being kind. It’s current 47% on Rotten Tomatoes is a lot higher than I would give it. I liked it less than Batman v Superman and that is saying something…

I almost don’t know where to begin. Let’s start with what I want out of an X-Men movie. At their best X-Men movies say something about class and the way we treat those that are different. Unlike most franchises where bad guys and good guys are more one-note X-Men characters feel well-rounded when they are done right. Magneto, for instance, is a villain but only because he has given up on humanity. There’s a hopelessness about his villainy that can actually be quite moving.

X-Men Apocalypse had a few moments showing Magneto being conflicted and once again losing something dear to him (evidently the Holocaust isn’t enough of a motivator.  They have to keep piling it on for the poor man).  Unfortunately the film keeps moving away from Magneto for long stretches and gives us instead Apocalypse who I thought was power rangers worthy bad guy and spouting the Bible to sound important which was just annoying.

The biggest problem with X-Men Apocalypse is that it is completely fragmented. Days of Future Past had a lot of characters but it was focused on 2- Wolverine and Mystique. Everyone else was peppered in where needed. They also had a clear goal, to get Mystique to change her mind. This is muddled. Sometimes it is Scott’s story, sometimes Magnetos, sometimes Charles, sometimes Mystique, the list goes on. None of them are executed in a satisfactory way and none of them really matter in defeating Apocalypse. They all kind of throw stuff at him hoping it will work.

This leads to a lot of epic shouting and destruction with no momentum or sense that anything was being accomplished. You just knew they would find a way out of it because more movies are coming. Honestly I thought it was shouty, self-important, annoying and insufferable.

The female characters that I love in X-Men are all underused especially Storm and Psylocke. There is a fun scene when Quicksilver does his thing but since it’s a copy of what we saw in Days of Future Past I won’t give it too much credit.

The final battle has a few good moments and all the actors try but I really didn’t like it. The broader metaphors aren’t really there so it is at best a dopey 90s style superhero movie. Sorry, it was my third most anticipated movie of the year and it really let me down. And people are criticizing Jennifer Lawrence for her performance but that was the least of this movies problems.

Oh and Wolverine shows up for like 3 minutes just to remind us of all the better movies he is in.

I know other people liked it but I’m sorry it really didn’t work for me.

Overall Grade- D+

It’s also very violent and there is some profanity so I would not recommend it for kids.

My youtube review and rant

 

Captain America: Civil War Themes (Spoilers)

civil war3Hopefully most of you have watched my initial reaction review to Captain America: Civil War.  If you haven’t here it is again.

Now I’ve had the chance to see the movie twice and have more detailed thoughts. This is a spoiler filled post so stop now if you have not seen the film.

Captain America: Civil War can certainly be enjoyed on a base level. It’s fun, has great action and quipy dialogue that keeps things from feeling too morose. You have engaging actors and their characters who we have gotten to know over 12 films and some new presences in Black Panther and Spider-man. However, I am going to dig a little deeper and talk about themes of friendship and agency within the movie. If you want to just enjoy the movie then that is great but this might not be the post for you.

cap and bucky
Steve’s friendship with Bucky has been a part of his story from the beginning.

FRIENDSHIP

Friendship is probably the more obvious theme within the film. We even heard in the trailer Steve saying “he’s my friend” and Tony replying “so was I”. Clearly there is a dynamic of friendship that is tested between the 3 main characters- Bucky, Steve and Tony. However, you also have other friendships that are explored- Rhodey and Tony, Natasha and Clint, Sam and Steve, Steve and Peggy, Steve and Sharon, Scarlet Witch and Vision, Natasha and Steve etc. All of these friendships are tested with the Sokovia Accord.

Aristotle said there are 3 types of friendship (yes I am going to relate Marvel to Aristotle deal with it). There are friendships of utility, pleasure and virtue. A utility friendship is one “that can be easily dissolved and done away with when a more useful version comes into place”. You could argue that Ant-Man and Spider-Man are friendships or relationships of utility in the film. They are helpful but not essential to any of the other players.

Then we have friendships of pleasure. “These types of friendships are built around love or passion for similar things”. Most of the Avengers relationships are this type of friendship. They love similar things- mainly avenging- and that bonds them together. I venture to say most of your friends are friendships of pleasure. They are very valuable and are an essential part of a happy life. Black Panther is kind of an outside observer given he doesn’t really have relationships with any of the other characters.

Here’s where things get interesting. The top level of friendship is one of virtue. “This is that rare friend which supersedes friendships of pleasure or utility. This is that bond which is practically sacred it is so special”.

This is where we get the main conflict of Civil War. At the beginning of the film Steve has had to see his most treasured friendship of virtue die. This leaves him with only one left and that is Bucky. Everybody else it turns out is a friendship of pleasure. He values Tony and even Natasha but when push comes to shove he values his friendship with Bucky more.

The same thing can be said for Tony and his parents. It might sound odd to say a parent is a friend but when it comes down to it Tony is willing to do anything to avenge his parents. They are more valuable than any other relationship. Steve even tries to explain to him that Bucky didn’t know but his love or friendship for his parents is stronger than any such logic. You can also tell from his heartbreak that Pepper is one of those virtuous relationships. Rhodey is but not as much as the others.

Steve has had to see all his friendships of pleasure die, and that is why he is so focused on saving Bucky. It’s a survival instinct in a way. By saving Bucky he is in a way saving part of himself.

When Tony and Steve come to blows at the end it is especially heart breaking because they are two people who have lost everything. It’s what makes it so gripping and emotional.

Tony begins to lose control and doubt his decisions early on in his story
Tony begins to lose control and doubt his decisions early on in his story

AGENCY

The other main theme of the film centers around agency. When I first heard that Tony was going to be signing the Sokovia Accord I didn’t know if that made sense with his character. Shouldn’t it be Cap who goes along with the government with Tony being the fast-talking outlaw? This is where looking at their films comes into play.

Tony starts out Iron Man not caring about the ramifications of his choices. He sells arms to terrorists. He lives the high life at others expense and he doesn’t care. Then he is imprisoned and becomes Iron Man. In the second movie he has let the fame go to his head but he has started to take more accountability for his choices. He stops producing arms and is trying to make a difference. Then in the Avengers he faces Loki and has a team to support his choices, but Coulson dies and the battle is only narrowly won.

Iron Man 3 comes next and the stresses of making heroic choices is starting to get to him. He has panic attacks and starts to doubt his abilities. Pepper is hurt and he is fooled by the Mandarin. Then in Ultron he see’s the vision of his dead friends and mass suffering all around him. This inspires him to make Ultron and it goes disastrously wrong. So, think about it. You have a man who’s agency has led to disaster.

It starts to make sense now. A man who has a history of panic attacks and bad decision making wants to let other people make the choices. That sounds great! He even tries to limit Scarlet Witch’s choices in the guise of ‘protecting her’. In his mind choices are dangerous and prison is safe.

Let’s look at Steve. His growth is a bit simpler. He started with the morality of a soldier. There are good guys and bad guys and he wanted to be a good guy. He volunteers for the experiment and helps defeat Hydra. But not before he saw how governments can be used to control and manipulate- even his own government in some ways.

Then in Winter Soldier he saw a stalwart organization like Shield get infiltrated by Alexander Pierce. No wonder he doesn’t want to give his decision making ability over to the accord. It makes perfect sense.

You can even see how Tony’s decisions in Age of Ultron creating Ultron would make Cap suspect of even his own organization, the Avengers. He says at the end ‘the Avengers was always more yours than mine” speaking to Tony. No, Captain America must be allowed his agency, and he will not give that up to any group or person- even the Avengers.

Why? Well, that’s where we bring it back to Bucky and friendship. Steve has had to see his one remaining friend lose his agency. As the Winter Soldier, Bucky has essentially become a robot and as his friend of virtue that would be incredibly painful to watch. Of course, Steve is going to do anything to save his friend and that means protecting him and bringing back his agency.

Tony and Steve's different stories is what leads them into conflict
Tony and Steve’s different stories is what leads them into conflict

CONFLICT

And so this is where we get our conflict for the film. We have two friends of pleasure that are motivated by deeper friendships of virtue that they will not put aside, no matter what. Then you also have Tony’s history of panic and his poor choices making him seek for control; where Steve has only seen that control go awry.

The two gather friends to their side and punch it out with Steve basically winning because it is his movie after all. 🙂 Now the Avengers are basically a pack of vigilantes which is what Secretary Ross said they were to begin with. It should make the future with Infinity Wars Pt 1 and 2 very exciting.

What do you think of my analysis? Did you see these themes of friendship and agency within the film? Am I overthinking it? Let me know what themes you saw. Thanks!

Captain America: Civil War and Ranking MCU

Hey guys! I just wanted to share my Captain America: Civil War review I posted to youtube tonight. I will write up a more in depth review after I get to see it again. I was super entertained by the film.

I also did a really fun podcast style video with my friend Matthew where we ranked the MCU films. This is long, 2 hours, but if you are looking for something while doing work or driving I think you’ll enjoy it.

My Thoughts on All Marvel Phase 2 Movies

So I have finished my viewings of all the Marvel Phase 2 movies.  If you want to see my best shots and thoughts on Phase 1 click here. This is all to get ready for Captain America: Civil War coming in a couple of weeks. I haven’t decided if I will do this with the X-men movies but there are fewer of those so why not? I think after that I need to do a Merchant/Ivory series or something like that. It’s kind of nuts that since the beginning of March I will have seen including Civil War and 2 viewings of Batman v Superman 30 superhero movies. That’s madness I tell you!

Anyway, Marvel Phase 2 has its hits and misses just like Phase 1. But I think that Marvel isn’t given quite enough credit for trying new things with these Phase 2 films. They went for it with Iron Man 3 with a very different director in Shane Black. They let the Russo Brothers give us a political thriller combined with great action in Cap 2 and took a real risk with James Gunn and the Guardians of the Galaxy. I don’t think any of these movies are awful but for me the risks sometimes paid off, and sometimes didn’t, but at least they are taking them. I look forward to seeing Civil War and our introduction to Spiderman and the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America coming to a forefront. Then we will be on to Dr Strange, Thor Ragnarok and Infinity Wars!

The thing I like about Marvel movies is I like their heroes. I’ve never been much a villain girl, and I think even in the less successful Phase 2 films we got to know our heroes a little bit better. They are becoming fully fleshed out characters and that was always my issue with comic book movies. They were always too dumb for their own good and the heroes were given the shaft over flashy spectacle action and villains. Marvel also almost always nails the casting and the lighter tone is more palatable to me.

What’s your favorite Marvel Phase 2 movie? What do you think of this group of movies? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Iron Man 3-

This movie has a lot of highs and lows. The lows for me are the cheap twist of The Mandarin.  I don’t know the comics (and evidently it was a betrayal of the character in the comics) but in the movie it felt cheap. Making him an actor and so silly just didn’t work and felt a little insulting to the viewers. If you haven’t guessed by my feelings on M Night Shyamalan I’m not a big fan of twists in movies. At least I usually get really annoyed when I feel like I am being tricked or it is too cute. That said, what I did like about Iron Man 3 is Tony’s struggle with anxiety and PTSD. It makes sense a superhero would struggle with anxiety and I think Robert Downy Jr was convincing in those scenes. It makes the events in Age of Ultron make more sense when you realize how physically and mentally taxed Tony is by his duties as an avenger. So for my best shot I picked a scene where Tony is mid-anxiety attack and you can feel his panic. As someone who has dealt with panic attacks I thought it was very moving.

iron man 3 best shot2Thor: The Dark World-

The cheap gimmick of Iron Man 3 and the Mandarin made me like it less than Thor: the Dark World but it is probably the worst Marvel movie. A lot of the action is murky and hard to make out. Natalie Portman is annoying as Jane and given way too much screen time and the story I didn’t really care about. In fact, after a couple of days since my viewing I’m having a hard time even remembering what it was. The part I did like was the scenes between Loki and Thor.  Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth are so terrific for these parts and they have great chemistry. The final scene where we see Loki laughing on the throne made me smile and so it gets the best shot.

best shot thor dark worldCaptain America: Winter Soldier-

What a great entry in the MCU! The Russo Brothers proved they know how to film incredible action and write a tight, exciting story. I love Chris Evans in this part and we get some emotional growth for the character with him coming to terms with his age and what he has lost along the way. I love the dynamic between Cap and the Winter Soldier. I loved all the action in the film. But when Steve has to fight Bucky it is emotional and exciting at the same time. He even says ‘don’t make me do this’ and you feel for the character. The Nick Fury death was kind of annoying but his car crash was amazing. It’s such an entertaining film.  This shot I feel covers what is great about the movie. Cap with his shield getting ready to face off against his friend the Winter Soldier.

winter soldier best shotGuardians of the Galaxy-

I love Guardians of the Galaxy! Back when I reviewed it on my other blog I said it was one of the ‘great movies of 2014’ and I stand behind that. It was Marvel’s first attempt to create a space opera and I love what they accomplished.  Star Lord and his band of misfits join together over the course of the movie. It is not immediate and they each have different types of outlaw personalities that blend very well together. To me it was a lot of fun watching them zoom across the galaxy looking for the globe/infinity stone. All the actors do a great job and the soundtrack still makes me smile. It is well written with enjoyable action and just what I want from my space operas. I chose this shot because I love this team of characters!

guardians best shotAvengers: Age of Ultron-

I probably like Age of Ultron for unusual reasons. Most people probably like the big action scenes like Hulk fighting the Hulkbuster or the opening action battle. For me I like the back stories and visions we get of each character. I found those scenes gave a depth to these characters we rarely see in a comic book movie. It all starts with Tony getting a vision of his friends slaughtered and Cap (of all people it would be Cap) says to him ‘you could have saved us…’. Going back to Iron Man 3 and his panic attacks this vision is especially chilling. I also thought seeing the sterilization in the past of Black Widow was very moving. Same with Steve and the life he has left behind. I also liked the contrast between Vision and Ultron.  I thought it really worked. I see why many were disappointed as it is more somber and maybe over the top in the conflict but to me it worked emotionally on a different level than Avengers, which was more fun than anything else. So, I picked a shot from Tony’s vision because it captures what I admired most about the film.

ultron best shotAnt-Man-

If you had told me a few years ago that I would like a movie called Ant-Man I would have said you were nuts. They even joke about how stupid the idea sounds within the movie. However, if you get Paul Rudd to play the character suddenly I’m on board (I’ve loved Paul Rudd since I was in high school watching Clueless). I know this film had production problems but what they created was something very satisfying and fun. I like how it feels very small (forgive the pun) compared to Age of Ultron (or really any other Marvel film).  It is at heart a heist movie and it works on that level. I liked all the performances except for Evangeline Lily who I thought was wooden and flat. It made me laugh and the visuals were really cool. I didn’t even mind Yellow Jacket as the villain because I love Cory Stoll. To me it worked and this shot captures the magic of the film. (And no, I could care less about Edgar Wright leaving the film. Get over it!).

best shot antmanSo there you have it! My thoughts on Phase 2. On to Phase 3 in a couple of weeks. I’ve heard great things so I am very excited for Civil War.  It should be intense but also a lot of fun.

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