Monday, April 29, 2019

Avengers Endgame Review (Non-Spoiler)

"We're in the endgame now."
- Doctor Strange, Infinity War

Okay, let's make this short and sweet... unlike the runtime of Avengers Endgame, which is nearly 3 hours long, (pace your drinking habits).

First, let me repeat the common sense philosophy I said before: If you don't like superhero movies, this was not made for you. Especially if you haven't seen any of the other previous Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies in the last 11 years. Although an argument could be made that you don't have to watch ALL 21 movies. You might be able to watch 8 or 10 of them to get fully up to speed. At this point, it's essentially a career move.

However, if you have seen them, and you do love superhero movies, and find yourself emotionally invested in the fate of these characters, (as many of us are), I really think you'll appreciate Avengers Endgame. But just how much? Let's discuss...

The first thirty minutes weigh a bit heavy, as our heroes come to terms with their losses from Infinity War, (although having gone out in public, personally I often feel Thanos did nothing wrong). But once we get past that mourning period, we're treated to The Avengers Greatest Hits. Without giving anything away, there are lots of references and nods to some of the best moments from their past. Yes, you could call this the Avengers Awesome Mix Tape.. but with so much more!

The length of this movie is mostly justifiable, because there are so many story elements to process and resolve. Realistically, they could have trimmed some of it out, but along the way, we get lots of good laughs, some "F* YEAH!" cheer scenes... as well as some very sad conclusions. Combining all those things effectively is what this movie does right. It's quite the emotional roller coaster, and a beautiful ending to an epic story. 

"But Deeesher, is it really the end...??"
First, stop asking questions. The MCU has plenty of sequels already in production. This universe isn't going anywhere. But for me, they did tie up all the loose ends with a pretty bow. 

I said stop asking questions! Okay, as much as I did enjoy this movie, you have to suspend disbelief a bit more than I normally like. Sure, I accept that an alien from space collects a bunch of colored stones to wipe out half the population of the universe. But I want my story telling to be a bit more linear in thinking. And we all knew there would be some time travel here, and unfortunately, that kind of thing tends to be a bit sketchy. Maybe they'll clear up some of those details in upcoming releases. I've already heard that the repercussions from this will change certain aspects of the existing time line. Ugh... 

Nitpicking aside, this didn't detract much from my enjoyment. Like the previous Avengers movies, no one character or performance stood out. Everyone did very well in their respective roles, although you could say Robert Downey Jr might have nudged out the others just a bit. But, with sooooooo many Avengers in the lineup, they focus primarily on 10 (or so) of the main characters. And if you have a favorite hero from any of the previous 21 movies, don't worry, you will see ALL of them doing some pretty cool stuff. There are plenty of beautiful hero shots that will bring a tear to your eye. 

Many of you know, in the past, I've had some misgivings with the Russo Brothers, who have directed a few previous MCU movies. Some scenes still seemed poorly lit (doesn't anyone in space have light bulbs??), and some of the action seemed a bit too close, but otherwise it looks like they got some of my notes (you're welcome!). In the end, this is how you make a movie that respects so many classic characters. This is what you get when the 'suits' listens to the fans!  

So, if I may channel my inner Stan Lee,

Monday, March 11, 2019

Captain Marvel Review

It's 2019, and FINALLY, women are getting a live action female hero!

Well, unless you count Batgirl from 1966. And unless you count Jaime Sommers from Bionic Woman in 1976. Or Electra Woman and Dyna Girl from 1976. Or Xena from 1995. Or Ellen Ripley from Aliens. Or Buffy the Vampire Slayer from her series. Or River Tam from Firefly. Or Princess Leia from Star Wars. Or Agent Carter from her own series. Or Jessica Jones from her own series. Or Wonder Woman from her series and movie. Or Supergirl from her series. 

Ugh... did I forget anyone? Yes, I did. Many.

So let me rephrase that...

It's 2019, and FINALLY everyone is talking about a female live action hero! But, is talking about it good? My white male privilege prevents me from saying this in public, but YES there is still a LOT of inequality in the world, and no it's not right. But putting it in perspective, Captain Marvel is just another awesome female character, in a long line of other impressive female heroes. But none of them needed to make any announcements about it. It just happened, and we loved it. I feel like women taking over should be much more subversive. Let it happen. Don't try to force us to accept it, and nobody will notice. Then in 50 years or so, white males will suddenly be the minority, or at the very least, mostly equal, and I'm okay with that. 

But I also know as a man, I am completely unqualified to say anything about this, and deeply apologize in advance.

Now, what was I talking about... oh yeah!
If you're keeping score, this is movie number twenty-one in Marvel's long line of comic book adaptations that are all connected. But keeping with it's convoluted timeline, the events here take place in 1995, making it a prequel. And since this is an origin story, for the most part, you can go in without knowing anything. But of course, there are plenty of characters and events that fans will appreciate seeing as well. 

And as far as origin stories go, this is pretty good. After so many movies, the MCU continues to understand and respect the source material, and never really fail to adapt them successfully to the big screen. The movie starts with her having no memory of her past, so we get to learn who she is as events unfold. It's a lot of fun action, and has a decent sense of humor. There's also a few interesting plot twists that might annoy die-hard comic fans. But looking objectively, I think there were some interesting ideas. 

The biggest problem I had with this movie is it's directors, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. As with any duo directing team, I'm always curious who was in charge of what scenes, because some of it was well done. And some of it was not. One of my personal pet peeves is that this movie is another that has no concept of how to pull back the camera and let you see a fight scene. Everything is so close and frustratingly quickly edited, it makes it difficult to really enjoy the action. And while it's not the worst at this, it definitely could have pulled the camera back a few times or just held a single shot and show off some awesome fight choreography. 

Another issue I had was, there are some scenes that are unnecessarily dark. Every scene on alien worlds or in ships are just lit with the neon glow from equipment. Doesn't anyone in space have a light bulb?? At least the Supreme Intelligence is smart enough to know how to keep it's meeting place well lit. 

Brie Larson was decent, and had the right look for Captain Marvel, down to the uniform. Her character has plenty of flaws, and it's great to see her learn, but there really wasn't much range in her personality. Her emotional response was generally somewhere between a shrug and a smirk, and not much else. An argument could be made that she had determination, which I can respect. Another argument could be made that she was trained to ignore her emotions. If that's the goal, she was extremely successful. 

And there are some men in this movie too! Specifically, of course, Samuel L. Jackson as a young Nick Fury, who always gives his Mother F*ing best. We also get to see Clark Gregg, as a young Agent Coulson, who I always like. Someone should give him a regular series where we focus on him as an Agent of SHIELD. And my personal favorite is Ben Mendelsohn, who I've enjoyed in everything I've seen him in so far. 

We also get plenty of 90's nostalgia, which can be fun. While Guardians of the Galaxy focuses on music from the 70's, Captain Marvel has plenty of hits from the 90's. And I know there are a lot of great 90's songs... I just didn't hear many of them here. Yes, I do like No Doubt's, Just a Girl, but was it a bit too cliche?  

So if you want a female hero, Captain Marvel, AND Alita: Battle Angel are both a lot of fun, well written, and just pretty awesome. You won't hate either of these movies, and people will be talking about them for years to come. Obviously I could spend more time nitpicking, but as a dude, I know sometimes I should just shut the hell up.

Now let's talk about the real MVP of this movie!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Aquaman 2019 Review

If you ask the nerds, there is an ongoing competition for superiority between Marvel and DC live action comic book movies. Truth be told, both companies want the other to do well. A successful superhero movie can easily drive audiences out to see another one. For the most part, in my humble opinion, Marvel seems to be very successful making the jump to the big screen. Also in my humble opinion, DC is very successful... in their animated department. I don't think they are very good in their live action releases. So after quite a few missteps, can they take one of the most unpopular heroes and make him likable? 

I say unpopular, because Aquaman has always been the butt of many superhero jokes. 

However, he has gone through a few changes in recent years, to try to make him look cool. 

And now we have Jason Momoa. In the past, an Aquaman Hero Pose was a bit of an oxymoron. And now...

And as I'm sure millions (billions?) of women will agree, Jason Momoa is one of the reasons this movie works! I don't think he was necessarily 'acting'. He just showed up and was himself, which is actually pretty impressive. If you don't believe me, look up Jason Momoa throwing an axe, drinking beer, playing bass, or jumping off cliffs.

But with all that charisma, your co-star had better be able to keep up with you. And honestly, I don't think Mera (Amber Heard) could do it. The chemistry between them felt very forced, and her performance was just there. She looked great! But I don't think they're right for each other. Let's all say it together: "You can do better...!"
Ugh... I think?

Now Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Momoa have chemistry! Sadly, we don't get to see nearly enough of this relationship! The movie focuses primarily on his overly convoluted family issues and all the undersea ruling kingdoms. I understand why this was important for his origin story, but it felt like it dragged occasionally. And at a running time of 2 hours and 23 minutes, you do not want your undersea adventure to drag. Towards the end, it devolved into the Lord of the Rings, with billions of tiny CGI characters attacking billions of other tiny CGI characters. I found myself looking at the time asking them to wrap everything up quickly.

But for the rest of it, director James Wan made soooooo many beautiful shots! I might have drooled. This makes up for years of dark and depressing DC films. And fight choreography you can see FTW!!

"But Deeesher, how does it compare to other super hero movies???"

First, as you know, in recent years, there has been so many super hero movies, it becomes difficult to rank them. However, nerds will still find a way to do it. Marvel has raised the bar so high, it's not easy to reach that tier, but in some ways, I think this was a success. I enjoyed Aquaman, and I'm eager for a sequel, but I still think there are some suits in DC/WB that don't quite get it. 

For DC movies, Aquaman and Wonder Woman are both good in some ways, and not so good in other ways. But still this is the best DC has to offer in live action. Although, I stand behind my love of DC/CW season 1 and 2 of The Flash, and their crossovers are EPIC! Those should be theatrically released! *hint hint WB*

In comparison to Marvel movies, I would say Aquaman is better than:
Iron Man 3
Thor 1
and... (dare I say?) Doctor Strange and Spider-man Homecoming 

And by the way...

SOMEWHERE in the Atlantic...?  Shouldn't they be more PACIFIC???

*DISCLAIMER: Yes I wrote this review just so I could use that joke. I will also look for an opportunity to post it again on social media somewhere in the future.

My apologies,

Monday, October 8, 2018

Venom Review

Venom first appeared on another planet, when all the Marvel heroes and villains were gathered together to fight, in the twelve issue mini-series called Secret Wars (1984). 
At the time, it was just known as the 'black costume' that Spider-man discovered after ripping his regular Spidey-tights. It all seemed harmless enough, although there was the usual fan outcry hating the new look. When the limited series ended, and Spidey returned home, the plot thickened, as the costume seemed to slowly take over. Eventually, it bonded itself to Peter, and it really didn't want to let go. When he finally was able to literally pry it from his body, the alien blob slinked away only to find reporter Eddie Brock. The alien symbiote bonded with him, and called itself Venom... Marvel fanboys around the world squee'd with excitement. 

In 2007, super genius film director Sam Raimi was forced to include Venom in Spider-man 3. Yes, forced by Sony due to the popularity of the character. He really didn't want to do it... and it shows. The results were some of the most cringe-worthy moments in any comic book movie ever made. 

And now, in 2018, Sony releases a stand-alone Venom movie. Did they learn from their mistakes?
To clarify, while this movie is based on a Marvel comic book, it is NOT part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe of movies. Those movies are released through Disney. Venom is owned by Sony. So, there is zero connection between Venom and Thanos, or Avengers, or Captain America, or Iron Man, or Thor, or Ant-man, etc. It all has to do with copyrights that are equal parts confusing, and frustrating.

The popular opinion is to hate this movie, because how can you have Venom without Spider-man? So without the convoluted Secret Wars origin story, they simply went with the 'alien-life-form-brought-back-from-space' story, which was... acceptable. The 2007 movie used the same idea, as well as the original animated series, so it works based on that simple premise. 

I can't say I hated the movie, but there was still plenty to dislike. The most painful being the horrendous computer effects. To put it into perspective, The Abyss was one of the first movies to ever use CGI in 1989. There was a scene where they created a moving blob of water that looked pretty realistic. Thirty years ago, that scene looked far more realistic than any of the scenes with Venom. Did they not have a budget for the most important aspect of this movie, or did they just not care?

I'm also not a fan of Tom Hardy, who plays Eddie Brock. I don't see any charisma or personality in him whatsoever. You could replace him with a paper sack, and I would be as equally entertained. Although, in the 2007 version, we had Topher Grace, so... upgrade? 

I did however enjoy some of the banter between Brock and Venom. I might have even lol'd just a bit. Plus, if you overlook how bad the effects are, there are some good action moments... when the lens flare and smoke wasn't completely overpowering the scene.

When you compare Venom with the 2004 Halle Berry Catwoman movie, and the 2015 Fantastic Four reboot... it's not that bad! 
(Yes, you can use this quote for promotional purposes if you 'd like). 

If you're interested in seeing this, just lower your expectations, expect some bad effects and a few 'questionable' writing decisions, and you might like it. And if not, it's only ninety minutes long, so you won't lose too much time out of your life.


Friday, July 20, 2018

Batman Ninja Review

So... There is a lot to respect about the animation in Batman Ninja. They obviously put a lot of work into this, and I appreciate it.

But for the rest... There is not enough facepalms or eyerolls in the world to express my feelings. Someone drank a LOT of sake making this movie.

I had originally thought this was going to be a story of "What If Batman lived in Feudal Japan". It's not. It's time travel.

Okay, I'll mildly accept time travelling Batman heroes and villains. But after that...? I think there are ways it could have worked, but not like this.

You have to REALLY love Japanese anime. I mean REEEEALLY love it, to the point where you aren't worried about common sense story telling.


Professor Marston & The Wonder Women Review

How much do you know about the creator of Wonder Woman?

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is truly an amazing biopic about his very unique life. Officially, I read that the Marston family rejected this movie, but nobody really knows all the details of his personal life.

What is known, is that the character of Wonder Woman is based on Marston's wife, their life partner, and their fascination with BDSM. Definitely an interesting psychological study of people during a time when many things we accept today, were considered a perversion.

I really hope this is more accurate retelling than the family said, because it's a beautiful story.


Fahrenheit 451 2018 Review

Fahrenheit 451 was the first Ray Bradbury book I ever read in 6th grade. I discovered him after reading a short story called Fever Dream in a magazine in 5th grade that gave me chills. Before that, I was mostly reading Hardy Boys and dinosaur books, so it felt great to read something with so much imagination.

In 1966, it was made into a movie by Fran├žois Truffaut, which despite lead actor Oskar Werner's efforts to sabotage the production (because he hated the director), it wasn't a bad movie at all. There were a few powerful moments that I respect from this version.

And now, in 2018, I thought I would really hate the the modern Michael B. Jordan remake.

It turns out, parts of it were a decent modern take on the original concept!
And parts of it was Hollywood just changing things because they're idiots. Seriously guys, stop trying so hard. Your ideas suck.

The standout for me was Michael Shannon, as the Captain. He made me appreciate his acting skills, after really hating him as Zod in Man of Steel.

Otherwise, some of the scenes felt very well done (no fire pun intended), and it's easy to imagine some of the elements here happening with today's social media culture. But I still think the 1966 movie was a bit better.

In the end, you really should read the book.... before it's too late.