Monday, April 30, 2018

Avengers Infinity War Review

(Non Spoiler Review)


Oh, you want more? Okay, let's put everything into perspective.

Ten years ago, Marvel had an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, to see if they can become something more. It began with The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man in 2008. It continued with Captain America, and Thor, culminating into one awesome movie called Marvel's Avengers in 2012.

But they didn't stop there! That was only "Phase One".

They added a few sequels, plus other classic comic book characters to the line-up, from Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Black Panther, Spider-man and eventually going into space to add my personal favorite, The Guardians of the Galaxy. Between the amazing cast, many genius directors, and of course epic writing, the real hero, Producer Kevin Feige, continued to understand what comic fans want from a super hero movie, with very few missteps.

So before going to see the newest Avengers movie, Infinity War, ask yourself these questions:

1. Do you like comic book/superhero movies?
2. Have you seen (and enjoyed) MOST of the Marvel movies from the last decade?

If you answer "no" to these questions... seriously, why the hell are you here???

I can only imagine you just wanted to read my goofy comments, because Infinity War is definitely NOT for you. It's a sequel, based on a long running series of movies. You don't necessarily have to watch them all to understand what's going on, but you should have some background into this universe before just blindly purchasing a ticket. And if this isn't your thing, that's fine. Please go see a Rom-com and stay out of my theater. I Feel Pretty is playing, or even Super Troopers 2, if you're into that sort of thing.

But for the rest of us... of course you'll love Infinity War!

It's not an exaggeration to call this movie 'epic'. Between the fantastic visuals featuring many different worlds, amazing characters, and and a well crafted story, Marvel Studios once again, gave us some impressive bang for our theater bucks.

Okay in fairness, I won't say this is the BEST Marvel movie ever. And going in, I did feel a bit 'meh' by the idea. There has been a lot of super hero movies in the last few years, and not all of them have been good. Some (misguided?) people are talking about "Super Hero Fatigue", because they can't imagine any need to make another one. To me, that's a ridiculous concept, because I'll always appreciate a new super hero movie. But I do think a lot of the marketing gets exhausting, and we are definitely getting unnecessarily overwhelmed by the hype. It would be easy for any studio to show one trailer 6 months before release date, without any other advertising, and they would still break box office records through word of nerd mouth.

And for myself, I've always preferred solo comic stories. Maybe a group ensemble is too much for my tiny brain to grasp. Even theatrically, I want one hero to focus on, because with so many characters, I can't imagine a director successfully telling a well balanced story.

But just as Joss Whedon did with the first two Avengers movies, the Russo Brothers figured out how to make a movie that fans could appreciate.

For the most part, they stuck with the Marvel formula, which admittedly consists of a LOT of CGI, and some jokes that felt a bit forced. Although I still did LOL a few times.

But if I can nitpick a moment, a few cosmetic things did bother me. And no, I'm not talking about Black Widow's blonde hair, (although that did feel somewhat irksome). I'm talking about the idea of Thor's short hair, and Captain America growing a beard. Are they turning into the same person??? They seem to be losing their identity.

And with Bucky's new beard, what happens if he decides to cut his hair?

I was also very underwhelmed with Hulk/Banner's involvement in the story. I've been a Hulk fan for many years, so I was disappointed with his portrayal. His particular story just didn't make any sense to me based on what I know of his character.

But everyone else seemed to be at the peak of their ability. Of course there were a lot of characters to follow, but the core of this movie was Thanos. Can I say Josh Brolin 'killed it'? We've seen him in the background for several previous movies, so it was great to see him finally step up and give quite a bit of depth to this character.

And one thing I normally look for in a movie, is heart. After ten years of getting to know these characters, plus many more decades of their legacy to appreciate, I can say there is plenty of things to get emotionally attached to. They've earned our love and respect. We do care about what happens to them. We genuinely care about who lives and who... dies.

Okay, not really a spoiler, because if you're familiar with the comic this is based on, you know some of the heroes die in this battle. I haven't read it (yet) but my extreme nerdy friends tell me there are some changes in the theatrical version, so don't go into this thinking you know what will happen. But also keep in mind, in the world of comic books, dead doesn't always mean dead.

However in the real world, there is one thing that could ultimately destroy Earth's Mightiest Heroes: Contract Negotiations. Some of the actors have chosen not to renew. Even though there are many sequels currently in production for the next few years, there could still be a few changes to the universe planned.

So for the most part, Infinity War is pretty awesome, and a lot of fun, but it's also the darkest in tone of all the Marvel movies.

"...But Deeesher, where does this rank with all the other Marvel movies???"
My friends and I are always trying to rate Marvel movies from favorite to least favorite since they began in 2008, so to help you understand things from my perspective, I'd like to present my personal ranking (my reviews clickable if I wrote one):

1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
2. Avengers (2012)
3. Iron Man (2008)
4. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 (2017)
5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
6. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)
7. Civil War (2016)
8. Infinity War (2018)
9. Ant-Man (2015)
10. Thor Ragnarok (2017)
11. Black Panther
12. Spider-Man Homecoming (2017)
13. Thor The Dark World (2013)
14. Avengers Age of Ultron (2015)
15. Doctor Strange (2016)
16. Iron Man 2 (2010)
17. The Incredible Hulk (2008) (my edit)
*DISCLAIMER - As a fan of the Hulk, I enjoyed this movie, however I felt there was some unnecessarily sappy moments. Many great scenes were also deleted that I would have kept. So I created a version that felt better in many ways. Although I still think Liv Tyler was a poor casting choice for Betty, my edit improved many other aspects of this movie.

18. Thor (2011)
19. Iron Man 3 (2013)

I seriously hope this is on the blu-ray as a deleted scene...

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Lost in Space 2018 Review

In the not too distant future of 1997, earth suffers from massive overpopulation. Powerful governments around the world race to finalize a mission colonizing a beautiful new world near Alpha Centauri. Many governments would do anything to ensure they were the first to reach that new world... including sabotage.

This is the premise of the original 1965 series, Lost in Space, developed by the legendary Irwin Allen. The Robinson family was chosen, because they were the best, of the best, of the best... with honors (Sir!). But the catalyst of the show, and one reason for it's longevity, was Dr. Smith and the Robot.

Most people remember the goofy banter between Smith and the Robot, but originally, they were just scary and evil.

Before the tone of the series changed, Dr. Smith was a military Colonel, helping prepare the crew for the long voyage into space. He was also in contact with 'someone' who promised him a lot of money to ensure the Jupiter 2 never makes it to their destination. So while the crew is in suspended animation, Smith reprograms the environmental robot to destroy key components on the ship, eight hours after launch. Unfortunately for him, he's trapped on board at lift off and must wake the crew to convince them to send him back home. But with his additional weight added to the ship, they already begin going off course, and head directly into an asteroid field. Once this is corrected, the Robot becomes active and causes even more damage, making everyone... LOST... IN.... SPACE... SPACE... SPACE...!

Jonathan Harris, who played Smith, became bored with the character after a few episodes, so he decided to make him a bit more cowardly and foolish. Eventually, the Robot developed a personality, making many episodes a lot more family friendly. Of course, this helped cement their place in television history but... I liked the evil versions more.

So ends our education in television sci-fi history. And now, let's flash forward to 2018, when Netflix reboots...
*Obligatory reboot rant*
...Ugh. Just stop!

In fairness, I really have no problem rebooting this show. I think the original idea is still viable, and with just a few modern tweaks, it could be fantastic. Netflix has produced a lot of great shows (please watch Netflix original series, Altered Carbon, and Series of Unfortunate Events!!), so it's easy to see this being a huge success... if they do it right. And after binge-watching all ten episodes of the new Lost in Space, I have a lot of mixed feelings.

As with any reboot, I have to ask Hollywood producers, if you don't like the core concept, why are you doing a reboot??? 

I've also said, if you make changes, they should be good changes. And there are some good changes. But some incredibly unnecessary changes as well. It felt like there were three different mindsets working on this show. One group gets it. The other two don't.

The good news is, the tone of the show feels right. Often, reboots take a serious concept, and frustratingly try to make it a comedy (21 Jump Street, Starsky and Hutch, Land of the Lost etc). Of course there's also a concern of making it just dark and depressing (Fantastic Four 2015). Fortunately, Netflix gave Lost in Space the right balance between action, drama and a decent sense of humor. There is plenty of tension, but it's not so serious that it's afraid to make a silly comment occasionally.

I also really loved the cast! As a general rule, I hate kids (...get off my lawn!). And kid actors can be really annoying. But the Robinsons genuinely felt like a family. The chemistry between all the characters seemed authentic. There was plenty of love/hate moments and I could accept them as the super genius family, with all the issues that it entails.

Well... most of it I accepted. I'm not sure why they would choose to have the father estranged, and then join them on this mission. What was wrong with having a good family unit? Is it so impossible to believe? I'm not expecting their relationship to be perfect, but it's just an odd concept to grasp that he would suddenly rejoin the family on this mission.

And maybe I'm being nitpicky here, but every time I saw him, all I could think of was Stan Against Evil:
He did have some nice heroic and fatherly moments so I could overlook it... mostly.

"...But Deeesher, what about Major Don West??"
Oh I haven't forgotten him, but maybe the writers did. Originally, West was the good looking, ace pilot of the Jupiter 2. And once again well cast, but no longer a Major. Now he's just a smuggler with plenty of charisma and charm. He's basically Space Han Solo.

Which brings us finally to Dr. Smith and The Robot.

Well, the Robot is definitely scary, and Smith is once again evil. The relationship between Will and The Robot feels authentic, and even Smith is appropriately creepy, but that's where the similarities from the original series end. Without giving anything away, I'll just say the Robot is not their reprogrammed environmental robot, and Smith is definitely not a military doctor paid to sabotage the mission by an evil government agency.

Why the changes??? 

Of course the original series had plenty of silly stories that just would never work, so I do appreciate a few updates. But the changes they made are completely unnecessary.

And looking at it objectively, if I ignore the original story, they made a few other decisions in this series that I hated. For example:
- Stop showing us breadcrumbs scenes from the past and just give us linear storytelling please!
- Stop having dramatic reaction shots that quickly cut away before showing us what they're seeing!!
- Stop the unnecessary lens flares!!
- Stop putting modern music in our futuristic science fiction show!!!

*le sigh*
Despite those bits of stupidity, it is an enjoyable show. I think it will be successful, and I think people will like it. Maybe the purists will be frustrated, but if you keep an open mind, you can still appreciate a new, decent sci-fi series with elements of Lost in Space.

And yes, every time I saw one of those eye rolling writing decisions, a little voice inside my head said...