Your Pikachu Is Very Unusual

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Detective Pikachu is exactly the live action Pokémon movie I wanted when I was twelve.

Ok, back then I thought the Pokémon should be Muppets but otherwise, yeah.

Silly, interesting and surprisingly emotional, with clever use of the characters abilities, the movie really delivers. The character design alone gets this one pushed towards the top of the heap.

But luckily everything is clicking on this movie. The cast is wonderful. Justice Smith is adorable as Tim Goodman, a young man who has to find his missing father in the sprawling experimental Ryme City. (Where humans and Pokemon live together.)

He meets up with Lucy, played by Kathryn Newton, who is a spunky reporter who speaks really fast and has big blue eyes, and blonde high pony and wears rocking blazers. She basically stepped right out of an anime, and I adore her.

The main event though is Detective Pikachu himself, who is voiced delightfully by Ryan Reynolds. The damn thing is just so cute, and Reynolds tempers his usual style a bit to feel into that, and it’s something pretty special.

The mystery of Tim’s missing father is very fun and twisty in a family friendly way, and without spoilers turns out in the most Pokemon way possible. (THE POWER OF LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP IS VERY IMPORTANT TO THIS MOVIE.)

Truly good family movies are really rare and even more appreciated when they actually show up. This is a truly great family movie, and that’s saying something, this early in the season.

Rankings:

  1. Avengers: Endgame
  2. Detective Pikachu

Trailers:

Blinded By The Light – Hooo, boy, that’s a movie that’s going to make me weep like crazy. I know I’d be pressing my luck trying to get my mother to the movies three times this year. (We’re trying for Rocket Man, I know I’ll get her to Downton Abbey and I think she’ll like this.) But I do think I need to push her on this one.

Angry Birds 2: NOOOOPPPE

Sonic The Hedgehog: I didn’t watch the trailer when it dropped a few weeks ago and everyone freaked. It looks, fine? I mean, kinda ugly and weird, but not like awful. I’m not going to see it.

The Addams Family: I want it to be good. I’m obsessed with the new character design for Wednesday.

My Spy: Is it a requirement for all wrestlers turning actors to make a dopey action comedy where they work with children? Like, when they leave the WWE, do the McMahon’s present them with a script saying that if the movie isn’t made within 5 years their souls will be reaped? (I’ve maybe been watching too much Supernatural.)

Godzilla: King Of The Monsters: I mean, I’m sure the Kaiju fights are awesome. And the “Over The Rainbow” trailer is mindblowingly cool. I just, cannot get myself psyched for this movie at all.

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Avengers: Endgame: A Watching Experience

There’s a certain magic to the opening weekend of a nerd movie. Those Harry Potter and Star Wars midnight openings, Saturday matinees of The Lord Of The Rings, and pretty much every Marvel movie since The Avengers have always meant the most to me. (Though Friday night Pirates sequels were also fun.)

I saw Endgame twice this weekend, curious how the earlier in the evening local theater audience would be different from the Friday night city crowd I saw it with first. (Plus I was bored and trying not to snack.)

Here’s the thing, the Friday night audience were my people, for the most part. I was with Kristi and Aless, and the group in front of us were also a some late 20’s early 30’s nerds, men and women, queer and head over heels for the movie. The ones who clapped for Carol Danvers’s new haircut. We’re those people.

The Saturday audience was different, a few families, but mostly large groups of teens, which warmed my heart because seeing these types of movies with my friends in high school was really the best. (By “these types” I mean big movies everyone was talking about. Superhero movies weren’t really a thing for us. Batman Begins hit my senior year, and Iron Man not until after.)

Audience reactions though, were largely the same, which is cool, because humans. The collective intake of breath as you realize Lilah Barton was snapped, laughter at the reveal of Thor’s letting himself go, and Banner/Hulk, the collective “Aww,” as Morgan Stark told her father she loved him “3000.” (Oh, I’m sorry, a ninja just popped into my apartment and started chopping up some onions. UNBELIEVABLE.)

But both showings, the applause points. The whooping and uncontainable joy, as Steve Rogers picked up Mjolnir, as Sam Wilson came over the com and said, “On your left,” as the heroes just kept on coming. Also, may you someday be surrounded by a group of nerdy AF black teenage boys seeing Steve Rogers hand his shield over to Sam Wilson. THEY LOST THEIR GODDAMN MINDS and it was wonderful. (I was already a blubbering mess by this point, even more so than round one, but that basically destroyed me. #RepresentationMatters.)

Seriously though I’m so glad to have experienced this movie. It means a lot to me and I’ll probably see it again.

 

Part Of The Journey Is The End

There was an idea…called The Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to fight the battles we never could. – Nick Fury The Avengers

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The MCU is in incredible piece of pop art. Unlike anything that came before it, and unlikely to ever be duplicated. (Many have tried and failed.) The brainchild of a genius producer, ushered in by some talented directors and held together for good or ill, by the charisma of that group of remarkable people.

Avengers: Endgame is the payoff. When Avengers: Infinity war ended, with Thanos “watching the sun rise over a grateful universe.” (Universe is actually less than grateful but he’s nuts.) breath was held and we waited. How would our team, our guys, all of whom were left behind after this rapture, handle this?

They fight, of course. They save the world. That’s what they do. And then they rest. As a critic, it’s hard to come at a movie that has this much to  get done, gets it done (mostly) and also manages to be a hell of a lot of fun, a showcase for the three men and one woman who were basically holding this whole endeavor on their good looking charismatic backs. (And a few other people who were backing them up.)

Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth, are incredible performers who have given Tony Stark, Natasha Romanoff, Steve Rogers and Thor Odinson life and joy and heart, and here they get to pay off ten or so years of work. They are all excellent. (Especially Johansson, Nat’s had a journey y’all.)

Endgame is good. It’s very good. As close to perfect as it could be, from a critical standpoint. And from a fan standpoint, it is perfect.

Rankings:

  1. Avengers: Endgame

Trailers

Aladdin:
Kristi: It’s that soon?
Me: Meh, at least there’s no white people in it.
Aless: That is literally the only thing it has going for it though.

The Long Shot:
I will see it. I’m here for President Charlize.

Gemini Man:
Guys, Will Smith is back. I think we should all be happy about that.

Hobbs & Shaw:
Hot damn, I cannot wait for this. The only thing that upsets me is that it appears Shaw will not be brought to justice for Han’s death. Which is kind of a bummer. But the new trailer does have both Statham and Johnson saying “family” like sixteen times. So you know F&F….

Toy Story 4:
It really does look breathtaking doesn’t it? Even if it feels a little like the plot is a retread of 2. 

And from here on out, beyond that cut, we’re into spoiler land. I AM WARNING YOU.

I’M TOTALLY SERIOUS. SPOILERS HEREEEEEE

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Ready for Endgame: Avengers: Infinity War

My feelings about Infinity War are best summed up in the first ten minutes I spent after the movie ended.

Aless, Kristi and I wandered out of the theater and down an eerily quiet Broadway, mostly just staring front.

“Do you want a drink?” I managed to squeak.

“Yeah,” Aless said, we wandered quietly into PJ Clark’s to decompress. (It was late and past last call, so we never did get that drink.)

On the subsequent rewatchings, it’s never quite felt so visceral, but that’s OK, the sheer surprise at the way everyone is reacting is enough to really, really hit you in the gut emotionally. Of course, there was the inevitable discussion, heartbreak and then dismissal, “well, it’s all going to be undone.”

As if the Endgame (heh) is the only point of a story. There’s so much more to telling a story, to watching a movie, than just how it ends. It’s why I’ve never been particularly spoilerphobic. The destination matters a good deal less to me, and I’m always fascinated by those for whom it is a big deal.

But anyway, this movie. This is a good movie. I’m less irritated by Doctor Strange, Thor’s well won intensity is a great match for the more loose Guardians, and my god, Peter Parker and Tony Stark bounce well off of each other. I do sometimes wish we’d gotten Captain America and Okoye making a battle plan together, but this movie is already  ridiculously long.

The thing is, unlike my screams about Aquaman and Doctor Strange, and even Spider-Man: Homecoming and their length, Avengers: Infinity War has about 10 main characters that need to be showcased, it’s length is pretty organic. I have a feeling that the 3 hour long Endgame will also earn it’s length.

But Infinity War, was pretty special. It presented the kind of inescapable status quo, like Winter Soldier, we knew the next two movies were going to have to address it.

Infinity War also ended a tradition. Aless and I had long ago begun saving a few handfuls of popcorn to chuck at the screen as post credit sequences popped up without reference to Captain Marvel. Of course, the last second of Infinity War and Nick Fury uses his two way pager to let Carol know she’s needed back on Earth. But more on that in a few week.

Next week we cleanse our pallets and get quantum with Ant-Man And The Wasp. (Also, sorry this is a day late!)

Ready For Endgame: Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians Of The Galaxy

A very strong case can be made that 2014 was the best year for the MCU. (I’d say only 2018 can give it a real go…) It was the year that gave us my personal pick for the greatest superhero film of all time, and expanded the universe we’d all fallen in love with beyond even what Thor had shown us.

Let’s start with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which I think deserves much more serious consideration in the genre than it gets. It deals more elegantly with the themes of the surveillance state than everyone’s beloved The Dark Knight, presents a grappling with the reality of turning humans into symbols and going past your expiration date, like Logan and manages to fit into the Marvel formula perfectly and wring some killer performances out of Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson.

Not to mention, you could remove Captain America from the proceedings entirely and you’d still have a political thriller where a badass spy played by Samuel L. Jackson has to deal with being betrayed by the politician that he protected his entire career played by Robert Redford. Which would also be an incredible movie. What do you get if you take Batman and The Joker out of The Dark Knight? Huh? A slightly crazy DA loses his fiance to the mob and a police captain fakes his death? OK, that would also be a pretty good movie, but not as good.

My point is that The Winter Soldier rules. Chris Evans is perfect in it, it gives Natasha Romanoff real stakes, something she was surely and deeply missing in her previous appearances. It brings back Bucky Barnes, setting up Cap’s stakes for the rest of the series, and introduces us to Sam Wilson, The Falcon, the second best sidekick in the series. (The best is Rhodey.)

It’s action scenes are tight, it’s mystery well thought out and it’s twists well executed. And it’s funny, you guys, and it has Robert Redford. It’s amazing. It’s the greatest superhero movie ever.

Also, it sparked one of my all time favorite “Wait, what?” fangirl conversations that Aless and I ever had over pancakes after watching a Marvel movie (Margaritas before, pancakes after.) “Is…is Captain America a virgin?” (We concluded that, no, no he is not. We don’t think…but he might be? He definitely never got to have sex with Peggy, which is very sad for both of them.) (The rest of the pancake session was spent guessing which Agents characters might be HYDRA. We did not consider Grant Ward, like even a little. What a well executed twist that was. You didn’t see it coming but in retrospect it made perfect sense.)

Guardians Of The Galaxy, is not the best superhero movie ever, but it’s a very, very good one. Few superhero and sci fi properties embrace fun and dorkiness with such aplomb, (I’d say Legends Of Tomorrow might be the only other one I can think of that really hits the balance just right.) And Guardians is so confident in what it’s doing. While it starts with a scene that’s so maudlin it might be heavy handed, young Peter Quill at his mother’s bedside, the air is almost immediately taken out, when our would be swashbuckling hero hits play on his walkman and dances to his destination.

Guardians is full of moments like that, setting up moments that we should know by heart and just undercutting them enough that they work on their own but feel different because of the humor, the characters and my god that soundtrack.

The strength of both of these movies really does seal up 2014 as the best year. (Again, 2018, with three super strong entries is a close close second.)

Next week, we get into the movie that may have broken a legend, but did give us a controversial ship, and some good jokes. We give Avengers: Age Of Ultron another go. I don’t think my opinion on it will change much, which is basically that it’s a glorious mess. And it may have broken Joss Whedon’s brain. We can’t be sure.

Grown Ups Always Forget

Mary Poppins Returns

There are moments during Mary Poppins Returns where it feels like the whole precarious exercise is about to go off the rails and Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda pull it back from the brink with sheer charm.

Like the very large shoes the pair are stepping into, Blunt and Miranda are just so damn likable, you find yourself fully tapped in to this movie, even when it maybe doesn’t all hang together cleanly.

There are genuine joys in this movie. “Imagine That,” Mary Poppins’s first number with the new generation of Banks children is a technical wonder and Blunt delivers it beautifully. A few of the songs get the music box style quality of The Sherman Brother’s on point, though I’m perhaps a little bit too familiar with Mark Shaiman’s style to not see the seams there.(Hairspray! And also Smash….but mostly Hairspray…) “The Cover Is Not The Book,” uses it’s music hall styling to organically allow Miranda to rap. (I mean, they hired the man, they had to find a way to work it in, right?)

I didn’t quite connect to grown up Michael’s story, which involved losing his wife and giving up his artistic dreams to go to work at Fiduciary Fidelity Bank in order to support his young children. (And taking out a loan on the house. Michael had a lot going on.) But I adored Jane’s story, which has her picking up her mother’s social justice causes (Mrs. Banks was a sufragette you may recall) as a union organizer,  and resuming what must have been a lovely teenage flirtation with Miranda’s Jack.

The new kids, John, Annabelle and Georgie are sweethearts, forced to grow up before their time due to the family’s financial difficulties. Colin Firth is the villainous banker trying to foreclose on the Banks house which is a perfectly fine use of him, I guess. A few other cameos do the hard work of selling that this is the same world, that’s just moved on a bit. Even if it’s very clear that Angela Lansbury’s balloon lady was clearly written with Julie Andrews in mind.

Rankings:

  1. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
  2. Aquaman
  3. The Incredibles 2
  4. Bohemian Rhapsody
  5. A Star Is Born
  6. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  7. Creed 2
  8. Mary Poppins Returns
  9. Deadpool 2
  10. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
  11. Ocean’s 8
  12. Infinity War
  13. Ant-Man And The Wasp
  14. Venom

Trailers:

Many the same as Spider-Verse, but also The Lion King! Which, I will see. Whether I like it or not is a different conversation, but I’ll see it.

This Is Gonna Be Fun

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I think DC has finally figured out how to stand out, and it’s magic and myth.

Marvel’s got the whole team up thing on lockdown. While I’d love to see everyone cross paths again some day, the only times, since Nolan gave up the reigns on Batman, that WB’s superhero movies have worked have been when they leaned hard into mysticism and magic.

Aquaman is a superhero movie, sure, but it’s much more of a fantasy quest film. The King returning to the throne that was denied him. The lesser prince, desparately grabbing at something that was never supposed to be his to begin with. The Goddesses guiding the path of the hero. And it’s lifted up by some really game performances that are tuned to exactly what they need to be. Nicole Kidman, Amber Heard (despite her truly terrible, terrible wig), Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren (the stealth MVP of this year’s movie season!) and Jason Momoa all commit and run with every goofy curve ball thrown at them.

But this movie had one huge highlight for me.

I once noted that Patrick Wilson has been banging his head against the mainstream door for so long, it’s gotten sad. He could have been one of the Broadway greats, but ceded that throne to others (Christian Borle, Norbert Leo Butz both better than him btw) chasing a segment of the industry that didn’t know how to use him. But my God, his performance here as, Orm, Sea Master (SQUEE!) is a sight to behold, and the perfect foil to Jason Momoa’s flinty bro version of Arthur Curry. He’s ice cold patrician aristocracy, merciless and unbending, which, of course becomes his undoing. It’s my favorite villain performance in a super film in quite a long time. Maybe since Loki’s turn in The Avengers. (It’s not quite that good, but it’s very good.) Yahya Abdul-Mateen II turns in a good B-line villain performance as Black Manta as well.

The action is great, the script is well constructed, if a little too quick to laugh it’s self and it’s well performed. It’s not a game changer, but not everything needs to be. Somethings simply are what they are.

Rankings:

  1. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
  2. Aquaman
  3. The Incredibles 2
  4. Bohemian Rhapsody
  5. A Star Is Born
  6. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  7. Creed 2
  8. Deadpool 2
  9. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
  10. Ocean’s 8
  11. Infinity War
  12. Ant-Man And The Wasp
  13. Venom

Trailers:

Avengers: Endgame: Oh wow, you guys, I am going to weep at this one. Like a baby. I know it.

Shazam!: I can’t wait for this truly, and I think leans into my theory about DC and magic and myths. Wonder Woman is the daughter of gods and Aquaman is a prophesied king and Captain Marvel/Shazam is given his powers by a wizard.

Still no Captain Marvel trailer. BOOOO.