Ready For Endgame: Thor And Captain America: The First Avenger

There are certain movies that are very hard for me to separate from the first time I saw them. These are usually because of the people I saw them with, or because I saw them as a kid. But with Thor and  Captain America: The First Avenger, it’s really because of timing.

People might not remember that these movies came out within months of each other, when The Avengers was a certainty but still a whisper. And everyone was still scoffing at them. “Right, like a Thor movie is going to work.” And because I was getting ready to finish my English Lit degree, I even added, “what is Kenneth Branagh doing?” (The film nerd in me was less skeptical about Joe Johnston because I’d grown up with The Rocketeer, and that the guy who made that was making a Captain America movie made perfect sense to me.)

But there’s something about these movies and the way that they act as a doorway for the MCU and the fact that they came out the summer I finished college that feels kind of perfect to me. There’s of course my epic, “Glen literally pulled Chrissy and me out of a bar at the end of a bar crawl to go see it,” Thor story. He was pissed as hell, because we hadn’t told him we were going on the crawl, his words, “I’d have gotten tickets for tomorrow if I’d known this was your plan.” Of course our very cogent response was, “PFFFF, we’re not that drunk! Let’s get pretzels, and HOLY SHIT THAT IS ONE HOT MAN RIGHT THERE ON THE MOVIE SCREEN!” I told this story in my toast at their wedding. I left out the hot man parts. The fact that these two people are parents now brings me such joy.

Captain America, I saw with my friend Lisa, which was the first time we’d hung out since graduation. I then saw it like 5 more times, because I wasn’t really working that summer, so had a bunch of spare time. It was what cemented Cap as my Marvel Guy. (At the time Batman was still my DC guy. I hadn’t fully fallen for Dick yet.) And whenever I go back and look at Phase 1, I realize it’s still the movie that I’ve watched the most. (Iron Man is close behind, btw.)

Anyway, my personal experience of these films aside, they’re both solid, and deeply enjoyable. Thor especially, is a treat. I think people tend to forget how charming it is. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are all in on Thor and Loki from their first moments on screen, and while it’s small scale is probably because no one was sure if this whole thing was going to work, it’s in the movie’s favor that it gets a quiet intimate scene where Thor explains the nine realms to Jane on a rooftop, or Thor and Selvig getting drunk together, or Sif, Loki and The Warriors Three sitting beside a fire discussing Thor’s banishment. Branagh uses his Shakespearian ear perfectly in these scenes, letting them breath and the actors relish in their ridiculous dialog, and melodramatic plots.

 The MCU in general is a miracle of casting but Captain America: The First Avenger might be the most clean example of this. Everyone in this movie is pitch perfect for it’s throwback tone. None more so than Hayley Atwell and Chris Evans though. Dear lord are they magical. Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers might be the only two love interests I’ve ever cosplayed BOTH of, because I love them both so much. (Having cut my hair again, I might bring Peggy back this year…) But seriously, there’s so much about this movie that’s absolutely right, that I have trouble not smiling.

I’ve written literally thousands of words about The MCU, and it’s hard to explain though, that the reason is because of these two movies and the people I was hanging out with at the time being so excited for them. I seriously doubt I’d have gone to see them in the theater if it weren’t for these folks, which is why it’s very hard for me to separate the movies themselves, which are great, by the way, from the experience of watching them for the first time. So I fail as a critic in this essay, because I’m too attached. (Also, if I’m frank, I watched them on a Saturday afternoon and I’ve had some wine, and I’m a little buzzy. Blogging is all about honesty right?)

Next week we talk about The Avengers, which, if you’ll recall was the first movie I ever reviewed here on The Fangirl’s Dilemma, and that was 10 years ago and that is disgusting. 

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Ready For Endgame: Iron Man 2 

Man, Iron Man 2 is bad. I shouldn’t say that, it’s not terrible, really, it’s just so aggressively mediocre, and overstuffed and such a disappointment after the first one.

But, for all of it’s flaws we get some good things here, we get the introduction of The Avenger’s initiative, we get Natasha Romanoff, we get some great Nick Fury moments and my favorite MCU tweak, Don Cheadle replacing Terrance Howard (though I understand that the circumstances around the recasting had, uh, issues.) (I think racism is bad! But Don Cheadle is good!)

Iron Man 2 is worth revisiting for these things, as well as for once again, Robert Downey Jr.’s performance. He is so in sync with this character at all moments, and I’m dumbfounded by it. Especially having watching Infinity War over the past week, Tony’s come so far and yet feels of a piece with what Downey is doing here, it’s exceptional.

And, there’s something else that Iron Man 2 gives us, and that’s Howard Stark. I mean, the Howard Stark who’s shadow looms over the rest of the enterprise. He’s mentioned in Iron Man, Tony wanting to sure up his father’s legacy, and the arc reactor are both big points, but it’s here, in John Slattery’s quick performance that we get the outline that Dominic Cooper will later work off of, and Slattery will play again for Ant-Man and Civil War. 

Granted, I am always always happy to see Slattery, or pretty much anyone from Sterling Cooper pop up in my media.  (Except Vincent Cartheiser, which isn’t his fault. He’s a very good actor, I just really hate Pete Campbell.)

Now, onto Cheadle. Rhodey is stealth my favorite MCU character. I don’t know when it happened or how, but I always think, “Oh, yay! Rhodey’s in this one!” whenever he pops up. Terrance Howard did a good job with the character, but Don Cheadle explodes with him. Part of it is the chemistry with RDJ, but part of it is also just, buying him as an authority more. He’s in control of a room the minute he walks in.

And then there’s Natasha. Wonderful, wonderful, Natasha Romanoff. She doesn’t get a lot to do here, but she does get a “hallway fight,” which of course later became a staple of Marvel/Netflix. (It’s not a one take, but it still smells like one. It’s the fritatta to the hallway fight’s omelette.)

But the most important parts of Iron Man 2, are the things that the MCU takes a lot of heat for in it’s later installments, is that this one doesn’t really work as a movie on it’s own, just a piece of the bigger whole. (Age of Ultron also gets bogged down in this.)

Next week we’ll talk about Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, I’ll think about graduating college a whole bunch, and Phase I nearly completes.

 

Movie Season 2018 Wrap Up

Movie season was quiet this year. I missed a lot of stuff. I considered extending a week to catch up, but frankly, it’s just not in the cards.

I am going to be going to the movies a lot more though, I think, in the coming months, and I’ll be doing a fair share of reviewing, just not ranking of those films. I considered ending Movie Season all together after this year, and may still cap it at 2019, since my focus in consumption has changed quite a bit, but frankly the year of Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: Episode IX makes for a more compelling finale to this feature than “the year I was too tired/broke to hit the multiplex much.”

So we push on in 2019. But for now, let’s talk about 2018, and the bajillion Superhero movies that I reviewed. (With a few others in between)

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

It’s been a week and I’m still blown away by it. And it won the Golden Globe for best animated film! Hooray! But seriously, this is a great movie, that deserves every single plaudit that it’s getting. As a coming out party for Miles it was more than amazing, and just as a movie on it’s own.

Aquaman

I’ve been giggling a lot just thinking about this movie. I was feeling a little bit burnt out on superheroes before this and Spider-Verse, if I’m feeling honest. In the week since, I’ve rewatched Young Justice, (and started the new season) read Crisis On Infinite Earths, watched Titans and started Runaways. Seriously, these two very fun superhero movies have got my interest peaked again and I’m thrilled about it.

The Incredibles 2

It feels like I saw this a really long time ago, but I loved it so much in the moment. Again, with the superhero burnout, I haven’t wanted to watch it a second time, but maybe I will.

Bohemian Rhapsody

SO MANY TISSUES. Also, congrats to Rami Malek! He was very very good in this movie

A Star Is Born

I’m psyched for Gaga, really. And I love these songs, I really love them. I think there’s something powerful in retelling stories, and clearly this is one that people really like.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Again with the giggling. I seriously enjoyed this, and I can’t wait until it hits Netflix and I can watch it again. I actually have seen it a second time (thanks Redbox!)

Creed 2

I’ve declared Dolph Lundgren this movie season’s MVP.  He was great here and super fun in Aquaman, and it’s pretty great.

Mary Poppins Returns

I admire this movie more than I actually like it. I think it pulled off it’s balancing act really well. Has some strong performances, and good songs. It just didn’t stick to my ribs the way I was hoping that it would.

Deadpool 2

I am among the few who preferred this to the original I think? I thought the story was stronger, even if it wasn’t as funny. Either way, I do not fear for us getting more Deadpool. If anyone can survive the current climate of things at Marvel, it’s the guy who was never going to get a movie in the first place.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!

This movie is so wonderful, and I can’t wait to watch it when summer comes, and there’s rose flowing and my friends and I are dancing around a room.

Ocean’s 8

I kind of forgot I saw this. But I remember really liking it.

Infinity War

This is very far down the list. I watched it again last week. It’s quite good.

Ant-Man And The Wasp

Dude, another one that I kind of completely forgot, but again, when I think about it, I liked a lot, but gets knocked down for sheer, ya know, forgetability.

Venom

Wow, this was a bad but fun movie. Seriously, so fun, though.

So that was Movie Season 2018. 2019 begins the last weekend in April, with Endgame. I’m rewatching the MCU in preparation now, and I’ll spend the summer and fall on Star Wars as well as whatever else is going on, movie land wise..(Including Clone Wars, Rebels and Resistance.) 

 

Ready for Endgame: Iron Man & The Incedible Hulk

OK, so, I know we tried this last year and we didn’t get anywhere with it. But this time I have a schedule and a plan, and I’m determined. I am rewatching the MCU and I am writing about it! (HOORAY!)

So, we’re starting at the beginning, whenever possible I’m going to do 2 movies per post with each Avengers movie getting their own post. A few, just by virtue of timing will be getting solo posts.

First up! That first year. Let’s go back shall we? It was the summer of 2008. People were curious about a little film called, Iron Man, and very excited about a movie called The Incredible Hulk. 

Then they came out. It does feel hard to believe that everyone was way more psyched about Hulk, but to be fair, it was the big flashy one, with the movie star lead, not the washed up former addict.

But then you started hearing about it, and that sentence, “Stay until after the credits.” People forget that wasn’t really a thing you did before. I mean, sometimes, there would be cute jokes or teasers after a movie, but nothing you know, essential. But then Nick Fury stepped out of the shadows, and we all knew, something was beginning.

But that wasn’t the only thing about Iron Man, everytime I watch that movie I’m thrilled by how it holds up. It’s funny, and smart, and the performances are universally excellent. The final fight is simple and a bit crude looking in retrospect, but still a fun watch, and really, truly and honestly, Robert Downey Jr. is fantastic. I’ve read complaints a few times that The MCU as a whole leans too hard on Tony Stark, but really, watching the first few movies again, I can see why they went that way. It’s such a committed and lovely performance.

The Incredible Hulk, on the other hand, is simply nowhere near as strong. Edward Norton’s performance as Bruce Banner lacks conviction, Liv Tyler is, well, I mean, Liv Tyler. The CGI is sloppy, the final fight is still fun, but feels oddly low stakes, and it’s just not a good movie. It sets up some intersting concepts that remain constants (pointing the Hulk, Banner trying to control the time of transformation, General Ross)

But then it happens, that amazing moment where Tony Stark walks into that bar, declaring that “the super soldier program was put on ice for a reason,” and it’s a moment of clarity. We aren’t in Kansas anymore, this is something new, something exciting.

It would two years before we got more, and another year after that before the clarity of vision comes into place, but the picture began to form, the big experience was starting, the game had begun, and it all hinged on the one guy. It was about Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, it was about charisma, and strong casting and fitting the guy to the suit, not compromising on what makes a hero a hero.

We’ll get into that more next week, when Iron Man 2, easily my least favorite movie in the whole series (like The MCU, not just the Iron Man series,) gets a solo week, because of how this is all working out.

 

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

Aquaman_poster.jpg

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.

Anyone Can Be Spider-Man

Spider-verse

I remember when I first encountered Miles Morales. I’d been around in the early days of Twitter and the #DonaldForSpiderMan thing. I’d been reading Ultimate Spider-Man on and off for a year or so, when suddenly, and without warning, the guy at the comic book store in Scranton, PA handed me a copy of the book and said, “No, you have to read this month’s, they killed Peter Parker.”

Even in my laregly neophyte shoes of those days, I knew that was big. Death stuck in Ultimate, that was part of the deal. Soon enough though, Peter Parker was replaced by a smart ass kid from Brooklyn. Half Black, half Latino, all heart. And most of us were smitten.

Slowly, because you know, comics, and pre Avengers comics at that, the rest of the world caught on to this kid, and he’s been creeping into the mainstream ever since. And Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is his coming out party.

And what a party it is. This movie has everything! Great animation, stunning action, a heartfelt coming of age story, great pizza jokes, meta humor coming out the wazoo, Batman jokes, two badass teenage girl co-leads, Lily Tomlin, a baller soundtrack, mecha robots, a Batman parody, Chris Pine singing, a scary scary villain and John Mulaney voices a pig!

DO NOT MISS THIS ONE SUPERHERO FANS. It’s doing well enough that it won’t be left behind to be whined over like Mask Of The Phantasm, but seriously, this movie is incredible and not to be missed, OK?

Post Credits: Spider-Man of 2099. So, yeah, there’s that.

Rankings!

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

Trailers:

The lack of a Captain Marvel trailer was concerning, but otherwise we got some good stuff here

Shazam! Holy Moly, this looks fun. While I am very much in love with Zachary Levi, the kid also looks great.

How To Train Your Dragon: The Lost World (or whatever): Shut up, you’re crying!

Wonder Park: This looks completely and utterly charming. I am down for animated movies about mothers and daughters being creative together.