Ready For Endgame: Ant-Man And The Wasp & Captain Marvel

When I think about these movies, it’s in the shadow of The Snap, and how they even more than the others, reinforces that one of the strength of the MCU is that the journey counts as much as anything. We all knew that Ant-Man And The Wasp and Captain Marvel were hurtling towards the inevitable destruction of half the population.

But they handle it very differently. First of all, as I talked about both when I reviewed Ant-Man a few years ago, and when I talked about Ant-Man And The Wasp last year, I find these movies completely and utterly charming. I smile the whole way through all of them. Paul Rudd is wonderful. Evangeline Lilly is wonderful. Michael Douglas is wonderful. The whole supporting cast is wonderful.

Scott’s main motivation is his love for his daughter, which binds him with Janet Van Dyne, who just wants to get back to Hope. Oh, and she’s Michelle Pfeiffer, which is awesome. Seriously, you guys, I love this movie a lot, and I’m very worried about how Scott is going to feel after he returns from the Quantum realm and finds that his new family is gone. (Also, I hope Cassie is OK, I get the feeling it will be his ex wife, Judy Greer, who got snapped in that scenario.)

And then we have to talk abut Captain Marvel, which Aless and I went to go see again last weekend, so that one, we could see it again, and two, I could write about it intelligently. I love this movie. I love Carol Danvers, I love that she’s so powerful, that she doesn’t let people define her, that’s her arc. She’s in charge, she’s going to do what she wants, and it’s wonderful.

Like Ant-Man hinging on Paul Rudd, so much here is because of Brie Larson’s low key and charming performance. She’s smirking, quipping and pushing the boundaries at every moment, but it always feels like she’s a fully formed person, even when she’s Vers, and she isn’t.

Both movies end on a triumph for their heroes and then in the post credits brings us post snap, Scott in the quantum realm with Hope, Janet and Hank dusted, and Carol responding to Fury’s page,ready to join the Avengers.

One thing that’s great about a few key movies in The MCU is that they make for an inescapable status quo for the others. Because Ant-Man And The Wasp and Captain Marvel came out in between Infinity War and Endgame the snap had to be dealt with, it couldn’t be ignored. But the movies manage to stand on their own, even without that hook. We knew that they’d answer the questions of “Where were those guys when Thanos hit?” but we also knew that wasn’t going to be the point.

OK, that’s it. We rewatched the whole deal. Isn’t that crazy? It’s crazy.

Next time we touch base with The MCU, it’s going to be for Endgame, and the beginning of movie season. Taking this Monday, sometimes Tuesday when I’m busy/tired, will be the final seven (eight maybe) Game Of Thrones winners. And after that…well..we’ll talk after that.

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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: Black Panther

What is Black Panther?

Is it a boilerplate superhero blockbuster? Is it an important film about colonialism and black diasporan identity? Is it another cog in a corporate machine designed to take our money? Is it an important moment in social discourse?

Yes.

Black Panther is all of these things, and also just a rocking good time of a movie. It’s kind of hard to believe it’s been only a little bit over a year since it came out and the world exploded around it.

I’m the kind of idiot who sits around with her loved ones and identifies, “the next *fill in the blank*” depending on what we’re talking about. I like tracking where things place in history, and it’s always fun to see how people react to things. So at Christmas when I said I was pretty sure that Ryan Coogler was the next Spielberg (capable of both deeply felt personal art, like Fruitvale Station and crowd pleasing spectacle like Black Panther and Creed.) I didn’t expect everyone to agree with me.

Black Panther cemented Coogler as a blockbuster guy. (Creed cleared the brush away.) and it also made Michael B. Jordan into a certified movie star, reminded people that Angela Basset should be Queen Of Us All, let Lupita N’Yongo and Danai Guirara do their thing and intro’d us all to Laetitia Wright.

And that’s before we even talk about the way Chadwick Boseman’s poised and coiled T’Challa holds all these moving parts in place around him. Black Panther is a masterful example of the superhero medium, and the fact that people don’t talk more about what Boseman does in this movie is criminal. It’s a calm collected and altogether wonderful performance, than grounds the whole enterprise emotionally.

There’s of course a million angles to take when talking about Black Panther because there is a lot going on here. That’s part of why it resonated so hard, and got nominated for Best Picture. (The first superhero movie to do so! SUCK IT THE DARK KNIGHT! Incidentally, I don’t know why I feel the need to tear down the The Dark Night over and over again in this series of posts, it’s a great movie, that I like a lot.)

Black Panther 2 is coming and I’m deeply looking forward to it. I think there’s also a Dora Milaje film in the works. That could be very cool. But the way that this film connected with audiences was so special, and I was so grateful to be a part of it.

Next week, we talk about Avengers: Infinity War, and likely detail all of the reasons that I am not OK even a year later.

Higher, Further, Faster

In case you’re new here, I’m a really big fan of The Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m an easy mark for these movies.

In case you’re really, really new here, I also really like stories about women kicking ass.

In case you just stumbled here from another dimension, and can’t figure out from context clues, that means I had high hopes for Captain Marvel the first MCU movie to focus solely on a lady type hero.

My hopes were met. I wasn’t blown away by the movie, the way I was by Black Panther last year, but it did the job, and had some real stand out moments. Among them, of course, was the woman in question, Brie Larson. Larson embodies Carol Danvers in all of her stubborn, deeply feeling, ass kicking, princess sparklefist, shoot first and ask questions later glory.

She befriends Nick Fury, she’s got a cat, she’s looking for who she is in this crazy universe. And her appearance and eventual departure inspires Fury to start The Avengers, so that’s pretty cool.

Other things in this movie that totally rule:

  • Samuel L. Jackson. (Given)
  • Cat!
  • Soundtrack!
  • 90’s Fashion
  • Maria and Monica Rambeau as Carol’s main emotional ties
  • Annette Benning!
  • Jude Law!
  • Coulson! (In a small but nice part!)
  • Stan Lee Cameo to make ya cry.
  • Skrulls! And a killer plot twist regarding the Skrulls!

I’ll do an in depth review and essay about the movie in a few weeks, (When it’s number comes up in the rewatch) I intend to see it again, and I’ve got half baked thoughts coming out the butt, but I’d like to see it again and fully bake them. But the movie’s good, it does Carol justice and there’s a Kelly Sue DeConnick cameo, so I’m covered.

Ready For Endgame: Spider-Man: Homecoming & Thor: Ragnorok

My God is this a killer double feature. I think I’d watch either of these movies at any given moment, if I’m honest. During my Disney Year, Homecoming was frequently my in flight entertainment, and while I’m sure you all remember that I wasn’t nuts about Ragnarok when I first watched it, it’s really grown on me a lot on rewatch.

But my god, the more I revisit it the more I think Spider-Man: Homecoming is my favorite MCU movie. It’s breathtakingly good. LONG (they all get really long post Avengers, it’s kind of a drag.) But never feels it. Michael Keaton is astonishing as The Vulture. Tom Holland is a revelation as Peter Parker. Robert Downey Jr. transfers Tony to mentor on the sidelines with great aplomb and if you weren’t all in on Zendaya by the end of this movie I think you might not have a soul.

I’d be tempted to say that it is the greatest Spider-Man movie ever made, except that Into The Spider-Verse now exists. It was definitely the best Spider-Man movie made up until this year though, I’ll give it that.

Like Iron Man 3 Homecoming exemplafies the “dress another genre up in a super suit” idea, with Peter’s teenage problems and the high school setting driving the action. Peter wants to prove himself, he wants to be an adult, but he’s not there yet.  He’s still a kid, a good, smart, responsible kid, but a kid. So he makes decision that are sometimes misguided.

Once again, I suggest someone lock him in a room and he never go to space, ever, EVER.

(NOT OK)

Ragnarok, ah Ragnarok. Such a beautiful and funny and wonderful film. Full of goodness, and joy and bright light and great jokes, and Mark Ruffalo’s best performance in the series, and Thor and Loki feels, and Tessa Thompson riding a pegasus into battle, and Led Zepplin songs all topped with some Cate Blanchett whipped cream and a Jeff Goldblum cherry on top.

So much digital ink has been spilled praising Ragnarok, that it seems redundant, but my God, it’s worth talking about more. The Colonialism themes, the heartfelt realization that the Thor we met back in Thor has finally grown worthy of his place as Asgard’s king and leader. Chris Hemsworth’s considerable comedy chops. Jeff Goldblum. It’s just all so good, and so watchable.

That’s something, that as I’ve moved through this project that I’ve come to really appreciate about 90% of these movies, is their watchability, and their rewatchability. There’s so much to pick up on. They action sequences are exhillerating and the characters fun to spend time with. (I say 90%, because my estimation, The Dark World and Doctor Strange do not fall in this watchable category. One is unconscionably boring and the other is actively bad.)

But this is a category where both Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok shine. I still get actively tense when Vulture is driving Peter and Liz to the homecoming dance. My heart dances when Peter goes to the bathroom and Happy’s waiting for him. And the chills that run down my spine when “Immigrant Song” starts as Thor and his friends charge Hela on the Rainbrow Bridge can’t be underestimated.

These are just some entertaining ass movies.

Next week we are also entertained and ponder social change in cinema with Black Panther.

Note: My inititial Captain Marvel review will hit tomorrow. You guys, it’s really stinking good.

Ready For Endgame: Doctor Strange & Guardians Of The Galaxy: Volume 2

Last week I talked about how Ant-Man and Civil War began a time of transition for The MCU, they we’re sort of still in. Doctor Strange and Guardians Of The Galaxy: Volume 2 cement that, one of them making me very wary of leaving behind the world we know, and the other pushing a place we’d glimpsed and enjoyed to it’s borders and succeeding beyond belief.

I do not like Doctor Strange. I remember watching it and receiving it with a hearty “meh,” thinking I might like it on rewatch, but not remembering my reaction to it, and as I watched it finally allowing myself to accept, “I do not like this movie.” It’s overly long, unfocused, and Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t pull off asshole the way that other actors in this series have managed to. I’m also not crazy about Cumberbatch as an actor in general, so that doesn’t help my assesment of this movie.

But what annoys me the most about Doctor Strange is the way it squanders it’s really excellent supporting cast. If Rachel McAdams had been given a bit more to do, like say, Natalie Portman or Gwyneth Paltrow had, maybe this movie would have been better. If Benedict Wong and Chiowetel Edjiofort had gotten to rise above scowling at Strange as Wong and Mordo, perhaps the movie could have shone. Tilda Swinton and Mads Mikkelson are appropriately ethereal and menacing but still, underwritten.

It’s a poorly executed movie, that looks great, it gets credit for that, and the resolution of repeating the negotiation with Dormammu is a clever ploy, but until that climax, the movie just sits there.

Guardians 2, on the other hand is magical and wonderful and don’t you dare say a bad word against it, you monster. Seriously, I love this movie. I think it’s one of the best scripts for this kind of movie ever. I prefer this soundtrack to the first. (I prefer anything with Fleetwood Mac and Cat Stevens to anything without Fleetwood Mac and Cat Stevens.)

Guardians 2 is heartfelt, intelligent, beautiful and so well acted I watch it slack jawed every time that I watch it. (Which is frequently, I should note.) Kurt Russell is perfect as Ego, and really, my favorite thing about both Guardians movies is that they’re kind of about a bunch of people having temper tantrums on a cosmic scale. It’s super fun to watch.

But mainly, what I love about Guardians 2 is that it’s about family. I like stories about family, because mine is weirdly intertwined with each other. Rocket’s realization that he’s not alone in this crazy world, he has a family now, are so heart wrenchingly good that you’d be insane to not give the guy who made these movies whatever he wants for…oh…yeah…that…

I guess we have to talk about James Gunn, huh? I ranted my feelings about what happened with Gunn when it happened. I think it stinks. HARD. I think it may be impossible for Guardians 3 to bounce back from that setback. (Although they are apparently using his script, which is something.)

But we have two really wonderful movies that Gunn did get to make, by some miracle. (And we’re also apparently getting his take on Suicide Squad!) We live in a world were we all talk about how that space raccoon and the talking tree make us cry, and you know, what, that’s pretty amazing.

Next Week, we’ll talk about the real fun, though, we’ve got Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnaork, and wow, that might be the most fun double feature in the Universe!

Ready For Endgame: Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Last weekend when I watched Molly’s Game I tweeted the below:

If Molly’s Game is the Sorink-iest movie to ever Sorkin, Avengers: Age Of Ultron might be the Whedon-iest Movie to ever Whedon. I’ve long linked the two in my head. They’re both TV Titans, theater dorks, and overfully pleased with their own cleverness.

I also happen to be a big fan of both of them.

There’s a moment in “Once More With Feeling,” the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, where Buffy stops the Scooby’s theorizing about their foe with a simple, “I’ve got a theory, it doesn’t matter.” Her point becomes that as long as they’re all together, they’ll prevail. They do. Of course they do.

Nick Fury delivers a similar speech to The Avengers as they sit around Hawkeye’s kitchen table halfway through Age Of Ultron, then Vision and Cap do the same about a half hour later. Ultron is also full of grey villains who switch sides (Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver), excellent team work, and a deus ex machina of an ending predicated on, “the true avenging was the friends we made along the way!” tropes.

So, yeah, there’s a lot to like here if you’re a Joss Whedon fan. Which I am.

But there’s also a lot to dislike, if you’re a fan of the MCU, which I also am. There’s a pretty steady stream of fans who insist that Whedon “doesn’t get,” Captain America and Thor, and I don’t think that’s it. Neither of them behave out of character in Ultron, but I do think that Whedon isn’t interested in them, particularly.

He is interested in Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, so the movie focuses on them. And, he’s interested, as he always is, in the normal guy who dances with gods. There’s a reason why Xander Harris and Winifred Berkle and Wash are so well fleshed and beloved by the fanbases (Well, maybe not Xander, people have kind of turned on him…) it’s because Whedon’s enamored of that guy.

So Hawkeye gets some real stand out moments, where as Thor and Cap fall a little bit more flat here than they did in The Avengers. Tony, meanwhile, is at his most insufferable here. Truly, it’s astounding how arrogant and misguided he is. But, as always Robert Downey Jr. sells it. I happen to not totally hate the Banne/Natasha pairing, it’s not great but again, it hinges on the performances, ScarJo and Mark Ruffalo do well.

The problem is, I don’t know that Joss Whedon belongs in film, even film that is essentially long form TV like the MCU. If Age Of Ultron were a season finale, the fact that two cast members get basically side lined would be mostly OK. Not great, but OK. But this is an ensemble movie, and two main characters, especially one who was coming off of a huge shift in status quo, like Steve was, and needed strong direction in the first place, like Thor, not having any kind of arc, is problematic.

So yes, the movie has some big problems. But the stuff that works, really, really works. James Spader’s voice performance as Ultron is a hoot. The big action pieces are a excellent. The birth of Vision is a lovely piece of sci-fi whackiness, and my God, that “when you step out that door, you’re an Avenger,” moment is a heart string tug.

But it’s a mess. And Whedon’s gone on record saying he wasn’t interested in playing ball with the Infinity stones storyline, which I think also contributes to Thor’s sidelining. And honestly, watching the movie, you see what it could have been if he’d had his way. It probably would have been quite different. But his reach exceeded his grasp. I joked last week that I think the movie broke his brain.

Whedon took a long break after Ultron, and listen, it’s not like it was unearned. But I think he also knew that he whiffed it, and he needed to regroup. He didn’t get what he wanted and the work was subpar, for him, for the sandbox he was playing in. It’s far from his worst work. (There are some clunky ass episodes of Buffy and Angel and ya know, Dollhouse exists.) It’s also far from his best. Joe and Anthony Russo take it from here, and they do it really, really well.

Next week, things come back to Earth, for a little while, at least. Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War come due, and once again, we’ve got two movies that I like a lot. Especially Ant-Man. (Also, really, except for Dark World there aren’t any MCU movies that I dislike. And even that, I more nothing than hate.)