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.

 

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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: 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.

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.