Category Archives: Comic Book Movies

Countdown to ENDGAME | Thor | Ragnarok


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Captain America: The First Avenger | Iron Man | The Incredible Hulk| Iron Man II Thor | The Avengers | Iron Man 3 | Thor: The Dark World | Captain America: The Winter Soldier | Guardians of the Galaxy | Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 | Avengers: Age of Ultron | Ant-Man | Captain America: Civil War | Doctor Strange | Spider-Man: Homecoming | Thor: Ragnarok | Black Panther | Avengers: Infinity War | Ant-Man and the Wasp | Captain Marvel

Thor | Ragnarok

Thor Rag

It is said of Thor | Ragnarok that director Taika Waititi allowed his cast to improvise wildly on set. Re-watching the movie, it is obvious this is true. The film is almost as fun as the Guardians of the Galaxy installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and has a villain in Cate Blanchett’s Hela that is far superior to any adversary the Guardians faced. Add to the mix a truly wonderful character in Valkyrie and you have all the ingredients of a superior superhero film if…

… you ignore the fact that the deus ex machina at end of the movie and the salvation of the Asgardian people is, essentially, the exact same one utilized at the conclusion of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

This movie is a significant set up for Infinity War, far more a lead in than Black Panther, which immediately precedes it. It also is significant fun in its own right. Far superior to Thor: The Dark WorldRagnarok is more confident and knows what it wants to accomplish. It closes a number of plot lines while advancing others. Great movie. Great performances. Great fun.

(But it does have THE WORST soundtrack – bracketing Immigrant Song – of all the Marvel movies – it is really bad)

Thor | Ragnarok is a terrifically fun movie and, when it opened last fall, I gave it FOUR and a HALF AIR CRAZY CAMEOS out of a possible FIVE. 


KEY INTRODUCTIONS:

  • Scourge
  • Hela, Goddess of Death, sister of Thor and Loki
  • Valkyrie
  • The Grandmaster
  • Korg
  • Thor’s new “Thunder” power

CONNECTION(S) TO ENDGAME:

  • Thor starts the film by informing the audience what he has been doing since we last saw him: he has been searching for the Infinity Stones and he has not found any.
  • Thor has an extended (albeit utterly unnecessary) conversation with Doctor Strange.
  • “Fake” Infinity Gauntlet – apparently the gauntlet that Odin has (along with some other trinkets in his trophy room) are fake. When Hela gives Scourge a tour, they also pass the Tesseract – the Space Stone – one of the Infinity Stones Thanos will pursue in Infinity War. Did Loki steal it before the destruction of Asgard, by-the-way?
  • Oh, so this is where the Hulk has been!
  • We know from Infinity War that things for the Asgardian refugees did not go well.

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Countdown to ENDGAME | Ant-Man


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Captain America: The First Avenger | Iron Man | The Incredible Hulk| Iron Man II Thor | The Avengers | Iron Man 3 | Thor: The Dark World | Captain America: The Winter Soldier | Guardians of the Galaxy | Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 | Avengers: Age of Ultron | Ant-Man | Captain America: Civil War | Doctor Strange | Spider-Man: Homecoming | Thor: Ragnarok | Black Panther | Avengers: Infinity War | Ant-Man and the Wasp | Captain Marvel

Ant-Man

ant man

Take a few minutes to remember the flavor of Ant-Man:

In recent years, Marvel has mined its back catalog and made movies of characters with far less name recognition than Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man and Thor. The trend started with the smash Guardians of the Galaxy and continues with Ant-Man. What they have done is proven that superheroes sell if they are handled correctly.

Ant-Man is handled correctly from start-to-finish. Part caper, part family drama, part high-concept heist movie, Ant-Man has a terrific cast (Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas are all terrific) and propellant plot and a just the right touch of irreverent absurdity to make it a real delight.

This was a “creative tension” movie with original writer/director Edgar Wright bowing out and star Paul Rudd and new director Peyton Reed stepping in to finish the project. Rumor has it that Wright did not want to play in the Marvel sandbox and participate in the universe building that is now incumbent in these films. Frankly, it is hard to imagine Ant-Man without the Marvel Universe connections. They are part of what makes the movie such fun.

I gave Ant-Man  FOUR AND A HALF SUGAR CUBES out of a possible FIVE when I reviewed it upon its initial release.


KEY INTRODUCTIONS:

  • Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man and SHIELD operative
  • Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp
  • Scott Lang, the new Ant-Man
  • Hope Van Dyne
  • Pym Particles
  • Luis, Scott’s good friend
  • Kurt and Dave, Luis’ associates
  • Ant-tony, Scott’s flying ant

CONNECTION(S) TO ENDGAME:

  • There are no overt, infinity stone connections, though the Quantum Realm was a huge part of Ant-Man and the Wasp… more on that later.
  • If we understand that Infinity War finds a fractured Avengers team following the events of Captain America: Civil War, we have to note that Scott Lang faces off and gains measured respect from the Falcon who, in both the end of the movie and the post credit sequence (lifted directly from Civil War) is looking for Scott to assist the Avengers generally and, later, Cap’s off shoot team specifically.
  • SHIELD and Hydra also get shout outs and Hank Pym references Sokovia which also ties to Civil War which ties to the war of the Infinity variety.
  • More to come from Ant-Man and the Wasp…

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Countdown to ENDGAME | Avengers | Age of Ultron


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Captain America: The First Avenger | Iron Man | The Incredible Hulk| Iron Man II Thor | The Avengers | Iron Man 3 | Thor: The Dark World | Captain America: The Winter Soldier | Guardians of the Galaxy | Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 | Avengers: Age of Ultron | Ant-Man |Captain America: Civil War |Doctor Strange | Spider-Man: Homecoming | Thor: Ragnarok | Black Panther | Avengers: Infinity War | Ant-Man and the Wasp 

Avengers | Age of Ultron

age of ultron mondo

There is a lot to like in Avengers: Age of Ultron from James Spader’s quirky line readings as the titular villain of the age, to Captain America’s problem with cursing to Hawkeye’s secret family. Throw in Tony Stark doing mad-scientist Tony Stark things, Black Widow and the Hulk’s star-crossed romance and not one, not two but three new Avengers in Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch and Vision and you have a very, very good Marvel movie.

If you only have time to watch one scene in Age of Ultron, please make it the post-party scene where the male Avengers, one-by-one, attempt to life Thor’s hammer. It is a great sequence in-and-of-itself, and it sets up a huge payoff at the end of the film.

Age of Ultron also continues laying the foundations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and does so with intentionality and with deft storytelling. Anyone seeing Infinity War will have to remember this movie and its plot points in detail to have any clue what the Infinity War is actually over.

Sure, there are a few misfires here. Women are not handled particularly well and there is an entire Thor sequence that, really, makes little sense. But, on the whole, it is a solid successor to Avengers. Not better, not far worse. Solid.

When I reviewed Avengers: Age of Ultron a few years back, I gave it FOUR AND A HALF “I BET YOU DIDN’T SEE THAT COMINGS” out of a possible FIVE.


KEY INTRODUCTIONS:

  • Quicksilver
  • Scarlet Witch
  • The Vision
  • The Mind Stone (the yellow stone in Vision’s head)
  • Ulysses Klaue (who will appear in Black Panther)
  • Wakanda as the home of Vibranium
  • Hawkeye’s family
  • Avengers Training Facility in Upstate New York

CONNECTION(S) TO INFINITY WAR:

  • Thanos dons the Infinity Gauntlet which has no stones in it during the post credit sequence.
  • “Fine, I’ll do it myself” Thanos says as he sets out to secure the stones. And, of course, he does… though not alone. Infinity War showed his allies…
  • The conflict between Iron Man and Captain America is boiling here. It will be a very big deal in Captain America: Civil War which had major repercussions for Infinity War but looks to be resolved judging by previews for Endgame.

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Countdown to ENDGAME | Captain America: The Winter Soldier


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Captain America: The First Avenger | Iron Man | The Incredible Hulk| Iron Man II Thor | The Avengers | Iron Man 3 | Thor: The Dark World | Captain America: The Winter Soldier | Guardians of the Galaxy | Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 |Avengers: Age of Ultron |Ant-Man |Captain America: Civil War |Doctor Strange | Spider-Man: Homecoming | Thor: Ragnarok | Black Panther | Avengers: Infinity War | Ant-Man and the Wasp 

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

Untitled

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a wonderful movie, not simply a great superhero movie. Part political potboiler, part thriller, the movie only suffers form a bit of silliness with a time lock plot in the third act that draws things out a bit unnecessarily.

That, however, is a small complaint and the action and pathos of the film are complex and compelling.

All of this happens while a massive amount of world building is taken care of as well.

And it has Robert Redford in a tremendous role as the morally ambiguous Alexander Pierce.

Any list of the top five Marvel movies must include Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

When I reviewed Captain America: The Winter Soldier when it was released, I may actually have been too harsh only giving it FOUR AND A HALF SMITHSONIAN EXHIBITS out of a possible FIVEUpon further review, it may deserve five.


KEY INTRODUCTIONS:

  • Sam Wilson, The Falcon
  • Bucky Barnes reintroduced as The Winter Soldier
  • Brock Rumlow, Crossbones
  • Sharon Carter, Agent 13

CONNECTION(S) TO INFINITY WAR:

  • The destruction of SHIELD will leave the world all the more vulnerable to invasion by the forces of Thanos.
  • Stephen Strange is mentioned by Hydra agent Jasper Sitwell. He is, of course, Doctor Strange, and he was featured in Avengers Infinity War.
  • The post credit sequence features Baron Strucker (a Hydra operative) and future Avengers Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. The Scarlet Witch, in particular, featured in Captain America: Civil War and was on Avenger on the run in Infinity War.
  • Bucky is a MAJOR player in Captain America: Civil War and has shown up in… other places in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. He was in the post credit sequence of Black Panther and featured – a bit – in Infinity War.

AVENGERS | ENDGAME IS COMING

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Countdown to ENDGAME | The Incredible Hulk


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ONE A WEEK UNTIL Avengers Infinity War opens in May!

Captain America: The First Avenger | Iron Man | THE INCREDIBLE HULK | Iron Man 2 |Thor | The Avengers | Iron Man 3 | Thor: The Dark World | Captain America: The Winter Soldier | Guardians of the Galaxy  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 | Avengers: Age of Ultron | Ant-Man | Captain America: Civil War | Doctor Strange | Spider-Man: Homecoming | Thor: Ragnarok | Black Panther | Avengers: Infinity War | Ant-Man and the Wasp 

Three: THE INCREDIBLE HULK

Hulk

I really liked Edward Norton as Bruce Banner. He fit the part incredibly (pun intended) well and he makes both the character’s angst and heroism believable. He is, however, no Mark Ruffalo and it is a bit disappointing to not have Ruffalo in the film as he has so completely come to inhabit the character.

Disappointing is, in fact, the right word here. The Incredible Hulk is not a great Marvel Movie (when you’re approaching 20 movies, you get to be your own genre right?) and, as a follow up to Iron Man, it misses the mark and squanders a bunch of good will. Perhaps this is why there are SO MANY plot lines from the movie that remain unresolved: Samuel Sterns’ gamma dosing, whatever happened to the Abomination or Betty Ross or Leonard Sampson and how did General Ross recover from this disaster to become Secretary of Defense? We will, likely, never know…

This is a sub-par film with some good performances (does anyone remember that Ty Burrell of Modern Family is in a major role here?). It pushes the Marvel narrative forward a bit but it is mostly a misfire. And the CGI is remarkably poor.

As it came out before I began blogging, I do not have a full review, but The Incredible Hulk receives THREE BOTTLES OF BRAZILIAN SODA out of a possible FIVE. 


KEY INTRODUCTIONS:

  • Bruce Banner/Hulk
  • Betty Ross
  • Leonard Sampson
  • General “Thunderbolt” Ross
  • Gamma Radiation

CONNECTION(S) TO INFINITY WAR:

  • Most of the movie is forgotten by Marvel (see above comments on dangling plot threads), but General Ross goes on to become the Secretary of Defense in Captain America: Civil War, which is this movie’s most critical connection to the Marvel Movie Universe.
  • In Civil War, Ross mentions the Hulk and the destruction of Harlem.
  • The idea that Bruce Banner is trying to be free of the Hulk is as important here as it is in the Avengers movies.
  • When Betty and Bruce think about engaging in romantic activities, Bruce stops them because “I can’t get too excited.” Thematically, this foreshadows the problems he will see with an engagement with The Black Widow.
  • Tony Stark discusses putting together “a team” with a broken and defeated General Ross in what should have been the traditional stinger scene, but one that actually takes place before the credits. This is the ONLY movie on this list without at least one mid or post-credit scene.

Avengers Endgame is coming…

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Countdown to ENDGAME | Captain America


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ONE REVIEW A DAY Avengers Endgame opens in 3 weeks!

Captain America: The First Avenger | Iron Man | The Incredible Hulk | Iron Man 2 |Thor | The Avengers | Iron Man 3 | Thor: The Dark World | Captain America: The Winter Soldier | Guardians of the Galaxy  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 | Avengers: Age of Ultron | Ant-Man | Captain America: Civil War | Doctor Strange | Spider-Man: Homecoming | Thor: Ragnarok | Black Panther | Avengers: Infinity War | Ant-Man and the Wasp 

WEEK ONE: Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America First

While not a perfect movie, Captain America: The First Avenger lays (in some cases retroactively) groundwork for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe and is sure to be a significant influence on the overall landscape of Marvel films. You can read my full review. I gave the movie FOUR SHOTS OF SCHNAPPS out of a possible FIVE. 


KEY INTRODUCTIONS:

  • Captain America
  • James “Bucky” Barnes
  • The Tesseract/Cosmic Cube
  • Howard Stark
  • Vibranium

CONNECTION(S) TO INFINITY WAR:

  • The Cosmic Cube is one of the Infinity Stones Thanos used in to power the Infinity Gauntlet for “The Snap”
  • Yggdrasil and the Tree of Life are both key elements of the beginning of the film and tie into Asgard and Thor
  • Vibranium is found in Wakanda, the African homeland of King T’Challa, the Black Panther who is featured prominently in Avengers Infinity War.

Avengers Endgame is coming…

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Aquaman – A Movie Review


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CaptureWith a charismatic lead, a globe trotting, byzantine plot and some truly creative and over-the-top visuals, Aquaman delivers one of the most entertaining and pure comic book-y superhero movies an audience is likely to get. Utterly embracing every element of the sometimes bizarre history (yes, history – the character has been around for over 75 years) of Aquaman, the movie gets just about everything right by not shying away from its source material. Aquaman does not try to make its hero anything other than what he is: a super strong dude who can breath underwater, who can swim really fast and who can talk to fish. Striking a perfect balance between silliness and outright silliness, Aquaman is exciting, fun and refreshing.

Jason Momoa makes a perfect, bro-inspired Aquaman and while this take may be a bit removed from the character as he is typically portrayed in the comics, Momoa’s performance works perfectly. His Arthur Curry is a man not on a mission, a man who has saved the world once (Justice League, anyone?) and a man who is happy to be left alone. While he is aware of his background as an Atlantean, he has no desire to explore it. Just get this guy a cold one and some quality time with his dad and he will be okay. Momoa has the character down as if he has been playing him for years and, should his screen appearances as Aquaman continue, his casting will likely be regarded as spot-on as that of Robert Downey, jr. as Iron Man. Momoa is that much at home as Aquaman.

The rest of the cast is more than up to supporting him, starting with Amber Heard’s Mera, an Atlantean herself who is more than a match for Momoa’s Arthur Curry. Heard is almost as fun to watch as Momoa, diving in her role with the same self aware smile and assurance that flavors the film. Her Mera is powerful and passionate and Heard is terrific in the role. When she is given some comedic notes to play, she is equally good and she and Momoa have a very nice chemistry.

Willem Dafoe and Nicole Kidman bring their acting pedigree and reputations to their roles as Vulko and Atlanta respectively. Both chew the appropriate scenery and lend the proceedings their stature. Seeing both of them de-aged by computer is remarkable. Dafoe, in particular, seems to have traveled as rough a road as the character he plays.

Of the many things Aquaman has going for it, its treatment of its villains is a cut above the typical, megalomaniacal adversaries comic book movies usually present. The performances turned in by Patrick Wilson as Ocean Master and Yahya Abdul Marteen II as Black Manta are terrific, sure, but the manner in which the story treats the villains is just as good. Motivations are clear. Plots are, too. They have objectives and both see themselves as the hero of the story. Further, they both have legitimate reasons for their hatred of Aquaman and their enmity is no stretch. This makes for satisfying conflict above the normal fare.

Director James Wan has created and visually stunning – if sometimes overwhelming – world in which Aquaman swims. The colors (from the odd day-glo choice of Mera’s hair) leap from the screen. The aquatic characters have life and depth and are interesting and amusing and the set pieces, particularly the one involving characters known as “The Trench” are as involving and frightening as anything in other comic book movies. Much like his cast, Wan embraced the form here and the movie is all the better for that choice.

One part Raiders of the Lost Ark, one part Romancing the Stone and all parts comic book movie, Aquaman is a romp the likes of which does not come around very often, especially in the increasingly cookie-cutter world of super hero movies. The cast is terrific. The action is engaging. The plot is fun.

If you cannot crack a smile or two during Aquaman, you might be taking life just a little too seriously, bro.

AQUAMAN receives FOUR and a HALF ANTHROPOMORPHIZED OCTOPI out of a possible FIVE

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