Category Archives: Movies

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 | Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2


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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 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

GotG2

Upon viewing the movie again for this countdown, I immediately started smiling when the first moment of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 unspooled. The prologue is great and the opening scene is perfect.

Most of the movie is perfect, actually. My complaint (and it feels nitpicking about a movie I enjoy as much as I do this one) is that it is a little over-packed. There is simply TOO MUCH. There are so many characters and subplots. It is as though writer/director James Gunn decided to give us everything we loved in Guardians of the Galaxy but, you know, more!

It works because the characters are so very appealing. Spending almost two and a half hours with them is a ton of fun. The film also gives the audience not one, not two, but a ridiculous five mid-to-end credit sequences. As mentioned earlier, the movie is terrific, if a bit indulgent,.

It also features the best Stan Lee cameo of them all – the one that explains ALL the other Stan Lee cameos. And, for what it is worth, there are homages here to The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Knight Rider, Star Trek V and, believe it or not, Mary Poppins!

And, another quick note,i n the overall sequence of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is the only Marvel movie that comes right after its original. Vol. 2 takes place about 2 months after Vol. 1. At this time period in the Marvel movies, the Avengers have yet to encounter Ultron and the destruction of Sokovia is months away.

When I reviewed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 last summer when it was released, I gave it FOUR AND A HALF MIXTAPES out of a possible FIVE. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but the movie is a bit overpacked.


KEY INTRODUCTIONS:

  • Ego (the Living Planet)
  • Mantis
  • Stakar
  • Taser Face
  • Ayesha
  • The Watchers
  • Adam (Warlock)

CONNECTION(S) TO ENDGAME:

  • The audience is reminded that Peter Quill can hold an Infinity Stone in his hand and not die. That may well be critical to the plot of Endgame. But it may not given how poorly he did in Infinity War. Didn’t he allow Thanos to succeed?
  • There is much talk about the Kree. Captain Marvel, as we now know from her triumphant movie debut, is a human/Kree hybrid and will be in Endgame.
  • All of the Guardians are critical to Endgame, one would think but, as the movie begins, only Rocket is actually still alive having been the only Guardian to escape “the Snap.”

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Filed under Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Movies, Movies

SHAZAM! – A SPOILER FREE Movie Review


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With the release of SHAZAM! it is very, very clear the powers that be charting the course of the DC Movie Universe have completely altered their direction. While the early offerings were dark, real-world and gritty, the latest films (Wonder Woman, Aquaman and, now, SHAZAM!) are wildly different in tone from the earlier offerings and from each other. This is not a bad thing at all and, if it accomplishes nothing else, it does set the DC movies apart from their Marvel counterparts.

SHAZAM! is a different creature from all of the mainstream superhero movies that precede it in that it embraces the nature of its story so completely and that nature is family. SHAZAM! is the first, true family superhero movie. And it works. Overtime.

Though it does not share the dark overtones of many of the DC films, it is clearly in the same universe and their are constant reminders of this fact. Telling the story of Billy Batson, a young foster child moved from home-to-home, SHAZAM! is also something of a superpowered homage to Tom Hanks’ classic BIG.

Billy receives magical powers from a wizard which turn him from a 15-year-old boy into a superpowered adult with untested and unknown abilities. Part of the fun of the film is watching Billy (Asher Angel) as Shazam (a terrific Zachary Levi) learn just what it is he can do. Aided by Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) , a foster child Billy meets in his latest home, Shazam learns he can fly, is amazingly strong and has “bullet immunity” among other things. The interplay between Angel and Grazer is almost as fun as the exchanges between Levi and Grazer, the constant being Jack Dylan Grazer. This kid is fun!

And so is the movie. With a plot line that tips its hat to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Monster, INC, Ghostbusters and Big, a wonderful turn by scenery-chewing Mark Strong as the unrepentantly evil Doctor Sivana and a major, last reel reveal that should delight even the most cynical among movie goers, SHAZAM! is a world of fun. Director David O. Sandberg leaned into the craziness that is the story of Shazam and that was absolutely the right decision. He also littered the movie with just enough fan service connecting it both to the DC movie universe and the comic book history of the title character.

Be sure you stick around for both post credit sequences. One is incredibly funny. The other is incredibly bizarre. Both fit SHAZAM! perfectly.

SHAZAM! receives FOUR AND A HALF MAGIC 8 BALLS out of a possible FIVE

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Countdown to ENDGAME | Guardians of the Galaxy


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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 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Untitled

Guardians of the Galaxy was a CRAZY risk for Marvel Studios. Not only were the characters that make up the “team” C Listers, they had little to no name recognition, they did not have a place in the cultural lexicon and they had not been set up or name dropped in any other Marvel movie. If this one worked, look out. Marvel would rule the cinematic world.

This just in: Marvel rules the cinematic world.

Oddly, of the 18 movies in this countdown, I think (after – WAY after – last week’s Thor: The Dark World) I was looking forward to re-watching Guardians the least because I have seen it so very many times. That is a measure of how much I love it, of course, but I wondered what surprises it would still hold or if it would keep my interest.

I need not have worried.

This thing holds up, holds interest and holds a audience captive with its humor, action and audacity.

What a terrific movie.

When I reviewed Guardians of the Galaxy when it was released, I gave it FIVE DANCING GROOTS out of a possible FIVE because that is as high as the scale goes, friends.


KEY INTRODUCTIONS:

  • Peter Quill (Star Lord)
  • Gamora
  • Rocket
  • Groot
  • Drax the Destroyer
  • Yondu
  • The Nova Corps
  • The Ravagers
  • The Kree race
  • The Power Stone (this is orb that Thanos seeks in the film)
  • Ronan
  • The Celestial race (the giant head called Knowhere)
  • Nebula

CONNECTION(S) TO INFINITY WAR:

  • The race to find the Infinity Stones is on as Thanos is after the Power Stone in this movie.
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy are set up as a force to be reckoned with in the film.
  • Thanos’ motivations and roles as expanded.
  • The Collector’s importance to the quest for the Infinity Stones is further explained.
  • Obviously, most of the Guardians of the Galaxy play significant roles in Infinity War and Rocket looks to be very key to the events of Endgame.

AVENGERS | ENDGAME IS COMING

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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 Avengers


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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

the-avengers-mondo-poster

This is the grandaddy of them all: Avengers is the one that made the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe come together. Loud, audacious, bombastic, over-the-top and incredibly fun, Avengers made put together the Marvel heroes in a movie where the sum is better than its parts (and its parts are pretty damned good). Before the Joss Whedon blacklash of recent years, he was regarded as something of a genius, a nerds’ geek and a pop culture hero. Watching Avengers, it is easy to see why. Almost every choice he makes pays off in this undeniably entertaining superhero team up.

Avengers remains one of the best of the Marvel movies and perhaps the most enjoyable on repeat viewings. The chemistry among the characters is easy and fun. The stakes are appropriately high. The set pieces are thrilling.

The only quibble (and it is a minor one) is the final battle. It literally plays out over the final forty minutes of the film. That is a long time. And, by-the-way, as a fan of the DC movies and a critic of the critiques, I note that the wanton destruction and willful loss of life in Avengers rivals anything in Man of Steel but that is a different post. One final point: it is sad to hear Chris Connell’s vocals on Live to Rise, the rock and roll theme of the movie…

Avengers premiered before I was blogging reviews, but it receives FIVE MEWLING QUIMS out of a possible FIVE.


KEY INTRODUCTIONS:

  • Maria Hill
  • Thanos
  • The World Council
  • The Battle of New York

CONNECTION(S) TO INFINITY WAR:

  • Thanos is, obviously, the big bad of Avengers: Infinity War. His introduction in the mid-credit sequence, however, is underwhelming. Only the geekiest of geeks knew him before Infinity War. Now he is one of the most recognizable screen villains ever. I guess that happens when you annihilate half of the population of the universe.
  • The World Council played a significant role in Captain America: Civil War, a movie that put many of the Avengers on the wrong side of the law were they remain until Avengers: Infinity War.
  • The movie establishes heroes, villains, aliens and gods in the world and people just seem to accept it. I guess it will not seem that crazy when Thanos comes calling in Infinity War.
  • The Other, the minion of Thanos with whom Loki deals, is going to show up in Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • Tony Stark’s heroic deposit of the nuclear bomb into Chitari space has major repercussions for the character, repercussions that influenced Infinity War. Remember, Thanos knew Tony Stark.

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