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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 | 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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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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Captain Marvel – A SPOILER FREE Movie Review


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Releasing this film on the International Day of Women was no mistake by the makers of Captain Marvel for one goal of the movie – and this is a goal at which the film absolutely succeeds – is to tell a tale of independence and empowerment for its main character. The title character is powerful, confident and clever. She is funny, independent and empowered. Her story is the story of a superhero and there is barely a moment spent – for humorous purposes or otherwise – where anyone questions the fact that, if she is not the most powerful person in the room, she is well on her way to becoming that.

The movie gets a lot of mileage out of the fact that its title character does not quite remember her entire history. A series of inter-cutting flashbacks (which anyone who has seen the trailers has watched) reveal bits and pieces of conflicting history to Captain Marvel and part of the fun of the movie is walking along with her as she attempts to unravel how these images work together to make her whole.

Brie Larson is wonderfully cast in the title role. She looks perfect in each incarnation of the costume, and that is a critical thing for anyone playing a superhero – sometimes these costumes look silly. Larson has the gravitas to carry it off, even when her hair pokes through her helmet like a mohawk. And, though her character is on a quest to find out exactly who she is during the course of the movie, Larson’s Captain Marvel never doubts herself. She may not be in control of her history, but she is completely in control of herself. As Captain Marvel is set up as one of if not the most powerful characters in the Marvel Movie Universe, the casting had to be spot on. It is.

Set in the 1990s, Captain Marvel takes on a terrifically 1990s movie trope – the buddy comedy – and plays that out to entertaining effect. Samuel L. Jackson is on board as a young, two-eyed Nick Fury and he is having a tremendous amount of fun. The pairing of Larson and Jackson works and the friendship between the characters is the backbone of the movie. That computers seamlessly de-age Jackson about 20 years is pretty cool and pretty scary (and what they do for castmate Clark Gregg as a young Phil Coulson is equally cool and/or creepy).

Ben Mendelshon is, likewise, having a ton of fun as leader of the antagonist alien race – the shapeshifting Skrulls. This is an actor who knows how to chew scenery in the best way and he does so with aplomb here.

Annette Benning continues a noble tradition of the addition of an A-List actor (see Brando, Marlon, Nicholson, Jack, Redford, Robert, Close, Glenn and others) to a comic book film and, much like her compatriots, looks like she’s having a terrific time as well. And Jude Law is the perfect mentor to Larson’s Captain Marvel.

But it’s Captain Marvel who is at the heart of the story and her friendship with Maria Rambeau (delightfully played by Lashana Lynch) and Maria’s daughter Monica (played by Akira Akbar) is the most important to the movie. The relationship between these characters is perfectly pitched and utterly in sync with the overall themes of the movie…

… which are hard to delve into in a spoiler free review. Suffice it to say that Captain Marvel employs more twists and turns than other Marvel movies and all of them land very nicely. The movie keeps the audience on its heels and, hey, we’re talking about the 21st Marvel movie in the last 10 years. That this one continues to surprise is absolutely saying something.

There is world building here. There is world bridging here (yes, the audience gets a sense of a part of the forthcoming Avengers: Endgame) and there are thrills to be had in all of this.

If there is a drawback, and this may well have something to do with the saturation of the genre, some of the scenes seem a bit telegraphed. This is not to say they are not enjoyable. The entire movie is one empowering hoot. Rather, this is to say that even good scenes that are overly familiar can only have so much effect. And, to be fair, it’s not Captain Marvel’s fault that Wonder Woman beat it to some thematic punches.

These are minor quibbles. This is a very fun movie and a fitting installment in the overall Marvel saga. Come for the great characters and the kitty cat, stay for the TWO post credit sequences.

CAPTAIN MARVEL receives FOUR FLERKINS out of a possible FIVE

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On the Basis of Sex – A Movie Review


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It took The Cinnamon Girl and I way too long to get to On the Basis of Sex. Way too long. When we got to see it a few weeks back before the Academy Awards, we looked at each other and said “why did we wait so long?”

Felicity Jones is marvelous cast as Ruth Bader Ginsberg, an absolute, real life hero whose story is being told while she is still with us. That’s a rarity and a blessing to be sure. Jones’ Ginsberg is just what one wants in a hero: determined, uncompromising, compassionate, loyal and incredibly smart. She will likely make a career out of playing such roles and she should. She is self assured in her choices and her work in On the Basis of Sex is terrific.

Jones is clearly the lead here and the movie depends entirely on her performance. Thankfully, it is spectacular.

She is ably supported by a strong cast. Armie Hammer, who I find terrific and just one break away from being a superstar, takes not one ounce of the spotlight away from Jones as Martin Ginsberg, Bader Ginsberg’s husband. Theirs is a well-drawn, devoted relationship and one that forms a terrific backdrop to the themes of the film. It is not a stereotypical marriage that one might expect of the era in which the movie occurs, rather the challenges the Bader Ginsberg faces as she inches ever closer to the glass ceiling are played out delicately and believably within her relationship with Martin and Hammer is perfect in the role.

Also important though, perhaps, a bit more one note, is Cailee Spaeny as Jane Ginsberg, who has come of age watching her mother approach but never quite tap on the above mentioned ceiling. The mother-daughter dynamics are by-the-book, but they work in the overall context of the movie and Spaeny’s Jane is a critical part of keeping the themes moving forward.

Justin Theroux, Kathy Bates and the ever terrific Sam Waterston are excellent in their roles as well and director Mimi Leder keeps the entire movie on pace and builds in enough suspense to keep the audience engaged until the final scene.

Having not yet watched the CNN documentary about RBG, I can only hope On the Basis of Sex is a realistic account of the woman’s early life because it is an inspiring one.

ON THE BASIS OF SEX receives FOUR and a HALF REAL LIFE HEROES out of a possible FIVE

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