Spider-Man: No Way Home (dir. by Jon Watts)


This is basically where we are.

If you haven’t seen a film on the Thursday preview night, chances are every online publisher is going to share spoilers by Friday Evening. I get it. It’s the Nature of the Beast. It makes for news, and there are people out there who either don’t mind being spoiled or need to know what they’re seeing going into a film. It’s partially why sites like Movie Pooper, and Does The Dog Die are popular. I usually try not to say anything about a movie on Twitter because of this. Everyone deserves to feel that sense of awe and surprise when the lights come down in their cinema.

These are as spoiler free as I can make them. I may write something else to focus on my thoughts with spoilers down the road.

If you managed to stay off the Internet and avoid any spoilers to Spider-Man: No Way Home (outside of the trailers themselves), then you are in for some grand fun that is almost on the level of Avengers: Endgame. I’ve been to the theatres a few times during the pandemic. Perhaps because it was an After-Midnight showing, but the audience was fantastic. The film comes full circle, with an adventure that celebrates Spider-Man’s guest appearance in the MCU for Disney/Marvel, while still building on the character for Sony’s purposes in the future. As a Trilogy, Jon Watts and the team deserve a round of applause for sticking the landing so very well here. The third film in a series is never easy, and even Sam Raimi found that out with Spider-Man 3. By the time the movie was done, I was soaking up the applause like Colin Robinson in What We Do In the Shadows.

The film picks up right at the last end credit from Spider-Man: Far From Home with Quentin Beck’s Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) proclaiming to the world (through J. Jonah Jameson, played by J.K. Simmons as usual) that Spider-Man was in control of the Stark Drones and that he is really Peter Parker. Normally, my first thought here would be to own it – like Stark did. However, with murders tied in, it’s a bad rap for our webbed hero and anyone associated with him. Peter decides to make things right by visiting Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, Power of the Dog) to make everyone forget that Spider-Man is Peter Parker. This gets botched and pulls through some villains that our Peter (Tom Holland) isn’t quite ready for.

As you’ve seen in the posters and trailers, Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina, Spider-Man 2), and Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man) along with a few others are pulled from their universe into Peter’s. When Peter discovers their fates in their own universes, he makes an attempt to save them, which puts him at odds with Doctor Strange. Can Peter find a way to change their futures, and clear his name in the process?

Of course, the gang’s all here. Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Tony Revolori, Angourie Rice, Marisa Tomei, and Jon Favreau are all on hand for this third one. Everyone has something to offer, with Zendaya, Batalon, and Tomei carrying the most weight. The only awkward character in the whole bunch is Favreau’s Happy Hogan, who is regulated into kind of a silly comic relief here. I don’t know. I just remember Happy being a bit more capable than they way they have him this time around.

From a writing standpoint, it’s somewhat innovative. If we didn’t already have the 2019’s Academy Award winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse, I’d say No Way Home was walking into uncharted territory. The film makes up for this by allowing our Peter to choose differently, compared to what we historically know about Spider-Man and these villains. I honestly enjoyed that angle and thought it helped to drive home the whole “With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility” motto that defines Spider-Man.

Musically, Michael Giacchino weaves his own form of magic here. Pulling themes both from Doctor Strange and what he’s done with the previous films, there are a number of great sequences. When all is said and done, the score for this film may very well rival Shirley Walker’s Batman: Mask of the Phantasm score for me.

At the time of this writing, it sounds like NYC is headed for another lockdown. I’m hoping that’s not the case. If this is the last movie I get to see in a theatre for a while, I’m thankful for it. Spider-Man: No Way Home completes a great handoff from Disney/Marvel to Sony. The character did what he needed for Disney/Marvel’s MCU, and Sony still holds the movie rights to the character for where they want to take him. I’m hopeful for Spider-Man’s cinematic future.

Our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man’s going to be okay.

Hailee Steinfeld and Jeremy Renner hit their marks in the Hawkeye Trailer


Hawkeye finds Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) back in the spotlight when a vigilante similar to the Ronin appears in NYC. This leads him to Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld, Bumblebee), an archer who’s just as good as our Avenger. What she’s into, we don’t know, but it makes for an excellent team up. The show bridges the character we know with the 2005 comic counterpart (with some changes to tie things into the current Marvel Cinematic Universe). With a Christmas setting, part of me hoped that Shane Black had a hand in it some where. Not to worry, as Mad Men and Bridgerton writer/producer Jonathan Igla is the showrunner here.

Hawkeye also stars Brian d’Arcy James (Spotlight), Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring), Zahn McClarnon (Doctor Sleep), Ava Russo (Avengers: Endgame), and Florence Pugh (Black Widow).

Hawkeye premieres on Disney Plus on November 24th.

Marvel releases the teaser for Chloe Zhao’s Eternals


Hot off her Oscar win for Nomadland, Chloe Zhao and Marvel released the teaser for her newest film, Eternals. Again, this was something where I had to delve into the Marvel Encyclopedia to fully understand. Originally, the Eternals are a group of humans gifted with accelerated evolution by Celestials to help guide others (perhaps similar to the angels in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire). I’m not sure where the MCU is taking this, but they’ll definitely need to explain why they’re only showing up now.

Eternals showcases quite a cast, including Captain Marvel‘s Gemma Chan (pulling a Chris Evans and playing a second Marvel character), Richard Madden (1917), Kumail Nanjiani (Stuber), Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones), Brian Tyree Henry (Godzilla v. Kong), and Angelina Jolie (Those Who Wish Me Dead)

Eternals is set to release this November.

Simu Liu & Tony Leung are at odds in the Shang-Chi Teaser


Actor Simu Liu (Meeting Mommy) dropped some teaser images from Entertainment Weekly for Marvel’s upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, where he plays the lead. As I’m unfamiliar with the character, I found myself where I always go for information on Marvel Characters – my hardcover version of The Marvel Encyclopedia. 

According to the Encyclopedia, Shang-Chi premiered in Special Marvel Edition #15 back in 1973, and while that version of the character didn’t have any superpowers, the trailer suggests this may be a little different. After all, he was also given an Ultimates treatment (where many Marvel characters were brought up to date with new stories and even new origin variants).

Shang-Chi also stars Awkafina (Jumanji: The Next Level), Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians), Ronny Chieng (Bliss) and Tony Leung (Hero, Hard Boiled), who is trying to pull Shang-Chi back to a world he’s walked away from. Murmurs across the internet say that Leung’s character is tied to the Mandarin (or is the True Mandarin instead of Ben Kingsley’s fake one in Iron Man 3) We’ll have to wait and see. The fighting action looks great so far. 

Marvel Studios is pushing for a September 3rd release. Whether that is on Disney Plus and in Theatres remains to be seen.

Film Review: Avengers: Endgame (dir by the Russo Brothers)


(Minor Spoilers Below!  Read at your own risk.)

So, how long does the no spoiler rule for Avengers: Endgame apply?  There’s so much that I want to say about this film but I know that I shouldn’t because, even though it had a monstrous opening weekend, there are still people out there who have not had a chance to see the film.  And while this review will have minor spoilers because, otherwise, it would be impossible to write, I’m not going to share any of the major twists or turns.

I will say this.  I saw Avengers: Endgame last night and it left me exhausted, angry, sad, exhilarated, and entertained.  It’s a gigantic film, with a plot that’s as messy and incident-filled as the cinematic universe in which it takes place.  More than just being a sequel or just the latest installment in one of the biggest franchises in cinematic history, Avengers: Endgame is a monument to the limitless depths of the human imagination.  It’s a pop cultural masterpiece, one that will make you laugh and make you cheer and, in the end, make you cry.  It’s a comic book film with unexpected emotional depth and an ending that will bring a tear to the eye of even the toughest cynic.  By all logic, Avengers: Endgame is the type of film that should collapse under its own weight but instead, it’s a film that thrives on its own epic scope.  It’s a three-hour film that’s never less than enthralling.  Even more importantly, it’s a gift to all of us who have spent the last ten years exploring the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The film itself starts almost immediately after the “Snap” that ended Avengers: Infinity War and we watch as Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner, returning to the franchise after being absent in the previous film) finds himself powerless to keep his family from disintegrating.  After often being dismissed as the Avengers’s weak link, both Clint Barton and Jeremy Renner come into their own in the film.  As one of two members of the Avengers who does not have super powers, Clint serves as a everyperson character.  He’s a reminder that there’s more at stake in Endgame than just the wounded pride of a few super heroes.  When Thanos wiped out half the universe, he didn’t just wipe out Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and Groot.  He also left very real wounds that will never be healed.

When the film jumps forward by five yeas, we discover that the world is now a much darker place.  When we see New York, the once vibrant city is now gray and deserted.  Our surviving heroes have all dealt with the Snap in their own way.  Clint is now a vigilante, killing anyone who he feels should have been wiped out by Thanos but wasn’t.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) drinks and eats and feels sorry for himself.  Captain America (Chris Evans) attends support groups and, in one nicely done scene, listens as a man talks about his fear of entering into his first real relationship in the years since “the Snap.”  Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is living as a recluse and is still blaming himself.  Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is now an avuncular, huge, and very green scientist.  Only Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) remains convinced that the Snap can somehow be undone.  She’s right, of course.  But doing so will involve some unexpected sacrifices and a lot of time travel….

And that’s as much as I can tell you, other than to say that the film takes full advantage of both the time travel aspects (yes, there are plenty of Back to the Future jokes) and its high-powered cast.  With our heroes — which, along with the usual Avengers, also include Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) — hopping through time and space, we get a chance to revisit several of the films that led up to Endgame and it’s a thousand times more effective than it has any right to be.  Yes, one could argue that the cameos from Robert Redford, Tom Hiddleston, Hayley Atwell, and others were essentially fan service but so what?  The fans have certainly earned it and the MCU has earned the chance to take a look back at what it once was and what it has since become.

Indeed, Avengers: Endgame would not work as well as it does if it hadn’t been preceded by 21 entertaining and memorable movies.  It’s not just that the MCU feels like a universe that it as alive as our own, one that is full of wonder, mystery, sadness, and love.  It’s also that we’ve spent ten years getting to know these characters and, as a result, many of them are much more than just “super heroes” to us.  When Tony Stark and Captain America argue over whether it’s even worth trying to undo the Snap, it’s an effective scene because we know the long and complicated history of their relationship.  When the Avengers mourn, we mourn with them because we know their pain.  We’ve shared their triumphs and their failures.  Tony Stark may be a guy in an iron suit but he’s also a man struggling with his own demons and guilt.  Steve Rogers may be a nearly 100 year-old super solider but he’s also every single person who has struggled to make the world a better place.  As strange as it may be to say about characters known as Iron Man, Captain America, and the Black Widow, we feel like we know each and every one of them.  We care about them.

Needless to say, the cast is huge and one of the great things about the film is that previously underused or underestimated performers — like Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Rudd, Don Cheadle, and Karen Gillan — all finally get a chance to shine.  As always, the heart of the film belongs to Chris Evans while Robert Downey, Jr. provides just enough cynicism to keep things from getting to superficially idealistic.  Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo get most of the film’s big laughs, each playing their borderline ludicrous characters with just the right combination of sincerity and humor.  Of course, Josh Brolin is back as well and he’s still perfectly evil and arrogant as Thanos.  But whereas Thanos was the focus of Infinity War, Endgame focuses on the heroes.  If Infinity War acknowledged that evil can triumph, Endgame celebrates the fact that good never surrenders.

As Endgame came to an end, I did find myself wondering what the future is going to hold for the MCU.  A part of me wonders how they’re going to top the past ten years or if it’s even possible to do so.  Several mainstays of the MCU say goodbye during Endgame and it’s hard to imagine the future films without their presence.  It’s been hinted that Captain Marvel is going to be one of the characters holding the next phase of the  MCU together and, fortunately, Brie Larson is a quite a bit better in Endgame than she was in her previous MCU film.  Hopefully, regardless of what happens in the future, Marvel and Disney will continue to entrust their characters to good directors, like the Russo Brothers, James Gunn, and Taika Waititi.  (Wisely, Disney reversed themselves and rehired James Gunn for the next Guardians of the Galaxy film.  Of course, Gunn never should have been fired in the first place….)

And that’s really all I can say about Avengers: Endgame right now, other than to recommend that you see it.  In fact, everyone in the world needs to hurry up and see it so we can finally start talking about the film without having to post spoiler warnings!

For now, I’ll just say that Avengers: Endgame is a powerful, emotional, and entertaining conclusion to one of the greatest cinematic sagas ever.

Film Review: Captain Marvel (dir by Anna Bolden and Ryan Fleck)


Captain Marvel was …. well, it was okay.

I know that’s potentially a controversial opinion.  Since the movie was released last week, I’ve seen it described as being the greatest comic book movie ever made.  I’ve also seen it described as being, if not the worst film of all time, than certainly the worst chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Really, it depends on who you ask and how they voted in 2016.  Myself, I would argue that both sides are incorrect.  Captain Marvel is neither the greatest nor the worst movie ever made.  Instead …. it’s okay.  It’s a middle of the road MCU film, one that has more in common with the first Thor, Ant-Man, and The Incredible Hulk than with Black Panther or Doctor Strange.  It has its moments but there’s a reason why everyone’s favorite character is a cat who only has about 15 minutes of screen time.

Brie Larson plays Vers, who is an elite warrior for the Kree Empire.  The Kree are an alien race.  We know they’re aliens because they have blue blood and their planet looks like a more cheerful version of Blade Runner.  The Kree are at war with another group of aliens, the Skrulls.  The Skrulls are green shape-shifters and, for some reason, they have Australian accents.

Anyways, Vers can’t remember anything about her past but she’s haunted by nightmares that suggest that she might not be a Kree at all.  Instead, she might be an Earthling!  Vers gets a chance to investigate that possibility when, while escaping the forces of the Skrull general Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), Vers plummets to Earth and ends up crashing into a Blockbuster Video.  Working with a youngish Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Vers sets out to discover the truth about her past.

Ever since this film was first announced, Brie Larson has been the target of a lot of unfair criticism.  A lot of it has centered around the fact that Larson rarely smiles in the film but you know what?  Brie Larson’s resting bitch face is the most empowering thing about Captain Marvel.  Vers is a warrior and she’s on a mission.  She has no reason to smile and giggle and jump around like some sort of manic pixie dream girl.  When Vers responded to a man telling her to smile by stealing his motorcycle, I wanted to jump up and cheer.  I mean, hell yeah!  Not only did she refuse to be pushed around but she also got a sweet ride out of it!  Seriously, the next guy who tells me that I need to smile more is losing his car.

Actually, regardless of what some people on twitter seem to believe, Vers does smile in the film.  She smiles when she’s talking to her best friend, Maria Rambeau (Lashanna Lynch).  She smiles when she’s talking to Maria’s daughter, Monica (Akira Akbar).  She smiles when there aren’t any men — or Skrulls — around, demanding all of the attention.  Both Maria and Vers are smiling because, finally, they can both be themselves.  It’s a scene that, like Vers stealing that motorcycle, feels far more honest and empowering than some of the film’s other more obvious and on-the-nose girl power moments.  Maria is a rather underused character, which is a shame because the brief scenes between Maria and Vers are some of the best scenes in the film.

That said, I still had mixed feelings about Brie Larson’s overall performance.  As good as Larson has been in so many other films, she often comes across as rather wooden and awkward here.  Larson delivers almost all of her lines in a rather flat monotone and she’s not helped by some painfully clunky dialogue.  Larson’s awkwardness is painfully obvious whenever she shares a scene with more experienced co-stars like Jackson, Mendelsohn, Jude Law, or Annette Bening.  Bening practically steals the entire film, to the extent that I would have preferred the film has been about her rather than Vers.

(Again, it’s easy to compare this film to the first Thor.  Just as it took the MCU a while to figure out what to do with Thor, one gets the feeling that they’re still not quite sure who Captain Marvel is supposed to be.)

The film’s main weakness is that, when compared to the more recent MCU films. there’s no sense of wonder to Captain Marvel.  Compare the blandness of the Kree homeworld to the vivid worlds of Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarok.  Ben Mendelsohn brings a little bit of depth to General Talos but, beyond the shape-shifting, there’s not much to the Skrulls, either.  When Captain Marvel flies into space, there’s nothing transcendent about the moment.  It’s actually kind of boring.  Whereas previous MCU films made space feel alive, the universe feels flat in Captain Marvel.

To cite just one example, one of the film’s biggest battle scenes is over the possession of a lunchbox.  The villains think that there’s something important in the lunchbox.  However, what they don’t know is that Vers has already emptied the lunchbox and is just using it to distract them.  For some reason, directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Bolden show Captain Marvel emptying the lunchbox before the big battle.  As a result, there’s no stakes to the battle and, from the start, we know that it doesn’t matter who wins.  When, after a lengthy fight, the lunchbox is revealed to be empty, Brie Larson mutters a weak one liner that has no impact because there was never any suspense to begin with.  This is pretty basic stuff and it’s somewhat shocking that this film manages to screw it up.

Despite those flaws, Captain Marvel is occasionally diverting.  Samuel L. Jackson brings flair to even the lamest of lines and Clark Gregg has a welcome cameo as Phil Coulson.  Annette Bening plays two different roles and she kicks major ass in both of them.  (One of her characters is named Intelligence, which leads to this hilariously awkward exchange of dialogue between Larson and Bening: “Vers.”  “Intelligence.”)  Despite being buried under a ton of makeup and prosthetics, Ben Mendelsohn does a good job and Jude Law is amusingly arrogant as Vers’s mentor.  Hopefully, Lashawn Lynch will get a bigger role in a future MCU film.

And then there’s the cat.

The cat is named Goose and …, well, look, I won’t spoil it.  Let’s just say that he’s a very special cat and he steals every scene.  In this film, we discover that Nick Fury loves cats, as well he should!

Anyway, Captain Marvel is okay.  There’s a few good scenes and there’s a few clunky ones and finally, there’s Goose and that stolen motorcycle.  One gets the feeling that the most remembered scenes will probably be the ones that were inserted during the end credits.  Captain Marvel will return in Avengers: Endgame and I hope that she doesn’t smile once.

 

Spider-Man: Far From Home Teaser and International Trailers


spider-man far from home

Spider-Man: Homecoming was the Spider-Man that fans have been waiting for. It was able to balance the character of Peter Parker and his alter-ego of Spider-Man. Where the Sam Raimi version was able to make the former stand-out at the cost of the Spider-Man alter, the Marc Webb version swapped the two dynamics. Webb’s version had a great Spider-Man but had a Peter Parker whose moral compass was a bit skewed.

Jon Watt’s Spider-Man and Peter Parker were a nice balance. It helped that the character was now free (to a degree) to play in the huge cinematic sandbox that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Last we saw Spider-Man and Peter Parker, he was dusted just like half the living things in the universe following the Thanos Snap. The question that gets brought up whenever Spider-man: Far From Home, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, gets talked about is does this film take away from the emotional sucker punch that was Avengers: Infinity War and it’s upcoming sequel, Avengers: Endgame.

From this teaser trailer and it’s international version has shown, the question still remains as both teasers mention nothing about the Avengers and keeps the timeline of the film vague enough to make one wonder if this sequel happens before Avengers: Infinity War.

I guess fans will find out on July 5, 2019 when the film is released worldwide.

….and here’s the International Teaser trailer

Trailer: The Punisher – Season 2


the punisher

The first season of The Punisher on Netflix ended up being better than what had been advertised. The series and it’s ultraviolent tone became a divisive factor in how the show was scene.

Some saw it as the true adaptation of the titular character and his anti-hero status within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Others saw it as poor taste considering the rash of mass shootings and gun violence that’s plagued the country the last couple of years.

There was no disagreement in that Jon Bernthal owned and seemed born to play the role of vengeance-fueled and grief-stricken Marine veteran Frank Castle. His portrayal not just of Frank Castle but his vigilante alter-ego, The Punisher, was like watching a force of nature on screen.

It was a no-brainer that a second season of the series would be set into production and Netflix didn’t hesitate. It’s a bit bittersweet knowing that no matter how good season 2 turns out there’s a high probability that this will be the final season of The Punisher on Netflix as every Netflix-produced Marvel show has been cancelled the past year with only the upcoming seasons of The Punisher and Jessica Jones left.

Season 2 is set of a January 18, 2019 release date on Netflix worldwide.

Trailer: Captain Marvel


Captain Marvel

Tonight we finally get to see the official trailer for Marvel Studio’s upcoming entry to their ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just like Marvel Universe-616 which was born at the Big Bang and continues to expand ever outward there doesn’t seem to be any sign of the MCU suddenly collapsing under the weight of fan expectations and the imagination of the writers and filmmakers who have been tapped by Kevin Feige and group to usher in the Golden Age of Comic Book films.

This past summer, fans of the MCU were treated to the spectacle (and surprisingly emotional) that was Avengers: Infinity War. Those who stayed for the final stinger at the end of the credits of that film were treated to a clue as to who may just save the MCU from Thanos’ snap.

Captain Marvel will be Marvel Studio’s first female-led entry to the series. Some have been in the camp that Marvel took too long to do such a project while a small, albeit very vocal group think Marvel have been bit by the SJW bug.

For the most part the majority of fans are just excited to see the adventures of one Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel finally up on the big screen. We shall see this March 8 whether Captain Marvel lives up to the hype and excitement that has been building since the end of Avengers: Infinity War.

Trailer: Captain Marvel


Captain Marvel

It’s still 6 months away, but with nearly everyone (puts on the hyperbole cap) in the known universe having been left in a state of disbelief with this past summer’s Avengers: Infinity War, the latest entry in the on-going Marvel Cinematic Universe just released it’s first trailer.

Captain Marvel, the MCU’s female-led entry and it’s Superman, finally gets to show some of it’s wares. Set, in the 1990’s with Blockbuster Video still king, Captain Marvel will tell the story of Air Force pilot Carol Danvers who also happens to be the hero known as Captain Marvel.

We’re not sure if the film will be an origin story or not, but from what was shown in the trailer, there’s a chance whatever original story we get it’ll be done through flashbacks. This is a Captain Marvel who is already is control of her abilities.

Captain Marvel set to soar this March 2019.