Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Martial-arts master Shang-Chi confronts the past he thought he left behind when he’s drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a Marvel film that had so many people WANTING it to fail. The internet seemed full of people who were desperate for any bad news so that they could say “see! Go woke, go broke!”. They NEEDED it to be bad. Sucks for them then that is incredible. Comic book movies need a compelling villain. Loki was the only bearable part of the first two films, and the villain problem is why some Marvel films haven’t quite hit as they needed to. Wenwu is one of the most compelling villains in the MCU so far. Usually a lot of their villains are “same powers as the hero, but evil”. Sadly, this does do that, but the fact that the villain is the heroes father adds an emotional level to it. Especially since he’s not inherently evil, he’s misguided and being controlled by forces beyond his control. He was a villain before the events of the film, a figure of pure fear for people across the globe. But by the time the film starts all he wants is to get his wife back. That’s what inspires everything he does, and it’s weirdly beautiful. The downside of him is there is so much time spent on him, that the bigger bad that he’s doing it for only really matters in the third act, and doesn’t last for long. It’s his desire and love which leads to the third act CGI battle.

That’s the biggest issue, how underwhelming that final third is. It seems too big that it becomes impersonal, which considering the main core of the film is personal relationships is a bit weird. Instead of being a controlled dynamic set piece, it’s just CGI against CGI, and lets be honest, CGI hasn’t exactly been the MCU’s strong point so far (just look at some of the flying scenes in Captain Marvel for example).

It’s weird as there are some great fights in this. There’s a great rhythm to the way the fights operate. The way they use the surroundings brings to mind the best of Jackie Chan, where the layout of the room effects the way the action operate and it becomes almost a puzzle coming together, and means every fight is different. They also do a great job of demonstrating character through the action. You could show somebody the bus fight and they would get not only the main character, but also Awkwafina’s character.

Time for me to mention it. Awkwafina steals the show here (much like she did in Raya). She’s absolutely hilarious and serves as the audience in terms of introduction to the world, with Shang-Chi explaining everything for her. An incredibly unsubtle way of doing it, but it’s effective. She gives the best lines of the film, which considering the return of the fake Mandarin also happens (spoilers btw) is really something. One downside of her character? Her character arc doesn’t really work. She starts off as the standard “uncertain what to do in life and constantly changes plans” character, then picks up firing a bow and arrow, and is unnaturally good at it. She becomes good at it so far, and becomes so important in the final fight that it feels like Marvel knew she’d be a popular character and wanted to make her powerful. Does the MCU not have any normal characters? It’s okay to have characters who can’t fight, the way they’re treating it seems to be that if you can’t kill people, you’re worthless.

The mid-credits do a good job of setting up the future, with Captain Marvel and Bruce Banner working together (with Banner in full human form). If this is picked up in the future it could be exciting, but I doubt they’re going to deal with it in the new Spider-man movie (how fucking stoked are you guys for that, btw?) so might have to wait a while for that storyline to be moved forward. Eternals is released this year but that will have to be introducing so many characters that I’m not sure they’ll have time to deal with the ones we already know. The Doctor Strange, Thor, and Black Panther films will probably have their own things going on. So the best bet will be in The Marvels, and that’s not out until November next year. The MCU is juggling a lot of balls right now (lol, I said balls) and it’s going to take some skill for them to make the whole thing a coherent narrative again. Fingers crossed.

That’s why I think this is a great film. It works brilliantly on its own, you’re not there thinking you have an unfinished story like you do with something like Brightburn (or even Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 to an extent), but it also sets up the future plans. I’m excited to see what happens, and I like being excited for cinema. When I do the round-ups at the end of the year I can sometimes struggle to not repeat myself, but there is so much I didn’t mention in this review. The lead performance, his sister, the brutal nature of some of the fights, hotel california, Abomination, Wong, the sonic connections. There is so much to talk about with this, and that’s really what you need, to feel excited, to become a fan again, to the point where you become like a little kid describing something he loves “oh, and another cool thing, and then this happened” etc.

Black Widow (2021)

Quick Synopsis: It’s a marvel action film. Do you need to know anything else?

So, this is it, the first Marvel film in two years. Perhaps more importantly, the first one since cinemas reopened. So in summary, there’s a lot riding on this. I actually saw this the day of release, first screening possible. I did this because I felt if I didn’t, that people on twitter would ruin it for me, much like I’m going to ruin it for you, so there’s your warning about that, as this will have spoilers.

In retrospect, I don’t think I needed to do that. There’s nothing in this film which you would really consider ruined if you were warned about it. There’s no moment where your jaw drops and you think “I can’t believe that happened! This changes everything!”. The closest you get to that is the post-credits scene where a character played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus asks Yelena to kill Hawkeye. I saw “character played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus” because I don’t know who she is. Apparently she’s in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, but that was set for original release after this, so are we supposed to know who she is or not? That moment is the closest we really get to a seismic shift. Otherwise it’s just standard stuff really, Florence Pugh’s character looks likely to be a newer version of Black Widow (albeit more morally ambiguous), and her “parents” are free to do whatever.

A note about her “parents”, and about Pugh’s character too, really. Although they weren’t introduced until now, they existed in this timeline for years, having been operational since just after Civil War. Would Natasha not have thought to get them involved in Endgame or Infinity War? You can argue “she didn’t want them involved” or “they didn’t know it was happening”, but that’s only really true for Infinity War. For Endgame there’s not many people left, and most people she was close to got snapped, so you would have thought she would have got all the help she needed. Or at the very least, they would have tried to find her.

I’m so used to Marvel setting things up, that it’s kind of disappointing there’s nothing here that you can really look back at post Civil War films and go “ohhhhhh, okay”. Basically, this film doesn’t need to exist. It’s a two hour way of introducing a few new characters, and to say goodbye to an older one.

Maybe it’s the timing, if you release a prequel it’s for a reason, and this doesn’t really have one. If this got released just after Civil War I’d have looked upon it more favourably. As it is, it just feels, I dunno, needless? It never feels anything other than a footnote. The cinematic equivalent of money you find in the pocket of a coat you haven’t worn in a while.

Now, the performances? Mostly good. Florence Pugh slots in beautifully like she’s been there all along. David Harbour is a lot of fun and I wish we saw more of him in previous films. He’s probably the best written character in the film. Rachel Weisz does fine, she never really wows but she does what she needs to. The worst performer is probably Ray Winstone. You’d think having him as the leader of a villainous group would be perfect for him. Having him in charge of an underground group of assassins would be great for him. There’s just two issues: 1) he’s not really in it enough. 2) His accent. It’s supposed to be Russian (I think), but really it’s just Russian’ around between a multitude of accents.

It’s not just his performance, the way he’s written is kind of weak too. He never feels like a presence over the rest of the film, when he’s not on screen you don’t get the feeling he’s going to attack or anything, you forget him as soon as he’s not there. Doesn’t help that despite being a big deal, he’s never really been mention to much before this. I’m not saying you needed to introduce him earlier in the franchise, but it would have helped to have the opening scene based on HIM doing something, rather than putting so much thought into some of the needless padding. Trust me, there’s some padding here. There was more than one fight scene where I was thinking “okay, so why are they actually fighting? What is this scene adding?”. Our main introduction to Taskmaster (the other “villain”) was one that wasn’t really needed. It took about 5-10 minutes to advance something that could have been done in a single line of dialogue.

Now onto the good side: there’s some great dialogue in it. The new characters work and provide a good future for the MCU if used properly. We finally find out what the turning point was in Black Widow turning into a hero. It has the potential to kick off some very exciting things for the future (all of the trained Widows are freed, so there’s a group of pissed off trained assassins walking the world, if the MCU doesn’t make use of that, it’s a missed opportunity). I like the idea of more prequels, mainly because I still think we need a film set during the period where half the population was missing. Some of the action set-pieces are tremendous fun (although one does seem a bit too Saints Row 3 for me). Very excited to see what kind of things Cate Shortland can do as a director in the future. Has a great cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit during the opening credits (which may possibly be my favourite opening credits in an MCU film). It’s an apt send off for Johansson, and a lot of fun. It’s just, so very popcorn. It is very very good, it just doesn’t seem important enough, and doesn’t really add anything to the franchise as a whole, it just seems to exist solely as a send-off to the character. Which is nice, but still…

Also I bingewatched Taskmaster (the British show with Greg Davies) so it was hard to unhear Taskmaster quotes throughout. No matter how good a film is, you can’t take it seriously when all that’s in your head is British comedians trying to guess how wide a caravan is in baked beans.

2019 In Film Day 6: The Amazeballs

Avengers: Endgame

I wasn’t going to put this in this one originally. It’s so deeply flawed, not within the film itself, but in terms of what it closes off. It basically means so many things I was excited for will now never happen; Civil War meaning anything, a villain taking advantage of the chaos of half the universe disappearing to motivate himself, or even one that’s motivated by his family disappearing, blaming the Avengers for not doing enough to stop him. None of that will happen now. I decided to put it here because it’s a three-hour film that I watched on a flight and didn’t feel the urge to skip any of it.

Original review here

+The sheer sense of scale.

-What it closes off. Also the “big emotional moment” was incredibly obvious.

Childs Play

Damn this was entertaining. This had a lot working against it, not only was it a remake (I say “was”, still is, not as though it’s status as a remake has changed), it’s a remake of a film franchise which I’m very familiar with and kind of love. It was made without the consent of the original creators, whilst the franchise is still going strong (unlike Nightmare On Elm Street etc, where it’s pretty safe to say the original franchise is dead). If this had major flaws, trust me I would have picked up on them and used them as a stick to beat the bloated corpse of a terrible movie with. But it was hard to think of any major flaws with this movie. The biggest one isn’t even a dealbreaker for me; it’s just that it feels a little restrained, like it could go further. I’ve read some reviews which talk about the teenage characters being annoying; personally, I found them funny. They weren’t fully realised people, but then again teenagers aren’t. Their decisions made sense considering their age and personalities. So yeah I enjoyed this film. I found it a worthy addition to the name and a good way to kick-off a new franchise (which this is so obviously trying to do)

Original review here

+Mark Hamill’s performance.

-The scene in the toy store near the end REALLY needs to be more brutal and more chaotic. Some scenes feel slightly neutered, and none more so than this.

Fighting With My Family

Personal bias; I loved this movie. I found it heartwarming with great performances and engaging characters. Yes it takes A LOT of, shall we say, “creative liberties” with the truth but I feel it has to. Professional Wrestling is a really weird industry at the best of times, once you get into “yeah she was in the developmental company which gets higher review ratings than the main show, but MUCH lower ratings, so whilst she was never likely to lose her job, her promotion to the main roster was still a bit of a surprise”. This film would not work if it wasn’t for Florence Pugh. She doesn’t do a great impression of who she plays, but she embodies the character so perfectly that it’s hard to unsee her as who she’s supposed to be. Essentially she’s not doing a good impression of her, she’s doing an impression of what your memory thinks of her. Subtle difference but very important.

Original review here

+So darn lovely at times.

-The woman it’s based on was forced to retire before this movie came out and the movie never mentions it, just bad timing.

Happy Death Day 2 U

This is not as tight as the first one, not by a long shot. It’s still a great movie though. Yes the sci-fi based plot isn’t as good as the more straight-up horror of the first one, but there’s just something so endearing about this film. A lot of if is down to the performances of the two leads; Jessica Roth and Israel Broussard. Not only do they have great chemistry but they are great individually too. There’s a scene where Jessica Roths character is in an alternate universe and realises her mother is alive in this one, I defy anybody to watch it and not feel for her. Similarly when she’s trying to decide whether to go back to a universe without her parent in it, or to stay in one with a parent who has memories of things she doesn’t. It’s a compelling character piece and would be ideal for a really depressing short film.

Original review here

+The montage editing is superb. Plus it feels like a second part of the first movie, rather than a sequel. It doesn’t feel tacked on, it slots in perfectly.

-Not quite as good as the first one, and the ending feels a bit cruel

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

This film features Keanu Reeves riding a horse in a city and killing people. Of course, I’m going to love this. I will admit this is not as good as the first two; it goes on a little bit too long and the sequel-hook is a little bit too obvious. Quite a few scenes really drag to the point where if the cinematography wasn’t as impressive as it is you’d be bored. This rating all depends on the next move though. If the next film is poor then this will be known as the film where the cracks started showing. I have faith that the next film will still be good though, so it stays here, for now.

Original review here

+The world building is immense.

-A bit too long at times.

Knives Out

Was genuinely surprised by this, which is a bit weird as it had really good reviews and people seemed to love it. I guess I just thought that it would be one of those films that I would just not “get”. But yeah I loved this. I have a soft spot for ensemble cast films, mainly because they’re really hard to do without having some characters seeming underwritten. Now that I think of it though, that’s usually a bigger issue with multi-story films (such as Men, Women And Children) than ensemble films. I’m also a sucker for mystery films, I like it when they’re so well written that when the reveal happens you feel like an idiot for not getting it earlier because in retrospect it was obvious but you didn’t realise at the time. This gets it out of the way by revealing the “killer” very early on, but then giving you another mystery to solve, albeit one which isn’t as unobvious as it thinks it is.

Original review here

+The script, it’s that damn good

-Not quite as slick as it could be.

Late Night

I have a lot of personal love for this film. I loved the story being told, the characters, and how funny it was. It had a real warmth to it, but not a nice warmth that you feel envelop you like a hug, this was a warmth that stings. The satire is razor-sharp and accurate, to the point where it’s kind of depressing as the points they’re making are ones we should be past as a society by now. The main draw is the chemistry the two leads have; the role was allegedly written specifically for Emma Thompson by the other lead (Mindy Kaling) and you can tell this is kind of a dream project for Kaling. When I criticise films I often say “I can’t imagine someone fighting and dreaming to write this script”. With this I can. It feels like a script that Kaling NEEDED to get out of her.

Original review here

+So damn relevant

-Doesn’t seem to make the most of opportunities to make it seem like it exists in this world. There are a lot of chances to have cameos but it doesn’t take them.

Rocketman

Why was this not a bigger film? The fact that this film got less Oscar nominations than Bohemian Rhapsody is a travesty. Everything Bohemian Rhapsody did well, this did a lot better. The performances, the directing, the story, all of it was better; plus it didn’t tell lies about a real persons death to sell the narrative. Some people didn’t like that the film occasionally resembled a musical, I thought that was a perfect way to do it though. This is Elton John, you can’t do a standard film for someone like him, it has to be something extravagant and extra. Let’s be honest, does Bohemian Rhapsody really tell us ANYTHING about who Queen were as a band? This film tells you who Elton John is through the style, and that’s brilliant. It also shows you how many brilliant songs he’s done in his life.

Original review here

+Incredibly honest about his flaws.

-Some of the supporting characters seem a little underwritten.

Shazzam

So damn warm. The second best DCU film (Wonder Woman is top in case you were wondering) I’ve seen. I realise this film is heavily flawed; the pace is slow at the start, there are sections where the villain is missing, and it doesn’t have a unique visual style. It didn’t matter to me though. It was so enjoyable it allowed me to ignore the multiple flaws. I realise now that feeling matters a lot to me in films. If it gives my cynical self that feeling of magic it increases the chance of me loving it. If when I watch it I’m genuinely transported outside of myself. This does that perfectly.

Original review here

+Zachary Levi NAILS the performance perfectly.

-Needs a distinct visual style to truely be great.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

OMG, Mysterio turned out to be the bad guy? Who would have guessed? Well, everybody, let’s face it. It still worked though. We knew he’d be bad, but the way they did it was brilliant (albeit the worry that both of the Spider-Man villains seem to hate Iron Man more than they hate Peter Parker won’t go away). Watched this again recently and it still holds up. It’s probably one of the most visually interesting earth-based MCU films, some of the hallucination sequences are stunning to watch, incredibly inventive. You do have to question the logic of having such an obvious sequel hook when you’re not 100% certain you’re going to retain the rights to the character though.

Original review here

+So funny.

-Can we please have a Spider-man villain who’s motivation isn’t Tony Stark?

Toy Story 4

I had doubts about this, how can you make this film work after the almost perfect ending of the third one? Well, you do it like this. The Toy Story franchise has a great approach to sequels. You never think they’re essential until you watch them and then you wonder how the franchise coped without them. The new characters work well too, Tony Hale, in particular, gives a wonderful performance full of just enough depth and comedic background to make a suicidal spork seem like it fits into the universe.

Original review here

+It looks GLORIOUS

-Wait, so sporks are sentient now? Great, I now have to feel guilty about how I treat cutlery. Thanks.

Us

Expectations were high for this after the success of Get Out. Personally, I think this met them. The story is great, with smart social commentary and absolute genius use of foreshadowing meaning you don’t fully get it until the second viewing, when you can watch it and appreciate all the genius moments in it. The performances are great two, almost everyone plays two distinct characters in it, yet I think even without the costumes you’d be able to understand who is who due to how the actors distinguish each character through facial expressions and how they carry themselves. Best horror I saw all year, by a long shot.

Original review here

+The sense of unease over the entire thing so that even something as simple as a family walking on a beach is somehow unsettling.

-Not quite as well written as Get Out.

Wild Rose

Another film that I feel was robbed from an Oscar nomination it deserved; specifically, best original song. Bear in mind that’s coming from somebody who doesn’t like country music. But the music in this is so well done, so full of emotion that it doesn’t matter to me. It’s helped by the central performance. Jesse Buckley plays the role with such iron vulnerability that it’s hard to feel anything but joy for her when things start to go well for her.

Original review here

+The heart to it.

-Occasionally it seems like things only happen because the story needs it to.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

I’ll start with the bad: there’s no Stan Lee cameo in this film. That’s weird, it’s the end of an era. A definitive part of these movies will now no longer happen. You’re so used to it that you expect it, then when it doesn’t happen you remember why, and it’s kind of depressing. But enough about sadness, onto this post-genocide film. This is the first film in the MCU to come out after Endgame, so a lot of eyes are on it. It’s also the first one after Iron Man and Captain America have left. So this needed to be great. Anything less than that would leave it being dubbed a failure. Thankfully this is great, simply great. The story is fantastic. I mean, everybody who knows anything about comic books knows that Mysterio would actually turn out to be the bad guy, so when that happens it’s not exactly a surprise. Jake Gyllenhaal continues to remind you that he’s actually really good. Not as good as he was in Nightcrawler, but good enough to annoy you that he’s not in more films.

Mysterio-700x500
Continuing my theory that all good looking people are evil.

The way they do it is pretty damn great though, featuring callbacks to characters you probably don’t even remember existing. It also continues the emerging relationship between Peter Parker and MJ in an incredibly sweet way that will melt the coldest of hearts. A similar heart-warming moment occurs between Ned and Betty Brant. Oh, I guess I should talk about spoilers. I can’t talk about this film without mentioning spoilers. Particularly for the mid-credits scene. Tbh I have been kind of underwhelmed with quite a few of them. They’ve mostly been jokes or otherwise moments which didn’t feel worth waiting for, the notable exception being the Ant-Man And The Wasp mid-credits, which used the mid-credits scene to not only provide an emotional gut-punch, but also make you genuinely excited about what happens next. This tops it. The first one anyway. The second one shows that Nick Fury hasn’t been Nick Fury, he’s actually been one of the Skrulls from Captain Marvel this entire film (you do have to wonder how long that has been going on, how many times in films has Nick Fury not actually been Nick Fury?). This is kind of interesting for the future as it shows how he’s preparing to set up an earth defence system.

Umbrella-Over-the-World--20002
Don’t know what it is but I imagine it will be more sophisticated than this

But it’s the one before that which is the most interesting: J. Jonah Jameson turns up! Not as a newspaper editor, but as some kind of internet “news” prick like Alex Jones. He plays doctored footage which implicates that Spider-Man committed mass murder. He then shows a video of Mysterio announcing Spider-mans real name. Well, he goes “Spider-mans real name is Pe-” and then it cuts out. You think it’s salvageable. You feel safe. Then it comes back “real name is Peter Parker” then shows a picture of him. This is a huge game-changer for the character. But you know what? I REALLY wish it happened earlier. Just imagine if the two Spider-Man films were somehow earlier, and this happened whilst Tony Stark was still alive. This leads to Peter Parker becoming hated by the world, Tony tries to protect him but Captain America thinks he’s guilty. THIS kicks off Civil War, leads to characters dying, and the guilt of that stays on the conscience of Peter Parker. Then the guilt on Captain America when he has that realisation that he’s been leading a war against a teenager. The emotion of that “shit, I wasn’t thinking, I was a complete prick” moment would have been off the charts. I would have loved that, and not because of how disappointed I was with the lack of consequences from Civil War. Now, that’s all well and good, but who has to play Jameson? JK Simmons was the PERFECT casting for that role and is the best part of the original Spider-Man trilogy. I may not be a big fan of those movies, but I have to admit they nailed that and anybody replacing him would have to try VERY hard to delete JK Simmons from peoples memories. Which poor bastard is replacing him? Luckily they got the perfect replacement. This guy is not better or worse than JK Simmons, but is on the same level. Once you watch this movie, you won’t be able to unsee this guy as Jameson. Instead of JK Simmons, we have……..

JK Simmons

Screen_Shot_2019_05_06_at_9.05.57_AM.0
I know, I’m crying with joy too

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

So yeah, go see it, it’s brilliant, and sets up the next stage perfectly, shit’s changing, and it’s going to be great to see.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

So, that’s it, as close to a season finale the MCU has had yet, this film genuinely feels like closure for a lot of the characters. A fitting closure too, it completes a lot of story arcs which have been running since 2008. Whilst there’s been a few missteps along the way it’s generally accepted that the films have been of high quality and with interacting storylines to keep you invested (even if they weren’t as carefully crafted as they needed to be at times, with major plot holes and continuity errors between separate films). I did love this film, I really enjoyed it, and didn’t feel it outstayed its welcome (which considering it is 3 hours long, really says something). It deserves the praise it’s getting, but I still can’t help but feel slightly disappointed, not with what happened, but with now can’t happen. Like I wish they pushed the Civil War storyline further, as it is it never really felt like a proper division between two sets, it always felt temporary and outside of Civil War itself, kind of small. It never had that urge of paranoia, you never felt like the heroes against registration were under any threat (with the possible exception of Ant-Man in Ant-Man And The Wasp). If you look at the movies after Civil War:

  1. Doctor Strange (completely unaffected by Civil War as not recognised by the government)
  2. Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 (In space so unaffected)
  3. Spider-Man (pro-registration but didn’t affect the movie much. This is annoying as a big part of the Civil War comics was Spider-Man unmasking and revealing his identity, nothing similar to that has happened in this universe since the first Iron Man movie, and that was clearly Tony Starks decision, there’s no “forced to reveal identity” moments yet.)
  4. Thor: Ragnarok. (Again, in space)
  5. Black Panther (not as affected by the Registration Act as it could have been)
  6. Ant-Man And The Wasp (The most affected, but not essential)
  7. Infinity War (just causes a slight “we need to find this person” moment)
  8. Captain Marvel (Set in the past)

To be honest, I can’t even remember if the Act passed at the end of Civil War. That’s how little it’s affected the movies, and that can not be fixed now, it’s too late for it to start coming into effect now, and that’s disappointing. The other thing I’m disappointed in is that there were no post-snap movies. Ok, yeah, technically all movies now are post-snap, but they’re also going to be set after the resolution. There should have been a film between them, so many villain origin stories start with them losing their families, and yet the perfect opportunity for one now won’t happen (oh, spoilers, the people killed by the snap come back, but 5 years have passed in this world so they will be 5 years younger than they should be when they come back, I REALLY hope they make a big point of this in future films). We mostly saw how the snap affected heroes, we didn’t get much of it affecting the world, the opening scenes were done to show that, but the audience isn’t as invested in that as they should be as they’re sitting there waiting for everyone to get revenge on Thanos. Can you imagine how much more effective it would have been if there was an entire movie set in that world? The chaos, the frustration, the paranoia, the fear, the bastards using it to make money, the conspiracy theories! Do ordinary people know it was Thanos? As far as most of them saw, half the world just disappeared with no explanation. The only way they’d know it was Thanos is if someone put out a press release, which I can’t really see happening somehow. So can you imagine the conspiracy theories that would arise from that? It would be INSANE, and yet we will never find out (although I am thinking of writing a short Marvel story set in that universe, just to express that idea).

I know I haven’t spoken much about this film, but I feel if you wanted to see it, you would have seen it already, there’s nothing I can say in this review that will change that. Also, the entire internet has opinions on it and has expressed them better than I could. They’ve been right; it’s emotional as hell, full to the brim with references and fan-service, things are paid off which you didn’t even realise they were setting up, and most characters get their time to shine. It’s not perfect though; Captain Marvel seems misused, only seeming to exist as a Deus Ex Machina, and she’s involved in one of the most cringy moments of the franchise so far which is clearly designed to get a reaction in the cinema but is so false it seems like pandering. Despite how many characters are included, some rather important ones are missing with not even a mention. Also if you think about some aspects of the plot for too long it does seem to fall apart slightly.

But despite that, I highly recommend it, so far it’s been the best example of spectacle so far this year, and I doubt even the Godzilla movie could top it

Captain Marvel (2019)

Now, I did genuinely love this movie and it’s likely to be one of my favourites of the year. It was really funny, looked great (mostly) and I think Brie Larson is incredible. I thought I’d get that out the way because this blog will make it seem like I don’t. It was good, it was just……not what was needed right now. We are right before Endgame, one of the most anticipated films of the year. That film is supposedly the culmination of an overarching story which has run for about 10 years, the entire MCU has been building towards Endgame. The last two films before this ended with multiple character deaths, people are looking for that MOMENT to lead them into Endgame, and this completely fails at that. This is fine on its own, but as part of the MCU narrative, I don’t really feel it does its job. It doesn’t build up the next stage, like, at all. This film could have been made in Phase One and it wouldn’t really affect much. The biggest difference it would have made is it would have meant whenever there was a danger we would have thought “why doesn’t Fury just call Captain Marvel?” for most of the films, we now only have that in retrospect, which is…better? Should point out, one of the credits scenes DOES manage to get you slightly excited for Endgame, but the rest of the film doesn’t really do the same, at all.

Also, it turning out that Fury’s eye was lost to Goose the cat? “OMG who saw that coming?” Almost everybody. When I saw the trailer there were hundreds of comments under it saying the cat probably clawed out his eye. At this point, it would have been a surprise if that DIDN’T happen.

My other major issue with this film; the soundtrack. It’s like a 90’s jukebox. It’s good but it really could be much better. For one thing, some of the songs came out AFTER the film was set so it’s just a bit “ok, so this song doesn’t exist in this universe yet, so why is it being played?” and it’s obvious, because it’s “90’s” and that’s good enough. But if you’re going to do that, why restrict yourself like that? Personally what I would have LOVED them to do was to do a 90’s soundtrack, but have it be 90’s songs covered by female-led bands. At least then the soundtrack to a Marvel movie would be interesting (something which has only happened to 3 films so far, shockingly low).

A minor issue: some of the CGI was a bit dodgy. One scene, in particular, seems a bit cheap in terms of how they’ve layered it so badly that it looks fake. That just should not happen in a film this big and immediately puts it out of the running for the best looking film this year. It’s too big a mistake to ignore.

But the good: it was a lot of fun. Like, A LOT of fun. You will leave this film smiling and having enjoyed it. Also, Brie Larson is a badass, but anybody who saw Room already knows that. The de-ageing CGI also works BEAUTIFULLY and never manages to take you out of the movie (unlike some of the CGI of the character in flight, again, awful). The way it subverted expectations in terms of who the Kree are is also superb, I NEVER saw that coming, and in a genre often decried for being obvious, that says something.

So yeah, an enjoyable watch. But if you go into Endgame without watching this, you won’t really have much to catch up on.

Also, that No Doubt scene was WAY too unsubtle

Ant-Man And The Wasp (2018)

Have you seen Infinity War? If the answer is no, avoid this, or just leave after the actual plot concludes. The final scene to this will make absolutely zero sense if you avoided Infinity War, and it seems like this film references Captain America: Civil War more than it does the first Ant-Man movie. It’s a shame as the first Ant-Man movie was a lot of fun and is severely underrated when people talk about the MCU. This one feels important, but in a way where it’s not going to be known how important it is until the next film, which is a problem with Marvel films lately, they’re not self-contained so the endings are usually the equivalent of “Tune in next time”.  You know what this reminds me of? When a massive video game has been released and a year later they release a few new levels as an expansion pack/DLC, it’s that. It doesn’t stand out on it’s own at all, it’s the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to Infinity War’s Hamlet (Or The Lion King 1 1/2 to The Lion King if you prefer). But the thing is; it doesn’t even do that that well. It would be good if it had a few subtle background references to it running throughout. But it doesn’t, it comes in at big points in the film, but not often enough. So it somehow fails at even that. Okay, “fails” is a very harsh word to use, because if it wasn’t for the Infinity War stuff, I would consider this a great film, it’s funny, looks fantastic, has INCREDIBLY inventive action set pieces, and the performances are good.

Now Marvel villains are either incredibly amazing (Thanos, Loki, Killmonger) or completely forgettable (that guy, the other one, the yellow one). This comes soooo close to being the first one. She has a tragic backstory which makes her sympathetic, her motives are logical but she’s also terrifying, and she’s not just “the good guy, but bad!” which seems to be the general template to make a villain in Marvel films. But she’s not used enough, and her ending is woefully unsatisfying and seems like it came because the writer needed to get home early so just wrote “and then MAGIC!”. It’s a shame as one thing this does very well is it gives a lot of the background characters moments to shine, even if a lot of their moments could be cut and nothing would be affected (particularly Bobby Cannavale and Judy Greer, which is a shame as I love both their characters, I just wish they had more to do). The star of the show is still Michael Pena though, who maintains one of the best side characters they’ve created, which of course means he’s probably going to be run into the ground through overuse in the next one, or killed.

So should you see this? I’d say yes, but not yet. Watch it as part of a MCU marathon, it lacks enough context to survive on its own.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) (Spoilers Version)

Well I said I was going to put spoilers in this, so here goes:

Bruce Willis was dead all the time

Kevin Spacey is Keyser Soze

Clark Kent is Superman.

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Oh, I suppose I should talk about the spoilers in this film. I have quite a bit to discuss about this, the ending in particular, so I had to do a different blog for it. It would be unfair to spoil the film for those who hadn’t seen it, but there were certain things I couldn’t discuss without spoiling the ending. I think that’s kind of cool though, spoilers mean something again. Because the studio put a lot of importance on not letting the ending go, it meant that people who watched it put that importance on too, plots matter again. I like that.

But this specific ending? Holy f*ck. In case you haven’t seen it here it is: pretty much everyone dies. Spiderman, Black Panther, Star Lord, Drax, Groot, Samuel L Jackson, all dead. Which is kind of odd considering that pretty much all of them have been announced for sequels. This brings up my first point; as emotional as the ending was, it won’t last. It won’t be a film that in years to come you’ll think of as emotionally devastating films. The reason for this; the ending won’t stick. It can’t stick, they’ve announced a Spider-man sequel for one. So as emotionally crushing as the deaths were, everybody knows they’ll be back. Look at articles about it, they’re not discussing “oh no, how will the surviving heroes cope with such horror?”, they’re saying “which of these will stay dead?”, which sucks. The default setting in films should be when a character dies, they stay dead, coming back from the dead should be the exception, not the expected norm. So it’s hard to feel too emotional about this, as there’s a part of you that thinks “meh, they’ll be back” or “I’ll save my emotion for when I get to the next movie and see what happens”. I mean, yeah, I am intrigued as hell as to how they’re going to do it. Personally, I think it will have something to do with Thanos using the time stone to rewind time and kill Vision. Have a feeling that once someone can get hold of that they can use it to rewind back to the rewind (if that makes sense). This means the ones who died before that ((Gamora, Loki (seriously for the love of all that is good kill Loki and keep him dead. He’s a good character but is emblematic of the “no deaths count” thing MCU has)) will stay dead, whereas those that died after the snap (Spider-man, Bucky, Brooklyn 99) will come back.

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It is coming back, right?

No idea who’s gonna do that though, I’m guessing Captain Marvel will have something to do with it but can’t say for certain as I don’t know what her powers are as I’m not too familiar with the character. Maybe it won’t be the heroes, maybe it will be the scientists, we have no idea if Selvig is still alive, if he is given the technology seen in both Ant-Man and Black Panther he could create something great. That’s if he’s still alive though. That’s something I have a problem with in this, outside of Nick Fury (and not-Robin from HIMYM), all the deaths were major characters from this film. Marvel has had A LOT of side characters in their films, did any of them die? Will we ever find out? How was this received by people who had ABSOLUTELY no idea what happened? Random people just going about their day etc when their friend suddenly disappears? I guarantee people thought it was the rapture or something. But we don’t know, because we didn’t see it from a civilian standpoint, we got a small insight with the post-credits thing where cars and planes crashed, but nothing that shows their pure visceral terror. How much more impactful would it have been if we had a character hadn’t seen in years come back for a random scene, only to die? I have a slight feeling that we’ll see that next time we see Hawkeye, that his family all disappear and he goes on a vengeful warpath. I guess what I’m basically asking in all of this is this; is Ned okay? That’s all I want to know.

 

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We love Ned

 

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) (Spoiler-Free Version)

A few years ago I saw a film called Men, Women & Children. A film that had moments of okayness but failed to maintain even that. The main reason for this was it had too many characters and it couldn’t focus on all of them, as such some felt underdeveloped and the time spent with them felt utterly pointless. There was concern that the same would happen with this. This had a lot of characters, and all of them were somebody’s favourite (yes, even Thor), so if you didn’t do them properly then you’re going to annoy a lot of people, and in the age of social media, especially with such a highly anticipated film, the slightest inkling of dissatisfaction and they’d be nerd-rage akin to if you said “maybe not everybody has to be white”. As it is, this balances the characters pretty well. Whilst the characters are split into separate groups, there’s no real “core” group. None of them seem more plot-focused than the others. That being said it’s not entirely equal. It seems like the Guardians characters have a lot more to do within their groups than the others. Surprised there’s not really any new characters in it, I mean, there’s an allusion to one at the end but the only new people are the villains. This is slightly odd as it means that these are the only ones in the entire universe. Where was Stallone etc from Guardians Of The Galaxy 2? You’d think they’d have heard of Thanos’s plan and tried to stop it. Or anybody from Agents Of Shield (is that still going? I got incredibly bored by it quite quickly so stopped watching). It’s going to be incredibly difficult to introduce new characters after this, as the first question anybody will ask is “where the fuck were you when this happened?” Before it’s been mostly localised destruction, but maybe with the potential of worse things happening later. This was half of existence being threatened with extinction. There should have been a lot more people.

I mean, yeah that would have meant the film would be like seventy hundred hours long. But even if you just mentioned “earth has been closed off to visitors” to explain others not being there it would be better. Don’t get me wrong, I did love this film. The character interactions were fantastic (although still disappointed nobody said “no shit, Sherlock” when Doctor Strange and Iron Man shared a scene). It was great that the established groups got split up and we got characters sharing scenes who had never interacted before. On the downside, this causes a problem for any future films. The same problem that hit the MCU post-Avengers. From now on whenever a character has a solo film you’ll be wondering why nobody else is helping. If any other Iron Man films happen in the future then he has space-travelling assistance to come help him.

Has to be said that the fact that this film works, and works brilliantly is a true testament to the skill involved. The script is incredibly tight and focused, barely any fluff at all, which considering how long it is is quite impressive. It looks great, the scenes on Titan, in particular, look stunning, The setpiece in Wakanda, whilst not exactly disappointing, isn’t as stunning to look at as you feel it could be. And the music is still a bit of a letdown. Marvel doesn’t really have a great track record when it comes to original music (Black Panther being the obvious exception), they have that one piece of Avengers music they use, but every time I try to think of that I get the Harry Potter music in my head. Even the Saw franchise had a recognisable theme they used as shorthand for “shit’s about to go down”.The power of good music (and not just in a “using established songs) way) is underappreciated in modern cinema but could work wonders. If MCU had character themes then the introductions would be a lot better, imagine if you see a character in the darkness, you have no idea who they are but then a familiar theme plays, exciting you before you even see them.

So yeah, if you’ve liked these films, you really need to see this, but I can’t imagine you enjoying this if you haven’t seen the others. This is not the film you watch to introduce you to the MCU, you’ll be completely lost. So, see this, but see the others first. Will be posting a second review of this later on in the week, specifically focusing on the ending. So look out for that over the weekend.

Why We (Already) Love Captain America: Civil War

Erm, because it’s good? That’s it, blog’s over everyone, go home and play with your food, eat your wives and make love to your xbox (side note: Ex-Box is a truly vile nickname for someone’s vagina, don’t use it, you’re better than that).

But yeah, this film. It’s……amazing. Pre-hype for this was pretty intense, until Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn’t You (Forget About Me), then people started to get concerned. Was easy to see why, it seemed like Civil War was following a lot of of BvS mistakes: they released a trailer that seemed to give away the plot, then another one which introduced a character people weren’t certain if was going to be in it, and they seemed to be introducing a lot of new characters in one film. I’ll admit, I was really disappointed that they put Spider-Man in the trailer. I thought “but it would have worked better if it was a shock, stupid idiots. I hate them all! Burn them!” But here’s the thing: I was wrong. Spider-Man came in waaaaaay too early in this film for him to be a surprise character. Besides, if that happened then people would walk out talking about “Oh my God, I can’t believe Spider-Man was in that!” as opposed to how good the film is. Plus that information would have leaked in the first screenings, even if you tried to avoid it you’d see it everywhere on facebook when you woke up on release day. So in the end it made sense, so so much sense. God damn I loved this movie, probably my favourite Marvel film so far, had everything: sensible plotting, good characterisation, good action sequences, just, everything you want. Anyway, enough pointless random conversation: let’s get started on purposeful random conversation.

1. Spider-Man

He’s one of the characters I’ve never really liked in films, he’s always supposed to be a teenager but is never played as one. At least, not an actual teenager, he’s played like the leading man in a teen drama where “anxiety” and “shy geek” just means “is friends with the most popular girl in school but hasn’t dated her yet” and the only sign of their geekdom is that people with letters on their jacket shove them into lockers. This Spider-Man however is a teenager, he geeks out over superheroes, he messes up, he gets overexcited (which then leads to more mistakes). More importantly: he’s fun. He’s a funny, engaging character whom is inherently likeable.

2. Black Panther

This film is not just Spider-mans, it’s not even fully Captain America, this film belongs partly to Black Panther. This film is his origin story. Which is fantastic news, A LOT of people have seen Civil War, which means a lot of them are now familiar with the character, so now when he has his solo movie (which thanks to this serving as his origin, should be able to avoid the whole “boring first movie” syndrome that plagues so many films) a large number of people who ordinarily wouldn’t go to see the film now will. They’re invested in the character, they’re invested in the story, and they want to see what happens next.

3. The Villain

I’ve seen one or two people annoyed that the villain in this movie is just a guy. He’s not a very rich guy, he’s not a powerful or influential guy, he’s got no powers at all. He is, just, a guy. But to me that’s perfect. Who better to show the Avengers the damage they’re doing to the man on the street than a man on the street? A man who has suffered personal loss due to the actions of a few self-appointed übermensch’s. Superhero movies needed to find their humanity again, they needed a human touch (not the human torch, nobody needs that guy). The characters needed to be shown the consequences of their actions, they needed to create their own villain, not through a mistake, not through an accident in a lab somewhere, but by their very actions which make them heroic. This guy realises that he can’t beat the Avengers, he needs them to defeat themselves, and he sets it up beautifully (which is another thing I like about this film, it doesn’t really have a happy ending, everything’s not fixed, this film truly changes the dynamic of the group).

4. The Airport Scene

Possibly the best action sequence in a Marvel film so far. Every character is given a chance to shine and showcase their abilities. We see why Tony Stark wanted Spider-Man so much, we see Ant-Man do…..well, trust me it’s amazing. So much better than the action sequence which opens the film (which to me was a little too jerky and didn’t really flow properly. Why do so many directors move the camera during action sequences now? It very makes us feel like we’re really there, instead it just makes it dicking difficult to focus on the scenes they’ve spent months working on). One of my biggest problems with Age Of Ultron was that the fight scenes felt pointless, there were too many moments which felt like someone high up said “ok, we need an action scene here otherwise people will get bored” instead of “we need an action scene here to develop the story”. This doesn’t really have that, there are quite a few action scenes, but they’re well placed within the story and they all make sense. Plus there’s a certain uniqueness to them; the character’s are all slightly holding back. They’re going more for showmanship and intimidation than “I am going to kill you” (with the exception of one rather notable three way fight) which brings a different dynamic to the scenes.

5. Next time.

I’m already excited for the next one. There’s so many questions I want to ask (but not in a “this movie didn’t answer these questions and I’m unsatisfied way) and so many things I’m looking forward to seeing. I’m already excited for films that won’t be out for years to come. THAT’S how good this movie is. Basically: here’s the things I’m looking forward to seeing/finding out:

  • How will Captain America cope now he doesn’t have his shield?
  • What will happen with Martin Freemans character? He’s too big an actor for such a small part so I assume they’re doing something big.
  • How will people react to Iron Patriot? One of America’s soldiers is now paralysed due to superheroes, American’s are perfectly okay with foreign civilians dying, but when a soldier is shot at? Shit goes down.
  • What’s the villains next step? Does he even have one?
  • How will Hulk and Thor react?
  • What will the next stage of the MCU films be like? This film changed the dynamic of them completely: the heroes can no longer operate in the open, they are now forced underground. We won’t get the good guys teaming up with the military from now on, we’ll have the military shooting at the good guys.
  • Will other countries use the superheroes as an excuse to declare war? All, say, North Korea would need to do is stage a scene of massive devastation and frame someone from South Korea for it and claim they’re a superhero and it would be a pretence for war (with international approval as well as South Korea has disobeyed international law).

Oh, and spoilers btw. I, probably should have mentioned that earlier. Whoops.