Documentary Review: Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop! (2014)

Release Date: November 4th, 2014
Music by: Lauren Pardini, Daniel Sternbaum
Cast: Axel Alonso, Hayley Atwell, Gerry Conway, Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Seth Green, Clark Gregg, Jimmy Kimmel, Stan Lee, Ralph Macchio, Todd McFarlane, Patton Oswalt, Nicole Perlman, Joe Quesada, Peter Sanderson, Jim Shooter, Kevin Smith, Jim Starlin, Emily VanCamp, Len Wein, Ming-Na Wen

ABC Studios, Disney, Marvel, 42 Minutes

Review:

I recently reviewed a short, made-for-TV documentary on Disney+ called Assembling a Universe. That one was a piece on how Disney and Marvel assembled a movie franchise based off of Marvel’s rich treasure trove of characters and stories.

This short documentary is kind of more of the same but it focuses mostly on the comic books themselves and how Marvel grew into what it is today.

Like the previous documentary, which came out earlier in the same year, this one is really just a marketing tool to try and get people to go see their movies. It’s made by Disney, Marvel and ABC, all of whom are essentially the same company, so this is made to sort of pimp themselves out.

Ultimately, this is an autobiographical puff piece. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things of value in it. It’s informative and gives you a good amount of info to start with for those interested in Marvel’s history but there are much better documentaries, books and magazine articles on the subject.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Assembling a Universe and Empire of Dreams.

Documentary Review: Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe (2014)

Release Date: March 18th, 2014
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Hayley Atwell, Shane Black, Kenneth Branagh, Dominic Cooper, Vin Diesel, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Jon Favreau, Kevin Feige, Clark Gregg, James Gunn, Chris Hardwick, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Joe Johnston, Louis Leterrier, Jeph Loeb, Anthony Mackie, George R.R. Martin, Tom Morello, Bobby Moynihan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Pratt, Joe Quesada, Robert Redford, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, Ming-Na Wen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon, Edgar Wright (uncredited)

ABC Studios, Disney, Marvel, 42 Minutes

Review:

After watching the beefy but solid Star Wars documentary Empire of Dreams, I noticed that Disney+ also featured a similar made-for-TV documentary about the making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I figured I’d check it out, as it originally aired in 2014, on the cusp of the MCU reaching its peak.

Unfortunately, this isn’t as compelling as Empire of Dreams and it plays more like a Marvel produced production used mainly to pimp themselves out and market Captain America: Winter Solider and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. But I get it, this played on ABC, which like Marvel, is owned by Disney.

It’s still an informative piece with a lot of insight into the making of the first Iron Man movie, which opened the floodgates for the rest of the MCU.

It also expands beyond that and delves a little bit into each movie up to the then still in-production Guardians of the Galaxy. In fact, I think that this was the first real peek into the Guardians of the Galaxy production.

The best part about this short feature is the interviews with the stars and filmmakers who helped bring this universe to life. I especially liked hearing the enthusiasm that Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jon Favreau had with the early Iron Man pictures.

Overall, this isn’t a must watch but it’s worth your time if you are a big MCU fan.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other filmmaking documentaries about blockbusters. Empire of Dreams, immediately comes to mind.

Film Review: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Release Date: April 12th, 2016 (Dolby Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: Captain America by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, William Hurt, Daniel Brühl

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 147 Minutes

captain_america_civil_warReview:

The last time a bunch of Avengers got together on the big screen, the result was pretty lackluster. Actually, I could say it was pretty shitty. So, was Captain America: Civil War any better?

Well, it is based off of one of Marvel’s biggest events in the comic books over the last few years. It sees things come to a breaking point and it pits two groups of heroes against one another: one team led by Captain America and the other led by Iron Man. I was pretty happy with the comic series, so I had a bit of hope that the cinematic interpretation of that plot would generate a worthwhile film.

The biggest criticism I have, is the same criticism I’ve had with the Avengers films, there are too many people and they aren’t handled well in an ensemble. Sure, we get little bits of character development in some areas but ultimately, some of these characters, who don’t have their own solo films, would benefit more if they were to have their own two hour outing. I mean, hasn’t Scarlett Johansson earned a Black Widow movie yet? Or just put her with Hawkeye and two of the original Avengers can actually have some room to breathe on their own. Black Panther is getting his own movie but I doubt the Scarlet Witch is because she doesn’t have a penis.

Another criticism, is the gigantic fonts every time the film had to announce what location they were in. It was overwhelming on the big screen. Glad I didn’t see this in 3D because I would’ve been punching the air. I get that each Marvel film is different, and that’s good, but it made the visual style feel noticeably inconsistent with the other movies.

One thing I hate in films, these days, are action sequences where the camera cuts to a new shot for every punch, kick, throw, jump or any stunt, really. Mix that in with the shaky camera effect during the action and it is hard to tell what the hell is going on. It just looks like someone edited together a bunch of one second clips from high school lunchroom fights on YouTube. It also takes away from the stunts themselves and doesn’t really show the hard work of one of the most thankless jobs in Hollywood. As I mentioned style inconsistency before, this also fits into that, as the earlier Marvel films were more crisp and fluid and didn’t try to come off as some uber realistic gritty street fight.

This really wasn’t a Captain America film, it was an Avengers film. I will say that it was the best of the Avengers flicks but it was the worst of the Captain America ones.

The movie was too damn long, a lot of unnecessary shit was drawn out. I’d rather the film focus on building the newer characters than having half of the pointless shit that I had to sit through. It could’ve been an hour less and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference, other than improving the picture.

Another major problem with this film, which plagues everything that Marvel does on the film front, is it wasted its villains and it made them generic and not memorable at all.

When I first heard that Baron Zemo was in this film, I was excited. He’s been one of my favorite Marvel villains for years. He’s cool as hell and he got even more awesome when he started leading the Thunderbolts team. He had a great mask, a great style and was just a fantastic bad guy. In this movie, he’s some Colonel from that country the Avengers destroyed in the last movie and he just wears normal clothes. No cool mask, no endless supply of money, no cool pistol, nothing interesting or cool whatsoever. He looked like my friend French Kevin’s dad. Anyone could’ve played Zemo and just showed up to work in flip flops and a wife beater and Marvel would’ve just been like, “Looks great! This guy is seriously a credible threat!”

Crossbones showed up to. Well, he was in the previous Captain America film. In this movie, he has a cool outfit and looks Crossbones-esque. But then he gets beat up and blows himself up. So, one of Captain America’s best villains, is wasted in ten minutes. Kind of like how they did Baron Von Strucker in the last Avengers movie.

Marvel can’t do villains. If they actually treated them like they did their heroes, they could be great. But what we get, is awesome heroes fighting French Kevin’s dad in every movie. And Thanos is still coming, right? Because we haven’t seen him in a while. Or are the Avengers just going to fight an angry P.T.A. that has taken over an elementary cafeteria in the next movie?

I will say that Black Panther was cool but I’m not totally sold, Winter Soldier was great but he always is and Spider-Man was refreshing. Granted, I can’t judge Spidey until I see his own film but Tom Holland seems like a great casting choice. The kid just feels right.

In the end, this certainly did not live up to the hype. It was nowhere as iconic as the Civil War that happened in the comic books. It didn’t feel nearly as important as that. Although, Tony Stark did embrace the fascist dickbag persona, at least for awhile, as Disney was too cowardly to just make him the villain of the story, outright. And their cowardice was also apparent when there were no real prices to pay at the end of this thing. No one died. I’m not saying that is necessary but the weight of the collateral damage and human wreckage in the comic books, is really what made Civil War so impactful.

I’m just glad that Tony Stark got his ass kicked in by Captain America. Freedom. Mother. Fucker.

Film Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Release Date: March 13th, 2014 (El Capitan Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: Captain America by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 136 Minutes

captain_america_the_winter_soldierReview:

*Written in 2014.

It took me some time to get to the theater to see this due to my ridiculous schedule lately but I finally got around to it, just in time to drop a review about 3 weeks too late. But whatever, here it goes.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is unlike any other Marvel film before it. Granted, they all fit different subgenres other than just being straightforward comic book movies but this chapter in the ongoing Avengers cinematic saga was something refreshing and quite spectacular.

Instead of a cookie cutter over the top blockbuster ass kicker film, we got more of a political thriller, a conspiracy movie and a great espionage flick rolled into one big cornucopia of awesomeness with a handful of action sequences that didn’t feel overdone or made just for the sake of trying to placate to those soulless tentpole fanboys who worship the Michael Bay style of filmmaking. In fact, the film was so engaging that when action sequences started, it was like, “Oh yeah, I’m watching a comic book movie!”

Now this wasn’t a flawless film by any means but despite that, I thought it was the best Marvel film in the Avengers series. It had the best story that the studio has given us so far and it took chances that the other films haven’t. Chris Evans was great, as were Sam Jackson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders and Robert Redford. Then there was Scarlett Johansson, I always love Scarlett Johansson.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was not just a worthwhile comic book movie, in an era where they are becoming way too common, mundane and redundant, but it may be the best film in that genre since 2008’s The Dark Knight. On IMDB it currently sits with a rating of 8.2; I say that it is a well earned rating and I don’t disagree with it.

*2016 Update: It is infinitely better than its sequel Captain America: Civil War.