Film Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Release Date: April 23rd, 2018 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, William Hurt, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Ross Marquand

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 149 Minutes

Review:

“In time, you will know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right. Yet to fail all the same. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives. ” – Thanos

*There be spoilers here! But I kept it as minimal as possible.

Well, this film has been ten years in the making, as it is the culmination of everything that has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man hit theaters in May of 2008. Ten years and eighteen films later, all the carefully crafted moving parts come together to create a unified front against the greatest cinematic Marvel villain of them all, Thanos.

So cramming in all these characters is a tremendous feat. And really, I think everyone’s biggest concern was how that would work. Despite my concerns and fears, I haven’t anxiously anticipated the release of a film as strongly as this one since 2008’s The Dark Knight.

But having now seen it, I finally know whether or not the Russos succeeded in successfully conquering such a tremendous feat. So did they succeed?

To quote Stone Cold Steve Austin, “Oh… Hell… Yeaaah!!!”

The way that the Russos balanced everything was incredible. It’s as if they read a ton of major comic book crossover events in preparation for this incredible task and they sort of took their cue from them.

What I mean by that is that this film handles itself like a well written crossover mega event in the comics. It segments the heroes into different groups on different missions, all fighting for the same endgame. It’s like when a crossover is spread over four different comic titles and when you read them in a collected format, you get a story where each chapter is an issue from a different comic. Like X-Cutioner’s Song from the early ’90s was spread over Uncanny X-MenX-FactorX-Men (vol. 2) and X-Force. When you read them in chronological order (or in a collected trade paperback) each issue/title focused on a specific group that was different from the previous chapter but all the stories were part of a bigger tapestry that saw everything come together. That’s exactly how Avengers: Infinity War works, which is really cool to experience in a live action format.

So you have multiple groups here: one led by Captain America that goes to Wakanda, one lead by Iron Man that goes into space, the Guardians of the Galaxy split into two groups with one of them being led by Thor and then there is Thanos’ story and he does get a lot of time to shine. In fact, he was handled better than every Marvel Cinematic Universe villain that isn’t Loki. But who knows, Thanos may still eclipse Loki when it’s all said and done.

This was a pretty long movie but it needed to be and unlike other Marvel movies that seem to run on for too long, there wasn’t a single moment where I looked at my watch or felt antsy like I needed them to wrap it up. In fact, when I got to the end, I felt like I had finally exhaled and I couldn’t get up out of my seat, there was a lot of amazing stuff to process and I sat there with a smile, completely and utterly impressed with how this turned out.

It’s obvious that the special effects are good and some of the most impressive ever created. Marvel never disappoints in that regard.

One thing that really stood out for me much more than it ever has in any other Marvel picture was the score. This film has a very good and memorable smorgasbord of booming orchestral tunes and the Avengers theme was re-imagined in some creative ways. Alan Silvestri really came up with an incredible score that serviced not just this film but served the entire franchise well. There aren’t scores like there were through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s but this one felt like a throwback to that superior era for movie music.

If I had to compare this to anything, it’s like if someone took the best parts of both The Lord of the Rings and the original Star Wars movies and then mixed them together and replaced those films heroes and villains with Marvel characters. It truly was incredible and I can be a snobby dick that’s hard to impress sometimes. I just wish the modern comic writers at Marvel would take their cue from these movies and write comics worthy of these characters once again. But as superheroes are dying in print, they are thriving on celluloid.

Simply for the fact that I haven’t felt like this after seeing a movie in the theater since The Dark Knight, ten years ago, I have to give this film a perfect score. Sure, it’s not the greatest movie ever made but it is a f’n clinic on how to do a massive team up movie and a film that is presented on a massive scale that doesn’t lose itself and keeps you very engaged. Granted, this film also benefits from having 18 movies before it, where all of these key characters, minus Thanos, were able to be developed in preparation for this Royal Rumble of a superhero movie.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Everything in the MCU before this film, as it all leads up to this one.

Film Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Release Date: June 28th, 2017 (TCL Chinese Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr., Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Bokeem Woodbine, Logan Marshall-Green, Martin Starr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Evans, Paul Rudd, Jennifer Connelly, Hannibal Buress, Kenneth Choi, Selenis Leyva

Columbia Pictures, Marvel Studios, Pascal Pictures, Sony Pictures, 133 Minutes

Review:

“You need to stop carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.” – Aunt May

For lack of a better word, Spider-Man: Homecoming was amazing.

While it isn’t a perfect film, it is the best that any of the Avengers related properties have produced in awhile, minus the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

Finally, we get a Spider-Man that looks and feels the appropriate age. Tom Holland was magnificent and a perfect choice to play Peter Parker and thus, Spider-Man. Tom Holland brought something special to the role and he was the first actor to truly feel like the Spider-Man of the comic books.

Bringing Spider-Man into the bigger universe that has already been established by Marvel was long overdue and thankfully, the famous webslinger fits right in. The chemistry between the young Holland and veteran Robert Downey Jr. was uncanny. I hope we get to see them come together more often in the future, even if Downey Jr. feels like his time as Iron Man is winding down. Ultimately, even if Avengers: Infinity War fails to deliver like its two predecessors, at least these guys will make it fun. Assuming they aren’t an afterthought with all the heroes that are getting squeezed into that picture.

Michael Keaton stole the picture, though. He played the villainous Vulture but only went by his real name: Adrian Toomes. It was cool seeing him play the bad guy and it was a stark contrast to him being the hero in the Tim Burton Batman films from 1989 and 1992. He was chilling and bad ass and was the best on-screen villain for Spidey since Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin back in 2002. Keaton may have surpassed Dafoe overall but Dafoe was just pure intensity and a maniac, which worked really well for his character, fifteen years ago.

We also get other appearances by other Marvel characters. Jon Favreau returns as Happy Hogan, in his first appearance since the solo Iron Man films. Gwyneth Paltrow also makes an appearance as Pepper Potts. We even see Chris Evans in some really funny cameos as Captain America.

The film also gives a few small roles to some of my favorite people from television. Silicon ValleyParty Down and Freaks & Geeks‘ Martin Starr plays a teacher. Other teachers are played by Kenneth Choi from Last Man On Earth, Selenis Leyva from Orange Is The New Black and Hannibal Buress.

The plot of the film benefits from not being an origin story. Spider-Man already exists with his powers and how he got them is just casually mentioned and then the movie moves on. Everyone already knows the story, just like any future Batman films don’t need to show Bruce’s parents being murdered.

The movie is about Peter Parker becoming a hero. Not just a masked vigilante but truly learning and understanding what it takes to be a real Avenger. There is friction and tough love from his mentor Tony Stark and for good reason. This picture is really Spider-Man’s training wheels. It is his first big test to see if he has what it takes to stand alongside Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Hulk and the others.

Everyone in the film did well with their roles. The story was entertaining and there was a good balance between action and the coming of age drama that fans can expect from a Spider-Man story. It doesn’t get bogged down in the romance side of things and Parker isn’t chasing either Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane in this version.

There is a good twist in regards to his romantic relationship in the film but that relationship is just used to add a bit more weight to the bigger story and the emotional and heroic development of our beloved main character.

Spider-Man: Homecoming may fall a bit short for some when compared to the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies but I think it stands above them. It is more genuine and closer to the roots of the comic series, especially the old school stories. Plus, seeing him enter into a larger universe opens a lot of doors for what’s next for the spectacular wall crawler.

Also, comic book fans will probably be happy to see cameos from villains the Shocker, Scorpion and the antihero Prowler.

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.