Posts Tagged ‘Stan Lee

26
Apr
19

Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, Movie Review

***

I refuse to start this review with one of those term-paper introductions that splash the movie title and throw in a blurb about some big-name actor or how the movie is grossing tons of money around the world. It won’t make you a grateful bunch of readers. Instead, you get this… [Snap!]

So, this is it…as far as “its” go in terms of ending an epic string of movies. It’s like Back to the Future…except it’s nothing like Back to the Future…buuuut it is. Confusing; right? The “wizards” of Marvel Studios and Disney put their mushy “I’m running out of creative ideas! What’s Paul Rudd doing this week?” heads together and came up with…this…with Avengers: Endgame. And, just about everyone you’ve seen in a Marvel movie (not everyone) since 2008 makes an appearance.

So, if you like family reunions and looking at moving photographs of lots of people you might have known, this is IT! This is your movie. But, as for the hype–which I gotta say is far less than I’ve seen for a number of other “franchises” (like Harry Potter and Star Wars, even though Star Wars has felt like it’s been dragging the original three films through the murky mud of some fan’s brain for some time…and both of those franchises haven’t come close to this many films)…and considering the theater I was at for the premiere was only half-full–meh.

[Wait. The theater was half-full…half of the theater was empty. Damn you, Thanos! You got to the audience, too!]

[I said “so,” twice, in case you didn’t notice. That’s because this is a so-so movie.]

I’m getting reeeeeeally tired of being the bearer of bad news. So, I’ll keep my typically lengthy opinions unusually short (if I can…which I usually don’t…so maybe I won’t). We’ll see just how time and space grabs me. Ya know…spitball this review thing and see what happens. There’s only one possibility that will work…and it’s the one that will get this thing written.

In short (ha), I think we are not far from making movies in which the people paid all the big bucks don’t even have to work in the same room, just let the hundreds of “little people” piece all the bits together and run it like a cartoon…like some sports video game that required every famous face from the team putting on little dots and moving in front of some motion-detection equipment. We can make a big-budget movie by just having the stars make fools of themselves in their hotel rooms; they’ll never look at themselves on film and will just B.S. through countless interviews, telling everyone how “amazing” it is to work with all those other people they didn’t see in the same space and time…it’s just another job. They came, they pooped on themselves, they collected their paychecks. Punched in…punched out. [And, at that rate, how long is it before people punch in and punch out of the movie theaters?…or stop going completely because either movies lose their charm or people cheat to watch them other ways? And, all that technological artistry is just feeding a mechanical monster that is consuming everything organic like Galactus…you know, that giant cosmic-empowered guy that appeared in a Fantastic Four movie oh so long ago…when Chris Evans was “flaming” instead of strutting in blue spandex…well, a different outfit made of blue spandex.

I seriously do not want movie theaters to go the way of the phone booth, people! Let’s not be so damn lazy and careless about this! And, that goes for movie makers, too. You have to either put in the effort or find someone who will. Help out the little people who have grand ideas but little means of making 3D molds of everything and “sitting down” with “big stars” whenever you send a call their way…or their “agent’s” way…or by contacting SHIELD…or however you do it these days.

All right! All right! I know. I just went way off into space, lost track of time and reality, got consumed with stomach-turning thoughts about people in power and haven’t said much about the actual movie…sort of like Captain Marvel’s part in the final “shebang.” Let me see what nuggets of goodness I can pull from this “billion-dollar blockbuster.”

Well… I’ll give it one big point for the final battle. When you hear Chris Evans say, “Avengers…assemble,” you get the second half of some serious, bad-ass clashing. If “Infinity War” didn’t alter what you thought was possible, this movie will. But, then, it’s just one group’s take on the Marvel universe, just like any comic book being re-written by someone who is lucky if they knew the previous writers and artists. [And, how many people have played the Hulk and Spider-Man in the past 20 years?…anyway.] You might have thought it was big news in the previous movies when there were roughly a dozen characters moving across the screen in one slow-motion shot. Well, that’s nothing compared to a few hundred?… at least, it felt like a few hundred tiny little faces moving across the screen…sort of like the big jungle battle in Infinity War…sort of like the old TV days when you could watch the black and white ants fight each other for dominance…….

Sorry. I drifted into space for a moment. ‘Lost track of time, again. I con-tesseract.

If you are one of these “modern” people looking for all the “girl power” and LGBT support you can get, enjoy your in-flight meal. Though, it feels a bit forced. And, for all the growling the women did…I kinda felt they could have been more bad-ass than they were. [I’m really tempted to throw in a few spoilers, here….mainly, because the movie isn’t worth secrecy.]

If you like superheroes being silly…as they have been in other recent Marvel movies…you get plenty of that, too. Yet, some of the “jokes” felt like only some people would find them funny while others just laugh because they thought they were…well, jokes. For instance, I was not one who laughed when Hulk punched his fellow heroes in the first Avengers film. And, why the Hulk would walk a thousand stairs just to be that Hulk that hit you at the front door? I can’t say I laugh at the sight of Chris Evan’s butt…but maybe you do. Although, the Thor makeover was mildly amusing…as was Robert D-J’s little quip about it…until he gets a tad too emotional. [I’d rather watch Mark Hamill get upset about who his father is. When I’d rather watch a Star Wars movie than a Marvel Comics movie, there is something wrong.]

If you like the thought of a two-plus hour game of Three-Card Monty, enjoy the time-travel hijinx. The movie makes repeated references to Back to the Future. [And, to be honest, I’d rather go back and watch THAT movie than this one. As silly as it may have been, Back to the Future roped me in and gave me a good time. Endgame feels more like I was roped and then dragged behind a bus before some outlaw decided to end my life, anyway, with a bullet to the brain, prolonged torture just to reach the anticipated result.]

And, if you reaaaaally wanted to see a different side of or more of Nebula, played by the lovely, wonderful Karen Gillan who had to shave her lovely hair off for this freakin’ part!…you get that, too. I was actually touched by her performance, this time. I almost cried for her…which is kind of sad, considering, the last time I saw her, she was being pulled apart at the circuits. She also gets to pull a nice little……

[My words just turned to dust. Did you see that? Movie magic.]

She disappears for a……

Would you cut that out! Wait. To whom am I speaking?… Hmm.

She sort of gets to be the surprise bomb in the movie. And, truthfully, there should have been more to what was happening because the film kept feeding little bits of power/potential to Thanos…it just never materialized. I consistently felt like I was being handed “red herrings” with a dash of dramatic music; something really bad could have happened…and it didn’t. [Oh-ho-ho! What’s he going to do with that now that he has it? He’s going to get there before they do!] So…why did they put that in there? Just to mess with our heads? In-con-theev-able! Three-Card Monty!

With all of the power the heroes are packing, it astounds me that they could not resolve this “crisis” sooner. Yet, the way Tony Stark pulls it all together, per his usual Marvel-Disney-movie “skill,” seems over-simplified, too. Again, one minute you have it all mapped out…and then you don’t. [But, if we remember Dr. Strange and what happened in the previous film, we ought to grasp how things just have to fall into place, even if they don’t make sense while they are happening in the present moment. If you don’t get it, you just have to see things from a larger perspective, take it from a planetary scale to a universal scale.]

There was a tiny message about even heroes being “human” thrown in one scene, and I get it…or why they said that. Having a hero fail and then have to make up for that failure, that’s decent writing. That puts meat on the bone that otherwise is just…well, Captain Marvel shaking off her shackles and blasting everything out of her way (not to mention claiming she has the duty of overseeing the whole universe!). [As if Thor wasn’t “big” enough as a god of thunder…now we have a woman who absorbed some big supply of cosmic power and delivers justice like a gunslinging goddess while another character collects enough power to act like a god, gives us the impression he might be onto something beyond our comprehension…and then gets swallowed up in “human” greed and lust for having things his way.]

And, on that note, Captain Marvel’s presence in this “final” Avengers film is one component that made me come to my previous conclusion about films being made from hotel rooms and without actors in one space. I just happened to see the lovely Brie Larson in a five-second interview on one of those late-night talk shows. And, she described her first task in a Marvel movie. She wasn’t looking at people. She was looking at tape markers. Tape markers. ‘Bad enough people have to follow tennis balls on sticks to make a scene, now we have bits of tape to pretend are people, people we interact with emotionally…right.

Goodbye, humanity. It’s all going NFL Game Day 3000.

In the few moments she appears in Endgame, Captain Marvel often–if not always–looks a bit cartoon-ish…like she’s not really there…like they just captured Brie making faces and slapped them on video game models. I noticed there were credits for people READING as characters. So, pardon my lack of technical movie-making knowledge, but I am guessing that means people–and not necessarily the actors being portrayed–read lines for parts when the characters were in action and speaking…just not physically doing so. There were people cast to “stand in” for the characters when they weren’t…you know, actually standing in the same room and able to touch each other. [Eew! Superhero cooties!]

Biggest disappointment? That may have been the Hulk, even though I briefly enjoyed Mark appearing like a friendly Shrek, handing out tacos instead of telling everyone to get out of his swamp. He left that task to Thanos, and Thanos dropped the ball. Even when Hulk had a chance to smash, he made light of it. What was the word he used to describe smashing? Anyway. There really wasn’t a moment in the film where I felt like all that Hulk could be did anything. Instead, sort of like is time in Infinity War, he was like Beast from the X-Men…the more intellectual guy who quietly monitors HQ instead of being at the heart of the action, though he’s built like a tank and bigger than most of the cast. And, even at the controls, he was only “human.” [Maybe it wasn’t so smart putting a guy at the controls who screwed up a gamma bomb and turned himself into a “smart monster.”] Which isn’t always a bad thing…but…he’s the Hulk! I mean…come on. You’re hyping this movie about a group of heroes that includes the Hulk…and he’s just going to eat tacos and “chillax” with the “smartphone” crowd? Gee. Thanks, Marvisney…or, Disnevel.

But, it’s okay. Because the other black guy…not the one who got all the press the previous year…the one with the artificial wings…he’s got this. And, the ladies have this. Or…maybe not, considering I just didn’t see any grand result from their part…just a splash-y image for some magazine dying to feature the Marvel women all on one cover for their next issue.

Did I just leak some spoilers? My bad. I’m only human. But, in the grand scheme of things, it won’t matter. Trust me. And, I am not going to tell you who “dies” in the end. [It pissed me off a little. Yet, we all gotta die, sometime; right? And, the Star Wars people; they took out Han…so…low.] But, on that note, everything seems to just be a contract-ual matter. So, can we even watch this and be engrossed in the story?…or do we say, “Oh, right. His contract was up. So, he just had to go. He was on his way to lunch and another gig when he did this scene.” Is that the future of movies? We change the story to fit the salary restrictions or accommodate the actors (and actresses, to be fair) some other way? Is everything going to be about the money it costs/makes and job-interview “shtick” instead of telling a genuine story as it was written?

If you can’t respect the characters and/or the original story, spend a little more time at the drawing board. Not the “smart board” you change by just flicking it with your fingers when you feel “in charge.” Why do I even want to hear about ticket sales or when the DVD deluxe, exclusive content, supreme, diamond, platinum edition comes out in stores? What does any of that matter? [Funding, I’d wager. Find any way you can to put the word “money” into people’s minds, like a subliminal message, so they’ll toss some out a window and hopefully into your film studio which is all falling under one mousy umbrella, one galactic-sized ha-ha empire. You have all the resources in the world and still pump out a story that falls short yet gets all the latest technological show bits.]

I’m perfectly fine just having a copy of the first Robert D-J Iron Man (even if that climax with Pepper fleeing the building and Tony’s “expose” at the end grinded my gears). I’ll do like Tony does in the second Iron Man film, brush away the excess distractions, pick out the best strawberry and find some nugget of hope and inspiration in the project while other actors take over other parts and make “jokes.” [We’re back in production mode, people.] I can live without the rest…which is kind of a mess, when you look over all of it. It’s a bit like some kids starting an elaborate finger-painting project. Well, now who’s going to clean up all the paint? ‘Someone not in view of the camera, clearly.

Maybe, in the enormous amount of time that is five years or so, things will be much better…or worse. Who knows.

I give Avengers: The Next Generation…er, cut…Avengers: Revolution…no, that’s not right…Avengers: Endgame 2 stars out of 5. It has enough content to give you a reason to review the previous films (if you feel like torturing yourself). It packs a few punches and has a few chuckles. It definitely stirs a few tears if you let it. But, in no way does it deserve a passing grade. Infinity War, sadly, was better. It’s just too much of a headache following all of the time hops and listening to the cast quarrel about what’s going to work, what didn’t and what they will do next.

You know? It’s all very complicated…coming up with the theory relativity and that other one about strings faster than Einstein while failing to work the machines properly because you built them… You just wouldn’t understand. I don’t understand it. And, the people who made the movie are not going to take more time trying to explain the science. Even Stan Lee knew very little about actual science.

[Just a heads-up…you don’t have to sit through the credits…unless you want to look at autographs and hear the anvil chorus. There are no surprises–as far as I know–to be seen. Except…where was Elvis ever featured in the movie? The story arc has ended. The cast will now slowly recede into a private world of therapy and texting and wondering if they will keep that tattoo they got to feel like part of a team for eleven years or so, sort of like the cast from the Lord of the Rings movies.]

I don’t like group comic books for a reason. This was one. They tried touching on personal stories but only included a few of the characters in that effort…where was the heart of Black Widow…and Bruce Banner? Why does Thor get such a spotlight?…oh, because the actor playing him works for peanuts–or beer if we believe that–and has all the time in the world, and the other actors don’t. Even Hawkeye is such a joke, he’s a hair-line away from being lumped in with Jar-Jar Binks. Yep. Oh, I’m just kidding…come on, man up. Work those tear ducts. Work ’em. You can cry for your friend.

[By the way, after seeing Hawkeye in a different light, I am seriously wondering, again, why we cannot make a Ninja Gaiden movie even loosely based on the original three NES video games (versus the arcade version which, from what I can recall, didn’t have much of a story). I was feeling the Ryu Hayabusa in this movie! You take the rainy, neon street Hawkeye was on and throw in some of that Black Panther car-chase magic…a bad-ass sorcery-wielding samurai ala the Sith Emperor from the Star Wars films and maybe a CG mystical dragon spirit…and you’ve got one decent, quasi-live-action trailer for an action-packed thrill ride with a Far-East mythical flavor that does not need to be dumbed down just so “the Rock” can shout “Woo!” You might actually have to, you know, talk to someone who knows the video games to work out the whole script…and cast people who authentically fit the parts instead of having some misplaced accent-holder morph him or herself into one more role to up his or her chances at an award that year…but I’m sure you know that, you Sprite slugs.]

Humans just seem incapable of putting a bunch of multi-dimensional, emotionally-involved, active characters together in one scene–not to mention one two-plus hour, big-budget epic–without it looking like a cluttered poster; here are all the He-Man action figures and accessories you could get your parents to buy in a fancy painting. The original artists put these characters together because they wanted to sell more comic books by giving a bit of everyone’s favorite(s) a spot in one book. Some people buy that. I’m not exactly one of them. I’ll watch Charleton Heston ham it up in The Ten Commandments every year at Easter. When will I ever care to sit down and give another hour to Endgame? Not likely ever. That’s like revisiting a funeral just to think about what you failed to say….or who wasn’t there with you.

I like Marvel Team-Ups, better. Iron Man and the latest young Spider-Man…that was decent. It’s a shame if that can’t continue. It’s a shame Stan won’t exactly get to be a part of it, other than in memory and from a hopefully comfortable seat in the spirit-verse.

Make peace and love, not war! And, be…excelsior…to each other. [You could have worked that line in, people! Bill and Ted/Stan Lee reference! Come on, Jon Favreau! Or, Snyder. Or, whatever “replacement” is manning the controls. Another movie reference I just made…huh? Huh? Wait. Who IS manning the controls? Oh, crapping wild stallions. Who left Banner in the control room?]

*Snap!*

18
Mar
19

Captain Marvel, 2019 Movie Review

****

Brie Larson is a dazzling and very youthful ball of fire in the latest installment in the Avengers franchise, Captain Marvel, a story that takes place some time before the previously launched films (since 2008), winking at a variety of nostalgia, including Blockbuster video rental stores, pagers and the infancy of the 1990s’ dial-up internet, as well as nods to movies like Rambo (1982-) and Top Gun (1986). [And, if I am not mistaken, Octopussy, a 1983? film.] Men in Black (1997-) wasn’t explicitly featured, but the whole Agents-of-SHIELD-discovering-aliens-on-Earth concept pretty much touched all of the same bases.

If I just weighed you down with more words about movie history than the stars and highlights of the film, that’s just what my brain was doing. I kept finding myself drifting off–similar to Carol Danvers (Larson) grasping at distorted fragments of memories–thinking about where I might have seen something before, thinking about a particular song and video game of *that time,* wondering why certain enemies were so obvious while others were…not enemies? This is a rather nostalgic movie, like a two-plus hour trip around a flea market with timely songs blaring from tabletop radios on a hot summer day.

Holy Mother Brain, true believers! Can we say live-action Samus Aran? The only thing missing from this Metroid-wannabe was Captain Mar-Vel turning into a ball and bouncing off walls. There is an original GameBoy portable game system in plain sight. And, there is a scene early in the film when “Veers” (a very clever break from Danvers, by the way) is fighting off some Skrulls with some sort of tube-like restraints over her forearms…and they glow just like the varia suit’s blaster-arm-thingy. Not to mention, Brie is practically the perfect young blonde to play Samus…AND the whole story of how she is molded into the Captain Marvel character screams Samus Aran’s origin story. [You might say Brie Larson has “the right stuff” to star in a Metroid movie.]

And, have you ever compared the black-and-yellow Ms. Marvel/Warbird costume with some Samus imagery from Super Metroid? The lightning bolt on the former has a strong resemblance to the S associated with and flashed at the end of the game. [If someone can make a decent-looking Pokemon film that isn’t purely anime, we can make an epic Metroid movie! I’m also itching to work on a Ninja Gaiden movie. Seriously, Nintendo. Get on this. And, sign me up if you want this gaming artist and super fan’s input.]

Kudos to another Stan Lee cameo, but this one was rather sad. I am fairly certain that was just a CG ghost, some…person with dots attached to their face before Stan’s likeness was molded over it (sort of like a Skrull impersonating someone…hmm), with a broken record of a voice clipping. I *did,* however like the opening Stan Lee tribute, the barrage of cameo shots, instead of the usual Marvel-Disney movie opener. As I was watching Stan appear in military uniform, I said to myself, “Now, that’s the real Captain Marvel.”

As a kid, back when a Micronaut named Marionette had plucked the strings of my young heart, I remember looking at the back of some comic book that featured a male Captain Marvel standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a blonde heroine in the same costume; and I wondered who she was. When I found out…and I am pretty sure she was called Ms. Marvel at the time…I was instantly infatuated. [And, wasn’t there a black woman called Captain Marvel who wore a white costume with a golden star on the front?] Years later, I learned she had somehow crossed paths with the X-Men and become a fiery being called Binary, after Rogue had supposedly taken her powers and Carol went through some kind of coma/trauma. When Ms. Marvel adopted the black costume, I was still drawn to her. [Ha.] But, the name Warbird rubbed me the wrong way. I never associated Carol Danvers with any airforce/military unit (didn’t know that history); I just saw her as a beautiful blonde woman who magically donned a superheroine costume that surpassed the whole Krypton family and the DC favorite of so many fans, Wonder Woman (who may have a great figure and glorious dark hair but lacks in costume design, other than working the American imagery into some sort of feminine apparel). [‘Love the mask, long gloves and boots.] So, when Coca-Cola created the Supermom commercials a few years back, you can imagine what came to mind…or who came to mind and what went through my infatuated mind.

Okay, now back to the real, core movie of this review.

The story is nothing new, in terms of superhero origins and alien-invasion tales; aliens walk among us humans, hidden from plain sight. There’s a secret policing group constantly shifting to address, control and/or attack the invaders. And, by some stroke of cosmic luck, one chosen human is blasted into super-stardom, taking out anyone she feels like blasting while we listen to a karaoke bar favorite (before she blasts the jukebox).

Let’s talk about the “bad,” first.

You see a pattern there? A lot of blasting? I totally get the makers of this film were putting all of their marbles into portraying a petite-yet-fierce young woman who can take on the universe. But, there was a fair amount of shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later, not the most intelligent “guardian of the galaxy.” But, maybe we can excuse this, due to her messed-up brain not knowing who to call the enemy.

And, yet, when there is another opportunity to show-off, the heroine chooses to display her ability to heat water. That wrinkled my brow a bit. Why couldn’t she have spared the jukebox and just heated a cup of water to prove her power/point? [Which, by the way, is a lame reason to claim she isn’t an enemy, when the naive Nicholas Fury has no clue what anyone not from Earth could do, anyway.] Why I am concerned about a jukebox? I don’t know. But, so many movies do stupid things to earn “blockbuster” status; it’s as if they fear people won’t laugh or cheer unless you destroy X-number of vehicles and commit Y-amount of property damage, even if you have to drag the women you’re now trying to elevate into the messes. [While some found it amusing to see the Hulk randomly hit his fellow heroes in the first Avengers movie, I thought that was stupid humor.]

Another brow-wrinkler was this Marvel-movie trend’s latest attempt to modernize everything, taking the heroine out of Earth’s picture for a mere six years while giving the SHIELD agents a sort of 1970s appearance/feel to them, as if they were working the Roswell alien case. It’s hard to gauge how emotional people should be after what–to me–feels like a short departure. I don’t know much about Captain/Ms. Marvel (aka Warbird aka Binary), but I would have figured she would be missing, at least, a decade to have any sort of separation tension/confusion upon returning. Friends not seeing each other for six years is like going to different colleges and then meeting up in New York to catch up. It’s not quite the same as Captain America being separated from his beloved Agent Carter by a wartime deep freeze. [I’m just glad they didn’t try to place Captain America’s latest origin story in the Gulf War.] I also wasn’t sure how to feel about “Veers” shifting between being very alien to “planet C-53” one minute and then talking “chummy” with SHIELD agents and a former airforce buddy the next. [Couldn’t she have asked to use a “payphone” or “walkie talkie” or to speak with some former CO if she was only gone a few years? Yet, she can hotwire a video game system to call her team in deep space, like E.T. (1982) phoning home.]

And–spoiler alert–why does “Nicholas Fury” not have a clue sooner about his boss? How can he work with this guy for so long and then suddenly be thrown when the boss calls him a different name in the elevator? [Or, did I miss a body swap somewhere? And, if so, where/when does the real boss disappear?]

Also, Danvers (Larson) brings a hint of a childlike “Disney magic” (which is probably why they cast and molded her into this role, like a Kree) to her part, practically dancing and humming to herself as she flits from scene to scene. She even has a kid help her pick a “new” costume the touch of a button (maaagic). [Her youth is one reason I was skeptical of seeing this movie; I’ve come to know a more seasoned, weathered, alcoholic Carol Danvers from my limited exposure to her in comic books. But, I totally get attracting a younger audience and the potential for starting the story when Carol is still “fresh out of the package.”] If she’s not kicking butt, she’s waltzing around threats. The way she learns to fly seems a tad lame and senseless, when she could have figured it out sooner and/or under different conditions; it’s as if the movie makers just drew the moment out to make people gasp. In short, everything comes a tad easy to one given such cosmic power (not unlike just about any member of the Skywalker family taking out large portions of an enemy army/race). What she chooses to do with the “responsibility” of that power is a bit of a gray area.

[And, as I write this, I am having another one of my strong bouts with deja vu…]

Probably the biggest stink of the film is a combination of its predictability and gray areas. [I had a similar issue with Ant Man and the Wasp, not knowing how to classify the “villain” and, thus, not knowing how to feel about the heroics.] If this was just a reproduction of the genuine origin story, I am okay with that; I’d rather see a comic book come to life than have someone warp the story entirely and have fans wondering what happened to their beloved heroine. But, other than some questionable actions taken, the “gray” villains and one small…er, big…creature feature, I kinda saw what was coming, even without knowing all of the origin story’s details.

I wasn’t as dazzled by the fight scenes and big explosions as I was by Brie’s lovely, glowing face. [And, she doesn’t need cosmic power or CG fire in her already fiery eyes to glow, either. Me-Yow.] There was no one who could truly stand up to Captain Marvel; “they” tried to restrain her, but that fell flat/short before there was nothing but fluffy fireworks. [There’s no Red Skull to counter the Captain. Or, if there is, he’s no Red Skull. Heh.]

While, yes, there was a slight surprise regarding who to call the enemy (when I think about who has been an enemy in a number of Marvel Comics projects), one particular actor–whose name I won’t mention though he is PERPETUALLY cast as the sneaky villain–could not hide his true intentions/nature from the start. And, that is a casting shame. I don’t like seeing actors pigeon-holed (type-cast) this way. But, honestly, casting agency, try a little harder when picking someone who masks his allegiance. The guy might be willing to take every gig he can get; but come on!

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing–if Carol’s history only needed to be a photograph–but…was there any airforce content other than images of pilots in various outfits and that repeating boot camp scene? I am asking this solely because I saw some promotional snippet that featured Brie riding in a fighter jet, as if she was doing some serious character research. But, now I am thinking that was just Marilyn Monroe visiting the boys at the air base. There was more airforce content in the 2008 Iron Man film. I don’t recall even an ounce of pilot terminology; I might have blacked out when they were playing the recording from the “black box.” So…was this some subtle promotion for women to enlist in the armed forces? Yvan eht nioj? [I tend to look at these things the way Carol looks at Maria’s neighbor in the movie.]

And, the good?

I think the best part of this movie is a combination of artistry and Brie’s fiery expressions (her “heart”). [Though, I felt she could have benefitted from a few more ounces of emotional “oomph.” Sure, people messed with her head and put restraints on her; but she wasn’t a slave. I never saw her take any serious punishment. All of her “struggle” was kind of a brief blur.]

This is a well-composed film, in terms of costume/wardrobe, music, special effects and background (back story). The Captain Marvel costume–aside from the odd mohawk factor they tried to salvage from the comic’s history…and the do-everything-including-short-circuiting wrist computer–was stylish and not so far-fetched that you had to wonder how it came to be. And, “grunge”/”Top Gun” fighter pilot Carol Danvers isn’t hard on the eyes, either. [She’s like Elisabeth Shue in Adventures in Babysitting (1987).] There was a decent story for most aspects of the main character, including her name…er, namesss. [The dog-tag bits were especially slick.] The overall feel of the movie’s nostalgia and composition is good, similar to how I felt about Black Panther’s soundtrack keeping me grooving throughout the movie…and how the second Guardians of the Galaxy made me want to dig out an old audio cassette player and dance to disco music.

[One costume detail I somewhat missed was the Ms. Marvel scarf/sash (though I realize there is a new Middle Eastern and teenage Miss Marvel now who has a very clever ethnic scarf as part of her costume). And, seeing the little girl give a pilot jacket back to Carol, I was thinking…why couldn’t the girl give Carol a scarf she made for good luck and have that be the origin of the scarf/sash. Or, the scarf could have belonged to Annette Bening’s character.]

There’s a good amount of sci-fi action. But, this is not a Jack Kirby epic, a man known for putting the “wallop” in cosmic superhero comics like Thor and Silver Surfer. Certain camera angles/shots could have been more dynamic. A few more shots of nebulas, stars and planets might have brought the artistry up a notch and impressed me the way the rainbow bridges did in the first Thor film.

So, while, looking back, I feel the deck is stacked against this film…and I am slightly toting a grudge against Disney for having anything to do with Marvel Comics…I cannot say Captain Marvel is a bad addition to the current string of S.L.J. (Samuel L. Jackson as Fury) movies. I would watch it, again, but, probably, just because I am so partial to Brie Larson. [It’s a crutch.]

A major–minor spoiler alert–question: Why is Earth where the Kree think they can create a machine to stop a war? [Was the time-and-space cube-thingy, the “tesseract,” already on Earth when the Kree first landed; did they come expecting to find/use it? And, refresh my memory, how many “infinity stones” have been found on Earth…and why all on one planet we know? And, what is the origin of the tesseract (which contains a secret from another movie in this series); how did it become a cube?]

Captain Marvel doesn’t wow or amuse me as much as Robert Downey, Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark/Iron Man, but is it any worse than seeing “Pepper” escape an exploding reactor as Iron Man faces his nemesis? No. [Or, wait, is the current audience too young to remember 2008? Ya never know, these days.]

On that note, DO NOT show little ones this film. This may be made by Disney (and what’s left of Marvel Studios)…and it may be light on responsibility… but…well…you know what some say about watching Bambi. I had some tots in the audience with me, and they could not contain their emotions during a few brief intense moments, as if they knew the violence was/felt wrong. You need to be, at least, a teenager to go on this ride. And, even a teenager is likely to feel lost unless an adult who has lived the 1990s can fill them in on some details. It’s crazy to me when I try to think of explaining the 1990s the way I’d want my grandparents to explain the WWI and/or WWII days.

I give Captain Marvel (2019) 3 out of 5 stars and will let it slide as a rental because there isn’t anything that requires the big screen (unless there are small details that might have otherwise been…that I might have…missed). [I don’t care what Jimmy Fallon says about every film released in 3D; it’s clearly not worth it in this one.] It doesn’t grab me like Spider-Man swinging across New York City to save M.J. (back when MJ was a vibrant redhead who purred when she called Peter Parker “Tiger”); but it’s enough to keep me buzzing and smiling…most of the time. Two of those three stars go to Brie Larson’s eyes…or, rather, they were always there. The third is on her costume.

If you feel like taking a leisurely (versus engrossing) road trip through the 1980s and 1990s…or if you’re only happy when it rains…give Captain Marvel a try. And, if Brie can’t put a smile on your face, blame the film makers.

16
Nov
18

Stan Lee What?? Died? Not So Excelsior.

****

Just a quick note on the passing of who might be one of the biggest sources of inspiration to my childhood and adult life, not as any example of a stellar human being, because, even though I’ve seen videos about the guy and featuring the guy speaking his mind about everything from comic books to diseases you could get as a soldier (for which he had to make some kind of flyers and/or comics in his younger adult days), I didn’t feel as if I knew the real person very well.  I felt as if he was always “on” pitching and promoting something, no matter how many actors played Spider-Man in different “trilogies.”

But, as a creative and hard-working person who spawned so many characters into the Marvel and its previous form’s universe, all of which, as I understand it, is somehow in the possession of the Disney empire?  [But, I could be wrong.]  …He was somewhat rare and special, even if some of his creations were on the creepy side (and thus avoided by me).

Stan?  You will be missed but, not likely, forgotten.  I have no grand speeches or colorful tributes at this time.  In fact, I feel quite flat about your passing.  Death.  It’s inevitable.  People are coming and going like the seasons.  It just becomes more “functional” as I get older to look at it without much emotion, even if emotions erupt uncontrollably as if part of human nature.  I just wish things were different before you had to go.

I will say this…

Hopefully, you get the chance to reconnect with Kirby “up there” and make some cool images in the sky, ya know, with the clouds.  Sky artists.  Just imagine.  Now, that is “excelsior” worthy.

Oh, look.  I found some tears, after all.  I guess…it’s sobbing time.  [A lil Thing poke, there.]

I’ll cherish so many movie cameos and the old comics as long as they last.

mockbutterfingerad_stanleegivesfinger_purple2

This I made when talks of selling to Disney were happening.  And then, I laughed when he made his cameo in Ant Man and the Wasp, claiming he’s paying for his previous decisions from the 60’s (or his 60’s).

antmanandthewasp-quote-andthensome_stanleegivesfinger_purple3

Feel free to share your thoughts on the Man (Stan) and any of his creations you enjoy(ed).

 

12
Jul
18

Ant Man and the Wasp, Movie Review

***

Paul Rudd reprises his role as Scott Lang (aka the new Ant Man), the mild-mannered, I’m-okay-with-trying-anything thief-turned-hero, bringing along the lovely Evangeline Lilly, aka Hope van Dyne, daughter of Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne (the “original” Ant-Man and Wasp), as someone better and more fierce than the average sidekick in…wait for it…Ant-Man and the Wasp.  [So original.]  Taking place after his incarceration in Captain America:  Civil War, the sequel to the origin story introduces Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Bill Foster, a “former” colleague of Hank Pym’s who has some “super” history of his own and a…wait for it…”foster child” nicknamed Ghost, another victim of malfunctioning technology beyond human comprehension who suffers pain from phasing between dimensions.  The focus of the story is divided between saving Hank’s wife (Janet) from a very exclusive universe (like the tiniest nightclub overrun with blobs and parasites) and dealing with a “ghost” haplessly tied to the odd family’s tree, who could spoil everything if she doesn’t control her temper.

Anyone who has seen a trailer or commercial already has a clue to this Ghost being some kind of enemy to the heroes.  But, I’m here to tell you this film’s villain element is a tad weak by comparison to other Marvel hero films.  In fact, that is the one and only aspect that disappoints me.  I think Ghost–which reminds me of another comic book character by that name with a darker story–is more of a sub-plot than a villain.  And, where there was suggestion of another villain, that character or army never came.

[The first Ant Man film had a far better enemy (though he reminded me SO much of the Iron Monger in the first Robert Downey, Jr. Iron Man film).  There were touches of Hydra and other villainy probing the plot.  Yet, a lack of details made the whole a big foggy.  At least, the transitions from the first Ant Man to Civil War to this sequel sort of come into clarity, and the cast didn’t radically change.]

However, the film is saved by its staples.  Rudd is, once more, the sappy sweetheart and goofball, this time under government watch for a set number of years, counting down to his final day.  His character builds one awesome playhouse for his daughter.  Evangeline Lilly kicks more butt than necessary, racking up some serious “girl power” votes, LIKES or whatever you want to use to promote “women empowerment,” including turning an otherwise male character into a girl.  [SO much gender swapping, these days.]  I think she kicks more butt in this film than she did in the Hobbit story.  Michael Pena (Luis) is a riot with his unique story-telling skills.  [I think it would be a wild bonus feature ride to have an entire 30+ minute short film (if not a 1+ hr feature film) of him telling a reaaaaally long story that encompasses the rest of the cast explaining something either entirely unimportant or vital to the Marvel universe.]

Newcomer to the cast, Michelle Pfeiffer makes an enchanting Janet van Dyne, though she’s nothing like the Wasp I expected to see.  [Granted, she has aged quite a bit and become “something more.”]  Walter Goggins makes a very interesting and sinister impression as a shady businessman with contacts left unknown.  [I smell a Hydra.]

There is plenty of material here for a few films.  It just doesn’t get adequately put to use.  It’s like looking in a warehouse full of goodies you can see being turned into something bigger/better but letting the bright ideas drift to the back of your brain.  Instead, you just go along for the ride, get pumped to fight, endure a little pent up pain and frustration and laugh at a number of sight gags.

Hidden somewhere in the warehouse is some explanation for why Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne were not adequately featured in the company of Captain America.  At least, I think their heroics are from his original wartime.  If they are technically the original Avengers, where is that story?  The new Marvel universe has sort of thrown characters out of sync.  Why are Iron Man and Hulk decidedly modern compared to Ant-Man?  Isn’t it just as strange having a suit from the nineteen-teens or nineteen-forties sit around til some new guy, who happens to be a reforming thief, is given permission to take it?

Maybe if we give the aging Hank Pym a memory pill he will fill us in on all of the missing pieces.

I give Ant Man and the Wasp 3.5 stars out of 5.  It has 4+ stars of comedy, even if some is a tad corny and/or senseless.  It has 4+ stars of butt-kicking action and dangerous situations.  But, the glossy blur of technological mumbo jumbo and lackluster crisis/villain element waters down an otherwise epic adventure.  Like any movie with sight gags and related special effects, it’s probably more thrilling on the big screen.  But, you can plunk on the couch and let the time tick off your house arrest anklet while rolling with laughter.

And, don’t forget Stan Lee, true believers.  He makes a rather Excelsior! cameo, this time, claiming he is paying for something after enjoying the ’60s.  I think he’s referring to selling out to Disney.  But, that’s just between you and me.

 

17
Dec
15

What Sells a Certain Sci-Fi Franchise?

*****

If I mention a certain series of sci-fi films that have literally canvassed the globe in heaps of stuff, you might get excited.  [Please, don’t wet yourself…or me.]  Or, you might complain how everyone else seems excited but you.  Some of you may be a little divided.  And, rightly so.  I am, too.

And, as another tide of the hype hits me from television media, I ask myself…what sells the movies?

1- Is it the story? 

What IS the story?  How much of a plot is there?  And, how much is just visual fluff and audio hypnosis?

If I give it serious thought, stripping away the sounds and light shows, I am not sure there is much of a story.  At least, it’s not very deep in detail.  I might have to put on reading glasses to find a plot.  It’s more like a slide show of a war in progress with some splashes of stopping to gab or clash with peers.  More “Hold onto your seat!” and “Great shot, kid!” than “We’re family?”

When a film ends, we think there was a story because it all flowed with the wash transition effects.  If there’s anything that confuses us, we dismiss it in favor of the colorful pictures imprinted in our retinas.  I know I walk away asking more questions than I have answers.  And, if the new director’s other notable TV project with a title of four letters says anything about his future projects, I can expect more of the same, becoming LOST in the fantasy imagery and flashes of emotion.

If there’s one grain of serious story in the films, it has to be the father-son relationship and the impact of genetics/evolution upon life.  There’s also the rise of good and bad powers in deceptive clothing and the occasional changing of sides.  So, there is some story…but it might be like chunks of cereal floating in a sea of milky spectacle and merchandise.  [More on the latter later.]

2- Is it the acting, the cast? 

Can I really say any actor stands out for a stellar performance?  Well, I can think of two actors in the films that stand out for me.  One hated how she was “forced” to look.  As a little green puppet would say, “Bad costumes lead to anger.  Anger leads to hatred.  Hatred leads to drunken and verbally explosive behavior laced with expletives.”

The other, a male secondary character/actor, has had more films with meatier parts and gone through some small changes over the decades.  In some ways, he should have been the lead.  But, not if it meant he had to be a whiny youth with all the luck…except for losing limbs and turning evil.  [“Stop whining, already!  Don’t make me turn this spaceship around, mister!  No one’s destroying an empire today with that attitude!”]   Then, I guess, being second billing isn’t all bad.  I might even prefer to be a chatty orange creature with big, flapping ears in Goofy clothing.  [That’s right.  That annoying chatterbox was a pre-Disney takeover Goofy wannabe.]

There are some serious creature haters out there.  Some question the use of little people in teddy bear costumes.  I call those audience assemblers.  The films broaden the audience base by changing the original conceptions for the story.  A slasher samurai story becomes a dazzling display of both serious and silly characters.  It’s a Muppet show!  Everyone can come…even if you are too young to process the heavy stuff.  Bring the family!  Buy more tickets!  Spend more on snacks to appease the restless ones!

3-Is it the music/sound effects? 

A very likely possibility.  There is definitely a sound buffet that dazzled ears when they first heard it.  Thank the orchestra and sound effect technicians.  There are iconic sounds that people will echo when the titles come to mind.  So, that much sticks with many if not most viewers.  You might pay twice to hear them, again.  [Or, you could seek the purchase of a soundtrack.]

4-Is it the visuals, the special effects and cinematography?

As I like to say, if you have the resources, anything is possible.  We’ve already highlighted the orchestra which could get pricey.  What does it cost to film on lavishly decorated sets, create countless models and mold goofy yet innovative costumes?  How much does a growing, glowing light sword cost?  Could someone with less or more money have done the same or better?

5-Is it the merchandising?

Well, you tell me.  How much of the “stuff” have you already bought?  How much do you enjoy it?  And, how much sits on a shelf, hoping to not get scratched, dinged or dusty?  I worry about those who feel the need to collect nearly everything if not everything ever made for a film.

There has been WAY too much merchandising for the latest installment.  I cannot express that enough.  It’s sick.  It does not bode well for the environment nor mental health.  What it DOES do well is guarantee more kids will have plenty and not go “starving” for what another kid has.  It spares envy and jealousy.  But, does every kid really need a stiff plastic replica of a guy supposed to be the most evil thing in the universe?…at least, until someone replaces him.

But, if merchandising blindsides the story, what sense is that?  If you care more about the stuff because you saw it displayed in a commercial window.  Look, I have the guy on the screen!  Are you really enjoying the stories/films or clinging to material things?  Shouldn’t the story sell itself?  Aren’t there other films you like as much that have no toys to go with them?  Aren’t you just as happy without the stuff?

So, even if merchandise boosts ticket sales, it seems excessive and misdirecting.  It smells like people trying to milk something for all it’s not even worth instead of being content with smiles for a good show.  I guess there’s nothing wrong with getting a sale while the selling is good…until I think of all the packaging and impulse/erroneous holiday shopping that leads to second-hand and dumpster madness.  When is enough enough?   And, what monstrous behavior are we encouraging with all this production?

[And, let me just say this.  It’s probably the merchandising that bothers me most of all.  It may be the reason I feel compelled to write such a post.  That and one empire swallowing another just to become more ridiculous.  The films write the story of their own demise.]

6-Is it the “hype?”

I think that’s obvious.  I like how an article I recently read puts it.  Empty interviews with people who have not even seen the film(s).  Let’s get the cast on camera as much as possible with people who have no clue to promote, package, sell it every way possible until all parties are puking swag and over-tired….until everyone looks at what should be a delight as just another job in which we augment our bodies to fit a part for someone’s amusement.

Who is amused?  Not those who make the films other than the few golden moments of fan appreciation that get washed away by financial dealings and the next project on a star’s radar.  How many actors actually see their own films…and like them?  “Thanks, everyone, but I need to focus on changing my body for the next role…I DO have another role coming up; don’t I?   Where’s my agent?  Don’t pigeonhole me.  Send money.”  How many ways or times can an actor be asked how a film “changed their lives” or “changed the world” with some bleached smile in their face?  How many B.S. answers must be given on camera to appease the masses that are driven by hype-mongers?

MOOOO-vies!  Get along, lil couch potatoes!  Yah!  Buy more stuff!  Throw it away and buy even more!  Yah!  Then, it’s onto the next one.  Yah!   So what if you have ten thousand little people in white suits of plastic armor, some missing limbs or burnt to a crisp because you felt you had the luxury to torture the excessive supply in your play room.  [That’s right.  I veered back toward merchandising.  Because it’s everywhere.]

So, in conclusion, yea, I will likely see the latest film.  But, I won’t fully enjoy it because I am so frustrated with the negative points.  I might have been a more loyal fan if the leads in the films didn’t annoy me so much and if there wasn’t such competition over the old stuff and excess of the new…which looks a lot like the old.  You can paint a soldier a dozen different ways.  But, he still smells the same.  New packaging, same product.  Still…well, you decide if its a winner or a loser.

May good conscience and judgement be with you.  With tremendous power comes tremendous concern for how one uses it.

[Damn it, Stan!  Why did you have to sell your empire off to Disney?   There.  I said it.]

 




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