Non-Spoiler Review: Ant Man and the Wasp

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I took my wife and grandson to Ant Man and the Wasp.  I was nervous, given the last superhero movie I took him to was Infinity War and it bothered him for weeks.  I was hoping for something a little lighter than the last Avengers film – and this new movie didn’t fail me.

First off, the title should be Wasp and the Ant Man – because it is all about the Hope van Dyne character.  She has as much, if not more action than Paul Rudd’s Ant Man.  The story picks up in the post-Civil War era with Scott under house arrest and Hank Pym and Hope on the run because he used their tech.

Hank is on the search for his missing wife, trapped in the quantum realm.  They need Scott Lang and in many ways, Scott needs them.  That’s all you really need to know without ruining the film.

There’s a lot of undercurrent here – a decent villain or two with their own sub-plots that add complexities to the main story line.  What makes this movie work is that humor.  I heard my wife and grandson laugh several times in the film, especially at the character Luis who is PERFECT in this role.  Given the gravity of the last Avenger’s film, this movie was fantastic.

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Easily my favorite character in the film.  

The special effects were very good, probably with the exception of the quantum realm.  That wasn’t a big part of the movie really.

Watch for the 1970’s Hot Wheels carrier (which we all had as kids from that era).  There’s a lot of action in this movie, a decent plot, and wonderful characters.  Hope as the Wasp is a solid female that could do a film all on her own.

Yes, there is a post-credits scene.  I won’t ruin it for you, but you need to see Infinity War first for it to make sense.

I’m giving this 4.5 out of 5 stars.  My wife, who often sleeps during movies, was awake and enjoyed the movie – which speaks volumes.

 

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A Spoiler-Free Review of Solo – A Star Wars Story

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“Look Khaleesi, a dragon!”  

I was hoping this was going to be a good, solid, standalone film – one that would explore a period of the Star Wars universe that we don’t have a lot of information on.  If it was done well, the story would be solid on its own.  I was a little disappointed in this perspective.

Think of it this way, was Black Panther a good movie, even if he was not part of the greater Marvel cinematic universe?  Yes.  All on its own, the film was good.  Even if no other Marvel movies existed, Black Panther (and Ant-Man, and others) would have stood on their own.  The fact they are part of a bigger franchise makes them more awesome, but they are not dependent on that.

This is not the case with Solo.  It is a film that seems to strive to fill a few gaps in young Han Solo’s life with scant details buried in dialogue.  We get the whole Kessel Run parsec thing explained – we see the first meeting between Chewie and Han.  We get the Millennium Falcon and Lando.  Those things were great to have as parts of a much bigger story that could stand on its own.  This does not.  It is hooked on the Star Wars mythos to the point where it is a series of Easter Eggs that are masterfully strung together into a good story…not a great story, but a good one.  If there were no other Star Wars films, would this film have been as good?  No way.

The acting was solid.  There’s a lot of subplots happening in this film, which is great.  Emelia Clarke has ensured that she can live well off of the geek convention circuit – between Star Wars and Game of Thrones.  Her acting was clearly the best of the film followed by Woodie Harellson.

Some good characters were introduced – like Lando’s droid.  I wish we could have gotten more of her, but what we got saved the middle of this movie for me.

The Easter Eggs are there for those of us that have been with the franchise since the beginning, and they are there aplenty.  There’s a surprise cameo in the film too and it was awesome and unexpected.  My grandson loved it too.  The movie ended with plenty of room for a sequel…don’t they all?

There’s a couple of plot holes in this movie, some kludgy writing at times, but nothing horrific.

I give this film a three out of five stars.  It didn’t stand alone and I think would have been a lot better if it had.  I appreciate the candy for the true fans.  Bottom line, if you like Star Wars movies you probably will like this one.  We could have loved it though.  Disney continues to print more money by making these movies.

Non-Spoiler Review of Avengers – Infinity War

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I took my grandson to see this in IMAX-3D because I have waited almost a decade for this.  That’s right, Ironman released in May of 2008, starting us on this rollercoaster ride of films leading to this moment. My expectations were high.  But like riding a rollercoaster for the first time, nothing can quite compare you for the parts of the ride you can’t see from the line.

Marvel Studios faced a daunting task…how do you bring together the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and all of the secondary characters together into something that is big and somehow cohesive?  They pull it off with this film, with style and in ways we never could have anticipated.

Having said that, not every character gets a chance to shine the way you might hope. If they did that this would be six hours long.  The interplay between the egos of Dr. Strange and Tony Stark is brilliantly written.  Thor emerges as one of the true superheroes of the Marvel universe.  I actually cheered out loud when he arrives on the battlefield, announced by Bruce Banner.

Some of our heroes aren’t there.  Ant-Man and Hawkeye are on the sidelines…for now.

There are parts of this film that will tear at you.  Thanos is out after the Infinity Stones.  All roads have led to this confrontation.  They can’t just take him down in a single confrontation; that would have been unfulfilling.  Having said that nothing can prepare you emotionally for the final scenes of this movie.

There are some stunning surprises and character/villain returns.  I won’t ruin it for you, but I have been waiting for this one character to return for years now.

My grandson did not like the end of the movie, which I understand from an eight-year-olds perspective.  I saw measures of brilliance in it.  Marvel is setting up the next phase, and have done so masterfully.  Thanos is the big baddy and to simply make his defeat unfold in 2.5 hours in some straight-up battle would have likely disappointed me.  Yes, I understand the criticisms about the end of the movie, but I saw something in it that made the antagonist even more dangerous and deadly.

There is one post-credit scene that is awesome, because it tells you where this is going.  I cannot say more without ruining this for you.  If you don’t get it, Google the upcoming Marvel films and you will.  The last word spoken in the film was perfectly done.

This is not your typical superhero film – it is much more.  It wipes you out emotionally.  Where you might have been thinking that this the end of the rollercoaster ride, you come to the realization that there are more hills, twists and turns to come.  Bravo Marvel.  Five out of five stars.

Now I need to console my grandson until next year…or until AntMan and Wasp…

Non-Spoiler Review: Star Wars – The Last Jedi

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Often times the second movie in a series is better than the first.  Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan or the Empire Strikes Back are good examples.  These films were so great they set expectations for The Last Jedi in the back of my mind.  There were questions I wanted answered, like why is Kylo Ren such a douchebag?  Who were Ren’s parents (not that it really matters)?  What went down between Kylo and Luke?

I got most of the answers but I’m not sure I liked them.  Having said that, don’t kid yourself, this film is no Empire Strikes Back.

It’s a good film.  I went with my mother, my daughter, and my grandson (four generations) and we all enjoyed the movie, we got our money’s worth.

On the positive side, we learn a lot more about Kylo Ren which made his character a little more interesting.  We learned why Luke went to some island off of Ireland for years.  This film had some moments that were priceless and will be noted as classics in the mythos of Star Wars.  I refuse to ruin those moments for you, but you will know them when you see them.  Most of the main characters grew in this film, they evolved, and most were for the better.  There are moments that tug at your heartstrings as well especially at the end.  On top of that, it was not easy seeing Carrie Fisher in her last role before her death.

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“No, I do not want a copy of the Watchtower…”

Also there were some twists that I didn’t see coming, especially with the Supreme Leader. I like it when a film seduces me then turns that emotion against me.

There were some moments that were downright funny as well.  We needed that.  Han Solo often provided us with those moments in previous films and The Last Jedi did a good job of filling that gap.

On the dark side, there were parts of this film that were over-plotted and unnecessary.  Even during the film I found myself saying, “This whole subplot makes no sense.” You’ll spot it too, I assure you.  It is 15 minutes of your life that has zero impact on the film.

I felt that some of Luke’s actions were very un-Jedi and out of character.  He’s not exactly the kind of uncle you leave your nephew with and that bothered me deeply.   Why the writer’s felt the need to twist this part of his character, a man that turned Darth Vadar, will be the subject of internet debate for years to come.

I disliked Laura Dern’s Admiral Holdo character; from her dialogue down to her bad dye job.    What’s with the dress, did we pull you from some sort of cocktail party?  You’re an admiral, wear something uniform-ish.  And the parallels between her name and Hodor from Game of Thrones is a bit too much for me.  Try this Ms. Dern – act like a military officer.  Her interactions with Poe were clearly written to make her a strong feminist character against a biased male pilot. I hate when Hollywood interjects politics into a film just because they feel entitled to.  There were other political overtones interjected as well, but I won’t dwell on those.

This is not the best of the new generation Star Wars films and ranks behind Rogue One and The Force Awakens.  Bear in mind, that is not a bad thing, since all of these movies are very strong.  It doesn’t suck like Phantom Menace – which is something in its favor. It is a good film that could have been great.

Ultimately Disney continues to print money producing these movies and I would have paid double to see this film and loved it no more or less.  Unlike Rogue One, I don’t find myself wanting to rush back to see it again.

Review of Justice League – Spoiler Alert

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I will attempt to keep the spoilers to a minimum but consider this fair warning.

I came into this film with two frames of mind.  First, I have waited my entire life (five decades-plus) to see a good Justice League film.  I am a child of the Silver Age of comics and everyone has wanted to see all of the DC heroes on the screen at once.  It was going to be hard for any film to live up to a lifetime of internal hype and hope.

My second mindset was that I dislike the whole Zack Synder take on the DC universe. I didn’t love Man of Steel and it took a few viewings of Batman vs Superman to fully appreciate it.

So that I had perspective, I viewed the film with my daughter and grandson who also had a lifetime of waiting to see these characters on the screen.  Three generations of us, mentally braced with the acceptance that we may not like it.

We loved it.  We really did.  I know that will make some fanboys whine, but all that matters is that we enjoyed the film.  Heck, I might go again.

The things that made this movie good was a relatively simple plot (one of the many failings in Batman vs Superman).  The story was simple. The heroes were true to form and everyone got good airtime.  I think that Ben Affleck is outstanding as Batman – perhaps one of the best casting decisions ever. Gal Gadot IS Wonder Woman.

Things I enjoyed:

  • They made Aquaman cool.  It’s hard to believe, but true.
  • The movie didn’t dwell on origin stories so that the pacing was good.
  • The interplay between Batman and Wonder Woman was good, very true to their characters.
  • There were moments of humor that were unexpected and good – like Aquaman sitting on the lasso of truth.
  • Nothing beat that moment when the Flash was running past Superman and the Supes turned and tracked him.  Yeah, he’s that fast Barry.
  • The post credit scenes honored us Silver Age/Silver Hair crowd and took us in a new direction other than some grim Darkseid plotline which seemed to be the previous course. The first post-credits scene made the movie for me, the icing on the cake.
  • Superman smiled and even laughed.  Gone was Syderian-era of the grim and brooding Man of Steel.

Things I’m on the fence about:

  • Steppenwolf.  I’ve been reading comics for a long time and I didn’t recognize this villain – which was embarrassing. You would have thought that with the pantheon of characters, they could have come up with someone more recognizable to the masses.
  • This was not the Barry Allen or the Flash I knew or wanted to see in film.  Don’t get me wrong, he worked perfectly as a comic relief in the film, fitting into the ensemble well, but he wasn’t quite the Flash I had been hoping for.  I was torn between my expectations for the character and how well he was portrayed in the film. I didn’t hate this Flash, but I didn’t love him.
  • The producers seem unconcerned with the fact that most of these characters have their secret identities compromised.  Even Lois yelling, “Clark!” to Superman with the police on the ground seemed a little weird. Perhaps that is all intentional…hmm…

So, is it worth seeing?  Yes!  Who would have thought that 2017 would have given us two great DC films?  Perhaps this is a sign of things to come.

Spoiler Free Review of Thor Ragnarok

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If you don’t know from my previous blog posts, I’ll fill you in.  I am a comic book junkie.  This era of superhero movies is something that I have waited for my entire lifetime.  Geekiness has become accepted. It is my era.

I actually read the current Thor comic, despite its heavy political and social overtones.  I didn’t come into this movie with big expectations.  The trailers showed the Hulk and Loki, so I knew there was some potential for good stuff here.  The post-credit scene from Dr. Strange proves to be well-thought out and incorporates perfectly into this film.  Kudos to the writers!

Thor Ragnarok is the story of a boy growing to manhood, coping with his father’s past and fate.  It is the story of an awesome warrior seeking redemption.  It is the story of the boy’s wacky brother who is both hero and villain, often in the same scene. It is the story of an abused child with a wee-bit of homicidal rage in her makeup – who seeks to relive her glory days.  That is as much as I will say about the plot.

The humor and even some of the visual effects harken from Guardians of the Galaxy II. I found myself chuckling throughout the film, which makes this a departure from previous Thor outings.  It’s not just insider humor either.  My wife, who is not a fan of superhero movies, laughed throughout the movie.  The fact that she stayed awake during the entire film speaks volumes.

From a writer’s perspective, we see some real development and growth the characters.  The Hulk, who we rarely get more than a few words from, gets a fair amount of screen time and is fun. There are some scenes that harken back to the Avengers when Thor, Loki, and Hulk tangled that are fun.

I was on the fence with Jeff Goldbloom’s character until the second (yes there are two) post-credit scenes.

Marvel gets one thing – start with solid writing and you can produce a great, sometimes epic, film.  Frankly, they are just printing money….money that I am more than willing to hand them if they keep the quality up.

In a season where Hollywood has wallowed in the mire of scandal after scandal, and has produced films that were marginal at best – this movie is outstanding.  It was funny, had plenty of action, and a solid storyline.  A rip-roaring good time with a great choice of battle music.

I give it five out of five stars.

Spoiler Free Review of Spider-Man Homecoming

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The big question out there with geeky fans such as myself was whether Sony could work with Marvel to integrate Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinema universe.  Also looming like a shadow over the Spider-Man franchise was whether the first new Spider-Man movie would be able to stand on its own given its predecessors.  We all wondered what direction it might take.  How would this reboot work?

I’m happy to say that this was a fantastic film.

From the opening during the Marvel credits when they played the Spider-Man cartoon theme song, this is a well crafted story that stands completely on its own.

We didn’t get a whole origin story – thank God.  We all know it anyway.  Radioactive spider bites kid, he gets powers.  In a remarkable move, we didn’t get dragged through that in his film.  Instead this film focuses on a solid plot and characters.

I was concerned with the trailers and the emphasis on Iron Man/Tony Stark.  I was concerned that this would be Iron Man 4 rather than Spider-Man 1.  I was not disappointed in the least.  This was a movie where the supporting cast (Ned and Happy) really help add to the mythos of Spider-Man.  We got just enough Stark in this film, and in all the right way.  A man that is aging, coming to grips with the fact that his recruitment of 14 year old Peter Parker in Civil War put the young man at deadly risk.

The performance of Michael Keaton as the Vulture was great as well.  He plays a great villain who starts out in an almost Breaking Bad formula – being bad for good reasons.  That devolves as the character changes.

This movie is all about characters growing and evolving.  It is a fun romp in the Marvel universe.  We have a new Spider-Man for the new generation.  I took my young grandson to the movie and his take was that the movie was great, but they almost used a bad word at the end.  I wouldn’t say it is for every kid, but we had a blast.

Five out of five stars.  Go see this film!