Non-Spoiler Review of Star Trek Beyond

Just a wee scratch
Yeah – that’s not going to buff out…

Disclaimer – I’m a Treker…always have been, always will be.  This new film is the third in the rebooted Star Trek universe and I was looking forward to it. I was not disappointed.

The movie finds the crew of the USS Enterprise in the middle of their five year mission and feeling the loneliness in the vastness of deep space.  Some relationships are strained.  Others are more solid than ever. You get a sense that these characters have been through a lot together – beyond the films.

The plot is solid.  This is not about starship combat – it is about loyalty, commitment, and honor.  The writing is almost perfect.  Bones and Spock have some wonderful one-liners between the two of them.  There was a lot of different pairing that takes place in this film that we haven’t seen before in a Star Trek film.  That made it neat and fun to watch.

I was not a big fan of the action/fighting scenes.  The way some were filmed I lost track of who was hitting whom because of camera angles and jostling.  It is a very minor nit to what is a top-notch film.

What I really like is this film stands on its own. It is not a sequel as much as a continuation of the story.  They incorporated the death of Leonard Nimoy perfectly, making it a key plot point in the film.  There’s even a homage to the original series of movies here with a single photo that says more than any dialogue in the movie.

I particularly liked the fact we saw an NX class starship here – albeit a precursor to TV’s Enterprise series.   I know a lot of people hated Enterprise, but I have come to like it quite a bit and this nod to that era was well done.

We got a new character, Jaylah, who was awesome as well.  I was a little disappointed that we didn’t see Dr. Marcus still with the crew – nor did we learn her fate.  Again, such a minor nit that it hardly is worth mentioning.

All of the internet hype about Sulu being “Openly gay” in the film was, for the most part, inconsequential.  In fact, if it hadn’t been for the hype I probably would have missed it entirely.  The internet breeds cynicism.  It turned out to be a big non-moment in the film.  Stupid internet trolls…

Overall, I give Star Trek Beyond a solid five stars.  A great film for a hot summer weekend.

Non-Spoiler Review of Ghostbusters

Jillian
Reminds me of my help desk days…

With all due respect (none) for the internet trolls that panned this movie based on its first trailer, I actually enjoyed the new Ghostbusters.  It is not a sequel but a reboot of this franchise, and yes, they have laid the foundation in the post-trailer credits for a sequel.

The film is good – not great.  The strengths – Kate McKinnon as the mad-scientist engineer of the group, Jillian Holtzmann.  Yes, it’s the Egon role, but she brings us a new quirky character that made me laugh several times in the film.  When she licks her guns before shooting – priceless – a move I intend to lift at GenCon when I’m role playing next month.

The special effects are awesome.  My wife and I saw it in 3D and this is one of those rare films where 3D works well.  The special effects aside, the film has a solid plot.  It’s not a rehash of Ghostbuster’s films, but breathes fresh life into it.

The cameo’s make the film.  Even the fleeting homage to Harold Ramis is well-done, tasteful, and not overpowering in the film.  Everything was done respectfully, as it should be.   Even the Ghostbuster’s iconic firehouse manages to stir emotions with the viewers.  It’s like when you see the USS Enterprise in Star Trek – it is a character all on its own.

My only complaint was that Chris Hemsworth as comedy relief was okay (lukewarm at best), but not great.  Put on the wig and pick up Mjolnir Chris – you are a perfect Thor.  Trying to fill the Annie Potts/Rick Moranis roles is not your thing.  Please, go get your hammer.

Comparisons to the original 1984 film are almost impossible to avoid, but I will.  This film stands on its own.  The writing was solid – as was the acting and character development.  Now that we have cleared the hurdle of the film being its own entity, we can move forward with sequels.

I rate this a solid 4.5 out of five stars.  Funny, good pacing, a rollicking fun romp through your memoires of the original film.   A total protonic reversal on the cynical internet trolls!

#Ghostbusters

Spoiler Free Review of Captain America: Civil War

CWar
Oozing with awesomeness

Arguably the best of the Marvel universe movies is Captain America Winter Soldier. Guardians of the Galaxy or AntMan and I might concede.  So this is the scale that Civil War has to be compared against.  Well, it more than exceeds Winter Soldier.

This plot is not what you might think from the trailers – Marvel is masterful at manipulating us with the trailers.  Clearly there’s a Team Cap vs. a Team Iron Man – it’s call Civil War duh.  The reason that they are fighting is not as straightforward as you might think.  I went in thinking I would side with Captain America but I came away thinking that both sides were right.  That’s what makes a good Civil War scenario.

The plot is not overly complicated.  The writing of this movie, the core of a Marvel film, is solid and crisp.  There were some one-liners where the audience laughed out loud – especially Stan Lee’s cameo.

New characters are introduced – Black Panther and Spiderman.  You know, the new Spiderman comes together without having to get into the whole “radioactive spider bit me,” stuff.  His role is good and oddly seems true to the comic.

Black Panther is awesome.  We don’t need his origin story…I didn’t care.  He was just incredible.  Marvel is genius at knowing that we don’t need to be buried in a lot of backstory.  Just give us solid characters that develop in the film and some well-grounded writing and the fact that these are superheroes is almost unnecessary.

I have to admit, having AntMan in this film made it for me.  His role in the battle at the Leipzig Airport was, well, incredible.  In fact, the airport battle sequence set a new standard for superhero battles.  There is a lot going on yet somehow it all seems to flow together fairly smoothly.

This movie is a visual treat.  There’s a lot of special effects, but no where the level of horrific CGI we were forced to endure in Batman vs. Superman.  In fact, this movie made me hate Batman vs. Superman even more.  Marvel knows how to handle their intellectual properties (with the exception of the Hulk and Fantastic Four movies).  Even the lighting levels and colors of this film are in stark contrast to DC’s latest offerings.

There is no part of this movie I disliked.  The pacing was brisk which is good; the movie is very long.

There are two post-credit scenes – both of which are solid.

On a scale of five stars, this is six-and-a-half.  Not a movie for kids, far too much violence. Though the language was cleaner than Age of Ultron (joke intended).  Go see this movie…go twice!

#TeamCap

Review – Batman V. Superman the Dawn of Justice – Marvel has nothing to worry about

bvs
“I’m more brooding than you Clark!”

Spoilers exist in this – though I have tried to keep them limited to my rantings about this multitude of faults baked into this steaming loaf of a film.  Like many self-anointed geeks, I have been waiting for this movie most of my life. As a generation that saw comic books as a story-telling artistic medium, nothing could be more iconic than Batman and Superman together on the screen.

GeekFlow1
I ran it through my flow diagram before writing the review

The anticipation of this movie left me disappointed with the final product.

This is a movie that could have and should have been so much more than what was delivered.  Oh, it had some moments that were good, but most of it felt forced, overly contrived.  Watching this movie was like looking up the ass of a dead dog with fleas.  Like a car wreck alongside the road, you are drawn in to look at it, even if the scenes are horrific.

For this movie to work, you had to accomplish some cinematic feats.  Included with this:

  • You had to give us the two characters on the screen so we could see their contrast (The ever-brooding world’s greatest detective vs. the boy scout in blue.)  We want the characters to be true to their established backgrounds.
  • You had to demonstrate that their friendship made both men better.
  • You need to give us a villain worthy of these two heroes.
  • Based on the title, we needed a battle worthy of the two heroes.

Warner/DC…how could you have possibly missed that mark with some of these?

First off, we have Superman who’s more brooding than the Dark Knight.  Yes, he’s plucking cats from trees, but he wears a furrowed brow through most of the film.  What makes comic book Superman identifiable is that his parents instilled in him that he has a higher obligation to the people of Earth.  In this film, Martha Kent tells him, “You don’t owe this planet anything…” (I’m paraphrasing, but close enough.)  Um, Ma Kent, that’s actually a big part of who that character is.

I get it – Zack Snyder wants a darker, grittier DC universe. It makes it much more difficult to swallow for the viewers. The reason that the Marvel films do well is they are true to their comic book roots. Snyder wallows in darkness like a pig in mud.

I know it’s going to be popular to take shots at Ben Afflick as Batman but I won’t go there.  I actually thought the actor was good as Batman.  It was no Daredevil role, for which we are all thankful.  He certainly brought more to the role than George Clooney did.  I think his Bruce Wayne is actually pretty solid, especially his coy smile.  The harm to this character was the script, not the acting.  Batman, who has always stayed away from guns as part of his character, uses them a lot in this film.  We don’t get The World’s Greatest Detective.  We get a marginal data thief.  Zack Snyder felt it necessary to show us Batman’s origins, which was a waste of time.  We all know Batman’s origin story better than any of the Presidential candidates.  Cutting that stuff would have saved the film and those of us watching a few precious minutes.

Alfred (Jeremy Irons) isn’t a butler – there’s no Wayne Manor to attend to.  He’s a mechanic for Batman, a remote co-pilot, with some good one-liners aimed at his employer during the film.  It’s a new take on Alfred, which seems to work for me.

The movie taps two of DC’s best storylines for its “plot” – The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman.  Based on the material, you would have thought that the producers would have had a huge hit on their hands. Instead there’s a deliberate fumble that plays out on the screen for us.  It’s as if the writer’s skimmed the books without actually reading them, and plucked a handful of scenes to recreate as opposed to relying on good story telling.  As a result, you get a jumble of storylines stitched together with a plot that seems implausible.

We’re denied seeing the characters become true friends.  Forced allies, yes, but not really close.  Lex Luthor is both insane and a genius, well played by Jesse Eisenberg.  It’s not our traditional Lex, but a solid (if not creepy) character.  Like Alfred, it was okay to see a new twist on the character.  I just never really felt that Lex was worthy of the two character he squared off with.

The film is all build-up and little delivery.  That climatic battle between Batman and Superman is sort of boring when it’s just the two of them.  Once more Metropolis insurance rates are going to spike because Superman lives in town.  The special effects are over the top and border-line Green Lantern-ish when it comes to Doomsday.  (I know it’s wrong to pick at that GL scab, but I had to go there.)

The dream sequences should have ended up on the cutting room floor – they didn’t add squat to the film and in fact made it seem too long.  Likewise too much time is spent laying foundation work for The Justice League movie – which, based on this film, is likely to suck.  All of this bogs down a long movie.  There are scenes like one with Pa Kent that are wastes of time and downright confusing.  Even if these scenes were chopped (as they should have been) it wouldn’t be enough to get this dog to hunt.

Gal Gadot almost saves the movie as Wonder Woman.  She fought better than both of her male counterparts in the quasi-climatic battle.  Her accent made her sound exotic.  We weren’t bogged down with her origins which was also a plus.  Frankly, she battles Zod v2.0 better than her male counterparts.  Thanks to scenes we didn’t need in this movie, we know that DC/Warner will ruin WWI in its upcoming Wonder Woman film.  (Yes, DC can ruin an entire war.)

The Dawn of Justice has more plot potholes than a stretch of Michigan road, and many are so deep and obvious that you’re better off hitting them than mentally trying to swerve around them.  Example:  Wonder Woman gets off a plane with two light carryon items to rush off to the battle.  She shows up with a big honking shield and sword.  Where did those come from?  Certainly not from her luggage.   The whole manipulation of the characters into a battle has so many over-complicated failings that it is a pathetic joke at times.  Also, Gotham is apparently ten blocks away from Metropolis.  It’s like Hoboken NJ in relation to Manhattan.  What in the hell Zack Snyder…you can see the bat signal from Metropolis?  Lois Lane helicoptered over to Gotham in five minutes.  The entire US Capitol scene was just bizarre in terms of how it was painfully set up and what it actually accomplished in terms of plot.

There were scenes that made the audience cheer but even some of these were awkward.  Lex Luthor losing his hair for example.  It wasn’t even entertaining, but it stressed how the audience wanted some of that good old fashioned comic book story elements.  When you have people cheering baldness, you know the movie is limping to a conclusion.

Despite all of this there were things that I enjoyed in the movie.  The new Batmobile rocks as does the Bat Cave.  Some of the redone scenes of Zod fighting Superman from Man of Steel are quite good.  Batman going to save Martha Kent was one of the coolest fight scenes I’ve seen in a while.  I actually liked the fact that there were consequences to Superman’s trashing of Metropolis.  Batman had the best line in the movie:  “Oh shit.” (Yeah – this isn’t going to win any Academy Awards for best screenplay.)

The folks at Marvel/Disney have to be chuckling with the release of this movie.  The figured out that what makes a good comic hero movies is great characters and solid storytelling.  This is something that the Warner/DC team has tried to drive over as if it were a speed-bump to their evil marketing intentions.

The movie didn’t deliver on my laundry list of things I needed for it to.  We never see Bruce and Clark become friends.  The plot suffered to lay a foundation for a Justice League film.

I give this a low three out of five stars and I’m being generous.  If you’re a fan, you’re going to go no matter what.  Oh, there’s no after credits scene – so don’t hang around ‘cause DC doesn’t want you to compare this to a Marvel film in any way; and with good reason.  Also, do NOT take your kids to this.  I saw parents there with little kids and that was just wrong.

 

Review of Deadpool – Spoiler Free

deadpool

I went into this movie with moderate expectations given Ryan Reynold’s two previous ventures into comic-book based movies.  I was stunned at the four-quarts of awesome sauce that this movie was simmered in.  The opening credits had the audience laughing and there wasn’t a single word spoken or even any moving-action on the screen.  Deadpool proved one thing, Marvel has a magic touch, albeit a dark, evil, black-magic touch in the case of this film.  Still, it’s magic, so soak it in.

Deadpool is not a series of hilarious one-liners.  Well, okay, it is this, but it is more.  There’s a real plot here, even a Beauty and the Beast thing woven into the story.  The film didn’t need much of a plot but the writers rose the occasion and made this much more than a spoof of super hero movies.  They made art.  Watching Deadpool is like watching Blazing Saddles.  The jokes are all wrong, you shouldn’t laugh, but you can’t help yourself. The writers deserve academy awards for their work on this film.  The lines come at you like a MG42 spewing bullets, each having sometimes multiple jokes tied to them.  I will have to see this movie multiple times because I’m sure I missed jokes because I was laughing so hard.  I have not heard so much laughter in a theater in years.

This is not a movie for the weak at heart.  If you take your underage kid to Deadpool, you’re a horrible parent.  This is not your typical superhero movie, not by a long shot. There’s gratuitous sex and inane violence in this movie, it is the backdrop to an artistic work.  The parents that take their kids to Deadpool are the same ones that buy them booze on prom night to be “the cool parents.”  In other words, douchbags.

The film dovetails in with the X-men, with cameo’s in the film.  They don’t overpower the movie, they add to it.  The supporting cast is perfect.  T. J. Miller, known from Silicon Valley, is great in this film, almost the perfect verbal foil for Reynolds.  My favorite scenes involve the cab driver’s dialogue with Deadpool near the finale.  Stan Lee’s cameo is priceless as well, with his own zinger of one-liners.

Deadpool doesn’t just break the fourth wall, he climbs into the theater with you, steals some popcorn, then wanders back into the movie.  It happens so fast you will need to check to make sure he hasn’t lifted your wallet in the process.

Deadpool delivers across the board, carving out its own niche in terms of comic book films. There is so much happening in this film that I can’t wait for the Blu Ray.  I give this five out of five stars.   Just don’t take your wife or girlfriend unless they are into gratuitous violence and insane amounts of sexual innuendo – in which case you have chosen well (wink).

You will need to stay for the end of the credits too.

Movie Review – Joy

joy
There is so much symbolism in this movie, it will keep you talking for days.

I’m always into a true story when it comes to films.  I think Hollywood has gotten bogged down with retreading hits from the past and have overlooked a lot of fantastic real-work stories.  Having already seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I wanted to take in something a little different.  So when my wife and I both wanted to see Joy, all I knew was that it was based on true events.  That was the limit of what I knew of the film before I went in.

Holy crudstunk!  This movie was fantastic.  I won’t ruin the movie for you with the details of the plot, but this was the story of an unlikely hero, a female who had a simple idea and who never gave up on being herself.  At every turn, life seems to intercede against her, yet she always digs deep and prevails.

The acting of Jennifer Lawrence and Robert Di Nero take you as a viewer on a story that I had never heard of.  The filming was incredible – it was like being back in 1981 all over again. Jennifer Lawrence is a fantastic actress, sucking me in as a viewer from the first ten minutes on.

If you have a child, you need to take them to this movie.  It is about perseverance, determination, and overcoming life’s obstacles.  There were parts of the movie when you reflect on the influences of your friends and family on your own life.  You are sucked into Joy’s life, for better or worse.  Every few minutes, just when you think she’s going to prevail, life tosses her a curveball.  Joy doesn’t collapse or play the victim-card expecting others to bail her out.  She puts on her big-girl panties and charges headlong into the obstruction.

Bradley Cooper was brilliant as well, then again he pulled off playing a rocket-firing raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy so there’s no role he can’t take on.  I told my wife his character reminded me of when I met Tom Monaghan of Domino’s Pizza.  He asked me what business he was in and I said, “the pizza business.”  He shook his head.  “No.  I have built a network that can deliver any kind of food, all around the country, within 30 minutes.  It doesn’t matter what it is, I can deliver it.  Not only that, I know the full status of inventory and sales of my entire distribution network almost live.”  His words always stuck with me.  Cooper has a scene where he’s talking about his business model and I got a chill of a memory from my consulting time at Domino’s.  Very visionary, very well written.

There’s some powerful metaphors in this movie – like the soap operas that Joy’s mother watches, which are in your face yet oddly subtle in their messages.  We talked at dinner after the film and we both came away with a lot we saw in this film.

Five stars doesn’t seem enough.  This is a movie that will make you cry, make you smile, and make you want to support your kids in every aspect of their lives.  This is what going to the movies should be about. Go see Joy!

 

Review of Ant-Man

A good investment of your time...
A good investment of your time…

I went into Ant-Man with relatively low expectations.  My exposure to Hank Pym’s Ant-Man was mostly through the Avengers comics as a kid.  He wasn’t a character I enjoyed a lot, though he was a good counterbalance to Tony Stark at times.  At the same time, remembering last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy release, I knew that this had some potential.  Marvel Studios has a way of taking relatively minor characters in their universe and doing extraordinary things with them.

Ant-Man delivers a solid Marvel-style punch.

The movie really fits itself snugly into the Marvel universe.  From the opening, when we see Agent Carter and an older Howard Stark, to the interactions and references to the Avengers, this movie dovetails right into the Marvel digital mythos.

The story is solid.  I was a little worried that it might be too humorous, but the balance between good storyline and the usual (high quality) humor that Marvel is known for is here. We have a story of two father’s attempting to make good to their daughters.  The technology doesn’t overpower this movie.  The special effects are great, and after a few minutes, feels like a digital rollercoaster ride as Ant-Man shrinks and enlarges in rapid, gut-wrenching scenes.  I was worried that the effects would dominate this film.  They don’t.  What works is solid writing a good acting performances.

There are two post-movie scenes which I won’t ruin for you.  Both take the Marvel universe into some new directions which are going to be awesome.  Needless to say, wait until the end of the credits.

I give Ant-Man five out of five stars.  My wife, who dislikes superhero and action movies really enjoyed it.  “I didn’t even fall asleep…it was fun.”  It’s an okay movie for kids but the language, at times, is a bit much for the younger kids (bummer).  It is well worth your time to take this film in.

#antman

Review of Guardians of the Galaxy

rocket-raccoon-and-groot-from-marvels-guardians-of-the-galaxy

I will preface this by saying that I remember buying and reading Guardians of the Galaxy comic books back in the late 1970’s, back when reading comic books was a good excuse for getting a wedgie.  Of course now, with superhero movies being all the rage, suddenly those wedgies and titty-twisters all were all just the price of being ahead of the popularity curve.  But I digress…

I took my wife to see Guardians of the Galaxy.  She generally doesn’t enjoy comic-based movies.  She loved this flick.  We were both laughing throughout the film.  It’s not like Iron Man or The Avengers where the humor was sprinkled in between the action.  Here the jokes punctuate the script like a sniper’s well aimed shot.  My wife didn’t get hardly any of the tie-ins to the larger Marvel universe, but that didn’t matter to her.  She totally enjoyed the movie for what it was, a mindless romp/adventure across the cosmos.

The movie was one of the best I’ve seen this year, with Captain America 2, The Winter Soldier, still holding that spot.  Guardians is right behind it.  The film covers the formation of an unlikely band of misfit rogues who are tossed together to become heroes.  The movie interjects a soundtrack from my life – the 1970’s and 80’s, and does so masterfully.

And the characters…well, they are awesome.  Chris Pratt is serious, clumsy, but hilarious. He’s got a Han Solo kind of feel to him, if Han had a great sense of humor.  His dropping of 1980’s references to pop culture make the movie sizzle.  When he references Footloose, you will bust as gut laughing.

The characters that steal the film are Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (a walking/talking/fighting tree voiced by Vin Diesel).  Rocket is an illegally genetically and surgically altered raccoon – but never call him that, he hates that.  Rocket has distinct anger control issues and has lines that are right up there with Tony Stark in terms of humor.  Rocket makes you laugh throughout the movie and in some case just plain steals the show.  Groot, despite having two lines in the movie, is a neat character, surpassing the one in the comic books.

The story is a good vs. evil story with insidious villains bent on destruction.  There are plenty of ties to a larger Marvel universe here (The Collector, Thanos – who we get to see, and others)  but that’s there for those of us that are geeks.  These links don’t overpower the film or drive the plot, they are treats for those of us that know what the Infinity Stones are and why Thanos is a universe-crushing badass.

Purists will say, “This film does not fully follow the origin story of the Guardians.”  They are right.  But most Marvel movies don’t, so chill.  This film does an outstanding job at giving us a much bigger universe for Marvel heroes to play in.  The folks calling the shots at Marvel are brilliant at building a larger storyline without making them dominate the films.

This is not a movie for little kids.  I wanted to smuggle in my grandson, but I’m glad I didn’t.  There’s a lot of violence in this film, but it doesn’t dominate it.  I saw kids in the theater that were 9-10 years old and I just didn’t think that was right, not without a parental preview before.

Did I love this movie?  Oh yeah!  It is a full four quarts of Awesome Sauce.  It’s not a big thinking movie – it’s just plain fun on a bun.  I’m downloading the soundtrack right away as well.  Next to Forrest Gump, this soundtrack is one of the best ever produced.

Marvel hit this puppy out of the park.  Here’s this little known intellectual property that was only marginally successful as a comic book that is now this incredible franchise all on its own.  Please Marvel, take my money!  Give us more Guardians,

Oh, and stick around after the credits (like you had to be told).  If you were around in the 1980’s, you’ll get the reference.  Enjoy true believers!

A Mostly Spoiler-Free Review of Amazing Spiderman 2

Image

 

 

Dude – go home and we can have this film done in an hour, tops. 

Having just gotten back from watching the film I came away thinking, “this movie could (and should) have been much more.”  Overall, I’d give it three out of five stars.  Here’s the skinny…

This is a love story about Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy.  Those of us who have been reading Spiderman comic books since the 1970’s get it.  Kids today only know Mary Jane, they don’t realize the importance of Gwen Stacy on the character.  We all knew that this movie would hit on that romance, but this movie wallowed in it.

Don’t get me wrong.  Andrew Garfield is a much better Peter Parker and Spidey than Tobey Maguire.  He’s conflicted – which is great.  He relishes in his role as Spiderman, but is a clumsy kid.  Emma Stone is awesome too.  Together they really have some magic.  But it was about a half-hour too much magic for me.

In the film Spiderman face off against Electro, Rhino and Green Goblin (or HobGoblin – we never really arrive at this.)  I had a few issues here. First Electro’s alter ego Max is a huge fan of Spiderman, but somehow ends up hating him enough to want to kill him.  Okay, this seems a tad forced to me.  I didn’t buy the flip-flop here.  I chalk that up to either bad writing or bad editing.  And, no matter how you slice it, if Electro wasn’t in the film, it still would have ended exactly the same.  So as a character, you have no sympathy or care about this guy.  I know he’s a villain, but the best ones are those you can identify with.  Jamie Foxx was great but the role they gave him in the script was a bit flat.

Those of use that are True Believers know that Norman Osborn becomes the Green Goblin.  Here it’s a son.  Great acting here by Dane DeHaan – he’s pretty creepy looking and acting.  But we never get the whole “daddy being the goblin” scene that we all want.

Paul Giamatti is the Rhino in the film.  We see him for five minutes at the beginning of the movie, and a seemingly kluged-together scene at the end.  At best he’s doing a cameo appearance in this film.  So we have this outstanding actor with less than ten lines of dialogue.  And, while a bit nitpicky on my part, Rhino wasn’t piloting a BattleMech in the comic book.

A lot of this movie seems to hinge on what happened to Ma and Pa Parker.  We get a lot revealed in this movie, and surprisingly little.  After the build-up to it in the first movie, I thought, “wow, that’s it?”  This chewed up plenty of plot time that seemed to really not get Peter Parker any further along as a character.  The answers he got were, well, worthless and pointless.

Despite this  – there were a lot of things I liked in the film.  In the comics, Spiderman is the king of one-liners and we get a few zingers in the film.  The eerie appearance of Captain Stacy was well done too.  Electro’s birthday cake even had his trademark colors and symbols on it from the comic – thank God they didn’t use his costume from the comics for the movies.  Ravencroft prison appears – which, if you follow Marvel stuff, you’ll appreciate.  The Goblin’s flier looked pretty cool too.  The special effects are great, the battle scenes are awesome.  I found I liked this Electro more than the comic character, but in the end he simply didn’t play the kind of pivotal role I would have hoped for.

For those of us who have been following Spiderman for years, the climax moment in the film was totally anticipated and well done.  I won’t ruin it for you, but it is a sad moment that we all understood.

There were things we saw in the previews that never appeared in the final film – and I have to tell you, that does piss me off – and force me to buy the extended Blu Ray copy, which I would have done anyway, but it damn you Sony, you are making me do it and that’s not cool.

So there you have it.  You have to go see this movie if you enjoy super hero flicks.  Just don’t get your hopes set too high.  A very solid three out of five stars in my book.

 

Review – Captain America The Winter Soldier

Image

Okay, I’m not going to ruin the movie for anyone…that’s not my style. I have heard a number of people say the film is on-par with The Dark Knight.  That is incorrect.  It is better.  In fact, I’ll go on the record to say that this is one of the top comic-book based films ever made.

The first Captain America film was a favorite for me. I’m a reader of the comic books and while the movie versions differ a great deal from their source material, it still rang true for those of us who still have piles of comics all over the place.  This new movie picks up after The Avengers.  Rogers is still a man out of time.  They don’t push that too much.  I love the detail that he has a notepad of stuff that he needs to get caught up on – including “Star Wars/Trek.”

I’ve heard this movie described as a spy thriller.  It certainly has elements of that – the whole tone of “Don’t trust anyone.”  With Robert Redford in it, you get a hint of Three Days of the Condor.   The character of Winter Soldier seems to have new meaning now that we see the Russians annexing the Crimea.  He’s not just a mindless killer in this film, he’s a villain worthy of the first Avenger.

The entire dynamic with Black Widow and Cap is neat.  Widow’s gritty reality bumping up against Captain America’s ideals is fascinating and really helps bring the character out.   We see Roger’s as a character grappling with the concept of “what is the truth?” and “what is freedom?”  The dynamic of Cap and Nick Fury is fantastic too.  Fury has always been a bridge between the Marvel movies.  He’s moving way beyond this in this movie.  There are overtones to our own sacrifices of freedom in the face of adversity that you cannot avoid.  Cap brings the perspective of the 1940’s man when the lines were much clearer.

There were things I loved about this film that maybe most non-comic readers would have missed.  Zola, for example, was handled very well and was one of my favorite things in the film.  The inclusion of the Falcon as a character was awesome.  Sure, I miss the spandex and street savvy of the comic character, but in true Marvel form they really did an awesome job of once more expanding the universe.  Falcon rocks all on his own.  There were other things – including an inscription on a particular tombstone that made me grin because I totally got it – and you will too.  Redford’s character has a great line near the end of the movie too.  Not over the top, but tastefully written.  The entire exhibit at the Smithsonian on Captain America and the Howling Commandos was not just a cheap bit – it became a minor part of the story that was awesome.  Clearly the directors and writers were men of great vision to pull this off (I always acknowledge good movie writing.)

I offer only two cautions.  You need to have watched the first Captain America movie to really appreciate all of the little Easter Eggs in this movie.  Second – there are two snippets in the credits, one halfway through and one at the very end.  I saw a lot of people leaving after the first one.  Shame…shame…

This film shows that the Marvel franchises are a…no…THE dominant force in movies.  While DC only seems to be able to score on the WB network (and then only marginally) it is wallowing in idiocy.  Man of Steel was marginal to good as a movie.  They picked Ben Affleck as the new Batman.  I like Mr. Affleck, it’s just not where I would go after Daredevil.  There’s no word on a Justice League movie.  They are squandering excellent intellectual properties while Marvel does things like put out Guardians of the Galaxy, X-men, and others.

Go see this movie – more than once.  It is a solid five out of five stars.  Captain America is not just the first Avenger – he’s one of the most awesome Avengers.  This is a great film – a full four quarts of awesome sauce.  Way to go Marvel!