Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

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The fifth movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Captain America: The First Avenger, another film that posed a unique series of challenges for Marvel Studios.

First, Captain America was such a straight-laced character that he can be considered boring.  The boy scout characters can be difficult to relate to and Cap has had that issue in the comic books.

Second, the casting of Chris Evans was a shock and caused a stir.  Chris Evans was in the Tim Story Fantastic Four movies as Johnny Storm and he was perfectly cast as the Human Torch.  There was no way he could play Johnny Storm and still work as Steve Rogers.

Finally, this was the last film before the epic team up of the Avengers and if this film did not work, it would have really given the crossover event a black eye and hurt the momentum of phase one.

Throw in the fact that Captain America: The First Avenger was a period piece from World War II, well, there were a ton of things working against this movie.

In the end, it was my favorite movie of 2011.

Director Joe Johnston found a way to make Steve Rogers the underdog and he made him unbelievably relatable.  Chris Evans turned out to be the perfect Steve Rogers in every way and the movie kept the momentum going toward Avengers.

There are so many scenes showing how Chris Evans perfectly encapsulated Steve Rogers:  the scene in the alley where he delivers the classic line, “I could do this all day,” the scene where he throws himself onto the grenade, the scene where he captures the flag, his scenes with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), among many others.  I was very worried about Chris Evans, but I was convinced early in the film that they had made the right choice.  Now, of course, I can’t think of anyone else ever playing Cap.

The skinny Chris Evans was a bit awkward, but you get used to the CGI as the film progressed, and, of course, this is only until the Super Soldier Experiment.

Hugo Weaving was great as the Red Skull, though there could have been much more done with the character.  It is unfortunate that Weaving was not a fan of the character.  Tommy Lee Jones and Hayley Atwell make wonderful supporting characters here.  Dominic Cooper brought the film a young Howard Stark, a role he would bring back several times.

Then, went I had heard rumors of Cap joining the USO in the film, I thought this was the worst idea possible.  And yet, “The Star Spangled Man” song is one of the greatest moments in the MCU.

The film made Bucky Barnes an adult and a friend of Steve and gave the role to Sebastian Stan (who, of course, would eventually become the Winter Soldier).  Every choice the film made to adjust the comic lore to a cinematic one worked.

I loved The First Avenger.  This was one of the best MCU origin stories and just about everything worked with it.

paragon

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The Curse of La Llorona

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I was a bit surprised by this film as well.

One, I did not know that this was taking place in the Conjuring Universe of horror films that has been set up over the last few years with the Conjuring films, Annabelle and the Nun.

Two, I did not expect to like this movie much because I had heard a bunch of negative word of mouth surrounding it.

However, I liked The Curse of La Llorona more than I thought I would.

Yes, it is a predictable film and there is not much original that we saw here.  Yes, the plot is the basic haunted house plot that we get in most of this genre of films.  Yes, there are some stupid choices made during the third act that put a damper on what was happening (especially that back door bit).

I still found myself enjoying this movie.

I have always liked movies with kids in the action and I was very impressed with the young boy Roman Christou, making his feature film debut.  Christou, as Chris, was given a lot of heavy lifting to do with the story and he had a lot of emotions to play and I found him remarkably compelling.  I also thought Linda Cardellini was great as the mother Anna, who had to battle this horrible spirit to try and save her children.

The film started well and I liked the way Anna started off as a child endangerment social worker but I am not sure the film took that to the possibilities that it could have.

I was also not a huge fan of the character Rafael (Raymond Cruz).  They tried to use him to insert some humor into the story with some witty one-liners, but every line that was supposed to elicit laughter instead elicited groans and eye rolls.

Still, for whatever reason, much of what they did worked for me and the stuff that did not work, did not negatively reflect on my thoughts of the film.

It’s not a must see film, but if you do go, you should be fine.

3.25 stars 

Penguins

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I always know what the Disneynature films are going to be like, and I have liked most of the ones that I have seen.

Then I saw Penguins.

I don’t know exactly what made me hate this much as I did, but I wanted this film done with as soon as it started and the 70+ minutes of the film felt like two hours.

Now, I’ll get the positives out of the way quickly.  The shots of Antarctica and the environment around the penguins are unbelievably tremendous.  They are beautiful imagery from the opening shots through the entire film.  The other thing I loved was the whole leopard seal stuff where the penguin pretends to be dead and the seal stops trying to eat it.  That was fascinating to me.

But with every great shot or intriguing nature fact presented, we got this stupid personification of one of these penguins they named Steve and the voice over gave Steve the thoughts,  choices and emotions of humans.  I hated that.  Every time the voice over, done by Ed Helms, was given in Steve’s “point of view” made me want to throw my Avengers popcorn tin at the screen.  It was so cringeworthy for me that it ruined everything else.

Maybe it was just the day or the moment, but I hated this movie.  The score is higher than you might think but that is for the beautiful visuals.

2.4 stars

Thor (2011)

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The next film of the EYG MCU Rewatch is one of the biggest risks the MCU took.  After a hugely successful Iron Man, a fun-if-not-successful Incredible Hulk, and a messy Iron Man 2, Marvel Studios had their next tentpole film Thor.

Thor was a character that was not very well known and was going to be a difficult translation from the comic page to the cinematic screen.  Again, had this film flopped, the entire tapestry that was being laid out would have been in danger of unraveling.

Instead, the film, directed by actor/director Kenneth Branagh, was great and worked beautifully.  And this was another step in the direction of the formation of the Avengers.

The best thing that this movie did was the casting of two of the main characters.  In the great history of casting for the MCU, there were some early missteps.  The casting of Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tom Hiddleston as Loki were as perfect of a casting job as could be.  No one could have played Thor and his half-brother Loki better than Hemsworth and Hiddleston.  The chemistry between them was off the charts and they were the personification of the characters they were playing, portraying the complex and difficult relationship between them.

The fantasy elements of the story worked very well, and showed the strength of Kenneth Branagh as a storyteller.  They also fit surprisingly well inside the MCU, which up to this point was a world bathed in technology over magic.  The movie Thor seamlessly blended the two together.

Not that everything worked perfectly in Thor.  Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman, was a disaster.  She did not have the chemistry with Hemsworth that she needed and turned into a damsel in distress.  Portman did not ever fully embrace that role and it was severely under written.  The Thor/Jane Foster dynamic was far below the Tony Stark/Pepper Potts relationship and was the second relationship in a row (Banner/Betty Ross) that did not work.

Sir Anthony Hopkins appeared as Odin in a wonderful bit of casting.  Idris Elba was overlooked as Heimdall.  Rene Russo was Lady Frigga, Thor and Loki’s mother, but she was a small part.  The Warriors Three and Lady Sif (Jaime Alexander) are never really developed.  Agent Coulson continues to be the glue that holds these films together.

In the end, it really comes down to the Thor-Loki dynamic and, because of that, this film works so well.  It introduces us to Thor and sends us on the path toward The Avengers.  The character of Thor goes through a strong character arc and will become even deeper over his subsequent film appearances.

classic

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Iron Man 2 (2010)

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The third movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the first sequel.  Iron Man 2 came out quickly and it showed some early issues.  However, Iron Man 2 was a film that Marvel Studios learned a lot from.

Iron Man 2 was not terrible, but there are definite problems with the film.  The film is too full of world building.  The movie would have been a better film if it had been streamlined.  There are too many threadlines going through the film.  The Whiplash story.  The palladium poisoning.  Tony’s drinking issue.   Tony’s daddy issue.  The introduction of the Black Widow.  The US Government’s attempts to confiscate the Iron Man “weapon.”  Hammer Industries.  SHIELD.

There could have been two really good movies with all of this, but crammed together felt messy.  Marvel Studio learned their lesson from this film and did not repeat those mistakes as the franchise continued.  The lesson… do not put world building ahead of the story or the characters.  I supposed Iron Man 2 is a necessary evil.

Not to say that the film is bad.  There are some wonderful, winning moments. Heck, we get to hear Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson say to Tony Stark, “…I will taze you and watch Super Nanny while you drool into the carpet.”

Iron Man 2 has some great action and introduces us to the War Machine (Don Cheadle).  I know some were unhappy with Terrence Howard being replaced as James Rhodes, but I am a fan of Don Cheadle since the Picket Fences days so I was ready to accept him immediately.

The good in Iron Man 2 outweighs the bad, but just barely.  It is still a fun movie to watch because, not in smart part, of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark.  He is as witty and entertaining as he has ever been.  He is also growing into the role of Stark.  You can see the character beginning to develop into what we know him as today.  Tony Stark is the heart of the film and, because of him, this film is fun, despite its flaws.

tweener

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Avengers: No Road Home#10 (of 10)

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Avengers: No Road Home #10 (of 10)

Writer:  Mark Waid, Jim Zub & Al Ewing

Artist:  Sean Izaakse

Cover Art:  Marcio Menyz with Erick Arciniega

What a ride we have been on for the last ten weeks.  This is a perfect example of what comics should be.  Great characters.  Great character development.  A strong villain.  Action.  Wonderful storytelling.  And not a sign of a crossover.

The first several pages of this issue, with Vision inside the house with Nyx, is some of the most beautiful art work in the entire series.  The black and white contrast with the colorful Vision is striking.  These pages could be hung on a wall in frames.  Sean Izaakse, whose work has been very strong for the entire series, outdid himself with these pages that left me breathless.  I have been enamored with the writing of Avengers: No Road Home, but this is the first time where the art may have exceeded the story.  Well done.

The whole “House of Ideas” meta bit might have been a tad hokey, but it somehow worked.  Seeing the variations of Marvel heroes coming from the mind of the Vision was really cool.  It brought the main story of Nyx to a satisfying conclusion about halfway through the book which left me wondering, what was remaining?

The falling action of the story was just as fascinating as the rest of the series.  Setting up several of the cast members for their future int he Marvel Universe, I particularly found the Olympians and Hercules intriguing.  I have always enjoyed the character of Hercules and this series has done more for Herc than any book since the days of Greg Pak and the Incredible Hercules.

I am also very excited about the idea of Conan the Barbarian in the Savage Land. I know this is a set-up for the upcoming Savage Avengers series, which I am excited for, but there is one thing I want and that is a confrontation between Conan the Barbarian and Ka-Zar.

Avengers: No Road Home was a milestone for Marvel Comics and should be the road map Marvel uses moving forward.  Of course, when you team up three amazing writers in a collaborative effort for ten-issues, the fact that we got a highly engaging and completely enthralling series should not  have been a surprise.

If you have not read Avengers: No Road Home, what are you waiting for?  I loved it.

excelsior

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The Incredible Hulk (2008)

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Marvel Studios followed up the smash hit Iron Man with the lesser successful film featuring the Emerald Giant, The Incredible Hulk, and it was released by Universal Pictures.

The Incredible Hulk had several challenges facing it.  First, it was coming off the tails of Hulk, the Ang Lee film with the Hulk dogs, Nick Nolte as Banner’s daddy who turns into the Absorbing Man, and an unexpectedly dumb story.  Second, the Hulk, as a character, is notoriously difficult because when you get someone that strong, it is a challenge for the audience to relate to him.  Third, while Edward Norton was fine as Bruce Banner, there was just something about him that did not scream a good fit.  Maybe that is because, in retrospect, when we think back, we have to remember that we wound up with a perfect Bruce Banner with the casting of Mark Ruffalo.

However, with all of this going against it, The Incredible Hulk is still a fine film and a solid second movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which we were still not sure that we had.  Now a days, this film feels like an outlier in the 21 film series, and feels more like a stand alone film than a franchise film.  There are some hints of ties to the greater MCU, including the arrival of Tony Stark in the post credit scene.  There is a connection to the Super Soldier program that becomes important in Captain America, too.

The Bruce Banner/US Army/Emil Blonsky(Tim Roth) footrace through Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro is excellent and the first arrival of the Hulk really drives home the fact that he is an unstoppable force of anger and power.

There were some solid antagonists in this film, especially William Hurt’s Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. who would continue into the Avengers movies as a thorn in the team’s side.  Emil Blonsky’s transformation into the Abomination is well done, but the film does seem to miss the boat on the origin of the Leader, who has never been seen since.

I am also not a big fan of Liv Tyler’s rendition of Betty Ross as I did not feel that she brought much chemistry to the role of Bruce Banner’s great love.  I do not think it is coincidental that she has never returned to the MCU and that they even went as far as pairing Banner with Black Widow.

I enjoyed a lot of the nods and winks back to the 1970s CBS TV series with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, both making cameos, in a way.  Ferrigno was in the movie, while a scene from The Courtship of Eddie’s Father played featuring Bixby, who died in 1993.  There was a fun use of the end theme from the series too, a recognizable piano score that was always sad and highlighted what a tragic life Bruce Banner (David Banner in the TV show) had.

I enjoyed how the film used their opening credits to recount an origin that many people already knew and not have to waste time on it, though I am not sure why they did not choose to use an origin closer to the comic.  It actually seemed closer to the TV series origin.  The montage, though, was a good way to process a ton of material in a quick way and get the audience into the story.

The Incredible Hulk may not be as great as most of the MCU films, but it is better than it gets credit for and it works as a Hulk movie, which is difficult to say.

funtime

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Iron Man (2008)

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In honor of the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, the conclusion of a 22-movie arc that is unprecedented in the world of movies, I am beginning the great Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Re-Watch leading up to Endgame’s release on April 25th. The MCU is unlike anything that has happened before and the re-watch for the Doc’s Classic Movies Reviewed section at EYG is going to be a chore.  But I am looking forward to the challenge.

We start, by following order of release, with 2008’s Iron Man.  The film that kicked the whole thing off.  Directed by Jon Favreau, and with the MCU just a pipe dream yet, Iron Man took talented and troubled Robert Downey Jr. and cast him in the role he was born to play.  You did not know before we saw the film that RDJ was perfect as the billionaire playboy.  In fact, one could argue that this film would not have worked nearly as well as it did without the quipping, funny, fully-human Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark.  With Downey Jr.’s spotted past, the casting was a risk, but it was a risk that paid off royally for everyone involved.

Watching Iron Man, the film is different than the current MCU formula, much darker than I remembered it.  Though you could see the Marvel formula developing as the film progressed.  Iron Man was pre-Marvel Studios (officially) and there is a look to the film that feels more like a smaller independent film than a big budget blockbuster.

One of the best parts of the film was the beginning of the on-screen relationship between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).  The first couple in the MCU, Tony and Pepper have chemistry unlike few couples in the franchise.  Watching this pairing develop over the movies has been joyous, and seeing the origin of the match is great.  Of course, we did not see when they meet for the first time, but the film introduces the relationship in such a wonderful manner that you knew they were soulmates even when they did not.

Obadiah Stane was an underrated villain in the MCU hierarchy of villains.  As the opposite of the hero, Stane was the first of that archetype that filled MCU movies.  However, this villain is played by the always epic Jeff Bridges.  He does transition into Iron Monger a bit too quickly in the third act, but other than that, Iron Monger is way better of a villain than he gets credit for.

Terrence Howard appeared as James “Rhodey” Rhodes in this film before being replaced by Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2.  Howard was fine as Rhodey in the minimal screen time that he received, but apparently there was some behind the scenes issues that led to the change.

Iron Man was not just about a super hero in a metal suit.  It is about character, which is why these Marvel movies have been so successful.  It introduces us to characters who we fall in love with and then give us reasons to root for them.  Tony Stark could easily be a one-note character but he is deep and driven and amazingly human.  The character drama is at the heart of all of these movies, and clearly on display in Iron Man.

Iron Man also features some tense situation.  I was so worried when Pepper and Obadiah are in Tony’s office, I was so scared that something would happen to Pepper and that made me anxious.  Seeing how she is saved by Phil Coulson is cool too, with as much history as we have with that character.

It is mind boggling to think how important this film was, because, if Iron Man did not work, if it were a flop or critically panned, we would not have gotten the franchise that has entertained us for the last 10 years.  Everything that happened in Iron Man gave us the road map to what we have now and have seeds that will be paid off inside Avengers; Endgame.

paragon

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Game of Thrones with Fresh Eyes

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A few years ago, on Collider TV Talk, they did a bit where Sinead de Vries, one of the wonderful panelists on the show, admitted that she had never seen Game of Thrones before and they had her watch the season it was on (maybe six?) without watching any prior episodes.  It was a great segment that they carried through the whole HBO season.

Well, I have never seen any episodes of Game of Thrones either and tonight begins their final season and it is a scant six episodes.  So, I decided to steal the bit and do the same thing that Sinead did.  Watch the final season through eyes that have never seen any GoT before.  Let’s see what will occur.  There are, of course, SPOILERS contain within, although I may not know what exactly I am spoiling.

Season 8 Episode 1

April 14, 2019

The final season countdown ends.

Previously on Game of Thrones.

There was a big dragon.  The Night King has an army.  Jon Snow is the true heir to the Iron Throne.

Season starts

There is a little kid running through the snow covered land.  He tiptoes through a small stream and come across a parade of soldiers returning.  Kid climbed a tree for a better look.

With the marching soldiers were Jon Snow (who I know) and a blonde (almost white) haired woman on horse back.  Lots of other people are on horse too.

We see a younger girl watching these people return.  I guess the boy in the tree is not important.

Peter Dinklage is in a carriage with another guy and makes a balls joke.  I guess the guy was a unic.

Jon Snow says that the people of Winterfall did not like outsiders but she brought two dragons.    The dragons fly overhead and the little girl smiles slightly.

A red head- Jean Grey from X-Men movies- come now and meets Jon Snow.  #DarkPhoenix   Snow jumps off his horse and kisses the head of some kid in a wheelchair.

Jean Grey =Lady Stark.

Apparently the Night King has her dragon and the dead march South.  #DeadWalking

Jon had a choice to make- give up his crown or protect the North and he chose the north. He said the Lannister Army was coming to join the cause.  This caused unrest among the people.

Lady Stark worries about the food it will take to feed all these people plus two dragons.

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Little bit later, there is an awkward moment between Lady Stark and Peter Dinklage.  I guess they were married once.  She fled from someone’s wedding.  They don’t seem to be together any more.  #Awkward

Peter Dinklage fears his sister.  Lady Stark agrees and leaves.  Peter Dinklage looks sad.  I’ll have to find out what Peter Dinklage’s character name is.

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Jon Snow stands in front of a white tree with closed eyes and what looks like blood running from it.  The girl from the soldier’s parade arrives and hugs him.  Asks him how he could not die from a blade to the heart.  He said he couldn’t… must have been that time when Jon Snow was supposedly dead.

They compare swords.  They indicate that they are family of some sort.  Brother and sister?

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Now we meet another red head, this one with shorter hair.  She is told that the dead have broken through the wall and she responds, “Good.”  #WrongResponse

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Then there are ships.  And on the ship there is a dirty woman tied to a post.  The captain(?) talks to her.  She asks why he did not just kill her.  He would miss having someone to talk to because he has a crew of mutes.  Now though he is going to go “and fuck the queen”

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Soon, he is facing the short haired woman from earlier with a kid and another man.  It is not the kid from the tree earlier… I checked.  This kid is a king of a land who is bringing an army to fight.  The kid leaves.  The second man is Captain Strickland but he has no elephants.  She is disappointed.

Strickland leaves.  The other man (Captain?) indicates that he wanted to have sex with her, but she tells him to get a whore.  I guess she changed her mind because he went with her after looking at her scary looking guards.

Then there is three women getting naked to have sex with this older guy.  DENIED!  #Cockblocker.  Interrupted by this other old guy (who the naked women flirt with for a second) because the queen has a job for him.  Kill her brothers.  And here is a cool new crossbow to help.

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Short haired queen must have been finished with her sex with Captain(?).  He asks about sex with the fat king.  He’s dead. I guess.  He tells her he is going to put a prince in her belly.  How romantic!

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Back on the ship, arrows fly through the eyes of people on the ship.  They all die immediately.  Another man who looks important goes over and unties the dirty woman, who responds to him with a headbutt that knocked him down.  Then she helps him up.

I guess she is a queen too.  How many queens are there?

Her rescuer wants to go fight for the Starks.  She sends him.

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Seven Kingdoms.  Does that mean seven queens?  We see Jon and Daenerys (the blonde queen).  Jon’s sister does not like her, but will she respect her?  The dragons are barely eating.

Jon and Daenerys go to visit them.  She gets on the back of one of the dragons and taunts Jon to do the same.  Jon worries about dying.  The dialogue of this scene was terrible.  #Cringeworthy

Jon climbs on the dragon and they take off flying.  Jon holds on desperately.   They land somewhere isolated.  “You’ve completely ruined horses for me” said Jon.  LOL.  Good line. Jon and Daenerys kiss and the dragons watch.  Jon is nervous.  Daenerys says “Don’t be afraid” but Jon keeps an eye on the dragon which is staring him down something fierce. #DragonEye

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The little girl from earlier (Jon Snow’s sister, maybe) comes to a weapon maker.  They have a history, I’m guessing.  She does not want to be called Lady Stark.  She wants a weapon.  The one guy tells her she is a rich girl after all.

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Jon Stark and Sansa (Jean Grey) Stark argue.  #GetaRoom

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Some guy arrives to Daenerys and thanks her.  She tells him his father would not kneel before her so he died.  His brother too.  This guy starting to cry so he excuses himself.  Not as thankful now.  He meets up with the guy in the wheelchair and he tells this man that it was time that Jon knew the truth.

The man is apparently the one person Jon Snow trusts above all else.  He sneaks in to see Jon and tells him that he is the rightful ruler of the 7 Kingdoms because Jon’s true father is Rhaeger Targaryen and not Stark as he thought.  He was not a bastard.  He was the true heir to the Iron Throne.  He also tells Jon that Daenerys killed his father and brother because they would not kneel.  Jon tells him he gave up his crown (he told that to a bunch of people this episode).  Doesn’t matter.  He is still the true king.  Would Daenerys lay down her crown as well for the good of her people?  My guess is no.

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A group of men with swords drawn run into each other and they have blue eyes.  Not sure why that was important.  Code word maybe?  Any way, they find the kid from before who was a king dead, stuck to the wall with weird crab leg design around him.  It is a warning.  Then the kid comes to life screaming.  The set him on fire and the kid keeps screaming.

Zombie?

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A hooded figure rides into town and gets off the horse.  He spots Jon Snow’s bother in the wheelchair as dramatic music plays.

Episode ends.

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Episode looked great, but honestly some of the dialogue sounded terrible.  Dragon stuff was cool, especially the first time I saw it in How to Train Your Dragon.  I thought it was good otherwise, but I have no idea who some of these people are and who they are supposed to be connected to.  Of course, I knew that would be the case so we’ll see if I can figure more out next week.

Little

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Big this ain’t.

Little is the newest body swap film that sees mean boss lady Jordan Sanders, played by Regina King, magically get turned into a 13-year old girl, played wonderfully by Marsai Martin.  Jordan tries to navigate her life as a 38 year old CEO as a 13 year old.  Her assistant April (Issa Rae), despite the cruel manner in which she is treated by Jordan, is standing by her side as the only person who knows the truth.

Gee, I wonder how this is going to play out?

Regina King is so over the top mean that I really did not care about her back story or the reason that she became this way as a child.  She was simply a cruel and wicked person.  I am not sure that there was enough shown to her over the movie to make me believe that she learned her lesson.

Easily the best part of the movie though was the performance of young Jordan, Marsai Martin.  Martin commanded the screen and she is an absolute star in the making.  I can’t wait for her to get a role that is actually worth her time for her to show us what she is capable of doing as a young actress.

Everything else was stupid, cliched and not funny.  It kind of reminded me of What Men Want, a film earlier this year that took the same premise of a previous film (What Women Want) and put a female protagonist in the lead role.  That would be fine if the film is well done, but that film did not reach the Mel Gibson movie and this film is nowhere near as magical as Big.

And it all falls down to the script because the cast seemed ready to make this work.

Personally, I have a major problem with the school scenes in this film.  As a middle school teacher, I wondered why the teachers seemed to be missing from this film.  Outside of Justin Hartley, who was used as someone to be googled at here in the metoo movement times, there were no teachers in any of the assembly scenes where all the trouble went down.  Either in the scene at the beginning where Jordan’s life took a turn to the end dance scene that we see in the trailers, there are no teachers around. That always pulls me out of the film because I know that those stereotypical bully girls did their nastiness right out in front of everyone and no teacher came to her.  Same thing with the lunch room scenes.  It was not realistic and, when your main part of the story is about the de-aging of a character, the rest of the film needs to be based in reality.  This wrecked these scenes for me.

There was little to love in Little and, outside of a confident performance from Martin, this film is very forgettable.

2.35 stars

Honk If You Love Justice!

The Tick.

Image result for the tick comic bookBen Edlund’s big blue force for justice never fails to be amazing.  Truly, The Tick has been through multiple iterations over the years and each one improves upon the other and turns out to be way more than a simple satire of the super hero genre.  That is only the surface level of this character.

The Tick started out in 1986 as a newsletter mascot for New England comics.  New England Comics is a chain of comic book shops all around the Boston area.  In 1988, The Tick received his own comic book series published by New England Comics and created by Edlund.

The character was mysterious and his back story is never really explained.  He was shown as escaping from a mental institution, but we know nothing else.  And We do not need to know or want to know anything more about him.  The back story is not important.  Honestly, when we started learning all there was to know about Wolverine was when that character started becoming less cool.  The unknown is wonderful and the Tick is the perfect example.

Image result for the tick animated seriesAfter many years in comic book form, the Tick was ready for the next step.  The Tick starred in a TV animated series on the FOX Kids block of programming starting in 1994.  This series, which was inducted into the EYG Hall of Fame in the class of 2017, lasted three seasons and saw the Tick become more of a known commodity.  The series featured the perfect voice acting of Townsend Coleman as The Tick and introduced us to many key characters from the comic book, including the Tick’s sidekick Arthur, as well as a trio of new super heroes created for the series itself, Die Fledermaus, Sewer Urchin and American Maid.

Image result for the tick animated seriesRemarkably quotable, The Tick animated series was as funny as could be and was targeted at more than just the kids in the audience.  An adult could watch The Tick and find jokes directed for them as well.

I remember watching this every Saturday morning and just rolling with laughter.  I loved the big blue hero and his over dramatic sense of justice and destiny.  “Gravity is a harsh mistress” is a quote I use if someone has fallen and I don’t know how often I shout “Spooooon!”  The animated Tick series influenced me as much as any animated show has done.

Image result for bat manuelSo I was so excited when I found out that there was going to be a live-action Tick series on FOX.  It was also one of the most disappointing moments as well.  Not because of the series, which was, once again, brilliant.  They took a different route on the character, making it more like a super hero Seinfeld show.  It also introduced me to Bat Manuel, a character similar to Die Fledermaus and played by the awesome Nestor Carbonell (who would also star in personal favorite shows LOST and Bates Motel).  The disappointing part of the FOX live action series was the network treated the show like they were embarrassed by it.  Despite strong critical reaction, the network moved the show around, giving it near zero promotion and wound up cancelling it after nine funny episodes.  Patrick Warburton put his own stamp on the character of the Tick, a difficult task considering how brilliant Townsend Coleman was, and created something special in the oversized blue muscle suit.

Thankfully, Ben Edlund, who had become very successful in Hollywood writing such shows as Firefly, Angel, and Supernatural, never gave up on the Tick and his cohorts and he found another outlet.  Amazon Prime gave the Tick another series on its streaming platform and the show evolved once again.

Image result for amazon the tick season oneThis time, the Tick was a little darker, a little more centered on Arthur, but still managed to provide us all that we loved in the history of the Tick.  Peter Serafinowicz took over the role of the Tick and Griffin Newman was our new Arthur.  This show continued the spoof of the super hero genre but it went deeper yet.  The Tick from Amazon could be called a character study.  Arthur and his sister Dot needed to deal with the death of their father when they were children, killed by the villainous The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley).  Even though the Terror was believed to be dead, Arthur was convinced that he had faked his death and was still alive.  The show dealt with the potential delusions of Arthur and even hinted at the fact that the Tick was nothing more than an imaginary delusion of Arthur.

Image result for amazon tick season twoThe show’s first season was promising, but it was nothing compared to how wonderful season two was.  I just finished this second season last night and I loved the entire thing.  Each character had reason, depth and motives that were understandable.  The show dived deep into each character’s world, including side characters such as Overkill, Kevin and even Dangerboat.  The season long Aegis arc was satisfying as was the continual loss of purpose faced by legendary super hero Superion.

And the show was funny!  There was a scene in episode eight with the Tick struggling to find a way to feed baby lobsters that had me in tears of laughter.

Season two set up a season three with two major scenes SPOILER (did they say Thrakazog?).  I certainly hope that Amazon Prime understands what they have on their hands here and renews The Tick for season three, and beyond.

The world needs more of the Tick.  His honesty and the way he faces his problems. determined to do what was right in the face of all adversity is a message that the world truly needs.  The Tick is the hero we need.

Spoooooooooooon!

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Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man#5

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #5

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man #5

“Not Running”

Writer:  Tom Taylor

Artist:  Yildiray Cinar

Cover Art:  Andrew C. Robinson

Peter finally gets the lowdown on Aunt May’s cancer and his reaction is the focus of the book.

I really enjoyed this.  Peter initially pushed away from May, which felt unlike him, but he was working through his issues.  What I liked is that Peter did not become someone that he was not after getting the news.  He reacted very humanly, but understandably while still being the Peter Parker we recognize.

I thought he might go out and deliver some serious beatdowns as Spider-man after getting the news, but the issue took this deeper than that by presenting Peter with a moral dilemma instead of just giving him a super villain to pummel.

Then, the whole Dr. Strange cameo showed a different side to the whole One More Day storyline, a storyline that famously had the character of Spider-man act in a way that many believed he would never have done.  The deal with Mephisto tainted Spider-man for many years and this arc seems to be showing what Spidey really should have done during that time. At least, it has some echos of the story.

The pages of interactions with Peter and Dr. Strange were wonderful and showed a great deal of both characters.

I enjoyed this issue very much.  I never expected Peter to be anywhere but where he ended up in this story.

ReadIt

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #5

Missing Link

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Stop-motion animation studio, Laika, has had some wonderful films.  Para-Norman, Kubo and the Two Strings, Coraline and Boxtrolls all were certain levels of successful.  The company’s fifth film is out this weekend with the charming Missing Link, a film featuring the discovery of a Sasquatch voiced by Zach Galifianakis.

Adventurer and myth and monster investigator Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) follows a tip that leads him to a major discovery, the legendary Sasquatch is real and living in the Pacific Northwest.  Surprised by the beast’s ability to talk, Frost offers to help the Sasquatch (nicknamed Mr. Link, by Frost) find his way to the Himalayas to meet with his cousins, the Yetis.

Meanwhile, villainous Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry) wants to prevent Frost from proving the existence of the Sasquatch and, thus, proving him wrong.

While this is a nice film with solid voice acting, especially from Jackman and Galifianakis, the story is fairly simply, especially when compared to some of the other work in Laika’s library.  That does not demean this film at all, as Missing Link is an enjoyable movie.  It just is not quite as great as some of the others stop-motion classics from Laika.

The animation is, once again, beautiful.  The stop-motion mastery is on display and shows the specific details that goes lovingly into each frame.  The designs of the characters are top notch as well, especially the design of Mr. Link.

I was not a huge fan of the character of Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana).  While Saldana does a solid job voicing the character, I did not find her inclusion to be one of significance and was there simply to provide a foil for Jackman or a female counterpoint.

The film is fast paced and has some very funny moments.  The film is solid and enjoyable, even if it is at the bottom of the Laika playlist.

3.8 stars

The Mustang

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A boy and his horse…

Or…

A felon and his Philly…

The Mustang is a film starring Matthias Schoenaerts as Roman Coleman, a prisoner in a jail in Nevada who is having troubles with other inmates and winds up participating in a rehabilitation therapy program involving the training of wild mustangs.  In this, Roman bonds with a particular difficult mustang after the program’s head trainer (Bruce Dern) picked him out.

The performances of this movie were fantastic.  Matthias Schoenaerts, Bruce Dern, Jason Mitchell (who played another prisoner in the training program) were standouts, bringing a great deal of emotion and depth to this story. The story could have devolved into the sappy and sweet nature of other type of animals and owners stories, but The Mustang avoids those cliches.

Many of the actors involved in this movie were actually real-life prisoners from the same type of program as shown in the movie and you would not know.  Unlike Clint Eastwood’s 15:17 to Paris, these non-professionals are managed by the actual actors and are kept to a minimum.  Because of that, they really help solidify the story.

There is a side arc with Roman’s daughter, played by Gideon Adlon, that is surprisingly effective considering the limited amount of screen time it received.

French actress Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre made her directorial debut in this movie and she does a tremendous job.  There is a real feel to this and it avoided the typical type of claptrap that these films usually take.  There is a typical redemption story at the heart of the film, but they do so much with it that you do not notice that that part of the story does tend to be predictable.

The Mustang is full of amazing acting and some wonderfully shot scenes, as well as some surprisingly violent and emotional moments.  You cheer for Roman even after you find out what horrible thing had landed him behind bars in the first place.  Bruce Dern remains as a national treasure.

3.75 stars

Hellboy (2019)

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I had heard that the new version of Hellboy, starring David Harbour as Hellboy, was getting terrible reviews. In fact, I had heard that the film was at 9% on Rotten Tomatoes (as of this writing it stands at 15%).  This was a bad sign and, I was not that much of a fan of Hellboy already, but I went in with an open mind in my attempt to review it.

I will say that I did not think that the new Hellboy was anywhere near as bad as 15% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I would guess it should be around 30%.  Of course that means the film was not good.  I did not think it was as horrid as many of the reviews did, but it was a long way from good.

The reboot of the Guillermo del Toro films really had some moments that lacked anything special.  There were some decent moments as well, but they were few and far between.

Hellboy is a half-demon who was brought to the world as a child by Nazis in an attempt to destroy it only to be taken and saved by Professor Broom (Ian McShane), who raised Hellboy as his own.  He would become a paranormal investigator with the BPRD (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense).

Unfortunately, one of the most dangerous witches of the past, The Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich) is trying to be resurrected by the forces of evil and Hellboy is needed to stop her.  Joined by Alice (Sasha Lane) and Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim), Hellboy goes to great lengths to prevent the end of it all.

I found much of this movie downright boring.  It was a long movie already and the boring parts made it feel even longer still.  It was not a well put together or paced film and the CGI, most of the time, looked cheap.

David Harbour was fine as Hellboy, but I got conflicting tones from him.  Very few of the jokes dropped by Hellboy worked and several of them were eye rollers.  Hellboy looked better than most of the CGI though, as much of what was on Harbour was practical make-up.

The film was violent, which is not a terrible thing, but there just did not seem to be much art to it.  Basically there was blood splatter and they cut off some heads.  Honestly, every time SPOILERS the blood Queen’s head was chopped off, it was simply hilarious.  I don’t think that was their intended reaction, but it was very funny.

I disliked the story telling gimmick they used multiple times as several different characters provided voice-overs with flashbacks detailing an important part of their past. This was always exposition heavy and added to the dullness of the story.  It certainly did not pop as some of the better scenes did.

Based on Mike Mignola’s graphic novels, Hellboy does not feel like a super hero movie.  It actually feels more like a horror movie, but not a very good one.

2.1 stars