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Wonder Woman: Movie Review

When Batman v. Superman was first being advertised I was probably more excited at the prospect of the movie than I was about any other comic book movie to date, with perhaps the exception of Captain America 2 and 3 (Winter Soldier and Civil War). Wonder Woman had been teased as a character that would be fighting alongside the Caped Crusader in some of the final trailers just before the films release. This raised my interest but still wasn’t my selling point for BvS. Then when I saw BvS in theaters for the first time I was so incredibly impressed with Gal Godot’s Wonder Woman that she was one of my favorite aspects of the movie. So much so that the then Wonder Woman movie which was still over a year out movie made it on to my must see list for 2017.

While I admit I still enjoyed Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Suicide Squad, none of them were great movies like can be said for some of Marvel’s MCU offerings. The bad part of a movie setting the bar so high for a genre is that it’s almost impossible to reach. The bad part about setting a bar so low is that you can’t help but trip on it, and even when you manage to make a decent movie it’s easy to fall victim to the “well of course it’s a good movie, look what we’re comparing it to” attitude. I worried that would happen with Wonder Woman.

Lucky for me, that didn’t happen. Yesterday my fiancé and I saw Wonder Woman in theaters and I was impressed. I mean thoroughly impressed. DC finally spent some time on a movie and didn’t just rush it into theaters. This movie was thoughtfully put together with a good story, a good set of characters, solid plot, great acting, good pace, and above all else, good action.

I love the slew of comic book movies we’ve enjoyed over the past decade and a half but even I can admit that we run the risk of genre fatigue at the rate these movies are being popped out. Wonder Woman was a much needed breath a fresh air in a genre that was starting to become stagnant.

We can talk about what this movie is, but I think it would be a better idea to first talk about what this movie is not.

It’s not boring. Not even a little. Nor is it rushed. The movie has a great rhythm. They don’t spend too much time on the origin aspect, nor do they rush through it (I’m looking at your X-Men Origins Wolverine). This porridge is juuuuuust right.

It’s not a testosterone fest. I love me some action. Daredevil season 2 has some of the most badass fight scenes to ever grace the television set and that’s great if you want to watch two men kick the snot out of each other. But this movie is different and while Wonder Woman no doubt kicks ass her fighting style is more fluid than it is brutal. She’s quick, she’s graceful, she’s always on point, and she still hits like a ton of bricks. There’s no Civil War chest pumping, no Batman brooding.

It’s not a chick flick. Just because it’s got a female lead doesn’t make this movie a slouch, or make it a chick flick. Diana Prince brings a new perspective to what it means to be a hero. Yes, a more womanly based approach that we’re not used to seeing, but a valid one. Fellas, this is not a movie meant to trick you into seeing an action movie that ends up turning into a romantic comedy.

It’s not a SJW shit flick. This movie is not trying to shove some anti patriarchy, man hating, women rule boys drool propaganda down your throat. It’s not. Don’t worry that you’ll get dragged into this movie to be told how evil you are for having a dick.

It doesn’t look CGI heavy. I say look because there’s no doubt this movie used a ton of Hollywood magic but the movie still appears very clean. The CG is not in your face, it’s very subtle. Basically, this movie wasn’t Avatar. It wasn’t Transformers. It didn’t make your eyes bleed.

It’s hard to believe that the DCEU could make a legitimately good movie. While none of the other three films were commercial flops by any metric, they just weren’t great movies. The DCEU up to this point has been a hot mess, and considering that no movie studio, not even the successful Disney / Marvel studio has made a comic book movie with a female lead, it seemed like very dangerous territory for DC  to venture into. But it looks like a female lead and a female director we’re exactly what the doctor ordered for this studio and wow, did it work.

So here’s what we got. This movie had a good amount of action and it progresses with the movie as Diane comes into her own, with the realization of what she is, and what she’s capable of doing. There are many different types of action sequences with scenes so ranging they feel like they came out of Troy, Captain America Winter Soldier, and Saving Private Ryan.

The casting was great. The best of any DCEU movie so far. Gal Gadot is absolutely beautiful, I mean just stunning (and a much better pick than Ronda Rousey). She can pull off the warrior princess, but she can also pull the sophisticated, elegant Diana Prince. Whether she’s flaunting a dress, a pea coat, or a sword and shield, Gadot steals whatever scene she is in. Remember, this is her second debut as Wonder Woman in just over a year and I have high hopes for her third debut in November’s Justice League.

I heard Chris Pine’s character as being the ‘damsel in distress’ and that’s far from the truth. This wasn’t about one gender being helpless, and the other having to save them. This movie illustrated that men and women have different qualities that can augment the other. Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor struggles to find the balance between duty and conscience that most men do. At what point do you abandon orders and do what you know in your heart to be the right thing? Diana Prince helps him to see that morality and duty don’t have to be mutually exclusive. At the same time, Steve Trevor tries to teach Diana that things are not always as simple as black and white, and sometimes you must get your hands dirty to clean up a mess.

Robin Wright did a great job as Antiope. Wright is elegant, sexy, poised, and poisonous as Claire Underwood in House of Cards, but she is straight rugged in her role as a badass Amazon warrior. Her role was short lived, but certainly memorable.

David Thewlis as Ares, the god of war was a bit of a surprise to me, so it might be a bit of a spoiler to you. But IMBD has him listed in the role, so the cats already out of the bag.

Danny Huston does a good villain, and he performed as expected as General Ludendorff, the main protagonist of the first two acts of the movie. Fox Studios botched his role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (as they did most of the entire movie) so it was nice to see him get a role suitable for his abilities.

Wonder Woman will not be a movie soon forgotten. This movie easily gets an 8/10 score from me, and will be the first movie from the DCEU that I care to own on Blu-Ray. Here’s hoping that Gal Godot is not acted out, and can pull off this character a third time in just a year and a half with this fall’s Justice League. I expect this movie will do commercial well. Just like children’s movies result in the parents having to buy a ticket, this movie will probably draw not just the usual male comic book movie crowd, but their wives and girlfriends (if those dorks have any). If you want an action and adventure movie to jump start your summer, I recommend this over Disney’s seafaring five-quel.

Go see Wonder Woman. And bring your wife and kids too.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: Movie Review

Last night I saw an early screening of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as part of a 3D double feature of GOG1 and GOG2 back to back. While I am not a huge fan of wearing the 3D glasses, watching both movies back to back certainly was fun and really added to the experience of the second movie. While the sequel certainly time skips a couple years or so, it doesn’t feel like. Right from the beginning you get that gangs all here vibe. Even with that annoying kid who kept kicking my seat, the movie just felt right.

Director James Gunn did a wonderful job with the sequel. That’s doesn’t sound like much but in the world of sequels, sequels of sequels, pre-quels, and side-quels, it’s really easy for a story to get run out. So the simple fact that this was a good sequel is actually a huge freaking deal. We’re so used to sequels and reboots that it’s easy to get jaded, and some Marvel titles are among the worst offenders. I’m looking at you Spider-Man. But fear not, this is a sequel that lives up to the hype of it’s predecessor.

It wasn’t a runaway better sequel like Dark Knight was to Batman Begins, or Winter Soldier was to Captain America 1, but GOG2 was at the very least on par with GOG1. And considering how good the original was, saying this movie was “good enough” is actually a huge complement.

There were a lot of similarities and a lot of differences in this movie, some of which are splitting hairs.

Family

Whereas Guardians was more about friendship, this movie was more about family. Everything from the way the group interacts as a whole and how individual members interact with one another, to how they perceive satellite characters and the world around them. Peter Quill and Gamora have an ‘unspoken’ burgeoning romance and assume a sort of paternal and maternal role in the group, which is hilariously referred to in the mid-credit scenes.

Everyone misses the family they lost, or never had to begin with. Quill’s heartbreak over his mom and his frustration with not knowing his father plays front and center most of the movie. It also focused a lot on his relationship with Yondu. Gamora tries to reconcile her relationship with her estranged and murderous sister, Nebula. Drax misses his wife and child. Rocket who has never had a real family struggles with learning how to embrace his new adoptive family. And Groot… well… ha… you’ll just have to see the movie for yourself.

We see the Guardians start to function as more of real team or family unit, as opposed to ‘a bunch of guys running around shooting guns’ to quote Steve Rogers. In Vol. 1 they were for the most part winging everything. Vol. 2 gives us a well-oiled albeit argumentative machine. The guardians have hit their stride and saving the world is all part of the routine.

Humor

Everyone knew this movie was going to be funny. If the original movie didn’t clue you off, the marketing campaign should have made it abundantly clear this movie was going to have you laughing, but the ads didn’t do the movie justice. This movie delivers the laughs. Chris Pratt needs no introduction to comedy. Bradley Cooper’s Rocket of course brings foul mouthed comedy and that was no shocker.

To my surprise, Dave Batista’s Drax the Destroyer stole the show in terms of pound for pound comedy. Drax had me about to cough up a lung I was laughing so hard.  But don’t worry, you’re beautiful on the inside.

The jokes and moments are too many to list, but if you want to laugh, go see Guardians 2, you won’t be disappointed.

Heart

What you probably didn’t expect was that this movie has some serious heart. More so than any other movie I’ve seen in a long time, and certainly more so than any other comic book movie. At one point in the movie I was borderline crying. Like seriously, about to cry.

This wasn’t some thrown together chemistry like that awkward ‘romance’ between Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley in Pirates. James Gunn very carefully laid the framework for real characters you could relate to, and real connections you can commiserate with, and the actors did an amazing job making this all believable. When the characters laugh, you laugh with them, and when they cry, you feel it too.

This is what makes GOG2 so much more than just ‘another comic book movie’. This isn’t just thrashing and shooting and blowing shit up, even though that does happen too. There’s a huge reservoir of emotion beneath the surface. The movie is galactic in scale but it doesn’t have to be. It wouldn’t make any difference if took place in Nebraska. GOG2 wasn’t using eye boggling graphics and CGI scenes as a crutch for good story telling like some other movies starring robots. Guardians stands firmly on two feet with the cast, story, and directing alone. The graphics are just a welcomed bonus.

Graphics

But yeah, about ‘dem graphics. Like I said before, I don’t like wearing those 3D glasses but if you can spare a couple bucks to see Volume 2 in 3D it’s certainly worth doing at least once. The graphics in this movie really are something else. Avatar was incredible when it came out for it’s vibrance and surrealism. Guardians 2 is incredible for it’s vibrance and realism. Despite the fact that I know none of this stuff is real, it actually feels real. One particular scene that takes place on the ‘planet’ Ego comes to mind, where Disney/Marvel literally made a planet in outer space and synthesized their own new alien vegetation just to film this scene. I’m pretty sure. Like 99% sure that was actually filmed on an alien planet….

I swear to God if you kick him one more time I’ll sue Disney.

Soundtrack

Everyone had to be looking forward to the soundtrack and movie score. The retro 80’s esque band poster and the amazing soundtrack of the first movie had me curious to see what the sequel had in store. It definitely had some nice tunes, specifically Fleetwood Mac, but sSadly this is the one aspect of the movie that was not as good as the original.

Summary

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cheer, you’ll get an adrenalize rush. This movie has everything you need. It had everything you liked about the first movie without feeling redundant. And it has a bunch of really cool new stuff without feeling avant-garde and forced. The cast as expected did an amazing job turning a ragtag bunch of Marvel’s bottom of the barrel characters and turning them into generations of memorable heroes and millions of dollars of brand merchandizing for Disney.

It might not sound like I’m singing praise for this movie because I keep likening it to the first movie. Because I don’t have to. Guardians of the Galaxy was, in my opinion, one of the best movies ever made, and this movie is equally good, if not just a tad better. So if you know how much I loved the original, that alone should tell you how great I thought Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 really was.

I give this movie a 10/10. Run, don’t walk, to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Movie review: Deadpool

I had been waiting for Deadpool since Fox officially announced they would make it back in 2014. I was waiting before then, since the idea of a Deadpool movie first came about in 2009 when a horrible rendition of the character appeared in Fox’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the shittiest X-Men movie in the franchise to date. In fact, XMOW was so shitty Fox literally made a sequel where they go back in time to undo the events of the movie, effectively making it non-canon.

Look two faces right of Wolverine, and who is that?! Gasp, you should! Reynolds as Wade Wilson the first time, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

As tangential as that may have sounded, it wasn’t. It’s the shittiness of Fox’s earlier comic book movie endeavors that produced the colossus (ha, get it?) of a movie that is Deadpool.

Deadpool is a wisecracking mercenary who has healing powers similar to Wolverine, and who uses swords, knives, guns, and chimichangas to hilariously kill his way through life. He’s also cognitive of the fact that he’s a comic book character and often “breaks the fourth wall” meaning he addresses the audience directly.

Fox’s 2016 Deadpool stars Ryan Reynolds as the titular character Deadpool / Wade Wilson. What you may not know is that is technically the second time Reynolds portrayed the character. As previously mentioned, Reynolds played a version of the character, albeit a very much under done and poorly written version, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. So that fact that Fox doubled down and went balls out to make a solo, R-Rated comic book flick about a character known for cussing up a storm and killing people actually got me a little hard.

If you haven’t seen Deadpool, SEE IT. Based on how many records it’s broken it’s hard to imagine there’s a soul left on this earth who hasn’t seen it. Ya know what, if you’ve seen it already, go see it again, smart ass.

Lets be honest, Fox took a bigger gamble with Deadpool than Marvel/Disney did with Guardians of the Galaxy. Which do you think is easier to market to children, talking raccoons in talking trees, or burn victim, foul mouthed, sex addicted mercenaries?

The movie was everything I expected and much more. It wasn’t just the above. Despite cramming in the character’s core persona and mythos, they managed to make the character relatable in and out of the spandex. Wilson talks like us. He walks like us. He drinks like us. He loves like us. He jokes like us. He’s not a choir boy, and he does fuck up every once in a while, but despite the fuckups he’s still a good guy, not a villain. And just like all of us, sometimes bad things befall him, for no wrongdoing of his own. And this movie did a fantastic job of showing what extremes a good people will go to in order to save themselves, and more importantly to better the lives of those we love.

Despite how much I love Marvel and their titles like Iron Man and Captain America, Wade Wilson is 10x more relatable to the audience than Tony Stark or Steve Rogers.

I don’t need to review this movie. The movie was great, and honestly you should see it. The only, and I mean only bad thing about the movie that I say actually has nothing to do with the movie itself. It has to do with the marketing. Fox was so worried about filling seats that they over marketed it. Leading up to the movie there were so many different teasers, trailers, clips, commercials starring Deadpool and viral marketing that by the time I first plopped my ass in the theater seat, I felt as if I had already seen the movie. And to be honest, I kinda did. Spend 20 minutes on YouTube and watch all the aforementioned and you’ve basically seen the movie. But just because I got filled up on Costco free samples doesn’t make the movie any less enjoyable.

Despite having blown most of its load in it’s advertising campaign, I still thought Deadpool was an amazing movie, and it definitely did not disappoint. It was funny, no, it was gut wrenching hilarious. On several occasions I thought I needed a respirator because I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe, which is sort of ironic once you’ve seen the movie. I particularly loved the jab about KFC sporks, especially since I thought I was the last person on earth to remember the fabled tool of the ancients. Just as Deadpool riddles his enemies with bullets, the entire movie is riddled with dick and fart and sex jokes and Mexican food. Comical jabs abound. The film has plenty of in your face comedy, but it also has tons of more subtle comedic moments that you have to pay attention to in order to appreciate. Tonally, the movie felt a lot like Archer.

The movie played very fast and loose with the whole breaking the fourth wall bit. Reynold’s Deadpool not only did so, but the movie also was self-aware and made plenty of references to out of movie productions that Reynolds and his former co-stars had participated in, such as Green Lantern, the Blade series, and the overall X-Men­ franchise even going so far as to name particular actors like Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy, and Hugh Jackman.

It also goes without saying that the movie had plenty of action. Which is interesting now that I think about it because despite centering around a guy with swords and knives and things that go boom, the movie put comedy in the drivers seat, drama in shotgun, and action in the backseat. The X franchise was so dry and dull and comedy-less with over the top action that it was refreshing to see a change of formula. Deadpool, besides his healing, really doesn’t have “super powers”. He can’t fly or control the weather or shoot red crap out of his eyes or lift the entire Golden Gate Bridge. He can run, jump, and shoot, and he does ‘em all with style. This is definitely not an action movie the likes of Michael Bay.

Most of all, I am happy for Ryan Reynolds. He seems like a nice guy who just kept getting shafted career wise. Everyone loved him in Waiting and Van Wilder, but as iconic and memorable as those roles were they probably didn’t pay too well. Blade 3 was okay, but nothing compared to Blade 2. Then he had a series of mega flops like Green Lantern and R.I.P.D. So it’s great to see him getting a stab at a role that’s finally on par with the weight his name brings to a movie.

If you want a hilarious movie, with relatable characters, excellent dialogue, a healthy dose of action, the occasional insensitive remark, and a possibly CGI’ed super suit, then this is the movie for you. Or if you’re just tired of apocalyptic (irony again!) superhero movies.

Spectre: Movie Review

The summer is over and so is the season of summer blockbusters. Between you and me, the last couple months have been a movie slump, and the last legitimately entertaining movie this year was Ant-Man. Jurassic World was mildly entertaining, and Age of Ultron was a complete let down.

But 2015 was not a complete cinematic dud. If summer of 2015 blue balled you in the action adventure department then you’ll love the 4th and latest installment of the Daniel Craig James Bond franchise. I’ve been anxiously looking forward to Craig reprising his role as the infamous 007 since the first teaser trailer came out a year ago, and after having caught an early screening on Tuesday, November 3rd, I can tell you it was well worth the wait!

We’ve seen Bond show down in a battle of wits against global money launderer, Le Chiffre, in Casino Royale. We’ve seen Bond do…. uh…. do something in South America having to do with water or oil or something, in Quantum of Solace with [enter villain here]. Then we watched Bond battle skeletons from the MI6’s deep, dark closet against the menacing Silva in Skyfall.

Now, get ready for what I consider to be the fourth, and best installment in the decade running franchise. In Spectre, super spy James Bond is caught in the crossfire when traditional espionage and intelligence gathering collides with modern day data scouring and drones. In an increasing age of terrorism and geopolitical unrest, governments around the world start to question if the world still needs traditional spies and boots on the ground, when we have drones, satellites, and wire-tapping at our disposal.

In the film, intelligence agencies from the world’s most powerful countries are called to action to combine their intelligence gathering operations and systems, to create a type of new world order of counter terrorism. When this audacious overreach is met with resistance by M, James Bond and his entire department – who are considered obsolete and antiquated – are either merged with existing departments, or are shelved entirely. Acting outside their legal jurisdictions, Bond, M, Q, and Money Penny work to stop a mysterious villain that threatens the freedom of the world, as they struggle to stay one step ahead of the enemy. Bond discovers that the person steering the course of humanity’s future may also be a shadow from his past.

Spectre was thoroughly enjoyable. Much of the plot and many of the characters may seem recycled from pervious movies, including Bond movies, because they are. But Columbia did more than rinse and repeat with old ingredients, and in my opinion managed to take kitchen scraps and turn them into an entirely new delicacy that will leave you hungry for more.

In fact, part of the appeal of Spectre is that is harkens back to the golden days of Bond. The main villain, Franz Oberhauser is a new age version of Ernst Stavro Blofeld from the original Bond films who also ran SPECTER, the same villain that Mike Meyers parodied as Dr. Evil in Austin Powers. They even went so far as to explain how this classic villain received the trademark scar across his right eye.

But the good old days villainy didn’t stop there. While Oberhauser was the brains, David Bautista was the brawn, and played the very formidable Mr. Hinx. My opinion is that Hinx is a new age version of Oddjob, a ruthless and well-dressed villain from the 1964 movie Goldfinger, who kills people by throwing a steel rimmed top hat. Mr. Hinx breathes fresh life into the role and brings a very physical, intense, unnervingly calm, and intimidating performance with him. This is the first time in the Daniel Craig franchise that James Bond was not only challenged mentally, but physically.

Daniel Craig delivers his usual and appreciated, primed and polished performance. I’ve come to appreciate his interpretation of James Bond. Spy, yes. Womanizer, yes. Fashionable, always, but still someone very much mired in tradition, and a real man’s man who is tough as nails yet still emotionally vulnerable. James Bond is anything but a new character to audiences, but just like mom’s Thanksgiving dinner, is a tried and tested recipe for success.

There are several beautiful Bond love interests in Spectre, but if one gets the title of Bond Girl, it would be Léa Seydoux. She played the character of Madeleine Swann, and as fate would have it is the daughter of a former enemy of James Bond. Personally, I wasn’t a fan. She’s young enough to be James Bond’s daughter, whined a lot, and had that prickly European demeanor. Plus, I mean come on. She’s no Eva Green.

We also got a fair amount of screen time of Ralph Fiennes and M, Ben Whishaw as Bond’s secret help and accomplice Q, Naomi Harris as the always lovable Moneypenny, Christoph Waltz as the puppet master Franz Oberhauser, and a short romance scene with the timeless beauty Monica Belluci.

Some possible SPOILER ALERTS in this next paragraph.

As I was watching Spectre, I couldn’t help but think that the movie was very similar to last year’s hit, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Spectre = Hydra

The first major similarity is that both movies feature a shadowy organization that is attempting to usurp an established, well intentioned intelligence gathering apparatus, in the name of sacrificing freedom for security. In Winter Solider, Hydra has infiltrated SHIELD and is trying to take it over from the inside out, and Captain America is trying to stop them. In Spectre, said organization is trying to swallow up MI5 and MI6 from the outside in, and James Bond is trying to stop them.

What’s more, is that both organizations are found to be responsible for a long series of horrible and violent events that are seemingly unrelated, with the sole purpose of creating enough chaos to get the masses to willingly give up their freedoms in return for a Big Brother type organization.

The figure heads behind each organization are both German. Red Skull / Johann Schmidt is a German Nazi, and actor Christoph Waltz from Spectre is of actual German Austrian descent.

hydra-vs-spectre

Even the respective mascots are the similar. Both Spectra and Hydra’s emblem sport a multi-tentacled creature, one being a hydralisk and the other an octopus.

Righteousness as a Relic

Captain America is commonly referred to as “a man out of time”, and his old school and righteous ways are considered antiquated. James Bond might not be as virtuous as Cap when it comes to his drinking and philandering, but’s still got a strong moral compass. Bond and his companions are referred to as antiquated, their methods outdated, and their purpose obsolete.

Ralph Fiennes’ role as M, Bond’s superior within the organization, is very similar both in function and in character to Samuel Jackson’s role as Nick Fury within SHIELD. In both movies, the director and soldier don’t see eye to eye, but when confronted with a larger moral dilemma, work together towards a common goal of restoring freedom.

I think there is an unspoken moral to this common story as well. Change is neither good nor bad. Change is simply change. Good or bad depends on the change, and how it is used. And just as you should be wary of people who adamantly oppose any kind of change, one should be equally wary of someone who blindly lambast the past, or tradition.

The story was well crafted and very neatly wrapped up a lot of loose ends, weaving together the other films since the relaunch. The acting was of course, what you would expect from such a legendary, decades spanning franchise. The romance was sprinkled on without overshadowing the main story, and Bond was very much a strong yet vulnerable character that audiences will be able to relate to. And of course, there was plenty of action to get you through the cinematic lulls. All in all, I think Spectre was a great movie on par with Casino Royal (2006). Some people might say it’s more of the same Hollywood product; car chases, martinis, womanizing, boat chases, plane chases, pretty much lots of chases,  explosions, fast cars, crazy gadgets, etc. Which is exactly what I want out of my James Bond! I found it very entertaining and will probably end up buying it on Bluray when it comes out. I give Spectre an A-.

No Escape: Movie Review

So I’m a little rusty on my movie reviewing, so bear with me. I think I saw a trailer for this movie a couple months ago, not really sure. Anywho I went and saw an early showing of No Escape last night up in Mira Mesa, and had no idea what to expect, which is a good thing.

Here’s the spoiler-free run down of the movie: Owen Wilson is an American family man who relocates his wife and two daughters to an unnamed Southeast Asian country (we know because it borders Vietnam) for a new job after his previous employer went belly up. Times are tough, tough enough to move to a third world nation in pursuit of a job.

Their flight lands, and we enter the culture shock sequence for the family as they don’t speak the language, and the nicest hotel in town doesn’t have working television, internet, or phones, and all the other first world luxuries we take for granted. But, the family meets a boisterous, western expat, Pierce Brosnan, who helps point them in the right direction. Yay, a fellow white person! This place isn’t too scary anymore. No, but seriously, right?

The foreplay is short. Maybe 12 minutes into the movie shit hits the fan. As Owen Wilson is roaming the area trying to find a newspaper, he inadvertently ends up in the middle of a violent confrontation between riot police and an angry mob armed with machetes, bats, and AKs. Think Hotel Rwanda, but in Asia, and way fucking scarier.

Wilson darts and dashes his way through the city trying to find his way back to his hotel and family, while also avoiding the mobs. He reunites with his family, and parental instincts kick in as mom and dad struggle to safely navigate their way through the perilous city, with kids in tow.

What to know what happens next? Go see for yourself.

No Escape will have you on the edge of your seat and cringing from start to finish. The movie was definitely action packed but not in the typical Liam-Neeson-throat-smashing way we’ve grown used to in the past couple years. Remember, our protagonist isn’t Jason Bourne, he’s a family man, and on top of that he’s got his wife and two little girls with him, and they have no idea where the hell they are. So there is no bare chested ammo bandolier action hero. Just a dude doing the best he can to keep his family alive when all hell breaks loose in a foreign land.

The closest movie I can think of in terms of setting and that feeling of anxiety this movie brings, is The Purge: Anarchy, which came out almost a year ago, except No Escape has a much more realistic plot. Everyone in the Purge had 364 days to batten down the hatches and arm themselves to the teeth in preparation. This family isn’t even sure where to get their free continental breakfast and then bam, political uprising.

I don’t want to give away too much as far as the story goes, so I’ll leave it at that. The movie is very good. I was very surprised.

When watching movies like this, I always find myself thinking “I would do this, I would do that!” But then again I also watch a ton of zombie movies and like a weirdo I have actually invested a fair amount of thought into how I would survive an oh-shit situation. Most people don’t, including our main characters, which made this movie, and everyone’s acting very believable.

We haven’t seen Owen Wilson in too many movies lately so who knew what to expect here. We do know that we loved him in Wedding Crashers and a bunch of other comedies so this was a little off course for him, but let’s not forget he also knocked Behind Enemy Lines out of the park way back in 2001, which was also about an American dude running for his life from foreigners who want to kill him. Wilson did an amazing job wearing a lot of hats; husband, father, survivor, and if need be, killer.

Lake Bell, who plays the wife/mom, also does an amazing job in her role. She was reluctant to move overseas in the first place, and you can feel a little bit of that tension between mommy and daddy from the onset of the movie without rubbing your nose in it. Even in the midst of chaos the parents can still have tiffs, for better or worse.

Even the little girls did an amazing job, portraying believable pains in the ass. You just wanted to yell “I’m trying to save your life now for the love of Christ shut up and don’t make any noise or they’ll find us and kill us!”

Oh, and Pierce Brosnan was there too. He really didn’t have a huge role, but I enjoyed his 10 minutes of screen time and social commentary.

It’s difficult to summarize this movie because it’s not that kind of a movie, where it’s told like an epic story, with compartmentalized events. So here’s my conclusive list of bullet points on the film:

  • Owen Wilson killed it.
  • Actually, all the actors did an amazing job, and made it feel so real and believable.
  • The story is interesting and realistic, and it doesn’t stumble.
  • There is no central villain, or a bad guy with an eye patch. The antagonist is human nature.
  • You’re on edge the entire time. The movie steals your attention and won’t let it go. Not even for a second. Trust me, you won’t zone out in the second act.
  • You’ll have plenty to talk about in the drive home after the movies.
  • It was an unexpected, pleasant rush of adrenaline at the tail end of an already action packed summer movie season.
  • The story was different, and something you aren’t used to seeing.
  • There was a thin veneer of social commentary about (illegal) immigration, corporatism, and western interventionism, but it wasn’t dragged out, and it didn’t overshadow the fact that the characters are literally being chased by people who want to kill them.
  • The movie was actually too short.

All said and done, No Escape was a very good movie, and I highly recommend you go out and see it. I give it an A-, and that’s only because I thought the movie was too short, and I could have gone for a few more rounds, maybe 20-30 minutes more longer would have been nice.

Go see this movie!

Ant-Man: Movie Review

After the complete let down that was Avengers: Age of Ultron, my inner-Marvel-self was riding low. After Iron Man 3 I didn’t think I could ever be so disappointed in a Marvel movie, but Age of Ultron proved me wrong, so admittedly the bar was low going in to Ant-Man.

Who the hell is Ant-Man? How does it play into the grand scheme of things? Can Marvel succeed with a no-name franchise?

But alas, Marvel also managed to pull Guardians of the Galaxy out of the deepest, darkest corner of the comic book archives and turn it into a massive success. I was hopeful.

If you too are humming and hawing about seeing Ant-Man, don’t. It’s a good movie and you’ll enjoy yourself. Here is what made Ant-Man a great movie.

Piece of the Puzzle

Ant-Man isn’t some random Marvel movie orbiting around the Avengers in the far off distance – like Guardians. It fits snuggly into the MCU where it rightfully belongs, and it keeps reminding you throughout the entire film.

Like any intriguing story, Ant-Man starts with a prelude – taking place decades before the events of the movie itself. It methodically weaves itself into the other franchises such as Iron Man, Captain America, and Agent Carter. You start to realize that Ant-Man has been a part of the story all along, you just didn’t know it.

The bald guy is always the villain.

We get some fun guest appearances from an aging Peggy Carter, and a still-kicking Howard Stark (played by the same actor from Iron Man 2, John Slattery). At one point in the movie that was featured in the trailer, Paul Rudd even says “I think we should call the Avengers”, putting all the cards on the table.

Running with the Big Dogs

I often find myself thinking Marvel = Avengers and Avengers = Marvel, and anything else is secondary and can’t possibly live up to the hype. But Guardians of the Galaxy and the Daredevil series on Netflix both proved me wrong, and Agents of Shield and Agent Carter aren’t too shabby either.

Ant-Man definitely exceeded my expectations. It was a well written movie, with great casting, and it had that special Marvel recipe of the perfect blend of action and humor that has made the franchise so successful.

What’s this? An Avenger in the flesh? Gasp you should.

It’s clear that Ant-Man and his allies will play an important role in the story to come, and I think it’s safe to say that as a movie series it will be a successful money maker and an audience pleaser. Ant-Man might not have the same wow factor as Iron Man or Captain America, but it’s no slouch either. Whereas Iron Man started out with a bang and then fizzled out into the butt of the series, I think Ant-Man will follow in the footsteps of Captain America, starting off small and really gaining some traction and popularity in its second installment like Cap did with Winter Soldier.

Paul Rudd Kills It

I’ve always liked Paul Rudd. From Clueless, to 40 Year Old Virgin, to Role Models, Paul Rudd always did a fantastic job of playing a very relatable character. He’s likeable, but that’s an understatement. Molly Young from NY times described Rudd best when she said “You can add Rudd to any movie, and the movie will taste better. He is the MSG of actors.”

He’s not Schwarrzenegger, he’s not Jason Stathom, he’s not Liam Nesson, and he’s not Daniel Craig. He’s the Joe Schmoe of action heroes. Rudd is completely out of his element, both as a hero, as the lead role, and especially as the titular character, and perhaps that’s what makes him such a good match for Scott Lang.

Yes, an actual scene from the movie of Paul Rudd working at Baskin Robbins.

 

He’s not buff like Thor, holier than thou like Captain America, self-loathing like Bruce Banner, or self-important like Tony Stark. He’s cool and mellow and inviting and most of all humble, both as a character and as an actor.

You can tell Paul Rudd is counting his blessings to be counted among the Marvel roster, and he brings that charm and appeal to his role. You can’t help but root for the guy.

Unburdened

Part of what annoyed me about Age of Ultron is that there was just too much shit going on. We had Avengers, and mutants (but don’t tell Fox), and Hydra, and killer robots. Infinity stones, flash backs, a ton of new characters and a story that quite frankly made no sense. First they’re fighting Hydra, then they’re all fighting themselves, then they’re fighting bad robots, then they team up with a good robot. What the hell was Avengers 2 even about?

Ant-Man started off with a clean slate. It lets you focus on and enjoy the movie without worrying your pretty little head about the nuances of the MCU or an overly complicated story. There were some direct references to the other movies, but they were in passing.

There also weren’t 85 characters fighting for screen time. You have Scott Lang, Hank Pym, Hank Pym’s his hot daughter, a villain, and a Stan Lee cameo. That’s it. No kale, no acai, no quinoa, no gluten-free dietary restrictions. Ant-Man is the burger, fries, and a coke of Marvel movies you’ve been waiting for, and it’s fucking delicious.

Conclusion

Long story short, Ant-Man was a very fun and entertaining movie. Despite the fact that it can stand on its own two feet, it still makes itself integral to the MCU moving forward and laid some fun Easter Eggs *cough* Spiderman *cough* in the process.

The story was interesting. The characters were fun. The dialogue was snappy. The CGI was believable. The villain was a recycled Obadiah Stane from Iron Man 1. There was plenty of action and humor, and the swear words sprinkled in there will go right over children heads, so feel free to bring them along for the ride.

Ant-Man will definitely make it to my DVD/Blu-Ray collection when it comes out on video. If you need something to feed your nerd addiction until next summer, Ant-Man should fill you up just fine. I highly recommend Ant-Man for all audiences, you won’t be disappointed!

What’s Next for Marvel MCU

When I speak of Marvel in this blog, I am speaking exclusively about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which encompasses the movie/film franchises owned by Disney.

Just Happened

Just this month, Marvel released their Netflix original series Daredevil which focuses on Matt Murdock, the lawyer turned vigilante who fights crime in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Just several days old and the series already has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes (certified fresh) from critics, and a 98% from audiences. After binge watching the entire series myself, I give the show a 9 / 10, and you can read my review here.

About to Happen

But an entire series being released in one day isn’t enough, not for Marvel and Disney who have quite the roller coaster planned for fans over the next several months, and years.

Next month, one of the most anticipated movies of the year comes out, Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Audiences have waiting three years for the big four to team up again on the silver screen, and Marvel is repaying that anticipation with interest. The next Marvel cinematic installment will have Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Maria Hill from the previous Avengers, and they’ll be adding to the roster Quicksilver, Scarlett Witch, Vision, War Machine, Falcon, and let’s not forget Ultron. And these are just the ones we know about. Who knows what tricks Marvel has up its’ sleeve.

And Then…

Then just a few weeks later Marvel is broadening the MCU with the theatrical release of Ant Man starring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas. While the name is not very inspiring, and most non comic book fans won’t know who this is, Ant Man is a very important keg in the Marvel machine. In the comics, the original Ant Man, Hank Pym, is responsible for creating the maniacal villain Ultron.

The commonly accepted narrative right now is that the story is being rewritten so that Tony Stark is credited for screwing over the world. However with Ant Man the movie following so closely on the heels of Age of Ultron, I suspect there might be more to the story than we’ve been told. My guess is that the central Ant Man characters will be revealed in Age of Ultron and somehow tied into his origins – meaning Marvel isn’t simply broadening their universe, they are entangling it.

Let’s Not Forget About TV

Enough with the silver screen, let’s get back to TV land for a second. If you’ve learned anything about Marvel over the past decade, it’s that they don’t flash and fizzle. Daredevil is the first Netflix series they’ve made, but it is by no means the only one. In fact, a quick look at IMDB would reveal that Charlie Cox will be reprising his role as the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen again in another Netflix series The Defenders – Netflix’s shot at their own Superhero team up.

By 2016, Netflix and Marvel intend to release four series in total – I am sure with more on the way. The first three shows are Daredevil, Luke Cage, and A.K.A. Jessica Jones. The title characters of those shows will then join up and form The Defenders – Marvel’s television comeback to the Avengers – a group of heroes starring in a fourth Netflix show of the same name. This is huge news, because in the next year, the number of Marvel/Disney franchises will mushroom 50% from the current tally of eight, up to 12.

Risk Taking

Marvel is doubling down on a recipe that has already worked for them when they tied together four franchises for 2012’s Avengers. Will it work out for them on TV like it did in theaters? Time will tell.

But all of this is working towards something even bigger. As we all know, Captain America: Civil War is just around the corner which will focus on the fictional Superhero Registration Act from the comics several years ago. With only about a year to go, can audiences expect all the familiar faces both old and new to take sides in the divisive and controversial tug-of-war between Captain America/Steve Rogers and Iron Man/Tony Stark?

Audiences will get tired of the same old routine of splitting apart and bringing back together the four Avengers every couple years to fight the Bad Guy of the Week. My guess is Marvel is well aware of this, which means that in order to keep the party going they’re going to need to up the stakes. Expect to see an ever increasing number of heroes flying around and blasting their way through Earth and the cosmos.

Spider-Man

And to top it all off, Marvel and Sony have reached a nail biting agreement, which will allow Marvel to feature Spider-Man in their movies. Fans are happier than ever that Disney magic can breathe some fresh life into the Spidey saga that thus far has inspired no awe even after two relaunches in the past decade. The big question on nerds’ minds now, is will there be enough time to write Spiderman into the Civil War moving coming out in 2016? In the comics Peter Parker played a huge role in the events of the Civil War story arc, so fingers crossed Kevin Feige can work the web slinger in artistically.

Distant Future

Here is a timeline of recent events and events to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

  • 2010-April-10: [Netflix Series]Daredevil series airs on Netflix
  • 2015-May-01: Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • 2015-July-17: Ant-Man
  • 2015-Sep-Late: [TV Series] Agents of Shield: Season 3
  • 2015 Unknown: [Netflix Series] A.K.A. Jessica Jones
  • 2015 Unknown: [Netflix Series] Iron Fist
  • 2016-May-06: Captain America: Civil War
  • 2016-Nov-04: Doctor Strange
  • 2016 Unknown: [Netflix Series] Luke Cage
  • 2016 Unknown: [Netflix Series] Defenders
  • 2017-May-05: Guardians of the Galaxy 2
  • 2017-July-28: Thor Ragnarok
  • 2017-Nov-3: Black Panther
  • 2018-May-4: Avengers: Infiniti War Part I
  • 2018-July-6: Captain Marvel
  • 2018-Nov-2: Inhumans
  • 2019-May-3: Avengers: Infiniti War Part II

And with Marvel brass saying they have plans out to 2028, we can expect years – no – decades of more fun.

Who are your Favorite Marvel MCU Characters?