Tag Archives: Marvel

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.

Advertisements

Doctor Strange: Movie Review

I saw Doctor Strange two Fridays ago. While it was definitely a good movie, well made, it definitely didn’t have me jumping out of my seat begging for more.

In a cinematic universe such as Marvel’s MCU, where the audience have come to expect larger and larger action sequences, a movie with relatively mild action and no explosions barely registers as a blip on the radar. That doesn’t mean that Doctor Strange was in anyway a let down. Marvel has beat the action movie drum long enough and I think they have come to terms with the fact that it may be time to try a new route, and Doctor Strange is definitely their biggest step in this new re-branding.

With over a dozen movies already released, plus five television shows, it was only a matter of time before Marvel started recycling some of their material. Doctor Strange to me seemed like a blend of Iron Man and Thor: The Dark World. They combined the character development and personal tale of Tony Stark with the overall story and tone of TTDW.

Meet Dr. Stephen Strange. A very successful, highly educated, self-absorbed dick who doesn’t respect his coworkers or those closest to him, and seemingly has no family to speak of. He’s a 1%er who drives expensive German cars, lives in a New York penthouse, and thinks he’s just God’s gift to man. Sound familiar? Let’s push forward. Said character gets into a horrible accident that physically maims him, and threatens his ability to return to his former life. Desperation and necessity beget progress, and our antagonist discovers their true calling.

Moral of the story: Don’t text and drive. Or maybe DO text and drive and then after dodging paralysis you might end up getting magical powers and your own movie!

The story moves like Thor: The Dark World in that the main antagonist isn’t trying to conquer the world, he’s trying to destroy it, himself included. There’s also a lot of instant teleporting from one place to the next. In TTDK this was caused by the convergence, and our hero was constantly swooping from one place or dimension to the next in the midst of battle. In Doctor Strange, our hero and company chase and are chased by the villains from one portal to the next, hop scotching across the city and world in Scooby doo fashion.

And that’s pretty much the movie. Despite the mystic allure of the movie and the exotic aroma the advertising gave off, the movie itself is pretty straight forward. It was pretty easy to follow. The story was linear with no detours. No twists. No turns. No tangents. The people you thought were good were good, and the bad guys were actually bad. No fake Mandarins or Obadiah Stane gotchas.

Pretty much everything you thought was going to happen, happened. An 8 year old could have guessed how the story was going to end after the first 20 minutes. Again, I am not trying to smack down the movie. It had great acting, great casting, great wardrobe, setting, effects, dialogue, etc. and the expected MCU quips to keep you chuckling. It just wasn’t grade-A original like Iron Man, Winter Soldier, or Guardians.

There isn’t anything bad to say about this movie. There also isn’t anything to brag about. Marvel made a solid, entertaining movie that will easily turn a profit, result in plenty of children’s toys and nerd swag, and which will bridge the gap between Civil War and the next Avengers installment and keep the MCU franchise churning forward.

Would I watch Doctor Strange again? Sure, why not. Would I purchase the DVD? Naw, but it would be a cool Christmas present maybe.

Post Script

One small grievance I have is not necessarily with this movie, but with what I consider to be an anachronism on Marvel’s part. Way back when, two and a half years ago in Captain America: Winter Soldier, Hydra agent Jasper Sitwell while being interrogated by Cap, Falcon and Black Widow spilled the beans on Zola’s plan for world domination and in the process rattled off a few names of people that would be targeted for death by the helicarriers once active. Among those names was Stephen Strange aka Doctor Strange. At first glance I suspected that perhaps the events of Doctor Strange actually took place prior to the events of Winter Soldier and that this was simply a slightly out of place side-quel that Marvel would simply weave back into the fold.

Viewers dorkier than I noticed that in Doctor Strange there were awards dated 2016 which confirmed the story itself takes place in current times, and several years after the events of CAWS.

So then what’s the deal with Sitwell name dropping Stephen Strange years before he was the sorcerer supreme of Earth?

Well, some people have supposed that Zola’s algorithm didn’t just find people that are currently problematic to Hydra but that might be down the road, and that Stephen Strange simply fit the bill as a potential pain in the ass. Possibly. But of the 7 billion people in the world who could pose a threat, I find it odd that Sitwell- a high ranking SHIELD and Hydra member would recall an apparent nobody by heart, especially when neither Cap, Black Widow, nor Falcon would know who the hell Stephen Strange even is. Sitwell name dropped Bruce Banner because the hulk at the time of CAWS was clearly on Hydra’s radar and was someone anyone in the world would likely have known by name, an additionally was close friends with the Avengers. To immediately follow up Bruce Banner with an apparent nobody??? I call bullshit.

This boils down to three theories:

  • Jasper Sitwell for whatever reason memorized the name of some random d-bag doctor no one knows or cares about. (unlikely)
  • Stephen Strange was already the sorcerer supreme of Earth at the time of CAWS (my guess) and someone at Marvel *oops forgot* about the earlier name drop, and messed up in Doctor Strange (also my guess)
  • It was simply an innocent Easter egg not intended to be anything more than a crowd pleaser (annoying, and not like Marvel to do)

At this point it really doesn’t matter, but it did irk me the night I saw it in theaters.

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.

Actors Who Have Played Multiple Comic Book Characters

Comic book movies are all the rage these days. They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there is no denying their commercial success in recent years, especially since the introduction of the MCU in 2008 with Iron Man.

The sheer number of comic book related movies (CBMS) in recent memory is daunting. Numerous franchises have already been rebooted since the current wave of CBMs, with studios not even giving them a decade to cool down.

With so many new CBMS and reboots, and graphic novels being converted to movies, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing some recurring faces on the big screen. Many actors have dawned the spandex multiple times, even as different characters. Here’s a quick list of actors and actresses who have played multiple comic book characters on film and TV.

Brandon Routh

Roles:

  • Clark Kent / Superman (Superman Returns, 2006)
  • Ray Palmer / The Atom (Arrow, TV)

Aaron Taylor-Johnson

It seems like every actor from Kick-Ass has at one point been in another CMB. Aaron Taylor-Johnson started his comic book fame in the small cult-classic flick Kick-Ass (and it’s sequel) as a wannabe super hero. A couple years later he would emerge as a bona fide superhero with super-speed in the Marvel hit Avengers: Age of Ultron. With the Kick-Ass franchise over, and his MCU character killed off, his CBM future looks bleak.

Roles:

  • Dave Lizewski / Kick-Ass (Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2)
  • Pietro Maximoff / Quicksilver (Avengers: Age of Ultron)

Evan Peters

Interestingly, Evan Peters and fellow Kick-Ass co-star Aaron Taylor-Johnson both played different versions of Quicksilver in separate franchises. Quicksilver was killed off in Age of Ultron, but expect to see Evan Peters reprising his super speedy role again in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse.

Roles:

  • Todd / Ass Kicker (Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2)
  • Peter / Quicksilver (X-Men: Days of Future Past)

Nicholas Cage

Ghost Rider was a failure of a movie, but I feel like Cage got an ounce of redemption in Kick-Ass when he played the cop-framed-as-a-criminal turned crime-fighting-Batman-lookalike. You have to admit, this scene is bad ass.

Roles:

Rebecca Romjin

Another Punisher cast member, Rebecca Romjin, is perhaps better known by starring as X-Men franchise regular Mystique, the blue, shape shifting, femme fatale.

Bluuooobbbbs. -Honest Trailers

Roles:

Ray Stevenson

This is the first actor on our list to play three comic book roles.

stevenson

Roles:

  • Frank Castle / Punisher (Punisher: War Zone, 2008)
  • Volstagg (Thor, Thor: The Dark World)
  • Firefly (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, 2013)

 

Vinnie Jones

Despite being one of the lesser known, and less acclaimed actors on this list, Jones actually sported two very cool comic book roles. The first was the unstoppable Juggernaut in X-Men 3, where he actually had some decent fight scenes against the likes of Wolverine and the X-Men. Almost a decade later he finally returned to the realm of comic books and starred as another villain opposite Green Arrow on the small screen as criminal overlord Danny Brickwell. Again, Vinnie Jones delivers a level of physicality to his role, which comes from his background as a professional footballer.

vinnie-jones

Roles:

  • Cain Marko / Juggernaut (X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006)
  • Danny Brickwell (Arrow, TV)

Ron Perlman

You may know Ron Perlman was Hellboy, but you may have forgotten he starred opposite Wesley Snipes in Blade II as Reinhardt.

Even more impressive is how many comic book characters he’s voiced over the years. Perlman has a rough, unmistakable voice that makes him well suited to voice a wide range or characters, especially villains. Other smaller acting and voicing roles and projects include Jax-Ur (Superman, TV), Clayface and Orion (Justice League, TV), Static Shock (TV), Emil Blonsky / Abomination (The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, Game), Slade Wilson /Deathstroke (Teen Titans, TV), Killer Croc and Bane (The Batman, TV), Sinestro (Green Lantern: The Animated Series, TV). He’s even voiced Batman in a Justice League video game.

perlman

Roles:

  • Reinhardt (Blade II, 2002)
  • Hellboy (Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army)

Ryan Reynolds

Like Stevenson, he’s the only other actor in this list to play three comic book characters, but they were all very important characters in their respective stories. He’s snagged some great roles, unfortunately under the leadership of some shitty directors. He might also be one of only a handful of actors to ever play the same character twice, under two different continuities.

In my opinion, Reynolds is the first heavy hitter on this list. Cage and Perlman certainly had their time in the sun, but Reynolds has had some memorable roles in the last decade or so, and he’s popular. He’s also had some total flops. Green lantern bombed at the box office, and is the shame of the CBM crowd. I will still always remember Reynolds as Van Wilder, and Monty from Waiting.

Luckily, his cinematic future is bright. Reynolds career will kick into 6th gear when he stars as Wade Wilson / Deadpool in 2016.

Roles:

  • Hannibal King (Blade: Trinity, 2004)
  • Wade Wilson (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2009)
  • Hal Jordan / Green Lantern (Green Lantern, 2011)
  • Wade Wilson / Deadpool [different continuity] (Deadpool, 2016)

Chris Evans

Now we’re really moving into the big leagues. Evan’s first CMB role as Johnny Storm was good, not great, but put his foot in the door for the comic genre. Thought Fantastic Four was a memorable movie that has since been relaunched, it won’t be the movie Chris Evans is known for decades from now. His role as Captain America however, is already at legendary status alongside Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man.

His role as the Human Torch couldn’t be more different than his current role as Captain America. Johnny Storm was a young, arrogant, loud mouth, womanizer, and Steve Rogers is an old, humble, and reserved, and possible a 95 year old virgin.

Roles:

Ben Affleck

Rounding out the list is Ben Affleck who has starred as two very important characters from DC and Marvel.

Many claim that paying Daredevil was basically a warm up to play Batman. The two characters actually have a lot in common, both in regards to their character and their origins. While Bruce Wayne dresses like a bat, Daredevil is blind as a bat. Both patrol their cities, almost exclusively at night, and cover their face to protect their secret identities. Both characters are considered to be among the best male martial artists in their respective universes.

Frank Miller played a pivotal role in both of these characters current success. In 1986 Frank Miller injected a new level of blood, grit, and darkness into the Daredevil comic book series, Daredevil: Born Again. Miller took this same story telling recipe and used it to rejuvenate the Batman comic book series, which up until the late 80’s had always been campy and goofy. Frank Miller’s reboots of both characters in the late 80’s is now considered to be the definitive story in each series.

Another interesting factoid, is Affleck will be playing Batman in not just one, but TWO movies in 2016, which might be a first.

Roles

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?

Daredevil: Series Review

My apologies in advance as this is one of my longer blogs.

On Friday April 10th, the long awaited Marvel series, Daredevil, was exclusively released on Netflix. As with other Netflix original series such as Orange is the New Black, the online cinema mogul released all episodes of the first season simultaneously meaning viewers could binge watch all 13 episodes in one go. By Saturday April 11, 2015, I had finished the entire first season. And I already wish there was a second season to finish binge watching by April 12.

For those not in the know, the Daredevil series is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), meaning that it exists in the same fictional story universe as the Captain America, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Avengers franchises, and the network television shows Agents of Shield and Agent Carter.

Daredevil Dares to be Different

Despite being in the same fictional universe, Daredevil varies wildly both in tone and approach from the other Marvel franchises – most of all its’ TV siblings. Whereas Agents of Shield is very campy and at times even childish, Daredevil strikes a much more serious tone. Netflix original series don’t have FCC ratings, but if they did Daredevil would be inches shy of an R rating. Some of the bloody beat downs Daredevil lays on his enemies approaches a level of gratuitous violence usually reserved for villains.

Daredevil series is no stranger to bloody violence.

 

Agents of Shield makes regular – if not too many – references to the other series, or characters in the MCU. Daredevil on the other hand made very, very few. People dorkier than I may have caught some that I missed, but I only counted two Easter eggs in total. There were several mentions of the ‘attack on New York’ from 2012’s Avengers. The other was a comment about “an iron suit or a magic hammer”, alluding to Iron Man and Thor, though no names are ever used directly.

Daredevil is a dark show, but it steps out of Marvel’s shadow.

Plot and Setting

True to Marvel form – with the exception of Agent Carter – Daredevil take’s place in the chronological order in which it was released. It takes place in Marvel Phase 2, after Avengers and Winter Soldier, but before Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The show focuses on Matthew Murdock, an attorney turned vigilante who fights crime on his home turf of Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. Few references are made to other Marvel characters but the jury is still out as to whether Captain America or Spiderman will ever cameo in the show, given that all three masked heroes hail from the city that never sleeps.

This isn’t just New York with it’s lights and skyscrapers. This show welcomes you to Hell’s Kitchen, an unforgiving and downtrodden part of the city where street thugs are the least of your problem. Corrupt cops, dirty politicians, and crime lords reign supreme. The city is dark, dirty, and gritty.

Hell’s Kitchen is one of the leading characters of the show.

 

The antagonist of the first season is one of Daredevil and Spidey’s arch nemesis – Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin played by Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket). Though not as physically intimidating as Michael Clarke Duncan in the 2003 feature film of the same name, D’Onofrio plays a frightening, cunning, brutal and resolute version Kingpin that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and dominates every scene he’s in. Oh, but he can still throw down and is not someone you’d want to meddle with in an alley.

Cast and Characters

The show focuses as much on Matthew Murdock (Charlie Cox) as it does on the Daredevil, which makes for some very interesting story telling and character development. What’s most interesting about the show is Murdock’s history. He has a back story that make’s Bruce Wayne’s sound almost pleasant by comparison.

As a child, Matt’s mom left him and his dad as they scraped to get by. His dad was a professional boxer – but not a very good one – and would come home bloodied and beaten on a regular basis, to which young Matt had to stich him up. Matt was later blinded in an accident which left him traumatized as he struggled with walking, reading, and adjusting to everyday life. Shortly thereafter his father was murdered after a fixed boxing match went south. Now Matt was not only an orphan, but a poor blind orphan living in the government system.

The fight that would indirectly take the life of Matt Murdock’s father.

 

There was no trust fund, no Alfred, no Wayne Manor, no multinational corporation to fall back on. Matt Murdock had nothing but his will and his wit – and pulled himself from the gutter with amazing tenacity.

As awe inspiring as his story may be, you forget just how fear inspiring Murdock can be when donning his mask. He’s no chump. He’s quiet, watchful, brooding, and very dangerous. The show does a fantastic job of making Matt look like a normal (albeit blind) guy in the day, while surrounding him with an air of mystique and dread at night.

Foggy Nelson and Karen Paige.

 

Murdock has the benefit of some strong supporting characters Karen Page played by Deborah Ann Woll (Trueblood) and best friend Foggy Nelson played by Elden Henson (Butterfly Effect). Woll and Henson offer amazing performances making their characters that much more interesting, and the story that much more believable. Thank the heavens Hollywood has taken us out of the age of the useless sidekick. Karen and Foggy are loyal friends, and although they aren’t MMA fighters, they should not be easily dismissed.

Rosario Dawson does a great job playing Claire Temple, also known as the Night Nurse in the comics. Unfortunately, she was relegated to just 2 episodes out of the entire 13 episode season. I hope to see more of her in Season 2, or in the other Marvel Netflix series coming out soon.

Claire Temple / Night Nurse patching up Daredevil after a bout in the concrete jungle.

 

Overview

There is a ton of action and violence, but it does a good job at not crossing the line into cheesy. The characters are very real, and very vulnerable both emotionally and physically. On many occasions Murdock gets himself into a situation where this time feels like it’s going to be the last time. He might crawl his way out of a tough spot, but the show makes sure that he has to claw and scratch for every inch. There is no cavalry, no backup, no lucky breaks. Nothing comes easy, which makes the show that much more suspenseful and dramatic.

No easy day for Daredevil.

 

The settings are real. The acting and character portrayal is believable. The drama is relatable. The action is grounded. The show doesn’t gloss over any detail, grand or minute. Most importantly the show is honest.

My Take

15 minutes into the pilot episode I knew this show was right up my Hell’s Kitchen alley. I thought it would be good, but I didn’t think it would be this good. If you’ve read any of my reviews, you know that when it comes to my taste, the grittier the better.

Daredevil exists in the MCU, but it could very well exist in the same world as Sons of Anarchy or Law and Order – two other shows I enjoyed. This show stands on its’ own two feet, and doesn’t need to use the rest of the Marvel universe as a crutch. Fans who haven’t seen all the other movies or shows can appreciate being able to dive into a new show without being totally lost. I will without a doubt be watching and highly anticipating season 2 of Daredevil when it comes out. If you want a Disney quality TV show without the Disney movie rating, then this show is for you. I love the action, I love the violence, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I give this show a 9 out 10.