Travelling Through the #DCEU, Part III @GalGadot @modernwest @HarryJLennix @BenAffleck @realamberheard @thedcuniverse #BirdsOfPrey #JusticeLeague #movie

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I really liked the DCEU, so I’ve decided to rewatch all of the DCEU movies in chronological order as I once did with the MCU. Doing so isn’t as important because the DCEU movies aren’t nearly as dependent on each other, but it’s something to do. 🙂 The order of the movies is Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, Justice League, Aquaman, and Shazam!

Birds of Prey

I had to rent this movie to stream it. Worth it.

That’s not quite the saying, but close enough.

Hyenas are cute. From a distance.

There isn’t a single major character in this movie that isn’t seriously damaged.

You couldn’t pay me enough money to eat that breakfast sandwich.

That’s a bold enough fashion statement even without being involved in a chase.

As always, physics takes a back seat to drama, but this movie doesn’t even bother to justify it with magic, or alien metal, or anything that makes it easy for me to ignore.

The back and forth through the timeline can be hard to follow, but this movie pulled it off.

“Other pocket.” 🙂

Baseball bats and knees don’t go well together. Nor do beards and lighters.

I saw this in the theater with my friend, Erik, and we were the only two in there. At the moment Harley looks into the camera, Erik and I both spontaneously laughed out loud. Sorry, Deadpool, but that’s how you break the fourth wall. Once. Voice overs are fine, but make the break count so it has an impact.

 

Go to 0:40.

Hyenas are feliforms. She should have fed Bruce cat food. 🙂

I love when popular songs are reimagined; in this case, Hit Me with Your Best Shot. And sometimes, using the original works really well too.

A fitting death for Black Mask. Not just in the sense that he deserved it, but also because it was sufficiently hideous considering the tone of the movie.

I enjoyed this movie, but only as a comedy, and I liked the directing. As an action movie, though, it was substandard, and sometimes the characters overacted. Basically, it wasn’t as good as I remembered it, which means — as always — I’m probably overthinking things. This isn’t the kind of movie where you should do that.

Justice League

Believe it or not, this isn’t a guilty pleasure. The audience score is 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. If you’re one of the squeaky wheels that didn’t like this movie, you’re with the critics. That’s not necessarily a bad place to be.

Based on the explosion, that bomb wouldn’t have blown up 4 city blocks.

I can think of several reasons to be pissed at being turned into a cyborg, but the ability to fly isn’t one of them. Nor is the ability to access whatever information I want.

I really didn’t think an arrow would stop Steppenwolf. Why did they? Well, I know the answer. It made for a great fight scene.

“Keep it moving!” Where to? You’re on an island and on horseback. He can go anywhere you can.

I want more Green Lantern. I hope he’s in the Snyder Cut.

“I need . . . friends.” Yet, the Flash is the only member of the Justice League that isn’t constantly brooding.

Bug spray. I hate bugs, too.

Wasn’t Superman in a suit? Where’d his shirt and shoes go? And why hasn’t anyone cleaned up the rubble from the monument yet?

CGI mustache-free lip aside, the fight scene between Superman and the Justice League was great. It established Superman as a bad ass. I especially loved that he threw everyone off, and before they could hit the ground, beat the Flash at his own game. The look on the Flash’s face when he realizes what’s going to happen is priceless.

The cop pointing a gun at Superman is a dipshit.

Again, Diane Lane is the best Martha Kent.

 

Once again, the physics of comics make no sense. If Superman were holding an apartment building like that, he’d produce a tremendous amount of pressure at a single point that would cause the building to split. I know, I know; I thought it was a cool visual and good joke too.

The only reason to keep the main villain alive at the end of a movie is so that he can be a threat in a sequel. My understanding is that Justice League 2 was supposed to start with Darkseid killing Steppenwolf because of his failure. That makes keeping Steppenwolf alive even dumber. There should have been resolution . . . and a threat of what was to come.

As an attorney that was working with REO properties (think foreclosure) at the time I saw this movie, I thought, “Why would Bruce Wayne buy the bank. Just buy Martha Kent’s house at auction (or by simple contract if it was currently REO). My friend, Erik, pointed out, “Because buying his way out of trouble is Bruce Wayne’s solution to everything. It’s just what he does.” Good point.

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Travelling Through the #DCEU, Part II @GalGadot @modernwest @HarryJLennix @BenAffleck @joelkinnaman @JaredLeto @thedcuniverse #Batman #Superman #SuicideSquad #movie

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

I really liked the DCEU, so I’ve decided to rewatch all of the DCEU movies in chronological order as I once did with the MCU. Doing so isn’t as important because the DCEU movies aren’t nearly as dependent on each other, but it’s something to do. 🙂 The order of the movies is Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, Justice League, Aquaman, and Shazam!

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Like everyone else, I was happy we didn’t get yet another Batman origin story. Handling through the credits was a great idea. I loved the music as well.

Around the time this movie was released. there was a video showing the fight scenes between Superman and Zod in both Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice. It showed that both of those scenes were synchronized precisely. I can’t find the video anywhere. All I could find was a 2-second clip. I love that attention to detail.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.

A real Superman would exacerbate the already massive polarization in America on both political and religious grounds. Considering it was a side story, the movie did a good job of capturing that tension.

Superman isn’t the only one that kills. Batman kills people. A lot of people. That pisses off people. A lot of people. (Not I. It’s an action movie.)

Did Soledad O’Brien die in the explosion? She must have. Pat Lahey definitely did.

“It did on my world. My world doesn’t exist anymore.” Foreshadowing for a moment I love in this movie when Superman realizes something important.

Okay, I agree. Martha?

How exactly would Lex Luthor be able to control Doomsday if it had killed Superman? The first thing it tried to do was punch Luthor. It failed but would have destroyed the entire world after defeating Superman.

Doomsday at the top of LexCorp tower facing off with Apache choppers reminded me of the finale of King Kong (1976).

“This is my world. You are my world.” This is where Superman realizes something important. The musical piece, This Is My World, captures the scene perfectly.

Lex Luthor isn’t really bald if they simply shaved his head.

Suicide Squad

Solid star power.

In creating the team, they created the threat. That’s a bit odd.

I’m a fan of Adam Beach and was pissed he got only a few words of dialogue and not much of a role. But hey; no small parts, right? At least he served a purpose.

Like several movies in the MCU, I always find myself asking, “What are all the other heroes doing while the world is being threatened?” Then I stop overthinking it.

I hate to be an asshole, but Cara Delevingne really sucks.

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Travelling Through the #DCEU, Part I @GalGadot @russellcrowe @modernwest @HarryJLennix #WonderWoman #Superman #ManOfSteel #movie

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

I really liked the DCEU, so I’ve decided to rewatch all of the DCEU movies in chronological order as I once did with the MCU. Doing so isn’t as important because the DCEU movies aren’t nearly as dependent on each other, but it’s something to do. 🙂 The order of the movies is Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, Justice League, Aquaman, and Shazam!

Wonder Woman

This was a fun movie. Huge stakes, lots of action, and just the right amount of humor strike a proper balance between serious and campy. I liked the way they presented the effects of the Lasso of Hestia on Steve Trevor. Its effect on Aquaman was funnier, of course, but as he wasn’t resisting it, his experience wasn’t strictly inconsistent with Steve Trevor’s.

The premise of the Amazons is flawed. They make a huge deal out of the fact that once Ares is killed, everyone will go back to loving each other. If they only knew that World War II was on the horizon, not to mention everything else that happened after that. Things actually got worse. I wonder (pun intended) whether that will be addressed in the sequel.

I love David Thewlis, but he was miscast here. He’s too old even in the flashback scenes where they use CGI to de-age him. I would have preferred a younger actor.

I like that Diana starts as hopelessly naive. It gives her room to grow, but because of her superpowers, she can sometimes get away with it (e.g., crossing “No man’s land,” which was my favorite scene and music in the movie).

So much for Steve Trevor not wanting to sleep with a woman before marriage.

Diana uses a lot of Capoeira.

For a second, I thought Sameer was going to suggest. “Get help.” 🙂

As to my point above, Steve Trevor and Ares both try to explain away Ares’ responsibility for human evil, but then SPOILER ALERT Diana kills Ares. Was Trevor mistaken? Was Ares lying? Nope. Things continued to get worse after World War I.

All of the telekinesis in the first part of the fight against Ares reminds me of Luke’s first battle against Vader in the Empire Strikes Back. Ares’ creation of swords on the fly reminds me of Hela in Thor: Ragnarok.

I hope they come up with a really good explanation for Steve Trevor’s return in Wonder Woman 1984. Otherwise, it’ll cheapen his moving death scene in this movie. I know that characters always come back to life in comics, but this is a different medium. Death should be final. Otherwise, there are no stakes, and thus no drama.

Wonder Woman 1984

Dammit! I wish I could watch this now.

Man of Steel

I’m a HUGE fan of this soundtrack.

At times, the opening sequence reminds me of the Matrix, Avatar, and Apocalypse Now.

Heresy
noun
Belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine.

It’s heresy to have babies naturally?

Henry Cavill is my favorite Superman. Deal with it. And Diane Lane is my favorite Martha Kent.

I always found weird the theory that Aquaman saved Superman after the oil rig explosion. A natural, terrestrial threat could kill Superman? I have enough trouble accepting that he was knocked unconscious by it, but okay. Drama.

The most heroic thing about Clark Kent that’s obtainable by all of us is a complete lack of pride.

Everyone argues. It doesn’t mean you don’t love each other. If the last thing you say to someone you love is harsh, don’t beat yourself up over it. They understood. Wouldn’t you?

Kevin Costner’s sacrifice was far better than Glen Ford’s heart attack.

I love how Coburn Goss portrays a priest thinking, “Oh, shit!” but somehow keeping his composure.

So Kryptonians are ultra-sensitive to different atmospheres but totally cool with the vacuum of space?

The amount of destruction in this movie is horrifying. It makes sense considering who’s fighting whom, but how could you rebuild that?

It’s so funny to me that this is the same Michael Shannon from Knives Out. Great actor.

“106 Days without an accident.” Oops. The 1 and 6 just got knocked off. Hell of a joke to put in such a scene.

Wait. Why remove your armor, Zod?

Oooooooh, there goes Wayne Tower.

Superman kills! The direction in which he broke Zod’s neck should have killed the people anyway.

“Welcome to the planet.”

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Good Watch: #Limitless

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Limitless was released in 2011. I was mildly intrigued but apparently not enough to actually watch it. Flash forward to last week, and I read an article referring to it as the best movie you need to watch before it leaves Netflix on May 15. Unfortunately, I have a backlog of blog posts, so by the time you’re reading this, nothing I say will matter.

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. I’m sure you can stream it somewhere, or at least rent it on YouTube, etc.

Like the movie Lucy, it operates off of the ridiculous premise that we use “only 20% of our brains.” That’s annoying. Otherwise, as the article said (paraphrased, because it’s been lost to the interwebs), the basic premise is a really good hook. Cooper plays an underachieving writer living a lowly life. He’s given a drug that <sigh> allows him to access his entire brain, which completely changes his life. Of course, the first thing he does is get laid (his landlord’s wife), and then he turns $12,000 into $2,000,000. This is what everyone wants, right? Be careful what you wish for. It wouldn’t be drama if things didn’t go to shit by act two (at the latest).

It’s an interesting take on addiction and obsession with a sci-fi twist. One interesting but subtle device they used were memory skips. An episode of Brain Games on National Geographic covered those. My guess is that they consulted a neuroscientist to get the details right, then took a few liberties for the sake of drama. They do that in other areas. It seems impossible for a criminal to chase someone in broad daylight on the busy streets of New York City without attracting attention from the cops, but there it is. Twice.

Despite all of these criticisms, it was reasonably enjoyable and a nice change of pace from my recent fare.

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Good Watch: Dead to Me @1capplegate @lindacardellini @netflix @deadtome #GoodWatch #QuarantineLife

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Dead to Me, season 2 just dropped, which has ten, 30-35 minute episodes, all of which I watched on Saturday. It’s both comedic and tragic. Linda Cardellini plays Judy, a complete screw up that brings tragedy with her everywhere she goes. This brings her to Christina Applegate’s Jen, and it spirals down from there. Saying anything more would require at least mild spoilers.

With respect to Ms. Applegate, this is literally the best I’ve ever seen her act. She’s phenomenal.  Ms. Cardellini’s Judy plays a naive and self-destructive character that usually frustrates me and keeps me from liking a show, but though her performance overall is really good, what most keeps me on board is her comedic timing. We’re all familiar with the notion of how difficult it can be to formulate and maintain a lie. Watching Jen and Judy navigate those waters made me laugh every time. However, this is far from a comedy. The tragedies follow one after the other, with the big ones self-inflicted and creating a snowball effect. There should be another season, and however many there are, I’m very curious as to how this series will end.

Dead to Me streams on Netflix.

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#Avengers: Age of #Ultron: The Flip Side of the #MCU Power Curve @JeremyRenner @lindacardellini

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In yesterday’s post, I voiced my only serious complaint about the MCU: The incoherent power curve. While that certainly annoys me, Avengers: Age of Ultron keeps me from forgetting that the least powerful original Avengers, Black Widow and Hawkeye, were certainly very important to the team. If the choice I was given was having a screwy power curve or eliminating them from the story, I’ll take the screwy power curve with a smile on my face every time.

Hawkeye

Hawkeye was instrumental in stopping Scarlet Witch from tearing the Avengers apart. He was the only one who avoided her powers, and he was the one to convince her, the person that would one day become the strongest Avenger, to join the team in a meaningful way. That was done with a speech rivaling any Captain America ever delivered. This was a believable effort on his part despite not requiring a superpower. Before that, however, he reinforced the message to the other Avengers of what they were fighting for by introducing them to his family. In fact, his non-hero wife, Laura, kept him from losing touch with his own importance. For a team that was falling apart at the seams, this was critical to the believability of the Avengers continuing to work well together.

Black Widow

I’ve written several times about how Black Widow is the glue of the Avengers. Except for Thor, she had significant, on-screen bonding moments with each of the original Avengers (as well as a few others) over the course of several films. This could explain her eventual inability to stick to one side in the Avengers’ “civil war.” With this movie, we saw the development of her most significant relationship, Bruce Banner, and the expansion of her most important one (from a story perspective), Hawkeye. I vaguely relate to Black Widow’s backstory, and how it shaped who she became, in a specific but personal way I won’t discuss; however, I think we can all agree that it’s compelling enough for her own movie. The story became a mission to rescue her, but not really. Far from the archetypical damsel in distress, she instead turned the situation around from the inside, leading the Avengers to Ultron. Without screwing with the power curve, Black Widow contributed in vital ways.

These two characters were as important to the Avengers as any of the others, and neither had a superpower.

Unrelated Note

In a cinematic universe filled with brilliant one-liners, one of my favorites comes from Age of Ultron.

“Oh, for God’s sake!”

James Spader is awesome.

Sometimes you must take the bad with the good. Black Widow and Hawkeye were really good.

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Throwing Rhodey Under the Bus in Avengers: #Endgame @DonCheadle @MarvelStudios #MCU

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It’s rare that I find things that I don’t like about the MCU, but there are a few. As I discussed yesterday, I approved of “Fat Thor” because it was handled fairly well. However, it wasn’t handled perfectly; to-wit: War Machine. I felt that the writers unnecessarily threw Rhodey under the bus. They gave him all the mean-spirited lines, and a couple were particularly bad. This reminds me of my tweet during the Infinity War watch party.

The scene is here. Start at 1:04.

If it weren’t for Peter’s completely irrational reaction, none of the 14,000,605 alternate timelines would have occurred (including the successful one). People do stupid things for one of four reasons that I can identify: 1) They’re stupid; 2) they’re kidding; 3.) they’re trolling you; or 4.) they’re acting emotional, thus abandoning all logic. Regardless of which category you think Peter is in, he behaved stupidly, and I don’t see why the writers had to do that. They could easily have made Thanos too strong for Mantis. Unfortunately, this seems to be how they write. They want a clear scapegoat among the heroes, being someone that consistently goes in a bad direction.

Rhodey

Rhodey didn’t cause Thanos’s arrival in Endgame. His issues were different; he was simply an asshole. First, let’s look at the discussion of the Infinity Stones.

Everyone’s comments and facial expressions seem to show concern for Thor, except Scott Lang, who as always is lost and therefore not sure if Thor is kidding. He may have just been giving Thor encouragement. In any case, all of these people are goodhearted in their approach. The exception is Rhodey, who makes a joke of it with, “No, I’m pretty sure he’s dead,” and arguably Clint’s facial expression when Rhodey and he share a knowing look with each other. Then we go to the discussion of time travel.

As if designed to make sure Rhodey looked as bad as possible, they left it to him to say that time travel should have been used to kill Thanos as a baby. Everyone would have forgiven that (after all, “It’s Thanos!”), but it still had a mean feel to it, and it became yet another straw on the camel’s back (so to speak).

Then consider his scene with Nebula.

Rhodey’s question, “So he’s an idiot?” came across as rhetorical. He was clearly calling Peter an idiot with an air of frustration. Nebula’s simple response of, “Yeah,” came only after a pause and a downward glance. Of all people to be reluctant to insult someone, Nebula seemed exactly that. Here were two characters saying the same exact thing about the same exact person, yet they were coming from opposite directions. Nebula’s remarkable story arc of redemption certainly colored how I viewed all of her statements, and that’s probably true for Rhodey based on the above, who seemed to be going in the opposite direction. But that’s what I’m talking about. That’s a direct result of the writing.

Moving on, remember from yesterday’s post, once it was explicitly established that Thor’s physical condition was tied to the depression and/or PTSD, the fat jokes stopped coming, except for Rhodey. He continued to insult Thor’s condition, and it didn’t come across as playful.

Objectively, “Cheez Whiz” is a funny line, but it was done not only after we learned why Thor was in a depleted physical state, but also at the exact moment Thor was having an emotional crisis. Thor was going to sacrifice himself to atone for his perceived sin of failure, which itself resulted in depression, PTSD, and his physical condition.

I’m the kind of guy that thinks no topic is forbidden from comedy. Anything can be funny if done well. The only sin in comedy is not being funny, and I’m never offended, even if my own insecurities are the butt of the joke. I far prefer laughing at myself than wallowing in self-pity, so I believe making fun of people can be funny. But it also can be not funny. With Rhodey, it came across as mean-spirited and was completely unnecessary.

The totality of just these few scenes left me with a bad impression.

Who’s to Blame?

The blame can lie with any combination of the actor, director, and screenwriter. I don’t know who to blame, but you can see from the deleted scenes in that last clip that this was exactly what they were going for. They wanted to say something mean-spirited, and the fact that Peter Quill was thrown under the bus in Infinity War suggests that the writing is to blame. In total, I felt it debased the character. Unfortunately, I don’t see much room for him to redeem himself. I haven’t heard any mention of his return to the MCU on the big screen or on Disney+.

Have you learned to dislike Rhodey? Is there a value to these lines that I don’t appreciate?

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No Small Parts: Dr. Strange’s Physical Therapist #MCU #DoctorStrange #NoSmallParts @HoldbrooksMyth @MarvelStudios @DrStrange

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After participating in the Guardians of the Galaxy quarantine watch party, I published a post referencing the show business adage that there are no small parts. In doing so, I used Bereet as evidence supporting that adage. Today, I’m going to use the sympathetic physical therapist, played well by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.

Character Growth

Like Tony Stark, Stephen Strange (slowly) grew from a self-absorbed jackhole to someone serving others, but unlike most others in the MCU did so by changing his methods. When the arms-dealing Tony Stark’s focus shifted from himself to others, his methods didn’t change. He still accomplished his tasks through weaponry. Thor still ran into battle headfirst relying on brawn more than strategy. Nebula’s plan for saving half the universe still involved murder, and her target was a family member. The Guardians in general were still scavengers looking for a payday to finance their universe-saving efforts. They worked with what they knew.

Strange was different. Off the top of my head, he was unique among the major MCU characters in that it wasn’t just his attitude that changed, but also his methods. Strange had to open his mind to other means to accomplish his goals. Strange’s circumstances largely removed his medical skills from his playbook, but he wasn’t being told to abandon them; in fact, he used them to help Dr. Palmer operate on him. The Ancient One’s point was that he had to add new skills. Experts “can often see in part but not the whole.” While I don’t believe in magic, as a general principle, this is certainly true. The more complex our base of knowledge becomes, the harder it is to understand everything necessary to solve large problems. But this is a superhero movie, so let’s stick with the magic. Strange needed to add magic to his repertoire, and while he could have used that magic to return to his old life, his new-founded altruism forced him to focus on a new skill set in favor of the old.

Bachelor’s Degree

In the prior post, I asked, “[H]ow can you appreciate that growth if you don’t experience its full progression?” That is, to appreciate the growth, you must first clearly establish the character’s starting point, which leads us to Holdbrook-Smith’s part.

Jump to 3:13 for an excerpt of the scene in question.

The physical therapist represents an important part of Strange’s own field, yet Strange responds to him with condescension (“Bachelor’s Degree”). Granted, Strange is emotionally compromised by his injuries, but Strange exhibited this same behavior earlier when discussing being a part of the emergency room team, and when criticizing the other surgeon, Dr. Nicodemus West (who could easily have been the subject of this post). The physical therapist was there to remind us of this specific character flaw at a time when we may have forgotten it. He also helped make it clear that even someone doing his job competently and exhibiting remarkable patience in the face of Strange’s insults, isn’t protected from them.

No doubt, this is a subtle point, but as I said before, actors with quick appearances, even if they have no lines and are relegated to the background, provide necessary color to scenes. Holdbrook-Smith did that for us, whether we were paying attention or not.

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Travelling through the #MCU: Phase 2 @GeorgesStPierre @realmichaelpena @kesseljunkie #IronMan #Thor #WinterSoldier #GotG #Avengers #AntMan

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In an earlier post, I pointed out a few things about the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) that I really enjoyed. Since that post, I’ve started to watch the entire MCU in movie-chronological order: Captain America, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, etc., and will continue through the entire MCU that’s on Disney+ or otherwise available to me. This probably excludes the Spider Man movies and the Incredible Hulk.

There’s been so much ink on these topics that it’s rather pointless to try to leave an impression. These will be short observations of the things that either I liked the most about them or suspect many people didn’t really notice. I’m going to avoid most of my major dislikes. There’s no sense in raining on anyone’s parade (including my own). In case you have the time, I found it fun watching these movies knowing where these characters wound up.

Iron Man 3

This was a weird superhero movie. I remember reading an article stating that Tony was in the Iron Man suit for only 15 (or whatever) out of 120 minutes of movie time. This never bothered me because I didn’t notice. This movie was about Tony Stark’s emotional issues, not Iron Man, and somehow it worked for me. Besides, one of the best action sequences in the MCU was the Mandarin’s attack on Tony’s home (10880 Malibu Pt., Malibu, CA 90625).

According to various sources, Chattanooga gets 2 inches of snow per year. According to Iron Man 3, it all comes on one night, and that happens to be the night Tony arrived. That’s a hell of a coincidence. 🙂

Holy crap! Iron Man 3 is a Christmas movie!

Thor: The Dark World

I know this is the bottom of the MCU barrel for many people, but as I’ve stated before, Thor is my favorite MCU character. There’s no way I’m going to hate a half-decent Thor movie. Loki’s stubborn insecurity, Frigga’s death (funeral music!), its impact on Loki, and Sif’s feelings for Thor are reflections of what exists in ourselves. Being able to connect with the characters is the heart of drama. This movie had a few such moments.

The stakes were high, with the entire universe at risk, and that was the opening needed to introduce the third infinity stone to the MCU. It also served as a reminder how powerful Thor is, though he clearly hasn’t reached his full potential yet.

Question #1: How would you like it if your car was sent to another world?
No need to answer.

Question #2: Malikith’s ship. How does that thing stay standing?
I know; I know. Drama.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This is easily my favorite MCU movie. It may have dragged at times, but it’s the only MCU film whose message is both important and relatable: liberty v. security. In my opinion the movie came down on the right side of that argument. Sure, we all want to be secure, but giving too much control to the government is inherently insecure. We all need to accept the fact that there’s only so much security we can have in the modern world. Life will always include risk, with the difference being who’s generating the risk. At some point more liberty becomes the only option.

George St. Pierre. MMA has taken over popular culture whether you realize it or not.

At one point, Nick Fury says, “Last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye.” The implication in context was that the loss of the eye sprang directly from that trust. So, is Captain Marvel responsible for his lost eye? I don’t think so. Captain Marvel didn’t know that the cat was really a Flerken, so it’s not as if she could’ve warned him. So, is the Flerken to blame? As far as I can tell, it’s not an intelligent creature, and trust wasn’t a part of the scene in which the Flerken scratched Fury, so that doesn’t work. The MCU is a complicated weave of plotlines and references, so I hardly blame them for messing up. I just wish they had worked trust into that scene, which would have been easy to do. They clearly just forgot.

I always wondered how, in Civil War, Steve knew that the Winter Soldier killed Stark’s parents. I never noticed that he learned that in Winter Soldier. It was a quick shot while the digital Arnim Zola was showing Steve Hydra’s manipulation of world affairs.

“Who’s this guy?”

Ezekiel 25:17.

The one thing I didn’t like: Steve’s list of things to do included an entry for Star Wars and Star Trek. Star Wars was crossed out, but Star Trek wasn’t, which means he watched Star Wars first. Bullshit. Star Trek should be at the top of your list. For anything. He received some bad intel on that one.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1

Funny thing about the scene immediately following the title card. It shows a picture of space, and then you get text that indicates the current year of 26 years later. I did some quick math in my head from when the opening scene took place (1988) and realized we were seeing 2014, but there was a spaceship.  On my first viewing, because I had just seen a realistic opening scene from 1988, for just a moment, my brain farted and thought, “There aren’t spaceships in 2014.” In fairness to me, at the time I was suffering from a severe B12 deficiency.

This movie was the best one to watch looking backwards from Endgame. For example, on Morag, I kept looking for Nebula and War Machine in the background. 🙂

Great soundtrack, which matched the fact that this was a different sort of MCU movie than we’d seen to date.

“They got my dick message!”

A dance off to save the universe. 🙂

Dancing Baby Groot!

I guess I should admit this as well. I was very critical of Marvel for choosing the Guardians of the Galaxy for a movie. I had never heard of them, and movies need to appeal to more than just the base (i.e., comic book readers). I thought there was no way they were going to do well with an obscure and ridiculous group. A talking racoon? A tree that can say only “I am Groot”? But it wasn’t just good. It wasn’t just commercially successful. It was a great idea in the grand scheme of things. As I said, it was a different sort of MCU movie, and it represented a welcome break from all the heavy-handedness of the other movies. Despite being so comedic, it still introduced an infinity stone in the context of a severe threat to the galaxy. Mea culpa, and bravo, Marvel.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2

“You expect me to fight this interdimensional creature with a sword?”

[Proceeds to strike the killing blow against the interdimensional creature with a sword.]

I already discussed Nebula’s transformation and how it led to my favorite bit of acting in the entire MCU. That began near the end of this movie, but the movie sure didn’t start that way. (Actually, it begins rather subtly when Quill, Gamora, and Drax are boarding Ego’s ship.) This is why I infer what I do from Nebula’s admission at the end of GotG2.

As I’m watching this, I’m beginning to think that these are the best acted movies of the bunch. Really. Maybe it’s just because I like that it’s more comedic than the others.

I really relate to Drax. I need to learn to lie effectively, but in many cases, the thought of lying doesn’t even occur to me. Worst. Lawyer. Ever. I also really relate to the importance given to the family you choose.

Sovereign.png

“It’s not ripe.”

Rocket gets mad that Quill calls him a raccoon, but that’s so much more accurate than “fox,” “rat,” “rabbit,” or “triangle-faced monkey.” He shouldn’t be so offended.

Thor remains my favorite MCU character, so I’m good with the fact that we’ll see Love and Thunder before Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, but I really want to see them both ASAP. Personally, I prefer movies where there’s a small set of primary characters. This is why I prefer Star Trek’s Original Series to all the others. That said, I think the Guardians series pulled off ensemble movies better than I’ve ever seen, in no small part because the characters believably showed more emotional and moral growth than any other characters in the MCU. That required sold writing and acting, and all parties delivered.

Good lord, the music!

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Why would an ordinary human try to fist-fight Thor? Just give up.

Is Sokovia an English-speaking nation? Google says no, so why is the Iron Legion telling everyone to leave in English.

“It was a good talk.”
“No, it wasn’t.”

I love that this was Hawkeye’s movie. The family was a great touch. Also, he had some great lines. For example,

“The city is flying and we’re fighting an army of robots. And I have a bow and arrow. Nothing makes sense.”

“Nobody would know. Nobody. ‘The last I saw him, Ultron was sitting on him. Uh… yeah, he’ll be missed. That quick little bastard. I miss him already…’”

I loved Vision’s “birth.” He was as confused as Ultron was at his own birth but got over it much faster. And of course, there’s also this.

VisionMjolnir.png

Some foreshadowing. Vision saves Wanda, and by Endgame, they’re romantically coupled. Despite how pissed Hawkeye was with the Scarlet Witch, those two characters formed a minor bond by the end of this movie. One of the final scenes in Endgame was Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye consoling each other. In the penultimate scene, Tony mentions building a farm for Pepper, which is what he does by Endgame. I love the connections. You can’t build such strong connections within the context of a single movie without it seeming rushed (see, e.g., Anakin and Padme’s relationship in Attack of the Clones).

There always must be a death in order to raise the stakes, but I wish Quicksilver had lived to be in other movies. Rumor has it that WandaVision will have Wanda bringing back the Vision. Maybe she’ll bring back Quicksilver as well.

Another favorite moment of mine from the MCU occurs in this movie. “Oh, for God’s sake!” James Spader stole this show.

“But if you put the hammer in an elevator….”
“Elevator’s not worthy.”

Ant-Man

This certainly cleansed the palate. Like both Guardians of the Galaxy volumes, this was the occasional higher-comedy movie that keeps things from getting too heavy-handed. Who better than Paul Rudd to play Scott Lang?

I’ve always loved Garrett Morris. I’m always happy to see him in a movie or TV show, even if it’s just a cameo.

Michael Pena should face a long jail sentence. He stole this movie.

At one point, Hank Pym criticizes the Avengers for “dropping a city out of the sky,” referencing the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. This is a familiar trope that I absolutely hate: Criticizing the good guys for not saving the world in the most convenient way possible. Anyone with an IQ over 40 knows that Ultron tried to drop a city out of the sky, not the Avengers. Ultron was a fairly competent enemy, so it was able to do a lot of damage before the Avengers could save the world. It makes no sense to blame the Avengers for that. (Maybe just Stark and Banner.)

Side Note

It’s easy to blow off the MCU as just a bunch of action movies or, even worse, superhero movies, but that’s enormously unfair. Marvel has done something remarkable, the likes of which I’ve never seen. It’s probably best to express my current thought by example, so consider Iron Man 2. Taken in isolation, it’s my least favorite Marvel movie. Also, Pepper Potts is my least favorite protagonist. Your mileage may vary; not the point. I nevertheless enjoyed Iron Man 2. It was important in the grand scheme of things, and it’s impossible for me to watch Tony and Pepper’s relationship start without gaining an appreciation for how much was lost near the end of Endgame. It’s all connected in a way that, as I said, I’ve never seen before. Moreover, any one of these films could stand on its own. You absolutely can’t say that with Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit Series, or Star Wars. Only the first Star Wars (A New Hope) could truly stand on its own, but even so, you’re still left wondering what happened to Vader? The bad guy shouldn’t survive unless there’s a sequel, right? Marvel did something incredible with the MCU, and I look forward to what’s next.

And then there’s those moments of acting and story that are remarkable, which makes it even better. I don’t understand Scorsese’s, Coppola’s, or @KesselJunkie’s 🙂 hate. It’s been a lot of fun re-watching these.

What’s Next?

Phase 3 is up (less Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 and Captain Marvel, which have already been discussed).

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I haven’t spent as much time on Disney+ as I was hoping, but last weekend I took the time to watch Thor: Ragnarök, Infinity War, and Endgame over the course of two days. For reasons that will become apparent, I really wish I had watched Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 (”GotG2”) before Thor: Ragnarök, but I’m remedying that as I type this.

When I first saw these movies, I really enjoyed them (despite never being a comic book reader), but that was an honest, emotional reaction devoid of any intellectual analysis. I just liked them; it was that simple. However, upon second viewings, I have more time to think about them, and they’re getting better and better. There are a few specific scenes that represent what I find surprisingly good about these movies, all of which demonstrate character evolution, but one of which in a way that’s a bit backwards. I’m not an authority on any of these aspects of movie-making, so your mileage may vary. Perhaps wildly. Moreover, I’m a firm believer that art is in the eye of the beholder, so much of this is what I choose to infer from what I hear and see. The Russo brothers and the actors in question may also disagree with me.

Tony Stark’s Funeral

This one was easy for me. I always pay attention to how the music interacts with the movie.

Side note: The DC movies have taken some serious hits among nerd circles, but I imagine that if you pay attention to how that music interacts with those movies, you liked them more than you would otherwise. Music matters.

It was immediately apparent to me that the music in this scene was thematically very similar to the Captain America’s music when he went into the ice. I don’t remember hearing those themes in any other scenes in the MCU unless they related directly to Steve. In Endgame, Steve proved he was worthy to wield Mjolnir. That was his evolution, though according to the Russo’s he had reached that point by Age of Ultron. Stark made a similar jump. He started as a self-absorbed, spoiled brat. Not only did he change into someone we could consider “good” but also sought to make up for his past sins. It wasn’t enough for him not to place the world in danger personally; he wanted to eliminate any danger others created as well (e.g., seeking to place a protective shield around the world).

That said, old habits die hard (as you’ll also see in my second example). Tony never lost his edge, and he made a lot of mistakes because his methods didn’t evolve as quickly as his sensibilities. All he had to work with was his methods from a lifetime of preparing our country for war. Nevertheless, when all was said and done in Endgame, Tony finally completed his evolution. He made the sacrifice play, laid down on a wire, and let the other guy crawl over him. I thought it quite fitting that the music played at his funeral was originally from Steve’s sacrifice.

Tony and Nebula in Space

I think Gillan’s acting in these scenes was the best I saw in the entire MCU. Is she a better actor than Robert Downey, Jr.? I’m not qualified to say — that guy killed it throughout the entire MCU — but it doesn’t matter. She acted circles around him in these scenes, and I doubt many paid close attention to that. Downey’s mission in those scenes was relatively simple: Convey someone facing death while thinking about what was most important to him. Did he do a good job? Of course. He’s great, and by design, everyone was focused on both Downey as an actor and Stark as a character. These were as much RDJ’s movies and Stark’s stories as anyone else’s, but that means some of us (including me) missed Gillan’s brilliance the first time through. If you did, re-watch it focusing on her.

First, some context. Starting with GotG2, Nebula disclosed to Gamora that all she ever wanted was for them to have a normal, sisterly relationship. I choose to believe that Nebula didn’t realize that until she said it out loud. Later, she was given a quick lesson by Drax on what family means, and then she had to cooperate with former enemies to take down multiple threats. This was all new to her. Every relationship she had had to this point was familial and severely dysfunctional (more than any of us can imagine) or predator-to-prey. She was a horrible person doing horrible things in a social environment giving her no opportunity to even question her behavior, let alone escape it. Now that she was beginning to turn the corner, her next mission in Infinity War was, well, to murder her father. Sure, we can all sort of forgive that under the circumstances, but again, this must have been tough for her to process.

Moving forward to Endgame, it’s clear that Nebula is trying to deal with all these new feelings and philosophies. But now she’s stuck on a ship with Tony, and there’s even more to process. She’s making a friend, which is something she’s never had. The act of shaking hands was alien to her even though it’s a custom clearly not exclusive to Earth in the MCU. She’s playing a game, which is probably something she’s never done. After all, her instinct was to ignore the rules of the game. Win at all costs through aggression. When Tony asked her if it was fun, she had to think about whether it was. What’s “fun”? Again, that’s a foreign concept. Apparently, she figured out all of this, eventually taking the role of a caretaker, giving Tony the remaining food and making him as comfortable as possible while on his deathbed . . . chair. Whatever.

How much of this was intended by Gillan or the Russos? I don’t know, but again, this is what I choose to infer, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I hear this in her voice and see it in her face, and that’s my point. For her to convey so much, with so few lines (2 lines with 9 words and 3 grunts), in so few scenes, and burdened with so much toaster oven make up is simply remarkable. I could see even myself pulling off (poorly) a guy facing his impending death. As for what she did, I wouldn’t know where to start. Gems like this are hidden in plain sight throughout the MCU.

Drax and Mantis

In the scene in which Drax tells Mantis she’s “hideous,” he relays a memory of an outing with his daughter. Mantis makes an empathic connection with him and is overwhelmed by his grief, but the entire time, Drax’s face is deadpan. He’s barely showing his emotion. Drax very quickly picked up on human idiosyncrasies, including laughter, frustration, and anger, but this scene showed that the instincts of his species were still strong in him. It changes the way I interpret any of his scenes. He may not be expressing emotion, but I’m encouraged to infer them from the context, and they can be powerful. It allows me to make the movie my own. Again, art is in the eye of the beholder.

The actual reason I mention this scene, though, is so that I can say that Dave Bautista was the actor that impressed me the most. He’s no Al Pacino, but I didn’t expect him to be any good at all. Most pro wrestlers that jumped into acting have been far less than impressive — Dwayne Johnson is a notable exception — but he brought it in every single scene he shot. He was given great lines and made the most of them. “Why is Gamora?” was actually improvised. That’s all him.

These aren’t very detailed analyses, and these scenes only scratch the surface of the MCU’s magnificence. There were many other connections drawn with the music, there are plenty of actors that acted their asses off playing secondary characters, and there were several actors new to me that were surprisingly good. However, considering the length of my last few posts on copyright, I suspect you’re all happy with the relative brevity. Besides, my views aren’t to be taken too seriously. I’m not an actor or filmmaker, so what do I know?

I just know what I like.

When you watch them again, maybe you’ll see some things you didn’t see before. I have a lot more to watch.

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