Let's roll some dice, watch some movies, or generally just geek out. New posts at 6:30 pm ET but only if I have something to say. Menu at the top. firstname.lastname@example.org on Mastodon and @gsllc on Twitter.
Today’s the premier of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness! Who’s coming with me tonight?
Wait, what? What pandemic?
Today was supposed to be the day the Dr. Strange sequel was to be released. Despite my concerns, I’m a big fan of the original (and the superhero cinematic genre in general), so I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately, as of this writing, we have another 10 months to go. If I’m cursed with this knowledge, I just wanted to make sure you guys were as well. I hope it’s worth the wait.
NBC Peacock offered their original series, Brave New World, free of charge last weekend. I liked it a lot. The episodes are between 40-50 minutes long, and there are nine of them. From the Peacock website:
In a utopia whose perfection hinges upon control of monogamy and privacy, members of the collective begin to question the rules, putting their regimented society on a collision course with forbidden love and revolution.
In a sense, it was a horror movie for me, but I don’t expect everyone to feel that way. This is probably best described as science-fiction, though it’s also referred to as Utopian or Dystopian. I think of it as trying to achieve the same sort of vibe as Westworld. It’s a different story, and they carve their own path, so I’m not accusing them of doing anything wrong. Among the show’s stars are three actors with whom I’m familiar: Alden Ehrenreich, Hannah John-Kamen, and Demi Moore.
There’s a scene near the end of episode 4 that really hits me. I’m not sure if this is the intention, but it basically says (to me) that you don’t need soma (their mood-improving drug) because there’s music in the world. I doubt that was the precise intent, especially in light of a scene in episode 5, but that’s at least close (or part of) what they’re trying to say.
Is it good? Yes. I liked it a lot and will watch subsequent seasons. However, there’s too much good stuff on Peacock, as well as the other streaming services for which I’m already paying, for me to add another bill. I’ll probably join for a month and spend a weekend watching season 2 and a couple of other shows.
Unfortunately, if you want to watch it now, you’ll have to subscribe to Peacock’s pay service. As always, YMMV.
I was not expecting to like this movie because of how trite the premise is, but I absolutely did. “A group of mercenaries, all centuries-old immortals with the ability to heal themselves, discover someone is onto their secret, and they must fight to protect their freedom.” Seriously? Haven’t there been enough movies like this? None of you are going to improve upon the Highlander!
But this was really good. Charlize Theron plays the oldest among four immortals now acting as mercenaries. As their leader, she’s been guiding their actions in an unexpected way. In addition to what’s written above, the crux of the movie is that a new immortal is “born” for the first time in centuries. The movie has a few nice touches throughout, not the least of which is a horrific incident occurring in Ms. Theron’s backstory. Chiwetel Ejiofor is pretty good in it as well, but when is he not?
I know, I know. How could I possibly get behind this? Well, it’s all in the execution. There’s obviously going to be a sequel, and I’ll set a Netflix reminder for it.
As you know, I love the MCU. Marvel Studios could have relied on the action and fantasy elements inherent to the source material to make a ton of money on crappy movies, but they didn’t. They spent a ton of money on special effects, but also on hiring highly talented writers, directors, and actors (some with Oscars under their belts) so that the movies had substance as well. No movie exemplifies that more than Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Like many MCU movies, it had the theme of establishing deep friendships that represented more than just coworkers or bar buddies. No, these friends were so close as to represent an adoptive family, replacing the biological families that Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanov, and Nick Fury lost, never knew, or never had. As wonderfully as it was executed, all of that is actually par for the course in the MCU. The Winter Soldier goes a step further.
Winter Soldier dealt with a political issue that is both timely and important: How do we strike the balance between security and liberty? Both are important. If we lax our security, we won’t have liberty for long, because nefarious forces from within and/or without will steal it. However, if security replaces liberty, then what kind of an existence are we actually fighting for? That’s why, when push comes to shove, liberty must win. In Winter Soldier, all of the good guys either fought for liberty or joined the fight after eventually realizing that they should have been all along. This decision shouldn’t be made naively, but those characters didn’t do that.
Okay, they sometimes did. The commitment to liberty was excessively idealistic, but this is a movie. Filmmakers must deal with extremes or risk losing the crowd. Many moviegoers aren’t observant enough to pick up key points being made unless they’re hit with it over the head, and a major theme is certainly a “key point.” This is why horrible characters that deserve the most serious punishment under the law can be forgiven and exalted by an audience simply because they’ve learned how to love a sibling. The movie world is different from the real world, and I’m sure you understand that. If not, movies must seem utterly ridiculous to you.
With that in mind, Winter Soldier dealt with an important and timely issue, came down on the right side of it (liberty) without being (too) naïve, and somehow managed to do that without pissing off members of any political party.
Unlike the other MCU films, the overarching storyline in Captain America: Civil War wasn’t the Avengers finding a way to come together, but rather the Avengers being torn apart. Behind the scenes, the Sokovia Accords were being written, and Secretary Ross was getting ready to confront the Avengers, but for the disassembly of the Avengers to occur, it had to come from within. The two factions were led by Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. Steve needed no outside help to make his stand; it’s what he does. Likewise, Tony is prone towards sacrificing liberty in favor of security, but in prior films, he insisted on being the one in control of that security. Something had to push him over the edge to where he’d be willing to surrender that control to the government that he so routinely dismissed.
Enter Miriam, played by acting veteran Alfre Woodard.
Jump to 0:55 for the scene in question.
Miriam tells the story of her son, Charlie Spencer, who had the city of Novi Grad, Sokovia dropped on him during the events of Age of Ultron. She blamed the Avengers for his death and laid a huge guilt trip on Tony Stark in that scene.
One of my pet peeves about superhero movies is the after saving the world, the unappreciative human race vilifies the heroes because of the collateral damage that occurs, ignoring that, in some cases, without the heroes the entire human race would be killed. That’s certainly a theme in Civil War, and it’s annoying as hell, but in Civil War those arguments were no more than a means to advance a more reasonable position. The United Nations truthfully understood that what the Avengers were doing was right, and that the consequences of those actions were often not the Avengers’ fault. They simply wanted international oversight to minimize those consequences.
But logic isn’t always the best motivator. Even the most stoic among us are emotional creatures. You can’t blame the Avengers for feeling bad about what happened. If a criminal held a gun to a loved-one’s head, and you felt you had to kill the criminal in order to save that person’s life, the world wouldn’t blame you, but you might still find it difficult to deal with having killed another human being. Maybe you could have disarmed the criminal, and if so overpowered him. Tony was facing the same emotional dilemma, and to make matters worse was the creator of the threat, Ultron. Even more, maybe Tony could have zigged when he zagged and saved some more lives.
Miriam appealed to that emotion, and in less than 2 minutes of screen time, set in motion the civil war between the Avengers.
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.
Captain America: Civil War
Like all the MCU movies, I liked this one. It wasn’t even close to the bottom of my list, but it doubled down on the ridiculous trope that I mentioned while discussing Ant-Man. I get that the world governments want to have a say in how the Avengers operate, but I find it frustrating and incredulous that people can characterize them as the bad guy because of the damage done.
I get that Cap had a 70-year shift, but it’s still weird to fall in love with someone, never really get over her, then knowingly date her niece. It’s better than Leia kissing Luke, but still. . . .
The scene when the cops came to arrest Bucky seemed to be a mix of the Daredevil fight montages and a Jason Bourne car chase.
More foreshadowing: Vision spending time with Wanda.
It made no sense for Cap to shift his arm when he’s trying to hold down the helicopter. Well, not from a physics perspective.
I love the nodding from the VW Bug. 🙂
Introducing two new MCU characters (Black Panther and Spider Man) for the big fight was a great idea considering their upcoming movies, but Black Panther’s “I don’t care” ran a sore point into the ground for me. The established Avengers should have had a little more trouble throwing punches at each other. Every single shot should have taken something out of each of those characters. For example, Black Widow and Hawkeye joked about still being friends after the fight. That’s fine, but when Wanda threw Black Widow with her red goo to save Hawkeye, they should have cut to Hawkeye’s face giving a look of concern. Such a quick, subtle, but powerful moment of pain would have given us a better appreciation of what was at stake for these friends. Instead, it reminded us that no one was actually going to die. We knew that, but good filmmaking allows you to forget that. The Russo’s seemed more concerned with action than the characters themselves. It wasn’t terrible, but it could have been much better.
Paul Rudd looked as surprised as the rest of us when he grew. “Does anyone have any orange slices?” Rudd was perfect casting for that role. There’s a lot of perfect casting going around the MCU.
I never noticed that Howard Stark recognized “Sgt. Barnes,” which of course made perfect sense. Such a tough moment.
Well, Stark finally put the suit on, and we saw what happened. Of course, Cap had some help, but I’ll bet my money in Vegas on anyone who can punch metal repeatedly without hurting himself.
Shit’s about to get weird. Even weirder than a talking racoon.
I should just copy and paste, “Arrogant jackass,” about 30 times in a row here, shouldn’t I?
The Ancient One’s reluctance to teach Strange seems, well, strange in light of her conversation with Banner in Endgame.
The visuals in the mirror dimension were stupendous.
I still cringe at the horrible attempt at comedy in which the Cloak of Levitation wipes away Strange’s tears.
“Oooooo, that’s funny.”
I really hope Mordo comes back as a villain. The most interesting villains are the ones that think they’re heroes, and Chiwetel Ejiofor is one hell of an actor.
A friend commented that he thought the world-building in Wakanda was great. I agree, though I think a lot of the MCU movies do so, just in different, non-literal ways. Perhaps in Black Panther is more pronounced because the world-building you see is relatable. It shows a world that we’re all waiting to see.
If you’re watching these movies in movie-chronological order, this one should absolutely come before Doctor Strange. I can’t think of a single reason why Marvel suggests Doctor Strange to go first. Black Panther takes place one week after Captain America: Civil War, and one post-credit scene in Doctor Strange is a preview from the very next film, Thor: Ragnarök.
The one thing I didn’t like about this movie was that they determined their king via fistfight. It’s bad enough to have people lead just because they’re born into a royal family — I know that opinion’s not going to sit well with certain real-world cultures — but to have them fight among themselves to determine who’s on top? How stupid.
Ulysses Claue is such fun character. Even though he’s a horrible crook, his lack of respect for the danger he’s in makes me laugh. I wish he hadn’t died.
“I’m kidding. We are vegetarians.”
Those hovercraft are reminiscent of the “whale ships” that Thanos uses.
Someone on my Facebook wall argued that Marvel films are formulaic. I don’t think that’s fair. There are only seven basic plot structures in all of storytelling. To that extent, everything is formulaic, but applying that as a criticism unfairly diminishes the contributions of creators. There’s still something new being added when a good creator creates. There’s one consistent theme in comics that does annoy me, and it’s present here. The enemy too often mirrors the protagonist. Kaecilius is just an evil sorcerer, Abomination is just another Hulk, and Killmonger is just an evil Black Panther. That’s a theme I’d rather they break except where it makes sense for other reasons (i.e., the Winter Soldier). Perhaps it makes sense here because of the strong theme of family in the movie, but in general this is the only way in which I see the MCU films as formulaic in a bad sense. Otherwise, Black Panther is like most of the MCU films: It carves it’s own path. As I said, the world it builds is different from what we’ve seen elsewhere. It focuses on a culture that we don’t normally see as the focus of American films.
Like Winter Soldier, this is another movie that won’t leave my watchlist just because of this mass-viewing of the MCU. I’ll watch this one over and over again.
This is the Thor that I love. Thor is my favorite MCU character because I have always been fascinated with mythology, and most especially Norse mythology. The character of Thor is supposed to be dimwitted, which gets him into trouble, but never prevents him from busting his way out of it. This is that Thor, and Hemsworth continues to play him perfectly. This is one of the more quotable MCU films as a result. But then they had to ruin it for me by making Hela the sister of Thor. 🙂
As a fan of the theater, I’d like to see the entire Tragedy of Loki of Asgard on stage with those specific actors. 🙂
“Father.” “Oh, shit.”
Cate Blanchett was ridiculously good.
Why kill off the Warriors Three, two of which so unceremoniously?
Elephant in the room: Why does Sparkles have any sensitivity to electrical jolts at all? That compliance device shouldn’t have worked at all.
Okay, enough criticizing one of my top three MCU films. Good stuff only from here . . . but Thor should have been a redhead.
Jeff Goldblum is even better than Blanchett.
“That’s exactly what Doug used to say. See you later, new Doug.”
The fight scene with the Hulk was huge. It proved that Thor had continued his evolvution into the strongest Avenger (as it should be). Hulk got in only one legitimate series of shots against Thor. All others came from the Grandmaster’s cheating or Thor’s reluctance to fight, which is a virtue in and of itself.
In contrast to Black Panther, they got royalty right in this one. A bad queen shouldn’t be allowed to be queen. Birthright is bullshit to anyone that believes in democracy or a republic. Maybe gods can live up to otherwise unrealistic ideal of a truly benevolent dictator, but when they don’t (and humans never do), revolt! Shuri got that, but only because T’Challa was family. Thor said it best: “Technically [you] have a claim to the throne . . . but it can’t be you. You’re just [beat] the worst.”
My cousin, John, is right. Thor should have never gotten his eye replaced.
I love that Fenris was able to pierce Hulk’s skin. We’ve gone cosmic. The most powerful creatures you meet on Earth aren’t so extraordinary out there.
This after-credits scene comes close to beating shawarma, but not quite.
Avengers: Infinity War
Despite the advice of the above-linked page, I believe you should watch this before Ant-Man and the Wasp, so I did. That’s how they were released in the theater, and it made the end-credits scene in Ant-Man and the Wasp so good.
So, we had an entire movie in which Hulk wouldn’t go away, and now we have an entire movie where he won’t come out. I wonder how that’s going to resolve itself in Endgame? 🙂
Lord Voldemort (Ebony Maw) is a total suck up.
In terms of acting in general throughout all his roles, Tom Hiddleston probably did the best job of anyone in the MCU.
The most annoying character in the MCU is Pepper Potts.
Doctor Strange calls someone else a douchebag? Even more amazing, it sticks?
I don’t think the Star-Lord, Drax, and Mantis should be a match for Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange. I’ve heard that Drax is far more powerful in the comics, but that’s not my frame of reference. This brings up something that’s bugged me about the MCU. They never seem to get the power curve right. It makes no sense that a character that’s a match for Thor and Hulk is also a match for Black Widow and Hawkeye. Sometimes they explain it (e.g., Thor’s deterioration in Endgame), but for the most part they handwave it. It makes writing scripts easier but feels wrong to me.
“Why is Gamora?”
Improvised line. Bautista did such a great job.
And I thought my family was screwed up.
I’ve admitted my bias for Thor, but I can’t think of another character entrance into a scene that even comes close to Thor’s arrival in Wakanda. It still raises the hair on my neck.
I know it’d be a cheap line, but I still wish Spider-Man had responded, “Well, actually, arachnid; specifically: Araneae.
Star-Lord is directly responsible for the Snap. In all 14,000,605 realities, he was a dumbass, and that’s why Black Widow, Vision, and so many others are dead even after the Hulk Snap. This isn’t a criticism of Star-Lord, of course, because he’s not real. The screenwriters shouldn’t have thrown the character under the bus like that. That said, it is the kind of thing he’d do.
The power curve problem rears its ugly head again. Why are Black Widow and Okoye able to put up a fight against Proxima Midnight, who’s a cosmic character that otherwise can give Scarlett Witch and Vision so much trouble? It doesn’t add up (and neither does the prior scene where Black Widow, Captain America, and Falcon best her and Corvus Glaive).
I can’t look past the fact that Wanda is in a relationship with a robot. I like my toaster, but don’t like like it.
When Thanos reversed time to bring back Vision, did he create an alternate timeline? If so, the timeline we were watching the entire movie isn’t the one we watched as the movie ended. I’m always a little bugged by infinite timeline stories. Even the infinite happy endings are nullified by the infinite unhappy endings that necessarily occur. The reality we’re shown is arbitrarily chosen by the director, but I can’t ignore all the other ones in which the protagonist loses. I know they’re there.
If Thor wasn’t the most powerful Avenger, he is now. It’s clear Thor is my betting favorite to beat Thanos without Infinity Stones. He almost beat him with the stones. The explanation the Russos gave was that Thanos was taken off guard, but Stormbreaker still made it through. Thor’s a badass who’s PTSD and depression weaken him so that he doesn’t overpower Thanos in Endgame.
In case you didn’t read it elsewhere, Groot’s final “I am Groot” translated to “Dad.”
Great job, Thanos! You killed half the population, leaving the other half to double itself fairly quickly (less than 50 years for humans)! What, you don’t know how exponential growth works? Maybe you should have killed of 99% of sentient life. Dipshit.
The post-credit scene foreshadowed the return of Captain Marvel. The fact that she’s been away from the MCU for so long (in movie-chronological order) now matches the fact that it’s been about 25 years since she was on Earth. It has a better feel to it. That alone makes watching these in movie-chronological order the right way to go. Streaming is awesome.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Why did Janet van Dyne age as much as Hank Pym? According to everything we’ve been told about the quantum realm, time passes much more slowly; specifically: 1 hour in the quantum realm for each year in the normal world. Janet was stuck down there for 30 years, so she should have aged just a little more than a day. It would have saved a little bit of special effects money to have cast a younger actress in the role.
Marvel should sign Michael Pena to a lifetime contract.
I loved the casting for Ghost. At the risk of getting a little creepy, Hannah John-Kamen’s eyes are haunting. That’s the best word for it, but she also did a good acting job, so yeah, great casting.
Walter Goggins is also really good casting. Very few can do sleezy like Goggins.
21 ft. v. 65 ft.. Easy joke, but it worked.
“You can do it. You can do anything. You’re the world’s greatest grandma.”
If Scott Lang went to the quantum realm to get particles to help Ghost, but was stuck there for 5 years, what happened to Ghost? I’m sure the answer depends on 1) whether Hannah John-Kamen signs another contract; and/or 2) whether a future storyline can use her. There will be a Ant-Man 3, so I guess we’ll see.
When Janet tells Ghost, “Your pain; I can feel it,” I fully expected Ghost to respond with, “What do you know of my pain?”
That mid-credits scene just made you want to see Endgame even more.
I’ve beaten this dead horse quite a bit on this blog and on social media, but damn, that scene in the ship with Tony and Nebula is the best bit of acting I’ve seen in the MCU. Karen Gillan took over. Expressing confusion by what it means to have a friend, play a game, and have fun, and then giving the last food to Tony and making sure that, when he dies, he dies as comfortably as possible rather than on a cold floor, all with only two lines of dialogue (9 words and 3 grunts) and facial expressions buried in makeup. It’s almost like she’s taken over the entire MCU without anyone in the real world noticing.
“I thought you were a build-a-bear.” “Maybe I am.”
If Scott kept the van (seen in the Avengers facility camera footage), why was he walking through town and at the monument with his stuff in a wagon? Why wouldn’t he leave that stuff in the van?
Namor should be the villain in Black Panther 2.
I’m with Scott Lang. Professor Hulk freaks me out too.
“Somebody peed my pants, but I don’t know if it was old me or baby me. Or just me me.”
An idiot and his tacos.
At the start, Fat Thor was a funny joke, but once it became obvious that his condition was based on depression and PTSD (Hemsworth’s acting was great), they stopped making jokes and handled it quite well, even overtly stating that he was still “worthy.” However, much later in the movie, Thor asks, “Do you know what’s running through my veins?” Roadie answers, “Cheeze Whiz?” That wasn’t a funny joke, especially considering the moment. Suddenly they went back to making jokes, and at that point it was punching down. Funny joke, but not a good move.
The explanation for time travel was crappy to start, and I bet some just gave up and didn’t fully understand it. That would be too bad. The time travel explanation they used was actually the best one to use to justify fixing things. Assuming they chose instead to go with those movies and TV shows, I don’t think killing baby Thanos would be a bad thing.
“. . . the chick with the antenna . . .”
I read something online stating that past-Gamora and past-Nebula were fighting Beta Ray Bill’s species in the fight scene where the two first appear. Considering there was originally plans to include Beta Ray Bill in Endgame, that would make sense. I really hope he’s in Love and Thunder.
The Ancient One says that taking the time stone from her would wreak havoc on her reality. Assuming that’s true, didn’t Thanos’s Second Snap create major issues for the movie’s reality? Did we really have a happy ending? As for the Ancient One’s reality, isn’t it destined for its own Snap, followed by its own Thanos Second Snap wreaking havoc on her reality anyway (assuming a best-case scenario where Thanos loses for her reality as well)? If so, wouldn’t giving up the time stone to another reality do far less damage to her reality, preventing any of the snaps from occurring? Am I saying “reality” and “snap” too much? This whole plot is so riddled with scientific and legal issues that it was impossible to get right. (After the Snap, would Tony still be a billionaire?) I don’t mean to shit on the movie (which I loved); I just think this is a lesson in just rolling with it. After all, as I said above, the time travel explanation they used was the best one to use.
The music playing when Steve saw Peggy through the window is an excerpt from This is My Choice, which was from when Steve went into the ice.
Hulk did his snap, and Clint’s wife, Laura, immediately called him. Did Clint keep her phone line alive for five years? Okay, I know. Just roll with it.
All those portals opening to start the big battle was awesome (“on your left”), and it was amazing that they were able to have such a huge battle but give everyone their individual moments. With an army that large, though, I think there’s be far too much cross-chatter on their coms. The funniest part of that battle was Paul Rudd punching one of Thanos’s whale ships. Not Ant-Man, Giant-Man, or Scott Lang, but Paul Rudd. I just find that funny.
I’ll mention it again: 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 thematically very similar to the music from when Steve rode the plane into the ground. But, ummmm, couldn’t they have brought him back to life with the Soul Stone? Never mind. Don’t answer that. Just roll with it.
They signed their names on the credits? Star Trek VI, baby.
I dunno. Watching the Star Wars movies, maybe? Nothing I’d blog about though.
I throw in this list as a suggestion for movie-chronological order, which differs from what’s suggested by Marvel itself (again, omitting the Hulk and Spider-Man movies). The difference is that Doctor Strange follows Black Panther, and Ant-Man and the Wasp follows Avengers: Infinity War. YMMV.
Captain America: The First Avenger Captain Marvel Iron Man Iron Man 2 Thor The Avengers Iron Man 3 Thor: The Dark World Captain America: The Winter Soldier Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1 Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 Avengers: Age of Ultron Ant-Man Captain America: Civil War Black Panther Doctor Strange Thor Ragnarök Avengers: Infinity War Ant-Man and the Wasp Avengers: Endgame