Kurt Russell’s Tiny Hairdresser (and My Favorite 5 MCU Films) @prattprattpratt @zoesaldana @jamesgunn #GotG #MCU

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Sundays are now lazy days for me. Going forward, I’m just going to re-post other people’s work or just do something silly.

I love the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and will always find excuses to mention them. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look you may enjoy.

KurtRussellTinyHardresser.jpg

Hmmmm. In light of the last four posts I published (movies, bands, songs, and albums), I should list my five favorite MCU films. I’ll do that quickly here because my rationale is spread out over my blog.

5. Infinity War/Endgame (they’re one movie, and you know it);
4. Thor: Ragnarök (my favorite MCU character doesn’t crack the top 3);
3. Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1 (mea culpa);
2. Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 (seriously, mea freaking culpa);
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

If you know who to credit for this observation above, please let me know.

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Good Watch: The Finest Hours on Disney+ @EricBana67 @disneyplus #GoodWatch #QuarantineLife

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Whether you’re an MCU nut like me, or a Pixar nut, there’s actually a lot more on Disney+ than what you subscribed for. Back in March, I watched the Finest Hours.

It starred Chris Pine as Bernard “Bernie” Webber, a real person who led a 1952 rescue of the SS Pendleton during a nor’easter. The opening act focuses on how Bernie met and fell in love with his future wife, Miriam. After that, the action picks up as the rescue gets underway, but the movie still revisits Miriam as she frets over what she sees as a suicide mission for Bernie. Whether you’re looking for action or characters, there’s at least a little bit in there for you.

The movie also stars Holliday Grainger, Casey Affleck, Eric Bana, and Ben Foster, all of whom did a good job.

For what it’s worth, the Finest Hours’ scores on Rotten Tomatoes are 64 from the critics and 66% from the audience.

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Nebula’s Redemption #MCU #GotGVol2 #QuarantineWatchParty @karengillan @BrandonDavisBD @ComicBook @JamesGunn @prattprattpratt @zoesaldana @DaveBautista @PomKlementieff @seangunn @russburlingame @jumonsmapes

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Last night was the Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 quarantine watch party. The best story arc in the MCU was Nebula’s, and it really came together in this movie thanks to both the writing and acting. No one can topple Thor as my favorite character, but she comes in as a close second. Sure, I’ve beaten this point into the ground but done so across several blog and social media posts that even I, the author, can’t track. Now I’m going to put it all together in one place so I can just point people to this post. Note well that the creators themselves may disagree with my analysis here and there, but art is in the eyes of the beholder. Great art speaks to people regardless of their own biases and perspectives, and I’ve learned recently that many people agree with my analysis of both the actor and the character. I truly hope I do everyone justice in expressing that analysis. To that end, while I’ve been trying to improve my writing by shortening my posts, this one can’t be done quickly. There’s a lot to unpack, so grab a drink and some snacks; you’ll be here for a while.

Nebula’s Start

In GotG Volume 1, Nebula is a one-dimensional character. She’s an assassin crafted by a family with a far different dysfunction than any real human has experienced. Maybe you’ve experienced something as bad or worse, but unless your parent turned you into a cyborg because you didn’t murder well enough, you can’t truly relate. Every relationship Nebula has had is either severe familial dysfunction or predator-to-prey. She’s been trained to be nothing more than a killer; that’s all she is. She’s never laughed, never had a friend, and lacks the social context even to address her issues, let alone resolve them. The only emotions we’ve seen from her are anger and frustration (e.g., “Thanks, dad.”).

Nebula’s Journey

In GotG Volume 2, things slowly start to change. Gamora’s time as a Guardian has brought her along her own path of redemption, but she has no confidence in Nebula in that regard. Thus, the movie starts with Nebula feeling no love from her sister. However, when Peter, Drax, and Gamora are leaving with Ego and Mantis, there’s a moment where Nebula senses something inside herself. She gives a quick downward glance, accompanied by a brilliant musical choice making it clear that this scene was as much about Nebula as it was about any of the Guardians.

[C]obbled together by Buckingham at a time when certain people in the band weren’t even speaking to each other . . . “[t]he Chain” is a stark reminder that you’re forever tied to the people you love most, even while they’re betraying you. –Jillian Mapes

https://pitchfork.com/features/lists-and-guides/stevie-nicks-in-33-songs/

My interpretation is that Nebula doesn’t understand these feelings because she’s never had them before now, but they’re clearly triggered by Gamora leaving her and the subconscious recognition that if Gamora can have an adoptive family, so can she. Peter and Gamora were further along this path than Nebula, but they were all on the same journey (as was Rocket, but in a different way). Later, Nebula saves Rocket from execution for what she claims to be selfish reasons, but there’s clearly a change going on inside her. The 2014 Nebula wouldn’t have stopped the execution.

Skipping ahead to the planet of Ego, Nebula attacks Gamora. She’s genuinely angry, but not having to look Gamora in the eye is key to her ability to kill her sister. When the battle brings them face to face, she can’t do it. She yells out in frustration because all she knows is killing, and she suddenly can’t. She feels like she’s lost control of herself. Even at this point, my interpretation is that she doesn’t understand why.

 

And then there’s that moment when at last she gets it. She yells, “You were the one that wanted to win, and I just wanted a sister!” At 3:19, you see for a brief instant a relaxing of her eyes. I wish they had held the shot on her face for another second. She’s as surprised as Gamora. It’s at that point Nebula finally has a basic understanding of what she’s been feeling. She’s still Nebula, and there’s still plenty of road to travel, but you can’t address an issue until you first acknowledge it. She’s finally done that, and that’s why it’s one of my favorite lines in all of cinema.

There are a few more moments that help her along. She can’t understand how the Guardians can be friends because they always fight. Drax explains it to her.

Nebula: “…. You’re not friends.”
Drax: “You’re right. We’re family.”

This helps her understand that right and wrong, love and hate, etc. aren’t always defined strictly by actions, but also by intent. Sometimes right and wrong look the same but nevertheless are not. Soon after, she becomes a Guardian by joining their fight to save the universe. She’s not just doing so to help herself; she’s also helping her sister. She’s not just working alongside someone in a morbid contest to kill more victims; she’s learning the notion of truly bonding with others for a common goal. Cooperation rather than competition.

Nebula’s part in the movie ends with an awkward hug, and then Gamora pensively watching Nebula ride away in search of Thanos. On the one hand, it’s a sad moment, but on the other, it’s a moment of hope that’s going to be desperately needed in the MCU within the next couple of movies.

Infinity War

Nebula’s journey to date is longer than the other MCU characters, but it takes on a familiar form. Like most of the MCU characters, as Nebula evolves into a better version of herself, her methods don’t change. For example, Tony Stark is a self-absorbed, playboy and arms dealer, and then becomes a family-oriented peace-lover out to save the world. Either way, his methods are the same: Develop weaponry. It’s all he really knows, so we judge him more by his intent than by his methods (though he often makes mistakes worthy of judgment). Thor is similarly self-absorbed and deemed unworthy, but eventually joins the fight to save half the universe. How? By recklessly plunging into battle, preferring brute force over tactics. He’s still Thor. And do I really have to mention Ant-Man? As discussed in the prior section, Nebula’s still figuring out that the same actions can be considered good or evil based in large part on intent. Sure, some acts are inherently good or evil, but in the movie universe, even that idea can be relaxed for the sake of drama. We can also allow ourselves to forgive a movie character despite an unforgivable past (see, e.g., Darth Vader saying, “My bad,” and then becoming a Force ghost), which would never fly in the real world (where I’m sure you agree that she deserves that maximum penalty you feel the law may morally impose no matter how much she loves her sister). This is because filmmakers have to use these extremes in order to properly convey the message to the audience. Still, there are rules of engagement, which Tony will later explain to her.

Nebula’s first scene in Infinity War has Thanos torturing her. After freeing herself, we next see her on Titan joining the fight to stop Thanos. While wanting to do the right thing but still not appreciating the importance of intent, she must be very confused by her current mission, which is to assassinate her adoptive father. She experiencing the same two defining characteristics of the life she’s trying to leave behind: Family dysfunction and predator killing prey. But this battle helps break those bonds of confusion just a little bit more. She’s doing the right thing despite the nature of her actions.

When it becomes apparent that Thanos has executed the Snap, she appears to show a bit of remorse for the loss of life Thanos just caused. With Gamora already dead, one might not expect her to have anything more to lose, yet she still exhibits renewed sadness — not frustration or anger — about what had occurred. Is this genuine?

Endgame

This is where we see it all come together, with Guardians music playing. Ms. Gillan acts out the entirety of this journey in the following scene with two lines consisting of nine words in total, as well as three grunts. She uses body language and facial expressions buried in makeup. It’s not Klingon-like make up, but it still represents a barrier to conveying the message. However, even more difficult are the constraints placed upon her by the script. If Ms. Gillan — who I’ve read is a talented piano player — had suggested adding a moment to this scene in which she and Tony were singing and laughing while she was playing the piano, she would have been laughed off the set. Nebula doesn’t play the piano. She doesn’t laugh, and she doesn’t sing. She’s a stoic, distant, guarded cyborg who’s just learning emotions that we all take for granted. Ms. Gillan isn’t permitted to express those emotions fully but must somehow still convey them as they slowly rise to the surface.

And she does a masterful job of it. Here’s the scene:

The first thing we see is a paper football game. Nebula’s instinct is to cheat by blocking Tony’s attempt. To her, this is a competition, and that’s always meant win at all costs. Win for the sake of winning. Tony explains that, while they’re adversaries, she has to follow the rules of engagement. Again, this must be confusing for her, but she’s trying. In fact, she says, “I would like to try again,” which is 2/3 of the words she’s given in the scene. Consciously, she wants to continue to play, but subconsciously she wants to continue to learn.

When Nebula wins, Tony extends his hand as a showing of sportsmanship. He congratulated Nebula for beating him. Nebula understandably pauses. I imagine her thinking, “What’s going on here? Why is he congratulating me? No one’s ever done that before.” Well, of course not; everyone she’s ever beaten is dead. He still wants to be her friend despite just competing against her. “Wait. What’s a friend?” She’s clearly never had one. Then Tony asks whether she had fun. Again, she has to pause to process the question. “What’s ‘fun’? I’ve never had fun.” But she realizes she has had fun and answers in the affirmative. Remember, all of this is being done with little dialogue, obscuring makeup, and severe constraints on the character’s presentation.

But what happens next leaves little doubt that her transformation is genuine. Putting morality aside, the smart thing to do would be to kill Tony as quickly as possible (or at least as soon as he’s finished with his modifications to the ship). He’s in a weakened state due to his injuries, and as a fully biological person, he probably can’t last as long as Nebula without food, water, and perhaps oxygen. The sooner he dies, the less resources he burns in a futile effort to survive before seeing a rescue currently nowhere in sight. Not only does Nebula never consider killing him, but she actually takes steps to maximize his chances of survival, placing herself at greater risk. She provides medical treatment to his wounds and gives him the last bit of food. Even more profound, after Tony drifts off to sleep, Nebula picks him up off the floor and places him in a chair. If he’s destined to die, she wants him to die with dignity. Even if he’s going to die in his sleep, she wants him to be “comfortable.” And she shows genuine sorrow for what seems to be inevitable. All of this is for a guy she just met. Does this seem like something 2014 Nebula would do?

I’d like to write a lot more, but I’m sure you get the point. So, in the interests of finishing up this post, I’ll summarize the next 2 hours and 45 minutes of Endgame by saying it becomes even more obvious that Nebula’s transformation is genuine. During the rest of the film, she continues to display emotional development, seeming more and more “human” as she goes, and she’s legitimately trying to save everyone, not just herself. Her interactions with her 2014 version enforce that position. “You don’t have to do this . . . . You’ve seen what we become. . . . You can change.” Unfortunately, 2014 Nebula isn’t there yet. “He won’t let me.”

But you do see a tear running down 2014 Nebula’s cheek as she dies (blacked out of this clip). Seeing her future self could have been her start if there were only more time.

Gillan’s Acting

Sure, the writers had to do their part in setting this course for the character, and I applaud their work, but someone had to actually act it out despite a number of handicaps placed upon her. Ms. Gillan acted circles around Robert Downey Jr. in their shared scene, and I don’t think anyone noticed. The movies were more Mr. Downey’s than anyone else’s, so everyone was focused on him. Nebula’s importance in Endgame proves that the Russo brothers had faith in Ms. Gillan’s talent.

I agree. I feel that Ms. Gillan has the talent to win an Oscar one day. I have a modest track record for predicting such things (e.g., predicting Reese Witherspoon’s eventual Oscar based on her performances in two forgettable movies from the mid- to late-nineties). This comes not from personal talent, but rather from attending the theater since I was in elementary school. I can’t tell you how many now-famous actors I’ve seen perform at Arena Stage at a time when they were first cutting their teeth in the arts. I learned to look for that talent even when a bad script hides it. Whether Ms. Gillan ultimately wins an Oscar will rely on two factors beyond her acting: Being given the right part and script and being willing to go through the expensive campaign to essentially buy the award from the Academy. I cannot predict either of those, but she’s got one out of three already. That’s more than most of us (and dare I say, much of Hollywood) have.

No MCU character had a more significant, personal story arc than Nebula, and at times she was exceptionally well-acted. Am I wrong?

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Brie Larson’s Performance in Captain Marvel @leepace @brielarson #MCU #CaptainMarvel

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Binging Halt and Catch Fire inspired me to re-watch Captain Marvel because Lee Pace played one of the key figures in both works. Mr. Pace won’t be the subject of this story, but it triggered the viewing.

Prior to seeing Brie Larson in Captain Marvel, I wasn’t impressed with her acting. Apparently, that created a bias, because I didn’t think much of the job she did in Captain Marvel either. I enjoyed the movie anyway because the character’s personality, fueled by her amnesia and her role as a soldier, didn’t require much range. In fact, it dictated that she remained as flat and one-dimensional as I’ve experienced. However, it left me concerned that in future performances she’d be equally flat and one-dimensional when the role required her do better. Her performance in Endgame didn’t give me any more confidence, because her role was limited.

Then the Room came to Netflix, so I watched it. I was curious as to how she could win an Oscar considering everything I had seen. In the Room, she was a completely different Brie Larson. I saw much better acting, so it was clear that she had the chops for the role. On the second, and now third, viewing of Captain Marvel, I see her performance in a different light. The extra dimensions are there; it’s just more subtle. As with Nebula, the script limited Carol Danvers be acted in a certain way — brooding, cold, distant, guarded — but Ms. Larson somehow hinted at the range of normal emotions inside. At times, she’s happy, playful, sorrowful, nostalgic, inquisitive, remorseful, optimistic, and goofy; I simply missed it because of that bias. My short term memory didn’t retain things I didn’t think I’d see.

The more I watch this movie, the more I appreciate the subtleties typical of an MCU film and Ms. Larson’s performance. My guess is that both Captain Marvel 2 and she will be just as good.

But Goose stole the show. You’ll have to deal with that, Brie.

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Good Watch: Halt and Catch Fire @leepace @tmackenziedavis @scootmcnairy @tobyhuss @smugorange @Netflix #HaltAndCatchFire #GoodWatch

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“I can’t take so much sunshine up my ass. It makes me itch.”
— John Bosworth

During the 80s, I was a physics student fascinated with the progress of the home computer. In the 90s, I was a software engineer working with computers professionally. Halt and Catch Fire is a dramatization of that culture and era starting in 1983. Perhaps this makes me prone towards liking this show more than others, but my guess is that most people likely to read my blog fall in that same category.

In season one, the story introduces Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace), a salesman who left IBM on less-than-ideal terms. He latches onto the fictional company, Cardiff Electric, based in Silicon Prairie, which in this case refers to Texas. He convinces (forces?) Cardiff Electric to include within their business plan the development of portable computers. Familiar (to me) terms such as “XT,” “286,” “386,” and “GUI” are thrown around as several companies vie to get their idea to the market first. By the end of the series, they progressed to the early 90s and the birth of the internet, and during more than a decade, the characters develop, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Their mistakes have them pushing each other apart, yet they always find themselves coming back together, which in turn leaves you hopeful at the end of the series even though there’s distance between some of them.

While I was never involved on the sales end of the industry, I was certainly the salesmen’s target, and I feel like the writing and acting capture the feel for that era quite well. Is it an exaggeration of the truth? At times, of course, but in this case that’s not done merely for the sake of drama. Many of us that are or were in the industry hold a romanticized memory of those times, and we’re just as guilty of exaggerating the events of them as the show’s writers did.

If, like me, you need an excuse to choose one show over another, here it is: If anything I said above sounds appealing to you, consider watching this one. It’s only four seasons, with only ten 50-minute episodes each. At the very least, if you’re as old as I, you’ll love the 80s and 90s music. It’s not as important to the show as it is to, for example, Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’ll remind you to give some songs another listen.

P.S. I hate Cameron and Gordon. I knew too many of them.

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Travelling through the #MCU: Phase 3 #CaptainAmerica #CivilWar #DoctorStrange #BlackPanther #Thor #Ragnarök #Avengers #InfinityWar #AntMan #Endgame @hannahjk1 @karengillan

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Phase 1 | Phase 2 | Phase 3

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.

Doctor Strange

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.

Black Panther

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.”

“Whassup?”

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.

Thor: Ragnarök

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. 🙂

Great use of the Immigrant Song.

“Tex-ass.”

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.

Again, great use of the Immigrant Song. “Valhalla, I am coming.”

Bullets, laser beams, magic, and spears all in the same movie.

Is Hela really dead? Did you see the body?

That’s a really big ship.

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?

“You know you can’t eat dumbbells, right?”

More examples of how Nebula is the character who grows the most of any MCU character, and thus exemplifies one of the central themes of the MCU. No character has a longer journey of redemption.

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.

14,000,605.

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.

Quantum entanglement?

ThatWord.png

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?”

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That mid-credits scene just made you want to see Endgame even more.

Avengers: Endgame

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.

“Shit!”
“Shit.”

“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.

“Hail, Hydra.”

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.

“I’m totally from the future.”

It was a great moment that Thor really needed.

“So, he’s an idiot.”
“Yeah.”

Roadie has no idea.

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.

“Your choices were him or a tree.”

They should have included both deleted scenes in the theatrical release (i.e., Tony in the Soul World and everyone taking a knee upon Tony’s death).

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.

What’s Next?

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

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

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Phase 1 | Phase 2 | Phase 3

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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