Tag Archives: marvel studios

Cate Shortland Suits Up to Direct Black Widow

After a search that saw meetings with over 70 directors, Marvel Studios has found its director for its standalone Black Widow film. Cate Shortland will sit in the chair for the project that will star Scarlett Johansson.

The movie studio wanted a female director but at times looked towards male directors as well.

Johansson pushed for Shortland whose most known film was the 2012 critically acclaimed film Lore. Her most recent film was Berlin Syndrome in 2017.

While excitement was high for the film, some of fandom has cooled to the Johansson lead film after the actor’s questionable choices of roles and even more questionable responses for the films Ghost in the Shell and upcoming Rub & Tug.

(via THR)

Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

Perfectly adequate. That’s the best way to describe the latest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man and the Wasp. I loved Ant-Man, as the film in 2015 was one of the earliest to shake up the Marvel movie formula in many ways. The movie still stuck to a lot of what we’ve seen, evil corporate bad guy (who wears three piece suits and is bald), it broke the mold by adding in comedic aspects. The movie was the first real comedy released featuring a more relaxed style and visual jokes, not to mention a dialed back villain that lowers the stakes of it all. Ant-Man and the Wasp takes a lot of that formula to give us a family friendly film that has laughs but misses some of the charm of the original.

Taking place after Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang is on lockdown attempting to stay out of trouble and be a father. Hope van Dyne and Hank Pym are on the run and need Scott’s help to find Janet van Dyne, the original Wasp, Hope’s mother and Hank’s wife. The villain is two fold. Ghost, a character who needs Hank Pym’s technology to cure her and Sonny Burch, a technology dealer who wants Pym’s technology to sell to the highest bidder. Then there’s the FBI who wants to arrest Hope and Hank for having the tech they have.

The story is a bit convoluted and is best to not think too hard about. Things are either over explained or not explained enough and we’re expected to roll with it. Each aspect feels like an excuse to present so visual gag involving size or explore the Quantum Realm, the place Scott shrunk to in the first film and where Janet is lost.

While Ghost is a potentially interesting villain, the actions taken by her leave you wondering why she wouldn’t just reach out to Hank to help to begin with instead of attempting to steal his technology? There’s a backstory but much feels watered down and lost from the original comics’ tech focused anarchist who presented as originally released would have been a much more interesting villain. Burch, as played by the always entertaining Walter Goggins, feels like the villain version of Michael Peña‘s Luis whose entire aspect is to give us a moment of respite (the ongoing jokes about a truth serum) or to set up some action sequence.

And that’s the issue at the heart of the film, it provides little new and you feel like you’re sitting there waiting for the next gag or in my case Michael Peña’s rants. Yes, he steals the show as usual delivering entertaining recaps and there’s far too few of them. There’s an energy about his performance where he immediately creates a spark in any scene he’s in. It’s a fun energy that feels like it’s missing everywhere else and the closest we come is Paul Rudd as he interacts with his daughter with childlike fun.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with the film but it’s clear this is the family friendly release of the year to change things up, much like the original. After the weightier films that are Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a film geared towards families with younger kids who’ll laugh at the visual gags. Ant-Man and the Wasp is empty entertainment that’s a step back from the original missing… something.

The visuals are entertaining and we get a new world to explore in the Quantum Realm but overall the film feels like empty calories that will fill you up temporarily but in the end leave you wanting an hour later.

Overall Rating: 6.95

Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

ant-man-and-the-wasp-posterThis is the palate cleanser we needed after the heaviness of Avengers: Infinity War, and like the first Ant-Man, guaranteed to leave you smiling ear to ear. However, as a film, and grading on the curve of what we expect from recent MCU movies, it falls a bit short of the recent genius of Black Panther or Thor: Ragnarok. 

But is that really fair? Do we judge the sorbet, pickled ginger, or simple fruit compared to the course before it? If you eat some apple slices after a particularly hearty main course, shouldn’t you just compare it to other apples? Ant-Man and the Wasp is a particularly good apple, even if it’s a lesser part of the feast of the MCU.

Our story centers back on Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who, after the events of Captain America: Civil War, finds himself in the last few days of a two-year house arrest, during which time he has had no contact with Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) or Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). They are reunited after he has a vision of Janet (Michelle Pfieffer) whom Hank and Hope have been trying to rescue from the quantum realm, avoiding detection by the authorities with a truly “mobile” lab they can shrink to a rolling suitcase.

Unfortunately, their activities have also attracted the attention of Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) a former S.H.I.E.L.D. operative, who needs their tech to fix her condition which allows her to phase through solid matter, but is also extremely painful. They’re also being pursued by billionaire Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) and FBI Agent Woo (Randall Park) and aided by Scott’s friends from the previous movie, led by Michael Pena. And we get a glimpse into Hank Pym’s past with the introduction of Dr. Bill Foster (Lawrence Fishburne) who previously used Pym’s technology to grow larger and become “Goliath.”

It’s a lot of characters. And most of the movie ends up being a giant game of keep-away with the lab/suitcase while our stars tell jokes and superhero wackiness ensues. While the first Ant-Man played like a generic heist film, this is more reminiscent of the specific sub-genre of a 60’s caper film which was as much about the romantic chemistry of the two leads as its plot.

Full of sight gags and visuals of little things turning big and vice versa, the film plays with its main conceit of being able to shrink and grow at will, sometimes almost to a fault. It also uses its setting of San Francisco to great effect. The film also depends on the audience being willing to accept a lot of super convenient plot turns to keep everything moving, including the biggest deus ex machina of the entire MCU to resolve its central conflict.

One of the biggest impressions we’re left with from this film is “women do it better.” Hope Van Dyne’s Wasp is infinitely better at her job than Scott is at being Ant-Man, and Ghost as an antagonist is infinitely better than Corey Stoll’s super-weak Yellowjacket in the last Ant-Man film.

The other important thing here [possible spoiler alert?] is the idea that this film exists without a singular villain, continuing Marvel’s recent spate of complex villains with an actual beef and moral weight to their arguments. While Ghost is certainly the antagonist, she is a person acting out of severe pain from her “powers” and more akin to a terminal patient looking to do anything to get palliative medical care. And Goggins, while always fun to watch in a villain role, really doesn’t do enough to qualify as a “villain” in the true sense– other than just being a greedy capitalist.

So this movie has a lot of heart, spectacular visuals, great jokes and performances from its supporting cast, and some nice character moments, but falls short of some of the spectacle, fun, and other recent MCU films.  But as a palate cleanser? It works really well.

Until [again, possible spoiler alert, but this is predictable] in the post credit scenes we see what happens in this corner of the universe when Thanos snaps his fingers. Then it leaves that ashy, sad taste in our mouth again. If you want to preserve the fun and good feelings this movie gives us, you may want to leave at the credits, just this one time.

This is a fun movie which should keep you smiling for almost the entirety of its runtime. While not as good as, say, Incredibles 2, it’s worthwhile just as some fun escapism from the heat and the stresses of summer 2018.

3.5 out of 5

Around the Tubes

It’s new comic book day tomorrow. What’s everyone looking forward to? What do you plan on getting? Sound off in the comments below. While you think about that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Publisher’s Weekly – B&N to Create Kids’ Graphic Novel Sections In All Its Stores – Says everything you need to know about this segment.

CBR – Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men Canceled by AMC – This is not too shocking based on the fact it was bumped a lot and seemed to be more forced in to the time slot than paired.

Newsarama – Feige: Marvel Studios Will Have Openly LGBTQ Characters In Upcoming Films – Countdown for people losing their shit online on both sides.

Newsarama – Gifted’s Polaris Starring in Live-Action Razor – A good pick.

 

Reviews

Talking Comics – The Amazing Spider-Man #801

Talking Comics – Flavor #2

Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos Demands Your Eros. Listen on Demand!

On demand: iTunes ¦ Sound Cloud ¦ Stitcher ¦ BlogTalkRadio ¦ Listed on podcastdirectory.com

Join Graphic Policy Radio as it discusses the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s biggest crossover to date, Avengers: Infinity War. Our guest experts are Marvel fans with an academic bend:

Steven Attewell writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in “The People’s History of the Marvel Universe” for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne, a blog about A Song of Ice and Fire.

Brandon Wilson is a Los Angeles based filmmaker and teaches at UCLA and Columbia College Hollywood where he is currently teaching classes on the History of Critical Analysis and a class on David Fincher.

And our host Elana Levin who has a lot to say about the politics of Thanos.

Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos Demands Your Eros. Listen LIVE this Monday at 10pm ET

Join Graphic Policy Radio as it discusses the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s biggest crossover to date, Avengers: Infinity War. Our guest experts are Marvel fans with an academic bend:

Steven Attewell writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in “The People’s History of the Marvel Universe” for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne, a blog about A Song of Ice and Fire.

Brandon Wilson is a Los Angeles based filmmaker and teaches at UCLA and Columbia College Hollywood where he is currently teaching classes on the History of Critical Analysis and a class on David Fincher.

And our host Elana Levin who has a lot to say about the politics of Thanos.

Listen to the show when it airs LIVE this Monday at 10pm ET.

Avengers: Infinity War’s Friday Nears $106 million Challenging Force Awakens’ Record Debut

Avengers: Infinity War is exceeding the studio spin (as expected) delivering an estimated $105.967 million Friday. That’s the second largest opening day and single day of all-time. Star Wars: Force Awakens holds both of those records. The film is looking like it could top $240 million challenging The Force Awakens’ $247.9 million opening weekend.

The film has received “A” CinemaScore from opening day audiences and a 93% from audience/84% Tomatoemeter from Rotten Tomatoes.

Overseas the film has grossed $178.5 million in three days.

All of that has pushed Disney over the $1 billion mark domestically in 117 which breaks the studio’s own record of 128 days set in 2016.

Movie Review: Marvel Studio’s Avengers: Infinity War

This is it, ten years and 18 movies and we’re finally at beginning of a sort of end point for what has been an impressive feat of cinematic world building. Everyone should know the basics of Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos, the bad guy in the shadows in all of the previous films, is gathering the Infinity Stones to wipe out half of existence. It’ll take the fractured Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy to come together an take on Thanos and his hoards.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first two Avengers films. The first was absolutely impressive in bringing so many heroes together from their own films, a first in many ways, and it was fun though thin. The second showed going bigger isn’t always better and expanded the world even greater while sowing the seeds for the next phase. Here, threads going back to the first Iron Man come together and it pays off.

Avengers: Infinity War is impressive. Really impressive. The film balances a lot and does so in a brilliant way. This isn’t one film, it’s really four threaded together in a way. At about 2.5 hours, the film is packed in and plotted in a way that keeps the viewer engaged the entire time and never feels like it’s too much or over the top.

The film begins right after the events of Thor: Ragnarok and does its best to establish the strength of Thanos and his minions, the Black Order. We’ve yet to see these individuals in a fight and directors Anthony and Joe Russo as well as screenplay writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely know they need to create the feeling these villains are bigger than life and an actual hurdle for our heroes. They do that and then some. It also establishes everyone is on the chopping block and can die. No one is safe. Expectations are set within the first fifteen minutes and then the rules are established.

Those rules are also toyed with as numerous characters at numerous times foreshadow their deaths. Normal tropes are used to subvert and toy with the audience expectations. The creative team knew what audiences were expecting in some sense and have clearly decided to play with that. Tropes can be used as weapons to play with expectations and in this case it works and works well.

The second intelligent decision of the creative team is the use of Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, in the film. Gone since Avengers: Age of Ultron, Bruce was last seen in Thor: Ragnarok and he’s unaware of events that have transpired on Earth and with the Avengers. Through Bruce, the creative team informs the audience what has happened. So, those who might not have seen previous films can be caught up. Bruce is the device to catch folks up. It works and works well. It also has some comedic nods here and there due to that.

The film itself is broken up into three main parts. Thor is on a quest for a weapon. Iron Man is on a quest to take on Thanos. Captain America is on a mission to defend Vision and his Infinity Stone in Wakanda. Three plot lines that all feel like they’re given more than enough time.

But those three plot lines also do something interesting. They allow individuals to come together in different pairings instead of bringing everyone together and overwhelming everything. We’re given doses of what we want as too much would be overwhelming.

And that coming together is fantastic. It’s exactly as it should be. When put in a room the bravado and dick measuring would be overwhelming and that’s exactly as we get. A bunch of alpha males in a room together playing off of each other. And beyond that, we also get growth too. They may make smart ass comments to each other but they eventually work together in an organic way, though still keeping the great banter.

The movie also takes us to familiar locations in a “best of” sort of way. New York is attacked. A battle in Wakanda. A trip to Knowhere. It’s all there and then some as new locations expands upon everything we’ve seen before.

The villains though stand out to me. The Marvel films have had good villains, but not great (some exceptions may apply). Here though, it truly feels like a villain and obstacle has been created that is an actual challenge. This isn’t one on one battles, this is five or six on one or four on two. And in each one, the good guys struggle. It really feels like they have to put in a massive effort and things don’t just fall into place.

Thanos and the Black Order look fantastic. The motion capture for Thanos (and really all of them) is impressive to the point Thanos’ eye twitches as he thinks about something. The detail is great and there’s moments I forgot what I was looking at and would have thought it was Josh Brolin in practical make-up. Thanos too is given an amazing motivation and story arc. We get to know him, his philosophy, the why, and at times agree with him. There’s also emotional depth that comes through. This isn’t a villain, this is a fully fleshed out character who has an arc all to himself.

Not everything is perfect. There’s some truly horrible CGI later in the film and Elizabeth Olsen’s accent doesn’t want to stay around all the time. But, each character has their moment with the focus being on Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. Though there’s a lot of characters no one really feels like they have been left out.

This is a film the audience cheered during and regularly gave a “hell yeah” to as moments just hit the mark. It’s hard not to get excited watching and that’s the biggest downside. While you cheer and laugh (and there’s a lot of laughter, great use of humor) you wind up missing some things which invites repeat viewing.

The film is a masterpiece in many ways pulling something off I never though imaginable and doing it in a way that beyond works. It also circumvents expectations in many ways. It’s clearly the first of two parts, so go in knowing that and you’ll be fine by the time things wrap up. It’s a must go and do so with as little spoilers as possible. Avengers: Infinity War is some of the most fun I’ve had in a theater in a while and will absolutely be breaking records.

Overall Rating: 9.0

 

Movie Review: Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers Infinity War[This review will be spoiler-free. However, it does contain some discussion of the plot, mostly discernible from the film’s promotional materials]

It’s impossible to be hyperbolic. There has literally never been another movie like Avengers: Infinity War. 

The culmination of a decade of serialized, connected movies, ever-teasing fans towards a giant crossover event. So, is it any good?

Absolutely, yes. It’s also one of the most challenging films in the genre, as it’s sure to leave many fans quaking with anger or curled up in a fetal position.

Leave all of your expectations at the door, because this film is chaotic and nihilistic. It is also beautifully crafted and supremely morally-centered, as all great superhero fare is.

At center is Thanos, a big baddie whose coming has been teased in a half dozen films. His goal? To unite six Infinity Stones, sources of great galactic power. Unlike most would-be conquerers, Thanos is not interested in ruling the galaxy, but, rather, destroying half of it. Channeling Malthusian theory, he believes the universe must be “balanced” by killing half of all living beings.

On the opposing end are literally almost every character in the last decade of movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Bring tissues. Thanos leaves a body count.

However, if you think you know who lives and dies, put all your expectations aside. One problem with watching this film is it is so full of feints and misdirection, you keep waiting for the next major character death. You will need to see this multiple times just so you can stop anticipating and simply enjoy the spectacle.

And boy howdy, is there ever spectacle. All of your favorite characters get their moments, and some even more than others. Front and center are Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), and Thanos’s daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana). On top of them, all of your favorites return, and perhaps the most impressive thing about this film is that everyone gets a moment to shine. Not only that, but they get specific callbacks to their films and backgrounds that are huge pay-offs for the fans who have been paying attention since Day 1.

Perhaps just as impressive is how expeditiously they dispatch their exposition in the first part of the film. Believe it or not, for a film that banks on its viewers having seen at least a half dozen other films in the series, it gives a nice intro for anyone who is either neophyte or needs a refresher. Stan Lee used to always spend the first few panels of every issue explaining how we got here, saying, “Every issue is someone’s first.” Avengers: Infinity War takes this in stride.

As great as our heroes are, this would fall flat without a great villain. And Thanos is a great villain– one who believes he is right, and we can empathize with as he goes on a personal journey as well. It’s not often that your antagonist is the one who enjoys the most character growth, but here we are.

A tiny complaint is that the CG that makes Thanos come to life looks a little uncanny valley-ish, but let’s be real: he’s a giant purple dude. He’s going to look cartoonish every once in a while. It’s ok, and it’s certainly nothing compared to another giant CG villain in a comic book event movie– Steppenwolf from Justice League. In every conceivable way, Thanos is a superior villain, despite these minor quibbles.

This film is just so unexpected. Who knew that such a giant spectacle could also carry so much emotion? It is also so meticulously constructed — balancing multiple storylines at different ends of the universe with beautiful, fantastical settings — that this truly deserves to be seen on an IMAX screen (or the biggest one you can find). The Russo Brothers prove themselves masters of being able to juggle this many things at once and yet make sure they all work. They’re master chefs who tell you they’re going to put 30 different ingredients into a giant burrito, and at first you’re incredulous, then skeptical, then hopeful, and as you taste it you’re surprised at just how well everything works together.

And a final exhortation: don’t spoil this movie for others. A LOT of stuff goes down. Make sure before you discuss it in public, on social media, that everyone around you has seen the movie.

But when you do see it, see it with friends, family, and others so you can cry together, and then wonder, “Where do they possibly go from here?”

The conclusion in 2019 can’t come soon enough to answer the questions left hanging.

4.5 out of 5 stars

« Older Entries