Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Monday, October 18, 2021
Sunday, October 17, 2021
Saturday, October 16, 2021
Friday, October 15, 2021
Sometimes, things don't change and, looking back at my review of Captain America back when it first came out, I can see that my opinion hasn't changed much. Actually, my opinion on how strong a movie Captain America: The First Avenger is has only gotten stronger. I don't know what that means, yet, in a practical sense, because it's still in the top three best Marvel origin story movies. I will need to re-watch Spider-Man again to see if it has ousted Spidey as my favorite. I don't know, the top three -- Captain America, Spider-Man, and Iron Man -- are all so great, capturing the essence of the characters and putting them in a modern context, it's hard to see which is better, but I'm certain, as far as personal feelings go, that Cap has bumped Iron Man to at least the #2 spot.
So let's talk about Chris Evans. I don't think there exists a better choice for Steve Rogers than Chris Evans. I could be wrong about that, but I don't think so. I talk about Marvel's ability to cast their characters a lot, probably too much, but this choice is probably the most perfect choice they made. The character of Steve Rogers would have been diminished by any other actor. It's even more impressive considering that Evans had already been Johnny Storm in Fox's failed FF movies. Like Harrison Ford getting the role of Indiana Jones after being Han Solo, because Lucas did not want him (not because he didn't think he was right for the role, obviously, but because he didn't want to just keep using Ford over and over again (it's about barriers, man)). Now, I'm not saying that Evans himself could live up to the character of Captain America -- after all, I don't know him -- but he seems like a pretty good guy. And he likes dogs. And he was in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Which leads me to Stanley Tucci... I think the relationship between Rogers and Erskine is the foundation the whole movie rests on, and it is played so perfectly by both of them. The few scenes between the two of them are so touching and heartfelt. Tucci is wonderful. Again, the movie would have been diminished with anyone else in that role.
I was less impressed this time with Hugo Weaving. It's clear why he got the part, and he plays the role as an Elrond variation of Agent Smith. He's fine. There's nothing wrong with his performance; I just don't think he... really put anything into it. What I'm saying is that Weaving did not make this a role that would have suffered if they had put someone else in it.
On the other hand, Tommy Lee Jones is perfect in his role as Colonel Phillips because he is Tommy Lee Jones. Anyone else would have been trying to play Tommy Lee Jones as Phillips, so it's great they were able to get Jones to play himself. You can't beat that.
I like Hayley Atwell and the character of Agent Carter. I think Atwell is better here than in her TV show, but I think Carter is better in the TV show. If you don't understand what I'm saying, I can't explain it. Dominic Cooper and Stark are both better in the TV show, not that Cooper is bad here; there's just not a lot for him to do.
I still love the Howling Commandos, especially Neal McDonough. It's his weird, freaky smile; what can I say? But it works great with Dum Dum's huge moustache. I wish, kind of, that they would do a Howling Commando movie or TV show. Clearly, that group of guys was tight before Cap came along, so it would be a lot of fun to see what kind of mischief they had before Captain America.
The big surprise for me on this watching was discovering that Bucky is... kind of a dick. Well, not kind of. I think when the movie first came out, I was taken in by Sebastian Stan's charisma, which is, I suppose, the point, kind of like Tony Stark. You have to be around him awhile before you realize he's a bit of an asshole. Bucky, not Stan. Where, before, I just thought it was amusing how upset he got when Carter won't give him any attention, this time it was, like, wow...! He's really getting pissy about that. So good on Sebastian for pulling that off...?
The one thing I would say is a negative for me on this viewing is that some of the scenes fighting Hydra, especially the escape scene, feel like watching the 80s GI Joe cartoon. Hydra is all in dark colors with face masks and in big dark vehicles, all shooting blue "lasers." I wasn't struck that way by it before but, this time, that scene in particular, with all of the soldiers running around fighting Hydra, made me think of GI Joe. It would not have surprised me at all if someone had yelled "Yo, Joe!" and thrown a fist in the air. It's a small thing overall.
And I wonder if Joe Johnston, the director, did that on purpose or if it was accident or what. I don't know if it matters. I think Johnston has been an underused talent in Hollywood. It's not like he created Boba Fett or anything. Oh, wait, he did. But, maybe, Johnston has worked as much as he has chosen to. I wouldn't know.
My final word is that Captain America: The First Avenger is a great movie. The best of the Marvel movies, as Cap is the best of the Marvel heroes. You know, in the sense that you would say, "He was the best of us." Spider-Man is still my favorite and the best super hero ever. 'nuff said
Current MCU rankings:
1. Captain America: The First Avemger
2. Iron Man
4. Iron Man 2
5. Incredible Hulk (Hulk smash Norton!)
Thursday, October 14, 2021
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
Monday, October 11, 2021
Sunday, October 10, 2021
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Friday, October 8, 2021
I believe Thor may have been the first of the MCU movies I reviewed on here, back when my movie reviews were less movie reviews and more... I don't know. Commentary on experiences? You can go back and read it here if you're so inclined. It seems even then that I had some kind of beef against the Hulk movies.
Of the trio of Avengers origin stories, I think Thor is the weakest. I say this based purely on the fact that both Iron Man and Captain America present origins that are very close to their comic book origins. Thor, however, diverges from his. I am much more easy with that, now, than I was a decade ago. Thor's actual comic book origin is too... I think it's a bit of a wish fulfilment. Too Arthurian. But I'm not going to get into that right now. [But I think it must be related to how many Boomers I've known for whom Thor was... not just their favorite super hero, their only super hero: "Do you read comics?" "No, but I read Thor." It's fucking weird, man.] The movie origin is... I'll just say it: better. It makes more sense and certainly fits into the context of the MCU in a way that the comic origin would not have.
I hadn't heard of Chris Hemsworth before this movie, but he was a great choice. I don't know of anyone who would have been a better choice, in fact, so, you know, just pointing out Marvel's excellent casting choices again. And Anthony Hopkins... well, I think there were probably other choices for Odin, other actors who could have done it with just as much... authority?... as Hopkins but, if you can get Hopkins, get Hopkins.
Then there's Tom Hiddleston... You know, he's rather understated in this movie. I don't know if he just hadn't worked himself into the skin of Loki yet or if the writers just hadn't realized his full potential. At any rate, it's a little weird looking back and seeing him so much in the background. But still fully a manipulator. Hiddleston is good in this movie. Maybe very good? Later, he becomes great, and I can't imagine anyone else in the role, now, but, at the time... Look, clearly, he didn't make much of an impression on me when the movie came out. I didn't mention him at all in my original review.
I love that the Warriors Three and Sif have such a big role in the movie. Other than Josh Dallas, as Fandral, the casting is good. Dallas was popular at the time, but that role should have gone to Cary Elwes; I don't care how old he is. I'm not really an Elwes fan; I don't think he's a good actor, but he has particular roles he can play, and this one should have been his.
Also, Kat Dennings is awesome as Darcy. She was certainly a surprise, and I'm glad Marvel has kept her around.
Then there is Natalie Portman... She is my point of ambivalence in this movie. I think she is a really good actress, but... I don't know. There's nothing wrong with her performance, and she has good chemistry with Hemsworth. It's just... her.
As a character in the MCU, Hemsworth as Thor is one of my favorites. His range is one of the broadest of the various characters, called on to be both goofy and deadly serious. And a wide range in between. Thor was an excellent start to that.
Current MCU rankings:
1. Iron Man
3. Iron Man 2
4. Incredible Hulk (Hulk is seriously just going to visit a new number every week. Thanks Norton.)
Thursday, October 7, 2021
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Monday, October 4, 2021
Sunday, October 3, 2021
Saturday, October 2, 2021
Friday, October 1, 2021
Iron Man 2 is also "small" in that same way. It's a battle between the sons of two men, one who rose to greatness, the other who didn't even go on to live in infamy, just obscurity. I mean, Tony had never even heard of the other man. All of that with a side of man vs man as Tony battles with "addiction." Of course, it's not really addiction in the movie; it's his looming death from palladium poisoning, but that's a stand-in for the arc in the comics when Tony was battling his alcoholism, a groundbreaking story in its day. I think they did a decent job of reflecting that in the movie as he gets more and more out of control.
Anyway... It's tough to pick between two actors you think are awesome.
And, I think, that's all I have to say about this one. Oh, wait, no it's not.
I have always been ambivalent about Mickey Rourke as the villain in this movie. Or, maybe, I'm ambivalent about the villain. I don't know. I don't know if it's the character or the actor. I hoped re-watching it would help me come to some sort of decision, but it didn't. Maybe it's both. This is part of the narrative weakness of the plot. Whiplash feels retconned in because he kind of comes from nowhere and nothing. Clearly, this guy is a genius but was fine with, what, living in squalor? And we're supposed to just accept Fury's word that the guy's father was a bad guy.
Thursday, September 30, 2021
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Monday, September 27, 2021
Sunday, September 26, 2021
Saturday, September 25, 2021
Friday, September 24, 2021
I have long been a Hulk supporter. That started with Ang Lee's Hulk, which I felt was unfairly maligned. [I intend to re-watch that one, too, now, because I realized when watching the MCU Hulk that I had rolled bits and pieces of that one into this one.] One reason is that a lot of the shade being thrown at both movies had to do with the animation. Generally speaking, people making movies are making them as technically proficiently as they can, and I am willing to overlook poor tech, especially when you're dealing with companies on the cutting edge. I mean, have you seen movies made before Star Wars? And no one then was complaining about things looking fake or not.
That said, there is a problem with the animation in The Incredible Hulk that has nothing to do with capability; it has to do with choice and design. Those things are fair game for slammingy. So here's the problem with Incredible: Every time Hulk was onscreen for any kind of "closeup" I felt like I was watching Lego Hulk. Of course, Lego Hulk is based on this Hulk, but Lego is intentionally cartoony, and this movie was trying to not, which I will get more into in a moment. Effectively, whoever was doing the animation for Hulk's face went with a poor design that made him look like a cartoon dog when they showed his expressions, and it just does not work.
It especially doesn't work with Edward Norton. Oh, god, he is so pretentious. No, I am not a Norton fan. As I said in my Iron Man review, casting is something that Marvel has proven to be very adept at, but this movie was a colossal fumble. I really have never been able to figure out what they were thinking with this whole deal because, to get Norton, they had to give him script control, and he re-wrote the initial script. What I will say here is that Incredible does not feel like a Marvel movie. At all. That was the thing that struck me most, the feel of the movie. Now, I don't know what the original script was like and whether it had the correct feel or not, but, in the end, that doesn't matter, because it was the Norton script that they used. And Norton who blocked the end-credits scene and made it into a pre-credits scene, also very un-Marvel-like.
The result of all of that is that Incredible feels like an ode to King Kong rather than a Marvel movie. There are two problems with that:
1. Peter Jackson had just made his horrible adaptation of Kong. Maybe Norton thought this would be better? I don't know. It was unnecessary, though, to do this so close on the heels of Jackson's.
2. Hulk is a Jekyll and Hyde story, not a King Kong story so, well, wrong movie Norton. Come on, man, you really could have dealt with the horror of turning into a monster you don't want to be -- and the opening of the movie looked in that direction with the whole "days since last incident" thing -- rather than the romantic Kong angle. The cave scene is so painful to watch.
Of course, all of this was being done vaguely in conjunction with Universal, so maybe they are the reason for all of the King Kong stuff? That, I do not know.
All of that, and I never buy Norton as being tortured by his predicament. Maybe frantic, but not tortured.
Speaking of Peter Jackson, though he has nothing to do with this, I like Liv Tyler. I do. She was great as Arwen. But she is not good as Betty Ross. She's too soft spoken. I think Jennifer Connelly was much better as Betty. Maybe I'll change my mind when I watch Lee's Hulk, but I don't think so. I'm going to go out on a limb, here, and say that Eric Bana was better as banner, too.
Of course, Ruffalo has turned out to be the correct choice, because Ruffalo has that tortured look that makes Hulk work.
And I'm not even going to start on the Abomination. Tim Roth was fine, but, again, whoever made the animation decision made the Abomination an abomination. His cameo in Shang-chi is so awesome, especially in comparison to this monstrosity. Pun clearly intended.
William Hurt is the best part of this movie. Or, maybe, the cameo by Lou Ferrigno. And the one by Martin Star. None of the things that should have been the best parts are the best parts. They are the worst.
Oh, and what's the deal with Stark going to Ross at the end of the movie? I don't think that is ever dealt with. Maybe I'm wrong or maybe Marvel was hoping we'd forget, which we probably did, considering I had forgotten all about that until I re-watched it.
Here's the final word:
The Incredible Hulk is the lowest grossing of the Marvel movies, and there is a reason for that. It's not a movie I will ever go back and watch again "just for fun."
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Monday, September 20, 2021
Sunday, September 19, 2021
Saturday, September 18, 2021
Friday, September 17, 2021
Shang-Chi, as the title says, is all about the legend of the Ten Rings. The movie sets out to differentiate these rings from the Ten Rings of the Mandarin in the comics. These are those rings, and they are not those rings. As I have mentioned here and there in these various reviews, Mandarin and the rings are a big deal in the Iron Man comic books.
So, yeah, the movie holds up. Completely. It may be better, now, even with the release of Shang-Chi. It gives the movie a bit more depth or reach or something. It was definitely worth revisiting.
Thursday, September 16, 2021
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Tuesday, September 14, 2021
It's been a while since I've been in Dresden-land. A long while. It's possible I should go back and re-read the series at this point but, with 17 books now (this is number 16) in the series proper and a slew of related books with short stories and things, it's highly unlikely that I'll ever do that. Fortunately, Butcher is quite talented at reminding readers of details from earlier books when they are needed.
Unfortunately, it's not enough for this book to be a good place to come into Dresden if you wanted to just jump in. Some of his books are self-contained enough that anyone could pick one of those up and read it on its own. Not this one. Not any of the last few, in fact. We are solidly into the area of the series where you need to have read pretty much all of the previous books. The memory prompts for readers are not enough to get you through if you haven't been reading. And there's nothing wrong with that; that's the nature of a long series. What I'm saying is that this is not the place to come in as a new reader but, also, Butcher is very good at helping his long-time readers along, which most authors are not good at.
But how is Peace Talks, I hear you asking. Peace Talks is good. It's a solid entry into the Dresden series. It has some good moments and interesting developments. It was a fun read and a welcome change of pace for me compared to the other things I've been reading lately. If you're a Dresden fan, you will, of course, be wanting to read this as big things are afoot, and this is the book that's going to lead you into Battle Ground.
However, upon reflection after finishing it, the book has a few... issues. Well, one big issue. It has too much going on it. Too many big things going on it, and it's difficult to get invested in anything because you're constantly being distracted by the next ultra important development which is super big.
Let me sidestep a moment...
For at least several books now, Butcher has been developing this idea of a Black Council that's in existence operating from the shadows and have a particular hate-on for Harry. He's been building it up and up as the next Big Bad showdown, kind of like with the showdown against the Red Court which took several books of building. And while the Black Council is mentioned in this book, they are sort of shoved out of the way for an even bigger menace, one which kind of appears from nowhere. And, yeah, we could argue that point, but there was nothing prior to this book to indicate a villain of this level, so she's really from out of nowhere, and I don't really approve. It's like telling me that you make the best chocolate cake ever and telling me and telling me and, then, inviting me over and making me banana pudding. There's nothing wrong with the banana pudding; I like banana pudding; but it's not what you lead me to expect.
Also, there's this whole thing with Thomas, and you want to care about Thomas, right? We like Thomas. Thomas deserved the book to deal with this, especially since it involves revealing the information about Thomas to McCoy. Instead, after introducing the thing with Thomas and expecting the book to deal with that, it also gets shoved to the side to deal with the aforementioned uber-villain.
Sure, I get that life can be like that. Things come up and distract us from other things, and we have to decide which things to focus on. But that kind of thing makes a book messy, just like it makes life messy. I can't do anything necessarily about the messy in my life, but I would prefer a little less of it in my reading material. These threads could have, probably should have, been developed into separate books.
Then there is the issue of McCoy and his extreme uncharacteristic behavior at the end of Peace Talks. And you can try to no-prize your way out of what he did all you want, Butcher himself did by stating that McCoy was "out of control," but I'm not ever going to buy that Ebenezer did what he did for any other reason than the author poking his finger in McCoy's head and making him do something outside of his character. I understand that sometimes, as an author, you want or need certain things to happen for the plot to do what you want, but, as an author, I don't personally approve having your characters do things outside of the personalities that you've written for them.
Was all of that vague enough for you?
I am trying to do this without spoilers.
Having said all of that, I want to reiterate that Peace Talks is really good. I enjoyed it. It's not the best Dresden novel, but it's certainly not the worst (that would be Turn Coat, as far as I'm concerned). I've already ordered my copy of Battle Ground and am eagerly awaiting it. But what is a review for if not for pointing out the good and the bad?
Monday, September 13, 2021
As an adaptation, Shang-Chi is a poor one. Other than his skill in martial arts, there is nothing to connect the character from the movie to the character in the comics. And I don't care at all.
From me, that's significant, because I am always looking at how adaptations stray from the source material. So a few things here:
3. The Shang-Chi of the comics had no connection to the Ten Rings, which was supposed to refer to the Ten Rings of the Mandarin, but The Mandarin, as a character, has become problematic, despite his long history in Iron Man, and this movie became a way for Marvel to address some of those issues.
Simu Liu is great. This is my introduction to him as an actor, as I'm sure is the case for most viewers, and he was a good choice. I can't say how good he was as an actor since I have nothing to compare the performance to, but he was engaging. Awkwafina was fun and a savvy choice by Marvel. She has such a distinctive voice and she gave resonance to another recent Disney movie she was in, Raya and the Last Dragon.
My problem right now? I want to see it again, but I don't want to go back to the theater to do it.