Black Widow

 

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Black Widow achieved an almost impossible task – this movie made me actually care what happened to a character I didn’t give a shit about before.

I didn’t hate Black Widow (or ScarJo) in previous MCU entries, I didn’t feel anything at all. She was just…there. Black Widow was a set decoration for the most part…when she wasn’t the butt of slut jokes, anyway. ScarJo’s “Swan Song” though, gave a depth to the character that wasn’t there previously. In explaining the “red in her ledger”, they made her sacrifice really hurt.

Florence Pugh was a revelation as Yelena, AKA Black Widow’s Baby Sis. I’ve been obsessed with her since Midsommar. Having a little sister myself, the dynamic between Natasha and Yelena was perfection. My little sister is ALWAYS quick to tell me when I’m being a poseur.

The hysterectomy gag was redemptive after Nat’s dramatic “I’m a monster,” in Ultron. Being uterally-challenged myself, it’s really not that big a deal, Nat.

Why was I expecting Ewan McGregor to be in this? He wasn’t.

We actually paid the $30 Disney Premier Access Fee to watch Black Widow at home on the Monday after release, but it would’ve been worth paying to see in the theater…except for all the COVID, of course. I’m looking forward to more of MCU Phase 4, even if I have to wear a mask for 2 hours to enjoy it.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

 

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I’ve done it! I’ve watched all of the Infinity Saga films…Well, technically, Far from Home was the last one that I watched, but whatever…

My husband took the kids to go see it in the theater – I don’t exactly remember why I didn’t go see GotG2 with them…I probably wanted to take a nap. Even though it was a fun film, I stand beside my nap decision.

I want to like Chris Pratt so bad…but then an article comes out about his membership in an anti-LGBT church or his bizarro biblical diets or wearing highly offensive alt-right T-shirts…and I just cringe. Sigh. I truly enjoy him as Starlord, but I feel guilty about it, because he appears to be a major douche in real life.

Only Kurt Russell would impregnate someone behind a Dairy Queen – and look like a sexy beast doing it. His de-aging was beautiful – I am trying to think of Kurt Russell in 1980. The Thing was 1982, pretty close.

I feel like the arc with Gamora and Nebula really made me understand their dynamic in Infinity War a lot better. As in Ant-Man and the Wasp, viewing was REQUIRED to understand Endgame, but it added to the experience.

I almost think that I liked Vol. 2 more than Vol. 1 – is that the consensus? Or is it because of “The Hof”? The world may never know. (They know.) I am 200% OBSESSED with the video for Guardians Inferno by The Sneepers (AKA James Gunn & pals). I’ve watched it about 100 times and you should, too.

Spider-Man: Far from Home

 

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Just a few weeks after opening, we lucked into a private showing one morning last week…matinee prices, too. Going to the Movie Theater is GREAT without all the people!

I wasn’t feeling patient, so I was glad there were only four previews to sit through: Midway (maybe the only WWII film that’s piqued my interest), Blinded by the Light (it just looks WEIRD), Jumanji 2 (the kids are going bananas over this one – demanding to see it as soon as it comes out), and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (why is there a trailer for this in front of a PG-13 film – and does anyone even give a shit about Tarantino any more?)…

Far from Home was really fun – I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, wait – didn’t I say the same thing about the first one? There were just so many laugh-out-loud moments, from the bad Whitney Houston PowerPoint, to Peter Tingle, to “I love Led Zeppelin!” I loved that the film took care to circle back to Iron Man and touch on not only the evolution of Tony, but all those around him. Never forget, Tony Stark was a dick, even up to the very end. I like that Marvel let Tony be a dick AND be redeemed – the two aren’t mutually exclusive. What more can I say that isn’t totally spoiler-y? Hmmm…not a goddamn thing. I especially don’t want to ruin the post-credits scenes, they are magnifique.

Jake Gyllenhaal, I’ve never been a big fan. I don’t hate him or anything…he just doesn’t moisten my mailslot. He was a good fit for Mysterio though, although I think Tobey Maguire would’ve been a hilarious choice for the role. It would’ve been a total stunt-cast, but so?

Like the first one, the soundtrack was really smashing. A good dose of The Ramones, plus The Specials and The Jam and some fun Euro tunes. I really gotta give it to whoever put this collection of tunes together – I put together a quick and dirty playlist on Amazon Music – thanks TuneFind!

Oh! And just like Homecoming, Far from Home dovetailed neatly into our recent NYC vacation. Our hotel, The New Yorker, was a block or so from Madison Square Garden, which my kids immediately recognized in a scene, having walked right by it days earlier. We even popped into that very same Duane Reede to buy bottled water! Why is Spider-Man following us on vacation???

Far from Home was a fitting postscript to Endgame, giving the audience a window into how the world rebounded after the unsnap, while also reminding us that not everyone loved/loves The Avengers. The post-credits scenes didn’t necessarily set up future films, as much as they set up a whole new Marvel Universe for Phase 4, with all new rules, new heroes, new villains. I’m looking forward to Phase 4…except for having to watch a whole boring ass movie about Black Widow, that is…

Ant-Man and the Wasp

 

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Thanks to my kids’ Netflix account, we all finally got to watch Ant-Man and the Wasp. You heard me right – my kids mutinied and set up their own Netflix account for the summer. (I canceled my account when we moved out to the Double D Ranch, land of 1.5mbps internet.) It is a testament to their character and financial acumen that they were able to agree to each contribute $4/month to share an account, all without any involvement of my husband or I. The best part – if they ever start fighting about it, I can just throw up my hands and walk away. My son may have made a great mistake though – Netflix has ALL the Buddies movies – and my daughter LOVES them. It’s gonna be a rough summer for him…

Oh, and about Ant-Man and the Wasp…the story picks up a bit after Civil War, near the end of Scott Lang’s house arrest. Although I knew that the story centered on finding Janet Van Dyne, I had somehow managed to avoid any other spoilers (other than the obvious Endgame tie-ins). The film was a fun ride with a lot of unexpected gifts.

My favorite gift? Luis’ grandma’s jukebox that only played Morrisey songs. I feel like she’s a woman I could relate to. In fact, everything having to do with Luis is a gift. I hope he gets his suit, powers or not.

Walton Goggins was another gift. Unfortunately, I always get him confused with Simon Ogg (The Walking Dead), who is coincidentally also a gift.

Baba Yaga. Gift.

Randall Park (also a gift) gets to be in the DCEU AND the MCU! No fair!

PS, I hate magic tricks, especially sleight of hand, but Scott Lang’s card tricks were also a gift.

I was not in love with the ending – the “laying of hands” part got big eye-rolls from me. The word “quantum” itself became a deus ex machina in Endgame, but it I guess I’m not smart enough to understand what “quantum powers” are. I’ve even seen every episode of The Big Bang Theory and I STILL don’t get it. I guess I’m just dumb.

Looking forward to the next Ant-Man installment. Will Cassie get a chance to be his partner?

Avengers: Endgame

 

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I don’t even know how to write a review about Endgame that doesn’t contain at least 50 spoilers, so instead…you’ll get feelings and emotions. I know, I know – not like me at all.

We went and saw Endgame on opening weekend, which we NEVER do – but my son made a good case for avoiding spoilers – Infinity War was totally spoiled for him at school. Junior High is a fucking warzone, ya’ll. Even though we planned ahead and got tickets for Sunday, he managed to get spoiled on Friday – some assface “friend” leaked a death. I tried, son…I tried.

I checked my heartrate (via fitbit) while viewing and it was a wild ride. It just kept going up and up and up. The action just never let up. I laughed a lot more than I expected. I cried just the right amount, which is once. I won’t spoil the film by saying what, except to say it was somewhere in the middle and it was a hug and OMG, I AM CRYING JUST THINKING ABOUT IT.

Endgame was so good, it gave me a to-do list…

To do list #1 – make my son watch The Big Lebowski with me, then rewatch Endgame. Hell, maybe we should watch ALL of the Coen Brothers’ films for good measure.

The Community cameos made me SQUEAL! (Kinda spoiler-y, but I’m not perfect.) To do list #2, persuade both kids to watch Community on Amazon Prime. I’ve been bugging the boy for years to binge watch it, but he won’t do it.

To do list #3, see if my VHS copy of National Lampoon’s Senior Trip still works, so I can revisit my 1996 crush on Jeremy Renner.

Funny story real quick – right before we left to see Endgame, my husband had Fantastic 4 2 on in the background…my daughter was so fucking confused. She asked, “Since when could Captain America do that?” as Johnny Storm was torching around. That gave us a good laugh – she had no idea that Chris Evans was ever another superhero. That brings me to #4 – rewatch Not Another Teen Movie, so I can see America’s Ass™ in a whipped cream bikini.

Endgame gave everyone the ending they deserved. I mean, never before has there been a 22 (or is it 23) movie build-up like this, with expectations built up for so many character arcs. Full disclosure – it’s just 20 movies for me, haven’t watched GotG2 or AM&W yet – even so, I felt so invested in this universe – sure, James Bond has over 20 movies, but who is emotionally invested in James Bond? It’s weeks later and the family is STILL discussing it. I’m actually considering taking the kids to see it again, to pick up any goodies we may have missed the first time. I always thought there would only ever be one 5 BOB movie, but I feel compelled to change my mind and bestow the coveted 5 BOB rating upon Endgame.

Captain Marvel

 

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Captain Marvel is cool and all, but Samuel L. Jackson carried the film for me. Young Nick Fury was the glue that held the film together, no offense to Captain Marvel intended.

I was not distracted at all by the de-aging of Samuel L. Jackson – he looked so young and innocent. Coulson was a little weird looking – I think it was the goofy hairline. Speaking of Coulson, there was not nearly enough of him in the film. I’ve been watching him in Agents of SHIELD for 5 years – I wanna see what he was like as a youngin’.

Somehow, I managed to avoid enough of the spoilers to be surprised by the plot twists and turns. I feel like I should go on a total media blackout before every Marvel film! Actually, every film these days. I’m still pissed about The Force Awakens…

The 90s nostalgia in this film got me in the feels. The Blockbuster Video (my summer job between high school and college, 1994)…the Radio Shack (RIP)…the soundtrack! I loved the female-centric soundtrack – in fact, it was quite jarring to hear Nirvana and REM, popping up between Garbage and Hole. I think maybe they should’ve stuck with all ladies on the soundtrack – and why wasn’t “What’s Going On” on that soundtrack? Of course, that would’ve been one more thing for fanboi trolls to be pissed about.

The best thing about Captain Marvel? No romantic subplots. I get it, Wonder Woman has to have Steve Trevor, but it’s so nice to see a powerful female NOT batting her eyes and playing vulnerable. For about 10 seconds, I was afraid that there was going to be sexual tension with Jude Law. That would’ve made me barf – he’s another nannyfucker.

Where did Brie Larson even come from? I feel like she came out of nowhere to win that Oscar, but she’s been in Hollywood for decades. I guess she was just under my radar. Glad that she won the role over Ronda Rousey – that would’ve been a clusterfuck.

My favorite part? The Flerken, of course! What’s a Flerken? Shhhhh…

My second favorite part? Stan Lee’s Mallrats-reading cameo.

Now that we’ve seen what Captain Marvel (and Flerken) can do, Thanos is totally fucked. Just a few weeks until we see how it all shakes out!

Iron Man 3

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I’ve somehow managed to avoid seeing Iron Man 3 in the five years or so since it was released. No particular reason, except maybe the fear of too much GOOP. Even so, I’m hearing rumblings that there are some plot threads from this one that will be picked up in Avengers 4, so might as well dig in.

The film kicked off with a 1999 flashback, featuring one of the worst songs ever recorded – “Blue (ba da bee)”. I was able to look past that, and fully enjoy the site of Happy Hogan decked out like Vincent Vega – bolo tie and all.

The central plot device seems familiar…an Eastern, mystical type, bent on destruction, is revealed to be a sham, with the real villain pretending to be his underling…oh yeah, Batman Begins! And according to Wikipedia, Guy Pearce was even in consideration for Ducard/Ra’s al Ghul.

Miguel Ferrer! What a pleasant surprise! He was one of those underappreciated actors that you don’t think to miss until they’re gone. Even though his role was blink and you’ll miss it, it made me smile.

This film really filled in a lot of gaps for me in Tony Stark’s character arc and how Tony’s attitude changes in Ultron and leading into Civil War. Tony wasn’t exactly humbled, but he experienced a few humble moments. It was interesting to see how Tony was able to scrounge at Home Depot and create weapons – his lab was nice and all, but he makes MacGyver look like MacGruber.

Also, GOOP still didn’t die. Goddammit.

Avengers: Infinity War

Ten years and eighteen movies. The success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a long shot, but they did it, somehow those magnificent bastards did it. They created a film universe filled with amazing characters in amazing films. Sure, there were missteps like Incredible Hulk and The Dark World – but there were far more hits than misses.

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Even though I’m fairly certain that everyone in the country has seen Infinity War by now, I’m going to keep the review fairly spoiler free…in case you’ve been living in a cave the past few weeks – or Scotland. I managed to make it into the showing without any major spoilers, as did the husband. My son wasn’t so fortunate – 13 year olds are brutal fucking assholes.

A few words about Alamo Drafthouse…I don’t think I’ve seen a film there since…Poultrygeist? That was like 11 years ago! My husband loathes Alamo Drafthouse, because of all the interruptions, but I don’t mind so much. Yeah, it’s pricey, but the food is pretty damn good. The amazing thing about Alamo Drafthouse was that instead of the insipid ads and trivia that other theaters run, they did a whole “Previously on…” synopsis of all previous MCU films – it was great! They were also low on trailers – they just showed Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (A documentary on Mr. Roger’s that will probably make me cry five times), Deadpool 2 and Jurassic World 2. I appreciate the exclusion of trailers I don’t care about – how did they know?

The film itself kicks into high gear immediately – and then DOES NOT STOP. I’m not exaggerating to say that there are no “slow parts” in Infinity War. Every scene advances the plot. This is no small feat – the film wastes no time in setting up who the characters are and what their motivations are…we’ve had eighteen movies to learn about these characters – what their motivations are and relationships with one another. Thanos has been a threat in the background since The Avengers, remember? So now, I get to apply a little of the film theory I learned in college…Viewers are able to jump right into Infinity War’s plot due to ‘”funding”, the building and enriching of aesthetic experience through subsequent encounters with the physical work of art, each instance of which is likely to be different in quality.’¹ While the theory of funding is most often applied to Westerns, it can also apply to film franchises and even pop culture. James Bond movies are another example of a “funded” genre.

While the viewer benefits from the “funded” MCU and doesn’t have to sit through any unnecessary character introductions, we get the distinct joy of these characters being introduced to each other. There are jokes. There is jealousy. There is violence. There’s even awkwardness among estranged characters. Every new intro was pure entertainment – I even cackled at a few.

If “funding” is the mechanism of our enjoyment of Infinity War, “sacrifice” is our punishment for that enjoyment. Over and over, we are forced to watch our beloved characters forced to make sacrifices. Every. Single. Fucking. Character. Some sacrifices are small and some are quite large, but they all hurt. I was an emotional trainwreck the rest of the day after watching. Infinity War should come with a trigger warning.

There are a few characters suspiciously missing from the fray – I suspect that they’ll be back for the next installment, house arrest or not. We also saw the return of a character, long out of our thoughts, imagined to be dead many movies ago. Of course, dead doesn’t mean dead in comic book movies. None of them ever STAY dead…wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Infinity War was good – as good or maybe even better than my favorite entries: Winter Soldier and Ragnarok. I really want to watch it again, to pick up on any little Easter Eggs I may have missed. I noticed Arrested Development mentioned in the end credits and then read what that was all about – I can’t believe I missed it!

And now we wait…just 361 more days…

1. Stephen C. Pepper, The Basis of Criticism in the Arts (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965), p. 57, quoted by Barry Keith Grant, Film Genre Reader (University of Texas Press, 1986), p. 126

Black Panther

The MCU has got its claws in us now…Black Panther is the second release in a row that we’ve seen in the theater. Granted, it was an early bird, non-3D, 9:35am showing, but we paid nonetheless…

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Before I get into my thoughts on Black Panther, there were SO many good trailers before the film. Deadpool 2 (even though I’ve seen it, I could watch it 100 times), I Feel Pretty (wow, an Amy Schumer comedy that I actually want to see), Venom (again, I’ve seen this, but I’ll never get tired of Tom Hardy), Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (this one was new to me – I got chills down my spine when Jeff Goldblum said, “life finds a way.”), Solo (new to me, but meh), and Ant-man and Wasp (cute). I was surprised there wasn’t an Infinity War trailer – I guess that would be overkill? I need to fall into a coma before this summer, or tickets will get expensive.

Black Panther was flat out amazing. Believe the hype. Not only is the action non-stop, but the plot was strong and woven well around the strong characters. Even without considering the plot within the wider MCU, the theme was worth exploring further – what do the wealthy (individuals, organizations or nations) owe the less fortunate? Colonization vs. Cooperation. What would African nations be capable of today, if their resources hadn’t been plundered by Europe for hundreds of years? It goes without saying that my (75% white/european) opinion means Jack Squat, when compared to the overwhelmingly positive response from the black community. I am hopeful that this positive response is taken seriously by Hollywood and leads to a more black stories being told by black people. For example, a white guy directed Hidden Figures…just sayin’.

I will say, the one thing that boggled me, was the vibranium technology. I didn’t understand a lick of it. But then again, I don’t know how Iron Man‘s arc reactor or suit work. I sure don’t know how the rainbow bridge to Asgard works or the whole mjolnir thing works. Don’t even get me started on Doctor Strange. Comic book stuff – you’re not supposed to understand how any of it works.

I cannot stop laughing about the Andy Serkis/Martin Freeman memes – the two Tolkien white guys. That reminds me, I never watched that last Hobbit movie. D’oh! And the Zamunda memes!

The whole family really enjoyed Black Panther. My husband said it was a close race between Winter Soldier and Black Panther for best Marvel movie so far, and I tend to agree. I’m looking forward to seeing the Black Panther team in Infinity War and in their own standalone adventures.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

So this past summer vacation, we did the Washington, DC thing. Imagine our disappointment when we found that we couldn’t go up the Washington Monument – and now we know why. Thanks, Spidey – you really screwed the pooch for our family vacation.

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My first instinct was to make all these comparisons to the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films. But why? Bringing Spider-Man into the MCU doesn’t take anything away from the previous films. MCU’s take on Spidey is totally different and concentrates more on his growing as a superhero, whereas previous films take his powers for granted and focus on growing him as teenager. There’s room for both! (For the record, I haven’t seen any of the Amazing Spider-Man films, so I have no opinions there.)

Joe Manganiello may have been a more physically threatening Flash Thompson, but holy shit, Tony Revolori hit the nail on the head with what bullies are today. My kids aren’t worried about getting beat up…the abuse is all verbal, or worse – online. Big, dumb jocks are the least of any kid’s problems right now. As matter of fact, Revolori’s Flash reminded me of one of the all-time 80s bullies – Ian in Weird Science, played by none other than Iron Man himself.

Speaking of John Hughes movies, I had a good laugh with the kids during the White Van chase scene, since I’d just had them watch Ferris Bueller. Yes, I know that cast had a marathon of John Hughes movies during filming. I love and appreciate the tone that it set for the characters.

Donald Glover cameo! Hannibal Burress cameo! Captain America cameo! Oh and I LOVE that Spidey’s computer-wife, Karen, is played by JARVIS’s real-life wife, Jennifer Connelly.

Batman, then Birdman, them Vulture…I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Michael Keaton’s fantastic performance, I was actually rooting for him a little bit. Just a little bit.

The whole family enjoyed Homecoming, even the girl. She was actually the one pushing for it…because of Zendaya. (There are a bunch of episodes of K.C. Undercover on my DVR, so I guess it makes sense.) I liked picking up Spidey and dropping him into the MCU, without all the baggage of Uncle Ben and Harry and Mary Jane (maybe). Ned is pretty badass best friend, I hope we get the keep him. Fingers crossed that Sony lets the MCU keep on borrowing characters…