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Thor Ragnarok – ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ Theatrical Review

Baby Driver  

Wow, I haven’t posted anything since February?  Okay, I get it, I’m really behind in my reviews, and I did see Thor in theatres… back in probably December…  It was great!  I loved it.  There was maybe a bit too much humour to it for some, but I still loved it.

Now, there were lots of trailers, and lots of clips, I have to say that Marvel knows how to put those together.  The trailers left me wanting more and put more questions in my mind as to how things got to where they were, even though the trailer pretty much plays out the same order of events as they happen in the film.

Thor returns to Asgard with the helm/skull of Surtur, a fire demon who according to prophecy will bring about Ragnarok, the Asgardian apocalypse.  With Surtur defeated, Thor sets about finding his father Odin, who Loki hypnotized and left on Earth at the end of Thor 2: The Dark World.   At least that’s what I think happened, I can’t honestly remember, as it’s been quite a while since I saw that one.  All I know is that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) took the throne, impersonating Odin (Anthony Hopkins).  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has figured this out, and once he publicly unmasks Loki, the two brothers set off to find their father, making a side trip to the Sanctum Sanctorum where Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) sends Thor and Loki to Odin.  Nice bits of comedy here, and nice to see Doctor Strange, but the scene really just seemed like an extension of the “after the credits scene” from his own movie.  The sons of Odin meet up with Odin in Norway one last time, as he surrenders his life force and moves on, freeing his trapped first born child, Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) who breaks Thor’s hammer (as we saw in the trailers) and sends he and Loki through space via the Bifrost, where they become trapped on a planet run by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).  Loki arrived several weeks earlier than Thor and has aligned himself with the Grandmaster, leaving  to be captured by a woman known as “Scrapper 142” (Tessa Thompson) to be thrown into the arena to fight for the Grandmaster’s amusement.  Thor’s first opponent is the reigning champion, the incredible… Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  Fighting and fun, the two heroes eventually bury their differences and escape the planet with Loki and Scrapper 142, who is in fact an Asgardian Valkyrie.  Returning to Asgard to stop Hela who has killed and enslaved much of the population, Thor and his team set out to free their people, but can the Prince of Asgard win without his hammer?

Okay, that was a rather long-winded summary, and I left out a lot of key things.  The story was great fun, and it was full of great comic-book action.  It worked in a lot of great new characters from the comics, and I think it laid some very important groundwork for Avengers Infinity War, and the future of the entire MCU.  The scene after the credits leads directly to the opening scene of Infinity War (I know because I saw it the other day).

As I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of humour in the film.  I personally loved it, but I can see where some fans of comic book movies might be a little put off by it.  Thor Ragnarok still had some rather serious plot points and undertones, but I think director Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows, Flight of the Conchords) balanced the humour and the darkness masterfully.  I think that is something that Marvel does better than DC does in their movies, and that can be very divisive in the comic book and comic book movie fandoms.  I like my heroes to be powerful and fun, not dark and brooding all the time, but that’s just me.  To each their own.  Check it out, it was fun.

Bottom Line: My favourite Marvel movie was the first Thor for the longest time, but then Doctor Strange came out quickly becoming my favourite, but now….Ragnarok may have put Thor back into first place again….at least until there’s a Doctor Strange 2…


Guardians – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review


At the height of the Cold War the Soviet Union developed a top secret program to give them an edge in what they thought would be the future of war; they were tasked with creating superhumans in Project Patriot.  A scientist involved in the project goes rogue and creates a clone army and tries to take over the world, so it’s up to these superhuman operatives to come together and stop him; they are the Guardians.

The bonus features on the DVD told a lot about this movie.  First, comic books (and comic book superheroes) aren’t big in Russia, so this movie was not trying to compete with the Marvels or the DCs of the world, and they weren’t trying to compete with a $300 million movie, they were just trying to make the best movie they could with the budget they had.  As a superhero movie, it was definitely a B, maybe even a C, but justified by those previous statements, they get an A for effort.  The special effects were quite good, there was a lot of CGI in the film for obvious reasons.  The characters were not fleshed out very well, but the powers they gave them and way they used them were quite interesting.  You had Arsus (Anton Pampushnyy), the were-bear with a mini-gun; Khan (Sanjar Madi) with razor sharp sickles, and he was either really fast or could teleport, it was a bit confusing at times… Kseniya (Alina Lanina) has no memory of how she got her powers of invisibility; and Ler (Sebastien Sisak Grigoryan) who seems to be the elder statesman and leader of the team can control rocks.  The whole project is overseen by Mayor Elena Larina (Valeriya Shkirando).  Quite a few of the command staff of Project Patriot seemed to be sexy Russian women….not necessarily a bad thing.

Arsus looked really cool, and would evolve into different degrees of were-bear-ness….  The mini-gun was a fun touch.  I really liked how they used Ler’s powers over rocks (I suppose that would be geokinesis).  At first he just threw them at people and levitated them, but then he started to attract them to his body, making rock armour, giant rock fists like the Thing from the Fantastic Four.  Loved it, that was super original!  Things like that made up for a few of the flubs they made on the script.  At one point the team is walking across a bridge structure and are being shot at by snipers, why not have your girl turn the team invisible before walking out in the open like that?  They already explained that was in Kseniya’s power-set… I think this is where the lack of exposure to these types of stories hurt their film.

I could see this becoming a minor cult classic because it’s quirky, fun, decently made, and they tried.  I can’t stand it when someone tries to force their film into cult-classic status by purposely making a bad movie.  A great number of cult classics may be bad, but they truly intended to make a good movie.  Guardians was a good movie and a fun watch; not the best, but it wasn’t trying to match up to the best.

Bottom Line:  It may not have been a big time super hero movie, but it did adopt the tradition of an after the credits scene.  I’d certainly watch a sequel if they made one.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2 – ★ ★ ★ ★ Theatrical Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 240

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the most anticipated Marvel movie of the year…until the next one was teased.  The first Guardians of the Galaxy movie was a huge and unexpected success.  Those sorts of films are hard to follow up on, and the pressure to recapture lightning in a bottle is incredible, fortunately James Gunn was up to the task.

Our band of spacefaring misfits are at it again, now they’re charged by the Nova Corps to safeguard the universe…. or to guard the galaxy.  This time though, we get some more backstory to the characters, and a few of the mysteries from “Vol. 1” are answered.  Learn! how Star Lord, a seemingly ordinary human was able to handle an infinity stone!  See! the development of a recently resurrected Floral Colossus!  Discover! the secret of Peter’s father!  Watch! as Taserface hunts down the Guardians for the Sovereign!  Shudder! as there could be a traitor in the ranks of the Guardians!  Cry! as certain key characters actually don’t survive the movie!  Laugh! at the excellent banter between the Guardians!  Be amazed! Be amused! Be entertained!  Because that’s what the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is really all about.

I managed to make it out to the theatre with my brother to see Guardians Volume 2, and we were the only two people there.  Granted, we did go rather late into the run, and we went to the late show on a Sunday night.  The nice thing about being the only two people in the entire theatre was that we could talk about the film freely without upsetting anyone.  Of course we did switch off our cell phones, we’re not animals.  We didn’t actually talk that much, but it was nice to be able to say “wow” or ask what something was, or comment or predict/guess something without getting nasty looks.

Guardians Volume 2 was a wacky, funny, action packed, fun, popcorn flick.  And I liked it just fine that way.  New characters were introduced, new ideas, and new locations in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The banter and humour was constant and well done once again.  The special effects were excellent, and everything seemed to have been amped up to at least equal the first film.  All the main characters delivered exactly what I expected, and I even managed to enjoy Karen Gillan this time around, something that didn’t really happen last time.  Michael Rooker’s Yondu got an expanded role in the sequel, and it was quickly rewarded with an excellent, almost standout, performance.  There may have been a few too many characters, and sadly, once a movie or a franchise becomes popular, all sorts of “big name” actors come out of the woodwork and are thrust into roles they might not normally take.  I enjoyed Pom Klementieff as Mantis, and Kurt Russell was really good as Ego, Peter Quill’s father, but I thought that Sylvester Stallone was just kind of thrust in there, with little explanation.  Apparently his character is supposed to be big in future movies, but I, a rather big comic book nerd, had no idea who he was, or why I should care about him, or even agree with Stallone being cast.  All that aside, you can tell James Gunn really enjoys his job, the characters and everything about the Guardians of the Galaxy, and ultimately so did I.

Bottom Line: Even though it’s one of the better selling soundtracks in recent years, I think I like “Awesome Mix-tape Vol. 1” better than Volume 2.  Sure Mr. Blue Sky by E.L.O. was nice, The Chain by Fleetwood Mac was great, and I loved George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord and Come A Little Bit Closer by Jay and the Americans is one of my all-time favourite songs, but the rest of the arrangement didn’t wow me as much.  Ah well, still a really good soundtrack.

Ant-Man – ★ ★ ★ ½ Theatrical Review

Ant-Man23.5 Stars

Did Marvel strike gold again by putting out a movie with a minor character, that not a lot of people know about?  Ant-Man reportedly opened to the second lowest box office take for a Marvel film.  So, while this wasn’t Guardians of the Galaxy, I found it really enjoyable.  I also think it will turn out to have played a very key role in setting up the future films of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).

Hank Pym is Ant-Man, and Giant Man, and Goliath, and Yellow Jacket…at least in the comic books he is.  In the film, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is a retired scientist who had developed a formula for “Pym Particles” that allowed him to control the space between atoms allowing him to shrink and grow both objects and people.  With his special suit he shrank himself to become the Ant-Man, and carried out covert operations for SHIELD in the 1980s.  After an accident causes the death of his wife, and seeing the potential harm that can be wrought with his technology, he quits the super hero/secret agent game and takes his formula with him so that it can’t be used by anyone.  That of course doesn’t mean that someone won’t try to recreate it.  That someone is his former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) who is coming very close to cracking the secret and creating a weaponized version of Pym’s technology in the form of the Yellowjacket armour.  Teaming with his estranged daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and a reformed burglar named Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Pym plans to prevent this from happening.

Now, remember, this is an origin story, so we get a fair bit of exposition and quite a few montages as Lang learns to use the shrinking and growth abilities, as well as mastering his communication with ants.  All that being said, it really worked for me.  I had a blast, as the movie was light enough to entertain me and serious enough to fit with the rest of the MCU.  There weren’t a lot of fight scenes, at least not until the climax really, but that was okay because Ant-Man’s “training” sequences carried the action.

Originally Edgar Wright wrote a screenplay for Ant-Man, which was apparently not accepted or approved by the powers that be, and had to be re-written.  Some of his material must have remained as he did get a writing credit for the screenplay that was used, along with Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and Paul Rudd.  I was a little worried that the film would be too comical with Paul Rudd as the star and with Edgar Wright’s script.  Fortunately that didn’t happen, and there was an incredible amount of balance.  We got Lang’s backstory, Pym’s backstory, and they both were parallel stories of redemption.  Scott is a released felon who wants to go straight and do right so he can get visitation and reunite with his young daughter.  Hank sees the potential danger and wants to come out of retirement to set things right, and reunite with his estranged daughter.  Piecing all this together with the other parts of the MCU, it just seemed to “click”.  That all being said, I’m now very curious to know what Wright’s unused story was all about.

I saw this one in 3D, which longtime readers will know, I try to avoid.  This time the scheduling of the 2D versions was terribly inconvenient for me, so I had to go 3D.  Fortunately the 3D seemed to work with the story, and didn’t just feel it was there because “everything has to be 3D”.  Ant-Man surprised me several times, and I was thankful.  I had expected the climax to be either Ant-Man growing giant for the first time and defeating Yellowjacket, or Hank Pym coming to rescue Scott and defeat Yellowjacket.  Both of which I still think would have been plausible plots, but I’m glad they didn’t chose to go that way.  Mainly because it leaves me hopeful that I haven’t seen every storyline played out and that I can still be surprised.

Watch for Stan Lee’s cameo, it’s another classic, and doesn’t turn up until nearly the end of the film. Is Marvel putting these off until later in the films because they know we’re watching for them, and therefore are paying more attention to their movies? If so, I have to applaud the move. If not, it still worked for me, because I was watching and waiting all along for Stan the Man. There are two “after the credits” scenes, so be sure to catch them both.  The first relates to Ant-Man specifically and occurs about two minutes into the credits; and the second, after ALL the credits, ties to the next film…Captain America 3: Civil War.

Bottom Line: For a multi-million dollar company, no one at Cross Technology/Pym Tech ever notices that they have an ant problem and puts down a few traps?

Avengers 2: Age of Ultron – ★ ★ ★ ★ Theatrical Review

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-IMAX-HR-1  4.0 Stars

It got a lot right, but also left a lot on the table.  Not to say that it got things wrong, but there were a lot of things that they could have done (and quite possibly should have done) but they didn’t.  You probably know the story, Earth’s mightiest heroes, the Avengers are back to fight Ultron (voiced by James Spader) an artificial robot intelligence that is planning to takeover the world by killing all the humans (the way Ultron plans to kill us all off is pretty darn creative I will admit!).  Ultron was accidentally created by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and now he and his team are the only ones who can stop it, but along the way they’ll have to fight the remnants of Hydra (including the fearsome Baron Strucker) and the superpowered twins Wanda (the Scarlet Witch played by Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro (Quicksilver played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) as well as legions of killer robots.

  •  The film started off with a bang, and had a nice comic book action fight scene to whet our appetites…then they had an Avengers dinner party at the Tower with heroes galore…  We got Falcon from Captain America: Winter Soldier (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle) from the Iron Man franchise, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and of course the Avengers: Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and even Stan Lee in his cameo.  This scene really wasn’t necessary.  It may have killed the energy of the opening and made the film fifteen minutes longer than it needed to be, but it did really make the film feel like a classic comic book to me.  The whole party could have been drawn by George Perez and written by Jim Shooter or Roger Stern or John Byrne…  In fact, one probably was.
  • Once the party was out of the way and the evil robots started attacking, things picked up and the pace only slowed down at one point when the Avengers had to go to ground and regroup.  More characters are introduced along the way as Ultron severs the hand of Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) who will likely become Klaw and a Black Panther villain at some point.  Minor Spoiler (but I want to gripe about it so I’m not hiding this one) We also learn that Ultron kills Baron Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann).  I think that was a giant waste.  First, I don’t think they even called him “Baron”, he may have just been “Strucker”.  Second, for being the big bad guy who orchestrated the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and whatnot, he really wasn’t in the film that long, and he seemed to go out like a chump!  First the Avengers beat him and his goons quite easily, then Ultron kills him.  Ah well, c’est la vie, and such is the life (and death) of an arch villain I suppose.
  • My first disappointment with Avengers 2 was (spoiler again) that while there was a bit of a crossover with the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television show, we didn’t get to see Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) on the big screen and reveal he’s still alive to the team.  Second, we had the setup, but we didn’t get “that” line.  If you’re a comic book fan like me, you know what I’m talking about.  How come we didn’t get Thor, beaten and bruised, confronting Ultron and delivering the classic line “Ultron. We would have words with thee.”
    Come on!  It’s classic.  Why wasn’t it in there?
  • The plot and cast advanced the Marvel Cinematic Universe quite well I thought, and set up the next batch of movies where the “big” stars may not be around.  Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans (and likely the rest of the cast) signed limited contracts, only three or four films, so they need to start planning things without Iron Man and Captain America and such.

Lots of action, lots of fun, and this time the comic book-esque quips were spread out more evenly in the film, as opposed to the first film, where Iron Man seemed to get all the good lines.  I will say that I enjoyed the sequel more than the first film, as the first Avengers just didn’t live up to the hype for me.

Bottom Line: they suckered me in with this one, and I freely admitted it to the remaining audience members in the theatre.  There was only one “after the credits” scene in this one, but I foolishly stuck around until the very end just in case…Sure, I may know that Zoe Whittaker was the second unit video operator but I also wasted time waiting for a second bonus scene.  Maybe there will be something on the DVD, but if you’re going to the theatre, after the first bonus bit, you can safely leave!

The Boxtrolls – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

The Boxtrolls3.5 Stars

I really felt like watching a cartoon tonight, so I watched The Boxtrolls.  Quite an entertaining little film, perhaps a bit predictable, and a little light on plot, but I suppose the intricate work involved in making a ninety minute stop motion animation film may restrict the story from going off in too many directions.  Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of great looking effects in the story, and it was a good story too.

Boxtrolls live under the town of Cheesebridge, where the aristocratic “white hats” run the town, with their minds more on cheese than on running the town.  One day they boxtrolls steal a child, the Trubshaw baby, and take him back to their underground lair to eat him, or so the official history goes.  The boxtrolls do end up with the Trubshaw baby, and they raise him as one of their own.  The town exterminator, Mr. Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), wants to be a white hat, and Lord Portley-Rind has agreed if he can rid the town of the boxtrolls, he will get his reward.  Along with his henchmen, Mr. Pickles (Richard Ayoade), Mr. Trout (Nick Frost) and Mr. Gristle (Tracy Morgan), Snatcher hunts down the boxtrolls who come to the upper world each night, scavenging scraps materials to build up their underground world.  The boxtrolls by the way, are all named by the boxes they wear and hide inside.  Fish lives in a box that fish came in, Shoes wears a shoe box, and even the Trubshaw baby (who is all grown up now and voiced by Isaac Hempstead Wright) is known as Eggs.  As his friends are captured one by one, Eggs has to save them, and along the way makes friends with Winnie (Elle Fanning) Lord Portley-Rind’s daughter.  Once she knows the truth about Snatcher, the Trubshaw baby, the death of his father Mr. Trubshaw the town inventor, and the nature of the boxtrolls themselves, the pair try to convince the timid boxtrolls to stand up and fight back, leading to a dramatic showdown with Snatcher.

The Boxtrolls was like steam-punk puppet show as the multitude of gears and springs and scraps they find are used to create the world around them, and even to create Mr. Snatcher’s steam driven giant spider attack machine. You certainly cannot fault the animation in these films.  The animators and voice actors really did bring the story to life, and I loved every scene that involved Pickles and Trout, as they debate whether or not they are the good guys, as they’ve been told by their evil master.  My only complaint with The Boxtrolls was that it seemed to start off very slowly.  I wanted to learn about the boxtrolls quicker.

It was a fun story, and had a good message to it, which is little surprise, as it was from the same company that made ParaNorman and Colaline.  Not laugh out loud funny, though there was one joke that had me in stitches (Where’s the Red Hat Exterminators?  On Curd’s Way.  How do I get there?  Milk turns into it (as Winnie points to the “Milk Street” sign) followed by a rimshot and a man dropping a cymbal).  The film simply restates the old adage of judging books by their covers and reinforcing that cheese, hats and boxes, don’t make you, you make you.

Bottom Line: Herbert Trubshaw was played by Simon Pegg, so we got another team up of Pegg and Frost. Ironic that yesterday’s post was about screen duos…

Big Hero 6 – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

Product Details4.0 Stars

You know, you should never bet against a mouse, even if you’re picking a dragon. Last night was the Oscars, and I forgot that cardinal rule. I picked How to Train Your Dragon 2 over Big Hero 6 and suffered for it. I also forgot that the Academy doesn’t really like sequels. 

I watched Big Hero 6 and really enjoyed it.  It was a super hero story, and it was a Marvel super hero story.  It was a story of brothers, and it was a story of friends.  The outsider finds similar minded people to himself, and a group of heroes are born.  It’s also a story of revenge.  Young Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) is a genius, and follows his older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) to his “nerd school” where he has created a medical assisting robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit).  Hiro presents an experiment at a technology expo to apply for the school, and impresses with his invention of mentally controlled micro-bots.  He impresses Professor Callaghan (James Cromwell) and rich (and possibly unethical) industrialist Alistair Krei (Alan Tudyk) who immediately wants to purchase the young boy’s invention.  Declining the offer so he can go to school with his brother, Hiro and Tadashi leave the expo just before the building explodes.  Tadashi races back into the building to rescue Professor Callaghan, but neither of the two escape the burning building.  Young Hiro is distraught, and locks himself away from the world, including his new friends from the University: Fred (T.J. Miller), Go Go (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez).  Hiro discovers that his microbots have been taken from the expo wreckage and are being controlled by a villain in a kabuki mask.  When he and Baymax can’t stop him, he finally relents and lets his friends help, and when that doesn’t work, using science, he upgrades their experiments and they become superheroes.

A great origin tale, and a lot of fun.  It was definitely aimed at kids, though it did evoke those classic Disney feelings, where a loved one is killed like Bambi’s mother, or Simba’s father, or in this case Hiro’s brother.  The film really combines Marvel fun and excitement with Disney storytelling and humour.  Baymax is both the heart of the team and the humour; sometimes he is childlike and at others he is the sage old wizard.  The team building is a little rushed, but the film was only an hour and forty minutes, so it was difficult to completely flesh out the cast, but for what it was able to do, I applaud the film.  We do get a pretty good feel as to who the members of Big Hero 6 are, or will be.

The animation was good, though it was fairly standard CGI fare for today.  The characters were a little anime influenced, as we were set in the fictional town of San Fransokyo.  The voice cast was very good, and mixed in a series of fairly recognizable voices that didn’t feel like they were brought in just to add some “celebrity weight” to the cast.  It may not have been The Lego Movie, but it was still very fun, and that Immortals song by Fall Out Boy really stuck in my head after watching it.

Bottom Line:  Don’t forget this is a Marvel movie!  As with all of their films, there is a scene after the credits.

X-Men: Days of Future Past: 4/5 star theatrical (and graphic novel) review

x-men-days-of-future-past-film     4 Stars

Friday, on the eve of the Niagara Falls ComicCon, it seemed like a good time to see X-Men Days of Future Past, and to prepare, I had read the trade paperback containing the original story from 1981.  I have to say that was worth it.  The DOFP storyline was only two issues long but highly enjoyable, as was the rest of the trade which contained a pretty good early Alpha Flight story where Wolverine and Nightcrawler joined up to help fight the Wendigo. Back to DOFP though, the comic story is iconic but quite different from both the film adaptation and the early nineties X-Men cartoon adaptation, though all three were fun and worth watching and reading.

An assassination happens in the past that is the catalyst for a war that devastates the planet in the future, with all mankind, baseline humans and mutants alike suffering.  Only the X-Men can save the day by sending one of themselves (or their consciousness) into their younger self to change the events that initiate the government’s Sentinel program.  With time as their enemy, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent to the past to unite a disillusioned Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to stop Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).  Adaptive Sentinels are fighting what’s left of the X-Men in the future with Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Storm (Halle Berry), and a small group of others…(alright I’ll list them: Bishop, Iceman, Sunfire, Warpath, Colossus, and Blink)

The movie was a lot of fun, but I had to cringe and laugh at a few parts, parts I probably shouldn’t have laughed at.  The first thing that struck me was that the opening credits sequence looked a lot like the opening to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film.  The “future” Sentinels sure looked a lot like the Destroyer armour from Thor when their faces opened up to blast the mutants.  3D did not really help this movie, and at one point when Magneto was ripping apart train tracks, the hovering rails looked like an incredibly bad effect.  Okay, those were pretty much my only issues with the movie, well aside from the my feeling that the “future scenes” were kind of boring.  Let me clarify that.  The future was mostly just fight sequences, and they were really well done and choreographed, but when there wasn’t a fight going on, the future scenes were dull and I just wanted them to get back to the “past” storyline.  Little things like this made me just wonder if Bryan Singer was really necessary to direct DOFP or if it would have been just fine if First Class director Matthew Vaughn was brought back.  I suppose the argument can be made that bringing Singer back was a publicity shot in the arm for the franchise, but then there came a whole bunch of negative allegations that make Singer a PR shot in the gut.  I’m not going to talk about it here, I’m sure you’ve probably read about them on movie news sites and frankly I’m obviously not qualified (nor really are many others) to say what has or hasn’t happened.  I really liked Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass and  X-Men: First Class, and am really intrigued by Kingsman: The Secret Service which comes out late this summer I believe, so I think he could have done a great job too.  Of course it was nice to have Singer on board to cement the X-Men franchise together, closing the loop between his original series and the recent reboot/relaunch.  It’s a funny thing, everyone says Singer does seem to “get” the characters but as a comic fan there were things in his “future” that didn’t make sense that I could just nerdily rant about (how come Kitty Pryde seemed to have a romantic thing going on with Iceman and not Colossus?) but I’ll leave that alone (or for the comments section if anyone desires to ask).

The principal cast (Xaviers and Magnetos and Jackman) were excellent.  I was a bit hesitant last time out (First Class) about McAvoy but he was great here.  Also great was Jennifer Lawrence, in First Class I had said she was just “fine” but not mind blowing or anything, this time again not mind blowing, but really a much more polished actress and she delivered.  Evan Peters as “Peter” (cough cough Quicksilver.  Though I don’t think we can call him that because Marvel Proper/Disney owns that name for their Avengers films) brought a lot of fun to the film which is something that all comic book movies need and I really liked the Blink character in the future scenes played by Bingbing Fan.  She really looked like the character and the effects for her powers were really cool.  A quick IMDb scan shows she’s been in a fair number of films in her native China, so was her casting thought of along the same lines as Omar Sy?  Sy is an extremely popular French comedian (and was excellent in The Intouchables), who is now starting to appear in North American films.  Hollywood it seems is a slowly dying market as many films are making more money in Europe and in China.  By casting stars who are big in these regions are producers trying to increase their crossover appeal or just hedge their bets if their North American numbers aren’t high enough?  Either way, both Sy and Fan were nice additions to the X-Men film universe and hopefully both get an expanded role in the next film, X-Men: Apocalypse which was teased after the credits tonight.

Bottom Line: really fun, really satisfying as a fan, but don’t forget about the original Chris Claremont and John Byrne comics as well.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Theatrical Review 4.5/5 Stars

CaptAmericaTWS4.5 Stars

More than just a comic book movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a good action movie, a good political thriller, and a good time.  I love spending time with my kids, unfortunately that time is only part time, but two weeks ago we went to the movies and saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  I have mixed feelings about taking my kids to the movies, first it cost us about $75 for the four of us to go with snacks and tickets; second it feels a bit like a missed chance to visit with them if we’re all focused on the movie.  No matter though, we’re all pretty big comic book movie fans, and they seem to think I have nearly infinite stores of nerdy knowledge to answer their infinite questions (I have to admit that is one of my favourite things…).

The film takes place after the events of The Avengers, and ties in with the ongoing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television show, which fortunately I have been watching.  I know that a lot of people have given up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but I’ve stuck with it, I think the last few episodes were really good and the show; while shaky at first; is providing the strong payoff that I expected.  This time out we see Captain America (or Captain Steve Rogers) battling enemies both attacking SHIELD and within, as nearly 70 years after Cap, SHIELD and the Allies defeated them, HYDRA returns.  Having infiltrated the highest levels of government and SHIELD itself, Captain America (Chris Evans) doesn’t know who to trust as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) reveals secrets he’s been keeping as well as secret motives.  The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) was teamed up with Rogers by Fury, but given a slightly different mission than he was which puts them at odds.  Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) is a politician so who knows where his loyalties lie.  Cap does know he can trust Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a former paratrooper who was working on secret government project which introduces us to the FALCON jetpack and wings.  With Cap and his few allies up against a compromised SHIELD, a re-emerging HYDRA what else can be thrown at them?  HYDRA’s secret weapon, the Winter Soldier.  An assassin who many thought was a myth in the espionage world.  He’s been credited with numerous top level kills over the past seventy years, but no one knows who he is, or how he and his metal arm have been around for so long.

Well, the secret of the Winter Soldier isn’t that hard to figure out.  All you have to do is go to the IMDb page for the film, and it lists him and his “alter ego” right on the film’s main page.  Not a big deal if you already knew who he was from the comic books, but a pretty lousy spoiler if you don’t.  (I already knew he was Bucky.)  The movie was great, it had a lot of action, and it nicely handled the introduction of new characters but never felt bogged down by the additional cast.  We also got to see some more of Steve Rogers’ as a “man out of time” as he adapts to 21st century life; and the film heavily featured his team-up with Black Widow.  Johansson was very good, and her character was handled very well.  It made a lot more sense and was much more believable to see her fighting spies and mercenaries than it was alien invaders.  The strength of Johansson’s performance and the response the character has received are heavily responsible for a Black Widow solo film which has been announced, but without a start date due to her pregnancy which I hear had some impact on filming schedule of Avengers: Age of Ultron. And speaking of strong performances, Robert Redford was probably as perfect a casting choice as you could make to really bring credibility to the brand and the genre.

Quick notes:

  1. there were two “after the credits” scenes, one mid and one at the very end.  In the past the second scene seemed to be a lighter one, not really so in this case as it looks like it also will be important to the future of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
  2. Stan Lee makes a great cameo as (highlight to read) a guard at the Smithsonian who discovers Cap’s classic costume is missing from the display…stolen by Cap himself of course.
  3. Really cool Easter Egg for eagle eyed viewers at the end.  Ezekiel 25:17…
  4. Another really cool “Easter Egg” partway through the film as a list of people HYDRA thinks can be future threats includes Bruce Banner, Tony Stark and….Stephen Strange!  Oh yeah, the Sorcerer Supreme is mentioned, which to me cements the fact that my favourite Marvel character WILL have a movie!


Bottom Line: The plots added up, and I really enjoyed it.  If you’re a Marvel fan, you really need to see this one.

The Wolverine – DVD review 4.5/5 stars

Product Details4.5 Stars

The Wolverine…What else can you say, he’s the best he is at what he does; though that may have been in doubt after X-Men Origins: Wolverine, not so this time however with The Wolverine, as Hugh Jackman (and the Wolverine character) are back and handled almost perfectly. A nice solo story for arguably the most popular character of the X-Men.

I’m suffering from a major, major case of writers block these days, so this one will be rather short and sweet.  There was lots of action, lots of stabbing, lots of claws, lots of swords, ninjas, samurais, mutants, conspiracies, Wolverine living as a hermit and vowing not to use his claws again, and then we see him dealing out his own brand of justice to some crooked hunters in the Yukon.  We even get to see Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) again.  Yes that last bit could be a minor spoiler, but it happens in the first few minutes so I think I’m safe with that reveal; I mean, how top secret can that be if she’s listed on the IMDb page?

We see a bit of Wolverine’s past as Logan is a POW in Japan at the end of WWII, who saves a frightened soldier from the fallout of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.  Back in the present, Logan is tracked down by  the man he saved half a century ago, and brought to Japan to see him on his deathbed.  Master Yashida is now the head of a billion dollar corporation but now he is dying.  He wants to repay Logan for saving his life, by offering to end Logan’s pain by taking his healing power for himself to keep living, but also allowing Logan to age and die naturally.  Logan turns him down at first but before he has a chance to reconsider the old man dies.  At the funeral the Yakuza attack his granddaughter Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who is slated to take over the company rather than her father.  Who could be behind the plot to kidnap her?  This is a comic book movie so the plots aren’t always that tricky to figure out, but there were a few twists along the way for The Wolverine.  Defending the young woman from those who would do her harm, Logan finds out that his healing power has been “turned off” and he is not healing.  Gunshot wounds, stabbings, even using his claws, all these things are slowly, and painfully killing him.  Eventually though things sort themselves out and Logan returns to form defending the weak, protecting the innocent, slashing bad guys left right and centre as he is once again “Wolverine”.

The acting was quite good, even though a lot of the cast had not really acted in a movie before.  Jackman was excellent as always, and you can tell that he really enjoys his character and these X-Men movies.  That enjoyment translates excellently to his performance and to the screen.

I really enjoyed this one, we got to see more of the character’s internal journey.  Wolverine is a ronin, a samurai without a master; and he eventually accepts this, and accepts who his really is deep down.  I am in the process of tracking down the unrated cut of the film, which was only available with the 3D Blu Ray version, and not just the regular Blu Ray.  That’s a bit cheesy on the part of the studios, but even with the version I did see, there was a lot to like.  Of course, there was a scene after the credits (well, part way through the credits), and this one leads directly into next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. There was also an alternate ending on the Blu Ray.  Calling these scenes an “Alternate ending” is a bit of a misnomer.  I’m not just talking about The Wolverine either, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that was very different from the actual broadcast ending.  I’ve never seen one where the bad guy goes to jail instead of being killed in a shootout or the characters win the lottery and solve all their problems.  No, the “alternate ending” is usually just a reworked version of the actual ending with a few minor things added or taken away.  That is what happened in The Wolverine, but that’s okay.  This one was so nerdily cool I enjoyed it.  I won’t go into details, but click this if you want to see what it was all about.

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