Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2

Chris Pratt

Kurt Russell

reviewed by Tom-Tom

starstarstar

 

In August 2014, something beautiful happened. A Marvel film starring characters most or all of whom no one (no regular movie goers, anyway) had ever heard of came out. They weren’t righteous, moral good doers which is what the pedestrian view of hero used to be but wisecracking anti-heroes, a band of Mad Maxes each out to score, to get money, or to avenge their slain family with ruthless bloodlust. Did I mention that one of them is a talking raccoon and another a talking tree albeit with a severely limited vocabulary? Despite these oddities or in spite of them, really, Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge hit refreshing the tired space opera genre with a perfect balance of humor, eclectic tunes, and a real heart behind it all. However beloved new characters are, the challenge lies in the sequel. Most of the success of films like Shrek, Transformers, and Pirates of the Caribbean lies in the love of meeting the memorable characters for the first time. With the increasingly deteriorating sequels offering nothing much more than a deceptive promise, the promise of drug dealers, politicians running for second terms, and cheating lovers everywhere, that things will continue on/return to their original greatness, and that you will fall in love with the old feeling all over again.

Continue reading

Doctor Strange

Benedict Cumberbatch

Chiwetel Ejiofor

reviewed by Tom-Tom

starstarstarhalf star

The MCU continues. Back in 2008, the brilliant Jon Favreau introduced Tony Stark as Iron Man. It was a brilliant piece of comics brought to life. The charismatic Robert Downey Jr. brought the rather mild mannered and somewhat two dimensional character of the comics to a new level. All great adaptations combine the best of the original and suitable if limited license to their place on the big screen. Iron Man was a textbook example of everything going right. In Doctor Strange, there is a sort of an attempt to replicate the success of Iron Man. In its slightly awkward scenes, the arrogant extremely skilled Doctor Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) conducts intensive open surgery to a playlist of classic rock esoteric enough to please Star Lord of Guardians of the Galaxy and probably intended to be Vol. 3 when everyone meets up for Avengers: Infinity War next year. For those us whom have seen Strange in the comics, he is sagely, philosophical, and rarely raises his voice not to mention cracking a joke. His arc here is similar somewhat to Thor’s in his “origin” story film: A fall from grace followed by a humble crawl back to heroism of a different kind.

Continue reading

Captain America: Civil War

Chris Evans

Robert Downey Jr.

reviewed by Tom-Tom

starstarstarstar

This is one of the film events I have been waiting for. It was one of the most innovative turns in the Marvel Universe. You have all of these superheroes running around unchecked and for many years, they only did good with no problems or hurt civilians, well, save for Gwen Stacy. So, in a realistic move, after a youngster filled superhero team’s attempt to catch Nitro, a super-villain whose explosive power roasts bus-fulls of New England school children alive as well as lesser heroes all while being filmed by reality TV, legislation moved towards superhero registration. Each superhero would have to register his/her secret identity and powers, receive training to best use said superpowers, and earn a stipend from the government for their services. Sounds great, right? The downside is that they would no longer be able to act alone when they see a crime but have to get permission first and that any super-villain hacker could get access to the secret identity info and use it as leverage or threat against any hero registered. Plus, the overseeing committee would be Congressional which means their motivation would be as malleable as the greatest campaign contributor taking away from the purity of classic heroism. Tony Stark, having experienced an encounter with one of parents of the victims of the Nitro incident (she slaps and spits on him), sides with registration. Captain America, always the advocate of pure heroism, is against registration despite his own identity being well known. Both are stubbornly fixed to their own causes. Slowly, various heroes side with either flagship and eventually the Civil War begins.

This isn’t precisely what happens here in the film version. Which is fine, as the comics had several titles and months with which to flesh out the various stories, characters, and plots. The events which transpire here are the results of years of MCU films and TV shows. We got a glimpse of in-fighting among Avengers in every single film they took part in so far. Hawkeye vs. Widow, Thor vs. Iron Man, Cap vs. Thor, Hulk vs. everyone, really. Recount the battle before the birth of the Vision. The schism in the Avengers has been building for a while and though it doesn’t occur the way it did in the comics, that shouldn’t dissuade comic fans from enjoying it. The break happens organically with remnants of camaraderie hanging on even during the conflict.

The Russo Brothers, whose previous Cap film Winter Soldier brought a sense of realism to the MCU with less use of CGI and more practical, aggressive martial arts which were less showy and more geared at downing baddies quickly (and non lethally) mostly achieve the same here. The Winter Soldier himself was a total badass who didn’t miss when shooting and had his own array of deadly weapons in addition to his bionic arm. He didn’t toy with his intended victims, he simply killed them or regrouped to where he could better kill them. It is possible to watch Winter Soldier several times and still feel the suspense, the immediacy of the danger in close quarters without the dramatic posturing that so defines many comic book films.

Continue reading

Ant-Man

Paul Rudd

Michael Douglas

reviewed by Tom-Tom

starstarstarhalf star

 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has brought us much. We’ve gotten gods, super soldiers, green giants, iron men, blue frost giants, iron men, spies, ex-mercenaries, smugglers, bounty hunters, and aliens. The shortest hero so far has been Rocket, the genetically spliced raccoon like creature with a knack for building weapons of hilariously disproportionate size which can “destroy moons.” Now we get Ant-Man.  And what a treat it is. Aided from its early stages by genius writer/director Edgar Wright, this film was destined for greatness from the very beginning. I was quite disappointed to hear that Wright left the project for creative differences and I was worried that the new director Peyton Reed, (an unknown to me at the time) would ruin everything that was Wright about the movie the way Peter Jackson laid waste to the Hobbit Trilogy after Guillermo del Toro’s excellent preparation and hard work had set up everything perfectly. My fears were allayed almost immediately. All the joy and fun you’ve ever experienced in an Edgar Wright film is alive and well from the random humor, geeky references (“I know what you’re thinking, ‘Tastes of Astonishment’, right?”) to frenetic action sequences complete with silly yet exciting situations which amuse and exhilarate in fair measure making everything feel all Wright even if it isn’t exactly all right.

Continue reading

Guardians of the Galaxy

Chris Pratt

Zoe Saldana

reviewed by Tom-Tom

starstarstarstar

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89yh3vYs-zo 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe can be quite intimidating for newcomers making them feel as if a certain amount of homework is necessary before walking into the theater of the current MCU entry. In Marvel’s defense, they usually offer all the points necessary for understanding what is happening in the current film but as a devout viewer and reader of many of the corresponding comics, I can’t truly put myself in their place. Guardians of the Galaxy is a different film. For starters, its setting isn’t even on Earth (well, after the first 6 minutes it isn’t). It’s in a galaxy far, far away and perhaps one of the most enjoyable, funny, and awesome Sci-Fi action flicks since the original Star Wars Trilogy. Definitely the best since Serenity.

Continue reading

Thor: The Dark World

Chris Hemsworth

Natalie Portman

reviewed by Tom-Tom

starstarstar

        The Norse god of thunder is back in a rather light adventure full of jokes, mostly risk-free action and a closer look at more of the Nine Realms. Darcy Lewis the Intern (Kat Dennings) is back and this time she has her own intern. Natalie Portman is just as girlishly charming as ever as Dr. Jane Foster but this time is a central part of the plot, rather than a wide-eyed onlooker. The plot is quite simple. There were once Dark Elves who ruled in darkness. Now they’re back led by Malekith (Christoper Eccleston) and they want to make everything dark again.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is also back imprisoned but no less charming. As Robert Downey Jr. did with the frankly rather boring Tony Stark character (as he is in the comics), Hiddleston has elevated the somewhat silly comic book villain to one with depth, with pain behind that charming smile, to an almost Shakespearean scale. One of the Warriors Three, Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) who had almost no speaking parts and very little to do in the first film sits out most of this film after an action packed low-stakes beginning, which qualifies all of the powers of the Asgardians not the least, Thor’s awesome power. He’s a changed god after the first film and the events of Marvel’s The Avengers. Wiser, quieter, and more of a thinker. There is none of the foolhardy braggart like behavior which characterized him at the beginning of Thor.

Continue reading

Thor

Chris Hemsworth

Natalie Portman

reviewed by Tom-Tom

starstarstarhalf star

Thor is the perhaps the oddest of the Avengers. He is, for all intents and purposes, a god of Norse mythology. He actually sports a red beard and hair in the old tales but in the Marvel Comics, he suddenly became blond and wore a winged helmet and red cape. I was rather taken with Norse mythology as a middle school student. I thought it was cool how they were mortal and didn’t spend all their time screwing around with humans figuratively and literally the way Papa Zeus seemed to do all the time in Greek-Roman Mythology. No, they were constantly kicking the crap out of each other. The idea of the world tree, Norns, and having Nine Realms on an Astral Scale seemed like proto-Sci-Fi from long ago. Marvel also has a Hercules and an Aries so we’ll have to see how they eventually fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) but for the time being, we have Thor (Chris Hemsworth), all prefabricated into a hero from the start of his origin movie.  Kenneth Branagh is directing and his frequent collaborator Patrick Doyle provides a beautiful score quite suited to the heavenly realms shown here.

Continue reading