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Movies Review

Movie Review – Doctor Strange

I saw the Scott Derrickson-directed Doctor Strange over the weekend, and enjoyed it a lot.  It’s not going to unseat any of my favorite MCU movies (currently Iron Man, Winter Soldier, Guardians and Civil War) but it was a fun if familiar tale.  I’ll get all the non-spoiler notes out of the way first:  the effects are as amazing as advertised, and I can’t wait to go back and see it in 3D.  The cast (for all the difficulties with casting a movie from a source so steeped in racial stereotypes) are great as a Marvel movie’s cast usually is, with Benedict Cumberbatch filling Strange’s robes admirably as the arrogant surgeon/distracted driving consequences example.  I really liked Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo, he’s got such a great delivery of his lines.  It’s no surprise why he got to say most of the artifact names.

The visuals are simply jaw-dropping.  For those who scoffed at the early clips and trailers that mostly showed the city bending as “psh, Inception” that barely scratches the surface.  Basically take the visuals of the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man, add a bunch of psychedelic color, and jam the accelerator to the floor.  So cool.

<spoilers from here on out>

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Guardians of the Galaxy

I saw an early screening of Guardians of the Galaxy Thursday night, and let me tell you, I had a blast!  I may have only read the actual Guardians comic that was the biggest influence on this after the movie was announced, but I’ve quickly fallen in love with these a-holes.  Of course, I did know of Drax and Gamora from my reading of the Silver Surfer back in the day.  And Thanos and Ronan.

But the movie!  As you could tell from the way it was promoted, this is a whole new animal in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  There’s no super-soldier, or technical genius inventing powered suits or serums.  Chris Pratt plays Peter Quill, an Earth kid (well…) abducted by aliens called the Ravagers, thieves and smugglers led by Yondu Udonta.  Quill has only what he was carrying with him, which includes the Walkman and the ‘Awesome Mix Vol. 1’ we’ve heard in the trailers and clips.  He’s stealing a mysterious orb – and getting away from the Ravagers at the same time.  He thoroughly establishes that he’s a goofy man-child (the dancing!  wait for the GIFs).

skip this next section for the biggest spoilers

This puts him on the path to meet the rest of the Guardians – who either want the orb, or to turn him in for a bounty.  That leads to the prison scenes (the Kyln!) you see featured in the trailers.  That orb contains another of the Infinity Stones (we’ve seen the Tesseract and the Aether so far), and Ronan the Accuser, renegade Kree, will not stop until he gets it.  Ronan, played by the Piemaker Lee Pace, is over the top evil.  He gets a bit more to do than Chris Eccleston did in Thor: The Dark World, but not by much.  He’s got a deal in place with THANOS to deliver the orb, assisted by Nebula and Gamora.  Once he realizes the orb has an Infinity Stone inside, well why does he need THANOS anyway?  He can destroy the Nova Corps home planet of Xandar all by himself!  Nebula is okay with this, which goes to show how little you can trust minions that you kidnap, experiment on, and abuse.

This leads Quill and the other misfits to loosely ally – Rocket, with Groot tagging along, to make sure his bounty stays alive, Gamora to make sure the orb stays away from THANOS and Ronan, and Drax who just wants to kill Ronan.  They bond, guys, and it’s great.

end major spoilers

I feel like I could try and explain what I loved about the movie for hours but it wouldn’t do it justice.  Yes, there are changes from the comics.  That happens any time you adapt to the big screen, especially the MCU which is getting well established all on it’s own.  The core of the Guardians are there, especially from Rocket and Groot.  You might find yourself tearing up just a bit as a talking raccoon laments being tortured and experimented on.  I AM GROOT will mean something.  You will laugh, more than you’ve laughed at any MCU movie.  My kids want a tiny Groot all their own.  The music, it’s just as great in the movie as it is in the trailers.  There are things that bug me, but seriously, there’s so much right here.  We see and hear THANOS – yeah, I’m gonna keep capitalizing that – we go to Knowhere, the cameos are there.  Now I just need to see the after-credits scene.  To Friday!

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I’ve been a Marvel guy since I first read my brother’s few remaining comics (the ones my Mom hadn’t tossed, that old story), but Captain America never appealed to me.  The costume seemed like a bit much, and he just didn’t seem to be as much fun as Iron Man or Spidey, and didn’t have the way-out nutso stuff that was happening in the pages of the Silver Surfer.  I’ve come to enjoy Cap as an adult, devouring Ed Brubaker’s run on the Captain America book, including the story adapted loosely in the latest movie, The Winter Soldier.  There will be spoilers from here on out, so for those of you not continuing on, I loved this movie a TON.

WinterSoldierFinishedThe movie starts with a ‘Meet Bro’ scene between Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson, an Iraq vet.  They bond over stories of too-soft beds and lost friends.  Cap gets called away on a mission, where Batroc the Leaper (ze LEAPER!) has taken a SHIELD ship used as a satellite launch platform.  It’s a great action scene, I absolutely loved how acrobatic yet powerful Cap was.  GSP could actually do some ‘leaping’ and actually got a few shots in on our hero.  But why was the ship out there?  Why was Agent Sitwell on it?  And what intel was the Black Widow taking from it?  Cap has those questions, and Nick Fury isn’t answering.  He has trust issues, moreso after he can’t decrypt the data stolen, despite it apparently being locked down…by him.  He heads out to meet Maria Hill, but is ambushed by assassins on the way.  His car gets blown up by the Winter Soldier, but he escapes.  Fury goes to Steve’s apartment, broken and bleeding, and gives him the flash drive with the encrypted data.  He gets shot by a sniper – the Winter Soldier! – and Steve takes off after him, with Agent 13 being revealed as Steve’s neighbor.  The Winter Soldier escapes, after the shield-slinging scene all over the trailers.  Fury is taken to the hospital, where he succumbs to his injuries. (right)

SHIELD exec Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) asks Steve about why Fury was in his apartment, and what he told him.  When he declines, he has his strike team attempt to capture Rogers – which goes as well as you’d expect.  That’s the elevator fight.  Cap meets up with Natasha and they go to a location they found when trying to decrypt the flash drive – Camp Lehigh, where Rogers was training when he became Captain America.  There is a hidden SHIELD base hidden under it now, and within it, old computers.  It’s all very strange until they fire up and you see…Dr. Zola!  He, along with other German scientists, were enlisted to help SHIELD after the war was over (much like what happened in real life), but Zola was secretly still working against them from the inside, placing agents loyal to HYDRA in key places.  When he knew he was going to die, he had his consciousness transferred to a computer to live on.  No crazy robot body, but they may have wanted to avoid that with Ultron being the next Avengers villain.  SHIELD (the bad ones) try to blow up the bunker with a missile but Steve and Nat survive.

Not knowing who else to trust, they head to Sam Wilson’s house, and he wants to help Cap figure out what’s going on.  After grabbing Sam’s Falcon wings, they find Jasper Sitwell, and he spills it after getting thrown off the roof – Zola created a program to sift all of your personal data to determine if you are going to be a threat to HYDRA’s version of order, and will use satellite guided munitions from three new heavily armed helicarriers to blast potential troublemakers (like Tony Stark and Dr, Strange) to bits.  It’s a terrifying vision of the future.  They head out to the Triskellion (SHIELD HQ) but are taken out by the Winter Soldier on the way.  Cap and the Winter Soldier fight, and Steve is horrified when he knocks the Winter Soldier’s mask off…and sees Bucky’s face.  Buck doesn’t recognize him, and they are captured by HYDRA/SHIELD.

But Maria Hill to the rescue!  She’s disguised as one of the SHIELD agents that puts them in a truck, and they slip out when it stops.  They head to another secret hideout, and discover NICK FURY IS ALIVE??? and planning how to stop Pierce’s plan.  They namecheck Bruce Banner as having developed a drug to try and slow his metabolism down as what Fury used, which was a neat reference.  The team has to hit each of the three helicarriers and swap in a device that will decouple them from the satellites (which are targeting hundreds of thousands of people on the ground).  Two carriers get switched, but on the third is the Winter Soldier.  Steve tries to refresh his memory, but it seems to be for naught.  Meanwhile, Natasha snuck in to SHIELD HQ disguised as a member of the Security Council, and they put all of SHIELD/HYDRA’s secrets online.  There’s a struggle, and Fury shoots Pierce, who gets out a final ‘Hail HYDRA’ before dying.  A badly hurt Captain America gets the third helicarrier under their control, and Hill uses the weapons on each one to blast the others out of the sky.  He falls into the Potomac…but Bucky drags him out before leaving.

There’s more, but seriously, that should be enough to get you off the couch.  I loved everything about the movie.  The fight scenes were dynamic, with great use of the shield by Cap.  Natasha’s gadgets come into play, and Anthony Mackie is just so darn likable as the Falcon that I want to see him in every movie Captain America is in.  I wish more could’ve been done with Agent 13, but something probably had to be kept out to keep it under 2.5 hours.  Robert Redford was a bit understated as Pierce, but it kind of worked – he was Fury’s nemesis at the end, not Steve’s.  The Zola reveal was fantastic.  Sebastian Stan was suitably frightening as the Winter Soldier, and looked great.  The final post-credits scene shows Barnes checking out his exhibit at the Smithsonian, remembering, perhaps, something of his past life.

There’s a lot of serious stuff to think on here – even though the Russos stated the NSA scandal wasn’t blowing up until after production had started, this movie says a lot about freedom versus privacy.  HYDRA was playing a slow game, sowing chaos in the world, so that when they came to ‘secure’ the world, no one would stand up to them.  It’s pretty chilling.  There are a lot of Easter eggs for movie and comics fans, such as Garry Shandling’s senator reappearing, and Dr. Strange getting mentioned again.  We meet Baron von Strucker mid-credits, along with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.  They have Loki’s scepter, so you know nothing good is coming (though what that’s going to have to do with Ultron will be interesting to see).  I’m dying to see the rest of Agents of SHIELD now – are any of our team the HYDRA plants?  Will Fury contact them?  It makes sense now why they were set loose to operate more or less on their own.  The movie worked well on so many levels.  Just a blast, and I’m going to have to find my way to it again.