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comic book movie

Black Panther (2018)

DIRECTOR: Ryan Coogler

CAST: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown

REVIEW:

For those suffering from conventional superhero movie fatigue, Black Panther is different enough to feel a little fresher, even if it ultimately adheres to basic superhero movie expectations.  Before agreeing to co-write and direct, Ryan Coogler (a “serious” director who previously helmed Fruitvale Station and Creed) ensured that he would be granted a considerable level of freedom and independence, and this might account for Black Panther feeling more like a unique entity unto itself and less cookie cutter than the likes of Spider-Man: HomecomingThe movie is also not overly concerned with reminding us it’s a part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Apart from some thin connective tissue, Black Panther can stand on its own as one of the few recent Marvel outings that could be watched without much confusion by a casual viewer who hasn’t kept up with the entire interconnected MCU. Continue reading

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

DIRECTOR: Taika Waititi

CAST: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Karl Urban, Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins

REVIEW:

For the third solo outing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe starring Thor the God of Thunder, Marvel seems to have taken a page from The Guardians of the Galaxy with a more (sometimes excessively) flippant tone and more emphasis on Guardians/Star Wars-esque sci-fi elements.  To an extent, they succeed in mixing things up, and Thor: Ragnarok is a bright, colorful, breezy action-comedy/sci-fi fantasy adventure, but while it’s lively and entertaining, it lacks a sense of real stakes (even with its title referencing the apocalyptic war of Norse mythology) and aims too hard for laughs at the expense of drama. Continue reading

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)


DIRECTOR: Jon Watts

CAST: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr., Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori

REVIEW:

When it comes to probably their most popular and best-known superhero, after the disappointment of 2007’s Spider-Man 3 and the 2012-2014 reboot misfire, Sony and Marvel are hoping the third time’s the charm.  The title refers both to the high school homecoming dance that takes place in the movie, and is also a bit of a sly in-joke referring to Marvel Studios finally gaining access to Spider-Man’s film rights via a deal with Sony, allowing Spider-Man to finally join the Marvel Cinematic Universe; this is the sixth Spider-Man movie, but the first in which he’s had the chance to interact with other superheroes.  Even while Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and others were enjoying the cinematic limelight, both individually and together, Marvel’s most iconic superhero was missing from the crowd.  Getting Spider-Man back into the fold was a major ace in the hole, and now, after his debut with his glorified (and awkwardly shoehorned) cameo in last year’s Captain America: Civil Warthe latest onscreen incarnation of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is swinging into theaters in his own solo outing and the first of what Marvel hopes to be a successful new franchise with more longevity than Sony’s last attempt at a reboot.  Homecoming is already opening strong and receiving glowing critical reception, but while it’s entertaining and enjoyable, like too many of the MCU’s solo outings that feel like side pit stops apart from the larger Avengers continuing narrative (also including 2015’s Ant-Man and 2016’s Doctor Strange), there’s something a bit underwhelming about the whole affair.  Homecoming is a lot more watchable than Spider-Man 3, but feels lightweight and low stakes and lacks either the large-scale action or emotional depth of Spider-Man 2. Continue reading

Wonder Woman (2017)

DIRECTOR: Patty Jenkins

CAST: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Lucy Davis, Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui, Eugene Brave Rock, Elena Anaya, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen

REVIEW: 

For the troubled “DC Expanded Universe”, Wonder Woman is a sign that all may not be lost after the near-trainwrecks of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, but I’m not prepared to join the chorus singing its praises, and while it’s not a bad movie, I can’t help but wonder if the excitement is subconsciously influenced by how good it looks in comparison to its immediate predecessors.  As far as “origin stories” go, this falls somewhere in the middle; it’s easily a more competently-crafted film than BvS or Suicide Squad, but isn’t as memorable or innovative as the best of what either DC or Marvel has offered in recent years. Continue reading

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

DIRECTOR: James Gunn

CAST: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper (voice), Vin Diesel (voice), Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Kurt Russell, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki

REVIEW:

Back in 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy was considered a risky proposition for Marvel Studios, spending a lot of money making and promoting a movie featuring superheroes far lesser-known than the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and company who make up Marvel’s flagship The Avengers, but three years and $750 million later, the new film franchise is one of the flourishing studio’s most popular properties.  Now that the inevitable sequel has arrived, the wait will probably be worth it for most fans.  The simply titled Vol. 2 is an entertaining ride, even if it lacks a little of the freshness of its predecessor and at times feels a little weighed down by the burden on sequels to be “bigger”. Continue reading

Logan (2017)

DIRECTOR: James Mangold

CAST: Hugh Jackman, Dafne Keen, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle

REVIEW:

Even more so than Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Logan defies the labels of “comic book” or “superhero” movie.  Together with last year’s Deadpoolit’s a rare “comic book movie” to earn a well-deserved R rating, but their tones couldn’t be more different.  Profanity and graphic violence flow freely in both, but while Deadpool was a tongue-in-cheek romp, Logan (loosely taking some elements from the Old Man Logan comic miniseries) is a dead serious, rather bleak affair.  But while their tones are polar opposites, Deadpool and Logan both refuse to play by conventional superhero movie rules.  Logan also serves as the swan song for two of moviedom’s most iconic superheroes, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier (both of whom have reprised these characters off and on for the past seventeen years).  Small children should be left at home for this one, but for those to whom its grimness isn’t too jarring, Logan might be the most raw and uncompromising gut punch of any “comic book movie”.  Those who thought The Dark Knight was for grown-ups haven’t seen anything yet compared to where this movie dares to go. Continue reading

Doctor Strange (2016)

strangeDIRECTOR: Scott Derrickson

CAST: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams

REVIEW:

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is now the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse.  Doctor Strange fans are likely rejoicing as, after many years of waiting while other superhero franchises flourished, their hero has finally made his way to the big screen.  For most Doctor Strange fans, the product will be worth the wait, even if it doesn’t scale its way to the top of the MCU.  Doctor Strange is entertaining and visually dazzling, but saddled with the obligatory tropes and limitations of “the origin story”. Continue reading

Suicide Squad (2016)

squadDIRECTOR: David Ayer

CAST: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Cara Delevingne, Karen Fukuhara, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Adam Beach, Scott Eastwood, Common

REVIEW:

Suicide Squad promoted itself as a kind of darker, grittier, DC equivalent of Marvel’s offbeat Guardians of the Galaxy—complete with a ragtag band of lower-tier comic book characters and a busy soundtrack of pop hits—and while I’m not prepared to place it on equal footing, it’s at least more enjoyable than DC’s previous offering this year, the dreary, borderline incoherent Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (though that might sound like damning with faint praise).  The film has its own issues, but overall, despite being critically savaged, it’s a fairly enjoyable romp with enough cheeky humor and kinetic action to please many fans of the comic series. Continue reading

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

apocalypseDIRECTOR: Bryan Singer

CAST: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Oscar Isaac, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, Lucas Till, Alexandra Shipp, Olivia Munn, Ben Hardy

REVIEW:

X-Men: Apocalypse is the fourth comic book superhero movie to arrive in theaters in the first five months of 2016 (preceded by Deadpool, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justiceand Captain America: Civil War).  With so many comic book movies churning out left and right these days, over-saturation is a growing concern, and Apocalypse doesn’t do anything to distinguish itself in a crowded field.  In fact, it’s a disappointingly generic and muddled effort that, despite its attempts to up the ante, is a marked step down from its immediate predecessors X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past, nor is it as good as the original live-action X-Men movie or X2: X-Men United.  It’s better than the prequel misfire X-Men Origins: Wolverine (no great accomplishment) but stands about even with X-Men: The Last Stand (though, in fairness, despite its ominous title, Apocalypse doesn’t massacre half the cast, so while as muddled and uneven as Last Stand, it’s not as aggravating).  With Days of Future Past, returning series helmsman Bryan Singer (who directed and co-wrote 1 & 2) kept the fresh rejuvenating life Matthew Vaughn breathed into First Class going strong, but here, the rebooted series’ reclaimed energy and freshness is sputtering in fits and starts. Continue reading

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

fc5edbe9817d3ea749b1a6b885b73bccDIRECTOR: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

CAST: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd,
Tom Holland, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp, William Hurt, Martin Freeman, Frank Grillo

REVIEW:

Not only is Captain America: Civil War, taking its name and basic premise from a well-known storyline in the comics (albeit with various plot particulars changed from page to screen), a direct follow-up to events in both The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (familiarity with both is necessary to fully understanding everything that’s going on here), it’s also the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” answer to DC /Warner Bros’ Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice two months earlier, an “event” pitting two iconic superheroes against each other (at least for part of the screentime).  To that end, it’s easily better-crafted than the lugubrious BvS and more enjoyable than the bloated Age of Ultron but not as good as The Winter Soldier, which had a much more focused plot and tighter pace.  Fan service and an excess of characters and subplots weighs down the proceedings, but it still provides plenty bound to thrill fans of the comics while not glossing over the events that have led up to this point. Continue reading

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