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The Avengers

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

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

thor2DIRECTOR: Alan Taylor

CAST: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Eccleston, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgard, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Jaimie Alexander, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, Alice Krige, Adewale Akinnouoye-Agbaje

REVIEW:

Thor: The Dark World, following in the footsteps of the introductory outing for its title character, 2011’s Thorand the 2012 superhero all-star extravaganza The Avengersis a step down and feels like an obligatory episode.  It moves briskly and serves up serviceable fantasy action-adventure, but it lacks the epic feel of Thor and it’s hard to care much about what’s taking place onscreen despite a bunch of flashy special effects, dwelling in the middle ground of mediocrity also occupied by Captain America: The First Avenger and Iron Man 3.   Continue reading

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

DIRECTOR: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

CAST: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo

REVIEW:

Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-Steve-Rogers-and-Natasha-RomanoffAfter a series of underwhelming Marvel comic book flicks in the Avengers’ universe (Captain America, Iron Man 3, Thor 2), Captain America: The Winter Soldier manages to rise above the mediocrity and provide a worthwhile adventure, surpassing the Captain’s introductory outing by leaps and bounds and surpassing the first Iron Man and the first Thor as the best solo installment the Avengers have yet produced.  In fact, it might be the best comic book movie since The Dark Knightsupplying satisfyingly spectacular summer comic book entertainment that mixes high-octane action with a little character development and a little political intrigue and manages to stand on its own apart from the behemoth Marvel has created with The Avengers series. Continue reading

Iron Man 3 (2013)

DIRECTOR: Shane Black

CAST: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, James Badge Dale, Ty Simpkins, William Sadler, Miguel Ferrer, Paul Bettany (voice)

REVIEW:

When it comes to superhero trilogies, Iron Man 3 isn’t bad enough to be an example of the “third movie curse”, but nor does it save the best for last. Like Iron Man 2, it’s adequately diverting summer escapist entertainment, but like Iron Man 2, it’s mildly underwhelming. Continue reading

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

DIRECTOR: Joe Johnston

CAST:

Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Dominic Cooper, Sebastian Stan

REVIEW:

Captain America is an adequate, serviceable comic book superhero origin movie that doesn’t merit any scorn but also doesn’t generate overwhelming enthusiasm.  Continue reading

Thor (2011)

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh

CAST:

Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson, Jaime Alexander, Josh Dallas, Tadanobu Asano, Clark Gregg, Rene Russo, Colm Feore

REVIEW:

Like 2008’s Iron Man and 2010’s Iron Man 2, along with this summer’s upcoming Captain America, Thor is one of various comic book movie installments introducing the individual Marvel superheroes who will be finally united onscreen in 2012’s The Avengers, but as Jon Favreau did with Iron Man, Kenneth Branagh is able to make Thor stand on his own as a superhero rather than letting his intro feel like a two hours Avengers preview. Continue reading

Iron Man 2 (2010)

DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau

CAST:

Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jon Favreau, Paul Bettany (voice)

REVIEW:

Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2 doesn’t surpass the first installment, and might fall short in a couple areas, but the sequel largely provides plenty more of the same to make it worthwhile summer entertainment. Continue reading

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

DIRECTOR: Louis Letterier

CAST:

Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson

REVIEW:

Despite being a popular Marvel Comics property and a potential film franchise in its own right, The Hulk flopped at the box office in Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk, which was critically-praised but a dud with audiences.  Rather than supply a direct sequel, Marvel decided to reboot the franchise, ignoring the previous film and kicking straight off with The Incredible Hulk, a more conventional superhero film, foregoing the more talky and introspective aspects that some critics appreciated about Ang Lee’s take but bored theater-going crowds expecting more “Hulk Smash” action.  The result should be sufficient for those wanting more smashing and explosions, but while entertaining, is also a bit mediocre and underwhelming.  The Incredible Hulk is sufficient for summer comic book movie escapism, but it’s not up to the level of Iron Man or Thor. Continue reading

Iron Man (2008)

DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau

CAST:

Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Jon Favreau, Paul Bettany (voice)

REVIEW:

Along with Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, Jon Favreau’s Iron Man is a member of the next generation of comic book movies that make their stories seem almost (not quite, but almost) plausible by playing it straight. Positive audience response is clear; Iron Man was the second highest-grossing film of 2008 before being overshadowed by the arguable crowned king of ‘comic book movies’, The Dark Knight , within a couple months. Continue reading

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