Thor: Ragnarok Review

“Kneel before your queen.

 

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I enjoyed the first Thor movie and its epic feel that really hasn’t been replicated in other Marvel movies, despite some pacing issues. The second one was fine, shining in the interactions between Thor and Loki amid a serviceable but somewhat lackluster plot and paint by numbers villain.

Third time is the charm here, and this was a flat out blast. Ragnarok feels like a music video come to life in places in the best way possible. Thor and Loki again provide the movie’s emotional core, and with a logical plot that still manages a couple of nice twists and a larger than life antagonist the layered story shines. Of course on top of all of that are healthy layers of action and humor.

Said humor largely works and several awesome moments had me unexpectedly laughing out loud. However in other parts it admittedly tries way too hard, and the characterization of a certain green supporting cast member felt really odd, with depth and consistency often sacrificed for running gags. The movie also drags just a touch in the middle and the use and/or absence of certain characters from the previous movies was … interesting. On the other hand, there are also great new cast additions.

Overall though I thought this was fantastic, with a strong story featuring compelling characters and numerous fun moments.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Review

“I am Groot.

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Here’s the short version: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is great fun. Engaging, largely hilarious, and just plain fun.

Admittedly there are moments when it feels like they’re trying too hard (including occasional instances when the comedy is overdone, forced, and/or uncomfortable), and it doesn’t quite have sense of wonder of first movie since we’ve seen Quill and company before, but overall this was a fantastic ride.

The plot’s a little more focused and the characters are developed well, including nice spotlights on Nebula and Yondu, and a strong debut for newcomer Mantis. Of course as expected the show stealer is Baby Groot, who’s done pitch perfectly to be adorable, funny, and engaging without crossing over into annoyance. The movie’s absolutely BURIED in pop culture references, but it fits with Quill’s character as established in the first movie.

I had a wonderful time with Guardians 2, to the point where I got so caught up in the ride and enjoying the movie’s twists and turns I forgot about a couple things I had predicted would happen in this movie to the point I was surprised when they occurred. Can’t ask for much more than that in terms of immersion.

 

 

Doctor Strange Review

“We never lose our demons, we only learn to live above them.

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Doctor Strange is perhaps the hardest Marvel Comics hero they’ve tried to adapt so far, yet the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch (and several excellent supporting actors) had expectations fairly high for the latest puzzle piece in the unfolding Marvel Cinematic Universe. I was extremely curious as to how the mythical elements and certain parts of the mythos would be handled, and for most part really liked what they came up with.

Being both a Marvel movie and the origin of a new hero to the MCU, there are formulaic and cliched elements to Stephen Strange’s introduction. Also, some of the supporting actors are considerably better than what they were given to work with.

That said, everything did come together extremely well due to nice touches of foreshadowing here and there and a couple of strong twists. Strange himself, the Ancient One, and Mordo were given nice complexities and reasonable depth, and were all superbly acted. The special effects were brilliant and really anchored the idea of magic in the MCU along with of course providing the expected spectacles and chaotic actions sequences. The climactic battle is stunning, clever, and totally in character, which is everything I could have asked of it.

There are little things in Doctor Strange that could have been done to elevate it even farther, but by the same token there are numerous little things that WERE done that add up to make the Sorcerer Supreme’s screen debut a thoroughly enjoyable endeavor.

 

Deadpool Review: “That’s like… 16 walls!”

“Guy came in here looking for you. Real Grim Reaper-type. I don’t know. Might further the plot.”

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If ever there was an epitome of “good for what it is,” Deadpool the movie is it.

Ridiculous, rude, and raunchy from the get-go, Wade Wilson’s over the top adventure revels in excess and absurdity. It also largely works, thanks to clever writing, self-awareness, and Ryan Reynolds’ delivery. This is no masterpiece, but it is a hilarious ride to tag along with. There’s a lot to be said for knowing what you set out to accomplish and sticking to it, and Deadpool is exactly as expected in all the right ways.

Check any comparisons to other movies (superhero and otherwise) at the door and you’ll find an amusing and unique R-rated super not-hero movie full of laughs and limbs. Or, you know, go see something else. I’m sure Mr. Pool will understand.

Captain America: Civil War Review

“They’re not stopping.”

“Neither are we.”

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I completely adore the way the Marvel movie universe has been building, and Captain America: Winter Soldier is perhaps my overall favorite of the bunch. So to say I’ve been impatiently waiting for Civil War would be a VAST understatement. I’m thrilled to say it’s just as fantastic as I hoped.

Part of Winter Soldier’s strength came from the core characters having relatable points of view and struggles. Civil War wonderfully captures this same aspect. EVERYONE in the movie acts the way they do for specific, understandable reasons. This really grounds all the conflict and makes sure the clashes between heroes feel compelling and natural instead of awkward and forced. There were several surprises as the story unfolded and a few things played out very differently than I expected, yet everything flowed logically and nothing came out of left field. And of course the expected sublime touches of humor were present throughout. I can’t say enough about how engrossing I found this film.

A particularly impressive aspect is that all of the above is accomplished while juggling a huge cast. While some characters obviously received stronger focus and more development than others, no one felt neglected or under-developed. From the secondary cast I particularly enjoyed seeing more of Falcon, Scarlet Witch, and Ant-Man. But the amazing part was how two new, important heroes were established in this movie while still doing justice to the other TEN. Both Spiderman and Black Panther were written, handled, and played perfectly. It gives me great hope that it is possible to manage the sure to be significantly larger cast of the Infinity War movies well if done with care.

Alright, I think I’ve been clear enough about my love for Captain America: Civil War so I’m going to wrap this up to avoid devolving into spoilers. Go see it!

Future Imperfect: Warzones! Review

This trade collects the entire Future Imperfect: Warzones! series (#1-5) and material from Secret Wars: Battleworld #4.

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On the patchwork Battleworld that is all that’s left of the multiverse, Doom has granted the Maestro dominion over the city of Dystopia. But there are those who want him gone, and the Maestro has wants of his own…

Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect is one of my all time favorite comic book stories. It was nice to revisit the characters and setting in the obviously capable hands of the original writer (Peter David). I enjoyed this quite a bit. It’s not on the same level as Hulk’s confrontation with his villainous future self, but it’s a strong story that really plays to the Maestro’s strengths as a character and holds several surprises.

David’s tendency to get too cute about working in references crops up here and certain things feel really shoehorned in. They don’t detract too much though and everything builds to a surprising yet logical conclusion.

I’m glad the ten page Surfer vs Maestro excerpt was included for completeness, but I didn’t care for it.

Great return for the Maestro overall. And now I think I need to go reread Future Imperfect again.