Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J.B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei

Screenplay: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

129 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive content.

 

Well, Endgame is all done. We’ve culminated the MCU to our hearts’ content. There isn’t anything else to say, right? Oh, there’s another one already? Oh. Hey, everyone! Spider-Man is alive!

It’s been eight months since The Blip was reversed, and Peter Parker (Tom Holland, The Impossible, Pilgrimage) is still reeling from the death of his mentor and friend, Tony Stark. He’s been in the spotlight more and more since that time, scrutinized and studied, with reporters and people everywhere asking who will be the next Iron Man. Peter is more than happy to be leaving the country on a class trip to Europe for the summer, as it will give him a break from Spider-Man and allow him to have some more time with MJ (Zendaya, The Greatest Showman, Duck Duck Goose). Peter quickly discovers that he cannot escape his responsibilities as Spider-Man, though, when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, The Hitman’s Bodyguard) comes looking for him. Fury has a mission for him: to team up with Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler, Velvet Buzzsaw), a hero from another universe that was destroyed by the Elementals, which have now found their way to our Earth. Can Peter juggle his class trip with his duties as an Avenger?

Kevin Feige was right when he called Far From Home the finale of Phase 3. In a lot of ways, it ties up a lot of the threads hanging on from Endgame in its own interesting way. It’s a more lighthearted finale to Phase 3 while also forever changing the MCU going forward. As a coda to The Infinity Saga, it is a powerful one, and it is a more MCU-centric film than a straightforward Spider-Man adventure.

Tom Holland is amazing as ever, this being his fifth outing as the web-slinger. He truly is the best version of Peter Parker I’ve seen. He embodies all that teenage high-school Peter Parker should, and yet, he is wise in some ways beyond his years because of all the things he’s been through in his short time as Spider-Man.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s work as Mysterio didn’t completely work in the movie. There were times I liked what he was doing and times I really didn’t. I think it boils down to the way his character was written because it did jump around a bit. I liked the way Mysterio translated from the comics to the film but I would have liked to dive into his character a lot more. It would have made his arc all the more powerful.

Zendaya’s version of MJ is much more fleshed out this time around and it works really well for the film, especially with how the possible relationship elements with Peter play out. She isn’t weird and quirky for the sake of it but just she finds interest in some of the more morbid elements of history and society. It’s a nerves thing, and you could call it out if you want, but there’s enough subtlety to give her a fascinating arc.

What’s so great about the film is how each character, major and minor, seemingly gets an arc in the film. It’s not extremely fleshed out, but there’s a lot going on and many of the minor characters get some sort of growth throughout the film.

I will say this. There are two post-credits scenes in the film and you have to see both. The first one is very important to Spider-Man’s story (it just should have been the end of the film and not a post-credits scene), and the other is major in the overall MCU story. You cannot miss these scenes!

Spider-Man: Far From Home juggles a lot of elements, and it works pretty well in that way. It does feel like it is cleaning up a lot of plot threads instead of focusing on Peter as much as I would have liked, but it does a great job with the classic Peter-doesn’t-want-to-be-Spider-Man story that all of the second installment Spider-Man films have done. I would have liked a better written Mysterio and a little tighter focus on Peter and company, but overall, this was an exhilarating sendoff to Phase 3, one very worth seeing.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger, click here.

For my review of Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Leythum’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Avengers: Endgame, click here.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin, Benedict Wong, Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow

Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

181 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language.

 

Well, here it is. I’m going to try not to use the word culmination like everyone else has, but I cannot make any promises. This is the end of The Infinity Saga, the twenty-second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The culmination-dammit…

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes, Chef) is drifting through space with Nebula (Karen Gillan, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, TV’s Selfie). On Earth, what’s left of the Avengers have collected at the compound, unsure of what to do next. Thanos (Josh Brolin, No Country for Old Men, Deadpool 2) succeeded in his plan, obliterating half of the universe in a single snap of his fingers. As they each come to terms with the enormous loss that they and the universe have incurred, an old ally appears with an idea, a crazy crackpot idea that has no chance of working. Well, almost no chance. The Avengers, or what’s left of them, assemble on one final attempt to fix everything, and if they fail, they’ll do that together.

I’M TRYING TO AVOID AS MANY SPOILERS AS I CAN, BUT BE WARNED THAT  A REVIEW LIKE THIS WILL ALWAYS HAVE SOME SPOILERS. SEE THE FILM FIRST IF IT CONCERNS YOU.

THIS IS YOUR SPOILER WARNING.

Avengers: Infinity War set up an almost impossible task. Let’s give the villain his own movie and test out characters like they’ve never been tested before. I think that’s the importance of the Avengers franchise of the MCU. Much like any team-up movie, I think it’s important to have the team tested in a unique way, and they should almost always come out of the film with more people on the team or less, because that’s one of the only ways to change the story trajectory. Well, Infinity War had tested the Avengers, and they certainly came out of the film with less characters, but it was also an even bigger test for Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me, and Dupree, Welcome to Collinwood) as well as the writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Pain & Gain), who now had to bring in the fourth Avengers film on a solid landing and end the story. We knew that they had to do something to save some of the dusted Avengers. Hell, there was a Spider-Man trailer out weeks before the film’s release, and even though we joked about it possibly set before Endgame, everyone knew that Sony would not let Marvel kill their most popular character. Certainly, Black Panther’s story would not end after one solo film, but how was this all going to happen, and what’s the cost?

So let’s start with that impossible task. Knowing all the things that had to happen in the follow-up, it’s incredible how the Russos and the writing team actually pulled it off and made it captivating, exciting, and heartbreaking. From the shocking opening of the film to the final act, a dauntingly epic ending that takes up a large chunk of the film’s three-hour runtime, Avengers: Endgame just cruises on by. In a lot of ways, it’s the flipside of Infinity War’s coin, and it’s a good thing that they changed the titles from Infinity War Part 1 and 2 because as much as they rely on each other, Endgame is a completely different film, and that’s why it works so well. Infinity War was a film that gave each of its characters at least one moment to shine, and Endgame does that too, but Endgame even gives each film before it time to shine. There’s references to Iron Man 3 in this film and Thor: The Dark World, two films that don’t even end up in the upper 80% of most MCU fan rankings of the franchise (full disclosure, though, I love Iron Man 3). It’s a love letter to the 11 years of this franchise and the fans that stuck with it for so long.

The performances from the entire cast are solid, but I want to discuss the ones that I think deserve to be discussed, good or bad. Let’s start with Robert Downey Jr. His performance here is a series best (quite a feat for the actor that has not beaten Hugh Jackman for most appearances as a superhero in a franchise), even better than Tony Stark struggling with PTSD in Iron Man 3 (see, I love that one). There, he’s dealing with the knowledge he obtained in The Avengers that Earth is not alone in the universe, and now, he’s dealing with the failure in saving billions or trillions of lives. He becomes weak, and he cannot hold blame. He keeps going back to wanting to put a suit of armor around the world with Ultron. He’s beaten and broken and still hasn’t forgiven Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, Gifted, Before We Go) for abandoning him even though he is just as responsible. He’s also dealing with the loss of Peter Parker on Titan. Tony needs some hard truth at this point on his journey, and he gets it in Endgame.

Steve Rogers watched many of his friends die right in front of him. He’s a man who fell out of time into a confusing one and did the best he could, but he comes to realize that his failure to stop Thanos has hit him just as hard as Tony, but in a different way. He’s running a group that helps people to cope with the loss, and he’s going just as much for himself as anyone else. Chris Evans consistently does the impossible with Steve Rogers/Captain America; he makes this superhero a human. He makes the goody-goody Rogers an actual human being, with plenty of flaws and pain. This is the story that tests him and his need for hope, and there’s no one I’ve seen outside of Christopher Reeves playing Superman that embodies that struggle for hope so well.

Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson, Her, Sing) has taken control of the remaining Avengers, and she’s stopped taking care of herself. She’s dealing with the loss by diving into work, hunting down a rogue Avenger who needs her help, but she’s sputtering on exhausted wheels. She’s just looking to make right on a career filled with wrongs. All the bad things she has done before finding her home with the Avengers have led her here, and she couldn’t do anything about it.

This is a film that gives Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right, Now You See Me 2) so much to do with the Hulk character, probably the most unique shift for the character in the MCU, and he does a spectacular job with it. It isn’t what I would have done, but I admire the character arc he takes.

One character that doesn’t get much to do is Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman, 12 Strong). This is a man who lost his father still very recently, his brother died in front of him, and half of his people are slaughtered after losing their home. He’s another hero dealing with failure. He should have aimed for the head. He came so close to saving everyone and then he didn’t. He should be dealing with the most pain of anyone in the story. Instead, he is used more so for comic relief than anything else. I get it, Chris Hemsworth is really funny, but I know he can play to drama as well. He just doesn’t get the emotional beats that I wanted him to have. It’s similar to what is done with him in Infinity War, where he just doesn’t get the time to develop his trauma. His alcoholism in Endgame could have some serious consequences and bearing on him, but it just doesn’t.

Lastly, I want to talk about Karen Gillan’s performance as Nebula. I’ve never been a big fan of the character, either the way she’s written or the performance. Nebula always reminded me of a fly that comes in the window in the middle of the night when you’re trying to sleep. You swat and swat and just can’t get rid of her. In Endgame, though, her character is expanded upon so much more because of how we see her and the presentation of how far she has come as a character since we saw her in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2. People forget that vol. 2 takes place just a few months after the first one, so it’s been a long time since we’ve really seen Nebula in the MCU, and Gillan’s subtle broken performance is terrific.

From behind the lens, the Russos directed the hell out of this thing, and there’s a lot to be said about the strength of their storytelling as it has evolved over the years. Their cinematography is so clean, especially when it needs to be, in some of the heavier action set pieces. It’s safe to say that there’s a lot going on in this film; there has to be, but the way the Russos keep the focus on where it needs to be to progress the story is great, and the way they handle the set pieces are very focused and strongly laid out. There’s a heavy possibility, especially in the third act, to lose sight of what’s going on and where we’re at from a narrative perspective, but they never let the film lose sight of its goal, a tremendous feat.

With that visual storytelling comes the editing, which is very strong. The film never feels long. It’s the enjoyment factor, no doubt, but clocking in at just over three hours, the film almost should feel long, but it doesn’t. Not once. After seeing it twice, I can say with certainty that there’s only one scene I would cut earlier in the film to tighten it more, and it probably would only save 30 seconds or so.

No offense to Danny Elfman, but I’m really happy to hear Alan Silvestri’s score here after being absent from Age of Ultron. Silvestri’s score takes notes from The Avengers and especially from the ending of Infinity War, but it dives deeper into the depression, loss, and hope that permeates the film, and his score has a note of finality to it. If this is indeed the last time we’ll see some of our favorite heroes, Silvestri sends them out on a high note.

Avengers: Endgame accomplishes the most difficult task assigned to it. It has an ending. This is the end of a big part of this franchise without feeling the need to really set anything else up. For the most part, there isn’t an MCU film that hasn’t had the need to at least set up something in the end credits, but not Endgame, and that’s a strong and restrained decision because the film should speak for itself and everything that comes before it, and boy does it have a lot to speak on. This is an absolute cinematic achievement, and barring a few small hiccups, it comes off without a hitch. The ending raises some questions that we won’t really have answered until Spider-Man: Far From Home (the true last film in Phase 3), but beyond all that, I loved watching this movie and cannot wait to see it again, if only to catch some more of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments. If you haven’t yet, then seriously, why not?

#ThanosDemandsYourSilence #Don’tSpoilTheEndgame

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger, click here.

For my review of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Leythum’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War, click here.

Rogue One Prequel Series Adds Stephen Schiff as Showrunner

Stephen Schiff, executive producer of FX’s The Americans, has been tapped as showrunner for the upcoming Disney+ Rogue One prequel series.

Not much of the series is currently known outside of the facts that it will be set before the events of the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and feature Diego Luna reprising his role from that film as Cassian Andor.

There is currently another series, The Mandalorian, being run by Iron Man director Jon Favreau. That series will be set after the events of Return of the Jedi.

For me, as someone who hasn’t seen The Americans, this news is still quite a good sign. Though I have no experience with the show, I have only heard amazing things coming from the hit FX series which recently wrapped its run.

As far as a Cassian Andor led series, I’m all for it. I found Rogue One to be quite enjoyable, but I can understand the criticism that its lead characters did not get as much development as would be desired. That’s why I like the idea of giving more time. I found Cassian to be an enjoyable character especially when I think about how he is introduced to us in the film. He’s been on some seriously hard times. I could see a series really fleshing that out nicely.

I’m hoping that showrunner Schiff can really bring out some political intrigue in the new series, and this move makes me more excited for the series.

So what do you think? Are you excited for a new Cassian Andor-led Star Wars series with Stephen Schiff as showrunner? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei

Screenplay: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

133 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive content.

 

Spider-Man is back. For the third time. In 15 years. Good lord, I hope this one works out.

The MCU proudly welcomes Spider-Man to their slate of Phase 3 with Spider-Man: Homecoming, featuring a teenage Peter Parker (Tom Holland, The Impossible, Edge of Winter) trying to prove to de facto mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Chef) that he has what it takes to be an Avenger. Peter also the task of balancing his heroics with a failing social life and his schoolwork. Meanwhile, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton, Birdman, American Assassin) has been acquiring alien tech with the help of his villainous crew and a mechanical winged suit. Peter thinks he has what it takes to unmask the Vulture and defeat him, but Tony knows better. But as Peter makes foolish mistakes that risk his own safety as well as the safety of his aunt May (Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler, Spare Parts), he finds himself coming closer to the Vulture…and closer to losing it all.

Spider-Man: Homecoming proves that as a franchise continues, it doesn’t necessarily have to get bigger. The Vulture is a real villain (with unreal tech) who only wants to provide for his family. There is a heart to his mission even if it is a villainous one. He’s relatable, except that he flies around in a Vulture suit.

The tone of the film is nicely executed by director Jon Watts (Cop Car, Clown) and gives off John Hughes vibes which was the goal of the film. Spider-Man: Homecoming never gets bogged down by heavy exposition or darkness. It always stays light and fluffy and fun.

And did anybody miss the origin? I didn’t, and the film is better for not being an origin story. Spider-Man fans and non-fans all know the origin, and if they don’t know it, they can just watch one of the other Spider-Man films. We don’t need to be reminded of Uncle Ben. We don’t need an unnecessarily convoluted subplot with Peter’s parents or with Aunt May. In fact, Tomei’s portrayal of Aunt May is fresh, too. She comes off like a big sister. Ignore the origin. And don’t force Oscorp in just because it’s Spider-Man. I’m curious to see how they play Harry Osborn if they ever do it, but it would have been unneeded in this film.

Overall, Spider-Man: Homecoming is imperfect, but it does make a lot of gains for the character and franchise now that he is firmly in the MCU. I didn’t feel like every joke landed and there are some untied up plot threads I would rather see finished, but overall, this is my second favorite Spider-Man film (I really love Spider-Man 2 and Doc Ock). A worthy addition to the MCU.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

So what did you think of Jon Watt’s Spider-Man: Homecoming? Is the MCU the right home for Peter Parker? And what’s your favorite Spider-Man film? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Iron Man 2 (2010)

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Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson

Screenplay: Justin Theroux

124 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects

 

Remember way back when the MCU just had a few films and we were shocked to find that there was already a sequel? Oh wait, we were still shocked that there was a cinematic universe…

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Iron Man 2 picks up six months after the first film (running somewhat concurrently to The Incredible Hulk) as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Chef) opens the Stark Expo to continue his father’s legacy to create new technology to change the world, but he is facing an internal problem: the palladium core in Tony’s arc reactor is slowly killing him. As Stark places Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, Se7en, Mortdecai) in the role of CEO for Stark Industries, he is also faced with vengeance from a new villain: Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), the son of a man wronged by Howard Stark, who has taken on the moniker Whiplash, to punish Tony for the sins of his father. To put it short, Tony Stark is having a rough time.

Iron Man 2 gets a lot of flack for being a lesser film than its predecessor, but I prefer it. Tony Stark is faced with a lot of conflicts in the film and it gives him the opportunity to be a good person, something he wasn’t given the ability to do in Iron Man. I enjoyed the villains in the film (again, something that others didn’t care for), and I really liked how it set up the rest of Phase 1 of the MCU. It’s strange, that same tactic was unimpressive in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but here it really worked for me.

Iron Man 2 adds so much to the mythology with new heroes Rhodey (Don Cheadle, TV’s House of Lies, Crash) becoming War Machine and Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Hail, Caesar!) showing up as Natalie Rushman. There’s the building up of SHIELD and the references to upcoming installments Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger.

ironman22010b

Iron Man 2 has detractors (the film hasn’t aged well), but overall its a pretty damn fun time, and while it was mostly a transitional film for the MCU as it found its footing. I liked it a lot, but I can kind of see what others don’t like.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Chef, click here.

 

Jon Favreau to Direct Live-Action The Lion King for Disney

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Jon Favreau has received critical acclaim for his risky adaptation of The Jungle Book for Disney this year. Also known for Iron Man and its first sequel, Favreau seems to be on Disney’s shortlist for future opportunities, and it looks like the next project has already been chosen.

According to Variety, Favreau has signed on to direct Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of The Lion King. Itself a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Lion King is the story of Simba, heir to Pride Rock, who is outcasted after a horrible accident results in the death of his father, Mufasa, the king. You know the rest.

Given the reception to The Jungle Book, I can completely understand the decision to go here. The only big concern on my end is that, for me at least, the original incarnation of The Jungle Book isn’t really a classic of the Disney animated features. Plus, the studio had already made a live-action attempt a few decades ago. The Lion King is still a pretty recent release in the grand scheme of things (the film series currently has an animated continuation series on Disney), and with the complete lack of the human component that The Jungle Book had, this is still on shaky ground. Now, I’ve no reason to believe that Favreau can’t pull it off. He has presented himself as a wholly capable director time and time again.

What do you think? Is it the right time for The Lion King? Should Jon Favreau be behind the camera? And what’s your favorite live-action remake of a Disney animated film? Let me know!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Teaser Trailer for The Jungle Book Drops…So Does My Jaw!

 

THE JUNGLE BOOK ? WILD WORLD ? Man-cub Mowgli (voice of Neel Sethi), who's been raised by a family of wolves, embarks on a journey of self-discovery, guided by a panther-turned-mentor Bagheera. Directed by Jon Favreau (?Iron Man?), based on Rudyard Kipling?s timeless stories and featuring state-of the-art technology that immerses audiences in the lush world like never before, Disney?s ?The Jungle Book? hits theaters in stunning 3D and IMAX 3D on April 15, 2016. ?2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Hey sports fans! I’ve been hoping this news would come soon. The first official teaser for The Jungle Book, from director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef) is here.

I’ve heard nothing but great news surrounding this project since the first footage was revealed at this year’s D23 and I’ve patiently (as much as I could muster) awaited the first actual public release, and yesterday, it happened.

First of all, I have to point out the excellent visual presentation the trailer gives us. I have to think back on Favreau telling us that this entire movie was filmed on a soundstage. Judging from the trailer, it’s tough to believe him. This film looks astounding.

It looks like it seems to have gotten a lot right, and I am actually excited to see a live-action Disney film for once (I mildly enjoyed Maleficent and still haven’t gotten to Cinderella). The one worry I have concerns the animals of the film speaking. In the trailer, we really only get to see Scarlett Johansson’s character speak, and we only see it a moment. I hear from those who saw the D23 footage that it works, but I couldn’t help feeling like they were hiding it. Then again, it’s only a tease of the film, and I trust Jon Favreau at this point to knock out an exciting film.

So, Kids! What did you think of the first trailer for The Jungle Book? Are you excited to see it? And which live-action Disney adaptation is your favorite? Let me know.

The Jungle Book opens April 15, 2016.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

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Director: Joss Whedon

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgard, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson

Screenplay: Joss Whedon

141 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive content.  

2012’s The Avengers was something of an anomaly. A film which combined several superhero franchises into one mega-franchise shared universe successfully…that doesn’t happen. But with writer/director Joss Whedon (TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Much Ado About Nothing) at the helm, it did. And it was good. Billion-dollars good. It jumpstarted Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and continued a winning franchise for years to come. Now, we see if the official sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, can continue that tradition.

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The Avengers have been looking for an end to the villains before they start. When billionaire genius Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., The Judge, Chef) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo, Shutter Island, The Normal Heart) create Ultron (James Spader, TV’s Boston Legal, Lincoln), an artificially intelligent being created to be Earth’s mightiest defense system, but Ultron quickly realizes that the biggest threats to the world are humans and decides to do away with them. Now, the Avengers must assemble to defeat Ultron, who has allied himself with two very special twins: Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kick-Ass, Godzilla) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen, Martha May Marcy Marlene, Oldboy).

Avengers: Age of Ultron had a bunch of set-ups. The biggest flaw comes from realizing that it has very little payoff. The entire film felt like its function was to tie up the loose ends of Phase 2 and start unpacking the storylines to Phase 3. Was it entertaining? Mostly, yes. But was it good? I really don’t know. I liked a lot of this film but I was scratching my head at times wondering why certain events were kept in the film while so many other moments were kept out. The film has Whedon’s classic dialogue, and its characters are further fleshed out, but the film felt like too many puzzles pieces from too many different puzzles that just won’t fit together.

As far as performances go, the films newcomers are pretty great additions to the shared universe, specifically James Spader’s menacing Ultron and the Vision, played by Paul Bettany (A Beautiful Mind, Mortdecai) in a new role. The film also features a plethora of previously introduced characters back in the fray, like James Rhodes (Don Cheadle, TV’s House of Lies, Crash) and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie, Million Dollar Baby, Black or White). The returning Avengers cast have all grown closer and you can feel the comradery when needed. The Hulk and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation, Lucy) in particular have grown much closer since we last saw them together.

There are some particularly great sequences here, such as the moment when we are introduced to mind control due to Wanda’s abilities. We get a chance to dive into these characters’ psyches a bit further Joss Whedon even plays with our expectations that this film is going to be exactly like the previous film, opting to give more important screen time to Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker, Kill the Messenger). We also get our first look at Hulkbuster (named Project Veronica, as a play on Betty & Veronica, the Betty being Bruce’s previous love interest from The Incredible Hulk).

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Avengers: Age of Utron is the first Marvel film that absolutely cries out for an extended cut. There is just too much missing here, and its noticeable. There are numerous plot threads that don’t get the resolution they need. The film is explosively entertaining, but perhaps the most noticeably flawed Marvel film yet.  

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe  

So what did you think of Avengers: Age of Ultron? Did it assemble a perfect viewing experience or leave you wanting a different Vision of the superhero team? Let me know!  

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

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Director: Louis Letterrier

Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, William Hurt

Screenplay: Zak Penn

112 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images, and brief suggestive content.

 

In 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe began in a silent but deadly fashion with two superhero releases: Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. The former was a major box office winner and critical darling. The latter was largely dismissed, like every previous incarnation, and hasn’t been referenced much since, due in large part to the difficulties in crafting the film and the replacement of the title actor in The Avengers. The difference between this version of The Incredible Hulk and the previous 2003 film Hulk is that the 2008 film is actually pretty damn good.

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The film is presented in a “Requel” of sorts, chronicling Bruce Banner (Edward Norton, Fight Club, Birdman) and his journey off-the-grid. He has estranged himself from his love Betty Ross (Liv Tyler, TV’s The Leftovers, Armageddon). Betty’s father, General “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt, Into the Wild, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them), continues his obsession with finding Banner and tearing him apart. Ross enlists Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth, Pulp Fiction, Selma), a military mercenary, to help hunt down Bruce. In the process, Blonsky is given some of the same gamma radiation that turned Bruce into the raging creature known as The Hulk.

First off, I’m not going to try and convince you that this is a Best Picture quality superhero film. It isn’t. 2008’s The Incredible Hulk is still, to me, a far superior film to Iron Man, but most won’t agree. I find Bruce Banner to be a more likable character. The relationship between him and Betty Ross is powerful and layered. I also find Tim Roth’s portrayal of Emil Blonsky to be a strong and villainous performance and it helped start the trend of strong villains in Marvel films. Director Louis Leterrier (Now You See Me, Clash of the Titans) even helped set up future villains in the process (though so far none of these have come to pass).

Norton’s portrayal of Banner is great, but the problem with him came from constant rewrites and the fact that Edward Norton is a terrible person to work with on a film set (see Birdman for more info). I can completely understand his replacement with Mark Ruffalo, though it still was a bad way to create this character.

As far as this film’s relationship to the MCU, there are references in there, but they are very quick and underplayed. A lot of references are found to Stark Industries in the opening credits. Then there is the major callback to Tony Stark in the final scene. There are also some moments of setup to the future Captain America: The First Avenger, even a cut scene revealing his fate. Captain America and The Incredible Hulk have a lot in common, so it helps to introduce both at the same time. We will get to finally see some more connective tissues in next year’s Captain America: Civil War when William Hurt returns as General Ross.

The majority of callbacks and references in the film actually highlight the long-storied past of the Hulk on film. There are many moments that call back The Incredible Hulk television series by way of the score and the cameos.

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The Incredible Hulk works as a Requel, meaning it could be a sequel if you enjoyed 2003’s Hulk. If you didn’t, it’s a great opening act. Director Leterrier isn’t anything special, but the film employs some great performances and a terrific screenplay from superhero screenwriter Zak Penn (TV’s Alphas, X2: X-Men United). If you skipped The Incredible Hulk when it came out, take some time to visit it. If it has been a while, take some time to revisit it.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

 

You can find Kyle A. Goethe on Twitter @AlmightyGoatman

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