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Disney+ and a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Posted on November 12th, 2019

Dave!And so Disney+ is finally here.

Unlike Apple TV+, the content you get is staggering. Tons of shows and movies from the Disney archives (some of them having been buried for a long time) plus shows and movies from Disney affiliates (every episode of The Simpsons is right here). And of course the new shows and movies they have been promoting from the very start which will leverage their Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and National Geographic properties. I got in on a pre-purchase deal that dropped the cost to less than $4 a month, and at that price this is a bargain and a half for what you get.

Granted, the Marvel shows that I'm really looking forward to are a ways off yet, but I'd pay $4 a month for The Mandalorian alone, so it's all kinda a no-brainer.

And now, just as I did with Apple TV+ content, I am dropping my thoughts on what Disney+ originals bring to the table, from my favorite to least favorite...

The Mandalorian. The entire reason to get Disney+ from the get-go is right here. And, with the exception of Rogue One, it's better than most of the Star Wars stuff that's been released in the past 20 years. Mostly because Jon Favreau and Co. just didn't care about anything but taking all the cool stuff from Star Wars and doing something truly new with it. Between the mysterious nature of Pedro Pascal's namesake Mandalorian... and a freakin' fantastic appearance by a droid from the IG-88 series (IG-11). If you have even the smallest, most basic interest in Star Wars, here's your show. And reason enough to climb onboard the Disney+ train.

The Imagineering Story. The first of six episodes looking behind the scenes of creating the Disney parks. It's fantastic, featuring archive footage and modern interviews to explain how Disneyland (and everything that followed) came to be. Really cool stuff here... like a look at the incomparable Mary Blair at work. I'd pay the $7 price of admission just to watch this series.

Marvel: Expanding the Universe. A quick 12 minute sneak peak of all the stuff I am dying to watch on Disney+ (AKA the entire reason I subscribed). There's precious little new information here, but it definitely gets you excited for what's to come.

SparkShorts. These independent Pixar shorts are, well, everything you expect from Pixar. The first three (Purl, Smash and Grab, and Kitbull) were excellent, so there was no reason to expect anything less from Float. And it doesn't disappoint. Gorgeous animation about a dad trying to deal with a kid who can... float. It's sweet, heartfelt, and amazing. Interesting to note that Disney+ has added other amazing Pixar shorts like Bao and Piper to the service as well.

The World According to Jeff Goldblum I am not quite sure what this is supposed to be. It's essentially just Jeff Goldblum being Jeff Goldblum at his Jeff Goldblummiest while looking into a subject through the lens of Jeff Goldblum. The result is pretty great, but not exactly groundbreaking. Other shows have done this kind of thing better. But none of them had Jeff Goldblum, and that's the point isn't it? In the premiere, Jeff gets into the inexplicably cutthroat world of sneakers and the jaw-dropping price that people are willing to pay to get collectible pairs. Along the way we get mini-lessons about where vulcanized rubber came from, how companies like Adidas create sneakers, and other tangents. No mention of sweat shops in Indonesia paying children $1 a day to make the sneakers though. I guess you could call this superficially educational... superficial edutainment? Though Jeff slaps back against flat-earthers and dinosaur deniers, so there's that. Definitely watching this one.

Lady and The Tramp. The live-action remakes from Disney have been a mixed bag. Some of them are amazing (Jungle Book was fantastic), some of them are okay (Christopher Robin has great elements, but kinda flails) and some are just bad (Dumbo was sincerely lacking). The animated Lady and the Tramp was beautiful to look at, but not a favorite. I didn't expect the live-action remake to change my mind. But they pulled out all the stops to create a good film. No, it's not a cinematic masterpiece (and is not as good as the original), but the rescue dog stars they got were great. The casting was perfect (Sam Elliott as Trusty? Come on!). And the CGI talking effects were well-done. This is kinda a perfect example of what Disney+ should be. A place for movies not quite reaching the quality of a feature-film release, but deserving of more than some $9.99 direct-to-video dump.

Marvel Hero Project. If there's a promise for Disney+ outside of the obvious, shows like this are it. Inspiring, true-life stories that find heroes in humanity and showcase how they are changing our world... THEN, ZOMG, MADE INTO A MARVEL COMIC BOOK! The first issue has Jordan, a girl with limb differences, working to make the world more accessible for everyone. There's an awful lot to like about this show... even without the Marvel element... but made oh so much better because of the Marvel element. I mean, yeah, fashioning a "glitter arm" and shooting sparkly glitter at people may seem like a silly idea to build an episode around, but when you see the show you "get it." It will be interesting to see what future episodes will bring.

Noelle. Given my predilection for Hallmark Christmas movies, I thought this would be right up my alley. Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader? Oh my garland! Sign me up! And yet... it's not that at all. Instead it's more like a remake of Elf but not really nailing it. Sure it's cute, clever, brimming with Christmas charm, and has the eternal optimism you expect from Disney... but it's all kinda meh despite incredible production values and a great cast. Santa has retired and his son doesn't have the confidence, skills, or desire to take over, so it falls to his daughter Noelle. Given the date of the Disney+ debut, I suppose there had to be a Christmas movie. And this wasn't bad. Though I wonder if kids will be able to get into it? My guess is not.

Encore! Kristen Bell attempts to revive old productions of amateur high school musical theater... with the original cast! The first episode is Annie with the cast of a 1996 Santana High School production. I don't like musicals, at all, but was fascinated by the concept. And Kristen Bell. They start with a catchup of where all the cast is today... police officers, teachers, stay-at-home moms, and such. Then gather them together with a professional director, music director, and choreographer to stage a modern take on the original. And along the way you get to see them come together and rehash the past and discuss what's been happening in their lives. The result was okay... but ultimately not my thing. Not the personal drama nor the musical theater. And yet... I might keep tuning in on occasion? It's an interesting idea for reality television for sure.

Ask Forky a Question. Cute to see Forky and Ham again, but this first short (What is Money?) was pretty uneventful. Just Forky being Forky and nothing really happening.

Pixar in Real Life. A godawful attempt to bring Pixar into the real world. This first one brings in the control panel from Inside Out to the real world where passerby can control the emotions of two actors. Pointless and not the least bit entertaining. It's five minutes long. I made it to a minute-and-a-half before bailing.

Disney Family Sundays This is some kind of weird-ass crafting show for kids. But a horrifically bad one. In the first episode they make Dumbo's circus tent. The supplies include A PRE-MADE CANOPY TENT?!? WTF? Who has that laying around? Can you even buy that? Then you essentially hot-glue-gun a bunch of garish crap to the pre-made canopy. This is what passes for "crafting" now-a-days? Pathetic. And I just don't get it. First you have to watch the show, then you have to make a massive laundry-list of supplies to go buy (or try to find to buy), then you have to watch the show again as a step-by-step. Lame. I guess I should have expected some cheap "filler" shows to fill in the gaps, but this?!?

High School Musical: The Series No. Won't do it. This is where I draw the line.

   
And that's it.

Well, not really. Tons of Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars content await. Including some stuff from my childhood that I didn't expect to ever see again... like The Love Bug series (including Herbie Rides Again with Helen Hayes) and The Cat from Outer Space. And stuff I don't own that I'd definitely like to revisit (including Saving Mr. Banks and Hannah Montana).

I've read about people having connection problems with Disney+ but haven't had any major problems. Once or twice I've had an error pop up...

Something went wrong. Please try again.

...but after I dismiss and restart the program everything works just fine. And, much to my surprise, the program picks up right where the problem occurred. Nice!

The Apple TV interface is fairly good. The web interface is pretty bad. No navigation within the site... you have to use your browser's back button. But, in both cases, the content played just fine so I can't really complain.

Disney+ is off to a good start. But it's what's to come that has me excited to be a subscriber.

   

Avengers: Damage Control

Posted on November 6th, 2019

Dave!Well that was fun.

I flew to Minneapolis for one day because I am a Marvel Studios completist and just HAD to do Avengers: Damage Control at The Void (thanks to Kyle for being a good sport and doing it with me!). It's an immersive VR experience that's part game, part virtual world. You strap on a backpack filled with tech, don a VR helmet, then walk through a physical "studio" which has been remapped in your goggles with an entirely new reality. Along the way you fight Ultron robots and stuff...

So far as the technology goes... it’s pretty glitchy. You're in the "experience" with three other people and move from area to area with them. But the physical representations of the other "players" is not entirely stable or accurately mapped. Sometimes you'll look over at somebody and they will be walking in place oddly or randomly switch directions. The hybrid Black Panther /slash/ Iron Man suits you get mapped on you are pretty cool though...

People wearing their VR backpack and helmet transforming into VR people dressed in outfits which look to be a cross between Iron Man and Black Panther.

The mapping of your real hands to your virtual hands is... okay-ish. But many times my hands would disappear or jump to a wildly different spot. Kyle has tattoos on his arms and hands which made it so one of his virtual "hands" rarely functioned at all. And it’s a little tough to “get into the action” when your hands keep disappearing! So... helpful hint, I guess... if you have arm/hand tattoos, maybe you need to wear white lycra sleeves and gloves or something?

Your VR self holding up their hands to a virtual mirror and seeing your VR self.

That being said... the coolest part of the experience is not the "game" part. It's being able to look around at the world they created, which is absurdly cool. I almost wanted to go back through again so I could ignore the battle and just see all the stuff going on in your environment that's 360° around you. You go from Shuri's training center to Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum to a full-on battle with Ultra-Ultron on a New York City rooftop. And along the way you meet a goodly selection of Avengers...

Your VR self holding up their hands and blasting Ultron robots.

Your VR self holding up their hands and blasting even more Ultron robots.

Here comes Ultra-Ultron!

The major characters in Damage Control are Shuri, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and The Wasp. And they actually got Letitia Wright to act in it, plus Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Rudd, and Evangeline Lilly to voice their CGI characters (which is why it was worth my flying to Minneapolis to see it all, since it's the real deal and not some imitation video game. Though all the other characters who speak were imitation, but done pretty well. I guess they ran out of budget to get all the stars?

Ant-Man waves at you while The Wasp stands nearby.

Seattle doesn't have a The Void location. And not all locations have Avengers: Damage Control. I just picked the cheapest to get to, which was the Mall of America in Minneapolis (surprisingly, it would have taken more miles to get to Las Vegas or a South-California location, which is weird because they're closer). The price of admission is $40. I don't know that it's worth that to somebody who isn't a fan of Marvel movies... and felt a little overpriced even for somebody like me who is. Apparently the Avengers experience is a limited-time engagement through the 15th, so if this is something you absolutely must try, then you might want to get some tickets and get on that.

Right now, things are still a bit glitchy, and those glitches do take away from the experience. I'd imagine within another five years you'll just put on some VR specs and be able to do this kind of stuff in your living room perfectly. Until then, you can invest in an Oculus VR headset and have a non-walk-through experience at home, or go to a VR space like The Void and take what you can get.

And what I need to get is some sleep, because I have to be up at 4am to head home.

   

Bullet Sunday 634

Posted on October 20th, 2019

Dave!Don't let the short, cold, grey days get you down, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Who Watches? Tonight was the premiere of HBO's new Watchmen series, which is a continuation of the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I enjoyed the first episode quite a lot, despite many, many. misgivings. Primary of which is using extreme violence against Black persons and the Tulsa Race Riots as entertainment fodder. I always worry that there are people watching not because they find the horror in it all, but because that's what they get off on watching. Anyway... the original comic book series was an epic work of storytelling genius, and having somebody like Damon Lindelhof (who helped turn Lost from a promising television show into a steaming pile of idiocy) was worrisome. But, if this first episode is any indication, we're in for a wild, action-packed ride. But, even better, it seems to be building to... something...

The new series constructs its story around racism and our ever-escalating conflict with white supremacy. While admirable, I'm going to have to reserve judgement on whether it's an effective take until the end. As for the show itself, HBO put some serious money into it, and it shows. On top of getting top-shelf talent like Regina King, Jean Smart (who was oddly absent the first episode), Louis Gossett Jr., Don Johnson, and Jeremy Irons(!)... it looks gorgeous, and the weird world that Moore and Gibbons created feels fully realized. If you have HBO, it's kinda a no-brainer to tune in. But if that's not incentive enough, here's Dave Gibbons drawing Regina King's character, Sister Night...

Eight weeks to go until we find out where this is all going. Hopefully somewhere worthwhile. All we need is for Lindelof to drop the ball at the end like he did with Lost.

   
• A Mystery. After watching the premiere of the new Nancy Drew I cannot fathom how in the hell the conversation went at the initial meeting. But I'm guessing it went something like this...

NANCY DREW SHOWRUNNER: My plan is to get some of the best talent available to write compelling mysteries with a modern slant. Really push boundaries on excellent storytelling and give viewers some best-of-class television to sink their teeth into.

NETWORK EXECUTIVES: Or you could just put a bunch of nonsensical drama in it with some gratuitous sex and not give a flying fuck about the quality of the mysteries and stories. Would be cheaper that way.

NANCY DREW SHOWRUNNER: And a pile of worthless, forgettable shit it will be then.

NETWORK EXECUTIVES: Put Scott Wolf in there. That'll fix everything!

NANCY DREW SHOWRUNNER: And a pile of worthless, forgettable shit with an appearance by Scott Wolf it will be then.

NETWORK EXECUTIVES: Start the first episode with Nancy really getting pounded... we're talking shaking a cup of coffee off the nightstand kind of sex pounding. But put her on top so we don't get complaints about having a weak female lead.

Nancy Drew is an iconic character who deserves far better than this crap. How it got greenlit is a mystery.

   
• Shoot Your Shot. I love this series anyway... but this episode with Mindhunter's Holt McCallany is one of my favorites to date...

What a cool guy!

   
• Nest, Take Two. I have two sets of security cameras... one is hardwired with local storage and the other is a cloud-cam system by Nest (now owned by Google). The Nest cams are really great, but frustrating because their per-camera pricing for cloud storage is way too expensive. Amazon's cloud storage has a far more reasonable single fee which covers all your cameras. I was going to switch in February when my current Nest contract runs out because the cost to buy all-new Amazon cameras would be offset after just one year. And this week I found out I no longer have to do that. Somebody at Google Nest decided to get serious about being competitive and announced all new cloud storage pricing which will cover all my cameras for one fee like Amazon. So that's refreshing.

   
• Eyeroll Territory. Not content to let their legacy as some of the greatest filmmakers in the history of cinema speak for itself... two old men insist on criticizing modern filmmaking, and come across as pathetic, jealous, entitled egomaniacs. Just fuck off already. Nobody who loves what Marvel is doing gives a single fuck about your asshole opinions. I mean, holy shit... Coppola acts like he never made "Supernova," one of the biggest pile of shit movies I've ever seen. What a joke.

   
• Programming. And, lastly, because I just can't help myself... something to read if you're a code-geek like me: The Lines of Code That Changed Everything. It's pretty fascinating. Even moreso if you've ever programmed before.

   
And... scene. Have a good week!

   

Bullet Sunday 632

Posted on October 6th, 2019

Dave!Sunday is travel day but I'm not depressed at all, because an all new Bullet Sunday LIVE FROM NEW ORLEANS starts... now...

   
• Spider-Fan. It was being reported that Tom Holland himself was responsible for getting Disney and Sony back to the bargaining table and keeping Spider-Man in the MCU. This was then confirmed by Bob Iger on Jimmy Kimmel Live! To say I'm thrilled is a gross understatement...

Tom Holland in his Spider-Man costume.

All you have to do is watch the post-credits sequence of Spider-Man: Far From Home to know what a huge, huge, massively huge benefit it is to have even the smallest ties to what Marvel has built... it's not just the big players like Nick Fury and Maria Hill. So bless you, Tom Holland.

   
• FalCap! And speaking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this fantastic piece of art appeared this week...

Sam Wilson in a Captain America costume sporting Cap’s shield with The Winter Solder, Bucky Barnes.

If Marvel Studios puts as much effort and money into their Disney+ series as their movies, we are in for a real treat.

It looks like Falcon Cap still has his wing pack on? I would hope so. Since he doesn’t have Cap’s Super Soldier serum, he’s going to need something to give him an edge. Could make for a very interesting fighting style.

   
• The Horror. This GEICO insurance commercial slays me every time it appears on my television...

If all commercials were as clever as this, I wouldn’t have to fast-forward through them. But most commercials are stupid and so annoying that I really HAVE to fast forward through them.

   
• Predator. Speaking of horror... holy crap! Maybe it’s because I buy cheap cars that I actually pay off that I was so oblivious to just how horrific and predatory the auto industry is when it comes to selling their crack cocaine! I mean cars. I had no idea.

   
• Real Fake. This video explaining the cinematography of Disney Pixar’s Toy Story 4 is absolutely fascinating...

While a part of me bemoans the impending death of hand-drawn animation, it’s nice to know that 3D computer animators are not resting on their laurels, and continue to push for ever more amazing work in their films.

   
• A9. Hey, if anybody has $4,500 laying around, you could totally buy me the gorgeous new Sony A9 Mark II camera that’s being released later this year. Just sayin’.

   
• Enjoy Your Inequity. In what should come as a shock to absolutely nobody, the IRS admits that they audit poor people because it’s easier and cheaper than auditing rich people. And make absolutely no mistake... the wealthy people who own this country designed it to be this way. They get all the loopholes... they get all the breaks... they get everything. And meanwhile, you get to take the shit sandwich they’re feeding you.

   
See you next Sunday... but probably not from my favorite American city.

   

Desserts for One

Posted on August 27th, 2019

Dave!I worked so hard for so long to make relationships work, but eventually came to realize that being in a relationship isn't for me. That was a tough realization to come to after spending my entire life convinced I couldn't be complete without somebody else in my life. But I've made my peace with it. Relationships make me happy in the short run, but being single has made me happier in the long run.

Except when grocery shopping.

After my dentist appointment today I went to Petco for kitty litter... to Burger King for an Impossible Whopper... and to Safeway for food.

The problem with shopping for food while single is that it's more expensive than shopping for food with a family (per person). As an example? I need hamburger buns to go with my veggie burgers. Unless I eat veggie burgers every day, I can eat maybe four buns before they go stale. They come in packages of eight. Which means I have to freeze four and they never taste as good after being frozen. Cost for eight buns? $3.49. Or on sale at two for $5. Some stores will let you buy one for $2.50, but most won't. So do I spend an extra $1.50 for a bunch of buns I'll just have to freeze? That's the question I face every time I go shopping. At least buns can be frozen if I decide to go that route... some things cannot.

Like buns for veggie burgers, cream cheese for bagels is another thing that drives me nuts. They are never on sale at the same time. Fortunately cream cheese usually has an expiry date for 6 months, so I can stock up and wait for bagel prices to drop.

But it's not all bad news.

Because of the way my blood sugar spikes, I need to limit carbs. That's tough for a vegetarian, but I do my best and try to plan around it. It's just making choices. Do I want to spread my carbs throughout the day so I can have bread and fruit? Or do I want to splurge on carbs at one meal and go low-carb the rest of the day? If I have pasta for an early dinner (must be eaten before 6 so I have time to burn it off before bed), that means I am having eggs for breakfast and cheese sticks with hummus and veggies for lunch. It's not science, but it works. My doctor is please with my A1C levels, and that's all I need to know.

And while I have gotten rid of a lot of sugar in my diet, I can still enjoy sweets a couple times a week. My favorite is cake, but if I were to make or buy a cake, it would perish long before I got around to eating even a fraction of it.

Fortunately, there are several companies making microwavable "desserts for one" and they're pretty great (also great are break-and-bake cookies, but I wrote about them last week).

And even more fortunately, Safeway had a bunch of them on sale and on closeout...

A pile of desserts for one boxes in a wide variety of flavors.

That's enough to last me for the rest of the year (there's 4 per box), and most of them were under $3.00! I prefer the Duncan Hines treats (in the red boxes) because they don't have icing. The Betty Crocker "Mug Treats" do have icing, but I always have to toss it out to save carbs.

No, they're not as fantastic as a real oven-baked cake or muffin, but not having to worry about food waste goes a long way for me.

How sweet.

And another thing that's pretty sweet? The upcoming Disney+ streaming service I've been writing about for weeks!

I don't know if this will help anybody out there, but... if you are planning on signing up for Disney+ and don't care about a bundle with ESPN and Hulu, there's a deal to be had by pre-ordering a membership NOW for when it begins in November.

Disney's official fan club is D23.com and basic membership is free. There are higher tiers with more benefits, but they are not necessary to get this offer. So if you are NOT a member, go sign up for a free membership. If you ARE a member, login and go to the My Account drop-down and choose "View My Account." There you will have the option to buy a 3-year Disney+ membership for $140. That's 33% off the "regular" price...

A pile of desserts for one boxes in a wide variety of flavors.

I know three years is a big commitment but, for me, it was a no-brainer. Considering there's exclusive Marvel Studios, Star Wars, Disney, Pixar, and National Geographic content... all of which I love... I was all over it. Sure I don't have $140 to be spending just now, but the offer expires after the weekend and I wasn't going to miss it (that's less than $4 a month!). Hello credit card debt, it's been a long time!

Despite having a bill to pay off, it's nice knowing that I don't have to worry about paying for Disney+ until November of 2022!

   

Disney+ at D23 2019

Posted on August 23rd, 2019

Dave!Disney's annual D23 Expo has begun, and even more news has been released for Disney+, the new streaming service that's packed with all kinds of awesome projects (many of which I've already talked about here). Hilary Duff is coming back as Lizzie McGuire, but Miley Cyrus isn't coming back as Hannah Montana... at least not yet.

As for the other Disney+ news? Let's run that down, shall we?

The Disney D23 Expo Poster with Black Panther, Princess Elsa, R2D2, Woody from Toy Story, and Mickey Mouse.

   
CASSIAN & K-2SO
I actually really liked Rogue One. It felt the more "Star Wars" than we've seen in a while. Now the best part of the entire movie, Cassian and K-2SO, have their own show... which shoots next year. When coupled with the other excellent Star Wars projects in the pipe, Disney+ is essential viewing for fans.

A scene from Star Wars: Rogue One including Cassian and K-2SO.

   
CLONE WARS
The animated Star Wars efforts have been pretty fantastic. Between Star Wars: Rebels and Star Wars: Clone Wars, one could argue that the cartoons have done more to keep the spirit of Star Wars alive than any other media. Rebels ended with Season Four. Now Clone Wars is ending with Season Seven.

I have no idea if Disney will develop any new animated shows, but I certainly hope so.

Clone Wars Poster

   
ENCORE
Disney is leveraging their relationship with Kristen Bell from Frozen and Frozen 2 to build a new reality series...

Interesting idea, I guess? But not my cup of tea.

   
THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER
The only real news here is that Emily VanCamp is returning to the MCU as Sharon Carter. And oh... some guy named Wyatt Russell is coming onboard to play John Walker, which everybody knows is U.S. Agent formerly Super-Patriot formerly Patriot from the comics.

   
LADY & THE TRAMP
Okay, how cool is it that Disney found rescue dogs to play the lead in their new Disney+ show?

Looks great. Of course I'll be giving it a try...

Poster for Lady and the Tramp.

   
LOKI
It's a "remarkably ambition show" is all the new we got. Alrighty then.

   
THE MANDALORIAN
This is actually looking more Star Wars than the new trilogy of Star Wars sequel trilogy... and a hell of a lot more Star Wars than the shitty Star Wars prequel trilogy...

With Jon Favreau in charge, I would subscribe to Disney+ just to watch this show...

   
MONSTERS AT WORK
I find it a bit odd that there's only one Pixar property being developed for Disney+ (from what they've announced), but at least they picked the right property. The city of Monstropolis is ripe for interesting stories, and the fact that Billy Crystal and John Goodman are back as Mike and Sully is just icing on the cake (after Stitch, Sully is my most favorite Disney character). But the stars of the show will be entirely new characters with the voices of Ben Feldman and Aisha Tyler, which could be interesting. They also announced Pixar's Forky Asks a Question, but it's more a collection of shorts than a series, apparently.

   
MOON KNOGHT
As I've said more than once, this is a no-brainer. I honestly thought it would be a new Netflix show before that development dissolved. Early versions of the character were essentially the Marvel Universe's version of Batman. Later versions of the character gave him multiple personalities and delved more into more mystical aspects of Marc Spector, giving him enhanced strength and other powers based on how full the moon is. Regardless of which way they take things, I am very much interested in seeing what Disney comes up with given that we are promised all the Marvel Disney+ shows will be an integral part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe...

Moon Knight Logo

   
MS. MARVEL
In yet another no-brainer, Disney+ is giving us a series featuring the comic book character of Kamala Khan, a shape-shifting super-powered Muslim teen. I love the comic book, and have high hopes that the live-action show will do her justice. I do worry about how well the more goofy aspects of her powers will be translated visually, but it certainly can't be any worse than the horrific job they did with Mr. Fantastic in the awful Fantastic Four movies.

Ms. Marvel Logo

   
MUPPETS NOW
Yeah, I love the idea of Kermit and The Muppets getting a new show, but I do worry about whether or not they will let The Muppets be The Muppets... or whether they'll do something stupid to try and "update" them when nothing like that is desired or required.

Muppets! Animal, Fozzie Bear, Kermit, Ms. Piggy, and Gonzo.

   
NOELLE
What looks like a mediocre Hallmark comedy film revolving around Santa's sister would be a complete throwaway if not for the fact that it stars Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader.

If nothing else, the leads will make it worth checking out.

Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader dressed in Santa suits.

   
OBI-WAN
Disney says an Obi-Wan Kenobe series has been in development for four years. Which means Disney+ has been in development for more than four years? Really? Well, whatever. All I need to know is that Ewan McGregor is coming back to play the part when it starts shooting next year. One of the few good things to come from the shitty prequels, a series revolving around McGregor's Obi-Wan is good news.

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobe

   
ONE DAY AT DISNEY
The behind-the-scenes at Disney's theme parks must be at least as interesting as the parks themselves. Probably even more so. No idea just how sanitized this three-issue-series will be (my guess: very), but at least we're getting something.

   
PHINEAS AND FERB THE MOVIE: CANDACE AGAINST THE UNIVERSE
While I loved Phones and Ferb when it debuted, it eventually got run into the ground over four seasons. My hope was that maybe they'd spin off Perry the Platypus or something interesting, but perhaps a new film will prove worthwhile if they try to break from the status quo in even a small way.

Phineas and Ferb The Movie logo.

   
SHE-HULK
In the comics, She-Hulk became a much lighter, funnier character than her brooding, tragic, drama-prone cousin Bruce Banner. In the movies they've taken Hulk in a direction more like comic book She-Hulk, which begs the question... what does that leave for the Jennifer Walters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? I guess we're going to be finding out now that she's getting her own series.

She-Hulk Logo

   
WANDAVISION
Oh Lord. The inspiration for this series is The Dick van Dyke Show? That sounds absurdly self-defeating, but who knows. They did add Kat Dennings as Darcy (from the Thor movies) and Randall Park (from Ant-Man and The Wasp) so I guess that's something. Except... is Disney+ really going to become a dumping ground for third-tier characters? I mean, sure, I like these characters and it will be nice to see the again... but the choices here are just so random. I guess we'll have to wait and hope.

   
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO JEFF GOLDBLUM
The only thing that could be better than Jeff Goldblum being Jeff Goldblum would be if Jeff Goldblum were playing The Grand Master (from Thor: Ragnarok) in a new series. So, yeah, Disney can just take my money now.

The World According to Jeff Goldblum poster.

   

Movie News Musings

Posted on August 20th, 2019

Dave!Well this sucks.

In what can only be described as a shit-storm of awfulness, Hollywood has dropped two pieces of horrifically bad news on movie lovers today.

First of all, Sony and Marvel Studios can't come to an agreement over Spider-Man, so the character will no longer be appearing in Marvel Studios movies. This is unbelievably shitty, because he's become such a big part of them. Can you imagine Infinity War without Spider-Man? I sure can't. And then there's the beautiful and effortless integration of Tony Stark into the Spider-Man cinematic mythos. The new Spider-Man is heavily rooted in the MCU, and all that is going to have to be ripped away once he goes solo at Sony again. Poor, stupid Sony, who doesn't want to share future movie grosses after the BILLION DOLLARS that Marvel Studios is responsible for them making (their highest gross for a film ever). And if you thought that Sony wouldn't shit all over its fans like Marvel Studios did with their theatrical re-release of Avengers: Endgame, think again. They're bringing back Spider-Man: Far From Home with four whole minutes of extra footage!

Spider-Man fades away to dust while Tony Stark watches from Avengers: Endgame.

   
Next up? Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss are coming back for yet another The Matrix sequel. Now, don't get me wrong, the original film was genius in every way and remains one of my favorite movies of all time... but the sequels were complete and total shit. They were lazy, effects-driven idiocy masking as high-concept art. "GAH! ORACLE, WHAT DO I DO?!?" — "You know what you must do." — "GAH! MORPHEUS, WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE, WHAT'S NEO GOING TO DO TO SAVE US?" — "Neo will do that which he must do." — "GAH! MEROVINGIAN, GIVE US THE KEYMAKER TO SAVE US ALL!" — "You see there is only one constant. One universal. It is the only real truth... causality, action, reaction. Cause and effect." — "WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!?"

No idea how Neo and Trinity are coming back since they are dead and all... but I'm sure something will be rebooted or turned off and turned back on to make it all possible. Ugh.

Neo is reflected in Morpheus' glasses taking the red pill in a scene from The Matrix.

   
In good movie news?

The 25th James Bond film will be titled No Time To Die, still starring Daniel Craig as God intended. And while it won't be helmed by Danny Boyle as originally planned, it will be directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, which is an interesting choice. He is the guy responsible for the most excellent Sin Nombre and Beasts of No Nation... and also the writer of the highly successful It movie adaptation. Since he's both co-writing and directing the new Bond, I am hopeful we're going to get something interesting and entertaining... more along the lines of the excellent Skyfall as opposed to the mediocre Spectre.

   
And in still more good movie news?

It's already been confirmed that Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, Paul Bates, John Amos, Shari Headly, and Louie Anderson will all be reprising their roles in Coming 2 America (sadly Madge Sinclair has passed so we won't have our Queen)... and we know that Wesley Snipes, Leslie Jones, and Jermaine Fowler will be added. But now we know that Tracy Morgan and Rotimi Boards are also onboard for the Coming to America sequel! Sounds like the cast is on-point, so now we just have to hold our breath for December 18, 2020 to see if the story pans out.

   
And lastly in good movie news?

A new holiday movie, Last Christmas by Emma Thompson and Paul Feig starring Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michele Yeoh, and Emma Thompson, is hitting theaters this November!

I had no idea this was even in development... let alone ready for release this year! Looks like yet another cheesy Christmas movies I can't live without.

   
Untill next time, true believers...

   

Far From Home and Alone

Posted on August 1st, 2019

Dave!I saw Spider-Man: Far From Home quite a while ago.

But then I got busy and there never seemed to be time to sit down and write up my thoughts on it. So I just kept jotting down notes until I managed to get enough to put them in an entry. Overall I liked the movie quite a lot. Though it hasn't displaced Homecoming as my favorite MCU Spider-Man film, there was still a lot to love...

Needless to say, spoilers will follow...

Spoiler Zone!

   
Spiderman: Far From Home is a pretty great flick. I don't know that I like it better than Spider-Man: Homecoming, because that film was about as flawless as it gets, but Far From Home is a close second. Jon Watts keeps knocking Spider-Man out of the park, and I couldn't be happier about it.

Let's just bullet-point the major talking points here...

  • Tom Holland remains a flawless choice for Peter Parker / Spider-Man. First of all, he's convincing as a high school kid, which is what was missing from the previous Spider-Man films where he was an adult. Starting out as a kid is what makes Spider-Man different, and is what should be embraced. Finally we're getting that.
  • Zendaya may be underused (again), but she's got the talent and drive to make the most of every second she's on screen. I absolutely love her character, and having her discover Spider-Man's identity the way she did was pretty great.
  • I actually liked Ned better in this film even though he had a better part in the previous film. In Homecoming Ned was the "Man In The Chair" helping Spider-Man out, but that felt kinda intrusive to me. Now that Ned is just Peter's friend again (albeit one who knows his secret identity) I think he works better.
  • Happy Hogan is as critical to the MCU Spider-Man as Aunt May is, and working him in to the story they way they did was sublime. I sure hope they find ways to keep him around the MCU like this now that Iron Man is out of the picture.
  • Reimagining Mysterio the way they did was both disappointing and the smartest thing about the film. In the comics, Quentin Beck is a Hollywood stuntman and special effects artist. When he was rejected as an actor, he decided to use his ability to create movie illusions to become a super-criminal. That would take a lot to explain in a 2-hour movie, so the rumor was that they were going to reinvent him as a failed stage magician who uses magical illusions to commit crimes. While this would be a more plausible idea in a day-and-age where the vast majority of movie special effects are computer-generated, I don't know that what they ultimately came up with was better. Turns out Mysterio is actually an entire team of former Stark employees who feel wronged by Tony Stark. They combined their various talents to create a new hero so they could con the world into doing whatever they wanted to do. A part of me was like... um... you're creating some of the most advance tech on earth and can make people see whatever you want to see. Why not just covertly do whatever you want to do? Why create Mysterio at all, if this is your goal? Doesn't that just draw attention to you? It's kinda silly.
  • It used to be that I would thrill to how Marvel Studios keeps integrating all their films so tightly. I'd be all "HOW COOL IS IT THAT THE REASON THIS HAPPENED IN THIS MOVIE IS BECAUSE THAT HAPPENED IN THAT MOVIE?!?" But now that they're pulling random background people from older movies to create Team Mysterio, it's getting kinda lame. Oh look! It's the science guy that Obadiah Stane yelled at in the first Iron Man movie! Yay? Keep integrating all the Marvel films into a coherent universe for these MCU characters? Yes please! Start pulling out random background extras so you can build these connections? Nah. We're good.
  • That being said, Jake Gyllenhaal was pretty great as Quentin Beck though, right? His entire character arc hinged on him being a Tony Stark mentor replacement for Peter Parker. He had to get that just right, or the movie's premise would fail. Once he put on the EDITH glasses, Quentin's greatest illusion was complete, and you totally buy why Peter handed over EDITH to him. Brilliant casting.
  • When it comes to the EDITH glasses, however, I don't really get it. Assumably Tony built this massive drone defense system in case there's a dire threat to all humanity. Good idea. But the fact that it's useless without EDITH to control it is insane. What then... if Peter Parker dies then the system which could have helped thwart an alien invasion just sits there because the only guy who could control it is six feet under? Isn't that a bit crazy? How does that make sense? I dunno. Maybe upon Peter's death EDITH goes to Rhodey or something but, so far as plot points go, this still feels kinda nuts.
  • Another thing that seemed nuts? The crazy-ass coincidences that plague this movie. Ned and Betty just HAPPEN to be in the Ferris wheel which just HAPPENS to be where the merged elemental appears? And it just HAPPENS to be made out of the metal the elemental needs to grow more powerful so it gravitates towards it? MJ just HAPPENS to be standing where the ONLY hologram projector falls off? I mean, I get it. I read Edgar Rice Burroughs, so I know that a never-ending string of coincidences can make good fiction. But with a little more thought put into these things, it seems as though we'd have a much tighter narrative where blatant coincidences aren't required to move the story forward.
  • Nick Fury is always a welcome addition to any MCU film. How they manage to always find such smart ways to integrate him into the movies is a mystery, but I'm thankful they don't feel at all gratuitous. Not yet anyway.
  • Spider-Man's "spider sense" (branded "The Peter Tingle" in the movies) which alerts him to impending danger has always felt like a stretch in the comics. The idea is that spiders seem to be able to predict when you're about to smash them, because they always seem to be able to get out of the way first. And that's clever. In real-life it doesn't work like that (I think spiders are just sensitive to air movement and pressure changes which gives them the illusion of having a spider sense), so I was happy when the concept was seemingly abandoned in the MCU. But here it is, and it's just as inexplicable and sloppy as it's always been. Abandoned most of the time Peter should be sensing danger... but suddenly making an appearance when the writers need a way for Spider-Man to see through Mysterio's illusions. That's just a lazy crutch, and I think the movies are poorer for it.
  • I think we're at a point where the idea of amping up the action for each new Marvel film has finally reached a breaking point. Some of the action sequences in Far From Home were almost incomprehensible because there's so much going on so quickly that you can't wrap your head around it. When Spider-Man is whipping around at break-neck speeds and still able to dodge drones and handle three problems at the same time, that's his enhanced speed and reflexes doing their thing. But the audience doesn't have enhanced speed and reflexes.

If there were no huge surprises to be found in the film proper, there was one heck of a bombshell that dropped in the mid-credits sequence. First they had Mysterio reaching up from the grave to paint Spider-Man as the bad guy. This is straight out of the comics I read in the 1980's. Because in the Spider-Man comics back then (maybe even today), even when Peter wins, he ultimately loses. There's always bad to go along with the good.

Then, of course, Spider-Man's secret identity was revealed. Whoa. I like that Marvel is ditching all these stupid secret identities which feel so antiquated now... but Spider-Man is an actual kid, and this seems like a pretty Big Deal. I am very much curious to know where they go from here.

And now for some random bullets...

  • Whitney Houston's cover of Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You (at the opening) and The Go-Go's Vacation (at the end) were note-perfect choices. We also got more of The Ramones with I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (using their Blitzkrieg Bop in Homecoming remains my second favorite Marvel music cue... second only to Immigrant Song in Thor: Ragnarok). I don't know how the 80's songs keep making their way into these movies, but I'm pretty happy about it.
  • A shout-out to Martin Starr, who plays Mr. Harrington. Starr manages to play the semi-clueless teacher in a way that's charming more than stupid, and I don't think many actors could pull that off as well. Casting him out of Silicon Valley is right up there with Tom Holland and Zendaya to me, because the wrong choice would have ripped you out of the movie every time he shows up.
  • Turning the Netherlands into the European Canada seemed distracting and unnecessary, and any humor that they think came from it fell pretty flat.
  • Thank heavens Peter's Iron Spider costume was left at home. He's got enough powers... more than enough powers... without having Iron-Man-like enhancements on top of it all. I was really, really hopeful that once we watched it all fall apart in Avengers: Endgame, we'd never be seeing it again.

And that's a wrap.

Time to update my "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance" scorecard...

Ant-Man... A
Ant-Man and The Wasp... A-
Aquaman... B-
The Avengers... A+
Avengers: Age of Ultron... A
Avengers: Infinity War... A
Avengers: Endgame... A+
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Batman Dark Knight Rises... A
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice... D
Big Hero Six... A+
Black Panther... A+
Blade... B
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Captain America: The Winter Soldier... A+
Captain America: Civil War... A+
Captain Marvel... B+
Catwoman... F
Daredevil... B-
Daredevil (Director's Cut)... B+
Deadpool... A
Deadpool 2... A
Doctor Strange... A
Electra Woman and Dyna Girl... B-
Elektra... D
Fantastic Four (2005)... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Fantastic Four (2015)... D+
Guardians of the Galaxy... A+
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2... A
Ghost Rider... C
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance... D
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy... A
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Hulk... C-
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A-
Iron Man 3... A+
Jonah Hex... F
Justice League... F
Kick-Ass... B+
Kick-Ass 2... B-
Man of Steel... F-
Punisher... C+
Punisher War Zone... C
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World... C
Spider-Man... B+
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Amazing Spider-Man... B
Amazing Spider-Man 2... B-
Spider-Man: Homecoming... A+
Spider-Man: Far From Home... A
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse... A
Suicide Squad... D
Superman Returns... C+
Thor... B+
Thor: The Dark World... B
Thor: Ragnarok... A+
Watchmen... B
The Wolverine... B
Wonder Woman... A
X-Men... C
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: First Class... B
X-Men: Days of Future Past... B-
X-Men: Apocalypse... D+

   

Endgame and Again

Posted on July 31st, 2019

Dave! I wrote about Avengers: Endgame after watching it at the theater.

But when it was released on digital earlier this week, I decided to give it another look... then another look... so I could comment on it in a bit more linear fashion.

I still feel it's an amazing movie.... and even more amazing accomplishment...

Avengers Endgame Movie Poster

   
Obviously there's going to be an abumndance of spoilers, so you've been warned...

Spoiler Zone!

The opening of the movie acts as a good recap of where we left off in Infinity War but, thankfully, isn't repetitive. Then Captain Marvel shows up, you realize that the Avengers she met in the Captain Marvel mid-credits scene ("Where's Fury?") must have sent her to find any off-planet Avengers survivors, and we're off to the races. The idea that the Earth Avengers and Space Avengers have no idea which of their teammates survived "The Snap" is pretty gutting. Especially when you get to Rocket comforting Nebula. And watching Rocket in these opening scenes just boggles my mind. You simply do not question that he's an actual character on-par with everybody else in the film. And he's a raccoon! Talk about movie magic.

Right from the start of Endgame you can tell that the entire purpose of the film is to wrap up everything which came before it. There's never-ending echos to past movies, and true fans are constantly being rewarded. This is pretty wild when you consider that Captain Marvel, easily the most powerful character in the entire film and the lynchpin for dealing with Thanos, hadn't even shot her solo movie when Endgame was being made. How everybody collaborated to make her appearance here sync up power-wise, visual-wise, and tone-wise with the Captain Marvel movie is the true marvel of Marvel Studios. There are single films which lack this kind of consistency. But here's Marvel making it look (relatively) effortless across 22 films (23 if you count Spider-Man: Far From Home).

Nowhere is Marvel's cohesiveness more visible than when Nebula is on-screen. She is a bit-part villain from a D-List comic book which has now become a central figure in the biggest super-hero team-up in cinematic history. It's so jaw-dropping amazing that I have a hard time wrapping my head around it. Yes, Marvel had a master plan to use Infinity Gems as MacGuffins in all their films from very early on with the intent of somehow tying them all together in the end, but the fact that they managed to pull it all of this well? Thank you Kevin Feige.

Back to Captain Marvel... it's fairly easy to see how her off-the-charts power level is going to be challenging going forward. The current solution seems to be to have her be "off-planet and unavailable" but that's going to get really tired really fast. I mean, come on... just look at her when they're off to attack Thanos! How many problems couldn't she solve in five minutes? Sure it's cool how totally confident she is, how kick-ass she is, how powerful she is... and her glowing aura is giddy-inducing wonderful... but I'm more than a little curious to see how she's going to play out in the future of the MCU.

Killing Thanos in the first twenty minutes is pretty ballsy, but it definitely leaves you wondering where they're going to go from here if the main villain of the movie is gone. And little did we suspect...

Five Years Later.

And lo did a rat activate the Quantum Tunnel which freed Ant-Man from being trapped in The Quantum Realm! It's funny to think about how Ant-Man ends up being the key to absolutely everything, but that's how Marvel rolls. They find surprising ways to make small characters have big impact in the grand scheme of things. Fortunately, they've got the ample acting chops of Paul Rudd behind the character or these scenes of "life after The Snap" would have rang hollow (ditto for Scarlett Johansson, who has a handle on somebody being haunted like nobody's business).

At the 30-minute-mark, Scott Lang shows up at Avengers Compound and the movie starts for real.

It also shows its hand.

Because the minute that I saw how much time they were devoting to Tony Stark's happy post-Snap life, I knew... knew... he was a goner. Luckily, Robert Downey Jr. gives the performance of a lifetime and totally sells it. Watching him interact with his daughter... with Pepper... with his former teammates... it's all so... beautiful?... I guess is the word I'm looking for? Tony's character arc over the past decade has totally come full-circle, and it's everything you could hope for. And speaking of story arcs...

Here we are introduced to Smart Hulk... the merging of The Hulk and Bruce Banner. It's a wonderful coda to Bruce Banner's arc through all the Marvel Studios films. Finally, at long last, Banner and Hulk are at peace and living in harmony. It's also a terrific starting point for new Hulk stories (should we be lucky enough to get them). What's even more remarkable than Smart Hulk is the absolutely mind-blowing computer graphics which brought him to life. Flawless. His every facial expression is realized to such a degree that the whole "Uncanny Valley Effect" is minimized. At no point did he take me out of the story. It's just... all Mark Ruffalo all the time.

If there's a scene which illustrates just how deftly Marvel manages to work humor into their stories, it's the time travel experiments with Scott. It's funny, but it's not just being injected at random for the sake of being funny (like the horrific Joss Whedon "humor" that was shoe-horned into DC's Justice League after the fact). Marvel's humor feels like it has purpose and is there to advance and serve the story. And that's why it succeeds. Plus we get Smart Hulk handing out tacos!

If you didn't think that Tony Stark was going to die after watching his family scenes, you definitely knew it when he handed Cap his shield back.

The reunion between Hulk and Valkyrie, completely cementing Thor: Ragnarok even further into the MCU grand narrative, is one of the rare moments in the film that had me scrambling for an explanation. In Ragnarok, Bruce didn't remember anything about his 5 years as The Grandmaster's "beloved champion." But here he does. Which means that when Banner and Hulk merged, the result has memory experience of both? That's gotta be the stuff of nightmares.

I read more than a few comments about how Thor's weight gain was just a way to make fun of heavier people. I didn't see this at all. The result of Thor's PTSD actually seemed like it was handled with great thought and care... even if there were some comments made by other characters which were pretty mean and played for laughs. What did bother me was the whole "shake it off and move on" attitude that was leveled at poor Thor. That seems deliberately cruel and unjust. After what he's been through, you'd expect a bit more empathy from his friends. On the bright side, this is yet another remarkable performance by Chris Hemsworth which has me dying to see more Thor.

Clint Barton's descent into a murdering vengeance-seeking bastard seems a bit forced but, seeing as how the guy lost his entire family, perhaps it's not such a stretch. This "Ronin" persona is kinda-sorta from the comics, but it makes even less sense in this film. Why in the hell would Hawkeye give up the bow and arrow with which he reigns supreme? Obviously the ramifications of Endgame will be explored in the Hawkeye series on Disney+, so I guess they can afford to short-change his character here... but it still seems wild how his character could change so much with so little explanation.

And here's where we get to how time travel works in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I'm saving my thoughts on how it works for further down the page, but suffice to say I really like what they've done here. It makes perfect sense. Regardless, we get current Avengers going back into earlier Marvel Studios movies, and how cool is that?

Ahead to the Past.

And here's where the fun begins...

ANT MAN, IRON MAN, & CAPTAIN AMERICA: The "behind the scenes" of what happened after the Battle of New York was kinda cool... but hands-down the best moment was how Cap managed to secure the scepter from Hydra. Right before Robert Redford makes a guest appearance! I was even more surprised by this than I was at seeing The Ancient One! And of course this is where Loki from the past becomes the new Loki, allowing him to appear in his Disney+ series while not negating his death in Avengers: Infinity War. Clever that. Almost as clever as "America's Ass."

SMART HULK: The amount I died when Smart Hulk was "smashing" to impersonate his more rage-fueled earlier self was pretty huge. Then he goes to retrieve the Time Stone and the first of many guest-appearance bombshells is dropped... The Ancient One is back! Mainly as a way to explain how time works in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Again. Which, again, I will comment on further down the page.

THOR & ROCKET: Frigga coming back to help Thor in the way only a mother can was exceedingly sweet. Finally, here's somebody not making fun of Thor for being traumatized by what he's experienced and genuinely trying to help. At least until she told him to eat a salad. We also get the tiniest of appearances by Natalie Portman's Jane Foster, which was nice. And was probably due to her coming back for Thor: Love and Thunder.

NEBULA & RHODEY: They could have easily come up with a way to remove the Power Stone without stripping the shell off of Nebula's robotic arm, but it's actually a genius move because it will be an easy visual cue for distinguishing "good" Nebula from her "bad" past-self. Out of all the teams, this is the one that gets a lot complex in a little amount of time thanks to Thanos of the time finding out what The Avengers are up to.

IRON MAN, & CAPTAIN AMERICA: Well this was an added bonus. We get guest appearances not only by 1970's hippie Stan Lee and Farrah-hair Hank Pym... but Howard Stark and Peggy Carter as well! Seeing as how Tony dies and Steve ends up retired, I suppose it's only fitting that they get to reconcile the relationships which most haunt them.

BLACK WIDOW & HAWKEYE: I realize that the only way to make victory ring true would be for some sacrifices to be made along the way... but Black Widow? Like Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, she's the glue that holds all the movies together. Unlike Nick Fury, Natasha has been pretty much shafted over the years. She exists only to forward other characters' stories without getting much of story of her own. Sure they are remedying that by finally giving her her own film, but she's forever stuck in the past now, and that's lame. She deserved a future in the MCU after how she's been there for literally everybody else, and now she ain't got one. Still, given how The Soul Stone works, I guess somebody had to die. I don't know that Hawkeye would be a better choice, so maybe this was the right choice. I certainly feel it more than if it had been Clint. But I'm still bitter about it.

Avengers Assemble!

I'll try to ignore the question of how The Milano (ship to The Guardians of the Galaxy) has evaporated only to appear again at the end of the film... let's just assume that Clint shrunk it again before he went forward in time. And it seems weird it is that The Infinity Gauntlet conveniently courses with gamma radiation just like The Hulk, giving him the ability to wield it... whatever. What I'd like to focus on is how Ant-Man has the ability to shrink... then grow into Giant-Man... when it was made abundantly clear that he was out of Pym particles? This gaping plot hole is ridiculously easy to see, and yet it was totally ignored. And Janet VanDyne was absolutely not wearing The Wasp suit when she was dusted (I checked) so where did she get her Pym Particles?

The final battle was pretty phenomenal, all things considered.

Even when you give a pass to Captain America being able to lift Thor's hammer. There's plenty of comic book history precedent for Steve being able to wield Mjölnir. Heck, the MCU hinted that it was possible back in Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was a smart way to give Captain America the ability to take on Thanos which was believable. What I don't understand is how he got to control lightning with it. As explained by Odin in Thor: Ragnarok, Thor himself is where the lightning comes from, and Mjölnir merely allows him to focus it more easily. Perhaps Mjölnir has some kind of residual lightning charge which makes this possible, but it still seems an odd thing to have happen. How does Cap even know how to make the lightning work? How does he know how to summon Mjölnir in the first place?

No other point in the movie hit more of an emotional note with me than when Cap is facing horrific odds all alone against Thanos and his entire army... than when he hears Sam say "On your left" through his earpiece. That's yet another nod to a past MCU film (Winter Soldier). It's the turning point of the entire movie, and any fan of the past decade will be cheering.

Back in Civil War when Hawkeye is facing off against Black Panther, an opponent for which he's badly outmatched, he buys time by saying "We haven't been introduced. My name is Clint." Black Panter says "I don't care." and proceeds to start pummeling his ass. During the Endgame final battle, Black Panther wants the Infinity Gauntlet and says "Clint, give it to me," at which point I got the warm fuzzies. Awwwwwww. T'Challa remembered his name! He must care a little bit after all!

Poor Wanda. She has to deliver the same line to Thanos that she gave to Ultron. Lucky for her, she's definitely got the power to back up any threat she makes, and having her battle Thanos was pretty sweet.

Spider-Man bringing back "instant-kill" from Homecoming was an LOL moment for me.

Captain Marvel gets the entrance to beat all entrances, and watching her decimate Thanos's ship all by her lonesome was pretty epic. Though not quite as epic as it would have been had we not already seen her so that in Captain Marvel. Still, having her be the only one who can truly go toe-to-toe with Thanos via brute force was more than enough.

The "Ladies of the MCU" moment may have been artificial and manufactured, but I just don't care. We've come a long way from when Black Widow was the sole female super-hero in the MCU.

And then we reach the end of the battle when Doctor Strange tells Tony that this is the moment.

I really, really, wish somebody had laughed at Thanos as his shit faded away.

Ending Endgame!

Rumor has it that Tony originally had dialogue as he lay dying. Robert Downey Jr. felt it would be more powerful if there was nothing left for him to say... his actions and sacrifice speaking more than words ever could... and he's absolutely right. Watching as the beginning of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe from the very first film has his life fade away was about as powerful way to close out The first decade as we could have hoped for.

The reactions from the characters at Tony's service are interesting... as is the order which they appear. His family is first, of course. Followed by his closest friends. Followed by Captain America, who has seen many, many soldiers die in battle, and you kind of get that perspective on his face... stoic, but showing loss. Since Peter Parker is just a kid, I'm glad they had Aunt May there for him. Thor has experienced loss that nobody else here could possibly fathom, so Hemsworth gave him an unease that is perfectly fitting. Smart Hulk's more emotional response was exactly what was needed to drive home that this Hulk is very different from the early days of the character. Doctor Strange is in the unique position of knowing that he essentially sent Tony to his death, but also knows there was literally no other possible way to win this. The Ant-Man "family" had little to do with Tony Stark, so they appear a bit more detached, as they should be. The Guardians of the Galaxy have the most interesting response. All but Quill are aliens, and their perspectives on death are undoubtedly far removed from ours, which is smartly reflected. Note that Gamora is gone, her character having reverted back to a more raw state (something confirmed in the deleted scenes). Also note that Nebula gets a longer shot than most, which is apt considering how she is closest to the entire Infinity Saga and crucial to how it played out. Black Panther, Okoye, and Shuri's presence representing Wakanda is appropriately stately and reserved. Clint and his family here are a bit more affected than you'd expect... until you realize that this goodbye is more about Natasha to them than Tony Stark. Sam and Bucky, who have done nothing but fight since they met, have common ground here, leading directly into their upcoming Disney+ series, I'm sure. Wanda, likewise, is probably thinking more about losing Vision than Tony, but that too is leading into a Disney+ series. The young guy standing alone confused some people, but I recognized him immediately as Harley, the kid from Iron Man 3, and I'm glad they thought to add him here. I completely missed Maria Hill and General Ross when I saw the film in theaters, but it makes sense they're here. Captain Marvel is the one character who feels a bit out of place, yet it would be strange if she weren't here given her impact on the final battle. And then there's Nick Fury, the glue that holds the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe together saved for last. Perfect.

It was nice at the end to acknowledge that Tony wasn't the only one who sacrificed his life. Black Widow and Vision are gone as well. Though Black Widow has a movie coming up, and Vision is assumably a part of the WandaVision Disney+ series.

Valkyrie becoming queen of New Asgard is absolutely fitting, and sure to be explored in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. Having Thor rejoin the "Asguardians of the Galaxy" should have interesting consequences going forward for both these franchises.

And... here's the end-end-end of the movie. Cap heads back with the Infinity Stones to prevent new realities from ever forming, Hulk acknowledges that he misses Natasha, and Falcon is given Old Cap's shield (from an alternate reality, see below) so he can become the new Captain America. Of course Bucky is there, which is a jumping off point for the new Falcon and Winter Soldier Disney+ series. Neat!

The End!

Paradoxically Speaking?

After the movie debuted, fanboys immediately got their panties in a bunch because of Steve Rogers' decision to go back in time and lives a life with Peggy Carter that he would have had if he hadn't been frozen in ice for decades. "THIS CONFLICTS WITH PEGGY SAYING THAT SHE MARRYING SOMEBODY STEVE RESCUED IN THE FIRST MOVIE!" and "STEVE ERASED PEGGY'S LIFE WITH HER HUSBAND AND KIDS! WHAT AN ASSHOLE!" Except... he didn't. As the movie went into meticulous detail explaining, that's not what happens with time travel disruptions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As explained by Hulk and Nebula to Ant-Man and Rhodey before they experiment on Clint... any change to the past creates an alternate reality...

This was such an important point for the story that they had The Ancient One re-explain it to The Hulk. The writers literally provided visuals to make it crystal clear...

Which is why I go crazy every time I hear a new diatribe on Captain America's time travel being a plot-hole. Let's break this down one more time, shall we? If you go to the past, the future becomes your past, so the future can't be changed. So when you change something in the past (like take an Infinity Stone), a new reality is created where that Infinity Stone has disappeared from existence. In order to fix this, Captain America went back in time and returned the stones to a point before any changes would create a new reality. Namely, he returned them to immediately after they were taken in the first place. This closed the loop and the new reality which was created then fades away because it never existed...

Visual representation of Infinity Stone time travel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It's an incredibly simple concept.

And it applies to Steve Rogers' journey back in time as well.

At the end of Endgame, Steve returns the Infinity Stones and all the new realities created by their removal no longer exist. He then goes back in time to the late 40's or early 50's... before Peggy Carter got married and had kids... to live out his life with her. As clearly stated, this change creates a new reality where Steve is the one who marries Peggy. His original reality... the reality of all the Marvel Studios movies... where Peggy got married to some other guy, had kids, got dementia, then died... still exists because, to Steve, it's the past. And after Peggy died and Steve was ready to return to his original reality, he traveled back into the past BEFORE the new reality was created... then traveled into the future of the original reality as an old man (which is what we see at the end of the movie)...

Visual representation of Captain America time travel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

So does this mean that other reality where he married Peggy was erased? NO! because now that is in Steve's past! That reality is still there too. An alternate reality which may or may not be revisited in future Marvel films.

It all makes perfect sense, and everything works exactly as it was spelled out in the movie. If there's a plot-hole here, it's that the objects which the stones were encased were forgotten...

I love that YouTube Channel. And, no, I have no clue as to what happened in the new reality which was created when Loki escaped with the Space Stone. Perhaps that will be addressed in his Disney+ series? Because unless he crosses back over into the primary reality, that's where he is now. Our Loki is still dead. I guess I'll just ignore it all until we actually get the series.

And yet...

WHERE DID OLD CAP'S SHIELD COME FROM?!? If he brought it from the new reality he created when he went back to be with Peggy... if he found his other-dimensional-self in the ice there, then dug up the shield, but left himself frozen... does that Captain America not get a shield when he is rescued from the ice in the future? Or maybe Old Cap waits until New Reality Cap wakes up, then asks himself for the shield so he can take it back to his original reality, leaving New Reality Cap with nothing? Or did he go to New Reality Wakanda and convince them to make him a second shield so he had one to take back with him? That would have been interesting to see. Or... best theory... New Reality Captain America dies, and Old Cap retrieves the shield? Who the heck know? Regardless, it's incredibly lame that this gaping plot hole was left dangling. One can only hope that the New Reality Steve created will be revisited in future MCU films so we can have an answer... or ten.

Final Thoughts.

Given the nature of comic books, there's nothing to say that Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Natasha Romanoff can't return in future movies, even though somebody new will undoubtedly be taking up their super-hero mantles (ala Sam becoming Captain America). They could come back in dream sequences... flashbacks... resurrections... alternate reality versions... whatever. Black Widow's movie takes place entirely in the past, so that's yet another way to have them come back. Though, to be honest, it's probably more powerful if their characters aren't brought back. That kinda cheapens their sacrifice and will diminish their legacies.

So... good flick. Impossible flick given the complexities of juggling so many Marvel Studios franchises, a decade of history, and dealing with the astronomically high expectations of Marvel fans. For the most part, it feels like they succeeded. I certainly had no complaints walking out of the movie theater... or turning off my AppleTV.

As for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Well, if Spider-Man: Far From Home is any indication, it's going to be just fine. Hopefully Kevin Feige will find a way to pull another rabbit out of the battered old hat with weak series like The Eternals and Shang-Chi in the pipeline. Hey, he sure managed it with Guardians of the Galaxy!

Here's hoping the next decade is even half as exciting as the first.

   

Bullet Sunday 621: Comic-Con Edition

Posted on July 20th, 2019

Dave!Hope you like comic book super-hero movies... because a Very Special Marvel Cinematic Universe at Comic-Con Edition of Bullet Sunday (filled with post Avengers: Endgame spoilers) starts... now...

   
• Black Widow — May 1, 2020

Black Widow Logo

The crowd at Hall H at Comic-Con were treated to actual footage of Black Widow's solo movie (AT LONG LAST!). Since she's, like, um... dead... the film takes place in the past, but that's better than nothing, I suppose. It's a spy-action thriller featuring Captain America villain Taskmaster and promises lots of the cool hand-to-hand combat that Natasha is famous for. As with every other Marvel film which delves into the MCU's past, there's bound to be a motherlode of clever back-story surprises for stuff that's happening in current movies. I love that. But I sure hope it doesn't detract from Black Widow, since this is likely her last major MCU appearance. I would definitely be okay if Hawkeye shows up so we can finally find out what happened in Budapest!

   
• The Falcon and Winter Soldier — Fall, 2020 (Disney+)

Falcon and Winter Soldier Logo

Look... the minute that John Wick’s Derek Kolstad signed on as a writer, I didn't need to hear anything else. I love Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in their roles, so everything else is gravy. And it looks like Marvel is serious about the flavor of that gravy because Kolstad knows how to write kick-ass action and they're bringing back Daniel Brühl as Baron Zemo. I'd pay for six months of Disney+ just to see this show.

   
• The Eternals — Nov. 6, 2020

Eternals Logo

All the rumors proved to be true when Angelina Jolie walked out on the stage, confirming that she would be headlining the film about Marvel's god-like beings, The Eternals. The comic book has revised the characters so many times that I've lost count, but their astounding power is sure to make them interesting cinematic material. The cast announced was as follows... Angelina Jolie as Athena, Richard Madden as Icarus, Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, Lauren Ridloff as Makari, Brian Tyree Henry as Fastos, Salma Hayek as Ajak, Don Lee as Gilgamesh, Lia McHugh as Sprite. I was never a huge fan of the comics, but I am interested to see how the characters will be fit into the MCU. This being Marvel, I'm guessing characters from the current movies will make an appearance, but I'm not quite sure how that's going to work. Could be that Marvel is just going to keep them entirely separate, but I doubt it.

   
• Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings — Feb. 12, 2021

Shang-Chi Logo

What began as a comic book rip-off of the television show Kung-Fu (which was called Master of Kung-Fu), Shang-Chi was gradually worked into the Marvel Universe proper. Unfortunately, most times he was shoe-horned into stories in ways I didn't think worked very well. Like him showing up and training Spider-Man how to fight better or something silly like that. For the movie, it looks like Marvel is working hard to not have the character seem silly. First of all they are bringing in the real Mandarin as the villain (as opposed to the fake Mandarin from Iron Man 3). Second of all, they've added Awkwafina to the cast. That alone guarantees I'll be watching.

   
• Loki — Spring 2021 (Disney+)

Loki Logo

When it was announced that Loki would be getting a series for Disney+, there was a lot of speculation as to how that would happen... seeing as how he's dead and all. But then Avengers: Endgame comes along and shows how the Loki from the past (immediately following the first Avengers movie) escapes with the Space Infinity Stone. This means the Loki we'll be seeing in this series has never experienced the events in Thor: The Dark World, Doctor Strange, Thor: Ragnarok, or Avengers: Infinity War. He's just been defeated by Thor and likely still hates him. A lot. That should prove interesting. Especially if Chris Hemsworth is kind enough to make an appearance.

   
• WandaVision — Spring, 2021 (Disney+)

WandaVision Logo

Yet another show with a dead main character... this time The Vision... who perished in Infinity War. In the comics Wanda went insane when the children she conceived with Vision were erased and used her substantial powers to create an alternate reality. That could be what we end up with here. Wanda somehow creates a new reality where The Vision was never killed by Thanos. Whether Vision will be back for good at the end of the series is anybody's guess (I hope so!) but the big news to come from Comic-Con was that Teyonah Parris was cast to play an adult Monica Rambeau, and she'd be a big part of the show. Monica is the daughter of Maria Rambeau, Carol Danvers' best friend in Captain Marvel. Since that film took place in the past, she'd be all grown up in the present. Cool.

   
• Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness — May 7, 2021

Doctor Strange 2 Logo

Now this is interesting. Apparently the events of WandaVision will lead directly into this movie, and Scarlet Witch will be a big part of it. Sooooo... perhaps Wanda pulls a new Vision from an alternate universe which causes a big multiverse problem that Doctor Strange has to deal with? Hopefully Wong will be back. And Mordo (I want my Chiwetel Ejiofor!). Apparently this time it's a full-on horror film, which could be very interesting. If nothing else, it will be different! What I love here is how Marvel Studios is so tightly integrating the Disney+ shows into the MCU... this won't be a Netflix situation where the shows are kinda-maybe-sorta-possibly in the MCU.

   
• Hawkeye — Fall, 2021 (Disney+)

Hawkeye Logo

The Matt Fraction and David Aja Hawkeye comic series is one of my favorite comic books of all time. When they announced that Disney + would be giving us a Hawkeye series, all I wanted... ALL I wanted... was to have them adapt the comic book... or at least draw inspiration from it. Well... wish granted. Not only are they using the logo from the comic book, it was announced that Kate Bishop (a character from the comics) would be in the show! They also said that we'll see more of Clint's time as Ronin between Infinity War and Endgame. Assumably a huge part of the series will be Clint dealing with the guilt of Black Widow's death, which is important. A lot of people hate that Hawkeye wasn't the one to die, so hopefully this series will change their mind as to why Hawkeye needed to live.

   
• Thor Love & Thunder — Nov. 5, 2021

Thor 4 Logo

Of all the bombshells dropped in Hall H at Comic-Con, here was the big one. We knew that Chris Hemsworth was coming back as Thor... we knew that Tessa Thompson was coming back as Valkyrie... and we knew that Taika Waititi would be back to helm the whole thing. But the big surprise? NATALIE PORTMAN appeared on stage when it was announced that not only would Jane Foster be returning... she would be the new Thor! This storyline was a very good one for the comics, so I'm excited to see it happen in the MCU. In many ways, it makes sense. Chris Hemsworth has said that he wants to take time off for a while to be with his family, so this allows there to be a new Thor movie where he can play an (assumably) smaller part. It also opens the door to Original Thor appearing in Guardians of The Galaxy: Volume 3, something I'm dying to see. How great was that team-up in Endgame?

   
• What If? — Date Unknown (Disney+)

What If? Logo

All we know is that this will be an animated series on Disney+ which features the voice talents of the actors who originally portrayed the characters... but since this is an alternate reality "What if this happened...???" kind of show, they won't be the characters we know. They'll be altered versions of those from the movies. In addition to Jeffrey Wright narrating the show as Uatu The Watcher, the cast announced so far has been: Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Josh Brolin (Thanos), Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark), David Dastmalchian (one of Scott Lang's friends from the Ant-Man films), Michael Douglas (Hank Pym), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Jeff Goldblum (The Grandmaster), Sean Gunn (Kraglin), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Djimon Hounsou (Korath), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Toby Jones (Arnim Zola), Michael B. Jordan (Killmonger), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Michael Rooker (Yondu), Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk), Sebastian Stan (The Winter Soldier), Chris Sullivan (Taserface), Stanley Tucci (Dr. Erskine), and Taika Waititi (Korg). No idea where they're going to go with this, but I'm interested in finding out!

   
• Blade — Date Unknown

Blade Logo

At the end of the event, MCU Mastermind Kevin Feige said he was sorry he didn't have time to get into Fantastic Four, mutants (X-Men), and all the rest... but he did have one final surprise... Mahershala Ali walked out and put a Blade hat on, so apparently they're rebooting that series! Ali is a phenomenal actor (he was Cottonmouth in Luke Cage!) and is memorable in everything he does (even in small parts like in Hidden Figures). He's a fantastic successor to Wesley Snipes for the role, and I will be interested to see if they go with an R rating or drop down to a PG-13. I am really hoping for the former.

   
And that's all she wrote from Marvel. I was disappointed that we didn't get any information on Black Panther 2, Ant-Man 3, Captain Marvel 2, Spider-Man 3, Fantastic Four, and Guardians of the Galaxy 3... but I guess you can't have everything. I'm guessing all of these will be released in 2022 and beyond, which seems like a long, long time away.

The surprising thing here is that there are only two new Marvel movies for 2020, and they're far from heavy hitters (Black Widow and The Eternals). This feels like a misstep, but maybe everybody has to catch their breath after Infinity War/Endgame? Oh well. Looks like Disney+ will be taking up the slack. I was really hoping that once the FOX acquisition was finalized that Marvel Studios might move from three movies a year to four movies a year, which would still be less super-hero flicks than when both studios were actively producing them.

And that leaves Iron Man. Obviously they're going to have a new one at some point. My guess is that they will let the character rest for a while first. But seeds will have to be planted. Pepper Potts is pretty much out now that Gwyneth Paltrow wants out. Will they make it be Riri Williams as Ironheart?

As for what's still missing in the MCU that I want to see?

• Alpha Flight. Canada's super-hero team, which was done so very well in the Scott Lobdell and Clayton Henry run.

• Moon Knight. This is essentially Marvel's Batman. If they got the right actor, this could be a really interesting addition.

• Namor. This is essentially Marvel's Aquaman... with arguably a more interesting take on an undersea hero.

• Ms. Marvel. Might be a better fit for Disney+ but I still want to see Kamala Khan in the MCU.

• Power Pack. Super-power kids? The perfect animated series for Disney+ methinks.

• Captain Britain. And if he wanted to bring along Excalibur, Britain's super-team, that would be great!

• Longshot Another perfect property for Disney+, this is a really fun character and one few mainstream audiences seem to know about.

Eventually they need to reboot The Defenders back into the MCU as well, don't they? At the very least Daredevil and Luke Cage!

And that's a wrap. So many Marvel bullets to look forward to, but I'm always wanting more.

   

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