Wednesday, August 17, 2016

REVIEW: SUICIDE SQUAD

When I was young, and had no friends, and wrote comics as a kid ripping off Spider-Man, I always took a huge delight in figuring out who my villain would be that issue (issue meaning two pieces of looseleaf paper I stapled together and only I read). 90% of them would be plagiarized, but I still enjoyed adding the little quirks or potential powers from my villains who would be introduced with little backstory, then about a page of crudely-drawn action, then they would usually get killed. I guess I had a very black and white sense of justice in those days. But while my protagonists stayed fairly static, it was always a blast thinking up villains when I sat down to write and draw. Antagonists can be the most memorable part of your movie (take note, Marvel), but can a whole movie full of them come off as too bloated? David Ayer answers that question in Suicide Squad, a definitely flawed but firecracker time in the theaters.

When you go to college you take a lot of personality tests, and one that pops up a lot is "I let the opinion of critics affect a movie I want to watch." I always feel like a sheep, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't true. I try to avoid it now, but in the past a Rotten Tomatoes score could definitely have an impact on whether I liked a movie or not. If it was in the 90% and I wasn't enjoying it, I thought maybe I wasn't watching the movie right. That definitely isn't the way one should go in to a theater. A petition was signed to shut down Rotten Tomatoes after this film got a <30 fluctuates="" i="" it="" since="">Batman v Superman
got a similar rating some people threw a temper tantrum. I thought it was utterly ridiculous, so I just went with word of mouth. Not a big helper there: still fairly mixed, with the crowd leaning towards a thumbs up, less towards the RT gladiator thumbs down. So...I went in with lowered expectations, but looking to be entertained.

I know a whole paragraph devoted to expectations might seem a little excessive, but I can't stress how essential it is when going into Suicide Squad to have the right set of expectations. Because if you go in ready to love it, you may be disappointed. If you go in ready to tear it up, you'll find lots of material for just that cause. But with lowered expectations, you can seriously have a ball with this squad. I know I did. The plot...well, even talking about the plot reveals how thin it is. Viola Davis' Amanda Waller (who definitely shines in a marvelous ensemble) comes in with the rather brilliant idea to assemble a gaggle of powerful, imprisoned "bad guys" together to help reduce crime. If they fail, they die/they get the blame pinned on them. If they succeed, they get some time reduced from their sentences. In her efforts to try to get the team together, Waller unknowingly helps create the film's villain. To cover her mistake, she sends the Suicide Squad (whose titular name is said in a half-cheesy, half-only-Will-Smith-could-deliver-it-this-amazing way) on a mission to take this enemy down, under the guise of it being a "terrorist" attack.

Anyone who knows me know I have a soft-side for the actress who plays the villain, which I won't reveal since it's some what of a spoiler, but even I can't deny that she is the weakest part of the film. I also wasn't huge on Jared Leto's portrayal of what I would call the "gangsta" incarnation of comic books' most iconic antagonist. Leto, with his shining grill, devoured all the scenery he was in, and for me it was hammy. But there were shining moments of potential, and from his antics, he seemed to be largely in character throughout it, so I eagerly await a Joker/Harley spinoff. Speaking of which: goodness gracious. From the moment she enticed us onscreen in The Wolf of Wall Street to her literally bubbly appearance in The Big Short, Margot Robbie has shown us her capabilities as an actress are limitless. Her Harley is unpredictable, a sexpot who would bash your face in with a mallet before she'd let you touch her. Her loyalties lie with Mr. J, and the oft-lamented tragedy of "70% of their scenes together getting cut" is definitely something I would've loved to have stayed in. If BvS was two and a half hours, I think this posse film could've definitely stood to be longer.

In fact, in talking with my friend who saw this with me, we both agreed the film felt like a two hour climax. Which is more of an observation than a critique. I don't think I've had a quicker time at the movies in recent memory. There were just always fascinating things onscreen, characters you wanted to get to know, rapid action scenes. When the film slows down a bit at a bar, and you get a little information into other's lives, it was wonderful. My personal favorite part of the film was seeing Diablo's backstory, and not to spoil anything, but what a fascinating character study, and you see how his powers reflected his lifestyle as a man on the streets. We don't get a ton of information on the other Squad members, but like Robbie, Will Smith reminds why we fell in love with him in the first place as Deadshot. There's enough of the Smith persona mixed in with a lot of anger and resentment over not being able to see his daughter, the one thing that softens up what seems like a very hard-tempered character.

And it's a real shame because David Ayers has proven skilled in writing an ensemble picture (Fury) and you could tell where the studio put its fingers. When Waller is introducing the squad it looks like something Warner Brothers would put on their Twitter page, full of cutesy sayings and irreverent information. Did they think people would understand Captain Boomerang's pink unicorn fetish? Tell us why! Killer Croc has a line at the end that is confusingly maybe-racist. Ayer allegedly went for a very dark tone with the film, and after BvS got trashed for being too dark and menacing the studio wanted to lighten things up. For me the jokes mostly worked, but it would've been intriguing to see what a gritty Suicide Squad would've looked like. I'm sick of the true vision being released on DVD five months after they've collected our money for the theatrical cut. We're going to go to your movie whether it's a comedy or a drama, three hours or 90 minutes. To the studios: have faith in your audience. As I said earlier, it's all about how you go into this film whether you like it or not. Despite some serious flaws (Was Eminem's "Without Me" essential to that certain scene?) I still had a blast with this squad.

Rating: 2.5/4 stars

PS: Forgot to add that one Squad member really struck my fancy: Joel Kinnaman's Rick Flagg. He was a great glue of the supervillains, with a relatable and heartbreaking backstory. Kinnaman's become one of my favorites with his slimy turn as Will Conway on "House of Cards."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

REVIEW: NINE LIVES

Full disclosure before you read the review of the Kevin Spacey cat movie, which right there should tell you what I'm going to think about it: I went in to see this movie with a friend as a joke. There were six people total in the theater, including my friend and I, along with a mother and a daughter (preteen-ish) and an older married couple who got quite comfortable during the screening. Does awful comedy bring a marriage together? So, as will be explained later on in this review, I know full well that Spacey's riveting turn as Mr. Fuzzypants will not bring the actor his third Academy Award. But in a time where either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump is going to lead our country for the next four years, sometimes it's okay just to sit back and realize you're about to enter a disaster, because laughing at that disaster takes some of its power away.

Nine Lives is a soulless, money-grabbing concept of a film that has no idea of who it's trying to entertain. But I'll be darned if it didn't entertain me for it's much too long 87 minutes. Part of the appeal of the comedy is the fact that it's real. It is an actual film that I paid ten and a half real American dollars to sit in a theater with other real human beings as we watch real Kevin Spacey as a cat pee on a rug, and then in a purse. It was surreal.  A surreal level of awfulness. This is the man playing (now that Walter White has left the picture) one of the most ruthless villains in television history...and his agent convinced him to take this on? Spacey can't be physically in the movie more than 20 minutes, each minute likely equalling one million dollars he was paid. Christopher Walken on the other hand, I understand perfectly. He has reportedly said that he will be in just about anything. Personally, the only way that Nine Lives could've been a success was that Walken, a la Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor, play every role in the film. That means the cat, Kevin Spacey's wife, Kevin Spacey's ex-wife and Kevin Spacey's daughter. All Walken. And he doesn't change his voice to any pitch either. He plays the line dead straight.
Garner is largely responsible for the half star

This kind of Neanderthal babbling is what kept me sane thinking about this movie. You can point out things like Spacey's daughter (Malina Weissman) dancing with the CGI cat is probably creepier than the lotion in the bucket scene in Silence of the Lambs. Or the fact that this movie has no idea who it's for, when half of it is business meetings kids won't understand and the other half is CGI slapstick we've all seen before and parents will want to scream "FIRE" just to evacuate the theater. Or maybe how irredeemable Spacey's Tom Brand is throughout the feature, even when he's supposed to get his cliched comeuppance.

But movies like this will always be made, and I made the very intentional decision to come see this movie because I knew it would be bad. No one will see this movie. No one will remember it. It's not going to hurt Spacey or Garner, and especially not Walken, a nearly mythical figure in cinematic ambiguity and strangeness. Obviously don't watch this movie, because it didn't care so you shouldn't either. But since I did, I don't regret it. I'm not going to put it on my worst-of list at the end of the year, because unlike Bad Words it didn't offend me morally or feel like it had wasted my time. If you do decide to pop in this film for your five-year-old after getting it in the Wal-Mart bin ten years from now, sit down with the right mind frame, and it might be a four star experience.

Rating: 0.5/4 stars

Saturday, August 6, 2016

REVIEW: FINDING DORY

Over three years ago, when this blog was my biggest commitment (college will knock a lot of things over in it's savage quest to consume your time) I talked about how this film had the possibility of being a disaster. My biggest fear was that they would Materize the sequel by putting in a sidekick as the main star of the film. Many folks thought the rusty redneck truck was irritating on the first go round, but Dory the blue tang absolutely stole the show amidst Australian sharks, Californian surfer turtles and a crazed dentist. So where does Dory land along side Pixar's other sequels? Well let's just say it's more Toy Story 2 than Cars 2.

With a less obvious title than it's predecessor, Finding Dory finds Dory finding herself, where she came from, how she was raised, and her search for her parents. I guess Finding Mr. and Mrs. Dory doesn't have the same ring to it. Marlin and Nemo pop up of course, this time in supporting roles to Dory. I guess fish don't have last names? The film starts with reintroducing audiences to Dory's endearing amnesia...which admittedly gets old after a few minutes. And it did get me a little nervous. If Mater's tick was him being a hick, was the whole movie going to be Dory forgetting things? Well, naturally, but I'm happy to say that they never rely on that as the film's main source of humor. Finding Dory is one of Pixar's funniest, while simultaneously being one of the darkest of the 17 films the company has put out.

That's right, maybe that's why Dory earned Pixar the less frequent PG rating it wears. Nemo dealt with a lot of the same issues, but this movie gets to you. First off, the idea of never being able to fully remember anything is a little scary to me. Getting separated from your parents for YEARS is actually wholly terrifying, and Dory almost dies like 10 times throughout this movie. It's a little intense. But if any animated film can tackle such adult themes with whimsical grace like Pixar is wont to do, Finding Dory achieves it. There are positively wonderful additions to the oceanic ensemble, which is hard, because just going through the creatures I mentioned earlier (sharks, turtles, the dentist) I was leaving out the jellyfish, Nemo's friends in the fish tank, Marlin's fellow parents. Maybe it's because I have literally seen Finding Nemo over 20 times, but everything about that film is warm and iconic. Now you have a grumpy septopus voiced by none other than Al Bundy himself Ed O'Neil, a couple of whales (one nearsighted, one...telepathic?) and so many more that I don't want to spoil here. Also, needless to say, Ellen DeGeneres is stellar as our little blue tang. With such a recognizable warm voice, you would think you'd be picturing DeGeneres saying all these lines, but her work is seamless.

While Finding Dory will likely never be ranked amongst Pixar's greatest achievements...that's okay. Before Cars 2 they had never really had a foul-up, and with films that have received less than masterpiece ratings (Monsters UGood Dinosaur) it's alright that the bar has lowered a bit. We can't expect a Toy Story level film every time, but even a bad Pixar film isn't necessarily a bad movie. This ultimately hopeful and super sweet sequel may not be up to it's predecessor's legendary status, but there's no doubt it'll be beloved through the ages, and it serves as one of Pixar's greatest sequels yet.

Rating: 3/4 stars

Saturday, July 2, 2016

REVIEW: FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS

One of the great tragedies of being in Britain at this time, which I'm sure you're all sick of hearing of, and even to my fellow Americans they must be tired of hearing of...is that Finding Dory comes out over a month later over here. I have to wait until returning to the States to see the sequel to one of Pixar's best! One of the upsides however, is I do get to see some films that look like they'll just be getting a theatrical release in the UK. One film I doubt is going to compete with Dory and the sure to be Oscar-winning Independence Day: Resurgence is Florence Foster Jenkins, a story about a woman whose life was destined to be portrayed on the silver screen. Having Meryl Streep fill the glittery sequins of your life is a pretty good consolation prize for Miss Jenkins, who could easily be considered the world's worst opera singer.

I don't encourage you to look at the real Mrs. Jenkins' Wikipedia page until after you've seen the movie. If you think this movie isn't going to float your boat, just check out her page for the pure oddity that is her life. Some lives are stranger than fiction, and she's up there. The premise essentially revolves around Hugh Grant, refreshingly playing a part where his charm is not needed romantically, playing Jenkins' husband St. Clair Bayfield, who, let's say, "ensures" his wife stays blissfully ignorant about her vocal talents. "It is both, or neither," he says, extending an invitation to a critic with a fresh $100 bill attached. Simon Helberg rounds out the main cast as Cosme McMoon, a new pianist Madame Jenkins hires, who is baffled as to why so many people think her voice is wonderful. He's not being gaslighted. Through a quarter century of work, Bayfield has put together a specialized "audience" for his wife that "hears" her voice just fine.

Like when one mounts something on a shelf so high for others to try and achieve it, Meryl Streep is her own category like Citizen Kane is to movies themselves and Babe Ruth is to baseball. When you watch her films you set the bar high because this is going to be a Meryl Streep movie. Well, a Meryl Streep movie is maybe a little different than a Meryl Streep performance. She is the queen for sure, performing out of the ball park in just about anything. Out of Africa is bloated Oscar-bait, but she is wonderful in it. So here as the titular FFJ. With a voice as awful as is depicted here, you would have to think there would be some self-awareness to Mrs. Jenkins, and that's covered later. Streep is wonderful as a woman whose life may be in this little artificial bubble of congratulation, but the truth is she's simply a lonely person. Something happened to her long ago that still affects her to this day, and even if she did know she wasn't the world's best singer, what's wrong with people sitting around and telling you you are?

The believability of the film really is weighted by that disclosure at the start of it, "Based on true events." When things start to seem incredible, you tell yourself, "well, it must have happened sort of this way, of course the studios will take liberties." And once you find yourself in that groove, you learn to just enjoy the ride. "The Big Bang Theory's" Helberg was really an unexpected surprise. If Streep wasn't so mirthful belting out those awful opera numbers, I'd say he had the most fun. His Cosme McMoon (which sounds like a wonderful alcoholic beverage sold in space) is sheepish, a little effeminate (though he can't tell when gay men are hitting on him at a party) but loyal. He always sticks by Mrs. Jenkins' side, even if Bayfield has to remind him every now and then. As I said, Grant doesn't really have to play the romantic here, but his charisma still glistens in a role where you're not sure if he's taking advantage of his wife or if he really does care for her. The film strives to give you both sides. Nina Arianda is a blast here, as girlfriend to a rich donor Agnes Stark. She plays the audience hear, cackling at the unfortunate sound of Jenkins' voice, but ultimately finding the silver lining in it by the end.

I'm afraid my only problem here is that things are played too safe. Philomena worked so well just as a straight story because it paid respect to a woman in such a somber situation. Here...you can have a little fun with the idea of a real world's worst opera singer. Ooh, I would've loved to have seen Wes Anderson's Florence Foster Jenkins. It's just with the absurdity of the piece seeing a wacky rendition would have been interesting. But I suppose director Stephen Frears was just trying to show respect to a woman so many mocked. The truth is she brought a lot of joy, intentionally or not. I think Miss Jenkins would have been elated to see one of the best actresses in the world portray her. I think she would've expected nothing less.

Rating: 2.5/4 stars

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

REVIEW: X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

As a lover and proponent of original filmmaking, I seem to have found myself in a bit of a hypocritical stance. This year alone I have seen four superhero films, a reboot of a Disney movie...and The Nice Guys. Let's stop now, and keep reading to see my review of the threequel to a rebooted franchise of the now eight-strong X-Men films.

The movie starts (in a startlingly cinematic epic fashion I hadn't seen in an X-Men movie thus far) with an ancient Egyptian landscape, where the world's first mutant En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) is worshipped by practically all of CGI Egypt. After betrayal by his men who see him as a false god, Grandaddy Mutant is trapped in the rubble of a pyramid, until 1983 rears its retro head, and some...culty people (??? it's never explained ???) are able to summon up from his slumber. En Sabah Nur (who's actually never called Apocalypse come to think of it) like Ultron and countless others before him is unsatisfied with machinery, weapons and other "superpowers" are being worshipped by the people who should be worshipping true power, i.e. him. Cue his quest to cleanse, er, save the world of its weak links, employing four followers (Horsemen, get it?) to help him vanquish the "superpowers." The mutants with real superpowers, especially those under the residential hood of Professor Charles Xavier, aren't thrilled about it.

Juggling an ensemble of superheroes seems to be the trend this year. The X-Men characters have always been a team, yet they've had comic book issue after issue to give minor characters spotlight. That's where the films have a distinct disadvantage. In usually two hours (Apocalypse's daunting running time proves the exception) you have to give new stories to the old characters, introduce the young blood, introduce your villain and his/her's plot of global destruction, have them duke it out with a loss or some grieve-inducing element to the battle, and have the villain lose. Whether or not  they stick exactly to that formula here in Apocalypse, you'll have to find out. The man/mutant/self-proclaimed god is certainly a worthy adversary, and the question has come up of why doesn't he just kill everyone in his way? With an unspecified power of...trapping people in sand? Don't bring Apocalypse to the beach...with the right transportation he could wipe out all of humanity. I guess the reason they give is he sees potential in all mutants, and wants them all to be his "children" so he can tap into their true power. Unrecognizable under the blue makeup that the film knowingly acknowledges is strange in one scene, Isaac certainly projects an authority and menace needed to play this creature with a god complex. But after the costume, makeup, voice distortion and special effects, how much of Isaac was actually put into that role?

Newcomers who deliver on their roles however are Ty Sheridan, forever Ellis from Mud to me, is a solid Cyclops, although it always gives me a chuckle when the outcast is tall, good looking and might be on the football team. Young Storm already has had more screen time than Halle Berry combined in the original X-Men trilogy, but even that's not saying much. I can't say she's an electric screen presence, although I'm dying to make that pun. She's one of Apocalypse's aforementioned Horsemen, along with Angel, who strangers to the comic like myself haven't heard of and didn't get a great deal of info on them, Magneto, who I'll address momentarily, and perhaps quite disappointingly, Psylocke. I didn't have any problems with her, but she was just eye candy and a henchman, something I feel Olivia Munn who plays her wasn't expecting and something that left the fans down.

Getting back to Michael Fassbender's magnetic screen presence (there's a pun for you!), he certainly has the most emotionally investing scene in the film, even more devastating than the one that opened up the series at the first place in Auschwitz. His arc is typically always is he/is he not evil, and this proves no exception. But you're certainly always invested in what he does next. James McAvoy once again is a Marvel marvel as Professor X. It doesn't seem as daunting as playing a mutant, but handling Xavier's intellect and maturity is no easy feat. Jennifer Lawrence is passable as Mystique. I remember the original trilogy's incarnation of her (played by Rebecca Romijn) being much more mischievous and daring. Lawrence plays the shape-shifter a little flat, lacking her usual charisma she oozed in Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Maybe the next X-Men needs David O. Russell as a co-director. Nightcrawler was a welcome addition to the prequel series. Alan Cumming is a hard act to follow, though. Now that the cast has been addressed, the spectacle of this film is grand, perhaps second only to the nearly unanimous agreement of 2014's franchise-high Days of Future Past. The special effects are Oscar worthy, the script serviceable and at times self-referential, the score bombastic. Technically it's a summer delight, but perhaps its heart feels a little too mechanical and by the numbers.

The next installment is said to be set in the 90's. Get ready to see Professor X blasting "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Magneto sporting MC Hammer pants.

Rating: 2.5/4 stars

P.S. The Evan Peters Quiksilver scene is still wonderful, though it's hard to top the DOFP scene.

Monday, June 6, 2016

REVIEW: THE NICE GUYS

The odd couple troupe is one of the oldest cinema can offer: but if it ain't broke, right? The joy of The Nice Guys, a good turnaround for acclaimed writer/director Shane Black, who we last saw helm Iron Man 3, is seeing these two Oscar-nominated actors play the camera for laughs. You don't think belly laughs when you think of Russell Crowe. Ryan Gosling was in last year's Oscar-winning comedy The Big Short, and he was pretty funny it, and we know he has chops from his "SNL" appearance. But they're generally seen as dramatic actors, so the joy of seeing them drive around 1970's L.A. with a hallucinatory creature is pretty spectacular.

The plot (for a mystery, anyway) is much pretty straightforward, with a few curves and backtracks to make it juicy. Healy, a "hit man," as I like to call him, because he pretty much just punches you in the face (Crowe) comes to private eye Holland March's (Gosling) door, breaks his arm and tells him to not pursue looking for Amelia Kutner, someone one of March's clients paid him to look for. When Healy goes back to his office, he's bombarded by two thugs, one of them the golden-voiced Keith David, the other (known as Blue Face, and I'll have you find out why) played by newcomer Beau Knapp, who makes his cartoonish, yippy role memorable here. Why are they there: to see what Healy knows about Amelia. He escapes from them, and returns to the now one-armed March, in that wonderful bathroom stall sequence the studio spoiled in the trailers. It's golden physical comedy. He wants them to team up to find Amelia. What do you think March says?

Crowe and Gosling have dynamite chemistry, but the movie is absolutely a trio. Angourie Rice plays Holly, March's tweenage daughter. At first, she seems a little like a nuisance, like so many kid actors who are probably talented but goaded to play the annoying brat who forces their adult guardians into unwanted situations. Holly does that in the beginning but it's instrumental to the plot going forward. She's a huge, completely necessary help to not only the boys solving the crime, but a key in March's redemptive storyline. Despite Healy taking a few bodies, both main characters are actually pretty nice, considering these types of stories usually feature chipped, hard-boiled men who call women dames and inhale whisky with their cigarette smoke.

After cranking out a mystery whodunit of my own this past summer that at least tries to be suspenseful and tie up all the loose ends, I can personally testify I don't envy the writing aspect of producing a crime movie. While the laughs come at you frequently and more than often land, the script is also the movie's weakness. When the Big Bad is revealed (and it's actually sooner than you'd expect) the motivation of him/her falls a little flat. And with mysteries, you're only as strong as your reveal. But, in a world full of cinema that's remaking itself from 30 years ago (in a stab at being...relevant?) this movie is highly welcome. Look at the box office for right now (June 6th), and just look at the top five movies, not even the top ten. You have a sequel to a reboot at number one, a sequel to a franchise at #2, a sequel that tanked at #4, and...a movie based on an app at #5. In a stronger, more creative year, maybe The Nice Guys, like it's ragtag duo wouldn't be the hottest on the block. But original ideas and concepts will always get my seal of approval, and The Nice Guys is pulpy, violent, very comical R-rated fun.

Rating: 3/4 stars

Thursday, May 26, 2016

REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

Even though this admits my guilt to my mind wandering a little, I realized that while watching Civil War this was the Marvel Cinematic Universe's thirteenth film. Besides Bond and probably those awful Transformers movies because audiences keep feeding Michael Bay's ego, how many franchises can say that? Additionally, how many can say that just about all of the films in their franchise have been well received? Most people cite the second Iron Man film as the worst, (and personally I think Iron Man 3 was a poorly executed film), but there isn't really a stinker in there. They're all fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, they all made obscene amounts of money...it's pretty impressive.

Some have noted how the Marvel films are all fairly similar, at least in tone and the formula that follows a TV episode of thwarting the bad guy at the end of it. That's why they bring in directors to genre bend. Sometimes it works, when the Russo brothers (who directed this edition) make a 70s, espionage thriller and call it The Winter Soldier, and sometimes it doesn't, when Shane Black makes a Shane Black movie and calls it Iron Man 3, which you might know I really did not enjoy as a superhero film. Of course, it's awful hard not to enjoy something someone works on for so long, and how much endless work probably goes into a Marvel film. That's why it's so wonderful to see the culmination of all of Marvel's work since Iron Man in 2008 (god, I was 12 and now I'm going to be a junior in college) in Civil War. This is a later review (no rest for the wicked, they say) so I'm going to address the big things below that everyone's talking about. But as for a general review, while there were some flaws, it's everything I wanted Batman v Superman to be, yet so far from that rather mess of a movie mashup it's gotten me so excited for Marvel's Phase Three:

  • SPIDER-MAN: He isn't even a man yet! And yet I like him already so much better than Andrew Garfield. Without spoiling anything, Tom Holland's Peter Parker is a revelation, and even in his limited screen time you know his Homecoming spinoff is going to be wonderful. He's jokey and fun but he's also in awe of all these superhero icons he's meeting. The directors had fun making meta-references here, you can tell, after all they buttered their bread with Community
  • THE OTHER NEW(ER) CHARACTERS: Technically of the Avengers, Black Panther is the only new face to the MCU. I thought his origin story was a little rushed, but the character himself looks like he's gonna be ferocious, and his stand alone film will be not only entertaining but a step forward in superhero diversity. Boseman is winning as the prince. Scarlet Witch and Vision was an...interesting interaction. I certainly didn't see it coming as a non-comic book reader. Everyone else really got their moment in the sun, which I'll talk about in just a second. Except Hawkeye. His appearance confused me, other than just another face to put on the poster. He came so late, too. 
  • THE VILLAIN: MCU films are now notorious for their forgettable villains, sans Loki. I enjoyed Ultron (more than most people) and Jebediah Stone as well, but I couldn't even tell you who the bad guy was from The Dark World  or Guardians of the Galaxy. Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo wasn't particularly a standout, but his reasoning for becoming who he is isn't cartoony. It's real, and stinging, and something that might happen in this post 9/11 world. 
  • CAP AND TONY'S RELATIONSHIP: Like I said, everyone got their time to shine in Civil War. Black Widow, Falcon and War Machine maybe less so, but they've been established. It's just cool to see all of these faces and heroes interacting with each other at this point, and how Falcon can be in Ant-Man (which I didn't review but thoroughly enjoyed) and they can just drop in because it's all the same world. It's a 1940's serial, really. But instead of calling it Avengers 2.5, it is indeed a sequel to The Winter Soldier. It focuses on Cap's troubling relationship with Bucky, and then his troubling relationship with Stark after something horrible happens when the Avengers are out of country. I thought it was handled expertly, which leads to...
  • THE THEME: Collateral damage is not what you think of when you think of superhero films, but now both BvS and this film have addressed it. They aren't fighting baddies in deserted regions: they're protecting the world from the forces of evil, but that means a cost in lives. The "Civil War" in question is the government wanting to supervise the Avengers. Tony's for it, Cap isn't. It's meta and wonderful and such a smart move. 
  • THE AIRPORT FIGHT: Believe the hype. 
Rating: 3/4 stars