Friday March 15

Big Time Movie Reviewr “Captain Marvel” (2019)

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by JD Phillips


By JD Phillips

Never in the history of film has there been so much controversy over a film that is so totally inoffensive.

            If you’ve been pretty much anywhere on the internets the last few months, you’ll know that the new Captain Marvel movie has made lots of people really really really REALLY REALLY REALLY upset. This movie was reported to be the selling out of Marvel and the beginning of the end of the extended franchise as a whole.

            Except it’s a completely normal Marvel movie. Aside from being the first MCU film to feature a female lead and the fact that it’s completely set in the 90’s instead of occasionally flashing back to the 90’s, it’s just like pretty much any MCU origin film.

            We meet the Kree soldier Vers as she trains with her superior officer Jude Law. They go on a mission that goes poorly and Vers ends up stranded on Earth. Here she learns about a conspiracy involving the Skrulls, an American scientist, and a pilot named Carol Danvers.

            The movie is honestly a lot of fun. It has impressive fight scenes, a solid plot, and pretty great humor throughout.

            The cast is all pretty great. Brie Larson kills it in every single scene. For all the drama about how robotic Larson looked in the first trailer, it’s amazing how charming she is in almost every scene. Seriously, they picked the only scenes where she’s not being energetic for that trailer. Very strange.

           
The rest of the cast is also really solid. Jude Law plays a surprisingly tough military commander. Annette Bening is serviceable as the Great Intelligence (among other things. No spoilers.) Lashana Lynch makes great use of limited screen time as one time Captain Marvel Maria Rambeau. And Ben Mendelsohn has a lot of fun as the surprising Skrull commander Talos.

            This shouldn’t be a huge surprise but the actor who steals the show here is Samuel L. Jackson. He has a ton of fun as the younger, less grizzled Nick Fury and has outstanding chemistry with Larson. Every scene between the two of them is just gold.

Nick Fury

            There are a few things about the film that don’t work. It gets so concerned with the various twists and turns associated with the plot that the middle of the film drags a bit. The ending makes up for it by being a cgi battle spectacular when Captain Marvel fully embraces her powers.

            This is far from the best Marvel movie but it’s farther from the worst. It may be the most medium good of the franchise as a whole. It’s just better than clunky films like Ant Man and Thor but not quite as solid as films like Thor: Ragnarok and Iron Man. It’s a solid popcorn summer film delivered early in March. Go see it, you will have a blast.

           

8.5

            Best part of the film though is the opening Marvel crawl. I don’t want to spoil it but it does perfectly memorialize MCU favorite Stan Lee in about the best way it could. I didn’t get choked up! You did!

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Saturday December 29

2018: Spidey’s Big Year

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by JD Phillips

By JD Phillips

 

In the last decade, Spider-Man has had some truly rough times. Between “Spider-Man 3”, the failed “Amazing Spider-Man” franchise reboot, and the utter failure by Sony to make an MCU styled shared universe around Spider-Man’s lore, it started to seem like the comic book legend was never going to rule pop culture the way it did when “Spider-Man” and “Spider-Man 2” dropped again.


2018 was a biiiiiig turning point for the character in that regard. Like Huge.

 

1. Spider-Man: Avenger


spiderman avenger


The Tom Holland Spider-Man dazzled audiences with his youthful energy from the moment he stole Cap’s shield in “Captain America: Civil War”. This year, he completed his character arc and was finally dubbed a full-fledged Avenger. In “Avengers: Infinity War”, the character fought alongside fellow Avengers both in New York and in space, traded pop culture barbs with Chris Pratt’s Starlord, and met an incredibly tragic end. Of all the characters who were lost in the movie’s decimation, Peter’s was the most heartbreaking.


Also, his lines “I’m sorry” are much more tragic when you realize he’s apologizing for not pulling Thanos’ Gauntlet off fast enough. He thinks its his fault. It’s okay to cry. Why don’t you take a moment to compose yourself and then come back?

 

2. Playstation’s Exclusive Superhero


spiderman 2 playstation



Spidey has had a very dicey track record with video games in the days since the great “Spider-Man 2”. 2018 was the year where Spidey kicked Batman off of his video game throne with “Marvel’s Spider-Man”. It set up a fantastic universe that might not just pave the way for future Spidey games, but also for Marvel to have a much bigger video game future.


It not only held its own with amazing gameplay but also with a compelling story that featured all of the high flying action and deep, character-driven tragedy that the character’s best stories are known for.


3. Venom makes bank (somehow)


spiderman venom


The first Spidey-less Spider-Man film, “Venom”, is pretty god awful. It has a stitched together plot, massively cliched villains, and obviously had 45 R-rated minutes cut out in order to just make more money. None of that mattered though, because it was an enormous hit. The film showed that Sony can finally create its own shared universe that may or may not exist in the Tom Holland MCU.


This film may not be as great as films like “Spider-Man 2” or “Spider-Man: Homecoming” but it is still a landmark in the wider Spider-Man mythos. Expect to see a lot more Spidey spinoffs to come. Hopefully, they’ll get better with time.


4. Animation’s Superhero


spiderman spiderverse


The last Spider-Man film “Spider-Man: Edge of the Spider-Verse” is not only a great Spider-Man film but also the best animated film of 2018. “Venom” may have set the stage for a massive shared universe of live action characters but Spider-Verse manages to do that even better on the animated stage. There is definitely going to be a sequel to this film but it stands to reason that Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir, and Spider-Man 2099 could all be getting franchises too.


“Black Panther” may be the first superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture, this movie has a solid chance at actually winning for Best Animated Film. Eat your heart out “Incredible 2” there’s only room for one animated superhero team this year.


If you’re counting, that’s one massive movie universe set up, one massive video game universe set up, and one massive animation universe set up. In a year that included a Deadpool sequel, Black Panther making pop culture history, and Thanos making supervillain history like no one has since Heath Ledger’s Joker killed that guy with a pencil or Darth Vader revealed himself to Luke Skywalker, Spider-Man reigns supreme.

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Saturday December 29

Big Time Movie Reviewr “The Mortal Engines” (2018)

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by JD Phillips

I’m just gonna come right out and say it, this movie is bad. I’m a huge fan of the original “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but the more films the team behind it makes, the more it seems as though that trilogy was a “flash-in-the-pan” work of genius that the team has no clue of how to repeat.


Like the Star Wars prequels or the Hobbit trilogy, this film just utterly fails to recapture the magic it wants to. This film, however, doesn’t even really seem to attempt to. It’s just special effects over screenwriting 100%. Unlike those other two franchises, “The Mortal Engines” won’t have any fans or defenders. Instead, it will go down like “Golden Compass” and “Warcraft” as the big-budget fantasy failures that you forgot existed six months after they came out.


While there are a few ideas that could’ve been potentially interesting and a few characters that might have been iconic in a different film, there’s really nothing about the film that’s memorable in any way. Instead of going forward, I’ll just save you some time. Don’t spend your money on this movie and just wait to watch it on Netflix when your bored in about three years. You’ll probably end up just as bored though.


4.0

541 hits

Saturday December 29

Big Time Movie Reviewr “Spider-Man: Edge of the Spider-Verse” (2018)

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by JD Phillips

By JD Phillips

In a world where Pixar is starting to feel stagnant, Dreamworks is all but irrelevant, and the LEGO films are strangely successful, the animation side of Hollywood really needed something to revitalize it. “Spider-Man: Edge of the Spider-Verse” is very surprisingly that exact movie. It is a bizarrely fantastic and straightforward film considering how complex and at times ridiculous the movie can be.

Let’s just do a checklist here for all the things the film accomplishes.
● A fantastic origin story for the Miles Morales Spider-Man
● Two great, intersecting stories about the classic Peter Parker Spidey
● An excellent re-imagining of the Spidey rogues gallery
● Establishes two very relatable main villains
● A truly memorable introduction of the fan favorite Spider-Gwen character
● A bizarrely successful introduction to the brilliantly weird Spider-Man Noir, SP//dr, and even Spider-Ham.
● An easily repeatable conceit around the titular “Spider-Verse”
● A fantastic new style that relies on several existing styles like comics, anime, noir, old-school animation, and more.

 

spidermen

That’s just a ridiculous amount of success there. Especially for a Sony film that can barely make a decent Spider-Man film with a simplistic plot. This is easily the best comic book film that Sony has made since “Spider-Man 2”.


It introduces us to Jake Johnson’s Spider-Man initially, then pivots to Miles Morales. Both of these new spideys are instantly relatable and likable. The movie gets a lot of mileage out of poking fun at the extended Spider-Man franchise and product line. (Think “LEGO Batman” but even funnier) It then introduces us to the Chris Pine Spider-Man of Miles’ Earth before having him meet a tragic end. There’s a lot that happens in the first thirty minutes of this movie and it’s surprising that at no point does it feel rushed, disjointed, or confusing. (Smart move to have the Chris Pine Spidey be blonde).


Then we are reintroduced to Jake Johnson’s Spidey and find out that like most Jake Johnson characters, he is a hopeless thirty-something that can’t get his shit together. There’s a great contrast between a green Spider-Man and a has been Spider-Man who have to learn from each other.


From there the film starts rolling out the other cast members. Spider-Gwen makes an appropriately punk rock entrance and paves the way for the ridiculous trio of Spider-Noir, Peni Parker, and John Mulaney’s perfectly silly Spider-Ham.


All the Spiderman gang


Then there’s the inevitable coming of age moment and character affirming final fight scene. It is a remarkably steam lined film for one that has so much to accomplish. Even Wilson Fisk and The Prowler are well developed and relatable villains. Hell, by the end of the film you’re genuinely concerned about whether Miles will get his personal essay done.


The best part of the entire film may be the interactions between Miles and his unfortunately named father, Jefferson Davis. The journey that both characters have to go through to bond on a more personal level is compelling and tender in the ways all the best Pixar films are.


Ultimately, “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” is the best animated film of 2018 and a landmark film for the superhero genre. Sony has finally found the Spider-Man franchise of its dreams. Who would’ve thought it would be such a weird franchise? I mean, think about how ridiculous the phrase “Spider-Verse” is. This film shouldn’t be amazing, but I’m so happy it is. I need more!


9.8

628 hits

Friday December 28

Big Time Movie Reviewr “Aquaman” (2018)

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by JD Phillips

 

By JD Phillips

 

The DCEU thus far has been a very very mixed bag. By mixed bag I mean it started with a disjointed but watchable film, had two increasingly awful sequels, one terrible spinoff, and one spinoff so amazing that they can’t just burn it all to the ground. So my expectations for “Aquaman” were very low, even considering how naturally awesome Jason Momoa. I’m happy to report that “Aquaman” is much more “Wonder Woman” than it is “Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice”.


Like “Wonder Woman” it starts off in a very storybook way. The comparisons don’t end there as most of the film plays more like a quickly paced adaptation of a fantasy novel than it really does a superhero movie. That’s very much not a bad thing though. The DCEU films have utterly failed at the darker, more pretentious aesthetic they originally attempted and even harder at the hard right turn (in post-production) they made with “Justice League” and “Suicide Squad” to be more like Marvel films. This storybook aesthetic that worked so well for “Wonder Woman” works even better for “Aquaman” because of how hard a sell the Justice League’s most mockable member is.


Aquaman


There’s no mocking this Aquaman though. Jason Momoa is awesome in every single frame of the movie. I don’t know who had the brilliantly strange idea of casting Khal Drogo as the blonde haired, blue eyed Arthur Curry, but it was brilliant. He brings a completely different energy to the film than any other actor would have. There’s that same natural badass quality that Gal Gadot brings that just screams “this actor could really kick your ass”.


That is a bit of a double edged sword though. The film is so aware of how cool Momoa is that it frequently leans on his grizzled edge to mask the all too familiar toxically masculine tropes the film uses instead of fully writing out a fleshed out character. Amber Heard and Jason Momoa are great but their interactions can sometimes seem as though they are from another decade. The super-competent woman character taking care of the bull-headed but somehow special because the plot demands it man is just exhausting at this point. It becomes confusing seeing as how badass and magical Mera is why she doesn’t just take the throne herself. Why does she need Arthur?


Mera


The moments when the film drives away from these tropes are the better character moments in the film. When it focuses on Arthur’s humility and his desire to save both of his people are much better than when it just relies on one-liners and guitar riffs.


The other characters are also two parts awesome and one part cliched. Nicole Kidman is incredibly badass but ultimately serves to just be the passive Matriarch we’d expect. Patrick Wilson’s Ocean Master is played excellently but he can seem a little mustache twirly at times.
Black Manta is a stand out from his first scene but is sadly shelved for the last act of the film. (No underwater fight scene with Aquaman? Whaaaat?)


Still, none of this really takes away from the film. Also like “Wonder Woman”, the film’s style, excellent world, and even more excellent action sequences more than make up for the film’s flaws. Atlantis is just beautiful. It isn’t quite Wakanda good, but it’s still a wonder to look at. I feel like the screenplay wanted to dip a toe into the waters of the seven kingdoms (pardon the pun) instead of jump in with both feet. The film tours us around the Aquaman mythos but doesn’t flesh any part of it out as much as it could. This is probably gonna be helpful to the franchise’s future. There’s a lot of material to mine in the future.


Aquaman Movie


Director James Wan took the most difficult comic property in the DCEU and gave it massive franchise potential. He’s got “Fast & Furious” and “Conjuring” franchises under his belt, but “Aquaman” might be his most impressive feat yet.


All in all, “Aquaman” is a movie that should have been an absolute disaster but the talent behind it made it into a truly seaworthy superhero franchise.


8.5

741 hits

Tuesday December 18

Binge Watchr Reviews “Doctor Who: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”

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by JD Phillips

 

By JD Phillips


Well, it’s over. Team Tardis is done until New Year’s. While the finale wasn’t as ambitious as I would’ve hoped, it still proved to be a worthy addition to the new season.


“The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” put a proper button on the season even though it didn’t push the cast as hard as it could have. That’s not to say that it didn’t continue to get mileage out of the cast. Yaz and the Doctor took up a lot of the action hero duties this week as they battled against the returning Tzim-Sha. While they handled the majority of the universe saving, the real heart of the action was centered around Graham and Ry.


Graham Doctor Who The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos


In a very uncharacteristic (but 100% understandable) dark move, Graham informed the Doctor upfront what he intended on Tzim-Sha. The death of Grace has loomed over the entire season so it makes sense that the finale would feature the long-awaited chance at revenge.

 

The moral conundrum that Graham deals with throughout the episode shows why Graham is by far the best of the three companions. His journey to finally not seek revenge was very compelling. It was buttoned with a perfect fist bump between Ry and his now fully accepted grandfather.


I do hope that Tzim-Sha makes it out of the prison that Graham puts him in. It’s sad that we didn’t have more compelling recurring villains this season, but Tzim-Sha was definitely the season’s highlight. If he had more development, he could end up holding his own as a truly malevolent presence across the series in after Jodie Whittaker leaves.


Tzim Sha


All in all, the episode was a perfectly functional season finale. It’s hard to really find something about the episode I had a problem with. Still, I feel a bit let down. The show felt as though it was leading towards some of the wildly emotional and heartbreaking moments “Doctor Who” is known for.

Perhaps it’s just time to accept the more low conflict, happy show that Chris Chibnall surprisingly wants to go for. In a time of such real-world conflict, that’s not such a bad thing.


Regardless, it’s going to be a long wait until we can see Team Tardis again. Even if it is only until New Year’s.


8.7

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Monday December 10

Binge Watchr Reviews “Doctor Who: It Takes You Away"

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by JD Phillips

 

By JD Phillips


Where the hell did that come from?

Before this season began, I had high expectations for this show to add a new sense of style and urgency. While there have been a few high notes that reflected my expectations this season, most of the episodes have been pretty standard as far as this show has been the last decade. Then there’s “It Takes You Away” which starts like an average horror episode of the show but then creates a completely new style that leads you into a labyrinth of fear and heartbreak. I want every sci-fi episode of the show to come from the same bizarre mindscape this episode came from because it was wild.


An episode about a blind girl all alone with a scary monster in the woods is a pretty normal plot for the show. Luckily, all of that was just a red herring for the strange journey that was to come. Once the Doctor, Graham, and Yaz stepped through that mirror, the show itself became a whole new entity altogether. The lighting, music, set design, and costume design were completely different from everything that’s been done before. It was like some strange mix of a moody Panos Cosmatos film and Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth”. It had a creepy troll, a magical balloon lantern that cast eerie red light, man-eating moth monsters, and a magnificently bizarre toad puppet. This is a far cry from the CGI gremlin we got in episode 5.


Eleanor Wallwork as Hanne in Doctor Who It Takes You Away


Our cast delivered another standout performance this week as once again every character was well utilized. This week though, it was Graham and Ryan who got the spotlight. About thirty-five minutes into this episode, it decided to drive a well-placed knife right into the audience’s heart when it seemingly brought Grace back from the dead. That character made such a great impression in the first episode that there has been a Grace shaped void in the following eight episodes. When she turned around, for the briefest moment I believed the show had found a way to bring her back. That maybe she’d join Team Tardis with her husband and grandson.


But that’s not how this show goes. This episode’s monster, the Solitract was a different kind of antagonist. Its evil plan wasn’t to destroy the universe or conquer a planet. All it wanted was to not be alone anymore. So it used people who felt horribly alone in their grief as a way of traveling to our world. It’s a beautifully tragic entity that’s made all the more so by how simple its effectiveness was. I felt a push and pull myself whether I wanted Graham to take Grace through the portal with him. It was a painful journey from Graham’s acceptance of the imposter Grace to realizing that the real thing would never put her grandson in danger. Bradley Walsh has given outstanding performances in every episode, but I do believe this was his best.


Graham and Grace in Doctor Who It Takes You Away


At the end of the episode, right when you feel the full weight of Graham’s pain and sacrifice they offer another beautiful moment. Ryan finally accepts Graham as his granddad. It was a heartwarming moment that was placed in exactly the right spot this season. Ryan’s character is starting to come to grips with the loss of his Gran and his father’s abandonment. He finally sees who his real family is. The show felt like it was moving towards this moment since episode one and when it finally arrived, they played it perfectly.


Not that everything was perfect in this episode, however. I find it to be very out of character for the Doctor to be outsmarted by a simple cave alien that makes Gollum look like a genius. We’ve seen this character outsmart so many enemies in the past that it was a really disappointing moment when Seven Stomachs pulled that second knife to the Doctor’s surprise. I feel like this Doctor is trusting to a fault. Hopefully, that’s a quality they are planning on exploiting at some point in the future and not just a character defect. It’s hard to imagine Peter Capaldi falling victim to the two knives swindle. The oldest trick in the book.

 

That’s not to say Whittaker didn’t still give an amazing performance for the rest of the episode. Her compassion and deep sense of empathy really distinguish her from the cold, distant Doctors we’ve had before. I would just love to see a scene where she has to come to grips with the fact that she cannot always be the nice Doctor. It would be interesting to see an episode where she is pushed to showing the darker sides she seems so hellbent on keeping at bay.


All in all, this was a fabulous episode of “Doctor Who” which hopefully sets a new style standard for the show. I hope the sci-fi episodes continue to be more like this one than most of the others this season.


9.5


aw didimiss something 1

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