MCU

May 17, 2017

‘Guardians Vol.2’ Lacks the Magic, but That’s Not All Bad

It would be putting it mildly that the expectations were out of this world for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.” James Gunn’s oddball superhero action comedy introduced fans of the MCU to a brand new type of hero and extended the storytelling into outer space. Sure, both “Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World” took us into the mythical world of Asgard, but the colorful landscape of deep space was something to behold.

Also, the fact that Marvel/Disney was willing to take a chance on a Troma-alum like Gunn who seems to have an affinity for tentacle Hentai porn and graphic violence, was a breathe of fresh air. You had the prefect blend of heart, family-friendliness and of course sexual innuendo, hence the first “Guardians” was a smash hit.

Take us three years to 2017 and Gunn is back at it again with “Vol. 2,” a flawed, but fun, sequel that is essentially a companion piece to the MCU as opposed to any type of film that progresses the overall story arc in the MCU. More importantly, it seems like the shackles were completely off of Gunn to create a film in the way that he sees fit, and that is where the film both shines, and trips over itself at times.

We meet our heroes back in 2014, fresh off the heels of their big victory against Ronan the Accuser and turning over the Power Stone to the Nova Corps on Xandar. This time they are helping the Sovereign protect some batteries from a giant tentacle monster. With their job complete, the Guardians receive their reward; the captured Nebula.

Of course, things go south quick and our heroes crash land on a lone planet and are greeted by a man names Ego, who tells Star Lord that he’s his father and wants to show him his birth rite. At this point our heroes part ways and the film gets the plot moving.

It’s difficult to put into words what’s wrong with this film without sounding like a cranky old man that doesn’t like cutesy Disney-like characters, the use, or overuse, of music, and a couple of jokes and scenes that are a little too self-indulgent. But I guess that’s what you get when you let an inmate run the asylum.

The biggest criticism from most people is that the sequel isn’t as good as the first one. Wow, what a criticism to make…the sequel isn’t as good. Hard hitting stuff. However, I have been pounding the drum in my perceived notion that there has been a recent dip in the quality of Marvel product. But this could also be my perception since the quality has been high for nearly decade, that is was inevitable that a few leaks would start to spring from the hull of the Titanic that is Marvel Studios.

I have to admit, during the title sequence of “Vol. 2” nearly took me out of the film. Unlike Chris Pratt’s trounce through Morag dancing and singing to “Come and Get Your Love,” the Baby Groot dance to “Mr. Blue Sky,” while the rest of the team is fighting a massive alien set the tone that I was going to be annoyed with cute antics. Pratt’s dance set the tone for fun and personally I rather see a REAL HUMAN character on screen than a computer generated creature pimped put to sell Pop! Vinyl figurines.

However, the film rebounded from that and turned into a pretty fun, stand-alone Marvel film. There is meditation on family and abandonment and the idea that the heart should drive you as opposed to your brain, and those themes were handled quite well considering all the boombastic action going on for about 80% of the film.

This brings me to one of the things I really liked, and that was Gunn’s freedom to pay homage to his friends on screen, namely Michael Rooker and his brother, Sean Gunn. The additional screen time and plot progression of Rooker’s Yondu, and Gunn’s Kraglin is something unexpected and a breathe of fresh air. Being close to the director is certainly a perk, but the way both Yondu and Kraglin are treated in “Vol. 2” is something a lot of studios with millions of dollars invested in a film wouldn’t allow to happen; make them a central part of the film. But low and behold, they are given much more screen time and are allowed to play pivotal roles, especially at the film’s climax.

At the end of the day, these films are bulletproof. No matter the reviews or criticism, “Vol. 2” will make close to a billion dollars worldwide, and the Marvel juggernaut just keeps chugging along. In all fairness, however, it’s fair to openly criticize this film, because it’s not perfect, and has it’s flaws, but don’t criticize it just to criticize because overall, “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2,” is a harmless Summer blockbuster that is just another piece of the Marvel machine heading towards the inevitable “Infinity War,” and if anything, at least this film is proving that you don’t need to shoehorn things into a universe that is so bloated that at times it seems to be collapsing in on itself.

“Vol. 2” is the closest thing we’ve had to a stand-alone Marvel movie, thus far. No need for cute cameos or a character just passing by. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t mind just seeing a “Guardians of the Galaxy” film universe. It’s ripe for the picking and there are plenty of things to cherry pick and create some fun films. Hell, a talking racoon and a tree are some of the most talked about characters in the MCU; who’d of thought they would be more beloved at this point than Iron Man or Captain America. People are looking for their heroes to be against the grain, and that is why “Black Panther,” for my money is going to blow people away, but tread carefully when giving the masses what they want, the disappointment could also be monumental and remember; with great power, comes great responsibility.

March 22, 2017

Matt’s Take: The State of Marvel’s Netflix Universe

What an age of wonder we continue to live in! Superheroes, Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel, *cough* dc *cough* and so much more. Every comic book, sci-fi, and fantasy nerd is living their wildest dreams with the arms-race continuing at a pace never before seen in modern pop culture. If you dream it, and there is a market for it, it will surely be adapted in some form or another. But are chinks starting to form in the armor of Netflix/Marvel/Disney’s after a pretty rough take on their latest hero, “Iron First.”

Full disclosure, I’ve yet to dive into the newest Netflix Marvel series, “Iron Fist,” but man, based on those reviews, which I normally take more serious then a fortuneteller in a strip mall next to the Chinese Take-Out, there has to be something to them, well, because there are so many bad ones.

But in comparing Season One of “Daredevil” that many people thought pretty much changed the game for Marvel, where are they starting to go wrong after it’s Second Season? Sure, “Jessica Jones” upped the storytelling and introduced the strongest female character that Marvel has put on the screen yet (sorry Black Widowers), but there has been a noticeable drop in consistency.

Perhaps the seasons are a little too long…for me. Some would argue they aren’t long enough, but 13 episodes, with maybe about six of the episodes being of substance and moving the plot along, 10 episodes seem like the way to go.

This brings me to “Luke Cage,’ currently the highest rated Marvel TV show, at least on Rotten Tomatoes, the “be all, end all” of Movie, TV, blah blah blah reviews. As a whole, the show is good. It takes on a lot of issues that scare conservatives and white people, and show that no matter what color you might be, corruption is universal. That might be reaching a little too deep into “Cage” but it does show the social climate of a predominate African-American neighborhood, and is no doubt the most politically charged of the TV MCU so far.

Mike Colter IS Luke Cage. He’s physically imposing, tender at times, but still a reluctant hero who thinks more about his situation than the events happening around him. He’s the anti-thesis to Daredevil in many senses. Whereas Matt Murdock seeks justice and protects his neighborhood, Luke stands on the sidelines and lets his native Harlem fall victim to elected officials and criminals. He knows what he has to do, but prefers to hide and let the neighborhood rip itself apart. Of course, as in most of these superhero origin stories, he sees the error of his ways and with the help of some well-written female characters, and of course the introduction of a villain that can tear his world apart, comes to his senses and decides to save the day.

Unlike “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones,” this series also lacked an actual villain with a super-powered background. No mind-control or extreme ninja skills with an option to come back from the dead. It was, at first, a fight between a super-strong, yet reluctant hero, and a crime boss, and turned into a super-strong, now active hero, against a crime boss, but now a crime boss is in a super-suit. I do like the re-inclusion of the almost long forgotten Hammer Industries back into the MCU, and it re-opens the doors to maybe get Sam Rockwell back into the mix, which is always welcome.

With the positives, comes the negatives. I really wasn’t a fan of the final fight between Cage and the season’s big bad, Diamonback. It was underwhelming, there just wasn’t much there, and even though some people might think the build up was just enough to give the final fight some pathos, but just fell flat, just like many fights and bad guys in the MCU. To this date, Kilgrave, aka, The Purple Man, is the only villain that really comes to mind that posed a great threat, as well as it being the most personal and tragic.

And while this might make me a traitor to all of my musical sensibilities, considering I love Wu-Tang Clan, I really could have done without the Method Man “freestyle” about Luke Cage during a segment of Sway in the Morning. I don’t know, it seemed so forced and just kind of an out of nowhere element of the show. Now listen, I love Method Man and everything about Wu-Tang Clan, but….why? Why include a musical interlude about Luke Cage in the middle of an episode. No sir, I don’t like it.

Where they’ll go with Season Two of “Luke Cage,” I don’t really know, and will they go the route of releasing the next season before “The Defenders” is finally released, and will the less-than-favorable reviews of “Iron Fist” effect said “Defenders.”

Sure, I haven’t gotten started on “Iron Fist” just yet, but I honestly do feel my enthusiasm waning for these more mature Marvel hero(ines). Yeah, it looks like Frank Castle will be returning sooner rather than later, but just like Roman Times, the crowd is fickle and will boo without mercy if they don’t like something. That, or in fact, “Iron Fist” really is that bad.

People also tell me “Hey, ‘Agents of SHIELD’ has gotten better.” Meh, I’m sure it’s fine, but first impressions are everything, and with the “Winter Solider Oki-Doke,” as I’ll call it, and a character who was as insufferable as Skye (who I also hear got better with time) I pretty much tuned out. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Marvel, TV-wise, has had it’s share of ups-and-downs, and ebbs-and-flows, and should be able to bounce back from a couple of sub-par, ie, not able to meet the lofty expectations of “fans,” outings lately.

What we all need to remember is that while we all waited with bated breath for these Marvel shows to come to Netflix, how high were the hopes for “Daredevil?” I’m sure a lot of people would raise their hands and yell out, “Oh, I knew the whole time!” Puh-lease! After the letdown that was Ben Affleck’s “Daredevil,” and the juggling of show-runners, will you honestly tell me without laughing that you had 100% confidence in Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock and the kid from the Mighty Ducks as his sidekick? You…are a liar.

We were spoiled with “Daredevil” and it ultimately lead to unrealistic notions that everything that Marvel would put on Netflix would be diamonds. This is their first lump of coal, according to “highly qualified” reviewers, but the real test will see how this effects future seasons and the chance that Marvel is willing to take on even more fringe characters. Personally, I’m waiting on Moon Knight, Marvel’s version of Batman pretty much, but it worries me now because of the backlash of “Iron Fist.” Thanks critics, this is why we can’t have nice things…

March 10, 2016

Trailer Hot Take: Captain America: Civil War (Final Trailer)

Matt again, with another Trailer Hot Take. I mean, in all honesty, we all know that “Captain America” Civil War” is going to be awesome. It’s going to be everything that “Age of Ultron” wasn’t. The expectations almost seem impossibly high this time, and while “Ultron” was just an appetizer, this is going to be the entree that all MCU fans have been waiting for. Let’s go to the pictures:

This is shortly after an explosion in the trailer in some sort of UN-style conference, and from the looks of it, this looks like T’Challa, aka, Black Panther, Prince of Wakanda was present.

Fancy underwater base? Check!
Cap is chasing T’Challa who is chasing Bucky. The CG is a little weak right now, but I’m sure they’ll fix this up before May
It’s always been said that Scarlet Witch is one of the most powerful MUTANTS, yes, I said mutants, not Miracles (screw that) and what she’s doing to Vision right here is downright dirty
Hawkeye lets loose a barrage of arrows, and look who’s riding one of the, our good friend Scott Lang!

It’s so awesome to see Crossbones in the MCU finally. Just a bad-ass character
AND HERE IS THE MONEY SHOT
 Hey everyone……
“Captain America: Civil War” swings into theaters May 5th
April 24, 2015

Simply TV: Marvel’s Daredevil Episode Three: Rabbit in a Snowstorm (Matt’s Take)

Daredevil: Rabbit in a Snowstorm – Breather

After two exciting episodes, how can Marvel’s Daredevil keeping upping the ante; easy, have a third episode silly. While the first two episodes seemed to concentrate on stand alone arcs and character development, episode three, entitled “Rabbit in a Snowstorm” starts to shape what we are going to see the rest of this season.

Matt and Foggy are still trying to find their groove with their law practice when their first big case falls into their lap; a murder in a bowling alley involving a man named Healy who seems to be well connected with James Wesley, a man we meet in episode one who works for a mysterious benefactor.
Matt is suspicious of Wesley and the reasoning behind hiring himself and Foggy.

Elsewhere, we meet Ben Urich, an old newspaper writer who is interested in a man in black taking on the Russian Mob. Urich, once a respected reporter, has seen the decline of the printed page and the rise of blogs, and has been relegated to writing fluff pieces instead of hard-hitting news.

As Healy’s case goes to trial, Matt uses his enhanced senses to remove jurors that seem to have been tampered with, but is dismayed to learn that even with that juror gone, the case still ends with a hung jury and Healy is back on the street, but is met by Daredevil who beats a name out of him; Wilson Fisk.

This episode is treated almost like a setup and is more filler than anything else. That isn’t to say it’s a bad episode, quite the opposite, it’s just that the previous two episodes were so good that this one “pales” in comparison. What we do get however is the introduction of Ben Urich, played by Vondie Curtis-Hall, who I’m sure is going to play into the grand scheme of things in a big way, especially since we are teased that both he and Karen Page will likely be working very closely together.

The other big reveal is of course the “rabbit” himself; Wilson Fisk, or in comic book parlance, Kingpin, played by Vincent D’onofrio. While we only catch a quick glimpse and only a few lines of dialogue, we see an icy, yet thoughtful man. As far as his look, and the complaint about his size, look people, to find someone the size of Wilson Fisk would be nearly impossible and not likely, so get off that, and listen, he’s the perfect look, and another thing; it’s Vincent F’ING D’onofrio.

The only real Easter egg of sorts in this episode would be a newspaper article that we in Ben’s off with the byline of “Battle of NY” which is an obvious nod to the events in “The Avengers.” It’s still a nice little shout-out of course.

The last thing I’ll bring up in this episode is the elevation of the violence this time around. We have a broken arm with a bone poking out of the skin, a head based with a bowling ball, another broken arm with the sound effect being the payoff, a stabbing with a shard of glass, and the coupe de grace; a suicide via a shard of metal through the eye.

While “Rabbit in a Snowstorm” might not be the strongest effort so far this season, in no way is it lacking; it’s merely a formality where new story lines need to be opened up and characters developed.

Fun Fact: Wilson Fisk’s first appearance was in The Amazing Spider Man #50 in 1967.

April 10, 2015

Simply TV: Marvel’s Daredevil Episode 1: Into the Ring (Matt’s Take)

REDEMPTION

Daredevil: Into the Ring – Redemption

So, I’ve made the commitment to myself and to you, the audience. I will not binge “Marvel’s Daredevil.” In a society that demands everything be served to them right away, especially on Netflix, it’s almost a crime that we have forgotten about the timeless tradition of waiting for something. Of course we live in a fast-paced world now, with everything to be found with the click of a mouse or the typing of a keyboard, but there is something special about it, and this is why HBO is still so important right now….they still make you wait week to week to see what happens.

This of course brings me to “Daredevil” Marvel’s latest foray into TV, only this time without the limits of network rules. For the sake of explanation in these entries, I’ll review each episode individually, one a week, for 13 weeks. It’s going to take some willpower, but after just one episode I know this isn’t a show I’ll want to binge; this is a show I’m going to want to savor.

Episode One, entitled “Into the Ring” begins with our origin of a young Matt Murdock involved in a chemical accident, rendering him blind. Boom, origin established. As our episode unfolds we meet an older Matt, now a lawyer, and his partner-in-law, Foggy Nelson, looking for office space in New York’s Hell Kitchen. Elsewhere, a young woman named Karen Page is found in her apartment crying over a dead body. The police arrive and instantly she is the suspect of the murder.

Nelson and Murdock take up the case and as things unfold we find out that Page might be a part of something much bigger involving the corrupt construction company, United Allied, and something about pension payments. By the end of the episode most of the loose ends are tied up, but we catch a glimpse of things to come, and frankly, the excitement overwhelms me a little bit.

While there isn’t much bad with this first episode, I’ll concentrate on all that is good. The film adaptation of “Daredevil” is fuzzy in my mind, and to be honest, I’m not going to revisit it, there isn’t much to compare at this time. From top to bottom, “Daredevil” is a very meticulous attempt by Marvel to create a realistic alternative to it’s film universe and it’s TV brethren “Agents of SHIELD” and “Agent Carter.” While DC’s TV creations “Arrow” and “The Flash” have ruled many fanboys’ TV for the past three years, Marvel’s ‘Man Without Fear,’ will likely leave these two in the dust (full disclosure, I’m still a big fan of “The Flash” melodrama and all).

The casting is A+ with Charlie Cox, who you should remember as Owen Slater from “Boardwalk Empire, as Murdock, sporting a spot on American accent and the martial arts moves to match. Deborah Ann Woll, who played Jessica in “True Blood,” plays the woman-in-peril Page with conviction and emotion, and Elden Henson, who you of course remember as Fulton Reed in “The Mighty Ducks” franchise, plays Foggy Nelson with a certain slimy charm.

Full disclosure, I’m not an avid Daredevil reader, but I know the basics, and this season is shaping up to be the perfect balance of back story, fan service, world building, and allusions to future Marvel-ness, namely “The Defenders.” In short, you’d be blind to miss “Daredevil.”  

Fun Fact: The first appearance of Daredevil is in “Daredevil #1” from April 1964.

February 17, 2015

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 38) Mid-February 2015

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

On this mid-February edition of the Simplistic Reviews Podcast, the boys attempt to break the record for most obscenities and deplorable subject matter brought up while still staying under the guise of a film and television review program.  Jairo from the True Bromance Film Podcast stops by to help them accomplish their mission.  They discuss the Spidey-Pocalypse…they discuss Michael Jordan’s Hitler mustache….they disgrace anyone who watched 50 Shades of Grey…and they get all their frustrations out on Hollywood with one of their favorite games, Hey F*%khead.  All that and more on the Simplistic Reviews Podcast.  Seriously…take a shot whenever you hear an F-bomb. You’ll be in rehab around halfway through
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