Captain Marvel (2019)


My Name is Carol.

In a concerted effort to put out more content and make the end of the year easier on myself by having material to use to remember these movies I’ve seen throughout the year, I am going to try to review the new movies I see more often.  You’re welcome.  And since I saw so many damned movies at the end of the year, I could not imagine going back to the theaters until this movie released.  Obviously, I was super excited for today’s movie.  It should come as no surprise.  The word “Marvel” appears on the poster many times, as the company that makes it and the name of the character.  How would I not have seen it?  This movie is Captain Marvel, written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet, and starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Lashana Lynch, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Djimon Hounsou, and Gemma Chan.

Vers (Larson) is a Kree member of Starforce with amnesia typical of a RPG protagonist.  With Starforce and her commander, Yon-Rogg (Law), they undertake a mission to stop an invasion by the shapeshifting Skrulls, led by commander Talos (Mendelsohn).  The mission goes awry and Vers is captured.  The Skrulls try to sift through Vers’ memories to find the location of an experimental engine designed by Dr. Wendy Lawson (Bening), which they find to be on Earth.  Vers escapes and crashes to Earth, where she meets Nick Fury (Jackson).  Together, they try to find the engine – as well as Vers’ missing memories – and stop the sinister plot of the bad aliens.

On its announcement, I was very excited for Captain Marvel.  Closing in on when I would be able to see it, I started hearing a lot of negative reactions to the movie from the internet in general and from my friend Jordan, who acted like the movie was nothing special and I shouldn’t bother seeing it.  As if there were even the slightest chance I wasn’t going to see it.  And now that I have seen it, I think Jordan is out of his mind.  And that the internet is being the internet.  I assume the internet was mostly a bunch of angry guys who were somehow bothered that this was not another white, male superhero, even though this is the first female lead Marvel movie after 20 male lead ones.  So those people can go to hell.  Jordan, I assume, probably just expected too much.  This is an origin story.  Typically, the origin stories suffer because of how much they have to do to introduce us to the character and we don’t typically get to love that character until the second time we see them, which I imagine will happen very quickly with Captain Marvel.  I, however, already love her.  I thought this was a damned solid origin movie.  Maybe not as solid as the first Iron Man, but better than some of the other ones.  I also was indeed surprised as they intended me to be with the alien race swerve they pulled on us in the movie.  Otherwise, as a white male, I’ve seen plenty enough of me’s in Marvel movies already, especially given how uncannily similar I look to Chris Hemsworth, and I’m happy to see something different.  The movie was awesome, entertaining, and funny when it needed to be.  I didn’t feel too many heart string tugs during the movie, but I don’t think it was trying for too many.

But speaking of heart-string tugs, I burst into instant tears twice during this movie, and it warrants talking about.  Neither were because the story was trying to make me cry.  Neither were even really part of the story.  The first wasn’t even part of the movie!  It was the damned opening studio credit!  They changed the Marvel logo, usually awash with their heroes in action from their various movies, and they changed it to the biggest and best hero in the history of the company: Stan Lee.  Typing that gave me goosebumps right now and seeing it made my face well up with tears and joy as they showed proper respect to The Man himself.  I could’ve used a bit of a warning, movie!  The second was his cameo, and sadly probably one of his last.  He was just sitting on a bus talking to himself and reading something, but in the theater I missed it.  I was happy to see his cameo, but it wasn’t until later that I found out how beautiful it actually was.  The movie takes place in the 90’s and Stan was on the bus rehearsing for his scene in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats!  That was so damned beautiful and I felt a strange happiness for Smith that he got to see that shout out from his idol and friend months after losing him.  Well-played, Marvel.  You got me bad with those.

As for the action in Captain Marvel, I was scarcely disappointed.  In all of her fights, she seemed to be a real threat and a total badass.  If there is one criticism to be made of any of the fight scenes in this movie, it would be the “Just a Girl” fight scene, where she gets into a fight and No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” starts playing.  I get it; it’s the 90’s and that song was popular, and Danvers is indeed a girl.  It was a little too on the nose for my liking, I would say.  It didn’t take me out of it or ruin the scene for me.  It just made me laugh a little, but I did hear from others that they felt this was a little much, and I don’t necessarily disagree.  Otherwise it was badass, especially when she unlocks her true power and lays waste to all those enemy ships and scares off the rest by punching her fist into the palm of her hand.  That was fantastic.

All of the performances in the movie were on point.  Brie Larson was great.  She can bring pathos and comedy and action in equal measure flawlessly.  I hope she’s around for a long time because I definitely want more of this character, and I’m very excited to see how she interacts with the Avengers next month.  A lot of the best moments in the movie were the chemistry between her and Samuel L. Jackson.  A lot of those scenes played like a fun, buddy cop movie that I would love to see.  I also liked seeing how Jackson changed the character of Fury to make him seem younger and not as experienced with these kinds of things.  I also liked seeing him interact with the cat.  I would say that I thought that how they showed Fury losing his eye was funny, but not exactly how I was hoping to see it happen, shall we say?  Mendelsohn was also great, able to successfully pull off both sides of his performance, both before and after the big reveal of the movie.  It was nice that he also got to play for a while without all the makeup that would probably hold him back in his performance, though you really couldn’t tell.  Jude Law was also great (did I mention all of the performances were?) but I can’t really think of anything in particular to say about his performance that I didn’t already say about Mendelsohn’s.  And lastly, Clark Gregg was great.  I would’ve liked more from Coulson though, just because I like him so much and he’s not in the MCU as much since Avengers.

Regardless of what friends and sexist idiots on the internet told me, I very much enjoyed Captain America.  It was fun, surprising, action-packed, and exactly what you’ve come to expect from the MCU.  Sure, all said this movie probably winds up placing in the upper middle of the MCU in terms of quality, but it’s got a lot of stiff competition, and I would say it places pretty high amongst the strictly origin film MCU, which is what you should compare it to if you’re being fair.  A strong opening for the character of Carol Danvers, keeps my excitement high to see her again both in Avengers and her own movie, and is hopefully a good start to other female-lead Marvel movies in the future.  Captain Marvel gets “I know a renegade soldier when I see one” out of “I have nothing to prove to you.”

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Gladiator (2000)


Today I Saw a Slave Become More Powerful Than the Emperor of Rome.

Today’s contest was admittedly difficult to manage.  I decided that I would pick a movie from the drama genre, but as I’ve mentioned many times, I hate dramas.  How would I be able to pick a movie that depressed me and call it my favorite?  I would have to be deceptive and find a movie that was inarguably a drama, but perhaps with enough elements of a type of movie I do like it will overcome the melancholy.  And that’s when it struck me.  I could think of a movie that was definitely a drama but with plenty enough action in it that I wouldn’t hate watching it.  It’s also one of my favorite movies, so the decision was clear.  I would call Gladiator my favorite drama, written by David H. Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson, directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Richard Harris, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Djimon Hounsou, Derek Jacobi, David Schofield, John Shrapnel, Tomas Arana, and Ralph Moeller.

The great warrior and general Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) leads a victory for the Romans over the Germanic tribes.  The dying emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) makes the decision to make Maximus the leader of Rome so that he can return the power to the people.  When he informs his son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), of his decision, Commodus murders him.  Maximus realizes what happened, but is betrayed by General Quintus (Tomas Arana) and sentenced to be executed, as well as his wife (Giannina Facio) and his son (Giorgio Cantarini).  Maximus escapes his execution and rushes back to find his family already dead.  He buries them and is later found unconscious by slavers and sold to Proximo (Oliver Reed), and forced to become a gladiator.  With Commodus reinstating the games in honor of his dead father (even though his father disbanded them), Maximus figures that, if he performs well, he will be able to stand before the new emperor and finally have his vengeance.

This is how I take my drama movies: barely being able to be considered a drama.  It’s great action and a great story, but with a fair share of drama mixed in.  Revenge is an easy but great motivator in movies.  The movie starts itself off pretty strong with the war in the beginning, but then I start getting emotionally invested when Commodus not only kills the likeable emperor, but also tries to kill Maximus and succeeds in killing his family.  I’m instantly on board.  I love Maximus and I hate Commodus.  That keeps me interested past the satisfying, albeit a little depressing, conclusion, and I enjoy the entire ride.  The dialogue in the movie is extremely well-written as well.  Most of it’s very crisp and stinging, including a lot of smarter versions of “fuck you”.  Any time that Commodus is talking with Maximus, every line ends with a version of “fuck your face”.  I was confused by the relationship between Commodus and Lucilla though.  I don’t know if it was more common back then, but Commodus was really aching to jump Lucilla’s bones, regardless of the fact that they were brother and sister.  They never said half-siblings or step-siblings, so I just found it weird.  That part of the movie felt like watching Clueless all over again.  The movie was beautifully filmed though.  It starts off really cold and blue and gritty when they’re in Germania, bright and hot and orange in the middle when he’s first becoming a gladiator, and colorful and bright and beautiful when they’re in the majesty of Rome.  The recreation of Rome was fantastic as well.  The fights are what really interest me about this movie, and they’re all great.  Not a lot of flourish to the fights, but every one of them was exciting and awesome.  Maximus never seemed to be the strongest or the fastest, and was never super human in any way, but he won all of his fights with skill and cunning.  They’re gory and exciting and you’re always rooting for the home team.

The performances are what set this movie apart for me.  Them and the action.  But the performances were really good.  Russell Crowe was great all the way through the movie.  I’d say there was one part that was iffy with me, but it was only partially his fault.  When he was crying over his dead wife and kid he had snot running out of his nose and drool coming out of his mouth.  Then he kissed the feet of his wife and had it sticking to her feet.  They probably should have taken that out with CG or something.  I found it not only distracting, but icky.  Also, in the part where he was kissing the wooden figures that represented his wife and son, he got a little too freaky deaky with the figure representing his wife.  He’d been alone for a while though.  I hated Joaquin Phoenix from the very first time I saw him, but that’s a credit to him because we weren’t supposed to like him at all.  He played the role so utterly despicable in every way, but it wasn’t in a cartoony way.  You could kind of get a handle on his motivations, though it doesn’t justify his actions.  And the entire movie we watch his slow descent into madness and paranoia, and he pulls that off very well.  Connie Nielsen was a good character as well.  I started off not trusting her because she always acted as if something was going on behind the scenes.  As they say in the movie, she would make a great leader if she was a man.  But, by the end of the movie, you side with her as her brother’s craziness starts getting to her as well.  And mother fuckin’ Dumbledore was up in this bitch!  Richard Harris is always great though.

It doesn’t come as any kind of a surprise that Gladiator is an awesome movie.  Yes, it’s a drama, and it’s also a bit mopey at times, but the action and the excitement override that, and the story is something that gets me involved almost immediately.  The action is great, the look is fantastic, and the performances are all top notch.  You don’t always like all of the characters, but they’re very well performed.  If you have managed to not see Gladiator by this point, I hate you.  Fix it or we’ll have troubles.  Gladiator gets “Smile for me now, brother” out of “At my signal, unleash hell!”

Congratulations to Fabio, who guessed my favorite drama correctly, despite his learning disability.

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Deep Rising (1998)


Oh Man … What Stinks?

I have no idea what inspired me to rent today’s movie.  I kind of wanted to watch a dumb action movie, so I guess I did that.  It’s one of those times when something is in your Netflix queue and you’re not paying attention so you actually have it get sent to you and then you have to watch it.  What made me put it in my queue in the first place is a better question, but I don’t have an answer to that either.  Either way, let’s make fun of a dumb action movie!  This one is Deep Rising, written and directed by Stephen Sommers, and starring Treat Williams, Wes Studi, Anthony Heald, Famke Janssen, Kevin J. O’Connor, Derrick O’Connor, Jason Flemyng, Djimon Hounsou, Cliff Curtis, Clifton Powell, Trevor Goddard, and Una Damon.

There’s a little boat hauling ass through the middle of the ocean somewhere, crewed by John Finnegan (Treat Williams), engineer Joey “Tooch” Pantucci (Kevin J. O’Connor), and the Tooch’s girlfriend, Leila (Una Damon).  Finnegan has a reputation for putting his boat out to people without asking questions, just as long as the money is there.  This time, the money comes from a man named Hanover (Wes Studi).  He has brought a bunch of heavy weaponry and a crew of mercenaries, comprised of T-Ray (Trevor Goddard), Mamooli (Cliff Curtis), Vivo (Djimon Hounsou), Mason (Clifton Powell), and Mulligan (Jason Flemyng).  Meanwhile, there’s a cruise ship owned by Simon Canton (Anthony Heald), and captained by Captain Atherton (Derrick O’Connor), who are dealing with a mischievous, and hot, thief named Trillian (Famke Janssen).  While they do that, something hits the ship and it goes dark.  Back on Finnegan’s ship, they run into a lifeboat dropped in the impact from the cruise ship, damaging their ship and leaving it nearly useless.  They get onto the cruise ship and find everyone missing.  Apparently, some kind of tentacled monster has attacked the cruise ship, leaving few survivors, and the mercenaries and Finnegan’s crew have to find the parts they need to fix their ship, while trying to survive the creature.

This isn’t a great movie.  I’m pretty sure it’s well aware of that.  It should, therefore, endeavor to be fun.  It gets close to being fun, but is kind of bogged down by being too predictable and cliche.  It’s a fairly typical monster movie, though it seems they didn’t have the money to show the monster very often.  I guess they could have been going for the suspense, but it didn’t really work.  Instead it just seemed like they were afraid to show it at first because it might be ridiculous.  And it was.  For the first 90% of the movie, the monster was just a series of autonomous tentacles that knew where the cast was without actually having eyes or ears.  They were basically just arms on an octopus that wasn’t seen until the end, so how would they know where the people were?  The writing of the movie was pretty typical and cliche.  A few lines required punctuation that came in the form of a shotgun being cocked, for instance.  At one point, the engineer is running down a hallway with the leader of the mercenaries, running from a tentacle that should have no idea where they are, and they both keep mentioning over and over that the only thing that will stop the tentacle from chasing them is if they feed it something.  They say this like five times until the engineer says “What could we feed it?  What could we feed it?!” and the mercenary leader shoots him in the leg, leaving him for dead.  You didn’t see that coming?  Other parts were just badly written.  The one that comes to me right now is when the mercenary puts a gun to Famke’s chest and says “Tell me what I want to know …” pulls back the hammer on his pistol “…or I’ll pull the trigger.”  What a lame punchline!

The cast did what they had to do, but they didn’t have much of a script to work with.  Treat Williams was reminiscent of Nathan Fillion from Serenity, being a wisecracking captain that never seems to take the situation that seriously, but Nathan Fillion had the benefit of good writing.  Una Damon was the hot Asian lady in the movie.  That’s about all that could be said about her character.  I got really angry that she was the first person of the principle cast to get killed, stealing my primary eye candy away.  I’ve never found Famke Janssen too attractive, but she was at her hottest in this movie, so she took over the eye candy role when the Asian died.  She was a entertaining character, and usually portrayed as a tough chick, but that just lead to me getting pissed off at the end when the captain was chasing her with a flare gun.  He fired twice and missed, but she kept running as he started to reload.  She could have gotten to him and whooped that ass before he could reload if the writers didn’t hate women.  I’m pretty sure she punched a guy or two when outnumbered in the movie, and he never gave us any reason to believe he could fight, but women lack the arm strength to best a man of any kind, right writers?  Kevin J. O’Connor was the other role that made an impact with me, but only because he was really annoying.  That was what he was going for, and it worked.  He could not stop words from spilling out of his mouth.  He was playing much the same role as he did in The Mummy, but he never turned evil and the writing was nowhere near as strong.  It was a nice bit of wishful thinking that the writers made him be dating the really hot Asian chick, but really bad writing that this dude survives the ENTIRE MOVIE and she dies first.  No one wants him around!  None of the mercenaries really made an impact beyond the fact that they made me realize that the writers believed that every person can have only one personality trait.  Finnegan is cocky, the Tooch talks too much, T-Ray is an asshole, Vivo is a scary black man, and Mamooli is horny all the time.  If the movie stuck in my head more, I could probably do it for every character.

I’ve said before that I do not mind a movie being dumb as long as it’s fun, but this movie falls short on the fun.  It’s just predictable while making no sense, having poorly written dialogue, and having really basic characters.  The comic relief was mainly supplied by a guy who was always around and would not shut up, but was rarely saying anything funny.  Deep Rising is not a horrible movie, but it’s not good either.  You can skip this one.  Deep Rising gets “There goes one year off my life” out of “Shut your fucking whining weasel …”

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