Review: Doctor Strange

10643689501470780548050 It’s hard, currently, to walk into a Marvel Studios movie and not have that up-surging hint of pure excitement, that childlike feeling of anticipation as you know you are about to see an intellectual property (maybe even one that you relate to, inherently or otherwise) treated with the utmost grace and ability that large-scale filmmaking has to offer. This is no different in director Scott Derrickson’s interpretation of Doctor Strange, where an amazing cast led by Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role brings one of Marvel’s lesser known but greatly powered heroes to live action in a stunning and wondrous way. In fact, it is the sense of awe and grandeur that Doctor Strange inflicts that makes it so impactful, by ways of the introduction of magic and the deep mystery of the beyond, the film props itself up immediately as one of the best Marvel productions to date.

This film suffers some of the same indignities that the Marvel formula provides, namely a rushed prologue and shortened character development. However, these are largely sidestepped by the structure Derrickson lays throughout the movie: by taking advantage of the very tropes a character such as “Doctor Strange” is inundated with, the movie leads the audience to clever assumptions about characters, supplanting concrete descriptions with vague but informative notions. He lets the audience do the work he could have done with more run time.

The supporting cast is nothing short of fantastic, usually the case with films from Marvel Studios but especially so here. Chiwetel Ejiofor puts in a contrasting performance to Cumberbatch’s aloof Strange, a stoic and severe reminder of the variety of personalities at play in the movie as “Mordo”. Benedict Wong, easily enough as the character “Wong”, offers up a sort of characterization of Mordo’s severity, one that serves as both beloved guide and unintended comic relief throughout the movie. The only real disappointment is Rachel McAdams in the extremely forgettable position of lead love interest in a Marvel Studios movie as “Christine Palmer” a character that connects Strange’s old life to his new one and fulfills little purpose other than that.

The real high casting points in this film are the triumvirate of players at the top: Cumberbatch as “Doctor Strange”, Tilda Swinton as “The Ancient One” and Mads Mikkelsen as “Kaecilius”. Cumberbatch exceeds in his portrayal of Strange, he has always done well with the “brash American” characters and that skill is honed to a fine point here: at times sarcastic and playful, severe and enraged, the range he displays is wonderful. Swinton excels as she always does, donning an intriguingly androgynous form for “The Ancient One” and thoroughly accomplishing the effect that she knows much, much more than Strange or even the audience does. Mikkelsen takes a stereotypically underdeveloped Marvel villain and makes up for what the script lacks in with the pure intensity of his performance.

However, if there is one reason to see this movie, it is for its visual splendor. From beginning to end the movie is packed with stunning cinematography. Cinematographer Ben Davis adds to the feel he honed in Guardians of the Galaxy with a foreboding sense of forever. Anywhere from the “mirror dimension” to “The Dark Dimension”, the level and layout of the CGI work create mind-blowingly powerful landscapes and scenes. The very addition of something as illogical as magic to the Marvel universe opens up a plethora of visual options as the film takes on an almost kaleidoscopic nature, transcending normal visual cues for something altogether new for audiences.

Ultimately, Doctor Strange is a treat for the viewer in many ways: superb acting, the impact of an interesting yet underutilized character, a classic formula whose faults are for a bit lifted, but probably most of all Doctor Strange will owe its success to the rich visual thematics it has been imbued with by director Scott Derrickson. Between his delicate handling of a premise that could easily have jumped the shark and the impeccable acting chops of Benedict Cumberbatch, perhaps the most polished Marvel Studios movie yet was made, and it is a joy to behold.

[easyreview title= "Review of Dr. Strange" cat1title="Bart's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.5" overall= false]

Review: Captain America: Civil War

ChnmRGIWkAIhYv8 As a direct follow up to the critical and financial success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, directors Joe and Anthony Russo are back with the 13th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the third movie is the Captain America trilogy. Tackling the famous storyline involving hero versus hero, isn’t an easy juggling act, but somehow the Russo brothers manage to make a superhero epic while making perhaps Marvel’s most personal and touching story.

Picking up after the events of The Winter Soldier, we are thrown into a scenario that works to establish the new team of Avengers since the 2015 mega team up event film, Avengers: Age of Ultron. We now find Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) working to stop an international terrorist Crossbones (Frank Grillo) from stealing some weapons in Lagos. Unforeseen circumstances arise and innocent people are killed in the collateral damage during the event. This creates an international outcry for these superheroes to be reigned in by the world’s governments. The event also sparks off a worldwide manhunt when Captain America’s former friend and notorious brainwashed assassin, the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), is implicated in committing some terrorist acts during a United Nations meeting soon after. These events drag in the prince, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), of the secretive African nation of Wakanda into the mix as well. That’s a lot of setup, but it goes rather smoothly and works to bring everyone into what happens next.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) feels compelled to reign in the Avengers initiative after being confronted by the mother of a kid who was killed during the Sokovia events in Age of Ultron. The hard linking from one film to another in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is what truly makes this film work on many levels. When done correctly, each movie benefits from the great work of the previous and deepens the stories going forward. The fracture between Cap and Iron Man begin to show as the two are on opposite sides of the Sokovia Accords, an international agreement on how the superheroes will act in the case of some major event. Iron Man argues for getting on board so they can be properly managed. Cap argues that people run governments and they can’t be trusted to not be corrupted. This is a direct reference to the events of The Winter Soldier film. Again, this is Marvel’s big universe building benefit. The disagreement between the two heavy hitters makes sense not only in the context of this particular film, but across the events of the entirety of the universe that’s been building since 2008.

Other behind the scenes things are happening pushing all the heroes to their particular sides of the argument, and we get to see our heroes all express their reasoning for the choice they make in reference to the Sokovia Accords. The Russo brothers do a wonderful job in making this not just about two big guys punching one another, but also giving us the emotional weight behind it. As the teams form against one another we begin to feel like a kid seeing his or her parents fight, except you can’t help but to cheer in parts. The end of the second act culminates into a massive superhero versus superhero mega beat down and it totally delivers. A fine mix of great action, comedic beats, and emotion make it more than just punching and shooting for 30 minutes. One of the absolute bright spots of that second act is the newcomer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Newly acquired from the doldrums of the Sony micro-verse, Spider-Man is able to play in the big leagues like we’ve never seen him. Holland makes his debut and never stops running his mouth the entire time. Welcome home, Spidey! In the 30 minutes that the webcrawler is on screen we get the best version of the fan favorite character yet. Embodying all the childish fun nature, fanboy attitude towards other heroes, and goofball antics should make anyone who said they were sick of the character eat their words. Spider-Man’s inclusions proves one thing above all else, no one knows their properties better than Marvel. Holland’s first solo outing hits theaters in 2017, and I have no doubt it will be spectacular (pun intended). Another massive standout was Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther. The aloof African prince (for a time) who goes from quiet diplomat to absolute badass was easily one of my favorite things about this movie. Boseman carries this character as if he isn’t even acting. Special notice should be taken to how convincing and well done his African accent is in this film. While his solo film doesn’t come out until 2018, Civil War does a great job of giving us a mini origin story so that we can move directly into his larger universe quickly. His fighting style is unique, fast, and with some serious finesse.

In the last act of the film, we get the true motivation of our behind the scenes puppet master villain, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl). Zemo makes for one of Marvel’s best villains to date because he is subtle and not on a mission to end the world. There is no doubt that he is not a throwaway villain and will return in future installments. I look forward to more of Bruhl’s work, as I think the guy could be a massive star in Hollywood. Zemo is wonderful in securing the fractures between Iron Man and Captain America that surely will be around for sometime, and helps to end the film on a serious down beat. This is Marvel’s Empire Strikes Back, and that in and of itself is the best thing I can say about Captain America: Civil War.

[easyreview title= "Review of Captain America: Civil War" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="5.0" overall= false]

Review: Ant-Man

AntMan Ant-Man is the longest gestating Marvel film to date. Initially worked on by director Edgar Wright, even before Robert Downey Jr. put on the now iconic suit, Ant-Man was a little more fleshed out than just a pipe dream. Fast forward past The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and even Avengers: Age of Ultron to Marvel’s latest ambitious project. A movie about a lesser known character who shrinks to the size of an ant while fighting crime. The premise is silly, but inject a little Marvel Studios magic and you got yourself another summer hit.

The movie stars Paul Rudd, known comedic actor and all around loveable goofball as Scott Lang. The character differs from the average Marvel superhero because he is not a hero in any way, shape, or form when the film starts. He’s a known thief, who lives by a system of morality, but a thief all the same. When Lang is released from prison he makes a promise to himself, his daughter, and ex-wife that he is done for good in the crime world, of course life has a way of making liars out of the best of us. We are also introduced to Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), an aging scientist who in the past created a suit and technology that allowed him to shrink to the size of an ant. Pym, has since retired from the scientific world, but keeps his formulas and life’s work very guarded even from his former partner, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Pym has an estranged daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), that works with Cross on his attempt to recreate Pym’s works as he has since taken over the company.

Pym recruits Scott Lang to infiltrate his former company, Pym Technologies, and help to destroy all the work so that Cross cannot sell the technology to military contractors. A simple enough plot to get us moving in the right direction. What takes place next is an Ocean’s Eleven type film. Lang brings in some other thieves to round out his support team on this heist. They proceed to gather materials, and prep for the work at hand.

One thing is clear when watching these Marvel Studios films, they understand to keep the genre alive you have to attack each film with a new and inventive style. While this is an original flick, Ant-Man doesn’t feel like other Marvel films. It is a heist film first with superhero elements. Its incredibly funny, and well paced. The side characters are nearly as important as Rudd, Douglas, Stoll, or Lilly. While they aren’t flushed out nearly as much, they play such an integral part of what goes on you will not forget them. Michael Peña as Luis absolutely steals the show every time he is on screen, that hasn’t happened in a Marvel film ever; its a true collaborative effort. Douglas does a wonderful job as the old codger who is still smart as a whip and tough as nails. The flashbacks and callbacks to his past are important and fascinating to the overall film. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne gives you just enough to be excited to see where they go next with the character. She isn’t a damsel in distress, but rather constantly clamouring to be the lead because frankly she is more qualified. This is a nice push back to the criticism of Marvel’s so called lack of female characters problem. Corey Stoll as the villain Darren Cross was a well placed over the top corporate bad guy. His performance was strong, but like a number of Marvel Studios villains he is more mustache twirling and less developed than he should have been. Last but certainly not least, Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang performance is wonderful. He delivers every bit of loveable goofball and guy who can’t get out of his own way. Very similar to how Robert Downey Jr. played Tony Stark in the first Iron Man film. He strives to be better, often falling short, but keeps getting back up. His comedic timing works well here considering the outlandish subject matter of his “powers.” All and all, Marvel Studios cranked out yet another hit even when they had to make a last second director change from Edgar Wright to Peyton Reed. Reed was able to take the bones of the script, rework it quite a bit to fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe properly, and make it his own. Any Marvel Studios fan should be pleased with the outcome.

[easyreview title= "Review of Ant-Man" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]


Review: Big Hero 6

bighero6 When Disney acquired Marvel, fans imagined insane crossover (like Donald Duck fighting Wolverine) and all kinds of meddling from executives, but Disney surprised everyone by announcing an animated revamp to a mostly neglected Marvel property. Big Hero 6 takes a few core ideas from the source material and weaves them into a kid-friendly, heartwarming adventure with a diverse cast of characters. Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams take us to San Fransokyo, a strange amalgamation of Californian and Japanese culture, and deliver fast-paced superhero action and lots of laughs. San Fransokyo takes common visual motifs from primarily Japanese culture and slaps it on a super high tech version of the famous Californian city. The intersection of cultures works well to create a whole new world for the hyper-intelligent characters and also serves to justify the advanced tech present throughout the story. Robots are 3D-printed from home and no one bats an eyelash, which leaves more time for the film to traverse the plot and get right to the action.

The story focuses on brilliant 14-year-old, Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), as he hesitates to put his intellect towards a good cause.  His brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), steers Hiro towards attending his school by showing off Baymax (Scott Adsit), an advanced healthcare robot, and introduces Hiro to his classmates. Much of the plot revolves around Hiro and Baymax’s growing bond as they confront a threat to the city with the help of their peers.

Each member of the Big Hero 6 team shines in their own unique way, even before donning super suits. GoGo (Jamie Chung) is tough as nails, Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) always finds a silver lining, Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr) is level-headed, and Fred (T.J. Miller) is… Fred. While the team’s personalities are clearly distinguished, I left the viewing itching for a little more about them all. Hiro and Baymax guide the action of the plot and there simply isn’t time to veer off course, but this film leaves Disney in a great place to spawn a franchise.

There’s heavy themes the story covers, such as dealing with loss, and the script manages to weave in references to Asimov’s famous laws of robotics. Certain lines become empowering mantras that are repeated just enough to inspire, not annoy. Baymax serves as the main source of comic relief, and some of the slapstick humor obviously aims at the younger target demographic. However, while Baymax does manage to get the occasional big laughs from all ages, most of the comedic moments of the rest of the team struggle to land amidst the more chaotic scenes.

This film felt like a true integration of Eastern influence into Western media with an ode to intellect and technology. Also, the character designs and settings feel like a celebration of the prominent parts of the Californian way of life. Big Hero 6 excels as a kids’ movie with action and high-powered entertainment from start to finish, but many adults might find it too predictable to get incredibly invested.

(Also, not to spoil anything, but there is a stinger scene that the older comic-book reading audience is sure to get a kick out of.)

[easyreview title= "Review of Big Hero 6" cat1title="Tim's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians-of-the-galaxy Hey Nerdpocalypse faithful, I'm Tim, one of the hosts of the new Mouthful of Toast podcast for anime and manga fans.  I'll be posting reviews here every once in a while, so I hope you enjoy!

Let me preface this review with two details: 1) Despite being under the Nerdpocalypse banner, I have never read a single issue of anything Guardians of the Galaxy related. <insert comments about me not being a real nerd here>  This review will not reflect whether or not Guardians was accurate to the source material. 2) Typically there’s a post credits scene, aka “stinger,” for the next Marvel film.  This screening did not have one.  This either means there’s no scene or there’s a major scene that they did not want leaked before the movie comes out.  Definitely stay after the credits just in case.

When the first trailer aired, many wondered if Marvel could work its magic on one of their lesser known properties.  Director James Gunn has a mediocre filmography at best, so my expectations were low.  Personally, I thought the trailer was a bizarre Parks and Rec spin-off with Chris Pratt’s character taking over a new space division of Pawnee government.  Despite odd first impressions, this film proves Marvel Studios is capable of tackling anything it wants.  Guardians shows how the key to a great movie experience is simply treating the script with the right attitude, in this case, with a tongue in cheek version of their proven formula.

Young Peter Quill is abducted by aliens and we fast forward to him (Chris Pratt) as a spacefaring scoundrel looking for loot.  He finds an ancient orb that will fetch a high price, but as it turns out, everyone in the galaxy wants this orb.  The rest of the team is introduced through various fights in the span of half an hour as we zoom through five locations showcasing all of the quickly unfolding intergalactic drama.  The pace is dizzying at first, but once the initial setup is over, scenes get more time to breathe (just don’t take any bathroom breaks).  There’s plenty more to tell about the story, but moving into the second half is where there’s some nice treats for dedicated Marvel fans and I’d hate to spoil any part of that experience.

Chris Pratt delivers a hilarious performance as the self-absorbed Quill.  The mostly goofy team is balanced out by Zoe Saldana’s stern take on the living weapon, Gamora, but even she eventually joins in on the silly antics.  Groot is easily the most lovable of the crew, due in no small part to Vin Diesel’s impressive and nuanced voice delivery of his one, repeated line.  Rocket, played by Bradley Cooper, steals the show with some of the best quips Guardians has to offer.  Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer provides another angle of comic relief and works well as the team’s bruiser.

Seeing this movie in 3-D was a surprising treat, considering the last movie I bothered to watched in 3-D, Avatar, did nothing to impress me.  Certain shots take great advantage of the 3-D to immerse you in scenes, such as one early scene where you feel like you’re spying on Quill from afar behind rocks that pop out in the foreground.  The space battles might make you flinch, but don’t close your eyes too long or you’ll miss the incredible CGI.

Guardians runs for about 2 hours, which was surprising for the volume of material presented.  Extending the run time would have eased the hyperdrive pacing in the beginning, but the movie honestly does not suffer too much from it.  It’s a welcome relief to have a blockbuster not clock in at 3 hours or more.  Some consider Guardians to be kid-friendly, but the humor is raunchy and phallic enough to place it somewhere in an older teen demographic.

Let’s be clear; this is not a grand space opera.  The plot is merely a vehicle to get us from one cool action sequence to another. For the purposes of this film, it works.  The amount of style and humor oozing from this movie make it very easy to overlook the simple teambuilder storyline and Macguffiin orb.  The soundtrack elevates this movie from the usual superhero romp to a galactic groovefest.  Guardians feels like the lovechild of the Avengers and Spaceballs with a dash of I Love the 80s.

Overall, Guardians shines bright at the end of the summer blockbuster season.  Whether it was Marvel guiding James Gunn that lead him to movie gold or if all he needed was the right script, but all of my expectations of his directing were shattered.  Concerns about pacing don’t detract from the sheer amount of fun you’ll have the entire time.  Guardians doesn't pretend to be an epic; it's the story of unconventional heroes banding together and having a really good time.

[easyreview title= "Review of Guardians of the Galaxy" cat1title="Tim's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.5" overall= false]

Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier


Marvel Studios has been an interesting experiment in franchise building since its first foray in 2008 with Iron Man. From the meager beginnings, the company has become a full fledge juggernaut with no signs of slowing down. Now into its second phase of movies, Marvel Studios is working to up the ante on all their known properties. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the third sequel of Phase 2, and it very well might be the best of the lot. Starring Chris Evans as Captain America, the movie takes on the ideas of corruption, raised stakes, and loyalty.

Directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, deliver an interwoven story that keeps the audience guessing while simultaneously not making things too confusing. Captain America: The Winter Soldier resembles 1970s spy action flicks in the best of ways. Slick technology, good looking and charming heroes, and villains who matches our heroes in equal measure. Winter Soldier is the pitch perfect example of how to keep these superhero genre films from going stale.

Our story begins with the first meeting of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). A great start to the movie with a light hearted connection between two characters who will become lifelong friends. Immediately following we are off to the races when Cap gets picked up by Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johannsson) after being called in for a covert mission. Since the events of The Avengers, Cap has been working non-stop on covert missions for S.H.I.E.L.D. and he begins to question motivations of its leadership. When Cap is ordered to retrieve hostages from a hijacked ship our adventures truly begin and really never slow down for 2+ hours. With an appearance from George St. Pierre, famed MMA fighter, as Batroc the Leaper in the first 15 minutes the movie feels to have already surpassed its predecessor in style already; we haven’t even started yet! After the mission is complete, Cap’s suspicions are further validated and his trust in some characters begin to falter. Cap is then introduced to Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), a S.H.I.E.L.D. director, who asks Cap to go further then he has previously. Pierce is a very gray character and his motivations are simply too muddy to glean a clear picture. In an incredibly compartmentalized spy agency things begin to appear less than transparent. For a character like Captain America, these are the best stories. Muddled between what is right and what is his duty help with this type of character's exploration and makes him more interesting. However, even more than that is Cap’s past that just won’t stay dead.

When Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is attacked by a shrouded figure named The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), the spy world is thrown upside down. Cap works to find this elusive character and has some direct run-ins with him, which make for excellent action sequences. The level of action in this movie is sheer spectacle. Showing off more hand to hand combat was a major jump in the right direction. Lacking from Cap in his first outing and in The Avengers was his fighting ability. The Russo brothers fixed this and then some. Showing off Cap’s extensive physical ability as well as The Winter Soldier’s was fantastic. The pacing of the action was fast and intense. We didn’t get much shield throwing in the previous iterations of Cap, but here we get to see Steve Rogers really show off. You can now see why he is the leader of The Avengers, and not just a member.

At this point in time, Chris Evans is Captain America for me and many fans around the world. He will become synonymous with the role after people see this film. Evans is able to embody the pragmatic, no nonsense, and boy scout nature of Captain Steve Rogers. Anthony Mackie as the wise cracking partner of Cap was really great. The Marvel universe, and frankly comic book movies as a whole have lacked minority characters, but Mackie’s addition was greatly appreciated and I look forward to seeing more of him in the near future. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow was better here and more explored than we’ve seen previously. Her character is getting more play in the gray area -- where she belongs. Last but certainly not least, Samuel L. Jackson has played it cool in all these movies with slick one liners, but The Russo brothers show you just why Nick Fury should be considered a badass. Its nice to see the top spy get some serious action moments.

In conclusion, Marvel Studios didn’t meet my expectations...they far exceeded them. Some argued that Captain America: The First Avenger was the weakest of the Phase 1 films. I wouldn’t agree, but what cannot be debated is whether Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best of Phase is. While a bold statement, I feel comfortable in saying that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best Marvel film to date, including The Avengers. Go see this movie immediately, it's your civic duty (even if you aren’t America).

[easyreview title= "Review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="5.0" overall= false]

Review: Thor: The Dark World

thor the dark world

Thor: The Dark World opens with a monologue from Anthony Hopkin's Odin explaining the plot of the movie. That was pretty much that; I settled in for a fun, dumb romp through the world of Asgard and I was not disappointed. 10,000 years ago, a bunch of dark elves (why elves is never explained) discovered an ultimate weapon called the Aether which will destroy all life everywhere on all worlds, but looks suspiciously like a rejected CGI effect of the blood vampire at the end of Blade. The elves, led by Malekith, are defeated by Thor's grandfather and the Aether imprisoned in a box somewhere in another realm. Malekith and a small group of his people escape to a dark hole somewhere and bide their time, presumably to wait until they're needed as a plot point.

Meanwhile back in present day, Thor's girlfriend Jane Foster's in London studying an anomaly of some kind that she can sense on her Star Trek tricorder, which leads her to a building where the worlds are converging and a scene of some pretty epic Portal effects. Jane somehow, SOMEHOW gets sucked through the one hole in the universe that leads directly to the stashed Aether, which she promptly sticks her stupid hand in and gets infected by.

Idris Elba's Heimdall has been keeping track of Jane for Thor, and when she vanishes from his sight he alerts the guardian of her disappearance. Thor has been traveling the nine realms fucking up all enemies of Asgard with Lady Sif and the Warriors Three, until Jane disrupts the death device and wakes up Malekith and the slumbering elves. Then all hell breaks loose as the elves attack Asgard, only to leave once Thor and Jane disappear from the scene.

So of course Thor needs Loki to help him settle the score, and the rest of the film depicts their attempts to cure Jane of the Aether infection, and save all nine realms from the elves and their attempt at total destruction. The action scenes and the special effects are all done really well, gritty and in your face with none of the cutaway tricks that I've come to expect from modern action movies. The script is also really funny, with a lot of well written gags and some cute fan service moments. The big problem with this movie is that it, like Iron Man 3 before it, is post-Avengers and as such seems very small in comparison. At this point even the destruction of Asgard seems kind of insignificant with only one Hero running around through it.

With that said I enjoyed the film, it's far funnier than it has any right to be and I actually enjoyed Tom Hiddleston's Loki in it. For once his character has actual change and growth on screen and it made me care about him for the first time in three films. I also bought the Thor/Jane relationship and thought their scenes together were cute. Check out the after-credit scene to see a little more about their relationship and why Thor will be on Earth for the foreseeable future.

[easyreview title= "Review of Thor: The Dark World" cat1title="Jack's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]

Review: Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 The latest installment in the series that kicked off a phenomenon in modern movie history has arrived. Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3 is the first real leap for that summer blockbuster brass ring. The hype for everything Marvel after last year’s juggernaut, The Avengers, has put this movie on everyone’s radar. The general rehashing of past films won’t cut it. So how does Marvel take on the Herculean task of matching the hype?

With new director Shane Black at the helm its hard to see how this movie could fail. Having such writing credits from fan favorites like Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Good Night under his belt, Black was poised to bring a fresh perspective to the franchise. Black definitely delivers in this capacity. Iron Man 3 feels nothing like the two previous movies directed by Jon Favreau. Frankly, it has a completely different feel than all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. I can tell you right now that extreme fanboys will not appreciate the subtle nuances of this movie, but rather will complain about things like “he isn’t in the suit enough.” Marvel had the task of trying to make you truly care about Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his life post Avengers. This is difficult, as a viewer you just want the hero to suit up and stop the bad guys. Sadly, that is not all that makes a hero a hero. Tony Stark is more Tony than he has been in all of his previous appearances.

The movie starts out with an interesting premise of the United States being terrorized by a figure known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). This character plays similar to a movie version of Osama Bin Laden. A fearsome deliverer of threats and kept promises via television broadcasts. The similarities of the challenge to America as a superpower is pretty striking and heavy for a comic book movie. Notions of are you really the good guys? plays pretty heavily in The Mandarin’s modus operandi. Brutal in his tactics the villain drives the virtuous hero, Tony, to the razor’s edge. We see Tony dealing with the aftermath of The Avengers and a newfound shake in confidence. The nuance of emotion that the character goes through is surrounded by clever jokes very much in the Shane Black playbook. By far the funniest movie Marvel has been able to pull off thanks largely to the line delivery by Downey Jr. As in the other appearances of the character, Downey just shines.

The movie makes excellent work of tying together all three Iron Man movies. We even see a familiar face from a prominent and influential character from the first outing. I found the supporting cast to be quite beneficial. Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) was an excellent asset to play off of Downey and the Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) character. All the main screen actors helped to deliver a new type of Marvel film, one with a serious tone. The brutality of this movie was rather surprising. It helped to really ratchet up the tension and dire circumstances that everyone found themselves in. I was forever surprised as to how far they were able to push this terrorism theme. I think the entire movie is sort of a metaphor for where the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is going post Avengers. The movie is about coming to terms.

Coming to terms with terrorism, true villains of the world, loss, and a myriad of other things. Tony works to come to terms with who he is. He spends most of the movie outside of the suit trying desperately to get back into it; his security blanket. The MCU has been playing it fairly safe up until this point and now with Phase 2 they can’t reach for their security blanket anymore. They have to shed those preconceived notions and branch out anew. Tony started it all so he is the perfect choice to be our view into the next phase. While I thought Iron Man 3 was unconventional in its story and not inline with what we’ve previously seen, I really enjoyed it. A man on the run trying to discover what and who he is. Based loosely on the Extremis comic storyline, but more importantly the 5 Nightmares comic storyline. This is where I think most extreme fanboys will lose it. They were hoping for the overly science fiction aspects of Extremis, but got the slow and intelligent burn that is the 5 Nightmares story. Dealing with Tony’s major fears as Iron Man the 5 Nightmares is exactly what the Tony Stark character needed. A kick in the ass to reboot him for the bigger battles to come. Getting past his own personal demons was the only way for him to face what comes next. For that reason I say Iron Man 3 as a solid start into the madness that is Marvel Phase 2. Can’t wait for Thor: The Dark World!

[easyreview title= "Review of Iron Man 3" cat1title="Nerdpocalypse Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]

Review: The Avengers

The Avengers

In 2008, Marvel Studios released Iron Man starring Robert Downey Jr. That movie had the now infamous after credits scene that started it all. When Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) made his surprising announcement the comic book movie genre was forever catapulted to a different level. No longer were these movies going to be one offs, but rather they would build to a large event that may be the most ambitious movie idea in years. Under the directorial control of Joss Whedon, fanboys/girls and everyone in between got to see something truly special. When a familiar Asgardian foe, Loki, steals a mysterious weapon from Nick Fury and his S.H.I.E.L.D. organization it sparks a global crisis. No longer being able to handle this level of a threat, Fury calls upon a ragtag group of super powered misfits to come together to save the planet. The premise of the movie is simple and easy to understand. I do believe that if you never saw the previous solo films you would be fine. Every character's powers/abilities are explained in a smoothly done reintroduction.

The Avengers is an action movie, with a brain. I specify that because this is so commonly not the case in American cinema. Director Joss Whedon’s stylistic dialogue can be seen throughout. Robert Downey Jr. benefits the most from this. At times it seems the RDJ was born and bred to be Whedon’s microphone. The first half of the movie is used as nostalgia for the characters from their solo outings and brings you up to speed on their lives. When the Avengers do come together Whedon is able to show you why they shouldn’t, in a good way. There are real conflicts in personalities that come to the forefront rather quickly. The level of balance that is needed to keep these scenes from being too much is handled masterfully by Whedon. Largely, in my opinion, this is the reason why he was brought on to the project. Balancing multiple complex characters is essential to this movie doing well with critics and fans, alike. Interspersed throughout the movie is well paced fun action. Unlike a Transformers we do not get the movie split in half - first half buildup, second half mindless action. I was glad to see there was a decent mixture of the two until the last 40 minutes.

The Avengers is more character driven than you would think for a summer blockbuster that looks to break a series of opening weekend records. One of the largest fears I had going in was that this would somehow become IronMan 3. Being that IronMan was the most popular Avenger its hard not to give him a good amount of screen time. However, at no point did I feel like any of the team was being slighted, including the ones with no super powers. Everybody had their moment in the sun. Whether your favorite Avenger is the Hulk or Black Widow you got to see them on screen plenty of times and more importantly do something spectacular.

As much hype as this movie is getting in this review and I’m sure many others it does possess some faults. The first 20 minutes seems very rough to me. Disjointed at times and character line deliveries seemed to fall flat. I was worried because it didn’t seem like the Whedon writing I was use to. Now we know the movie had major rewrites so I’m not sure if Whedon ever edited the beginning of the movie’s writing. The pacing felt nothing like the rest of the movie. When the Avengers begin to meet one another the movie makes the ultimate pivot towards heroic greatness. Sometimes the dialogue can get a little too heavy in parts and should be a tad trimmer. This is hardly a big deficit as you enjoy the banter back in forth anyway.

Overall The Avengers is something to see on the big screen. I think this movie would look and sound amazing on a quality home setup, but there is nothing like seeing in theaters. I saw it in 3D and felt that it did nothing to add or take away from the movie. If you want to save a few dollars, skip the 3D. Lastly, I saw this movie with my 11 nephew and glancing over at him was my favorite part of the experience. I realized very quickly that the new Star Wars trilogy isn’t his generation's Star Wars, the Avengers is and I’m very ok with that.

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We will of course talk in depth on this week's upcoming podcast episode. Stay tuned.