Rewatch Review – A Look Back at The Hunger Games Series

The Hunger Games, My current favorite franchise. Again…

Last night I wasn’t in the mood for TV. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch a movie, read a book, play the PS4…On a whim, I started the Vudu app on the fire stick and browsed my digital copy collection. When I saw the cover for the first movie, I knew I wanted to rewatch the Mockingjay saga almost instantly.

The Hunger Games is the first book series I read before seeing the movies. The film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone led me to read the books, which is where I developed my love of books. But Harry Potter doesn’t get to hold the spot that Katniss Everdeen does. Suzanne Collins’ books led me to the movie, in this case.

I remember reading the scene of the reaping. Imagining the crowd, the peacekeepers, the bowls filled with names.

I remember seeing this scene, almost exactly as I’d pictured it in my mind, on screen for the first time. I remember getting choked up when Prim’s name was called, and when Katniss screams she’ll volunteer.

That scene still hits me today. Even more so now, than then.

The sets of the districts, the Capitol, the arenas. Amazingly done, and the CGI holds up today. The screenwriters, directors, cast, and crew all did great jobs translating page to screen. I can even forgive most of the changes.

The casting of Jennifer Lawrence was perfect. She brought Katniss to life, in a way that is perfectly believable. She’s a normal person that wants to live and let live. To keep her head down and survive. When her life is torn away, she only wants to survive and return to some sense of normalcy.

Or course, she doesn’t get that wish. She truly didn’t want to cause the rebellion, the war. She just wanted the game makers to honor the rule change they made, and let Peeta be a victor by her side. To let them both live in peace.

Who among us could do what President Snow demanded in the second film? To calm the districts and end the uprisings? To convince him that she loved the boy she kept alive, when she wasn’t sure herself?

Maybe those of us that are a bit older, a bit wiser, a bit more connected to the real world. But who of us at the age of 17?

Not me. That’s for sure.

Then she became the face of the war. The voice, the moral compass, the hero. Still, not because she wants to be. But because she is continually being forced to do something she never wanted. But she clenched her bow and made a deal. Rescue Peeta and the others, and she’ll rally the troops.

In the end, when the lines get blurred, when enemy and friend aren’t clear, she makes another choice. Another choice that lands her in hot water again. Also a choice that keeps her, and those left that she loves, alive.

Katniss Everdeen, and Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of her, is a hero done right.

Are We Sure These Wick Movies Aren’t Another Version Of The Matrix?

John Wick: Prince of Puppies
Created in the RunPee app using #MovieMeme. Just tap on the movie poster (located on the Movie Info Screen) and have fun making your own movie memes.

I’ve gotta say, I disagree with RunPee Dan’s John Wick 3 review on Parabellum. Some of what he says holds true with the choreography and perhaps the length of the film.  But I didn’t get bored with the action.

Very light, vague John Wick Parabellum spoilers lie ahead…

The end of the second Wick movie set the tone for this one, and I feel we got what was teased. EVERYONE is after this man and his bounty.

The action is intense and has plenty of humor mixed in. Especially from Sofia’s attack dogs.

But then here’s where The Matrix seeps in.

Neo…I mean John Wick…is on a mission to clear his Excommunicado with the High Table.

The High Table is determined to clear the board of what they perceive as weakness. The Man that sits above the table is inclined to give The One…I mean Wick…his chance at redemption — at a cost.

And Morpheus…I mean, The King…seems to be setting up the next chapter, with a fair bit of visual humor at the end of the film.

Loyalty and betrayal, determination and doubt.

“If you want peace, prepare for war.”

The Baba Yaga is coming, Parabellum.

Movie Grade: B+

The Matrix After 20 Years – A Retrospective: A Different Kind of Hero, a New Kind of Science Fiction

Movie Review – John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Not as good as the first two)

Movie Review – John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Not as good as the first two)

Natalia Alianovna Romanoff – AKA Black Widow – Original Avenger (spoilers)

Warning: Endgame spoilers begin right away. See the movie first! Black Widow

Natlianovna Romanoff, better known in the U.S. as Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow, Avenger, Agent of SHIELD, and former KGB Assassin. These are the only known occupations of this founding member of the Avengers.

Romanoff’s Early Life

Born in 1984s Soviet Russia, Natasha’s early life remains a relative mystery. It is known she was recruited into the KGBs Red Room Academy, where she received training in spycraft, including combat with and without weapons.

According to leaked SHIELD/HYDRA documents, leaked by Agent Romanoff herself during the fall of SHIELD and the destruction of the Triskelion, the late Director of SHIELD (Nicholas J. Fury) took notice of the master assassin in the mid-late 1990s. At this point, Agent Clint Barton was dispatched to locate and terminate Natasha, code-named Black Widow. Agent Barton persuaded Director Fury to recruit and facilitate her defection from the Soviet Union.

Code Name Black Widow as an Avenger

Black Widow’s activities pre-defection paint her as a clear enemy of the U.S., but her loyalty post-defection clouds the initial analysis. Her membership among the Avengers — indeed —  her presence as a Founder of the group of heroes, solidify her status as an ally for most.

Romanoff was instrumental in the destruction of SHIELD and exposure of HYDRA. She was a part of the Avenger’s failed counter-operation to stop Ultron’s destruction of Sokovia, and as a result, an initial signer of the Sokovia Accords,  regulating the activities of so called “enhanced” individuals, primarily the Avengers themselves.

While obeying the new Accords and helping track down and stop the illegal activities of Steve Rogers/Captain America, Romanoff broke rank and betrayed the task force, ultimately becoming a fugitive, disappearing from intelligence agency sight.

While on the run, the Black Widow continued vigilante operations with Captain America, resurfacing in Wakanda during the first battle with the alien Thanos. For the next five years after The Decimation, Romanoff became the leader of what remained of the Avengers, no longer counted as a fugitive.

Black Widow Post Snap – AKA The Decimation

Finally, according to sources close to the Avengers, during the successful mission to return The Decimated, Natasha Romanoff sacrificed herself on an alien planet, in a time before our own, in order to obtain a necessary piece of equipment to reverse the decimation.

The Black Widow was not able to fight in the Battle of the Returned at the destroyed Avengers facility. Romanoff is survived only by her team of heroes.

A memorial service is to be scheduled in the days following the private funeral of her fellow Avenger Tony Stark.

RIP Natalia Alianovna Romanoff, 1984-April 26, 2023/2014.

Movie Review – Avengers Infinity War – An Unrivaled Marvel Epic

Endgame spoiler free review – We got what we needed!

Endgame Peetimes – RunPee vs the World

Avengers Cameo – That random kid in Endgame is someone we’ve seen before

Endgame spoiler free review – We got what we needed!

Avengers Endgame. This isn’t what I wanted.

But it’s what we needed.

Wow. I could stop there and let the world infer whatever they want.

I won’t stop there. But I could…

This movie is pure fan service, with an exhilarating story and the conclusion to 11 years of the original Avengers. We get the satisfaction we wanted after The Decimation, not once, but twice. We get most of our heroes back. But at the same time we are losing some. Some seemingly permanently. We expected that. This is a war story, after all.

I will sorely miss these heroes.

The film hit me on every note. Endgame has gut-wrenching tragedy, hilarious comedy, intense action, heartfelt notes of love, scenes that enrage, and scenes that fans have prayed for.

This would be the perfect place to end the MCU. Of course, we know that is not what happens. I don’t want the last 11 years to be spoiled by future movies. So I am seriously contemplating whether this is the last MCU film I see. But then there is Spiderman: Far From Home coming up. I do want to see that. Honestly. I’ll probably look back on this article in a year or so and laugh at myself for thinking about not watching future Marvel movies.

This review was hard to write without spoilers. In fact, I wrote a whole plot synopsis before I wrote this spoiler-free review.

Overall, I think this film deserves a perfect A+, 100% score, even with the few flaws I noticed.

These parts that I call flaws: one I think is a glaring plothole/continuity error. The other might be a continuity error, but I’m sure it opens the door for something else. I have those thoughts in my second review, the one with tons of spoilers. So see the movie before you read that one.

So that’s it for me for the spoiler-free review! Can’t say anything specific here.

10/10

100%

Avengers Endgame – long breakdown to describe what you just saw (Massive Spoilers!)

Hi Avengers fans! Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame lie ahead. If you haven’t seen it and plan to, turn back now. You’ve been warned. We’re serious.

Avengers: Endgame is finally upon us. The Decimation is fact. And in the opening scene of this 3 hour whirlwind, we get what is perhaps the most heartbreaking look at the result of Thanos’ snap. Yes, even more gut-wrenching than the breathless exclamation of Peter Parker as he turned to dust.

Clint Barton is enjoying a picnic with his family, and archery practice with his daughter, whom he nicknames Hawkeye. His wife is prepping hot dogs and asks if anyone wants mayonnaise on theirs. The audience is treated to a laugh when one of the family asks what we all were thinking: “Who puts mayo on a hotdog?!” Clint looks to his wife as his daughter collects her arrows. When he looks back, she’s vanished. Remember that Hawkeye was not involved in the fight on Titan or Wakanda. Indeed, the latter has just concluded. He calls out for his daughter, thinking that she just ran off real quick and he missed her. As he looks around, we see the dust. Again he turns to his wife and sons, but they too have scattered in the wind. Clint is alone.

The screen flashes out and the Avengers: Endgame title sequence plays. Next, we are treated to the full scenes that were teased in the trailers. First up is Tony and Nebula on the Benatar, where things do not start out all doom and gloom as they were in the first Endgame trailer. Tony is teaching and competing at Table Football with Nebula. She… doesn’t seem like she likes him so much. Her face flashes frowns and scowls aggressiveness at Tony or the game… it’s not clear which. They take turns flicking the small silver football across a table, and whodathunkit, Nebula wins the match! Tony records his trailer message to Pepper and drifts into sleep. Here we see a kinder, gentler side of Nebula, as she carries Tony from his spot on the floor, to one of the pilot’s chairs to sleep more comfortably. A few moments pass before his face lights up from some glow outside the stalled ship. The man that started the MCU opens his eyes to see the most recent addition to the MCU.

Captain Marvel floats before him, ready to tow the drifters to Earth. Cheers and thunderous applause from the moviegoers are surround me. Ironman and Nebula are saved.

Cut to Earth — Avenger’s HQ. We learn it has been just over 3 weeks since the snap. We get to the scene where the team stands outside looking to the stars. Pepper is present and tearfully greets Tony as he stumbles off the ship. They go inside and Tony has a short argument with Steve about the fight that they both recently lost. Tony collapses.

The rest of the team meet to discuss their next steps. Carol begins to depart alone to find and kill Thanos. The remaining Avengers join her when Nebula and Rocket reveal where Thanos escaped to. The mission is fast and only partly successful. They find the Mad Titan alone on his farm and subdue him with little fuss. They chop off his gauntlet encased hand.

But there is a problem. A HUGE problem. Thanos has used the stones a second time. This time, to destroy the stones. His reasoning? Having them is too much of a temptation. A short panicked argument occurs between the team before Thor does what Thanos taunted before the first snap at the end of Infinity War. A large purple head rolls away from a large purple body and Thor exclaims, “I went for the head,” before walking to look out across Thanos’ world. The genocidal Titan is dead. My fellow moviegoers go wild.

Five

Years

Later

The world has not moved on. Some try. Few succeed. Natasha is taking mission reports from Carol, Rocket, Rhodey, and Nebula. Carol is sporting a fresh haircut. Her hologram deactivates as she goes off on her own missions. This is the last we see of Captain Marvel until the climax of the movie. Rocket and Nebula leave too. Rhodes has a report on Clint. He’s gone rogue and is worrying the team. Natasha asks for updates.

Next, we travel cross country to San Francisco, to a self storage unit where we find the X•CON van that was last seen when Ant-Man was trapped in the Quantum Realm. A mouse scurries around and activates the Quantum Tunnel, bringing Ant-Man back into the post-snap world. To Scott Lang, it’s only been five hours since he shrunk down.

We see memorials to the lost, and abandoned neighborhoods, as he searches for his daughter. He finds her. His little girl Cassie isn’t so little anymore.

And now we come to the point where the pace picks up. Scott has an idea. He knows it’s a slim chance, but
it’s the best he can come up with. He gets together with Steve and Nat to get Tony to build a time machine.

Problem for the plan: Tony and Pepper have built a life: a life that includes a scene-stealing daughter. Iron-Man is his past. Tony says no, but only to their faces. After they leave, he begins work on a project he has no real faith in. But this is the MCU. This is Tony Stark, the billionaire genius playboy philanthropist. He randomly finds a way to navigate the Quantum Realm’s Time Vortexes, while Hulk Banner practices a different tech with Scott. We are treated to teenage Scott Lang, Grandpa Scott Lang, and even Baby Scott Lang before Bruce gets regular Scott Lang back. One of these has peed himself…

Tony arrives to save the day. Clint plays guinea pig and tests the new tech. His test pulls at those heartstrings again as he travels back in time to his farm house where he calls out for his daughter, hears her response, and is zapped back to the present. It works. They have a plan.
Go back to times and places where they can find the Infinity Stones, in order to remove them from the timeline temporarily. It’s Nat that realizes there are 3 stones in New York during the Battle of New York from the first Avengersfilm. (I personally find this to be a bit of a plot hole. The Time Stone is in the possession of Tilda Swinton’s The Ancient One. Not Dr. Strange… The Ancient One should be at Kamar-Taj in Kathmandu… Instead Professor Hulk finds her fighting off the Chitauri alone on the roof of 177A Bleecker Street. But… I get it. They needed to find some way to save time. Having the Time Stone in New York aids the story, if not the continuity.) After arguing with Bruce’s astral body, she hands over the Time Stone.

Captain America is in charge of getting Loki’s scepter, which holds Vision’s Mind Stone. He makes it look easy. The scepter is being transported by Agent Sitwell, Brock Rumlow, AKA Crossbones, and other agents, in an elevator. All of these characters are secretly Hydra infiltrators.

The setup looks like a reenactment of the iconic elevator fight scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Steve places himself in the middle of the elevator and says that the director, Fury, has put him in charge of the scepter. Our Steve Rodgers knows that they are Hydra, and when they all start to reach for their weapons, Steve leans over to whisper in Sitwell’s ear. “Hail Hydra.” The audience erupts in screams! Sitwell hands over the weapon and Steve exits the elevator. Then he has a fight with himself. He tells himself that Bucky is alive, which freaks himself out, and allows him to beat himself unconscious and escape with the scepter and Mind Stone. It makes sense when you see it.

Tony and Scott are to obtain the Tesseract. The plan is going perfectly. Scott shrinks down and messes with 2012 Tony’s Arc Reactor, causing him to collapse and drop the case holding the cube. Our Tony grabs the case and begins his exfiltration. He’s almost away when in comes 2012 Hulk, smashing through the door to the stairwell, knocking Tony down and the case away. The case pops open, throwing the Tesseract to the feet of the bound and gagged Loki. Loki snatches it up and vanishes through the power of the Space Stone.

Oops… This creates another continuity problem…

Thor… Oh! By the way. The God of Thunder has really let himself go. What remains of the Asgardian people have settled on Earth in a place they’ve named… New Asgard… Totally original and awesome… Fight me… ? Thor has become the drunken King that only shows his face a couple times a month to obtain a fresh supply of alcohol. He’s no longer the muscular god we know and love. He’s gone totally dad-bod with an overflowing beer gut.

Thor’s mission, along with Rocket, is to retrieve the Reality Stone from his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster, during the events of Thor: The Dark World. When the god and Rabbit first show up on Asgard, they sneak past Loki in his prison cell.

…Which is the cell he is imprisoned in after he is captured at the end of the Battle of New York, which we just saw him escape from… Continuity? Time travel is weird…

Thor has a tearful reunion with his imminently doomed mother as Rocket completed the mission, and gets chased by Asgard security. Three stones down, three to go. Thor steals his trusty old hammer Mjolnir from this timeline before they escape.

Nebula and Rhodey are dropped off on Morag before the start of Guardians of the Galaxy to follow Peter Quill to the Power Stone. Their mission is an easy success, but opens the door to the big bad of the film. Thanos. Along side him? Gamora and Nebula.There are 2 Nebulas in the galaxy and they are both connected to the same network. (Remember, Nebula is basically a cyborg due to Thanos’ “upgrades.”) The Nebula that still wants to please Thanos gets memory recordings from our Nebula. Thanos’ team figures out that the Avengers are gathering the stones. Just as Rhodey and our Nebula are heading home, Thanos captures our Nebula and sends his loyal Nebula back to Earth in her place.

The Master Assassins Hawkeye and Black Widow, Clint and Natasha: they’ve arrived on Vormir, unaware of the cost to obtain the Soul Stone. They are met by Red Skull, though they don’t recognize the WWII villain. He spills the beans on what must happen, and our heroes dance around in a painful argument over who will live and who will die. They’re heroes. They both are ready to make the sacrifice. Clint has enough of the debate and heads toward the cliff. Natasha stops him with one of her taser darts. She starts for the cliff. Clint fires off an explosive arrow to knock her back and down, so that he can make a run and a jump for it. Into the air and down the face of the mountain he goes. But suddenly he stops. Nat has roped him in place, hanging off the cliff. She jumps. He catches her. Then she kicks off the wall and out of his grasp. Clint Barton has the Soul Stone.

Natasha Romanoff is dead.

I missed the next few minutes while utilizing the second Peetime. But we still have 1 stone to obtain. So let me back up a bit.

Loki escaped with the Tesseract. Tony realizes that he knows where and when the cube could be, farther in the past. Steve and Tony send Scott back to HQ while they endeavor to rectify their failure.

1970: cut to New Jersey at a joint Army SHIELD training and research-base. Our favorite leaders infiltrate the hidden bunker. Steve goes to find a younger Hank Pym in order to steal some of the Pym Particles that make their time travel possible. Tony goes to get the cube. Steve gets temporarily distracted when he hides in the office of none other than Peggy Carter. He sees her through a window in another room and stares in longing and amazement.

Tony meets his father. Howard doesn’t know that the bumbling stranger in front of him is his own son. Indeed, Tony Stark hasn’t been born yet. They talk as fellow scientists, and Tony learns a bit of who his father really was. A good man, much like Tony is himself. When they part ways, Howard tells Tony that, even though his child isn’t born yet, there is nothing he wouldn’t do for him.

Steve and Tony return to the present day. All six stones are collected. But there is an imposter among the ranks.

Tony creates an Iron-Man style Infinity Gauntlet and Professor Hulk is the one to try to undo the snap. The stones activate and start to injure Banner, but he fights the pain back and concentrates on one thought: “Bring them back.” He snaps his fingers.Imposter Nebula brings Thanos’ ship through the time machine. Thanos unleashes a volley of missiles to destroy the Avengers HQ.

Steve, Tony, and Thor begin the biggest battle in MCU history. Thanos fights the 3 by himself and very nearly wins. Iron-Man gets knocked out pretty early on. Captain America is stunned for a bit. Thor puts up a good fight. The two grapple and Thor ends up on his back, Stormbreaker shoved into his chest. It all seems lost when Mjolnir begins to move. Thor has a secret move on Thanos, right? The mighty hammer knocks the Titan away and then flies into the outstretched hand of Steve Rogers. The cheers around me shook the theater walls. Our Captain America is worthy after all.

Steve lays an epic beat down on the purple dude. He wields the hammer like his shield and even summons lightning to help beat the bad guy. It all goes well, until it doesn’t. Thanos gets the upper hand and turns the tables on Steve. He very nearly kills him. The round vibranium shield that we all love is shattered. Cap stands across a field from Thanos, ready to continue the fight. But Thanos has had enough. He calls his army. Not only the beasts from Infinity War. But the Chitauri as well. It’s a massiveforce. The likes of which may even dwarf the forces depicted in the Lord of the Rings films. The Outlook is bleak at best. 1 man, superhuman as he may be, doesn’t stand a chance.

“Cap? Cap, can you hear me?……. On your left.”

It’s the voice of Falcon. One of the victims of the decimation from Infinity War. A voice that Steve hasn’t heard in 5 years. Over Steve’s left shoulder, a portal opens. Then another and another. Several portals open and expand to reveal a friendly army of our recently returned Avengers, and Wakandans, and Asgardians. A force to match Thanos.

The War of the Returned has begun.

You can probably imagine how things go from here. The battle rages with small cuts to individual interactions. Spiderman swings in and Tony embraces the kid in a hug. Black Panther leads his troops onto the field, chanting their battle cries. The Guardians of the Galaxy assemble, sans Gamora. Quill does run into the other Gamora, who has since released our Nebula, who killed the other Nebula. Peter is stunned. He reaches out to touch her face in disbelief, and promptly gets a knee to the groin from a Gamora that has never met Starlord. Pepper Potts joins the fight in the highly anticipated Rescue armor. Valkerie flies in on a Valkerie Steed.

The mission at this point, beyond winning the war, is to return the Infinity Stones back to the moments in time that they were stolen from. Thanos’ ship destroyed the large time machine that our heroes have been using up till now. But Scott Lang has a spare in his ugly brown van.
In the middle of the battlefield. Behind enemy lines. Various Avengers make a run for the van with the Iron Infinity Gauntlet. Each passes the prize to another as he or she is pinned down by the enemy. It’s around this time that Captain Marvel bursts onto the scene, taking the gauntlet from a flailing Peter Parker. This pauses the action to assemble an all-female team of ass kicking heroes for what is basically a group photo… it’s cool… but kind of out of place on a battlefield.

Carol takes the gauntlet and nearly reaches the van. But Thanos destroys it just before she gets there. So Thanos and Captain Marvel have a row. Despite Carol being the strongest hero there, the fight is pretty evenly matched. This is after Thanos being worn down by Steve, Thor, and Tony, and with Carol barely coming into the fight from her travels in space. Scarlett Witch has a go at him.

Thanos eventually gets hold of the gauntlet. Then the fight comes back to Tony. Iron-Man tries to wrestle the gauntlet away, but fails. He tries again and fails again. But when Thanos lifts his hand to snap away the universe, this time it’s just a snap. Tony managed to pull the stones from the gauntlet and his armor molded itself around them to make another gauntlet. Thanks looks at Stark and repeats a line that the beheaded Thanos said in one of Nebula’s memories. “I am inevitable…”

“I… I am Iron-Man, “Tony says just before snapping his fingers and bringing the war to an end.

Tony Stark did not decimate half the universe with the snap of his fingers. Not the whole universe, not even a single percent. He only dusted those that were his current enemy. Those that fought against the Avengers in the here and now. The last enemy to be tuned to dust? The Mad Titan Thanos. He sat down in defeat before being blown away with the wind, joining his massive army and their vehicles.

Tony Stark also sat down at this point. Half his body has been burned. He’s delirious and his speech is incoherent. Peter Parker tries to talk to him. Then Pepper arrives to tell him that everything will be okay now. That it’s over. That she loves him.

Tony Stark is dead.

In the aftermath, our heroes attend Tony’s funeral at the lakeside cabin where Steve, Nat, and Scott found him earlier, playing with little Morgan. Tony knew what might happen before the time travel missions. Like everyone knows what might happen being a hero. He had left a message for his family. Not limited to Pepper and Morgan. It’s in this hologram message that he says goodbye to his daughter. “I love you three thousand.”

Clint Barton has a talk and a hug with Wanda. Their connection goes back to Age of Ultron where Wanda’s brother Pietro sacrificed himself for Clint, and their mutual partnership with Natasha. Clint is eventually dropped at his home where he is reunited with his family.

Thor speaks with Valkerie back in New Asgard. Valkerie is trying to get him to stick around and be the king that he is. But Thor intends to take the counsel of his mother and be the man that he is, not the man he is supposed to be. Before he departs, he calls Valkerie Your Majesty, making her the Queen of New Asgard. He then boards the Benatar to join the Guardians and joke around with Quill about who’s in charge. It’s totally Thor…

Finally we come back to the last mission: returning the stones to their places in time. Captain America and Steve Rodgers are undertaking this mission alone. Hulk Banner, Bucky, and Sam are there to see him off. Though they assume he will be back in just a few short seconds. And in a way, he is. Though not exactly where and how they expected. Some short distance from the time machine, sitting on a bench overlooking a lake, sits a well-aged Steve Rogers. Beside him is a round leather case. Sam goes to talk to his very old friend. Sam approaches Steve as Falcon. Then Steve passes him the round shield, with a star and stripes.

Sam Wilson is now Captain America.

The mantle being passed, they embrace. A wedding ring is shown on Steve’s hand. After he completed his mission and returned the stones, he did the only thing he ever wanted to do. The thing he was worried about missing when he awoke in that SHIELD facility in the heart of New York City. He returned to the end of the second world war and danced with Peggy Carter. The woman who would become his wife.

This is the 1 in 14,000,605.

This is the Endgame.

Captain Marvel – Better Than I Expected – A White Male’s Review

Christopher Estrada for RunPee
Chris Estrada: RunPee’s Newest Guest Geek Extraordinaire!

Guest article by Christopher Estrada

I am no Marvel Cinematic Universe newbie. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all but one MCU film to date — that one being 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. We were thrown into the middle of Dr. Banner’s story with little in the way of actual origin story. Maybe Marvel was leaning a bit on the other Hulk movie released not long before the MCU version. Or maybe they just didn’t want to get bogged down with the cinematic birth of The Hulk. Whatever the case, I wasn’t, and am still not impressed, with the big green guy’s first MCU outing.

All of this is to say that I went into Captain Marvel with apprehensive expectations. Which actually was disappointing for me. Immediately following Avengers: Infinity War, I was excited for the first female-led MCU movie. I wanted to learn about the Captain trademarked by the comic book company.

Can A White Man Review Feminist Films?

Then Brie Larson made headlines that were…off-putting…with talk of the movie being very feminist…and not wanting white males crowding the press tour…and then we had Brie’s speech at the Oscars.

black panther and king T'Challa
Inclusivity also means white males count too. It means that everyone can have talent. Gender and color should be meaningless, although society isn’t there yet.

I mean, I get it. This is 2019 and a highly politicized era. The world is pushing for more representation of people of color, and of women. That is all admirable and great things to work towards. But it’s not really the fault that white men today — and film critics and reporters — are white males. It could be argued that news organizations and film review publishers are at fault. It could also be argued there simply aren’t as many women and people of color that want to be film critics and reporters. Not that there shouldn’t be: just that it is up to the individuals to want to do that job, and to be good enough to get the job.

Despite my Hispanic surname, I am a white male. It’s yet to be decided if I am good enough at writing and critiquing to be doing it. (This is my second attempt in the area. The first being my thoughts on the first trailer for Avengers: Endgame. And while this review may be published, I could very well be uninvited or ignored in the future.) But is it my fault that I’m not a person of color? That I would have an opinion on entertainment? That the RunPee Family noticed a theory of mine in a discussion on their Facebook page?

My point is that it really shouldn’t matter what ethnicity or gender a person is. What should matter is whether what they have to say is worthy of publication. People of color are just as capable as any white man of having thoughts on any subject. The question is how many of them practice the craft, and pursue a job or freelance work in that field. The more of them that do so, the more of them there will be in the field. It takes time.

So, I was less excited about going to see the movie than I was just a few months ago. But I still wanted to see it. I still wanted to add more MCU canon to my brain. I wanted to give the movie a chance.

A Captain Marvel Review (with mild spoilers)

captain-marvelI’m glad I did. The movie was, in my white male opinion, a success. Is it as good as Black Panther or DC’s Wonder Woman? No. But it is a decent movie.

The origin story is fleshed out through the movie. Sometimes in jarring, unexpected flashbacks. Other times, in ways that make perfect sense for the flow of the movie.

There is some decent comedy sprinkled throughout. The best of which came from Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D Nick Fury, and his interactions with Goose, the brilliant ginger cat that steals every scene s/he purrs into.

Likewise, the seeming antagonistic Skrulls were a good source of humor. The titular hero, on the other hand…Brie’s acting in the comedic bits was…unconvincing. She seemed kind of stiff when it came to cracking puns back at her co-stars. I’m not saying I didn’t get her jokes, or that I didn’t laugh. I did. It was just a bit delayed in comparison with the other funny parts. I think the exception is when she crashes to Earth near the beginning of the film. The stiff acting actually made sense, and made for decent humor when she asked if the human security officer understood her. When she asks for a communication source and he points at Radio Shack — here it worked.

The action is typical Marvel quality with good choreography and CGI special effects. The overwhelming powers Carol Danvers wields is made crystal clear when she breaks free of the Kree binds, and confronts her former team.

I was somewhat disappointed that she didn’t fight and overcome Jude Law’s character in a non-powered exhibition at the end. She basically pulls an Indiana Jones pistol shot, on the bad guy with a sword in the courtyard in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was worth a short chuckle. But it would have been awesome to see her best him in the hand to hand combat they were practicing early on. Then Ronan’s reaction when Carol blasts her way through one of the enemy ships was also a chuckle-worthy bit. It was all fairly anti-climactic in my estimation, though.

gregg clarke as agent coulson in captain marvel
A digitally de-aged Agent Coulson. They de-aged Nick Fury too.

The CGI to make Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg look younger is a tough cookie. Fury looked pretty good — maybe a little plastic or rubbery. But Coulson…he just looked weird and inconsistent. The facial CGI is still a technology that needs to improve. Forward and backward in age…

The film was touted as being a very feminist movie. Everyone from Larson to Kevin Feige made a point to advertise it as the first female MCU hero movie. The trailers etched the tag line in our heads. “Her” flashing into, “A Hero”.

Then we saw the mantra heavily repeated during the Super Bowl Captain Marvel trailer saying “Higher, Further, Faster.” And the flashbacks of authority figures telling the younger Carol what she should, and shouldn’t — or can’t be doing — and her exclamation of “I’m kind of done with you telling me what I can’t do.” The theme isn’t bad. In fact it’s a great theme that should help uplift girls and women everywhere. Sadly, I think the film falls short of that message overall.

There are flashbacks to Carol’s time as a human child, teen, and young adult, where we see her father and other authorities telling her negative things: what was shown in that Superbowl trailer, but sprinkled throughout the film. Then we see all of those flashbacks at once, just before she realizes her full power.

But the theme wasn’t played up enough to amount to anything more that this one person saying that, yes, she can. Carol never sits down and tells little Monica to never let anyone hold her back. That Monica, and by extension all girls, can do what they want if they put their minds to it. If they push past their own limits and do what others say they can’t: this is a missed opportunity in my opinion.

Women Superhero Films Today

This missed opportunity kind of negates the leftist politics and feminist push from the PR campaign before the film released. The politics aren’t in your face. That makes this a fairly typical Marvel movie.

LEGO 2 - Wonder Woman
Even Legos deserve our respect.

It’s actually an interesting comparison with Wonder Woman. Ultimately both films center on each franchise’s first female-hero led film. Both show awesome, bad-ass women kicking butt and proving that women make excellent warriors. Both are origin stories. Both are prequels to a larger universe. But they both left me in different places. We knew more or less what was next for Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, because what was next was actually shown to us before, in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

What’s next for Captain Marvel is a bit of a mystery still. We know she will be in next month’s Avengers: Endgame. But since we haven’t seen that movie yet, and we expect her in it, this story feels incomplete to me. Yes, she completed her objective for this movie. But we’re left wanting more in a different way than Wonder Woman. I think part of this is because of the mid-credits scene which shows us a flash-forward to the post-Thanos-Snap world. It leaves us by teasing us.

justice league superhero characters
Oh yeah, Wonder Woman is in there. It’s a start.

Another difference between the two comics movies is the pre-release marketing. I could be wrong, but I don’t recall Wonder Woman being pushed as a feminist film. Gal Gadot certainly didn’t politicize the press tour. The film quite simply introduced us to a strong female hero that didn’t dwell on her peers telling her she cant do this or that. She rolls her eyes and puts on the trench coat to cover her armored body. She hears the entrenched soldiers saying they can’t push forward, and picks up her shield, climbs the ladder and says “Follow me!” She just did it.

DC didn’t push the film as an empowerment story for women in the way that Marvel did with Captain Marvel. They both ultimately present that theme successfully. But one alienated a large portion — possibly a majority — of the fan-base. The other didn’t. That only hurts the film early on, because, again, I am a part of that portion of the fan-base that was targeted and putt-off, and I ended up enjoying the movie.

My Captain Marvel Movie Grade

On a 1-10 scale, I’d give Captain Marvel an 8/10 or a B grade.

captain marvel
Captain Marvel herself.

Much of Brie Larson’s acting just seemed stiff and un-involved. Some of this could be the idea that she’s on an unknown, forgotten world, and as an alien she doesn’t know how to behave around humans. But that idea slips away with her relative comfort working with Fury, where she still seems like she has a board strapped to her back. (Maybe its the costume? But no; she’s in normal human clothes for a lot of this bit.)

Overall, I’d say this movie is worth a theatrical viewing. Boycotting a box office ticket for it because of the recent politics is only keeping you from adding to the Avengers canon. The movie isn’t blatantly political or anti-white male. I might go see it in theater again, in a few weeks, when the theater isn’t packed with other people…before Endgame.

Christopher Estrada: “Take a look at my first e-book An Abducted Date. The book is available for free in all e-book formats. So anyone using a Kindle, Ipad, Tablet, Sony Reader, Nook, or Kobo e-reading device can enjoy. Also available as PDF format for reading on a computer! Read and Review!”

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Avengers 4 Endgame – First Trailer Review

A Slightly More Than Casual Fan’s Reaction to Avenger 4 Trailer 1

Christopher Estrada for RunPee
Chris Estrada: RunPee’s Newest Guest Geek

Guest article by Christopher Estrada

WARNING! Spoilers ahead for Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and The Wasp, and the trailer for Avengers: End Game. 

Wow… Iron Man’s helmet really looks beaten… Because it was. And he was. Pretty severely when Thanos nearly snuffed out the life of Tony Stark. I didn’t expect Tony to survive that fight. In fact I’d prepared myself for the death of all the original team when going to see Avengers: Infinity War. But then Dr. Strange pulled the craziest rabbit out of Knowhere when he handed over the Time Stone. Thanos spares Tony and steps through a portal to Wakanda, where he snaps and turns half of us to dust. (I was spared by Thanos… [http://www.DidThanosKill.me/])

Back to the present day. We see and hear Tony power on the Iron Man helmet to record a message for Pepper Potts. He’s fairly confident his death is about a day away, drifting through the vacuum of space.

[pullquote]Gosh. Why must we be depressed even more?![/pullquote]

Cut to the Avengers’ base in Upstate New York. Cap, Black Widow, Banner, and Thor are all shown in mourning: which is normal and to be expected. They even show us a kinder, sadder side of Nebula, who lost Gamora, her adopted sister. Strange, considering she tried to kill her several times in both Volumes of  Guardians of the Galaxy.

Bruce stands before displays of Scott Lang (Ant-Man), Shuri, sister of T’Challa (Black Panther), and Peter Parker (Spider-Man). It’s not clear to me why he would be torn over the loss of Scott. As far as we know, they’ve never met. Hulk wasn’t around during Civil War, and Banner likely wasn’t hanging out with a cat burglar before going on the run before the MCU kicked off in 2008. So there is no clear connection between Bruce and Scott. Not even Hank Pym. Bruce only knows that Scott exists from brief remarks between Black Widow and Cap.

Bruce being torn over Spider-Man’s Peter Parker makes a bit of sense. He did get to see Pete in action before he was dragged into space with Tony in Infinity War, though Banner didn’t see Pete go into space. It’s a loose bond, but a bond nonetheless. Tony trusted the kid. Bruce trusts Tony, and by extension, Peter.

Thor is likely beating himself up. We see him sitting all lonesome in a gray hoodie, in a cold-looking room. His head bowed. For a split second it looks like he’s removed the prosthetic eye. But… No… He just opened that eye slower, or delayed. The God of Thunder lost half of his Asgardian refugees when Thanos attacked, seeking the Space Stone lodged inside the Tesseract. Then he lost another half of them in The Snap. So we’re down to 25% of the Asgardians we saw escape from Valhalla in Thor: Ragnarok. We can only hope that Valkyrie, Korg, and Meek are still out there somewhere.

[pullquote position=”right”]Through all of this, Steve and Nat have been talking, voicing over these clips. They’re telling us what we know, and what we felt at the end of Infinity War, and still feel today.[/pullquote]

But what really gets me through all this… is Steve’s hair. It’s perfect. Like, it doesn’t make sense in the context given. He’s depressed, in mourning. His best friend, his allies, have died in front of him. The guy he disagrees with, but respects, is lost in space, and for all Cap knows, turned to dust as well.

Why then is his hair perfectly styled? Did he wake up depressed and decide, “Hey, let me gel my hair and shave the beard before I go and talk about the end of the world with Nat?”

Does this really matter? No. It’s a movie. I get it. But still. It’s out of place to me. I mean…Natasha is another story. Her hair is a bit longer and not styled beyond a quick brushing. It flaps around quite freely. Her hair fits. But his doesn’t.

…Back to what matters…

[pullquote]Finally Nat gives Steve a small pep talk, saying that, “This is gonna work, Steve.” He looks at her and replies that he knows it will. That, “I don’t know what I’m gonna do if it doesn’t.”[/pullquote] The Avengers “A” is shown being reconstructed from dust, followed by the full Avengers title beaming over, and the sub-title, End Game, dusting.

Then Scott Lang (the Ant Man) shows up at the front gate of the compound and asks to be buzzed in.

Wait… What? Wasn’t he lost to the Quantum Realm when Thanos snapped and killed the Pyms and Hope?

Cliffhanger!

Guess we’ll have to wait for the next trailer. Unless Marvel/Disney wants to torture us and not release another trailer. Just make us wait until the movie premieres. I’ll be at an opening night showing. How ‘bout you?

_____________________________________________________________________

Christopher Estrada bio: “Take a look at my first e-book An Abducted Date. The book is available for free in all e-book formats. So anyone using a Kindle, Ipad, Tablet, Sony Reader, Nook, or Kobo e-reading device can enjoy. Also available as PDF format for reading on a computer! Read and Review!”

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