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‘AVENGERS: ENDGAME’’s Epic Stroll Down Memory Lane Makes for Best MCU Film Yet

The Marvel Cinematic Universe began in earnest when Tony Stark proclaimed, “I am Iron Man.” Then Nick Fury stepped out of the shadows and assembled a team. The movie industry shook. It was the beginning of something new; an unchartered holistic approach to franchise filmmaking and the genesis of a box office monolith unlike any to have ever proceeded it. Over the course of 21 films, the MCU has become the equivalent of global Saturday morning cartoons; serialized superhero adventure stories that somehow most of the world has bought into. And all that comes to a head in Avengers: Endgame, a movie that is so momentous, it’s difficult to classify in and amongst other general releases. Empty out your pockets now folks, cuz you’re gonna need to strap into this ride a few times.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE’

Long-winded and neither as smart, surprising, or sassy as it thinks, Bad Times at the El Royale is a stylish snow-globe of sixties subcultures clown-car piled into an overdrawn neo-noir. Bursting at the seams with metaphorical material and cultural commentary but featherlight on plot and deep-dive character development, this strangers-at-a-hotel mystery has a lot of guff and bluster but little actual punch. It’s not exactly bad times but the times decidedly aren’t so grand either.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR’ 

Over the course of 18 films and 10 years, Kevin Feige and his army of Marvel men and women have laid a pretty nifty foundation upon which the Marvel Cinematic Universe rests. What started with humble beginnings with 2008’s Iron Man has  since blown up into a cultural and financial supernova with no less than 30 recognizable characters and all that comes to a head with the Russo Brother’s astonishingly ambitious though perfunctorily flawed Avengers: Infinity War.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ’12 STRONG’

12 Strong calls in the cavalry on Al-Qaeda in Nicolai Fuglsig’s “declassified true story of the horse soldiers”. Spurred by the 9/11 terror attacks, Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) leaves behind a safe, cushy military desk job to lead a team of special forces to the sandy front lines of the War on Terror. There, he must earn the trust of an Afghan warlord to take down a critical Taliban position. We’re told repeatedly that the fate of the War rests on this mission’s success and, well, we all know how that one turned out. Generic on most accounts, 12 Strong is an inoffensive American war movie relying on offensive war-mongering tactics. The semi-sturdy if mostly unremarkable acting and blasé set pieces lack the praise-worthy or memorable accents to set 12 Strong aside from the harras.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THOR: RAGNAROK’

Candy-colored Thor: Ragnarok is a retro, dimension-hopping hoot. Rambunctious, joyous and just plain fun to watch, Ragnarok is shellacked with vintage Taika Waititi style, the critical darling director behind such rollicking Rotten Tomatoes-adored comedy-adventures as Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows and Boy retaining his idiomatic filmmaking tactics even under the watchful eye of notoriously handsy Marvel producers. The best of the Thor films (and this coming from someone who actually admits to enjoying the previous two), Ragnarok employs Taika’s signature witty, irreverent approach to comedy and his knack for building genuine camaraderie among squirelly outcasts to craft the funniest blockbuster of the year, one that doubles as a hell of an odd-couple intergalactic road trip, even if it still barely breaks the lather-rinse-repeat nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe mold.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘GHOSTBUSTERS’

It’s been a long road to the theater for Paul Feig and the girls of Ghostbusters. Beset by accusations of vagina-washing from a very vocal (and rather pathetic) corner of the internet, a less-than-reassuring first trailer and a borderline insufferable Fall Out Boy/Missy Elliot rendition of the iconic “Who You Gonna Call?” theme song, the remake of Harold Ramis’ much-adored 1984 supernatural-comedy had many hurdles to summit. But rather than scale the obstacles in its path, Ghostbusters dispenses a powerful proton pack of carefully constructed charisma, nostalgia-fueled callbacks and no-holds-barred performances, blasting the besmirching naysayers to smithereens like cardboard cutouts of Slimer in a Chinatown back alley. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THE HUNSTMAN: WINTER’S WAR’

The Huntsman: Winter’s War suffers from colon-movie spina bifida. Its curvy backbone veers near and far to collect the disparate parts necessary in making this part of a larger cinematic universe. In this case, that universe is Universal Picture’s Snow White, a bleak fairy tale retold with undeniable visual style and largely charmless aplomb in 2012 with an aggressively apathetic Kristen Stewart at the forefront and a scenery-smacking, mean-mugging Chris Hemsworth as her side piece. Putting his considerable beef to good use as the movie’s romantic tine/battle-weary whetting stone to slide K-Stew’s frosty edge against, Hemsworth proved a fleeting flash of joy in an otherwise grim and grimly serious saga. His burly Eric however hardly seemed an intriguing (or popular) enough character to stage a spin-off upon but if The Huntsman is proof of anything, it’s that adding a hefty scoop of Jessica Chastain, a dollop of dwarves and a much more tongue-in-cheek approach to this whole fairy tale thing may be just the spoonful of medicine the script doctor called for. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘IN THE HEART OF THE SEA’

Chris Hemsworth was a rare find for Thor because he seems like a man beamed out of another dimension. The lacy lexicon of Marvel’s quasi-Shakespearean tragedy boasts Hemsworth’s Australian-cum-Nobleman accent, one with an ethereally hard-to-place, far, far away quality to it. When Hemsworth is smashed down to Earth and asked to perform New England for Ron Howard’s not-quite-Moby-Dick Moby Dick story he musters a punishing take on a Nantucket accent that turns the r’s in ah’s (that is when he remembers he’s supposed to be mussing up his voice at all.) Read More

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Out in Theaters: VACATION

Harold Ramis took the family vacation movie off cruise-control in 1983, proffering a deliciously crass road trip film lead by an insolent (and borderline sociopathic) father figure in Chevy Chase and penned by none other than the mighty John Hughes. A sickly twist on nuclear morals and unadulterated, thoroughly punitive obsession, National Lampoon’s Vacation etched a dark twist on small town American dreams, couching the woes of extended family, the thirst for adventure and the troubles of enclosed spaces in with themes of adultery, abuse, abandonment and totally warped family values; with a corporate theme park ironically standing in as a last bastion of joy. Ramis’ was no small feat – he had crafted a thing of jet black social commentary that sang out with sharp barbs of comedy. Read More

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Out in Theaters: THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

What to say about The Avengers: Age of Ultron? It’s certainly a Marvel movie; a spectacle-heavy rationing of motormouthed zingers, busy with whip-pan, slo-mo action montages and done up like a prom queen with CG glitz. It’s the insatiable younger brother to Joss Whedon’s initial compulsory corporate softball tournament; a large and in charge super-conglomeration that rarely stops to make time to make sense, and though darker (emotionally), bigger (logistically) and meaner (spiritually), it’s not nearly as much fun as when space worms were involved. The Marvel brand has been defined by its sense of “fun” and Age of Ultron certainly houses the brand of larger-than-life, escapist entertainment that Marvel fans have emptied out their pockets for in the past but it misses the shock-and-awe boat that installment numero uno rode in on, instead serving up a welting reminder of the inconsequential, aggressively episodic nature of this whole shared universe business. By the end of Ultron’s short-lived age, tables have been set but little has actually changed. This is Lather, Rinse, Repeat: Age of Redundancy. Read More