The Leftovers review

Creators: Damon Lindelof, Tom Perrotta

Cast: Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, Amy Brenneman, Liv Tyler, Christopher Eccleston, Scott Glenn, Kevin Carroll, Ann Dowd, Jovan Adepo

Episodes: 28

Aired: June 29, 2014-June 4, 2017

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Once the screen faded to black from the final shot of the final episode of The Leftovers and the credits rolled, I just sat on the couch for a little while to think about what I had just watched. You know a work is at the very least pretty good when it can just leave you sitting there for a few moments to think about your experience. Even now as I type this review, the experience I had with The Leftovers is still in my mind. I usually write down notes when I am playing a game, or watching a show or movie to review, but this is one of the times where I didn’t not out of negligence but because I was so absorbed in what I was viewing. I’ve seen a lot of TV shows, but I am certain I have never seen anything like The Leftovers. This is the best show I have ever watched.

Based off of a novel of the same name by Tom Perrotta, The Leftovers aired on HBO from 2014 to 2017 for three seasons. The basic premise is that on October 14th, 2011, two percent of the world’s population totally disappears in a split second. They leave behind nothing and the rest of the world is left to wonder where and why they went. Those who disappeared that day are called the “Departed” and the day becomes memorialized as the “Sudden Departure”. Society as we know it experiences a drastic change from the trauma of losing so many loved ones and friends, yet leaving behind the majority of the human population. Cults form such as the Guilty Remnant: an order of people that dress in white clothes, chain-smoke, communicate only via written language, and try to remind people as much as possible about the family and friends they’ve lost. We mainly follow the characters of Kevin Garvey Jr., Nora Durst, Matt Jamison, and the Murphy family.

This is a show where plot isn’t the focus, but character is. The event itself isn’t important so much as the effect it had on our main cast. Kevin Garvey Jr. is the police chief of Mapleton when we first meet him, with his family having fallen apart because of the Sudden Departure. Nora Durst lost her husband and two children, while Matt Jamison is a reverend suffering a crisis of faith as a result of the Sudden Departure challenging everything he has believed in. The Murphy family shows up in the second season.

The lifeblood of this show is its  amazing characters. They are all put through not just physical, but emotional trials in the show’s three season run. The solutions to their problems are never clear cut, but layered with questions often left unanswered. It would be easy for the Garvey family to have been happy and wholesome until the Sudden Departure happened, but the first season slowly but surely reveals this was never the case, and that the Sudden Departure was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. No single event broke these people, it was all a culmination of events and their responses to them. For the majority of the show, there is no villain or antagonist for the characters to rally against, but just people being as flawed as they are in real life.

It is not an easy show to get into. It is a slow show and the first season is the slowest of them all. It’s also the season with the smallest scope and the most dour tone with just a little humor for relief. It’s not a bad season by any means. It’s in fact a very good season, but it is the weakest one in the whole show. Of course, a very good season being the weakest one of your entire series is if anything another point in its favor. If you’re watching this show for answers as to what happened, then you’re watching it wrong. The Sudden Departure itself isn’t important, but the fallout from it is.

It’s in seasons two and three where The Leftovers reaches its full potential and becomes a masterpiece. It branches out and begins to tackle large questions along with its cast. We see what it’s like in a town in Texas where nobody departed, which has caused people to flock to it for various reasons. Then we move to Australia seven years after the Sudden Departure, where on the seventh anniversary people are wondering what it going to happen, if anything at all is going to happen, and what would it mean if something did happen. These are the kinds of ambitious ideas and tough to tackle questions that the audience has to deal with just like our characters. It also adds a variety of humor into the mix so that there is a balance of tone.

The Leftovers’ music is absolutely spotless. Need convincing? Go onto YouTube and look up the main theme, the first season’s title theme, and the second season’s title theme. It also has the best usage of “Take On Me” I have ever seen in the fourth episode of the third season.

Also spotless: the acting. My god are these performances all time great ones. The standouts among standouts are Justin Theroux and Carrie Coon. Theroux as Kevin Garvey masterfully portrays a strong man with also extreme vulnerability, struggling not just with his broken family but his unstable mind. Coon as Nora Durst is at the center of the most heartbreaking, emotionally draining moments of the entire series and every time manages to go above and beyond what is required of her. This is one of the roles that made her a star, and it is clear why. The chemistry between these two is palpable and real, and not once will you think otherwise. Liv Tyler also gives an excellent performance as Meg Abbott, a character whose arc may very well be the most disturbing and fascinating of them all. I could go on, but then we’d be here forever.

The episodes of the show were all either superb or quite good on a technical level. I can’t name one I would consider to be “bad” or even weak in comparison to its strongest episodes. Quite frankly most television episodes come off as weak compared to all episodes of The Leftovers. This show has some of the best episodes I’ve ever seen on TV. The three standouts of each season are to me: The Garveys at Their Best (S1E9), International Assassin (S2E8), and The Book of Nora (S3E8/Series finale). Most shows are lucky to have episodes half as good as these three are. The series finale is especially the best series finale I have ever seen. It answers the questions it has to, but doesn’t answer the ones best left unanswered. The finale’s final shot is also absolutely beautiful and powerful on a symbolic and emotional level. If you want specifics, then watch the show.

Damon Lindelof has as many detractors as he does defenders. I count myself in the latter category. I have not seen Lost so I cannot comment on its quality, but I am aware he was the main writer for Prometheus. However, if you want someone to blame for that film’s wasted potential: blame Ridley Scott. Scott pretty much threw out all of Lindelof’s suggestions and thus gave us the mess we know today. You can throw hate Lindelof’s way all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that Ridley Scott ruined Prometheus. I know I digressed but that had to be clarified. Quite frankly, even if Lindelof were responsible for the failures of Prometheus, after being responsible for this absolutely stunning work of art, he has more than atoned for his sins. I for one am okay with him adapting (or in his words “remixing”) Watchmen for television on HBO, in fact I am excited for it and am glad to see that he is still being given the greenlight to tackle ideas that others are afraid to.

The Leftovers is a masterpiece. It did not receive anywhere near the attention it deserved during its run, or get any Emmy nominations. But that’s fine. It doesn’t need awards to prove that its a great show, because it can let its quality speak for itself. It told a unique story it wanted to tell, it told it to a ridiculously great degree, and you can’t ask any more if it than that. Is it flawless? No, but any flaws it has are utterly miniscule and irrelevant in the long run. Watch this show and bask in its magnificence.

Score: 10/10

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Deadpool 2 review

Director: David Leitch

Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Jack Kesey

Release date: May 18, 2018

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After Deadpool’s success, a sequel was obviously going to happen. Hell, the first movie’s after credits scene said they were going to do one. I was eagerly awaiting the release of Deadpool 2, which had just as much of a hilarious and creative marketing campaign as the original. After thinking it over, I have come to the conclusion that Deadpool 2 manages to surpass the first one, despite being more inconsistent overall.

Deadpool 2 begins sometime after the first one, with Wade now working as a contract killer going after the worst humanity has to offer. Eventually, he crosses paths with Cable, a time traveler from the future who’s come to kill a young mutant named Russel. I’m giving a detailed summary as the plot of this movie genuinely took me by surprise at many points, even in the first ten minutes approximately. The plot moves at an exciting pace and is always giving you something new to enjoy. I honestly had no idea where it was going to go, and ended up being surprised at every turn. That being said what it has in surprises and exciting moments it lacks in consistency and a tight structure. It feels all over the place at times. There is for the most part a connective tissue, but some odd editing likely from reshoots can give one a feeling that they missed a scene when they haven’t left the theater for a second.

The new side characters of Domino and Cable really give Ryan Reynolds and the movie itself more opportunities and material for humor. Cable plays as the straight man to Deadpool’s ridiculous personality and antics while Domino’s power of “luck” makes for some of the most entertaining scenes of the film, which itself lampshades that her power doesn’t make for a very cinematic experience, but then we see that it actually really does.

Deadpool 2 also ups the ante with its action scenes. I thought the first one peaked too early in this regard, not the case for the sequel. The action scenes are always consistently entertaining, creative, and violent. The high point comes during the film’s second act, where an absolutely exciting and nonstop thrill of a convoy chase sequence takes place. Each of the main characters get to shine with creative displays of their powers and abilities. The beginning of the film also has a hilarious and violent montage of Deadpool going on contract killings. The film further enhances its action scenes by being visually better looking with more creative and dynamic camerawork. Getting one of the John Wick directors to replace Tim Miller was definitely a wise choice after Miller left due to creative differences with Ryan Reynolds. He did a great job with the first one, but David Leitch for the most part managed to surpass him where it mattered.

Performances from the cast, especially the new additions are great pretty much across the board. Ryan Reynolds is still nailing it, Josh Brolin is a perfect Cable, Zazie Beetz as Domino is fun, likable, and gets a lot to do, and Julian Dennison as Russel is hilariously rude. T.J. Miller however is again the weak link that could’ve been cut from the film, and if they make a third one they should just forget his character ever existed. The humor is also more frequent, which results in it not always hitting its mark like the first one, but when the jokes do hit they hit harder as well. The joke involving the regular guy Peter is especially funny. Yet the film still manages to save its best joke for last during the credits sequence, which instead of hinting at future movies to come will have you clutching your gut in laughter and serves as catharsis.

Deadpool 2 is a messier sequel than the first one, but it also manages to be funnier, have more compelling stakes and character growth as well. The first one was pretty good, but the sequel honestly manages to surpass it in spite of its flaws. If you were a fan of the first one, you’ll definitely want to see this one.

Score: 8/10

Deadpool review

Director: Tim Miller

Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T. J. Miller, Stefan Capicic, Ed Skrein, Brianna Hildebrand, Gina Carano, Leslie Uggans

Released: February 12, 2016

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Deadpool was the most entertaining comic book movie of 2016. Yes, that year had stinkers like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, but it also had the excellent Captain America: Civil War. It wasn’t the first R rated comic book movie ever made, but it was by far the most successful of its time. The plot of Deadpool is not anything groundbreaking. At its core it’s a standard superhero origin story you’ve seen told before. We see Wade Wilson before he has his powers, there’s a love interest, a rather bland villain, Wade gets his powers and must find his place in the world with them. What manages to salvage the by the numbers plot is its delivery and how the characters interact with each other.

Deadpool gleefully takes full advantage of its R rating to enhance its plot. The humor is crass and raunchy, with sex and dick jokes galore. The humor also takes fire at superheroes, superhero movie conventions, the various cinematic universes studios are pumping out today, actors, and many others. No one is safe from this movie’s satirical knives. Deadpool managed to breathe fresh life into the market that it sorely needed.
Deadpool also makes sure to take advantage of its R rating for the action scenes. People have their heads chopped off, get blown up, and have their bodies eviscerated in all manner of gruesome ways. It is refreshing to see a superhero movie just go all out with insane violence. The violence is also very well choreographed and directed, with a mixture of practical stunt work and effective CGI. The action unfortunately peaks rather early, as after the highway sequence the film never manages to reach the same level of intensity and creativity.

Ryan Reynolds is perfect for the role of Deadpool. He manages to walk the line between funny and obnoxious without straying into the latter. His fourth wall breaking jokes are always well delivered, and he has likable side characters to play off of. The love story between him and Morena Baccarin’s character is lovably raunchy and crass, in comparison to other bland romances in superhero movies. The dynamics between him, Colossus, and a blind old lady named Al played by Leslie Uggams keep the humor fresh and new, thanks to the tried and true combination of the straight man working with the quirky character. The only side character that could be pegged as the weak link is T.J. Miller’s. He just serves to make jokes at the expense of Deadpool’s cancer ridden face. He’s not terrible or even bad, but is just an average presence in a movie full of good and funny characters.

A comedy movie such as this needs to be very tightly paced in order to prevent the audience from getting annoyed by the characters, and a character like Deadpool runs a serious risk of this happening. Thankfully the movie doesn’t outstay its welcome and both satisfies you while leaving you feeling like you’re hungry for more. A feeling every movie should strive for.

Deadpool helped fend off comic book movie fatigue by being fresh and different. Not necessarily different in every way, but different in the ways that matter. I’ll admit it did go down half a point upon second viewing due to the plot’s delivery not feeling as fresh the second time around, but still, if you want proof comic book movies still have plenty of room to be creative, look no further than this film. I’ll get to the sequel sometime later.

Score: 7.5/10

Avengers: Infinity War review

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Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Josh Brolin, Chris Hemsworth, Chadwick Boseman, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Scarlet Johansson, Dave Bautista, Don Cheadle, Christopher Mackie, etc.

Released: April 27, 2018

The expectations for Avengers: Infinity War were astronomical. What Marvel did in The Avengers back in 2012, they now had to do on an even grander scale with a decade’s worth of characters and plot threads that had been in the making. It should be an impossible task. Key phrase being “should be”, because they pulled it off. Holy crap did they pull it off. Mostly.

Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of everything that has been built up since the first Avengers film. Thanos is finally getting his hands dirty and is making his move to obtain all the Infinity Stones. His goal: to wipe out half the universe. As he moves everywhere from space to earth, searching for the Infinity Stones and dealing with his own familial issues and inner conflict, the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy have to unite to stop him. A whole decade’s worth of characters come together for one of the most explosive movies in the MCU’s history.

Thanos is absolutely magnificent in this film with Josh Brolin proving to be a perfect fit for the role. People have been joking about how all he does is sit on his chair and boss people around while he had yet to get one stone, here he realizes that if you want something done, you have to do it yourself. He’s actually the main character of the movie, as the film places a majority of focus on his search for the stones and his motivation. Thanos is no cartoonish, muahahaha villain. He is a genuinely complex and nuanced character. He sincerely believes what he is doing is right, and has moments of guilt and remorse over what he is doing. His relationship with his “daughter” Gamora is fascinating and extremely tragic to watch play out, as Thanos clearly does care about her in a very twisted way but also will hurt her emotionally and physically for the sake of his ambition. He is intelligent, cruel, and merciful all at once. Marvel had a great villain with Killmonger back in Black Panther, and they managed to match or arguably top him with Thanos.

Avengers: Infinity War is the first superhero movie since The Avengers to feel like an epic. The scope of its plot is massive, the stakes are on a universal scale, spanning across space itself and having a massive cast portraying larger than life characters. The plot is admittedly more of a vehicle for character interactions and gigantic action set pieces, but those two elements are so well handled that it hardly matters if at all. You care about these characters after watching them grow and learn from a decade’s worth of storylines and it is a blast to see characters that have never interacted before or haven’t interacted in years finally meet face to face.

A surprise is how dark the tone of Infinity War is. The very first scene is of Thanos and his followers in the aftermath of massacring the surviving Asgardians from Thor: Ragnarok, and it is horrific in its brutality. It’s not like the first two DCEU movies where the tone was so dark with no balance as to make the film actively unpleasant or boring, but the Russo Brothers wisely understand that it can’t be an action-comedy like Thor: Ragnarok was. People are going to die and there can’t be quips and jokes ever couple of minutes. The humor comes from the character interactions and the personalities working together. That way when the tragic moments happen (and believe me there is tragedy in this movie), they hit that much more to the viewer. A theme of the movie appears to be that when left unchecked, emotions and goals can have disastrous consequences on the people around you. Don’t mistake this sentence for trying to make Infinity War seem like a deep masterpiece, but I just happened to notice that and feel that lends the film some even more weight most of the MCU films lack.

There are a few things that hold this film back from reaching the levels of greatness in the first Avengers film. As mentioned before, the plot itself is nothing unique or special for a superhero movie for the most part, save for one aspect which I will save for the end. The sheer scale of the film also means no matter how balanced it is, and can feel a bit bloated at times, with some characters from past films that you would think be included being left out to keep the runtime at a bearable length. Which leads into the problem of certain sections of the film being better than others, due to the characters being so spread out across different story beats. None of the parts are bad, but some are absolutely outstanding while others just sit comfortably good. Anything with Thanos, the subplot of Thor journeying with Rocket and Groot, and lastly Iron Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and the other Guardians working to take down Thanos is the former. Finally while Alan Silvestri makes his triumphant return, along with his iconic theme song for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the music is mostly back to being just meh.

This is a shocking, gripping, and tragic movie that truly marks the beginning of the end for a certain number of Marvel characters, and perhaps is the beginning of a new chapter in the MCU’s life. It has its problems but they don’t get in the way of truly awe inspiring spectacle and beloved characters facing trials they have never before faced. You’ve either already seen it or had every intention of seeing it regardless of what the reviews said because you’ve been with the MCU since Iron Man back in 2008. Well I’m just here to tell you to stick around for the ride a little longer, because Avengers: Infinity War is one of the MCU’s best.

First I will give my score for the film, then my updated rankings of the MCU films, and then I will directly comment on the ending of Infinity War. If you don’t want to be spoiled, stop at the score or rankings.

Score: 8/10

Rankings:
1. The Avengers

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

4. Avengers: Infinity War

5. Captain America: Civil War

6. Iron Man 3

7. Guardians of the Galaxy

8. Spider-Man: Homecoming

9. Thor: Ragnarok

10. Iron

11. Black Panther

12. Captain America: The First Avenger

13. Ant Man

14. Doctor Strange

15. Avengers: Age of Ultron

16. Thor

17. Iron Man 2

18. Thor: The Dark World

19. The Incredible Hulk

Spoiler Warning:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ending to Avengers: Infinity War is the best of any MCU movie. Thanos wins. Completely and utterly wins. Half of the universe is wiped out, and many of our favorite heroes do not survive. Black Panther dies, Groot dies, Bucky Barnes dies, even Spider-Man dies. Those are just four of the characters that Thanos doesn’t just kill, but erases from existence itself. He kills Vision to get the final Infinity Stone, in an extremely brutal and gut wrenching death scene. The last words of the film are from Captain America, just saying dumbstruck in horror “Oh God.” Cue credits. Bravo Russo Brothers, because that is how you leave an audience hooked for the next movie.

Black Panther review

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Director: Ryan Coogler

Writers: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis

Released: February 16, 2018

Here is the latest (and I do mean latest) review for the latest Marvel film Black Panther. It’s a movie that definitely has a lot of good qualities to it, but I don’t think it quite deserved the hyperbolic praise it received upon release. It’s still a good, fun film, but it is held back from the greatness many took it as by some rather glaring flaws I was surprised to see in such a high budget production.

Black Panther takes place just a little after the events of Captain America: Civil War. It concerns T’Challa ascending to the throne of Wakanda after his father’s death. T’Challa must struggle with the decision of whether or not to continue Wakanda’s traditional isolationism, or decide to reach out and aid the less fortunate countries of the world, but risk exposing Wakanda to enemies. While he’s grappling with these issues, a mysterious young man named Erik Killmonger and smuggler Ulysses Klaue team up to steal African artifacts for profit, but Killmonger has his own, more personal motives involving the very fate of Wakanda.

To put it bluntly, the technical aspects of Black Panther are extremely hit or miss. The practical costumes and fight scenes are all well done, and the aesthetics and style of Wakanda gives it a unique visual flavor that other superhero movies don’t have. However, the green screen and CGI, especially during the film’s climax can be just plain awful. Shockingly awful in fact, especially for such a Marvel movie. What just keeps it above water is Ryan Coogler’s stellar direction. He brings an energy and spirit to this film that other Marvel movies don’t have. He gives us a very well done and effective one shot take of an action scene when the film’s plot is happening in South Korea. Black Panther also boasts a genuinely unique and interesting soundtrack, which the MCU has been sorely needing.

Black Panther’s characters are all decent, but none really standing out except for its villain. My god is Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger a fantastic villain. So fantastic I would argue he is the best Marvel villain so far. He’s a villain yes, but an anti-villain. You’ll loathe his methods and personality, but understand his motives and feel sympathy for him once you discover why he is the way he is. Killmonger only becomes more sympathetic from his character growth throughout the plot, and Jordan’s charismatic performance.

The plot of Black Panther takes some waiting to rise above normal superhero movie fare. At first it seems to be more focused on setting up the inner workings and culture of Wakanda, the movie’s main setting. Later, with the revelations of the main antagonist, Erik Killmonger’s true motives, Black Panther essentially becomes Marvel’s version of Shakespeare. There is tragedy, children suffering for their parents’ sins, redemption, politics, and internal conflict all at play. It sometimes feels a bit too much for the film’s runtime, which could’ve served to have been longer.

The single best aspect of the film is its worldbuilding. Wakanda is practically a character in its own right. It feels like a real, lived in place. There is an exceptional level of thought placed into the little details of the country. You want to visit this place and experience what it has to offer. The country’s own politics become central to the film’s plot, and the way it handles these weighty elements is admirable and nuanced.

Black Panther is definitely an enjoyable blockbuster, but that’s about it. It’s not a great film that does anything really new and groundbreaking, even for the genre. Although Erik Killmonger is an absolutely superb villain that steals the whole show. It needs to be taken as it is. I can at least say I’m interested in returning to Wakanda for another movie.

Score: 6/10

Marvel Cinematic Universe review part 3

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War is like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice except thousands of times better. This is based off of the comic storyline of the same name, but the movie does a much better of job of living up to the interesting premise of the heroes of the Marvel universe battling each other over ideological differences thanks to good writing and the characters all being sympathetic in their own ways. Both Iron Man’s and Captain America’s sides make valid arguments regarding their positions on the Accords and actually talk to each other, instead of just scowling at each other and brooding. Their positions also showcase their development, with Iron Man deciding he doesn’t have all the answers and Captain America not trusting his government so blindly anymore. Also, for a movie so stuffed with characters it utilizes them all well. Black Panther is introduced and has an interesting character arc, while Spider-Man makes his MCU debut and is awesome. All the action scenes are awesome with practical stunts, the airport scene where all the heroes fight each other is pure entertainment, and the climax is genuinely emotional featuring the falling out of the two heroes we know and love. The villain isn’t anything special, but his motivation is sympathetic and not convoluted or stupid. It’s not as good as The Winter Soldier, but it’s still a great superhero movie and a great conclusion to the Captain America trilogy.
Score: 8/10

Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange is an interesting movie. The first act does an excellent job of building up the character of Stephen Strange, then tearing him because of his hubris. It plays out like a tragedy and is when the film is at its best. Unfortunately the rest of the movie’s plot is pretty forgettable, as it essentially retells the same story the first Iron Man did about a jerk needing to learn humility. Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange is perfect for the role at least. The main selling point of this movie is the trippy, Inception like visuals and effects. They are admittedly impressive, but they’re the only impressive thing in the movie and Inception did them first and better. Mads Mikkelsen’s villain had potential but is just a standard Marvel villain when all is said and done. Also the humor isn’t handled as well as other Marvel movies since this is going for a more serious tone. It’s not a bad movie, just not a memorable one with some entertaining moments sprinkled throughout.
Score: 5/10

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Against the odds it is even better than the first one. Vol. 2 smartly puts less emphasis on worldbuilding and more on character development. The pacing is slower, with the Guardians being separated at times and interacting with different characters. By far the best of these are Yondu and Rocket’s interactions, which give both of them more depth and nuance than the first one showed. The villain is not only miles better than the first one, but where Marvel has finally solved their villain problem. Ego played by Kurt Russell has charisma, you understand why he’s doing what he’s doing, and the sheer level of his atrocities is the worst of any Marvel villain. Even the soundtrack is better than first one, with the opening scene being equal parts hilarious and awesome with one long shot of Baby Groot dancing to “Mr. Blue Sky” while the team fights a giant monster. Words don’t do it justice. Some might think the humor is too much, but I actually thought they did a great job mixing the humor in with the more dramatic moments. It’s easily one of the better Marvel movies and even one of the better comic books movies you can watch.
Score: 8/10

Spider-Man: Homecoming
Finally Spider-Man makes his triumphant debut into the MCU. This is smartly not another origin story, but a story about Peter trying to come into his own as a superhero. Tom Holland was great from what we saw as both the geeky Peter Parker and the wiseass Spider-Man in Civil War, and he proves that he can still pull both off in his own movie. The plot is refreshingly small scale and humble, being more of a slice of life high-school comedy than a typical superhero movie plot. This film, like GotG Vol. 2 shows Marvel has finally found a way to make great villains not named Loki, with Michael Keaton as the Vulture being genuinely sympathetic and likable to the extent I was actually kind of rooting for him to succeed at the end. It’s also refreshing to have a Spider-Man movie where the Green Goblin isn’t the main villain. The humor is also quite appropriate for the setting, instead of forced or out of place like Doctor Strange’s humor was. If there are some negatives I could point to, it would be that Aunt May is way too young to be believable, and Peter’s high-school friend Ned was really obnoxious in the beginning.
Score: 7/10

Thor: Ragnarok
At last, a Thor movie that’s actually good! When your movie’s opening scene involves Thor beating up monsters while Immigrant Song plays, you know you’re in for a wild ride. Ditching the faux Shakespearian drama from the last two Thor movies, Thor: Ragnarok has a level of self-awareness the other ones were lacking. This is the first movie with Thor in it since the first Avengers where I actually found him likable. Chris Hemsworth shows off a lot of comedic talent and wit in this, but can still handle the dramatic moments when needed. People may complain the humor detracts from the apocalyptic scenario, but that just makes the movie more unique in comparison to others like it. I’ll also add that there are some well delivered themes tackling the subject of colonialism on display amidst all the banter and jokes. Every cast member is having a blast in this, especially Jeff Goldblum and Cate Blanchett. Golblum is just having the time of his life, and while Hela may not be the most compelling Marvel villain, Blanchett’s hammy performance ensures you’ll love her every second she’s on screen. New side characters such as Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and director/actor Taika Waititi as Korg are awesome in their own right. This might very well have the best cast of characters in the MCU so far, with the highlight of the film being how they all play off of each other. Their interactions feel real and human, and if they were improvised I wouldn’t be surprised. One glaring fault is that the CGI and other effects aren’t very good a lot of the time, but this is balanced out by the artstyle and vivid colors of the worlds in the movie. If you’re expecting a grey, dark, miserable drama where everyone is unlikable and mopey, you’re out of luck. Thor: Ragnarok is vibrant, bright, and above all else: fun.
Score: 7/10

Overall
Finally, here is my ranking for the Marvel movies as of right now (an updated one will be posted after Infinity War)
1. The Avengers
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
4. Captain America: Civil War
5. Iron Man 3
6. Guardians of the Galaxy
7. Spider-Man: Homecoming
8. Thor: Ragnarok
9. Iron Man
10. Captain America: The First Avenger
11. Ant Man
12. Doctor Strange
13. Avengers: Age of Ultron
14. Thor
15. Iron Man 2
16. Thor: The Dark World
17. The Incredible Hulk

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had its low points, but their latest string of movies starting with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 have been consistently entertaining and creative. The top six movies are ones I would recommend everyone watch, as they are standout movies in their own right. The bottom three should be skipped entirely, just read a summary online.

 

Ready Player One (movie) review

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writers: Zak Penn, Ernest Cline

Cast: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Hannah Jon-Kamen, Lena Waithe, Mark Rylance, T.J. Miller

Released: March 29, 2018

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What a pleasant surprise that this wasn’t awful. Then again, when your movie is in Steven Spielberg’s hands you can usually breathe a sigh of relief, but even for him this was a tough hurdle. He was working with an at best mediocre novel, and he managed to elevate it to an enjoyable blockbuster.

Wade Watts is a socially awkward teenager living in Columbus, Ohio with his aunt. He spends most of his time in the OASIS, a virtual world where you can be anyone and do anything. The game’s founder James Halliday, in his will, states that whoever wins a contest to find an easter egg in the OASIS, will win his whole fortune and control of the entire simulation. Using his wits and with help from his friends Aech, Daito, Sho, and his crush Artemis, Wade must find the clues and win the contest before the evil IOI does.

If you’re looking for something deep with themes to chew on, don’t even bother seeing it. But taken as it is, Ready Player One is an enjoyable if flawed blockbuster and a respectable addition to Spielberg’s resume. I found it to be at least more enjoyable than the novel it’s adapting. The script from Zak Penn and author of the original novel Ernest Cline actually changes quite a lot from the source material, keeping the premise but making the actual challenges work for a film, tightening the pacing, and adding new scenes that work better for a film adaptation.

Wade Watts, played by Tye Sheridan, actually manages to be sympathetic in the film. He’s socially awkward with dreams of having a better life by winning the contest. The film gets rid of the unintentionally unlikable elements from the novel such as Wade acting like a stalker towards Artemis after their breakup, and has him try to stop a tragedy from happening. Still, he’s nothing special as a protagonist and has no meaningful development. Artemis is in her own right a very interesting and likable character, and I found the relationship between her and Wade to be just believable enough to work. She’s even given some more backstory this time around that explains why she’s so obsessed in winning Halliday’s contest. Unfortunately the other side characters Aech, Daito, and Sho don’t have any memorable characteristics outside of the reveals of their real world identities. The villains are quite hammy and cartoonish, especially Hannah Jon-Kamen as the main villain’s second in command. She has no character other than being evil. While this is a blockbuster primarily concerned with entertainment, other popcorn flicks like the last few Marvel movies have shown you can have complex villains in them. That said everyone gave a good performance even if their characters were bland.

What really brings it home is how non-stop entertaining it is. Instead of merely being tests of how much pop culture you know, the challenges require both mental skill beyond your knowledge of classic video games and movies, and you have to be just as good at driving a car or dodging an axe to win. The three challenges are both very unique and will get you more than your money’s worth in entertainment, with the first challenge being a race with all of the excitement and energy you’d expect from Spielberg, and the second challenge referencing The Shining in the most awesome way imaginable. The plot has a fairly decent pace, albeit the first act at times feels either rushed or too slow depending on what’s happening. While some people will be left scratching their heads at just how does the OASIS actually work, some of the characters having martial arts mastery, and a couple of other plot holes; the movie’s focus on spectacle and not taking itself too seriously makes up for it. It doesn’t feel like it’s exploiting or looking down on its audience, it feels like it’s a part of the audience and wants to have a blast with it. It also manages to succeed, or at least succeed more so than the novel in having a cautionary message against overindulging in escapism.

The pop culture references are updated to fit modern tastes this time around, so you’ll see just as many Batman and Superman nods as you will Back to the Future and Atari video game ones. There were a few times where they were rather obnoxious and almost patronizingly explained to the audience, but there were also a couple of moments where even I couldn’t help but get excited at seeing a favorite character or vehicle from a franchise I love. This all comes to a head in the climax, which is just pure, unadulterated, shamelessly pandering fanservice that you will love every moment of. I knew I would have my fun when “We’re Not Gonna Take It” started playing.

The special effects in the film are pretty decent, but are 100% CGI and you will never be convinced otherwise. Now because most of the film takes place in the virtual world, that works and they never looked straight up terrible, but it’s a shame more convincing effects weren’t added. What elevates them is Spielberg’s direction, which manages to inspire a level of awe and reverence to the world and characters of the OASIS, especially during the exciting action scenes. Except for the music during the climax, I have to say I didn’t find the score by Alan Silvestri to be anything memorable except for the main title, which sounds like something John Williams would make.

Ready Player One is not great, but it towers over its source material and other films like it. It will probably be one of the better films of the year if you’re looking for just entertainment. It’s not a deep film, but it’s not a dumb one either and Spielberg is not trying to trick you into thinking it’s anything more or less than a fun blockbuster that gamers, 80s movie fans, and other nerds can have a good time with. Even if you’re not in those three groups there is still fun to be had with it.

Score: 6/10