The Neon Demon review

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Writers: Mary Law, Nicolas Winding Refn, Polly Stenham

Cast: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Karl Glusman, Christina Hendricks, Abbey Lee, Bella Heathcote, Keanu Reeves

Released: June 24, 2016


The Neon Demon is a 2016 film from Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of Drive. The story is about a young, innocent, aspiring model named Jessie, played by Elle Fanning, who becomes entangled in the narcissistic nature of the modeling industry in Los Angeles. Her youth and innocence is attractive to the executives and photographers of the industry, but also gets her unwanted attraction from rivals and predatory men. Sounds simple yes? Well this movie is anything but simple.

The Neon Demon is basically extremely stylish, visually amazing, artsy trash, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. The movie is carried pretty much entirely by the strength of Refn’s filmmaking. Beautiful cinematography that makes great usage of contrasting colors like blue and purple, and artistic direction gives this film a unique style and flavor that immediately sets it apart. This is not a case of style over substance, but rather the style being the substance. I can’t remember ever seeing a film that looks like this, and it’s easily one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen in recent memory.

The Neon Demon’s soundtrack is equally as mesmerizing and beautiful as its visuals. Its synth soundtrack gives the film a hypnotic, edgy atmosphere and is also one of the best I’ve heard in recent memory. The most identifiable track is “The Demon Dance” by Julian Winding, which is perfect for listening to while driving on the highway or in the city on a rainy night.

Okay enough putting it off, now for the plot, because pretty visuals and music can only help a movie so much. The plot and characters need to come first. It’s tricky to talk about them because the plot on the surface seems simple enough, but the way it’s told makes it anything but. It especially goes into some pretty weird and horrifying territory around the climax of the film, which even had me looking at the screen slack jawed in disbelief and disgust. A big negative for some will probably be the characters, because none of them are likable or sympathetic in the least. They’re either narcissists, perverts, ineffectual, or total sociopaths. The only characters who could be remotely considered sympathetic are either revealed to be vapid, monstrous, or barely in the film, and once things get too weird for them they decides to get out of dodge. Probably the best decision they have ever made. It keeps from getting unbearable by having an extremely twisted sense of humor. The movie knows how ridiculous it really is so it doesn’t go into faux-artsy pretentiousness.

Everyone does a good job with the characters they’re portraying, but special attention should be given to Keanu Reeves as the creepy landlord. He just oozes scumbag in every scene he’s in, and has a particularly terrifying scene late into the movie.

While it’s not a masterpiece or as good as Drive, The Neon Demon is a unique and memorable film. The plot and characters may leave much to be desired, but its direction, style, and atmosphere elevate it. If you have a taste for unconventional movies, I’d definitely recommend it, but be warned of what you are jumping into.

Score: 7/10


Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters review

Directors: Hiroyuki Seshita, Kobun Shizuno

Writer: Gen Urobuchi

Studio: Polygon Pictures

Released: January 17, 2018


I’m a very casual Godzilla fan at best. I have basic familiarity with the character and have seen some of the movies but it’s never been a franchise that has interested me and I am more of a King Kong fan anyway. What caught my attention about this movie was that it was written by Gen “the butcher” Urobuchi. So how was it? Well it was better than the 2014 movie.

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a CGI anime film that was first released in Japan November of last year, and has now been put on Netflix for international audiences. It is set in the far future where humanity has been driven from Earth by Godzilla and other kaiju, and now live in an alien space ship that has been searching for a new world to colonize and make home. However, dwindling supplies leads the various species on the ship to make a last ditch effort to return to Earth and try to recolonize it. Our protagonist named Haruo, whose parents were killed by Godzilla during the evacuation when he was a child, has grown up into a vengeful young man who has come up with a strategy to kill Godzilla. So we have humanity driven from their home by giant monsters, and our protagonist is a hot blooded young man with a desire for revenge against the monsters. If that sounds like Attack on Titan, well that’s because it partially is.

So the premise of this Godzilla film is quite derivative, but it does make the most of it compared to the last Godzilla movie I watched. The characters at least are much more interesting than the ones from the Universal movie. Yes Haruo’s character has been done before but they do give him a good motivation and a surprising intelligence to keep us invested in his survival. The side characters are more inconsistent, with Haruo having a childhood friend that just pops up out of nowhere in the middle of the movie, and we’re given just passing mention of her grandfather having died. So it’s all very mixed, but I can at least say I was interested in their survival just enough to keep watching.
Being a CGI movie, the animation is not nearly as smooth and consistent as a 2D anime would have been, but it did exceed my low expectations. While it’s clearly choppy and messy when characters are just standing and talking, it gets better when the exciting action scenes happen.

Speaking of which, the first act of this movie is really dull. It mostly serves just as exposition to inform the audience what happened and even when the characters finally reach Earth it still takes the second act a little bit to get interesting. I understand it has to build up the tension so that we get more anxious when bad things happen to the characters, but the characters themselves are just a little more interesting than the 2014 Universal movie’s, and the movie is just about an hour and a half long, so it should be investing that time more wisely. Cut down on the boring exposition in the first act or at least make it more organic. Better yet, make it two hours long. This would vastly help flesh out the world and characters more, and give the movie a less rushed and more appropriate pace.

These negatives aside, the movie still has enough good qualities that make it an entertaining movie. While the animation is sloppy, there are little details in the designs of the technology and clothes, such as wear and tear from years of travelling. Also as mentioned before, when the action does happen it is fun to watch, especially the climactic battle with Godzilla. When it finally happens it is a tense, fun ride with a one frightening resolution. I was also surprised by how good and fitting the music was in this movie, as well as the English dub, with Chris Niosi giving an absolutely stellar performance as Haruo. Finally, Godzilla, despite looking exactly like the Universal 2014 one, is exactly how fans will appreciate him as: an intimidating force of nature more akin to a god than a mere monster. Also, this is from what I’ve learned the largest and most powerful he has ever been. Where the movie absolutely needs to do right, it does right.

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a decent, but very flawed movie that at least rises to entertaining levels and will likely placate people who were disappointed by the 2014 Universal Godzilla movie, because this one at least decides to embrace being a monster movie and place its focus on where it has to. It ends on a cliffhanger with an after credits scene, and there will be a sequel later this year, so do keep in mind you are not watching standalone movie, but also the first installment of a trilogy.

Score: 6/10

Snowpiercer review

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Writers: Bong Joon-ho, Kelly Masterson

Cast: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, Jaime Bell, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Go Ah-sung

Released: August 1, 2013


Holy crap this movie is great! Why doesn’t this get more attention? Why didn’t this get a wide theatrical release? It’s awesome!

As you could probably tell, I think Snowpiercer is good. Actually I think it’s freaking brilliant. Snowpiercer is a Korean film directed by the same man who did last year’s Netflix film Okja. It takes place during an apocalyptic ice age that has rendered the Earth uninhabitable, like Metro 2033. The only place where people can live is on a massive, self-sustaining train called the “Snowpiercer”. The train is divided by class, where the rich live at the front in luxury, and the poor live at the back in squalor. One day, they’ve had enough and Chris Evans’s character decides to lead a revolution to take the front of the train by force and hopefully lead to better conditions and more fair treatment for the poorest passengers.

Snowpiercer is a movie that unlike other, lesser movies, has intentions beyond being a brainless action movie. This is a movie that has something to say about society, class inequality and struggle, violent revolution, and how delicate our eco system is. The whole train can be seen as a metaphor for the world we live in. The pacing of the plot is near flawless, with no act going on for too short or too long, and each character getting the proper amount of screen time they deserve so the audience can learn about them and their motives. There are twists, horrifying revelations, emotional gut punches, and an ending that will leave your jaw on the floor. With that, and some seamless and interesting worldbuilding, this isn’t your usual Hollywood action film, this is one that is more concerned with getting you to think instead of just entertaining you for 90 minutes then moving on. The characters are also all interesting and complex. Curtis Everett seems like your standard, idealistic revolutionary leader at first, but as the movie goes on we see darker dimensions to his character that reach downright chilling levels. Even the villains have their own complexity and understandable reasons for their actions, to the extent that by the end even I saw where they were coming from.

That isn’t to say Snowpiercer as an action movie fails, in fact it excels in this category. While the beginning had more shaky cam than I expected or wanted, it only last for a moment and the rest of the action is tightly choreographed and directed. Taking place on a confined, claustrophobic train, the violence is brutal, bloody, and unforgiving. Screw your PG-13, pull your punches action movies, this is R-rated, close quarters combat that does not shy away from showing how short and blunt violence can be. The standout action sequence is one that happens in a tunnel. I have no intention of spoiling it. Watch the movie, because it’s one of the most tense, nail-biting sequences filmed in years.

On technical merits Snowpiercer also gets high marks. The film’s cinematography makes you feel like you are in this claustrophobic environment, with each section of the train feeling like a lived in, authentic place. If there was CGI involved in anything, I could barely tell if it all, except for the outside environments. The cast all do a great job as well. Chris Evans completely disappears into his role, and Tilda Swinton is practically unrecognizable as one of the most repugnant film characters I can remember seeing recently. John Hurt and Ed Harris do a great job as well as among the most interesting and spoilery characters of the movie.

It’s a struggle to come up with any real faults that Snowpiercer has. It’s not entirely a smooth watch however. One of the characters is a teenage drug addict with psychic powers that totally felt out of place in the otherwise mostly believable world of the movie, to the extent that she sort of took me out of the experience. That and…well I can’t say I remember the music that much. That’s really it though, but they still do hold this movie back from getting my first ever 10/10 rating by an inch. This is a movie that deserves more attention and I think will be remembered one day as a classic.

Score: 9/10

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time review

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Game played on: 3DS

Released: November 23, 1998/ June 19, 2011 (Ocarina of Time 3D)


So this is it, the game considered by many to be the greatest ever created. It revolutionized 3D gaming and its influence is still felt to this day. I’m glad to have finally gotten it out of my backlog, even if it is not in its original form. I don’t regret the time I spent playing Ocarina, in fact I think it’s a very good game, but not certainly not the best game ever.

This is the very first Zelda game I have ever played from beginning to end. I have not played the 2D Zelda games and I don’t care about them. Ocarina of Time tells the story of a young boy named Link (but you can change his name to any one you want), who is destined to save the land of Hyrule and the princess Zelda from the ambitions of the evil Ganondorf. With help from his fairy sidekick Navi, Link’s quest will take him to places from villages where the children never become adults to dark, forbidden dungeons full of booby traps and monsters, and even across time itself.

A simple story right? Yes. However, that is as much its greatest strength as it is its greatest weakness. Ocarina of Time’s story and plot harken back to classic fairy tales and fantasy books we all know and love. A young peasant boy with a great destiny, the quest to save a young princess and the land from great evil, strange fantasy creatures and monsters, etc. The simplicity of the premise lends weight to some truly emotional story moments. As you travel back as an adult to locations you visited and helped as a child, you are confronted with these lands having become ruined or corrupted by Ganondorf and his evil rule. Characters that once knew you no longer recognize you at first, and sometimes never do. It explores themes of how much crueler the world can be as an adult, when everything seemed so much more happy and innocent as a child. All of these very good qualities aside, it is a pretty simple plot. If you have any knowledge of fairy tales, you’ll likely be able to predict where it will go, and there’s only one major twist in the game which given its age you might already know. The side characters are also mainly forgettable. You will meet them, they’ll serve their role for the story, and then be forgotten about to move on to the next plot point. Your fairy companion Navi has a bad reputation even amongst this game’s biggest fans, but I didn’t find her to be that annoying, and she has genuinely useful advice for you throughout the game.

The gameplay mainly revolves around exploring dungeons, solving puzzles, and combating enemies. The dungeons are all varied in their visual and level design, and each has a different atmosphere. However they also vary greatly in quality, with some being entertainingly challenging, and others just being obnoxiously hard for no reason. The infamous Water Temple is considered the prime example of the latter, but honestly I don’t think it’s that difficult, in fact once you figure out how it works you can solve it fairly easily, and switching between required items is a lot less tedious thanks to the 3DS remaster’s new features. The temple immediately after it I think is a lot more annoying just because it throws so much at you. The best temple in the game I feel is the Forest Temple, because of its place in the story, the boss, and the resolution at the end.

Enemies will have either weaknesses that Link can exploit with the right weapon and timing, or he can just hack away at the simpler ones with his sword. This really gets taken to an extreme level in the boss fights. They will have one, very specific weakness that you have to exploit over and over again until they finally go down using a special item found in their respective dungeon. Once you figure it out and can predict their move sets, they won’t be any trouble whatsoever save for their high damage output. They all have designs that are creative and fit the environment that they inhabit.

Ocarina of Time’s gameplay is held back the most by its focus on keeping everything varied in the moment rather than overtime. Items that you find in dungeons rarely, but not always have any usage outside of them, and despite the overworld of the game being fairly large, there isn’t really much to do save for the odd minigame and the game’s very few sidequests. The only sidequests I pursued were one which will get you the most powerful sword in the whole game, and even that is mostly just fetch quests mixed with time trials, and the other that will get you a bigger wallet to carry money in.

What manages to carry Ocarina of Time to the finish line is its atmosphere and music. You genuinely feel immersed in this fantasy land that is counting on you alone to save it. Link is perfect for this, having zero personality and existing solely for players to project themselves into, to the point where Link doesn’t even have to be his name. Lastly, even decades later, Ocarina of Time’s music is still amongst the finest ever crafted in gaming.
There is nothing really bad to say about Ocarina of Time on a technical level other than the framerate dropping a few times during more intense moments. It was glitch free and while a bit dated, the character and background models are not ugly or aged too badly. I played the 3DS remaster of this game, which updated the graphics to be more bearable, has better controls, and generally feels nicer to play.

Sorry but the greatest game of all time Ocarina of Time is not. It’s still very good, but even with the remaster’s graphical improvements and better controls, age still has exposed this game’s flaws. Other games have come out afterwards that are more worthy of “greatest of all time” status than Ocarina.

Score: 7/10

Devilman: Crybaby review

Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Writer: Ichiro Okouchi

Studio: Science SARU

Episodes: 10

Aired: January 5, 2018


This was a pleasant surprise. I mean it was extremely violent and depressing so I shouldn’t really call it pleasant, but what would normally just be entertaining schlock turned out to be well written and emotionally engaging. See Netflix? You can make good anime related content as long as it’s you know, still an anime.

Devilman: Crybaby is the latest anime adaptation of Go Nagai’s Devilman manga from the 1970s. This series has had plenty of adaptations before, including a cheesy children’s show, two ultra-violent OVAs, and some sequels and spinoffs. I have no interest in the original manga because of its dated artstyle and other similar series like Berserk and Parasyte doing more with similar concepts originally found in Devilman. As for the other adaptations, they don’t adapt the story in full so I don’t see the point in watching them. What immediately grabbed my interest about Crybaby was that it had a genuinely unique visual style and it was on Netflix, so binge watching it would be easy. Still, I had no real expectations for it and went in mostly blind save for knowing the premise.
The premise is that Akira Fudou, a shy teenager is convinced by his childhood friend Ryou Asuka that demons exist in this world, and decides to help him by going to a sexually charged dance party known as a “Sabbath”. There, demons appear, and Akira ends up getting possessed by a demon named Amon. Akira manages to maintain his human consciousness and soul, but becomes much more assertive, stronger, and edgy, and can transform into Amon. Akira decides to become “Devilman” in order to stop demons from killing humans, while trying to balance this with highschool and family life. So it’s like Spider-Man but with sex and gore. If you can’t handle that, don’t even bother watching the first episode.

While the premise of Devilman: Crybaby can lead one to write it off as just brainless violence, that’s being unfair to it. Crybaby manages to use its insane premise to explore some genuinely interesting questions and themes about bigotry, how fear can lead to humanity doing truly awful things, and how people can be manipulated by those in power to rallying against a boogeyman. The world evolves as the plot progresses on, because realistically a secret like this would never be able to remain one forever, and even the early episodes have subplot where Ryou and Akira have to deal with a reporter who almost exposes their secret. Crybaby moves at a pretty quick pace, leaving you immediately switching to the next episode after the previous one has ended. This means the show doesn’t outstay its welcome, but some of the episodes do feel rushed and lacking in the character development department. While most of the characters aren’t neglected, there are some that we could have learned more about, but didn’t.

Crybaby stands apart from the crowd thanks to its unique style and direction. Instead of clumsily jamming 2D and CGI animation together, Crybaby manages to expertly combine them, to the point that you’ll barely even notice when they switch because of how seamless it is. The animation and artstyle work well together, because they were done in the interest of favoring fluid movement and unique visuals over detailed, realistic environments. Some might say this detracts from the extreme gore and sexual content, but I’d argue it only enhances it. When the action finally happens it is a treat for the eyes, and watching Devilman kill his opponents in the most gruesome ways imaginable. However, it can get a bit repetitive since it feels like he has no chance of losing, and the fights always end with him either punching or ripping apart the demons. Now luckily the anime fixes this by having him lose just when the team probably guessed that you were getting sick of him always winning. The downside to the animation is when the characters aren’t in action, it comes off as choppy and stilted at best, which takes you out of the experience.

English and Japanese voice actors are all pretty good, but I’d say go with the Japanese voices with English subtitles. Some of the Japanese voices have more edge to them, which fits the tone of the anime and some of the characters’ personalities, especially Akira post-possession. It’s easy to switch between the two mid episode, so decide for yourself which is better.

Crybaby’s music, while not original, is diverse and fitting for the setting and tone. Featuring musical styles from techno to ones that will make you start to bawl your eyes out. The opening is also catchy and memorable as hell.

The age of the source material can sometimes show its age while watching the anime. Now they made the smart choice of updating the setting to modern times, and even take advantage of this by having social media and the internet play roles within the plot, it does not entirely alleviate the problem. The original Devilman manga was a major influence on revered classics such as Evangelion and Berserk, which overall did improve on the original’s concepts. Without spoiling anything, the final minutes of the anime were a near direct imitation of The End of Evangelion’s, and the reveal of the villain gave me Berserk flashbacks. That may not be entirely its fault due to just trying to remain faithful to the source, but it would have been better to make changes that give the ending a less derivative feeling. On the other hand I love how unapologetically bleak and nihilistic the ending is.

Devilman: Crybaby is really, really good. While perhaps having too much of a derivative feeling, quick pace, and the animation style and direction not being for everyone, it is still a seinen horror anime that actually has heart and brains, like Parasyte. Unless you have a short stomach for some truly disturbing, dark material, there’s no reason not to give this one a watch. Show Netflix that there’s a demand for series like this.

Score: 8/10

Marvel Cinematic Universe review part 1

With Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War coming out this year, I figured I would get fully up to speed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). I’ve seen many of them before, but not all of them. This franchise is a truly exceptional creation by showing you can be entertaining to mass audiences and faithful to the source material at the same time. This could have been a disaster from day one, but ever since Iron Man in 2008, Marvel has been making some of the most entertaining superhero movies ever, all set in the same universe, with B list characters mainstream audiences had never even heard of.

I am splitting up this review into three parts, with each part covering one phase of the MCU. So this part will cover Phase One, the next whenever it comes out will be Phase Two, and finally the last one will be Phase Three ending with Thor: Ragnarok. Black Panther and Infinity War will have their own entries for review.

Iron Man
We start off on a pretty good foot with the first Iron Man movie. Iron Man was a B list character not well known to general audiences, and hiring an actor like Robert Downey Jr., whose career seemed to have come and gone just added more risks to it. Yet, the movie is really good. RDJ as Tony Stark is one of the best casting decisions in history, because he IS Iron Man. The movie begins on a surprisingly dark note, with Tony Stark being kidnapped after his escort of American soldier is murdered by terrorists in a shootout. He then works with another scientist to escape, and has a change of heart about the practices of his company. They actually take time to develop the relationship between Tony and this scientist, causing you to genuinely care for them and hope they succeed. The other relationships he has, like with his best friend James Rhodes played by Terrance Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow as his loyal, snarky, and highly intelligent personal assistant Pepper Potts are interesting and feel real as well thanks to good acting and dialogue.
Tony’s development from a selfish jerk who is blind to the consequences of his company’s weapons dealing, to a selfless, but still flawed man who wants to make amends is poignant and well done. And it still manages to keep things relatively bearable by having very funny dialogue and character moments in between all the serious scenes and action. It’s plot is overall simple but well told, with some political elements sprinkled throughout to give it a sense of realism. Compared to the other Marvel movies it is also shockingly small scale, with more personal stakes. It’s not the best of the bunch though, with the villain being just a greedy, envious businessman, the action scenes aren’t really that impressive save for the scene with Iron Man and the two jets, and the third act in general being a disappointment. Still, it’s really good and still holds up today overall.
Score: 7/10

The Incredible Hulk
This movie is boring. Personally I’ve always found Hulk not to be an interesting character but I’m sure you can make good movies out of him. This is not one of them. Edward Norton as Bruce Banner is good, but doesn’t distinguish himself in any way anyone else couldn’t have done. I am sure that’s the fault of the material he was working with, not him though. The romance between him and Betty Ross played by Liv Tyler is so bland I’m struggling to remember it, thanks to her unremarkable performance. The villain is boring too. Really boring is the best word to describe this movie, and apparently the MCU agrees because this movie and most of its characters are forgotten about in later MCU movies. The one interesting thing about it is the element of Bruce having a heart monitor to keep an eye on his stress level, and he can’t even have sexual intercourse because he gets too excited and risks the Hulk coming out. Skip it, you’ll miss nothing.
Score: 3/10

Iron Man 2
The first direct sequel in the MCU. It’s not as bad as Hulk was by virtue of having Robert Downey Jr. in it, but it’s still mostly forgettable. This time there are two main villains, Justin Hammer and Ivan Vanko played by Mickey Rourke. Mickey Rourke is definitely a step up from the previous two main baddies, but he gets taken out in the most anticlimactic way possible, and Justin Hammer is just another smarmy businessman like the first Iron Man movie villain. The whole movie feels mostly concerned with setting up future movies than being its own, with hints of Captain America and the big Avengers movie to come. It’s a bit jarring at first to see Colonel James Rhodes played by Don Cheadle, replacing Terrance Howard, but he grows on you over the course of the movie. Black Widow gets introduced in this movie too, and all her scenes are pretty entertaining. It’s not an awful movie, just rather dull and doesn’t have that charm and sense of originality that the first one did.
Score: 5/10

Okay we’re getting a bit back on track here with Thor, Marvel’s resident Norse God. This movie is again, not bad, but a very mixed bag and average in the long term. Whenever the plot is on Asgard, it’s really entertaining and creative. With the visuals and design of Asgard evoking grand myths of old and all the characters speaking like they’re in a Shakespeare play, it’s really cheesy but they make it work. It even begins in media rias like old myths did. Chris Hemsworth as Thor is another casting jackpot and Tom Hiddleston as Loki is equally great, and cements himself as one of Marvel’s best villains ever, playing a tragic and complex character motivated for personal reasons beyond simple greed and revenge. Hell, every single cast member playing the Asgardians are perfect for the roles. Anthony Hopkins as Odin is both commanding and intimidating, and Idris Elba as Heimdall is awesome in his own right next to them all. Too bad the plot on Earth drags it down. When Thor gets banished to Earth for his arrogant and selfish actions leading to war, I mostly lost interest. The human characters are dull and exactly what you’d expect them to be, with Natalie Portman playing Thor’s boring love interest. That and everything on Earth just looks so bland compared to the majestic visuals of Asgard. I am sure that’s intentional, but you can still keep things engaging. What just keeps it above water is Thor’s character development. It’s kind of like Tony Stark’s in that it’s about a jerk learning the consequences of his actions and not being a jerk anymore, but it remains fresh by it about Thor learning how to grow from an overgrown boy into a wise man who is worthy of being a king. It’s not that it’s a bad movie, but it had the potential to be so much more.
Score: 5/10

Captain America: The First Avenger
At last an MCU movie that reaches the bar Iron Man did, mostly. Captain America is big step up from the previous three movies, thanks to some great action scenes, a perfect lead, and a tone that feels like it was ripped right out of a pulp magazine from the 40s. Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America is just as great casting, if not more so than RDJ. He comes across as a genuinely heroic man with no strings attached, something that is refreshing compared to the previous flawed heroes that the MCU had showcased. Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull is so gloriously evil that he makes the perfect villain for Captain America to go up against, a Nazi obsessed with power and glory versus a kid from Brooklyn who just wants to do the right thing. The supporting cast all manage to do a good job as well, and even the romance between Rogers and Peggy Carter is a step up from the previous Marvel movies, and comic book movies in general. What also makes this movie stand above the crowd is how it embraces the ridiculous. The World War II setting features futuristic Nazi technology and occult research that you would expect to see in a Wolfenstein game. What hurts the movie the most is that it’s first half is considerably stronger than its second one. The first half is about Steve Rogers being recruited, proving himself to be stronger in heart than he is in body, getting the super serum injected into him, being used as a recruitment tool instead of the frontlines, and finally rescuing American troops from a Nazi prison camp in the movie’s best action scene. After that the movie doesn’t reach those levels of emotional engagement or excitement, with most of Captain America’s WW2 exploits being glossed over in a quick montage. The movie would have benefited from actually showing and exploring those scenes. Still with a genuinely great first half and having a quite tragic ending, Captain America: The First Avenger is a pretty good, entertaining movie that shows Marvel wasn’t just a one trick pony with the first Iron Man movie.
Score: 7/10

The Avengers
After five movies of build up, some good, some bad, it’s finally arrived. This movie attempted something that had never been done before, to have multiple characters from different movies within the MCU crossover into one, mega blockbuster event. It had everything going against it, and could have been a miserable failure, but it wasn’t. The Avengers is a great movie, and one of the best comic book movies ever made. All your favorite heroes are here, fighting an alien invasion led by a returning Loki. It’s like seeing a great comic book crossover event play out on the big screen, with all the grand spectacle you would expect. Every single character plays off of each other perfectly, with neither overshadowing the other. Mark Ruffalo replaces Edward Norton as Bruce Banner and he is about ten times better than Norton ever was, portraying him in a way that means that no one can replace Ruffalo as Hulk now. The only real negative is that the first act is kind of slow due to needing to build up the rest of the movie, but it ends on a high note, and it just gets better from there. The action scenes are all extremely creative and have the heroes use their talents individually or together in interesting ways, with everyone being useful and having a purpose to being there. Thor for example, might be the god of thunder, but he alone can’t stop the invasion, and Captain America can’t just do it all himself. They all genuinely work as a team, and they don’t just get along from the beginning either. Acts one and two have them mostly at each other’s necks, with no one really trusting the other’s intentions until a beloved side character gets killed, and they realize they need to set aside their differences to save the world. The movie also keeps things light and fun by having smart, clever dialogue, thanks to director/writer Joss Whedon. That, and having a pretty kickass main theme that is now instantly recognizable, The Avengers is excellent and is Joss Whedon’s finest hour. See Justice League and Warner Brothers?! THIS is how you do a superhero team up movie!
Score: 9/10