Tag: Series review

DC Extended Universe review

This will contain spoilers

The DC Cinematic Universe, or the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), has had a rough time trying to establish itself as a franchise that can compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has only been recently that the DCEU seems to have finally gotten its act together and found its own identity. It hasn’t been easy though. For a while, it seemed like Warner Brothers was going to keep messing this up indefinitely. Now though, it seems like they’ve finally figured it out. All of these movies have been re-watched except for Aquaman, which was a first time viewing.

Man of Steel

To be fair to this movie, it had an unenviable task to achieve. Man of Steel had to escape from the shadow of the first Donner film, while also remaining true to the character of Superman. So the fact that it set out to move in a different direction was not an inherently bad idea. However, Man of Steel fails to understand what makes Superman such an iconic character.

I’ll admit, when I first saw this movie in theaters: I liked it. I was not a huge fan of Superman, so I was not up in arms over certain changes they made that other diehard fans find objectionable. Rewatching it years later however, have really shown this film’s shortcomings. Man of Steel is a shockingly poor film in terms of writing, pacing, story structure, and character development. Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer were not good fits for this character at all, as it shows a profound lack of understanding Superman. They were so concerned with setting their version apart from others, that they forgot to give their interpretation a distinctive identity. This Superman is solely defined by how different he is from the other versions, rather than being interesting on his own merits. Not helping matters is Henry Cavill giving an unmemorable, mostly flat performance. The whole cast is pretty forgettable, but most of all is Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent. He’s dry and lacks anything resembling warmth, which makes the scenes where he interacts with Clark as a child lack any emotion. It also makes his death lack any weight, though the circumstances that led to it didn’t help since it becomes unintentionally funny. Michael Shannon as General Zod was fine, and I do admire that they tried to give him depth usually not found in other comic book movie villains.

Another problem is the movie is driven to ride the coattails of Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It even copies the nonlinear structure of Batman Begins, except it fails to understand why the flashbacks in that movie worked. Clark Kent is also made into a drifter trying to find himself, like Bruce Wayne was in that movie. For all its attempts at being different from previous adaptations of Superman, it has no problem blatantly ripping off from other sources when it suits it. It’s also surprising how dull the movie looks save for a few sequences. Snyder is known for making gorgeous looking films if nothing else, so seeing the movie lack that is disappointing. I can’t even really praise the action scenes. The use of shaky cam and constant zoom ins and outs make it all incoherent, and the level of destruction reaches a point where it becomes excessive. Even the prologue on Kryton has over top action scenes. The movie has no sense of restraint. It’s also concerning in how Superman does not make much of any attempt to mitigate said destruction, especially in the final battle with Zod, which has become infamous for the level of property damage and implied civilian deaths.

This movie also has some of the most ham-fisted symbolism ever. Every chance it has to compare Superman to Jesus it takes. It’s not just visual either. The characters all talk about how Clark is going to change the world and what an icon he will become. Nobody talks to him like an actual human being.

I would be here all day if I just listed off all the problems Man of Steel has, but there are other movies to get to and it wouldn’t be giving it credit where its due. Cavill shows potential to be a genuinely great Superman, and there are a few truly awe inspiring scenes: Superman learning how to fly and when he destroys a massive terraforming machine that was destroying the Earth. Hans Zimmer’s score is also awe inspiring at times. His theme for Superman especially captures the larger than life nature of the character. I will also mildly defend the decision to have him kill Zod in the final battle. It’s a truly bold choice that puts Superman’s morals to the test by forcing him into a scenario where there is no decision that he would be comfortable making, and has to pick the lesser of two evils. That being said, because the film never builds to this crucial moment and never examines it afterwards, it doesn’t really work.

A less light hearted Superman can be done right, as shown by Superman: Earth One, just so long as the character’s essence is retained. This movie didn’t do that, and what’s left is a movie that fails to be good as an adaptation of Superman or on its own merits.

Score: 3/10

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice not only fails to correct any of the mistakes Man of Steel made, it doubles down on them and makes more than a few more. Before anyone accuses me of not watching the “definitive” version of the film, I will add that I am basing my thoughts off the Ultimate Cut, and I have seen the theatrical version as well. The Ultimate Cut is not better, just more coherent and longer.

Dawn of Justice is boring, bloated, pretentious, and miserable. It makes big statements about power, gods, and how power can lead to corruption, but doesn’t really do anything to explore them. Most of the movie is just spent with Superman and Batman moping around in a plot with no direction while Lois Lane pursues a subplot involving a LexCorp bullet that ends up going absolutely nowhere. Wonder Woman makes her first live action cinematic appearance in this, played by Gal Gadot. Gadot does what she can with what she’s given, and she’s easily one of the movie’s better elements. The worst performance and character by far is Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. He plays Luthor as this manic, hyperactive guy who is obsessed with bringing down Superman due to some motivation involving his abusive father and a hatred for God. For a movie that tries to be serious and realistic, it is an over the top performance that is jarringly out of place. This relates to a recurring problem: the fantastical comic book elements clash with the realistic world and tone Snyder has crafted. It makes the movie too silly to be taken seriously, and too serious to have fun with.

Oh, and if you thought Superman’s portrayal in the previous film was off, Snyder continues the trend in this one. Superman still has no personality and is only definable by how different he is from other interpretations. Yet he has it easy compared to Batman. I have to stop and give praise and condolences to Ben Affleck here. He gives the best performance in the whole movie, playing a more jaded, Frank Miller Batman. He could have been the best live action Batman if the material was better.

Batman, a hero known for his rule of never killing so he doesn’t become like the people he fights, kills indiscriminately in this movie while branding criminals so that they can be murdered in prison. Now again, this is not an inherently bad thing if explored. But again, the movie does not properly explore why Batman is like this. If you’re familiar with the Batman mythos, than you’ll be able to figure out that it’s because Joker killed Robin. If you’re not, then you’ll be stuck in the dark. This is yet again another persistent problem: an unfriendliness to non-comic readers. Snyder packs the movie full of references to aspects of the DC Universe that will fly right over the heads of people unfamiliar with comics, and these are integral to understanding scenes. Right in the middle of the movie he has a possible vision to the future/dream scene known as the “Knightmare” scene where Bruce Wayne sees the symbol of Darkseid and a ruined Earth. It serves as nothing but fanservice that doesn’t add anything to the narrative.

Dawn of Justice not only tries to tell a Batman vs Superman story, it tries to introduce Wonder Woman, introduce the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg, set up the Justice League movie, and adapts elements from The Dark Knight Returns comic book and The Death of Superman storyline. There is simply too much going on here. They tried to do in one movie what takes multiple to do: flesh out a cinematic universe.

Yet all of this could have been bearable if the movie managed to do the Superman and Batman fight right. Sure the rest of it would have been awful but there would still be this memorable fight between two of the world’s most iconic superheroes. Instead, it comes about because the two of them are stupid enough to get played by Lex Luthor, so there is no real investment or conflict to be resolved. They have their ideological differences (even though they both essentially do the same thing), but the fight doesn’t happen because of that. It consists of them punching each other until Batman finally gains the upper hand and is about to kill Superman until Superman tells him to “Save Martha!” Martha Kent you see, had been kidnapped by Lex Luthor to blackmail Superman into fighting Batman. Now remember how Batman’s mom was named Martha Wayne. That’s right. The fight ends because their moms have the same name. Now the idea behind this is obvious and sound: Batman stops because he realizes that Superman has a family like he did and he’s about to take an innocent life. The execution however, is horrible. Once it happens it’s like the two of them are now best buddies. The movie had one more chance to get things right and it made them worse.

There are scenes that out of context, are pretty cool. The best action scene in the whole film is the one where Batman just demolishes a room full of thugs with moves straight out of the Arkham games. It’s well shot, has great choreography, and every punch feels like it hurts. Snyder’s frequent collaborator Larry Fong is back, and there is a visual flair to the cinematography that was lacking in Man of Steel. The score is also really good, great even. The first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie are great as well. It gives us a different perspective of the climax of Man of Steel, showing us what Bruce Wayne saw and just how much collateral damage there was. It quickly and effectively establishes the reason he hates Superman. It’s all we needed. It’s too bad the movie proceeds to meander and think it needs to keep establishing his reason.

However, for every good scene, there are several idiotic ones, or scenes that should have emotional weight but have none. Superman dies in this movie. Yes, the most iconic superhero in history dies, and I didn’t feel a thing. He had no discernable arc or personality, yet the movie expects us to care. There are so many shots that are meant to evoke awe or some kind of strong emotion, but fail because the movie never gives us reason to care. It packs on Biblical symbolism in an attempt to seem deeper than it really is, just like Man of Steel, and it matches that movie in how obnoxious and unsubtle it is.

A few more complaints are the lack of establishing shots. For example, in the Ultimate Cut Clark goes to Gotham for a story, and it looks no different from Metropolis. The movie just cuts back and forth between scenes with no sense of flow or passage of time, and making things even worse is how every location in this movie looks the same. Gotham and Metropolis might as well be the same city.

It’s fascinating how bad this movie is. It’s interesting how it squanders so much potential. The movie shows no respect for its characters or the intelligence of its audience. It thinks its smart when it’s dumb. It features the most iconic heroes ever on the big screen together for the first time, and it wastes them. This movie is definitive proof that Snyder was not the right fit for this material. And it’s not even the worst movie in this cinematic universe…

Score: 2/10

Suicide Squad

That dishonor goes to Suicide Squad, one of the most poorly made films I have ever seen. This is what would happen if the Guardians of the Galaxy movies were copied by someone who didn’t understand what made those movies work. The Suicide Squad are a group of convicts who go on covert suicide missions for the U.S. government in exchange for time off their prison sentences. In this movie, the squad must take down an evil ancient sorceress known as The Enchantress.

It is obvious that Suicide Squad was immediately taken back to the drawing board even after filming was finished due to the backlash the DCEU was receiving. The editing in this movie is horrific. Scenes have no flow from one to another, and it can become confusing at times. The action is extremely badly shot, being not well lit and having so many cuts it becomes difficult to tell what the characters are doing. It’s so bad it’s almost as if the movie has no screenplay to speak of, just a collection of scenes put together with something resembling a plot to connect them.

The villain, The Enchantress, is the worst villain in a comic book movie I have ever seen. No motivation or personality to speak of at all. The CGI for her is hideous as well. I hesitate to even call her a plot device. There is absolutely nothing to her.

Jared Leto’s Joker is easily the worst live action portrayal of Joker there has ever been. Aside from his appearance looking like it’s trying way too hard, there is nothing distinctive about his portrayal of the character that separates it from other, better versions. I’m struggling to figure out how we’re supposed to feel about his relationship with Harley Quinn. The film can’t seem to decide whether it’s an abusive one or twisted but genuinely loving one.

The only good things I have to say are that Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller were suited for their roles and played them well. Jai Courtney was surprisingly entertaining as Captain Boomerang. He’s one of the more memorable characters.

This movie is simply horrible. It’s basically irredeemable. I cannot wait for James Gunn to reboot this property and hopefully make something decent out of it. Until then, you should just stick to Suicide Squad: Assault on Arkham. That’s how you do a proper Suicide Squad movie.

Score: 1/10

Wonder Woman

Finally! The DCEU has a genuinely good movie. Just when it was looking like all hope was lost, Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot save the day.

Wonder Woman is exactly what the DCEU needed. It’s a movie whose heroine is kind, idealistic, compassionate, unambiguously good, but not unflawed. Gal Gadot proves that she can carry her own movie as Wonder Woman. Chris Pine proves to be a great Steve Trevor, and they have the first romance in the DCEU that has any real chemistry. Just about every character in this movie is memorable and likable. The three men who make up Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman’s team in the war have their own backstories and dreams of being more than what they are.

Putting Wonder Woman in a conflict as morally ambiguous as World War I was an inspired choice. Seeing a character of absolute good be placed in a setting that is anything but results in compelling interactions such as ones with shell shocked soldiers, or unable to comprehend why a German spy would commit suicide rather than accept help. The No Man’s Land sequence is one of the most memorable and breathtaking in a recent superhero movie. This has the most exciting action scenes in the entire DCEU. There are actual stakes, the choreography is very well done, and they serve as more than eye candy.

The few things that hold this movie back from true greatness is the third act and Ares. The movie’s main theme was that no single thing or person is to blame for humanity’s ills. Everyone plays a role. Yet the third act throws this completely out the window. Once Ares is killed by Diana, the fighting stops and World War I ends. Ares could’ve been a potentially intriguing villain, not being responsible for man’s evil so much as just giving them a little motivation to go down the path to war. He ends up being more of the same, and the climax is just a big CGI explosion fest like something out of Dawn of Justice.

Wonder Woman was the breath of fresh air necessary to revitalize the DCEU. It was optimistic and had its own unique identity. If it weren’t for that disappointing third act, it could have been even better.

Score: 7/10

Justice League

Justice League is basically the exact opposite. While not absolutely terrible, it’s forgettable and boring. I’ve already reviewed this movie and my thoughts remain unchanged. It feels unearned, the pacing is off, the villain is horrible, and the differing styles of Joss Whedon and Zack Snyder never properly mesh. The most interesting bit is when the League has to fight an amnesiac Superman.


Score: 4/10


Just a big ball of fun. Whatever problems this movie has, its heart and energy carry it to the finish line. It’s a gorgeous movie with extremely well directed action scenes. Though its reach at times exceeds its grasp. It tries to stuff in a lot, with worldbuilding for Atlantis and the inclusion of two major Aquaman villains. King Orm is one of the DCEU’s better villains, with a sympathetic goal and layers to his character. Although the secondary villain Black Manta should have been saved for another movie.

The movie boasts a very impressive cast. In addition to Jason Mamoa being a joy as Aquaman, it has Willem Dafoe as his mentor, Amber Heard as Mera, Patrick Wilson as King Orm, and other notable actors and actresses. However there is an especially bad performance from the actor who plays Aquaman as a teenager. Mostly everyone gives it their all however.

The set and costume design is the best in the entire DCEU. Everything looks like it was ripped from the pages of a comic book. Both practical effects and CGI are used, and it all looks extremely convincing and alien.

The writing and screenplay of Aquaman is where this movie really, really suffers. When you get down to it, as pretty and entertaining as this movie is, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. It’s a chosen one narrative featuring two siblings competing for the throne, and the plot is more or less an excuse for action set pieces to occur. Now the set pieces are very well done to their credit. There’s one that feels like its right out of a horror movie with clever usage of red lighting and darkness. It’s the most creative scene in the entire movie. They try to have a romance occur with Aquaman and Mera, but the two don’t have a lot of chemistry. The dialogue is also, well, hit or miss. It’s the kind of dialogue where the cast member has to really commit to selling it in order for it to get a pass, and there are many times where they don’t. As mentioned before, Mamoa gives a very fun and charismatic performance, but he does not give a convincing performance on some of the more emotional moments of the film.

Aquaman does whatever it can to make sure that its titular character is no longer a joke amongst the mainstream public, and I’d say it succeeded. It might be silly and try to do too much, but its unashamed commitment to its character and comic book trappings make it a worthwhile watch.

Score: 6/10


The most recent DCEU movie and easily the best one yet. Shazam! is from start to finish a charming and genuinely mature superhero film. It feels like a throwback to PG films of the late 80s and early 90s like Gremlins or Goonies. Shazam! shows that you do not have to be a dark movie to be a mature movie. It’s a movie that has heavy themes and shocking scenes in it. The prologue showing the origin of its villain has him being emotionally abused by his older brother and father, and then his father gets paralyzed in a car accident. It has a scene later on that feels like it came out of a horror movie, which makes sense due to director David F. Sandberg’s background in horror. Yet at its core is a movie about family and how one does not need to be perfect or pure to be a genuine hero.

Zachary Levi plays the role of a child in an adult’s body brilliantly. You always think that it’s a kid pretending to be an adult, rather than an adult pretending to be a kid. Asher Angel plays Billy Batson as a tough but vulnerable fourteen year old boy who needs guidance and has the capacity for good buried within him. He never comes off as too good to be true, nor too bad to be worthy of his powers. I can’t think of a single bad performance in this movie, from either the adults or child actors. Some of the lines delivered in just the wrong way could have been cringey, but the script is carried by the confidence of its cast and Sandberg’s direction.

Shazam! succeeds on the strength of its characters and direction. Characters who I would normally find annoying, like Freddy or Darla, are extremely endearing. The villain played by Mark Strong is the best of the DCEU so far. We can see why he became the person he is, he’s genuinely sympathetic at points, and his backstory and arc are perfect opposites of Billy Batson’s.

Unlike Wonder Woman, this movie has a fun third act that works with the message of the movie rather than against it. The stakes are relatively small but it works because they involve characters we know and care about. The solution Shazam comes up with to beat the villain is actually rather clever and not something you usually see in a superhero movie.

The only problems I have with the movie are that the lighting looks like its more appropriate for an episode of television and that it can look cheap sometimes. It’s clear this was made on a lower budget than most superhero movies, but given the smaller scale this movie’s plot and conflict, it makes sense.

Shazam! is so much fun. It has heart, intelligence, humor, and genuine maturity. It is definitive proof that you do not have to be dark and edgy to be serious. The best DCEU movie so far, and a sign that things are going to get better.

Score: 8/10


Here is my ranking of the DCEU as of right now:

  1. Shazam!
  2. Wonder Woman
  3. Aquaman
  4. Justice League
  5. Man of Steel
  6. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  7. Suicide Squad

Only the first three movies are worth watching. This franchise has definitely had a rocky road, but I do think we are seeing a recovery. There is no one reason why the DCEU had such a horrible start, but I can think of the most damaging ones. First of all, WB wanted to catchup to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and get the money they were making. This led them to rushing things and not taking the time to build their universe up.

Secondly, they were way too concerned with being different from Marvel rather than just being themselves. The first two films are plagued by juvenile attempts at maturity. Notice how the only three films worth watching are mature without going out of there way to be so, but letting it come naturally and not being ashamed of their characters.

Thirdly, I think it was a mistake to start the DCEU with a Superman movie, followed up by introducing Batman in the next. Those characters already have iconic cinematic film portrayals that were inevitably going to overshadow their successors. A wiser choice would’ve been to start with characters that had yet to have film adaptations, like Wonder Woman. Had they given other characters the cinematic treatment first and build up to new film versions of Superman and Batman, the public would’ve been more accepting.

That’s all I have to say on that front. I’m just glad that they finally have their act together.


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

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.


Marvel Cinematic Universe review part 2


Iron Man 3                                                                                                                                            A lot of people hate Iron Man 3, and to be quite honest I cannot for the life of me understand why. This movie is awesome! It continues not long after where The Avengers left off, and actually had the world and characters dealing with the aftermath of the events of that movie. Tony Stark is suffering from PTSD, and the world is uneasy after the whole alien wormhole in the sky appeared over New York City thing. What I especially love about this movie is that it feels both like an MCU movie, and a director’s own movie. It was directed by Shane Black, who gives the film an energy and wit that other Marvel movies don’t have. The action is amazing spectacle, RDJ does his best work as Tony Stark yet, and delivers an entertaining plot with a ton of awesome moments. There’s even a kid sidekick for a portion of the movie that was actually really endearing, most of the time they’re annoying. I know people complain about it having plot holes, but the movie is so damn entertaining that you barely notice them. Yes, Tony giving his address out on national television and not making necessary precautions was stupid of him, but that was the only moment that really stuck out to me. The other complaint I hear is that it changes Iron Man’s most famous villain from who he was in the comics. That in and of itself is not an issue, because the way they handle it is absolutely hilarious and makes for a good plot twist. Nonetheless, I understand how they feel, and the replacement for him is just under run of the mill Marvel villain instead of someone interesting. Despite those issues, it’s still one of the MCU’s best, and is easily the best Iron Man movie.
Score: 8/10

Thor: The Dark World
Another day, another boring Thor movie. It’s as if they never learned a single lesson from the failings of the first one. While it had issues, if they brought the focus back onto the cosmic and mythological elements in a sequel, this could have been really cool. Instead, it manages to take a step backwards from the first one. The boring human characters return, along with the villain being easily one of the worst in the MCU, and instead of exploring interesting and creative environments, we’re stuck with the most drab and unimpressive ones ever. The best elements of this movie are the interactions between Thor and Loki, but they come far too late into the film to make a difference. Thor: The Dark World is a mediocre bore that you should just read the plot on Wikipedia.
Score: 4/10

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
A movie that could have just been another mediocre, run of the mill MCU sequel film turned out to be a movie just as good as The Avengers, and easily one of the better comic book movies in history that nearly matches The Dark Knight. I find it hilarious how detractors will claim Marvel movies take no chances, because it ignores movies they make like these. It was directed by two directors who mainly had experience doing TV episodes, and features a morally grey spy-thriller plot involving political themes of security versus freedom, starring one of the most morally pure superheroes in history. That’s what I would call taking a risk, and boy did it pay off. The plot is extremely well paced and written, with intrigue and conspiracies straight out of a Jason Bourne film, the fight scenes have great choreography featuring practical stunt work and effects, with many action scenes being among the best in the entire MCU. The Winter Soldier is a pretty menacing and compelling rival for Steve Rogers, and seeing Captain America be forced to confront the darker side of the country he has given his life and soul to is compelling character development. Even the score is a step up from other Marvel movies, with The Winter Soldier’s theme being instantly memorable and chilling. The only main complaint I have is that there isn’t enough interaction between Captain America and the Winter Soldier, so the twist to his identity doesn’t have quite as much dramatic gravitas as it could have. Other than that though this is by far one of the best MCU movies, and is a top tier superhero movie.
Score: 9/10

Guardians of the Galaxy
Again, another risky movie that paid off. Marvel took some of their most obscure characters ever, gave it to the director of the R-rated black comedy Super, and dished out an awesome sci-fi adventure. You know you’re movie is going to be a wild ride when it begins with the main character getting abducted by aliens after his mom dies of cancer, and then flashes forward to him dancing to “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone. The movie never suffers from tonal whiplash though because James Gunn excels at balancing tones. Guardians of the Galaxy’s biggest strength is its characters and the chemistry they have with each other, which manages to carry its rather simplistic plot. Peter Quill is the Han Solo-esque rogue, Drax is a member of a literal minded species, Gamora is the serious one who was enslaved as a child, Rocket is a talking raccoon whose easily the most morally ambiguous of the group, and Groot is a giant, talking tree that can only say “I Am Groot.” They’re all quirky, but they are more than their quirks, being multi-layered and having their own baggage they have to deal with in their own ways. It keeps you invested in their fate as they travel to these creative and interesting worlds that make the universe they inhabit feel alive. What holds it back from reaching true greatness is the villain being a Saturday morning cartoon character, the plot being very simple, and the sense that the movie is concerned with being an introduction to this new world and characters rather than standing on its own. Still, with awesome characters, a creative universe to explore, and a soundtrack that absolutely kicks ass, this movie is very good.
Score: 7.5/10

Avengers: Age of Ultron
If the first Avengers movie was a massive step forward for comic book movies, the sequel unfortunately stagnates. It repeats many of the same plot elements from the first movie: big action scene in the beginning that sets up the rest of the plot, hero versus hero due to mind control, the villain wants to “save” humanity in their own twisted way, a cool down period in the middle of the second act, climax is in a big city, etc. The movie is the most obviously “filler episode” of the MCU since Iron Man 2, more concerned with setting up plot points for future movies rather than standing on its own. It also has one of the most bafflingly out of left field romances I’ve seen featuring Black Widow and Bruce Banner, with not even a little build up to it, and a deus ex machine at the climax because the movie wrote itself into a corner. The more I talk about this movie the more I realize just how disposable and a waste of time it is. It didn’t even have Alan Silvestri return to do the score. Just watch some scenes on YouTube or read about it online. James Spader as Ultron was pretty cool at least.
Score: 4.5/10

Ant Man
This was a refreshing, surprisingly entertaining movie. It is a small, humble heist film with superheroes in it. Scott Lang is an ex con who through a series of events gets recruited into becoming the new Ant Man by Hank Pym, the old one. This was originally going to be directed by Edgar Wright, but creative differences lead to him departing from the project and Peyton Reed stepping in to take over. He did a pretty good job and I’m glad he’s returning to direct the next Ant Man movie. Scott Lang is a very likable and sympathetic protagonist, trying to leave his old life behind and redeem himself for his mistakes so he can be a good father to his daughter. Michael Douglas as Hank Pym was also really good, and serves as a great mentor figure and mirror to Scott Lang. The plot is nothing special, it’s just another heist movie but with some added flavor by adding superheroes and cool moments from Ant Man’s ability to shrink and communicate with ants, and the villain is yet again another generic evil businessman with a personal vendetta, like the first Iron Man movie. The villain even fights the hero in a suit that also mirrors the hero’s, just like Obadiah Stane from Iron Man. Humor wise it’s a pretty funny movie and the humor doesn’t get in the way of the dramatic moments, and there were even a few scenes with their editing style and quick pace felt like Edgar Wright directed them, but they didn’t feel out of place or inconsistent with the movie’s overall direction. It could have been better, but it is still an entertaining movie that did try to add some new flavor to the market, and I’m interested in what a sequel can do.
Score: 6/10

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

Alien Series review

So for this October I decided to watch every single movie in the Alien franchise. What began as a sci-fi horror movie in 1979 directed by Ridley Scott has now become a massive franchise with sequels, prequels, video games, crossovers across various media, and comic books. I did not watch the Alien vs Predator movies because they are just non-canon fanservice for fans of both properties and I have not seen the Predator movies anyway.

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It’s been decades since it was first released in theaters and is still one of the best horror films ever made. The story and characters are nothing special but they’re well carried by the actors’ performances and the plot’s pacing. A crew of a commercial spaceship called the Nostromo discover a derelict alien spaceship that ends up housing a dangerous threat unlike anything ever seen. It looks better than most movies in general today thanks to excellent set design, practical effects, and Ridley Scott’s superb direction and cinematography. The eponymous Alien (Xenomorph) is still one of the most menacing horror antagonists ever because of its design (RIP H.R. Giger), and of how there is no complex explanation or backstory for its actions. It’s a predator and the crew is the prey, simple as that. Like the best horror movies, it relies on subtlety and nail-biting tension rather than jump scares and gore. A sci-fi slasher movie where the slasher is a Lovecraftian-esque monster with origins unknown to us. The only negative that drags it down is the characters not being memorable outside of our main lead Ellen Ripley, but other than that it’s still a great movie.

This movie is awesome. The sequel that surpassed the original and then some. Ripley wakes up after over fifty years of hyper sleep to discover her daughter Amanda has passed away years ago from cancer, and no one believes her story about how her crew was killed. A Xenomorph outbreak on the colony Hadley’s Hope causes her to team up with the Colonial Marines to take on her old enemy. Directed by James Cameron instead of Ridley Scott, Cameron wisely decided to take the film in an action oriented direction instead of trying to one up the original, thus creating one of the best sci-fi action movies of all time. The universe set up in the original is expanded upon more, the characters are much more memorable, Ellen Ripley cements her status as one of the best female action heroes in history, and it has the best action scenes ever. Like the first movie the story itself is nothing really special, but the characters are vastly better in this one and with Ripley becoming a surrogate mother to the child character Newt in this movie, it’s much more emotionally engaging since it’s genuinely sad to see characters get brutally killed, and extremely happy to see others make it out alive. Hicks, Newt, Hudson, Vasquez, Bishop and then some all make up the best set of characters the series has ever seen. It also has messages about the arrogance of a technologically superior force fighting a seemingly weaker enemy, which was inspired by the U.S.’s bungling of the Vietnam War, so it’s a much smarter movie than it appears to be at first glance. The lines are iconic (“Game over man! Game over!” “Get away from her you bitch!”), the special effects still look great today, it still manages to keep the nail biting tension the original movie had, and the ending has one of the best final battles in action movies ever with the Xenomorph Queen and it wraps up Ripley’s character arc perfectly. You can make other movies in the series but here is where Ripley’s character should’ve been left. Easily now in my favorite movies list, one of the best sequels ever, and the best movie in the franchise. There’s a small but vocal minority of people who hate this movie for moving away from first movie’s horror. Well be careful what you wish for because you get a new Alien movie with an emphasis on horror in the next one…

Alien 3
This is the exact opposite of Aliens. It’s one of the worst sequels ever made because instead of being exciting it’s boring, it’s a slog to get through, the characters are mostly dull and unlikable, has an bad ending and pisses on Ripley’s character. Remember Hicks and Newt? They get killed in the beginning of Alien 3, retroactively ruining the completely wonderful ending of the previous movie! I’m not against movies set after Aliens, but they should have little to do with Ellen Ripley. There are other stories you can tell, as shown with the now non-canon Dark Horse Alien comics and Alien: Isolation video game. There can be a movie about Newt grown up kicking Xenomorph ass, or another movie about the Colonial Marines, but leave Ripley alone. This movie had a notoriously troubled production and was David Fincher’s directorial debut, but not even he can salvage this boring turd. It’s the kind of horror movie that relies on shock value deaths and gore to scare its audience, which gets boring after it happens once or twice. The special effects aren’t even that good thanks to some poorly used and aged CGI, and that’s not even getting into the new prison setting being visually uninteresting with only the colors being grey and yellowish brown. Lastly, Ripley goes from being a badass who kicked Xeno ass to being terrified of the Xenomorph again, then they kill her off at the end of the movie via heroic sacrifice to end the threat once and for all. Some people say the Assembly Cut is a genuinely good movie. It’s not, so don’t watch it for your own sake.

Alien: Resurrection
Accomplishes the impressive goal of being even worse than the third movie. It takes place 200 years after Alien 3 and a new company studying the Xenomorphs clones Ripley. Yep, they didn’t even have the guts to stick with 3’s ending of her character. Even the opening credits are inferior to 3’s, and the worst of the entire series! This is the Batman and Robin of the Alien movies, with terrible acting, special effects, and a campy tone that is disrespectful to its own series. The only good things I can say about it is that its visual style is more interesting than 3’s and Ron Perlman is a blast in it, but everything else is worse. The story I hear is Joss Whedon wrote this script to try to get fired from his job, but studio executives actually took it seriously. If that’s true, then every stereotype of movie executives is pretty much justified. Another Xenomorph outbreak occurs because of corporate incompetence, but this time it’s really inexcusable. The movie takes place 200 years after Alien 3, so they should know the Xenos have acid blood, but their cages aren’t even acid proof! It’s like they wanted an accident to happen! It’s constantly pulling stuff out of its ass as the plot keeps moving that make no sense. Fuck this movie.

This is a prequel to the original movies with Ridley Scott back at the director’s helm. I don’t find it to be the masterpiece it tried to be or the ultimate betrayal of the other movies fans found it to be (Did they forget the last two movies exist?). I’m glad they finally moved on from Ripley’s character so as not to butcher it any further, so that was an automatic plus in my book. I think it has some interesting ideas but the execution left a lot to be desired. It wants to explore the origins of the Xenomorphs and of humanity in general, with an advanced race of aliens called the “Engineers” being the overall antagonists. The problem with this is that it feels torn between being a prequel and wanting to be its own movie, so none of the ideas it wants to explore feel fleshed out. Ridley Scott is still a great visual director that very few can match, and that combined with the much better CGI and special effects for this movie make it utterly beautiful at times. Everything else though, there’s a lot left to be desired. The biggest problems by far are the characters and their stupidity. These people are the dumbest group of researchers that have ever lived. The plot wouldn’t move if it weren’t for their idiotic mistakes, like a biologist approaching a strange alien creature or one of the crew members not telling the others he noticed a parasite in his eye while looking at his face in the mirror. Also, the technology is more advanced despite being a prequel to the other movies, but that’s kind of a nitpick that can be explained by the crew having a higher budget compared to the crew of the first movie who were basically truckers in space. Michael Fassbender’s android character David is pretty interesting, however he’s the only one I liked. Not even the main character Shaw was memorable. I wouldn’t call it good, but exploring the origins of the Xenomorphs with other characters is an interesting premise that a sequel could have built upon. Key phrase being could have.

Alien: Covenant
Whatever potential the ideas from Prometheus had to be fleshed out has gone unfulfilled. It has the same problems as Prometheus but with some new ones too. The characters are uninteresting and make dumb decisions but even more so. David returns from Prometheus and is turned into some cartoonish super villain who created the Xenomorphs just because he could, killed Shaw off screen, and committed genocide on the Engineers between the two movies. The Xenomorphs and facehuggers make their return to pacify the fans who were disappointed that Prometheus had very little to do overall with the actual origins of the Xenomorphs. The best aspect is the good direction from Ridley Scott again, but it’s a very hollow movie overall and at this point I have no doubt he barely cares. The script went through some pretty heavy rewrites, and all the ideas it had before sound way more interesting than the glorified half sequel to Prometheus, half remake of Alien we got.

This is how I rank the Alien movies from best to worst:
1. Aliens
2. Alien
3. Prometheus
4. Alien: Covenant
5. Alien 3
6. Alien: Resurrection
The first two movies are amazing while the rest aren’t worth watching. Prometheus has its moments but its issues drag it down too much. After the mess that was Covenant, I have no interest in seeing any other movie made in this franchise. They should have called it quits after Aliens, at least in regards to Ellen Ripley’s story. Just watch the first two, then play the video game Alien: Isolation. It’s about Amanda Ripley, Ellen’s biological daughter who died in between the first two movies as she tries to discover the truth of her mother’s disappearance. It’s a pretty good game that actually tells a much better story than the other movies of the series.