Movie Review: The PUNISHER

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punisher 2004
Lionsgate Films
2004
R

“Two thousand degrees, Mick. Enough to turn steel into butter. It won’t hurt at first. It’s too hot, you see. The flame sears the nerve endings shut, killing them. You’ll go into shock, and all you’ll feel is cold. Isn’t science fun, Mickey?”

  • Special agent Frank Castle had it all: A loving family, a great life, and an adventurous job. But when his life is taken away from him b a ruthless criminal and his associates, Frank has become reborn. Now serving as judge, jury and executioner, he’s a new kind of vigilante out to wage a one-man war against those who have done him wrong.

So far, there’s been three movie adaptations of Marvel Comics’ vigilante antihero The Punisher. The one in 1989 that starred Dolf Lundren (and did not feature the trademark skull breast plate), the 2004 movie staring Thomas Jane and the 2008 Punisher: War Zone which acted as a soft reboot of the 2004 movie. Of the three, my favorite big-screen iteration is the 2004 Thomas Jane outing.*

This particular movie borrows a lot from the “Welcome Back, Frank” mini-series story that ran in the Marvel Knights line in 2000-2001, in that the characters of Joan, Mr. Bumpo and “Spacker” Dave are featured as Frank’s surrogate family, and also “The Russian”, which was played by pro-wrassler Kevin Nash in one of the more amusing fight scenes in the movie. Anyway, the story has Frank Castle as a former Delta Force veteran and undercover FBI agent that has worked his last case before retirement, one that resulted in the death of the son of mafia boss Howard Saint. This results in a hit taken out on Castle and his entire family at a family reunion, where Frank is only sort of dead, so he’s found and nursed back to health by a local fisherman. Moving into a dilapidated apartment building among three other outcasts, Frank begins his war to take down the Saint family bit by bit, using not only violence but also psychological warfare to spread dissension from the inside. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Punisher movie if things didn’t get blow’ed up and there was no body count, and rest assured there are both here, in spades.

Yeah, I’m well aware of the complaints about this version of The Punisher, that we don’t have a Punisher that’s a gun-wielding berserker that shoots first and asks questions never. Instead, we have *gasp* a Frank Castle that is cunning, highly intelligent and calculating, almost like he was using his brain as a lethal weapon as much as the ones he has in his arsenal. And speaking of his arsenal, it makes sense that, given his military training and background, he would use other tactile weapons rather just the pew-pew, budda-budda-budda variety.

Thomas Jane is perfect as the title character. He’s not the typical by-the-numbers muscle-bound meathead, which makes him perfect for this iteration. There’s a dark intensity to his performance, here. John Travolta is in his element, methinks, as a mob boss that’s also has an underlying tension, like he’s trying hard not to fly into utter camp, especially with some of his lines. Everything flows well, here, from the story, to the tragic feel with dark comedy bits sprinkled in, to the soundtrack…I just don’t understand the 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I admittedly still get a bit misty-eyed when I see the late, great John Pinette do his thing, here. But, really, I think it’s time to check out The Punisher 2004 if you have been holding back due to the negative hearsay about this. Recommended.

[* = Keep in mind I said “big screen”; my all-time favorite version of The Punisher is the Netflix Marvel one, which has been sadly canceled as of the time of this writing.]

Movies+Beer; SPIDER-MAN Far From Home

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spidermanfarfromhomebanner

James finally gets to venture from the place where he’s recovering from surgery to watch the highly anticipated Spider-Man: Far From Home! Joined by long-time partner in crime Brian, they discuss the movie at the legendary Sean O’Casey’s pub over lunchie-munchies…among other things…

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: The INCREDIBLE HULK

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incredible hulkUniversal Pictures
2008
PG-13

“I’ve had missions go wrong, and seen good people go down all because someone didn’t tell them what they were walking into. I moved on because that’s the job, and that’s what we do. But this…this is a whole new level of weird, and I don’t think I want to step away from it.”

The second film in the big Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it wasn’t exactly the big blockbuster that Iron Man turned out to be. Mind you, this was the second attempt to bring the Jade Giant to the big screen, five years after Ang Lee’s version with Eric Bana, Nick Nolte and giant mutated poodles. Among other things. And while this kind-of sequel to that Hulk movie got much more right with the characters and the story on this go-round, it still wasn’t the SMASH! we were expecting. See what I did, there?

Pointless bit of personal backstory: The night I went to watch The Incredible Hulk, it was part of the bachelor party I threw as Best Man for my friends. We had just spent a couple of hours at the nearby Buffalo Wild Wings, so almost all of us were nicely buzzed going into the movie. Except for me, I was the designated driver. So, maybe we enjoyed the movie more than we would normally. That doesn’t factor in my enjoyment due to complete sobriety. But, anyway, enough stalling.

Scientist Bruce Banner scours the planet for an antidote to the unbridled force of rage within him: the Hulk. But when the military masterminds who dream of exploiting his powers force him back to civilization, he finds himself coming face to face with a new, deadly foe.

I can see why a lot of people didn’t enjoy The Incredible Hulk. Technically, this was a reboot that worked also as a sequel, but was its own movie…stay with me, here. I liked the way they did a bit of a retro-summary of 2003’s The Hulk with the opening montage segment. The story itself was compelling, and for the most part kept my attention. It was maybe a bit early to wheel in The Abomination at this point in the game, and that’s probably what dragged the last third of the movie down. Liv Tyler seemed to play Banner’s love interest Betty Ross sans any kind of emotion. And while I kind of prefered Sam Eliott in the role of General Thunderbolt Ross from The Hulk, William Hurt does a rather good job in the role himself. Three times, so far.

Overall, yeah, I enjoyed The Incredible Hulk for what it is: a fun comic book action movies. Norton did a doable job as Bruce Banner, but I really am a Mark Ruffalo fan when it comes to live action portrayal of Dr. Bruce Banner. The Incredible Hulk isn’t a bad movie, and I would give it some repeat watchings if the opportunity arises, I’m just in no hurry to put it in my collection just yet.

Uncle NecRo Watches: VENOM

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UNCLE NECRO WATCHES
venom movie banner

I finally found time to take in the Venom movie, the one that stars Tom Hardy and definitely not that kid from That 70s Show. How does it hold up? I’m joined by my long-suffering movie watchin’ buddy Brian from the Will Code For Beer podcast, so listen in as we discuss not only the movie, but the several other bunny trails we wander down at Sean O’Casye’s…

necrosarx@gmail.com
::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: ANT MAN AND THE WASP

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ant man and the waspMarvel / Disney
2018
PG-13

“You can do it. You can do anything. You’re the world’s greatest grandma.”

The third Marvel-based movie for this year (I’m counting Deadpool 2, even though it wasn’t a Disney-generated Marvel movie), and this one is a sequel to 2015’s Ant Man.

While I surprisingly enjoyed the first Ant Man, it still was what you would call a stand-alone, almost filler type of movie that Marvel put out. And while the response was positive, and the inclusion of the character in Captain America: Civil War was supremely satisfying, the sequel wasn’t exactly something I was counting down the days to go watch. Still, I was looking forward to watching this with the Exalted Geeks. We did so on the Sunday after it opened, instead of the Saturday, which is our normal modus operandi for doing these; the reason being is that everyone was at the Shakespeare On The Green in Omaha that Saturday, so we just shifted to Sunday. Anyway…

After a flashback involving the original Wasp, Janet van Dyne, getting lost into the Quantum Realm while taking down a nuclear missile, we come across the former second Ant Man, Scott Lang, having some bonding time with his daughter at his place of residence. He’s been on house arrest since the events in Captain America: Civil War, and is nearing the end of his sentence indoors. Then one afternoon, he has a dream where he was Janet van Dyne playing hide-and-seek with her daughter, and so he leaves a message on Hank Pym’s phone, which leads to Scott getting kidnapped by Pym and Hope van Dyne to help triangulate the location of Janet so they can mount a rescue mission. Only, there’s the issue of Scott’s house arrest and the possibility of him spending 20 more years in the slammer if he’s caught, as well as both a black market tech dealer and this phase-shifting thief that goes by Ghost that’s making things a bit more complicated with the rescue mission.

Ant Man And The Wasp was a very enjoyable movie, with the standard breathtaking action bits, some mind-blowing sequences in the Quantum Realm, and just the right amount of comedy mixed in at the right places. The scenes between Scott Lang and his daughter was touching and quite believable, with Scott trying to explain why doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest thing to do, especially when it seems his loved ones always get punished as well. The inclusion of Laurence Fishburne was fantastic, as he could fill the part of someone who would conceivably go toe-to-toe against the likes of Hank Pym. Of course, the best scene in the entire movie goes to the interrogation of Luis, a favorite of mine since the first Ant Man movie. Every scene he’s in is gold. Pure gold. He needs to be in the upcoming Avengers movie next May, if he wasn’t one of the casualties of Thanos’ elimination of half of the universe’s population, that is.

Overall, Ant Man And The Wasp was a highly enjoyable comic book action flick. It doesn’t add to the overall grand arc that Marvel has been building for the past ten years, but it’s a nice brick in the wall. Recommended for a matinée, at least.

Movie Review: DEADPOOL 2

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deadpool 220th Century Fox
2018
R

“You remind me of my wife.”
“I’m sorry.”
“I said you remind me…”
“No, I’m sorry that you said that while making heavy eye contact and applying lip balm.”

Whelp, I’m gonna call it. 2018 is the year for Marvel flicks. Whether the Disney movies, or the ones that are still owned by other studios, Marvel has been knocking ’em out of the park, there. Of course, one of the more highly anticipated Marvel movies this year was the sequel to 2016’s Deadpool, the surprise hit R-rated superhero movie that pretty much broke the mold when it came to the genre.

To say Deadpool 2 had a lot to live up to would be an hilarious understatement. The possibility for a sophomore slump was pretty strong. While the teaser trailers and online promos promised more of the same (and then some), and the plot utilizing not only X-Men fan-favorite Cable, but X-Force as well to up the ante, I was still a bit cautious when I finally sat myself down in my theater seat with the rest of the exalted geeks. The memory of the awesomeness of the first Deadpool movie alone was fueling my anticipation. Will Deadpool 2 be just as awesome? Or will it pratfall harder than the Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Probably not, but weirder disappointments have happened.

Suffice to say, Deadpool 2 did not disappoint. Was it as good as, or better than, the first Deadpool? We’ll get to that. But first, the Obligatory Rundown (there may be spoilers, so keep that in mind while I write from the hip, here):

We begin with Deadpool blowing himself up. We then are treated to a flashback to explain why he decided to off himself at the beginning of his own movie (hint: It involves the sudden death of a loved one that even the movie’s opening credits couldn’t believe just happened). But, since he’s Deadpool and has a crazy insane healing factor, his bits and pieces are…rescued? by Colossus, and he’s pieced back together in the X-Men Mansion. Colossus convinces Deadpool to finally join up with the X-Men, and is taken with him and Negasonic Teenage Wowthisisthelongestsuperheronameever to an incident involving a young mutant with fireball powers outside of another mutant hospital being run by a “doctor” who tortures young mutants to “cure” them. After deciding that the PG-13 route wasn’t for him, Deadpool manages to get himself and the young firestarter thrown into what is called the “icebox”, where some of the most dangerous mutants are imprisoned, their powers nullified by a special collar. This means that Deadpool’s healing factor is no longer a thing, and his cancer is coming back full force. But, due to a sudden surprise infiltration by a time-traveling super soldier named Cable, Deadpool gets his collar off and escapes, leaving the younger boy in there being hunted by Cable. Convicted to protect the boy, Deadpool forms a team of his own — X-Force — and during the transport of all the Icebox prisoners to a new location, most of the team is massacred by accident, save for the spunky young Domino, who stops Cable from killing the boy, but ends up releasing the Juggernaut in the process. The boy and Juggernaut head out to deal some pain to the guy who tortured him, which leads to Deadpool teaming up with Cable to try and talk him out of it without killing the boy. Things go boom. I’m just going to leave it there.

I’ll just come out and say it: Deadpool 2 was awesome. Though one could argue that the story beats in Deadpool 2 would be the anti-Logan from a couple of years ago, what with the protecting a child from a killer threat with some robotic implants, that still doesn’t distract from the fact that this movie maintains the quality of hilarity and action of the first one, gleefully subverting tropes, deftly dealing with the drama and seriousness with brazenly juvenile style. The movie starts off with a literal bang, and keeps that tone and pace up throughout, not so much breaking the fourth wall as demolishing it completely, with the jokes and action equally rapid-fire. The interaction between him and Cable is fantastic, and I kind of wish there was more between them. Domino was an interesting character herself; I’m not familiar with the source character, as I’m not what you would call an X-Men fan in that media. Of course, the best part of the movie is the mid-credit scene that you need to stay for. It’s the best one of all the Marvel movie mid-credit scenes going. Trust me, this will make you beyond giddy.

So, what I’m trying to say is, Deadpool 2 is awesome. I already said that once (see: Previous Paragraph), but it’s worth repeating as many times as possible. If you liked the first Deadpool, you’re gonna like Deadpool 2. That’s all. Go catch it while it’s in the theaters.

Movie Review: AVENGERS Infinity War

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avengers infinity warMarvel / Disney
2018
PG-13

“I’m gonna ask you this one time. Where is Gamora?”
“Yeah, I’ll do you one better. Who is Gamora?”
“I’ll do you one better. Why is Gamora?”

So, then. The third Avengers movie, and the first part of a two-parter that is promising to shake everything up in the cinematic Marvel Universe. Well, now. That’s a big promise, there. While I loved the first Avengers movie, the second one was kind of lackluster, and really, neither did really set my fanboy world ablaze at the time. I do admit, though, that the Marvel movies leading up to Infinity War these past couple of years have been ramping up in the quality story-wise (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarök, Black freakin’ Panther…need I go on?), so there was actual hope that Infinity War will live up to all the hype and blow me away with sheer awesomeness.

Going into this, already the scope was BIG by sheer numbers: Avengers Infinity War features almost everybody in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, save for Ant Man. I mean, they could have started off the movie by a big rendition of the song “Hey A Movie!” from The Great Muppet Caper (“Starring everybody, and meeeee!”). As a matter of fact…why wasn’t that a thing? Disney owns the Muppets, right? That could have been shoehorned in there easily. Thor and Loki could have a choreographed dance number. But, I digress. Point is, the stakes for this movie were already pretty high by the amount of crossover team-ups going on. This had the potential of falling flatter than the Justice League movie.

Fortunately, my natural tendency to expect the worst was proven wrong.

I take a break in this rambling review to state that, although it’s been a few weeks since the opening of this movie, there will be SPOILERS ahead, so be ye warned if, for some reason, you haven’t seen this yet. Though, I can’t fathom why.

Starting off almost immediately after the post-credit scene from Thor: Ragnarök, Thanos has killed almost everyone on the ship carrying all the Asgardian refugees, save for Thor, Loki, Heimdall and the Hulk. After single-handedly giving the smackdown to the Hulk and shiving Loki for the Space Stone, the Hulk is transported back to Earth by Heimdall, and Thor is tossed into space. Hulk crashes into the New York Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Strange, and — after reverting back to Bruce Banner — warns Strange about Thanos’ mad plan to eradicate half of all life in the universe, and is on his way to get the Time Stone from Strange. Recruiting Iron Man, they all put of a valiant fight against the henchmen Thanos sent, but Strange gets captured and taken into space, but not before Iron Man and a newly suited Spider-Man hitch a ride on their ship. Meanwhile, the Scarlet Witch and Vision are attacked by two more henchmen, but are saved by the arrival of Captain America, Black Widow and the Falcon. Thor is rescued by the Guardians of the Galaxy, and after a hilarious interchange between Thor and Starlord, Thor goes off with Rocket and a teenage Groot to the place where his original hammer was forged to make a new weapon to fight Thanos, while Starlord, Gamora, Drax and Mantis head back to Knowhere to try and save the Reality Stone, only to find that Thanos beat them there and has it in his possession.

With us so far? Good. Proceeding…

Thanos kidnaps Gamora to get the location of the Soul Stone, then after traveling to the location, has to reluctantly kill Gamora in order to gain possession of the stone. Trust me, it’s a rather harrowing scene to get through. Iron Man, Spider-Man and Strange run into Starlord, Drax and Mantis on Thanos’ homeworld of Titan, hatching a plan to remove the gauntlet from him, as there seems to be only one outcome of several million that results in the mad Titan losing. They almost succeed, until Starlord loses his otherwise cherub-like demeanor after learning that Thanos killed Gamora. Finally gaining the Time Stone, Thanos heads back to Earth to get the Mind Stone from Vision, who is in Wakanda, where the entire Wakandian army is lead by Black Panther, along with Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes, Banner in the Hulk Buster suit (because Hulk hasn’t wanted to smash after the beatdown at the beginning of the movie), and the newly hammered Thor is taking down Thanos’ horde. Everything is looking good for our heroes…until Thanos shows up. Then everyone is screwed. Seriously. It ends with the bad guy winning. Enjoy the rest of your day, folks.

Once again, Disney has proven that they are now the overlords of the movie releases now. With Marvel, just in this year alone (and it’s not even halfway through the year yet), they’ve already made all the money and broke all the records with Black Panther. Just a couple of months later, and they manage to once again blow everything out of the water with Infinity War. I’m not exaggerating. I don’t think anyone was expecting what happened in this movie. Not only did Avengers Infinity War manage to handle three major plot threads and weave them together into an epic story, it did so without sacrificing character development and story quality. What was truly amazing was that the character of Thanos — who could have easily been a paint-by-numbers Big Evil (see: Steppenwolf from The Justice League movie) — was given depth and motivation beyond “I’m just evil, it’s what I do”. There’s a scene where you start feeling some compassion for him, and kind of see things his way…although, he’s still a despot that’s committing mass genocide on an intergalactic scale, so he’s still the bad guy, make no doubt.

The writing was great, managing to keep all the different characters’ individual qualities. I like that eye for character detail they adhere to, going so far as bringing in James Gunn to write the parts for the Guardians Of The Galaxy to keep the continuity going. The result is some fantastic — and not to mention hilarious — interactions between the heroes during the conflict. Pretty much everyone gets a chance to shine, here. And by the time it gets to the end, you’re left with a feeling of being punched in the stomach by the Hulk himself.

Yeah, Avengers Infinity War is a bleak and dark entry in the series. Some say this is the Empire Strikes Back of the Avengers movies; I say that Avengers Infinity War makes Empire Strikes Back look like minor inconvenience. Walking out of the theater after the post-credit scene that sets up the next couple of Marvel movies to come, there were several children — and a few adults as well — that were crying due to the final few moments of the movie. People die. Characters you didn’t see coming, that you thought were safe from destruction. So much so, that I began wondering if Joss Wheadon didn’t have a hand in writing the final part of the script.

Enough of me going on and on with the review. If you haven’t seen Avengers Infinity War yet at this point, what are you waiting for? Go see this. Now. Stop reading this and go.

Movie Review: X2

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x220th Century Fox
2003
PG-13

“Logan, my tolerance for your smoking in the mansion notwithstanding, continue smoking that in here, and you’ll spend the rest of your days under the belief that you’re a six-year-old girl.”

Fascinating. All this time, and even though I’ve reviewed all the other X-Men movies that have come out, I’ve never did a proper review for the second movie in the franchise, X2: X-Men United. I don’t know what may have caused this glaring oversight; consider this my long-overdue rectification of that issue.

At the time, X2 was described by director Bryan Singer as a darker, Empire Strikes Back style movie for the Merry Mutants. And yes…that is a very apt description of this movie. And if you’re somehow unfamiliar with the X2 storyline, let me tell you…

After an opening where the President of the United States narrowly escapes an assassination attempt, Wolverine returns from the journey of discovery he went on at the end of the first movie back to the Xavier Institute to find Professor Xavier tracking a mutant with a very erratic movement pattern. Later, while the Professor and Cyclops are off visiting Magneto in his prison, and Storm and Jean Grey are out trying to find Nightcrawler (the mutant that tried to kill the President), a military scientist gets the go ahead to invade Xavier’s school for gifted students. Wolverine manages to get several of the kids to safety, and escapes with Rogue, Iceman and Pyro. Meanwhile, Xavier and Cyclops are captured, while Mystique helps Magnito escape his prison. The two then run into the other X-Men, and form an uneasy alliance to take down the military scientist that invaded the mansion. His name is Stryker, and turns out is the man who originally infused the adamantium to Wolvie’s skeleton. They find the location of Stryker’s underground base, where he is using Xavier to telepathically kill every mutant on the planet. They infiltrate the base, and manage to free the mutants being held there, as well as destroy the device that was going to kill all mutantkind, and Jean Grey dies using her powers to keep the burst dam from killing everyone before the X-Men’s jet can take off. Everyone is safe, but sad now, although Professor Xavier senses things are not over with Jean.

Overall, X2 is counted as the best of the first three X-Men films for good reason. The stakes were higher, not everyone gets out unscathed, the villains are cast in a more sympathetic light, and not everything is what you would call black and white, cut and dried, and what have you. When we get to the end, there’s a tremendous sense of loss, but also a glimmer of hope on the horizon. X2 is a very satisfying X-Men movie, as well as an action movie in general. I still watch this one frequently, at least once every year or so, and count this as one of the few sequels that was better than the movie that preceded it. Hindsight being what it is, obviously X2 was probably the last one that fans really liked, until the First Class prequel ten years later. Regardless, I can’t think of anyone who’s a fan of the X-Men movies who haven’t seen X2 yet; if this is the case, you owe it to yourself to rectify that. Recommended.

Movie Review: The AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

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amazing spider-manColumbia Pictures
2012
PG-13

“You know, in the future, if you’re going to steal cars, don’t dress like a car thief, man.”

For the longest time, I avoided watching The Amazing Spider-Man. I didn’t want to watch a movie that I felt was completely unnecessary. It had only been ten years since the first Spider-Man film tickled my fanboy sensibilities, and to me this whole rebooting nonsense was getting ridiculous. And thus, true to my curmudgeonly ways, I held off watching The Amazing Spider-Man for a couple of years. Until now, of course. The fanboy curiosity got the best of me, finally, coincidentally when it had been on DVD long enough to be rented for cheep. Fancy that.

First things first–The Amazing Spider-Man came about not from a strong desire to reboot the franchise (though, given Spider-Man 3, I wouldn’t have been that surprised if that was the case); seems Sony was more than willing to do a Spider-Man 4 with Sam Raimi, but his schedule was a bit busy, and Sony was in danger of having the rights revert back to Marvel in the intern, so they had to go forward without Raimi; but, instead of doing SM4 without him, they opted to do an entirely new take with another director. So…okay, understandable. Personally, I think Spider-Man belongs back home at Marvel Studios, but that’s not the point.

Also, kind of wanted to point out that I’m not out to compare The Amazing Spider-Man with the 2002 adjective-less Spider-Man. I shall be reviewing this on its own merits. So, with that in mind, how did The Amazing Spider-Man fare? Did the movie do live action justice to one of my all-time favorite comic book characters? Or is this the worst thing to happen since One More Day?

The Amazing Spider-Man is your basic origin story for the character, and anyone familiar with the comics know it well: Geekity-nerd Peter Parker, unpopular with his high school comrades, but popular with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, gets bitten by an experimented-on spider while at a science lab, and suddenly finds himself going through puberty…er, I mean, gaining the proportional speed and agility of spider, and using that power to be a jerk to his loved ones (are we sure his isn’t puberty, here?). His Uncle Ben dies at the hands of the thief Peter could have stopped but didn’t (see: “jerk”), and thus becomes the Luchador-esque crime fighter known as Spider-Man. Just in time, too, because his scientist mentor has taken a formula to regrow his arm, which it has…along with turning the rest of him into a lizard person. And in the process of trying to take down the Lizard, his crush’s police chief father gets caught in the crossfire, all the while learning the hard way that with great something-something comes great something-or-other. I haven’t worked that part out yet…

I found Amazing Spider-Man…well, not terrible. Not unwatchable. There was a lot of action, a lot of things going on, we get yet another variation of the origin story and such. Andrew Garfield did okay as Peter Parker; however, writing this after watching Spider-Man: Homecoming, I can’t help but compare him to what I now consider the definitive big screen Peter Parker…and he ranks a bit below Tobey Maguire still. I did enjoy the incorporation of The Lizard as the antagonist this go-around; overall, though, it seemed a bit more flash and a not much more than that. It was entertaining, and that was that. Worth a rental, I would say.

Movie Review: BLACK PANTHER

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black pantherMarvel Studios
2018
PG-13

“If you say one more word, I’ll feed you to my children! I’m kidding, we’re vegitarians.”

It’s been ten years since Marvel Studios kicked off their own private Cinematic Universe with Iron Man. Hard to believe we’ve come this far, with far more hits than misses under their belt. And here we are, finally with a proper introduction to the Black Panther.

It probably goes without saying (but I’mma say it anyway) that my familiarity with the Black Panther is rudimentary at best — a superhero king of Wakanda, a small reclusive east African country which is deceptively more advanced than advertised, due to being situated on the only deposit of Vibranium in the world. Of course, this knowledge of the comic character was gleaned more from the various Marvel encyclopedias and comic book online resources than having actually collected the comic books themselves. But, that goes for most of the Marvel character movies, really.

With the Black Panther, I’ve learned my lesson with the other Marvel movies I initially passed on watching in the theater due to my stupid notion that, since I didn’t care about the comic books themselves, I wouldn’t really like the movies, and went to see this in the theaters with the Exalted Geeks on opening weekend, and let the movie speak for itself, to entertain or not, all on its own merits. And once again, Black Panther proved to be not only entertaining, but manages to be more than the sum of its parts.

The story of Black Panther takes place immediately after the events in Captain America: Civil War; T’Challa is heading back to Wakanda to attend his coronation as king and officially take up the mantle of the Black Panther. His first act as king is recovering a bit of stolen Vibranium from the same black market arms dealer that was disarmed (literally) in Age Of Ultron. They capture the arms dealer, but then he’s broken out of custody by a mysterious missionary with a Wakandan ring. The mystery of this particular individual vexes T’Challa, until the mystery guy shows up explaining that he’s the son of the previous king’s brother who was slain in the movie’s opening flashback. He goes by the name of Killmonger now, and he’s now here to challenge T’Challa for the throne. And things go well…for Killmonger, who tosses T’Challa over the edge of a deep chasm, and immediately implements some changes in the way things go in Wakanda. Namely, by supplying Vibranium technology to other countries, and taking over the world. You know, the usual supervillain stuff. Oh, and he also has the special plants that provide the Black Panther powers destroyed. Because…I don’t know, he was planning on living forever, I guess? But, fortunately, one of the plants is secretly saved by T’Challa’s remaining family, and is taken to an independent tribe where — surprise! — T’Challa is not dead, but is in a coma! Yeah, kinda saw that one coming, really. So then, he gets better, thanks to that plant, and it’s off to liberate Wakanda from Killmonger with an EPIC BATTLE SEQUENCE! Then there’s the mid-credits and end-credits scenes, then you can go use the potty and go home.

I’m starting to sound like the proverbial broken record with these things, but I’ll repeat it anyway: despite not having much interest in the comic books this movie was built from, Black Panther proved to be far more interesting and entertaining than it should have been. There are several very compelling characters in this movie, not just the title character, which lends to a depth in the story beyond the standard good guy vs. bad guy formula. Of course,this is a Marvel movie, and not just a character piece, and the action scenes more than provide the adequate adrenaline fix. Just the casino scene alone is worth the price of the admission, but then the ending battle will leave you needing a cigarette, even if you’ve never smoked in your life. I have to say that, as far as favorite characters go, the two that I loved were the returning Ulysses Klaue, who pretty much stole every scene he was in with his manic glee, and Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, who also steals the scenes she’s in with her snarky wit and intelligence, and while not only is the movie’s Q-like inventor of all the gadgets, but proves she can kick butt along with the best of them.

With Black Panther, we have a movie that left me with my jaw gaping open on more than one occasion. The visuals are gorgeous, the characters have depth beyond archetypes, and the action will leave you breathless. Is Black Panther the best Marvel movie of the bunch? Eh, I still contend that Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 is still the best, but Black Panther cuts a very, very close second. Highly recommended to watch while it’s still in the theaters.

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