Category Archives: superheroes

Black Panther Action-packed

Black Panther poster 1 Marvel’s quality seems to be getting better with every new film they release. The Black Panther has set a new zenith that will probably not be eclipsed until “Infinity War” hits theaters in a few months. This film was well written, visually stunning, and acting was top-notch. It took a few liberties with the comic book character but was handled so cleverly that we hardly noticed. I may go see it again, in 3D, to get the full effect.

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) must take over as king of Wakanda when his father dies in an explosion at U.N. headquarters (as seen in Captain America: Civil War). T’Challa is heir to a centuries old birthright to become The Black Panther following his father in a ritual that involves consuming a drink from a heart-shaped plant affected by the massive deposit of a metal called vibranium when a meteor crashed into Africa long ago. The Wakandans have used the vibranium to develop incredible technology and weapons, all the while remaining invisibly shielded from the outside world as they present the fascia of being a poor third world country.

Black Panther 3 A subplot is introduced early as in 1992, Prince N’Jobu’s son, N’Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan) wants to supplant T’Challa as king and use Wakanda’s weaponry to stage an African-American empire under his command. This man is a black ops soldier who goes by the name of Killmonger. If the plotline was followed verbatim, Killmonger would probably be a genetically enhanced warrior created by Hydra, but this angle is never fully explored. The movie deviates a bit here by stating N’Jobu, Zuri (as an adult played by Forest Whitaker), and N’Jobu’s son Erik (Jordan plays the adult version) get involved in a skirmish that interacts heavily with the rest of the story.

Black Panther 9 From there, yet another subplot carries things along as a black market arms dealer , Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) is identified as the man who stole some vibranium from Wakanda. He is wanted by the Wakandans for that theft, so T’Challa tracks him to a South Korean underground casino with Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) his former lover, and special forces warrior Okoye (Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira), and a fierce fight ensues, resulting in Klaue getting away, even after a heart-pounding chase.

Black Panther 8 Another character who figures prominently is T’Challa’s 16-year old sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), whose primary duty is developing new technology for Wakanda. At one point, she refers to wounded CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) as “another broken white boy to fix”. This refers back to the post-credit scene in “Civil War” where Bucky Barnes is shown to have been taken to Wakanda to repair his battered body and mind.

The fight scenes are smartly choreographed and well-spaced in the film to allow plot and action to flow continuously. The cast includes Angela Bassett as Ramonda, T’Challa’s mother and Queen, Sebastian Stan appearing as Bucky Barnes in a post-credit scene, and Marvel boss Stan Lee, whose mandated cameo as a gambler in the casino evokes the necessary comedy angle. One post-credit scene obviously hints that Wakandan technology will be used in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. This, I repeat, may be the best Marvel movie ever.




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Justice League Almost Great

Justice League 4

First off, let me say that for us JL purists, this is not exactly a Justice League film. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) didn’t get involved with the league until near the onset of the 21st century. Where are Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter (both scheduled for the sequel), Hawkman and The Atom? The villain here, Steppenwolf, was basterdised from a fairly new JL storyline, but was defeated thousands of years ago by a combined army of Amazons, Atlanteans, humans, and gods (who appear to have included at least one Green Lantern Corps member).

Justice League 6

Batman (Ben Affleck) knows this from Lex Luthor’s notes left behind in “Batman vs Superman”, and he tries to put a team together with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to defeat the villain. He goes to Iceland to track down Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), who says he works better alone and turns him down. We later get reintroduced to Aquaman when Steppenwolf steals the Atlantean box. The three boxes are a source of pure energy that will allow the demonic villain to reshape Earth and replace humanity with his parademons.

Justice League 7

Barry Allen/Flash (Ezra Miller) is more receptive. He is brilliantly cast here as a bit of a nerd. He tells Bruce he “needs friends” because he doesn’t quite get people. Also, he hates bugs , finds taller people intimidating, and has never been in a real fight, having mostly pushed people around. He becomes the film’s comedy relief.

There are plenty of violent but bloodless fight scenes, highlighted by crisp CGI effects and action that rivals any of the Marvel films. The script also is helped by a healthy dose of levity, such as when Barry asks Bruce what his super power is and Bruce replies “I’m rich”. After the villain is defeated with the help of the revived Superman, we cut to a shot of Bruce showing Alfred and Diana where the new League headquarters will be and end on a light note as Flash has challenged Superman to a race  If this is the future of the DC universe, bring it on.

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Wonder Woman—DC Does Superhero Right

Wonder Woman 4 When DC decided we needed to see a totally new superhero for the Justice League films, they opted for Wonder Woman (portrayed by Gal Gadot, as seen in Batman vsSuperman) and decided to do it right. The tease we got in B vs S hit on all cylinders by giving us a lady who’s not a “where’s the guy who’ll save me” female, but rather a super powerful demigod. Then they gave the directing job to Patty Jenkins and gave her a dynamic co star in Chris Pine’s Captain Steve Trevor.

Wonder Woman 3 Here, the story deviates a bit from the comics as the story is set during World War I rather than the Second World War. Tying in the story with the entire DC Universe  is the story’s opening in Paris’ Louvre Museum where a Wayne Enterprises truck delivers a package to Diana Prince. The package contains the WWI photo we saw in B vs S, and a note from Wayne that he found the included original pic and hopes she’ll tell him the whole story about it. This gets Diana reminiscing about the past as we enter her thoughts as she relives her youth on Paradise Island (here called by the original name of Themyscira, the Greek name in mythology). The deftly handled banter between characters fleshes out the story about the origins of man, the Amazons, Zeus and Ares (Mars), the god of war, as well as how Diana secretly trains to become a warrior. Queen Hyppolita, who fashioned Diana from clay and is perhaps overly protective of her sculpted daughter, first refuses to have Diana learn to fight, but after Trevor crashes near the island in a German plane, Axis soldiers land on the island by boat and a vicious fight ensues which convinces Hyppolita that Diana is the one named in legend to defeat Ares and restore world peace, a job that will require her to enter the world of men.

Wonder Woman 2 Trevor and Diana wind up in London, the headquarters for the Allied forces, and here we get some light-hearted yet historically accurate flavour as Diana acquires “modern” clothes and complains “How does a woman fight in these clothes?”, then gets snubbed and practically gets thrown out of a “men only” war briefing. Trevor gets help from Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis) to sneak into Belgium and pull off a commando raid to neutralise the new weapon Mustard Gas (a real WWI biological weapon). Here follow several armed encounters, some on horseback, which is also historically accurate for WWI field combat.

Wonder Woman 1 Diana eventually goes one-on-one with Sir Morgan, who is actually the God of War who is using the War as a subplot to corrupt all of mankind. Trevor winds up giving his life for the cause, and we finish the story with Diana looking at the old WWI photo. This should hold us until later this year when the Justice League movie finally reaches us. This movie does a great job at story telling and is the best DC superhero film to date. Let’s hope it’s a springboard for better DC Universe films.

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Spider-Man Homecoming Pushes All the Right Buttons

Spider Man Homecoming 4 How does “Homecoming” tie up with the current Marvel Cinematic Universe? The film eases into it with a team working on salvaging the damage caused in Avengers Age of Ultron and briefly touching on the new building seen in upstate New York at the end of Captain America: Civil War. Michael Keaton plays Adrian Toomes, whose firm was tasked with the salvage job. He is ordered off the job by Tyne Daly, who heads Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.)’s US Department of Damage Control to recover the alien technology used in the old Avengers Tower.  Unknown to everyone, Toomes and his men have kept some of the parts and debris to build lethal weapons.

Michael Keaton As the story develops, we learn that Stark has been designing upgraded weaponry and a new costume for Peter Parker (Ton Holland) to use as Spider-Man, and his involvement in the Civil War movie was part of an “initiation process” to assess his capabilities. We see Spider-Man being relegated to minor crime fighting and helping people as he foils a bike theft and gives directions to a lady who seems lost.

Spider Man Homecoming 3 A major fly in the ointment is that Toomes is actually super criminal The Vulture, who uses highly advanced mechanical wings to get around. Here is where the action starts as Spider-Man goes one-on-one with the gang after using his friend Ned’s help to disable the suit’s tracking system so that Stark can’t see where he is. This winds up “evolving” the suit’s built-in weaponry, including a “kill protocol” that Peter keeps telling it to abort.

Further complications ensue when during a confrontation on the Staten Island Ferry, the ferry is nearly destroyed by the Vulture and his men, but is saved by Iron Man, who winds up reclaiming the Spider Suit. Peter is romantically (in his mind) involved with a girl who winds up being Toomes’ daughter. Peter decides to tackle the Vulture

Spider Man Homecoming 1 on his own with his old homemade suit and winds up beating him. This leads Stark to reconnect with Peter through his agent Happy (former Marvel movie director Jon Favreau). Stark is impressed by this feat and returns the suit to Peter, setting the scene for the sequel in 2018.

Look for Stan Lee’s cameo near the beginning of the movie, and note that the “Vulture” name is never used in the movie—we fans just know who he was. In the comics, Happy and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) were an item, Pepper leaving Tony for Happy in the stories. Also appearing is Flash, who in the comics was a Parker antagonist who wound up being a friend. The casting of fetching Marisa Tomei as Aunt May got much initial bad press, but she fits into the story very well.

Spider Man Homecoming Poster Spider-Man Homecoming is fairly long at 133 minutes, but there is little in wasted moments as the entire story flows smoothly along, dropping hints about Peter’s origin while deftly setting up new scenarios. I might add that I saw the 3D version of this film, the first 3D movie I’ve seen in over 36 years. It was a wonderful experience, since 3D has matured much in the last few decades.

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Captain America: Civil War A Hit

Just had to see this one, and I wasn’t disappointed. Civil War was probably the closest rendition of the characters as they are in the Marvel comics. In spite of all the characters having a story to tell, it was done sparingly on that angle, and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and Spider Man (Tom Holland) are the only ones to get any extended background checks.

What it boils down to is this: after the big battle in last year’s Age of Ultron caper, the United Nations decides that the Avengers must be controlled and their actions monitored. U.S. Secretary of State Ross (William Hurt) is delegated with being in charge, and he uses a lot of S.H.I.E.L.D’s technology to do so. Captain America and Iron Man become at odds over how the Feds want to capture the Cap’s friend Bucky after he’s suspected of bombing a U.N. meeting.  Various heroes align themselves with either side, and the action commences  in earnest.

There are a few surprises in store as some of the characters are recruited as the plot evolves and they are introduced and are faithful to the comics. The story of how the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) enters the fray is well handled.  Peter (Spider-Man) Parker is a revelation. He is introduced just months after going into action and gets a major makeover from Iron Man’s Stark Industries. As in the comics, he’s only a teenager who’s under the impression that this is an audition for an Avengers job, and he revels in it. He, just like in the comics, engages his opponents in a lot of banter and wisecracking comments.

An on-going story within the story involves Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), who was responsible for the death of Iron Man’s parents and the corruption of Bucky. Zemo wants to destroy the Avengers, and this is his big chance to do it. He attempts to find the place where Hydra’s Winter Soldiers were created. and this leads to the final battle between Iron Man and the Captain.

The fight scenes are exciting, highly visual, and well-spaced within the story, and the characters reveal a human side that other Marvel movies have omitted. Marvel head guy Stan Lee makes his usual cameo as a mailman, as has become his habit. If you see only one movie this year, try to make it this one. You can thank me later.

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Avengers: The Age of Ultron

Ultron 1   Ultron 2  Ultron 3     Ultron 4  The Age of Ultron is like many blockbuster movies today. It’s hard for non-comic book fans to follow, but almost everyone seeing it will have a good time. This one opens up with the Avengers raiding a Hydra base in a fictional Iron Curtain country. as the raid goes down we get fed bits of information—this is a raid to recover Loki’s scepter, which can unleash great power. This is the last known Hydra base. SHIELD has been disbanded—getting all this, or were you too busy watching the guys in action to notice? The Avengers win, or do they really? Then the opening credits start to roll.

We are introduced to twin siblings, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, who are working on the side of Hydra at this time. Scarlet Witch casts a spell on Tony (Iron Man) Stark, causing him to dupe Bruce (Hulk) Banner to help him build what turns out to be Ultron, a mighty artificial intelligence bent on destroying the world with the help of Quicksilver and the Witch, the latter of who causes havoc by planting illusions in their brains. This leads to Hulk running amok until Iron Man neutralises him with his “Hulkbuster” armor. The Avengers go into hiding to regroup. This is where Nick Fury finds them and shames them into getting back in the fight. All except Thor, who has struck out on his own to seek out a man who can help him.

The group tracks down Ultron in the old Hydra base and proceed to fight all his robot army after Stark and Banner, with Thor’s help, create the red Artificial {ntelligence being The Vision using one of the power crystals that have been showing up in previous Marvel movies of late. This ultimate fight causes a cataclysmic tear in the real estate that threatens multitudes of human lives until Nick Fury shows up with one of SHIELD;s old flying bases to save the people. Meanwhile, Vision, who has been inbedded with JARVIS’ intellect, helps wipe out Ultron’s minions and confronts Ultron one on one, but the final resolution there is only hinted at.

The movie ends with the Avengers splitting up but Captain America and Black Widow remain behind at the new Avengers headquarters to help Nick Fury train a new group of recruits, showing us where the future of the Avengers is heading. Age of Ultron is a spectacular visual treat that takes time to dabble in the personal lives of the characters and features enough comedic relief from the opening bell to keep everyone involved. the highlights are definitely the three main fight scenes—the one before the opening credits, the battle between Iron Man and Hulk, and the final battle involving all the characters.

Several years ago, the critics named the original Avengers film the best superhero movie ever, but this one surpasses it and will cause many new adjectives to be created. Batman vs Superman? This is your wake-up call.

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