Tag Archives: Spider-Man: Homecoming

The See It or Skip It Guide To the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase Three (So Far)

Note: If you haven’t read my guide for Phases One and Two, I recommend you do so before looking over this post. You can read them here and here.

Here were are folks. Avengers: Infinity War releases on April 27th, three weeks from now. I just saw Black Panther a second time and it’s crazy to think that we’re almost at the main event. We’re in a unique position with Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in that it’s not done yet. Even after Infinity War releases, there’s still three more films, including another Avengers film to wrap it all up. As such, I’ve had to base the See it or Skip it verdict on predictions based on Infinity War‘s marketing and certain details found in the films, so I’m sure I’ll have to come back and update this post at some point.

It’s been a lot of fun writing this up and I thank you all for humoring me by reading it. Let’s not waste anymore time; there’s movie watching to be done! Here are the films in Phase Three (so far) that you must see.

 

Captain America: Civil War

civil war

Synopsis: The UN has decided that the Avengers and all other superpowered beings must be put under control by a special panel following the destruction seen in previous films. Tony Stark supports this while Steve Rodgers opposes, and the Avengers fraction as a result.

Importance to the MCU: This movie is as much an Avengers film as it is a Captain America film. It changes the status quo of the MCU more so than any film before it and sets up the whole arc for Phase Three. It also follows through on the Winter Soldier storyline from the previous Captain America film, which is very important not only for Cap himself, but for many other characters as well. And speaking of characters, this movie is full of them, including a few newcomers: T’Challa a.k.a. Black Panther and Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man. Believe me, seeing all these character on screen at once is one of the most exciting and awesome things you’ll see in these films.

Verdict: See it. If you can only watch one of the Phase Three films before Infinity War, it better be this one.

 

Doctor Strange

doctor_strange_poster

Synopsis: When neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) injures his hands in a car wreck, he goes on a journey of healing that leads him to the Ancient One, who trains him in the mystic arts.

Importance to the MCU: Doctor Strange opens the door to some crazy shit. Magic and alternate dimensions is something we’ve yet to see at this point, and the list of implications of what it means for MCU is endless. There’s also another Infinity Stone present in the film. With all that said, it’s too early to tell just how important Strange will be in Infinity War. It’s certainly a good movie though.

Verdict: I’m going with either or on this oneI would recommend erring on the side of caution and watching it, but if you’re looking to cut out as few movies as possible, I have a feeling you’ll be okay. Plus, Strange makes an appearance in a later film you’ll find below.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

guardians of the galaxy 2

Synopsis: The Guardians have a lot on their plate, but chief among them is meeting a man named Ego (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Peter Quill’s long lost father.

Importance to the MCU: Vol. 2 is just as good as the first film and it resolves and develops several character arcs. However, I don’t see it as being an essential watch. There’s not much that happens that I consider a need-to-know thing. Obviously if you loved the first movie you’re gonna want to watch it, but if you’re just trying to trim down your watchlist, you’ll be fine without it.

Verdict: Skip it unless you really liked the first film and want more.

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming

homecoming

Synopsis: Following the events of Civil War, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is eager to move onto bigger things outside of the petty crimes of New York City. That bigger thing comes in the form of Adrian Toomes a.k.a. Vulture (Michael Keaton).

Importance to the MCU: Here’s another film more about character development. Seeing Peter struggle with not being an Avenger is a fun arc to watch unfold and he bumps heads with Tony Stark on more than one occasion. Vulture is also one of the better villains the MCU has to offer, no small thanks to Keaton. All that said, this film isn’t that important. You know who Spider-Man is and what he can do, so unless you’re a big fan you’re not missing a lot here.

Verdict: A fun film, but it’s a skip unless you’re a big Spidey fan.

 

Thor: Ragnarok

thor

Synopsis: When Hela, Goddess of Death, takes over Asgard, Thor must fight his way back to his home and put a stop to her reign. He’ll have to endure several challenges first, including an encounter with The Hulk.

Importance to the MCU: It’s the best Thor film first of all. It’s also important for the arcs of several characters including Thor himself, Loki, and Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Most importantly, it leads directly into Infinity War, so you’re going to want to watch this to know what’s going on.

Verdict: See it.

 

Black Panther

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Synopsis: T’Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther, assumes the mantle of King of Wakanda following the events of Captain America: Civil War. Not everything thinks he deserves the title, especially Erik Killmonger. T’Challa must face his new adversary and decide how he will use his power to help the world.

Importance to the MCU: Wakanda has been hinted at as far back as Avengers: Age of Ultron. The implications of such a technological utopia means a lot could happen in the MCU’s future. It’s also clear that Black Panther is going to be an even more prominent hero in future films. As far as Infinity War goes, Wakanda has been featured heavily in the film’s marketing, so you’ll want to be familiar with the world and its characters.

Verdict: See it. It’s still in theaters as of today, April 6th. However, if you’re not going to get the chance or you just don’t want to for some reason, that doesn’t mean you’ll be completely lost in Infinity War. You might just need someone to help fill in the gaps for you.

 

Avengers: Infinity War

avengers-infinity-war-imax-720x1045

Synopsis: Thanos, the Mad Titan, seeks to gather the Infinity Stones and bring untold destruction upon the universe. Heroes from all corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe must come together to stop him.

Importance to the MCU: Do I even need to tell how how important this film is going to be? It’s the whole reason I’ve been writing these guides the past five months or so. The only film that’s going to be more important than this film is the next Avengers film coming in 2019.

Verdict: See it. Obviously.

Now, let’s take a final look at all the films that I’ve dubbed as essential viewing for Infinity War:

Iron Man
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Avengers
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy (at some point before Infinity War)
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Captain America: Civil War
Thor: Ragnorok
Black Panther

Nine films out of a total eighteen. Now, hopefully you’ve watched at least a few of these movies by now. If not, well, you still have time to plow through them all.

Aaaaand that’s it! The See it or Skip it guide is complete! Well, at least for now. There are three more films in Phase Three, including another Avengers film that will very likely mark the end of an era. For reference, here are the rest of the films that will round of Phase Three of the MCU:

Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 6th 2018)
Captain Marvel (March 8th 2019)
Untitled Avengers Film (May 3 2019)

I’ll be sure to update the guide with the release of each film. Until then, enjoy your movie marathon! Expect to see my thoughts on Avengers: Infinity War soon!

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The Good Bits: July 2017

This month was stuffed.

Music:

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Murder of the Universe (ATO)

king gizzard

I have seen King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard pop up so many times this year that it was inevitable I was going to finally dig into one of their records. Two of a planned five have been released so far this year, and Murder of the Universe is the second of the two. I listened to the first release, Flying Microtonal Banana, and found it good, but didn’t really spend a lot of time with it to merit a write up. Murder of the Universe, on the either hand, splits the album into three different stories that had me enthralled from the opening tracks. The band’s sound is the equivalent to a kaleidoscope, covering your ears like a psychedelic blanket and cradling you through a tunnel of many shapes and colors. The narration from Leah Senior ties the whole album together and helps evoke that storyteller atmosphere.

 

Film:

Dunkirk

Dunkirk_Film_poster

Christopher Nolan boasts one of the best directorial track records in film history, but he’s not without detractors. One critique that pops up often is that he’s too clinical and clean in his approach and it consequentially results in a cold, emotionless film. It stands to reason then that people might scoff at the idea of a PG-13 Nolan-directed World War II film, a genre that’s usually stuffed with intense bloody violence in order depict the horrors war. Now, I’m not trying to knock the violence films like Saving Private Ryan or Hacksaw Ridge (haven’t seen it, heard it’s gory as hell) because, yeah, that shit was probably bloody as hell. But don’t we already know by now war is pretty horrific? Isn’t it possible for a war film to grip you without intestines being spilled everywhere? Yes, yes it is, because Nolan has done just that.

Dunkirk depicts three different stories: the British Army stranded on the beach in Dunkirk, France; the British civilians sailing across the channel, and the pilots in the air. These stories are shown in a non-linear fashion, meaning that the scenes don’t all sync up until near the end of the movie. It’s actually not as confusing as it sounds as long as you pay attention and consider the three stories separate from each other until you start to see the connecting threads. And you will be paying attention because this film is goddamn tense almost the whole time, even when there isn’t any real action happening. The relatively quick and clean runtime of 106 minutes offers up a film without any filler or overly flashy action sequences (though the dogfight scenes are pretty kickass). The boys are trying to get home. That is the single driving force of the film and it stays that way.

Nolan apparently once expressed a desire to make the film without a screenplay, and it shows in the films subtle lack of dialogue. This helps to strip away the Hollywoodness, if you will, of other war films, instead choosing to focus on the situation at hand. It also means the film doesn’t rely on its star power too much; Tom Hardy’s RAF pilot doesn’t feel any more or less important than Fionn Whitehead’s private on the beach. They’re all soldiers made of flesh and blood, and everything they do be it as simple as running or difficult as dogfighting feels like it matters. Every second feels like it matters. Honestly, this is a top contender for my film of the year, and I know that’s going to merit a few eyerolls from people who think I’m a Nolan fanboy or that the film is overrated. You’re fine to dislike it however much you want, but Dunkirk is a real winner for me.

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming 

homecoming

Sam Raimi’s 2002 iteration of Spider-Man is to me what what Tim Burton’s Batman was to many a comic book fan in 1989. The web head’s triumphant big screen debut is one of my very favorite superhero films, and all three of Raimi’s films (yes, three) have stuck with me in every discussion of what makes a good (and in some cases, not so good) superhero movie. Now, here comes the part where you expect me to talk about how much I hated the Garfield films when, as a matter of fact, I haven’t seen either of them; I just never got around to it and over time I wondered what the point would be. Neither of them looked particularly interesting to me, at least not compared to other superhero movies coming out at the time. Then the franchise got rebooted again when Spidey appeared in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, and there was much rejoicing over the character joining the MCU. However, now that his new solo film is out, I’ve also heard many people complain about how, in the span of fifteen years, there have been six Spider-Man films (seven if you want to count Civil War) with three different actors. Why so much Spider-Man dammit? Why can’t they come up with new ideas? Well, welcome to modern Hollywood, first of all. Second, don’t just write this one off: Spider-Man: Homecoming is a fun movie that dials down the high stakes of previous Marvel films in favor of focusing on New York City and it’s friendly neighborhood…well, you know.

In case you’re having a hard time figuring out where we’re at this time around, Peter Parker is a sophomore in high school fresh off being recruited by Tony Stark to fight Captain America and several other heroes. After getting that taste of action, Peter finds himself bored taking care of small time crime in NYC and longs to tackle something bigger and badder which comes in the form of Adrian Toomes a.k.a. the Vulture. What follows is a film with a few familiar but effective story beats (Peter has to balance the lives of both identities, great power and great responsibility), some nods to the rest of the MCU, (most notably Robert Downey Jr. reprising his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man), and a small twist that makes for an exciting third act.

Tom Holland is great. His Peter Parker is sufficiently nerdy but endearing while his Spider-Man is cool and funny, but also spends plenty of time learning to grow as a hero. And while the film’s marketing suggests that it’s also Iron Man 3.5, Tony Stark keeps his appearances short but effective. But, for me, it’s Michael Keaton who steals the show as the Vulture. Many MCU villains that aren’t Loki tend to be menacing, but also fairly one-note and disposable. Keaton, on the other hand, isn’t really straight-up evil: he’s mostly just a pissed off regular dude who happens to be really good at building shit, not unlike Tony Stark. He presence even becomes genuinely nerve-wracking during one particular scene. The rest of the cast, particularly Peter’s school friends, is great too and give the film a lot of humor and personality. Sadly, Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May gets the short end of the stick when it comes to screen time. That’s probably my biggest gripe with the film since Aunt May is such a comforting figure in Peter’s life and I really like Tomei in the role, but she never gets a memorable moment like Rosemary Harris in the Raimi films.

Other reviews have taken issue with Homecoming‘s impact on the MCU in that it doesn’t really have an impact. But that’s fine. Not every movie has to be as game-changing as Avengers or Civil War. If every movie tried to create a tectonic shift in the MCU it would get boring and those tectonic shifts wouldn’t be meaningful anymore. Homecoming, meanwhile, is a welcome return to form for Spider-Man and a refreshing entry in the MCU that looks out for the little guys and saves the big ones for later.

 

War for the Planet of the Apes 

War_for_the_Planet_of_the_Apes_poster

I’m sure I’m not the only one who was pleasantly surprised by 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a reboot of an old franchise with a focus on motion capture that had plenty of reasons to go wrong, but ended up being a well-executed sci-fi film. The sequel, 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, had an even bigger focus on motion capture while also bumping up the scale and action. With the release of War for the Planet of the Apes, we find ourselves at the end of a trilogy, though not necessarily the end of Apes films. Still, War for the Planet of the Apes carries on the series’ penchant for defying expectations by delivering a solid conclusion and cementing the reboot films as some of the finest action/sci-fi of the decade.

War continues the series’ trend of making you absolutely  hate humans but love a bunch of mo-cap apes. Andy Serkis had proven himself time and time again, but in his third outing as ape leader Caesar he essentially depicts an tired, aging warrior in ape form, weary of the many years he’s spent fighting to keep his people safe. It’s a bleak but remarkable performance. Woody Harrelson portrays the Colonel, who seems like just another straightup jingo jackass on the surface, but when you get some insight into his motivations it makes the world of black and white go gray. The standout performance, however, is Steve Zahn as the “Bad Ape”, offering up some much needed comic relief in sympathetic form. Amiah Miller is Nova, the girl you’ve seen in the trailers, and she’s understated but adorable.

One of the biggest reasons for the film’s success is that it didn’t fall victim to the “go all out for the third film” trope that sometimes hampers trilogies. War is as big as it needs to be and no more, with a range of action and emotion faithful to the series without trying to blow the lid off. The only sticking point some might have with the film is that the marketing is a tad misleading. Without getting too spoilery, the trailer (and title) give the impression that the apes and human are going head to head in one final war, but that’s not actually the focus, nor is it really what happens. Oh, they do fight of course, but don’t expect a full on war movie. You’ll be very happy with what you do get though. Also, in a world where blockbuster soundtracks have grown less remarkable, Michael Giacchino’s score is a big plus here.

 

Books:

Abhorsen by Garth Nix

Abhorsen

I finally finished the final book in the Abhorsen trilogy earlier in July, thus concluding my journey through three of my fiancée’s favorite fantasy books. Despite most of the book being falling action, it took me a while to get through it. I’m a slow reader by nature, and with increased writing workload I’ve only gotten slower. Eventually, I found the time to just sit and plunge through this last book and my thoughts are similar to those of the first book Sabriel: beautifully written with a satisfying tying up of plot threads, but I wish I could have stayed a bit longer. As soon as the conflict is over, the story doesn’t linger long before it ends. There’s no “20 years later” epilogue that allows you to confirm all the characters are still doing okay, and while such a thing is certainly not necessary, I kind of wanted it. I don’t hold it against the book all, but I suppose it’s just one of those bittersweet things about finishing a very good book: you’re not always ready to leave and you’re always reluctant to turn that last page and reveal the back cover. That being said, Abhorsen delivers a conclusion with all the spectacle and magic that Nix is known for, and I’m glad to have taken the time to experience it.

 

The Boy On The Bridge by M.R. Carey

the boy on the bridge

This time last year I’d just finished reading The Girl With All The Gifts, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel that was well-written and fresh compared to the rest of the overdone zombie genre. Now I’ve just finished reading The Boy On The Bridge, which is something of a psudo-sequel/prequel/parallel set in the same zombie (called “hungries” in the novel”) infested United Kingdom as its predecessor. The book does not focus on characters from The Girl With All The Gifts, but rather a new cast of characters composed of soldiers and scientists working (sort of) together in a mobile lab to find a cure for the hungry epidemic.

At first, getting into the book took a bit of time; the story assumes you’ve read the previous book, which is fair enough, but it’s not as gradual as The Girl With All The Gifts, which started small and then opened up as the story progressed. So while you theoretically could read The Boy On The Bridge first since it’s so far removed from the events of Girl, I’d say read the previous book before picking this up. But man, once the shit hits the fan this book just rockets forward and you will not want to stop. The characters are a mixed bag of personalities and, as such, feel very believable during the teams various trials and tribulations. For me, Carey’s prose is the star of the show here, chock full of descriptions and metaphors that merited an audible reaction.

It’s hard to imagine where Carey could go with this world after The Boy On The Bridge, but if he does, I’ll be very intrigued to see what comes next. And if this is the last we’ll see of this world, then these two books will stand as some of the best zombie-media you could ever hope to experience.

 

Currently Reading:

It by Stephen King

It_cover

I’m continuing my journey through King’ bibliography. I’d love to finish reading this before the film comes out in a month, but with 1,000 plus pages, I’m tempering my expectations.

 

Currently Watching:

Breaking Bad Season 1

Better late than never, right?

 

Currently Playing:

Uh, nothing really. I haven’t really playing much in the past month. We’ll see if I get back into it.

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