Category Archives: Movie Review

The New Hero on the Block: A Review of Captain Marvel

Move over boys, there’s plenty of room in this galaxy for the fiercest female superhero to appear in many years.  Captain Marvel, the latest addition to the Marvel universe saga, hit theaters last week and the title character, played by Brie Larson, lives up to the moniker.

This movie is set mostly in 1995, which means chronologically it predates the events presented in any of the other Marvel movie storylines except for the one detailing the origins of Captain America.  A much younger (thanks to CGI) Nick Fury is already in place as the head of SHEILD, but the organization has not yet developed its mandate to stop alien threats, mostly because it is not yet aware of their existence.

Fury, accompanied by “the new guy” Phil Coulson, is unprepared for his first encounter with the green-skinned alien shapeshifters called The Skrull, but he is smart enough to recognize that there’s more than meets the eye to the mysterious young woman who claims to be hunting them as a member of the Kree defense force.  Ready or not, Earth is about to become a battle ground between these two alien races, both previously introduced in other Marvel movies.

What follows is a story of loss, betrayal, and battles both on land and in space as Carol “Vers” Danvers has to piece together lost memories to determine who she really is, and which side in a galactic war is actually a threat to not only humanity, but the galaxy at large.  The powers she acquires, and the ease with which she wields them, prove her to be more than a match for any of the previously shown Marvel heroes or villains.

Brie Larson (Captain Marvel) and Lashana Lynch as fellow pilot Maria Rambeau in a scene from the new movie.  From imbd.com

This movie seemingly attempts to raise the quota of female characters in the Marvel franchise.  In addition to a female lead with mind-blowing abilities, there are also featured two hardcore female test pilots, a (deceased) female scientist who was actually an undercover Kree agent, a female supreme being of the Kree race, and a female Kree warrior for Carol to face off against.  Despite the occasional estrogen overload, though, the central story is more about overcoming limits and finding the hero inside one’s self.

Spoilers: those invested in the Marvel universe will be very interested in the fine details scattered about the movie, including; the true story about how Fury lost his eye, the origin of the name “Avengers,” and the fate of the Tesseract after it was sunk in the ocean during Captain America and before it appeared in the desert in Thor.

I loved this new version of Captain Marvel, and am now even more pumped for the conclusion to the Marvel epic, Avengers: Endgame, which is coming in April.  Captain Marvel is currently showing at a theater near you.

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A Supernatural Love Story: The Shape of Water: A Movie Review

Over the past weekend the hubby and I found time to sit down and relax with a movie, not realizing at first how appropriate this supernatural fantasy would be for the coming Valentine’s Day week.

What followed was an amazing, mesmerizing tale featuring on two main characters, played by Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones, both of whom are mute, isolated in their own way, and yet are almost instantly drawn to each other in a way that defies logic or conventional interpretations of love.

Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water (2017)
A most unusual love story, from the 2017 Oscar-winning movie.  Image from imbd.com

Sally Hawkins plays Elisa Esposito, a cleaner at OCCAM Aerospace Research Center in 1962 Baltimore, who is present when Doug Jones’ character is brought in as a specimen referred to as “The Asset.”  The government and military forces running the facility are desperate to “get ahead” of the Soviets in the space race, and believe they can do so by studying, and eventually dissecting, an amphibious man captured from South America.  Coincidentally or not, “The Asset” has a very similar look, and is played by the same actor, who played Abe Sapien in another del Toro film, Hellboy.

The director of the facility, Strickland, played by Michael Shannon, has tortured The Asset, who is response has bitten off two of Strickland’s fingers; even knowing this Elisa doesn’t fear him, instead she spends her lunch breaks visiting him.  The amphibious man and the cleaning lady bond over hard-boiled eggs, music, and sign language, and when Elisa overhears plans to terminate her friend, immediately plans to free him.

Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water (2017)
The start of friendship, or true love?  Image from imbd.com

Elisa finds allies in her cleaning partner, Zelda (Octavia Spencer), her neighbor Giles (Richard Genkins), and strangely a Soviet spy (Michael Stuhlbarg), whose love of science outweighs his loyalty to his native country.

Freed from the facility in a daring escape, The Asset goes home with Elisa, where she tends his injuries, and is drawn ever closer to her, as he shares with her and Giles abilities that defy explanation, and create a deep bond between them.  They know their time together is to be short though, because when the rains overflow the canal in Boston harbor, The Asset will finally be able to flee to the sea, and safety, from Strickland who is still hunting him.

The action sequences are well-done, the visuals are spectacular, and the surprisingly sweet and romantic turns of the plot are very well done.  Of course, I am not alone in my opinions: The Shape of Water won Oscars in 2018 for both Best Picture and Best Director.  There was also a book, written by del Toro and Daniel Kraus, of which publication followed the movie (in 2018) but from all sources is not merely a movie novelization, rather a much more in-depth exploration of the story as conceived by Kraus.

I think this movie, which has been called an adult fairy tale, is a perfect romantic story for those who don’t mind a little fantasy with their romance.  Check it out this week on Redbox or HBO, and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Movie Review: Ralph Breaks the Internet

The hubby and I actually went out to see a movie last week, instead of waiting till it came to us via Netflix or Redbox, and were charmed with the film we chose.  For those who grew up during the era games like Pac-Man were the latest craze, visiting Litwak’s arcade is like a trip down memory lane.

While technological changes from old-fashioned video games to the burgeoning Internet plays a role in the movie, this sequel to Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph, focuses less on that and more in the character development of its principles, nice “Bad Guy” Ralph, and his bestie Princess Vanellope, a race car driver from the overly sweet “Candy Crush.”

When an accident damages Vanellope’s vintage console, Ralph and Vanellope undertake a trip through a new addition to the arcade, a network connection, in order to locate a replacement steering wheel from E-bay. What they find in this new world will alternately amaze and horrify Ralph, while Vanellope soon finds herself longing to stay.

While Ralph is perfectly happy with the way things are and doesn’t want to change anything about his life or his friendship with Vanellope, she is struggling with the monotony of her unchanging environment in the arcade.  Ralph wants to make Vanellope happy, and goes to great lengths to help her fulfill her dreams, and then nearly destroys them, along with the entire Internet, when his own insecurities and possessive behavior come into play.

This version of Vanellope is still adorable; but is experiencing angst that comes from the struggle to come into her own.  She is bored with the current track options of her own game, and quickly becomes enamored when introduced to “Slaughter Race,” a game for more “mature” audiences, and especially its own leading lady, a female racer named Shank.  She regards Ralph as her best friend, but is learning that it’s okay to grow and try things on her own.

They will have to learn to be honest with each other, and accept that it’s okay to want different things, in order to save their friendship and stop the virus destroying the Internet.

One of the highlights for me was the scene where Vanellope accidentally finds her way into the dressing room of the “other” Disney princesses, who then assist in saving the day, or rather the “hero” in distress, Ralph!

This is movie is rated PG, though the climax with the attacking “Ralph” virus may be scary for some younger viewers, and is in theaters now.

No More Damsels in Distress-Equal Opportunity Heroes on Skull Island

This past weekend my husband and I took in our first big “summer blockbuster” of the year, Kong: Skull Island.  I hadn’t read any reviews of the movie prior to the show, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was not merely a sequel or remake of Peter Jackson’s 2005 epic.  Instead, Kong featured an original story that offered plenty of action coupled with a well-developed plot (though the latter was somewhat obscured by the overwhelming special effects).

Set roughly forty years later than the last cinematic delivery of the giant ape, Kong touches on the 1970s world of chaos embodying war protesters and political upheaval, scientific leaps and social change.  In this environment, a group of researchers pitch the need to uncover the secrets of a lost island “before the Russians do.”

Brie Larson as Mason Weaver, firing a flare gun.  Photo courtesy of rottentomatoes.com

I was gratified that the female cast was not relegated to the role of damsels in distress, as in the classic versions of the giant monster genre.  Leading actress Brie Larson, who, at first glance appears to fit the stereotype of the beautiful blonde traditionally captured by the giant ape; ably held her own with the boys in pitched fights against the monster baddies.  Actually it was her character, Mason Weaver, a war photographer, who finished off the first of the creepy, two legged giant skull crawlers the group of scientists and soldiers encountered, with plenty of help from James Conrad, played by costar Tom Hiddleston.

Though female leads in action films have become somewhat more common in the last decade, thanks to series such as Resident Evil and Underworld, they are still not the norm whenever mammoth monsters take center stage.  It is indeed refreshing to see a female character that is portrayed as competent, resourceful, and just as brave as her male companions.

Larson’s character did later get up close and personal with the big guy, an encounter which showed that Kong truly was not the antagonist, but rather a tragic hero in his own right.  It was her empathy and insight, coupled with the intuition and heroism of Hiddleston’s character, which led to the confrontation with Col. Packard, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Prejudiced due to his experience in the Vietnam War and the opening encounter with the giant ape, the Colonel had failed to understand that Kong was not the enemy, and almost caused a disaster as he tried to destroy their would-be protector.  Larson struck a decisive blow in the penultimate battle that saw the remaining humans ally with Kong against the granddaddy of the skull crawlers for ultimate survival.

Overall, Kong was a rare movie worth the outrageous price of the 3D ticket.  I would recommend it to any fans of monster movie or action genres.

Happy viewing,

Amy