Higher, Further, Faster (Captain Marvel, 2019)

Captain_Marvel_Poster

Set in the 1995, Vers is a Kree warrior.  She struggles with no memory of her life past six years.  The Kree are in a war with the shape shifting Skrulls. Vers and a few Skrulls end up on earth, and Vers is in a race against time to locate the MacGuffin. She finds herself allied with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nicholas Fury.

Vers starts to put her life back together with the aid of Fury as the Skrulls close in, all while Vers awaits the arrival of her fellow Kree.

The film is action packed. Captain Marvel (Vers) is one of the more powerful of the Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes, but hardly over powered.  The action sequences are pretty exhilarating with good effects. The Skrulls are pretty cool looking, matching fairly closely their comic book counterparts. I really liked their transformation process.

The Relationship of Vers (who learns she if from earth and was named Carol) and her fellow pilot Maria works quite well. In fact, I really like the little team the film assembles. And then there is Goose the cat.  Greatest movie cat ever.

The film has Stan Lee’s final cameo and it has an extra layer if you are especially observant. Since this is set after Captain America the First Avenger and before Iron Man, there is a slight bit of prequelitis, where the film acknowledges some stuff that happens in later films. You know…answering the questions we never had. For the most part, these are unobtrusive. But there was really only one bit that really made me groan.  The film is largely self contained, so it does not lose to much focus from that.

Captain Marvel has faced some definite hurdles. It got pushed from 2017 to 2019 to make room for other films. The one other film to get moved (the Inhumans) actually went through a drastic change into a television series. Add to that a campaign against the film by certain folks who saw it as the opportunity to send a message to Disney and Marvel about “SJW Politics”. These folks also went on a crusade against star Brie Larson. Larson made a reasonable concern over a lack of diversity in journalists at press junkets, only to have people twist her words into a caricature and accusing her of saying things like she “hoped white men did not see Captain Marvel”. On Jimmy Kimmel, she joked about how she and Sam Jackson “hate the same people” and this was made out to be a reference to fandom (she made no mention of fandom).

Add in attempts to review bomb (put negative reviews of a product in order to create a false view of a majority of negativity. Often this is done to new product from creators who have committed the crime of having opinions) and the film had a bit of an uphill climb.

So…is Captain Marvel a hardcore Feminist and SJW screed?

No. In fact, if that is your perception of the film? Actual Feminism will kill you.

What the film actually is? Quite a lot of fun. No, it does not rewrite the script on the MCU. But I had a great time and the audience I saw it with were very into the film, even clapping after it ended.

 

When It All Goes Wrong (Free Fire, 2016)

Free_Fire_PosterOrd and Justine have brokered a black market arms deal with Chris and Frank.  Just as the deal seems done, a beef between two of their henchmen breaks out that results in a shootout.  An hour long shootout. And then things get bad.

I am not joking…a solid hour of the film is the shoot out.  First we see it divided between the two groups, but then it takes a twist bringing them together, only to throw everyone into “every man for himself” insanity.

Free Fire is playing with a tongue in cheek attitude and a seventies low budget action feel. The opening credits have a grindhouse movie feel.  You also see this in the clothing styles and hair.

And the lighting aims to give a feeling of grit. In fact, I am a little surprised they did not add an extra bit of “film grain” for an authentic aged movie look.

The film kind of stumbles in it’s tone.  It is going for “action Comedy”, but the long and bloody shootout feels to serious for the lighter dialog.  Which makes the most violent and comedic scene (as the two underlings that caused the shootout to begin a man to man fight to the death set to a John Denver song) almost feels out of place.

Free Fire also starts to just get tedious as it goes on, because one long fire fight just starts to wear thin after awhile. The high point is the cast.  Especially especially Sharlto Copely and Armie Hammer. Cillian Murphy is dependable, though Brie Larson feels wasted as her character seems to lack much personality.

While the trailer seemed promising as a wild and crazy action comedy, the film never finds firm footing in the comedy camp, as the comedy usually gives away to extended action.  But the action lacks a lot of humor.  And one of the most important things in action comedies is that the action and comedy intersect.

 

Might As Well Jump (21 Jump Street, 2012)

21_Jump_Street_PosterA trend began in the early 2000’s of making movies based on dramatic action shows from the 70’s and 80’s, but treating them as a joke.  This has had…decidedly mixed results.

21 Jump Street was part of the line-up of a upstart new network called Fox.  It was the story of a division of young cops who would go into schools undercover, posing as students, to bust drug dealers and the like.  The show’s biggest claim to fame was that it introduced Johnny Depp to the world.

In the film, we meet loser Schmidt (Jonah Hill) who has a humiliating day at school.  He is rejected by a girl and pushed around by his bully Jenko (Channing Tatum) .  Except, Jenko is having his own trouble…his grades are so bad, he is not going to be allowed to go to prom.  A few years later they are both at the police academy.  At first, Jenko resumes his role as bully, but they quickly realize both can help each other get through.  As Jenko helps Schmidt with the physical tests, Schmidt helps Jenko pass the mental ones.

They are disappointed to discover their first gig is as bike cops in a park.  But an ill fated drug bust leads them to Jump Street, an old program that is being revived.  They are sent into a high school to determine who is selling a new and dangerous drug.

The story is not entirely fresh, and yet, this is kind of the point.  The filmmakers are seeking to have some fun with both cop and action film tropes.  This leads to a lot of entertaining visual gags.  The drug ring is run by hip and socially conscious kids.  When Jenko tries mocking kids for being concerned about the environment, he is informed that this is just so uncool.  In fact, the two friends find their social heirchy inverted.  On top of that, they confuse who is which undercover character, forcing both into roles outside their comfort zone.

21 Jump Street is not an outright parody of it’s namesake.  It is set in the same universe as the show (with original actors reprising roles from the TV Show), but it sees some of the absurdity in the concept.  And it plays with the conventions pretty well (including the very problematic area of the “Inappropriate Love Interest”).

What really holds the film together though is Hill and Tatum.  They are a genuinely enjoyable combo with a friendship that is a bit endearing.  The action scenes are well choreographed.  And, important to any action comedy film?  The action and jokes do not step on each other, so to speak.  21 Jump Street is a pleasant surprise, with it’s combination of humor and enjoyable characters.

The Bigger They Come (Kong: Skull Island, 2017)

Kong-Skull-Island-PosterKing Kong and variations on the Giant Ape concept are older than even Godzilla.  Kong: Skull Island has opted to not re-tell the story of King Kong.  Instead, this is a new story.  Not new in the sense of it completely new territory.  You have the mismatched band of explorers arriving on Skull Island, encountering monsters and natives.

The film opens in 1944 where an American and Japanese pilot crash land on Skull Island.  They fight until they stumble on a frightening sight that changes everything for them.  The film jumps to 1973, with soldiers about to leave Vietnam.  They are brought in by the mysterious Monarch company as a military escort on a top secret mission to visit and explore a newly discovered island.  The company has also brought along an award winning anti-war photojournalist and a tracker to help then go through the wilderness.

Of course, the mission goes very wrong.  Hope that does not spoil anything.

Really, the film sets everything up at a fast pace.  They give you what you need to know without giving the film a chance to get boring.  And unlike previous Kong film outings, the filmmakers introduce us to Kong very quickly.  No hiding him, just Kong smashing helicopters.

The characters are engaging to various degrees, though John C. Reilly is the strongest and most memorable.  Samuel L. Jackson is…well, Samuel L. Jackson.  I found myself liking Hiddleston’s James Conrad and Brie Larson’s Mason Weaver…but I must admit, most of what separates the characters is who is performing them.  You also know which soldiers are “important” because they get a lot of set up, while most of the soldiers are just “people to die”.  Of course, they also give Jackson his motive for wanting to destroy King Kong.

But the truth is, I found Kong Skull Island a lot of fun.  Yes, the post credit scene confirms that Legendary has plans of a “Giant Monster-verse”…and Kong Skull Island serves the purpose, in part, to set it all up (It is supposedly connected to 2014’s Godzilla film as well, with the tie being the Monarch organization).  But I did a far better job of still telling it’s own story than some other attempts to create a shared universe franchise.

Really, Kong Skull Island is no game changer, but it is a lot of fun.  Visually, it is good, and the digital monsters look great.  The cast is great and make for an overall very entertaining film.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑