REVIEW: Thor: Ragnarok

Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Chris Luckett

Time after time, I’ve said that Marvel Studios is the new Pixar. It’s not for nothing that right around the time Pixar’s winning streak began faltering, the Marvel Cinematic Universe came into existence. For 16 movies now, Marvel has consistently delivered great movies. How great? Eight of those sixteen got 4-star ratings from yours truly, with another four getting 4½ stars.

Just four movies have been less than great. Captain America: The First Avenger is the Moonraker of the MCU and thus best not mentioned further. And Iron Man 3 was a little too scattershot to really deliver on every front. That just leaves Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming — the two most recent Marvel movies and the first case of back-to-back 3½-star entries in the MCU.

It all comes down to Thor: Ragnarok. Was this recent slip in quality just a blip, a sloppy Ratatouille before the invigorating WALL-E? Or would Marvel go full Pixar, with each continuing entry now feeling like the desperate exhumation of better days?

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REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Chris Luckett

“There’s figures on this. Seventy percent of what people react to is how you look, twenty percent is about how you sound, and only ten percent is actually what you say. So, if you look good and sound good [but talk nonsense], everyone’ll go wild!” –Eddie Izzard

Even those who were left unimpressed by 2014’s crowd-pleaser Guardians of the Galaxy were in unanimous agreement about how fantastic its soundtrack was. Employing a vintage Sony Walkman and a cassette mixtape to accompany the humourous action of the movie, its soundtrack topped the Billboard chart for 11 weeks, was the best-selling soundtrack of the year after Frozen‘s, and introduced a new generation to the hits of the Raspberries, Norman Greenbaum, 10cc, The Jackson 5, and Blue Swede.

The fact it was such a fun movie and a solid sci-fi actioner/superhero flick was better, but even if it had been just okay, the music (and the dazzling CGI) would have been enough to mostly make up it. The traction-less Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is proof of that.

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REVIEW: Doctor Strange

Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Chris Luckett

The fact that every Marvel Studios movie going back to 2008’s Iron Man are all connected in one large narrative has always helped distract from the fact so many of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe follow the same pattern.

Doctor Strange, the latest movie in the unstoppable force of a franchise, is just Iron Man in a different goatee, just Thor in a different cape. That being said, like Pixar before it, Marvel is the current possessor of the alchemical formula for movies, delivering strong movies every single time, and Doctor Strange is no exception.

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CORE STORY: Brie Larson in talks to play Marvel’s first female solo superhero

Photo: NBC

Photo: NBC

Chris Luckett

It’s common after an Oscar-winning dramatic role for an actress to take an superhero-blockbuster role — see: Halle Berry in Catwoman, Charlize Theron in Aeon Flux, or Natalie Portman in Thor — but Brie Larson looks to be making the most of her post-Room clout.

Close sources revealed to Variety that Larson has entered early talks to play Captain Marvel, one of the comic company’s most popular female superheroes, in a self-titled picture within the “Phase 3” arm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Continue reading

CORE STORY: Thor: Ragnarok cast revealed

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Chris Luckett

Captain America: Civil War featured almost every superhero introduced over the span of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, save for two notable exceptions.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) weren’t present narratively, because of what they’re going through in Thor: Ragnarok, Beyond Hemsworth and Ruffalo, though, all that has been learned over the last year is that Natalie Portman would not be returning.

Marvel has now released a statement announcing the cast of the third Thor movie, and while Portman is indeed confirmed to be missing, there are several huge casting choices of note. Continue reading

REVIEW: Captain America: Civil War

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Chris Luckett

When The Avengers came out in 2012, it seemed like the ultimate climax of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course, it was simply the climax to the first act of what would ultimately be three (or four) phases, each with their own Avengers capper.

The worry that came with that, particularly after the behemoth scale of The Avengers, was… How could Marvel hope to top (or even just equal) a supergroup movie with more standalone pictures hinged on individual superheroes, without just creating the impression of the franchise just spinning its wheels?

Marvel being the Pixar it currently is, they pulled it off. Not only that, but despite the fact The Avengers: Age of Ultron proved to be even better than The Avengers, it was outdone by Captain America: The Winter Soldier — the best movie Marvel had yet made, despite it being a sequel to the worst they’d made.

And that was before a superhero war broke out. Continue reading

CORE STORY: Final Avengers movies getting renamed

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Chris Luckett

Originally, there was just going to be one more Avengers movie in a conceived trilogy. Then in 2014, Marvel announced the final film would be split into two movies: The Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 and Part 2.

Now, brothers Joe and Anthony Russo (directors of Captain America: Civil War and both remaining Avengers movies) revealed yesterday that Infinity War is no longer happening — at least, not in title. Continue reading

REVIEW: Deadpool

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

Chris Luckett

Before the ubiquitous advertising over the last few months, if you mentioned the character of Deadpool to someone, you’d get one of two responses: a blank stare or effusive raving. Among comic readers, Deadpool has been one of the most beloved characters of the last quarter-century, always staying just hip enough to never have caught on with the masses the way other newer superheroes like Spawn, Hellboy, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did.

What makes him so special? While Wolverine may rampage, Deadpool goes out of his way to kill for fun. While Iron Man may be sarcastic, Deadpool is flat-out vulgar. And while Spider-Man may be self-aware enough to name-drop Superman, Deadpool constantly breaks the fourth wall, talking to his readers and mocking his narrators.

The challenge with turning such a distinctly different and rough-edged comic book into a movie is retaining the sardonicism and unconventionality while still changing what needs to be for a different medium. Tim Miller’s years-in-the-making film does that better than most could have expected, retaining the tone of the character in a way that could have gone wrong so many ways. Continue reading

REVIEW: Ant-Man

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Chris Luckett

Last summer, everyone seemed shocked that Guardians of the Galaxy was a great, really fun movie. Before its release, conversations were peppered with skeptical remarks about a talking raccoon and a walking tree. Afterwards, of course, everyone loved it and commended Marvel for being able to do what is just second-nature to the studio now.

Now here we are, one summer later, and audiences are skeptical that Ant-Man can be a great, really fun movie. Leading up to its release, conversations have been peppered with skeptical remarks about the main character’s lameness and production troubles.

It’s amazing how poor people’s short-term memories are. Continue reading

REVIEW: The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Chris Luckett

Cinema has a long, storied history of computers running amok. From 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner to the Terminator and Matrix series, intelligent machines have become the new evolution of Frankenstein’s Monster.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron appears on the surface to be yet another superhero juggernaut, but what separates it from its Marvel brethren — and what elevates it above most of them — is that the villain isn’t a malevolent alien or a possessed scientist, but an artificially intelligent monster of our heroes’ own creation. Even Earth’s mightiest heroes aren’t invulnerable to hubris.

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