Film

The MCU Countdown #1: The Avengers

The_Avengers_Assembled.jpg

I hate to be predictable but to be honest, what other film ranks higher than The AvengersThe Avengers not only is one of the most successful comic-book films of all-time but the pinnacle of what modern-day franchises strive for. Ever since Marvel successfully pulled-off the cinematic universe idea, studios have strived to find which properties they can merge together in order to set-up a film where everyone comes together for one major event. Warner Brothers tried that with Justice League and failed. Universal has tried to get their "Dark Universe" off the ground but the failure of The Mummy might have killed that franchise on arrival. The only cinematic universe that seems to have some success going is Legendary's Monster Universe involving King Kong and Godzilla. That being said, Avengers is up here not only because it is widely considered the bet comic book film of all time. While being the one of the best comic book films of all times is a major feat, the larger fact is that The Avengers changed the way studios make films now.

While studios like Warner Brothers and Paramount owned large properties such as DC Comics and Hasbro, they never considered crossing over their characters. While WB always toyed with the idea of a Batman/Superman film after the success of Tim Burton's run at the character, it still took over 25 years to bring those two characters together on the big screen. There is a lot of work that goes into producing cross-over films. Marvel Studios is the one and only studio that has truly made a cinematic universe work. Say what you will about the DCEU or other universes out there, Marvel has stuck to their ideas on how they build their worlds. The Avengers also had the best MCU villain for the longest time. How Whedon and company crafted and expanded the ideology of Loki in this film is impressive. While Loki was far from being a weak character in Thor, the evolution of his character within this film set the bar for future antagonist to come, for better or for worse. We will see if Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War can live up to his billing.

Well now that this list has concluded, the story turns to what the future holds for the MCU. Are the brightest days of this franchise behind us or ahead of us? While that question is not easy to visualize yet, there are two things that are certain with the future of the MCU. One is that Marvel is aware of their villain crutch and they're aggressively changing the tone of that criticism. Since the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Marvel has had great responses to their new wave of villains including Vulture, Hela, and Killmonger. If Thanos knocks it out of the park, four of the top five MCU villains could be from the last wave of MCU films. 

The other initiative that Marvel is putting on their films is making their properties interconnect more. While Marvel films have had Easter eggs and quick cameos in the past, you could easily skip Thor's solo film or the Guardians of the Galaxy newest volume and now miss any important information regarding your favorite heroes. Now, Marvel seems to be changing tones by placing a lot of knowledge from prior films into future films. While fans of the franchise will enjoy these rewarding moments, newcomers and regular fans of the franchise might begin to feel like their missing something and begin to feel disconnect with the MCU. Whether these decisions harms or helps the franchise remains to be seen but until they're proven wrong, let Marvel go do their thing. 

The MCU Countdown T-#2: Captain America: Winter Soldier & Civil War

014.jpg

Since I built this list a few months back, I had a hard debate between these two films as which one I would put at #2 and #3. On one hand, I believe that one film is very well-made film that might be one of the most relevant Marvel films ever made. The other film is a setup to the biggest Marvel film as of this point in time. While I think both films are great, I could not decide on which film is more relevant to fans and the story. So, because of my respect for both films along with my indecisiveness, I decided to talk about both films at #2.

When it comes to Captain America: Winter Soldier, you have to respect this film for what it started inside the comic book genre and that is adapting other genres of film. Before Winter Soldier, many comic book films were just that, comic book movies. With the massive explosion of the genre in cinema, Marvel understood that comic book films needed to become more than just super-hero films and the writers behind Winter Solider decided that their film could be just that. While Winter Solider is still a super-hero film on the outside, the core story shares the tropes of a political thriller straight from the 60s and 70s. The success of this genre blend lead to future Marvel films doing the same thing. Guardians of the Galaxy is a space opera, Ant-Man is a heist film, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a teen comedy, and Black Panther is a James Bond film.

I believe that this and Black Panther are the two most culturally relevant films in the MCU. Who would have thought that a comic book film about Russians infiltrating our government to spy on ourselves and influence the outcome of our lives would be so relatable in today's world. While I enjoyed Winter Soldier when it was released a few years back, the film has aged incredibly well due to the political climate that the world is in now and might make this MCU film one of the few that truly stands the test of time.

As for Captain America: Civil War, my love for this film started when it was announced that Marvel was going to adapt one of their famous event comics. Civil War was a comic that I read back when I was in high school and I loved the social dynamics that story placed on heroes and how they would react to the government getting involved with their business. While Captain America: Civil War doesn't fully adapt the Civil War comic story arch (primarily because they do not have the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises), the perfectly translated the core beliefs of characters inside that comic book story arc to the big screen.

Captain AmericaCivil War also is one of the most successful set-up films I've ever witnessed. While the film is fun and entertaining just on its own, Civil War successfully sets up the events leading into Spider-Man: Homecoming, Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, and Avengers: Infinity War. Making a successful film is already a difficult task to pull off. Trying to make a successful film that sets up a future franchise is a whole different monster to achieve that very few succeed in (look how poorly Power Rangers & The Mummy set their future up). Captain America: Civil War is not only a great film but a textbook example of how well-oiled of a machine Marvel is with their film universe.

While I find both of these films very entertaining, both films do have a problem. When it comes to Winter Solider, one of the major plot points that happen in the film is (SPOILER ALER) the fall of SHIELD, the government agency that represents the Avengers. While this massive event that happens in the franchise does show some lasting damage, I feel like this event hasn't been represented enough in future films. One of the biggest arms in the United States government branch has been corrupted and controlled by an outside government and yet, there is no other government agencies or public outcry over the new formation of the Avengers in later films. I guess you could consider the Sokovia Accords in Civil War as the final straw, but the film doesn't mention the fall of SHIELD as the first reason why the accords are written.

Civil War also has a tendency to place comedic moments inside some really tense areas within the film. I understand that Marvel is the "family friendly" comic book franchise that everyone loves including me but at the same time, I wish they would lean back on their comedy sometimes. There are moments within this film where friends are having tense exchanges with one another, yet they still find time to drop some one-liner or exchange that is only there to generate a laugh from the audience. I understand that this is just a staple of Marvel films that works for many people but sometime soon, Marvel needs to pull your punches when it comes to their humor.

I wished that I could have given a definitive #2 and #3 to this list. While one film is a film that's one of the most important films inside the MCU, another film might be the best film they've ever made. It amazes me how many fans of the MCU latch on to characters like Star-Lord, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and even the Hulk, yet, the most successful hero in this franchise hands-down is Captain America. While few heroes that have been given a trilogy up to this point, Captain America is the only one that truly has three-successful films. Say what you will about Captain America: The First Avenger but that film is much more enjoyable than Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World. Even if Infinity War succeeds as well as many believe it can, the Captain America series might even surpass that trilogy of films.

Speaking of The Avengers...

Could Infinity War Be The First $300 Million Opening Weekend Movie?

avengers-infinity-war-image-group.jpg

The week is finally here. The Friday, Avengers: Infinity War will hit theaters is the United States and other countries around the world. Fans of the franchise will get a chance to see the climactic closure to ten years of cinema that has changed the way Hollywood tells stories. Say what you will about properties such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, or James Bond but I believe that there is not a property that has garnished such a wide admiration amongst moviegoers than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the hype surrounding the franchise growing with promotional material and now the raving impressions from critics who have gone to the premiere of the film, the hype leads me to wonder if Infinity War could be the first film to break $300 million domestically?

Tons of box-office numbers have been starting to pour out in the news with Variety reporting that the film could net half a billion dollars worldwide opening weekend. Half a billion seems like an insane number but I believe that this film could even hit $600 million opening weekend worldwide. If Fate of the Furious can pull $541, Infinity War should have no problem. While these numbers are great to hear if you're a fan of either the property or genre, I do not believe that these projections understand how important this film is to pop culture.

Marvel is a film property that has invested nearly twenty films and ten years of many people's lives for this cinematic moment. While some people might not be completely entrenched in the knowledge of every character in the MCU, everyone has had their different entry point into the universe. Tons of fans might have caught on to the property later down the line and have revisited the older films after seeing something more recent like Guardians or Black Panther with the latter being my main point with these box-office numbers. In February, Black Panther killed it at the box office by blowing away all expectations and dropping over $370 million worldwide and $202 million domestically. In fact, half of the top ten weekend box offices belong to Marvel properties. Say what you will about the money-making machine of Star Wars but they cannot compare to what Marvel Studios is doing. 

So why are more people not discussing the $300 million number with Infinity War? Do people seriously believe that this film cannot do it? My guess as to why this is not being discussed more is the fact that the only film to come close to that number is Star Wars: The Force Awakens with $247 million. Many believe that Star Wars is the most popular franchise worldwide in terms of pop cultural relevance and age. The fact is that these Marvel films mean much more to people that many realize. With all of these properties coming together for a climactic outing, you're going to get every person that has watched these films into theaters. Plenty of people understand the cultural impact that this film will have, and you'll have many people pay the extra to see this film in IMAX or 3D. You're going to have people going to see this film Friday night only to find out that every showing up until Sunday morning is sold out. Theaters are going to be running overnight screenings to help keep up with audience demands. 

Will Infinity War break $300 million? I believe that it can. You are talking about a franchise that has collected nearly $6 billion domestically and almost $15 billion worldwide (not accounting for inflation). To put that in comparison, Star Wars has made $4.3 billion domestically and Harry Potter only brought home $2.3 billion domestically. Marvel is a different animal when it comes to making money, so you can't let history determine what this film could make this weekend. The one thing I know about this weekend is a lot of fans will be happy and Disney is going to need a bigger bank.

The MCU Countdown #4: Iron Man

the-best-moments-in-each-marvel-movie-from-iron-man-to-ant-man-675953.jpg

The film that started everything. If it were not for Jon Favreau and Kevin Feige, Iron Man as well as the MCU might not exist. It's hard not to believe that before this film, the character of Iron Man was not a major comic book character. Tony Stark had his few moments, but Tony Stark was nowhere near the level of Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker. Yet, here we all are ten years later, and Robert Downey Jr. is one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood helming a multi-billion-dollar property as well as helming one of the biggest films in the last decade. While Tony Stark has only had three solo-films, Robert Downey Jr. is tied with Chris Evans for the most appearances in the MCU with eight. That is almost half of the films inside the comic-book universe. It is hard to believe this universe working without Robert Downey in the red and gold. 

One of the things that might throw fans of the MCU off when revisiting Iron Man is how grounded the film was when it came out. While it might seem weird to think but before the year 2008, Marvel was at a terrible spot at the box office. The X-Men franchise had released its third that left many to believe that the franchise was dead. Spider-Man was coming off of the stench of Spider-Man 3 with rumors that nobody wanted to come back for a fourth installment. Even the Fantastic Four were dead in the mind of audiences after Rise of the Silver Surfer stunk up the theaters. Fox now saw both of their properties (X-Men and Fantastic Four) on life support and Sony was trying to figure out the future of their Spider-Man franchise. The entire Marvel film catalog was nearly dead, and it did not help that DC decided they should release their next film in their catalog, The Dark KnightThe Dark Knight destroyed almost every record held by a comic book film making over a billion dollars worldwide. The Dark Knight set the record as being the 6th grossing film all time back in 2008 and set the bar for superhero films to come.

Iron Man was Marvel's counter-punch to DC's success with Batman. Both characters share similar traits, billionaire who had no superpowers except their wallets and minds. While Iron Man has a ton of positives going for it, there are a few negatives that stand-out after a revisit. One of them is the one and only appearance of Terrence Howard as Colonel James Rhodes. While his performance is not a bad one, Howard definitely conveys a different version of Rhodes that Don Cheadle would not bring when he takes over the role in future MCU films. There is definitely a "what if" feeling seeing Howard play the character but I personally like Cheadle's take on the character over the prior. 

Another negative from this film is less of a negative on the film itself but more of a negative for what standard it set for future MCU films. While I personally enjoy Jeff Bridges in this film as Obadiah Stane, many might look at his performance as a simple villain that Marvel would rinse and repeat in multiple films to come. Bridges would set the stage for Tim Roth, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Eccleston, Corey Stoll, and Mads Mikkelsen to get by with being vanilla villains who only serve the plot as being sinister and a mirror of who the hero could have been. While I have begun to hate a lot of the MCU's villains during this retrospective, I don't fault these failures on Jeff Bridges.

Whatever your feelings are for this film, you have to give credit to Iron Man for its world building and the bar Tony Stark and company set for future films to come. A lot of the hype going into Infinity War is due to the success of this film and the foundation it created for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While I hope that we have more films to come with Downey Jr. in the Iron Man suit, I would not be shocked if Infinity War will be his last flight in the Iron Man suit. 

The MCU Countdown #5: Black Panther

black-panther-movie-cast-images-6.jpg

The most recently released film finds a way to crack the top five of the MCU Countdown. I will not lie, I set aside a spot in this countdown when it began for Black Panther but took a risk seeing as I would already be 4-5 films in to the countdown by the time I was started. I accepted the risk because there was already a ton of buzz surrounding the film with the social media embargo lifting when I posted my first film on the countdown. Also, there is a very real fact that Marvel is hitting its strides and just when you think the property might have hit the peak, it sets the bar higher. I don't see any film in the foreseeable future that has a chance of being worse than some of Marvel's early work. So when I put together this list, I penciled in Black Panther somewhere outside the Top Ten. I believed that the film was going to be entertaining but I did not want to set the bar too high for this film. Maybe I should not have underestimated this film. 

For a more in-depth review of Black Panther, you can check out my original review hereBlack Panther is the most recent film in the Marvel franchise and the last film leading directly into the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, and Andy Serkis take the helm in this film which delves into Wakanda and gives audience a deeper look into the character that they were introduced to in Civil War. While Black Panther is similar to Ant-Man in terms of being supplemental material for the MCU. The trailers have already showcased that Black Panther and the nation of Wakanda will play a very large role in the plot of AvengersInfinity War. While the film might not be one that fills in the black for other questions audience members might have leading into the film, Black Panther is a film that sets the foundation for the future of the MCU.

One of the things I try to steer away from when discussing films in their reviews is the financial success that they might have received by the time I've reviewed them. I do my best to see films early into their theatrical release in order to give myself as little knowledge as possible leading into a film. This is more of a retrospective of the film that's only been in theaters for about a month now. The only thing I can truly retrospect on is how strong this film has held at the box office, the impact it has had on Hollywood and pop culture in general

I might not be incredibly old but it was not long about that Hollywood would not risk a large budget on a film with a minority and/or female as the lead protagonist. Sadly, that belief was held all the way up to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens a few years back. Not only did that film make a ton of money its opening weekend, it still holds the record for the largest opening ever by a film. As of this article, Black Panther is now #9 all-time in domestic box office. Black Panther is also nearing the $1 billion mark which it could surpass any time soon. While The Force Awakens might have opened the door for more minority-lead film franchises, Black Panther is the film that broke down the door and tore off the hinges.

I am interested in taking a look back at this film ten years from now. How does the message within the film hold up? Does some of the story elements and character motives hold up? How much of Black Panther's legacy can be felt within its future stories as well as other film properties that spawn because of this film. Only time will tell how important Black Panther was in the history of film. For now, let's just celebrate what this film accomplished and hope the film brings more to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as the film industry.

The MCU Countdown #6: Spider-Man - Homecoming

A-frame-from-Spider-Man-Homecoming-Columbia-Pictures-via-Digital-Domain-10.jpg

The Spider-Man that everyone deserved and thought they didn't want. I remember all of the moans and groans when it was announced that Spider-Man would be going through another reboot after the failed attempt with director Marc Webb. In the early 2000s, Spider-Man ruled the summer box offices. The original Raimi trilogy still holds three spots in the Top 15 highest grossing comic book films of all time. Spider-Man ruled the box office and to see how far he had fallen meant something. To go from a multi-billion-dollar property to a franchise on life support in the span of seven years is a downfall that can only be beat my Joel Schumacher and his Batman films. 

If you want a more detailed analysis of this film, you can check out my older review here. One of the things I will reiterate from my original review is I cannot believe how quickly Tom Holland has made me forget about every other actor to play Peter Parker before this film. I used to love Tobey McGuaire's version of the character as well as Andrew Garfield's. Both performers did exactly what was demanded from them to progress the story. Tom Holland is doing the exact same as they did but the material that Holland is working with is far superior than anything McGuaire or Garfield dealt with. McGuaire's flaws come from the campy nature of his trilogy and the treatment of comic book films in his era. Garfield gives a great performance as Peter Parker as well as an incredible Spider-Man but sadly a majority of the people around him are complete shit. 

After re-watching this film, I find a ton of the laughs still land with me. One of the things that has hit me a lot in this long retrospective is how some of the jokes fall flat over time. Marvel's overuse of humor is very present when you go take a deep dive into their material. Unlike many films on this list, Spider-Man: Homecoming rarely has those moments. A lot of the humor comes naturally, and Tom Holland's performance helps elevate the comedy more. Michael Keaton's performance as Vulture is another shining moment in this film as well. For a while, many considered him to be the next best villain in the MCU. I hope that Keaton has a chance to return to the role sometime in the future but if Homecoming is the end of his story, we were given a satisfying arc to his story. 

Spider-Man: Homecoming is definitely in my Top 5 "must-watch" films leading into Avengers: Infinity War. His involvement in Civil War as well as his inclusion into Infinity War helps elevate this film into importance. I am truly excited to see how big of a role Peter Parker/Spider-Man play in Infinity War. The only thing I wish I did not know going into the future of the MCU is knowing that (Spoiler Alert) Peter Parker will definitely survive the events of Avengers 3 & 4. While it was highly likely that he would survive the events of these two films, I already know that there will be moments in this film where Spider-Man will have his life on the line and I will have this knowledge in my head absolutely ruining the moment within the film. Nitpicking aside, I cannot recommend this film enough and you should stop whatever you're doing right now and watch this film. 

Is Hollywood Trying To Blacklist Streaming Films?

netflix-theater-2.jpg

Very recently, I put together my list of the Top Ten films for 2017. Two of the films that made my list were Crown Heights and Mudbound, both were streaming-first films. I was sitting there after putting my list together around the time of the Academy Awards and I wondered "Why did these two films not get more widespread recognition?". I don't think that either film was deserving of Best Picture for many awards this year but they were definitely deserving for more than they were given. Even a film such as The Big Sick I believed got royally screwed this year. While The Big Sick was primarily released in theaters, the film was funded by Amazon and has primarily stayed on Amazon Prime since leaving theaters. I thought to myself if maybe the major players in Hollywood were beginning to draw a line between them and streaming content. With Hollywood continuing to struggle at the box office and theater chains losing money left and right, maybe they see streaming services as a threat to their existence. Maybe it's just a conspiracy that I'm conjuring in my head to make sense for why films I enjoyed did not get recognized.

Then the news came out that Cannes will ban Netflix films from competition and then my theory started getting some validity. Shortly after that rule chance, one of the biggest directors in Hollywood, Steven Spielberg, is now coming out and saying that Netflix films should not qualify for Oscars. Two major players in the filmmaking industry have now came out and declared war on streaming films. Spielberg goes on to say that he believes Netflix films are "TV movies" and that them gaining award accolades could be considered "cheating". I understand that Hollywood has failed to end their downward spiral in theatrical attendance but do you seriously believe that going to war with streaming service is going to bring people back? 

Do you want to know why people do not go to the theaters that much anymore? Maybe it's because tickets for a standard screening of a Hollywood film is $15-18 per person. If you decide you want to treat yourself to 3D or IMAX, tickets can get neat $24-$26. That is absolutely insane, especially when you consider a date night can run you around $40-50 and a family night can get you near $100. When did the movies turn into costing nearly as much as a theme park? The movies just cost too much and if you're not someone who enjoy the experience, You'll skip out on the experience and wait to pay nearly the same price of admission to own the film on home release. MoviePass is one of the best things to come to the movie business and yet theaters are still trying to ban the subscription service. Yes, I understand that the $10 monthly fee for that company is not "sustainable" but you have to know that this $10 fee is definitely an introductory fee to get people interested in the service. It is because of subscriptions like MoviePass that have made me go to the movies more and invest more in theaters especially having the extra money to pay for concessions, the one thing that theaters make nearly all of their money off of.

Don't even get me started on the actual films in theaters. Half of the films in theaters are complete shit. A lack of originality in the theater along with studios lack of care for the quality it puts out has made moviegoers more cautious than ever. Now with rating sites such as Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, studios are having an extremely hard time hiding terrible movies from audiences anymore. Instead of funding big-budget shit shows, how about you cut back on spectacle and focus more on acting talent and their material. Get OutEx Machina, and The Big Sick are all low-budget films that were highly successful in theaters. Get with the times.

Hollywood big wigs and their failure to adjust to the times is going to be the death of them. Streaming and on-demand content is the way of the future and trying to fight change is only going to leave you behind. You know, it wasn't that long ago that I wrote an article about Martin Scorsese and modern film. I find it very ironic that nearly a year later, he's producing a feature-length film for Netflix, the studio that Hollywood is now trying to fight. I highly doubt that Martin Scorsese thinks The Irishman is a "TV movie". Stop complaint about the competition and give audience members a better option. They're staying at home because your films cost too much and streaming content has a higher entertainment value than half the shit you have filling the screens in your cinemas. Stop whining, start adapting, and make better decisions. 

The MCU Countdown #7: Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians-of-the-galaxy_first_screenshot.jpg

To this day, Guardians of the Galaxy is the biggest gamble Marvel Studios has ever pulled off. While the studio has continued taking risks with other properties such as Ant-ManDoctor Strange, and Black Panther, none of those films were as risky as Guardians. The fact that Marvel found a way to introduce five new heroes nobody except die-hard comic fans knew and still managed to make the film a success is impressive.

Guardians of the Galaxy stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper along with Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, and Benicio del Toro. In the first film, Peter Quill (Pratt) stumbles across a powerful artifact that attracts the attention of Ronan, a galactic terrorist, and the Ravagers, a group of thieves that Quill is a member of. After failing to find a buyer, Quill gets arrested along with Gamora (Saldana), Rocket (Cooper), and Groot (Diesel). Their arrest and bond over the treasure makes them form an unlikely alliance which leads them to being the last line of defense between the galaxy and its destructions.

While a majority of the Marvel films stay very interconnected in their stories since the events of The AvengersGuardians of the Galaxy took fans to a world that had very little connections to prior films. Not only was this a story to bring new life to the MCU but conveniently a new avenue for fans to enter the vastly dense property of Marvel. At the time of Guardians of the Galaxy's release, Marvel had released nine films. While not as daunting as trying to catch up on 18 films today, Marvel understand that many moviegoers are not going to watch 8+ films to catch up with the story. Instead of disregarding late fans to the franchise, they gave them a new avenue to jump into the property. I would not be shocked if the Marvel brand's expansive growth over the last few years is due in part to this film bringing them in to the world.

It would be a failure for me as a critic to not mention the amazing soundtrack in this film. Guardians of the Galaxy's use of music in the film makes almost every track memorable. Whenever a song such as "I Want You Back" or "O-o-h Child" comes on my Spotify, my mind immediately gravitates towards this film. How James Gunn produced a soundtrack that was so entertaining yet so memorable is just as impressive as the film he put on the screen. It is sad that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 could not live up to this soundtrack. 

The only problem and I know it sounds like a broken record at this point is the villain. I don't know how many times I have to sit here and write sections about Marvel's failure to create compelling villains. At this point, I'm absolutely shocked how a franchise so massive as Marvel spanning tons of films and billions of dollars can keep its success up with any gallery of villains. Marvel seems to be getting the picture as recent films have started to step up their game by creating relatable villains. 

Guardians of the Galaxy is still one of the most entertaining films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The fact that a ton of these jokes still land is impressive. It might also be the MCU film that I have re-watched the most. The film's accessibility and timeless nature help make it one of Marvel's most successful franchises in its universe. To this day, Guardians of the Galaxy has made $1.6 billion worldwide. That number is the fourth highest grossing franchise in the MCU with only Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor beating the property in money. Granted, each of those heroes I mentioned have three films compared to Guardians two. With the Guardians and Black Panther joining the Avengers in four weeks, one can only imagine what astronomical box office number might spawn on opening weekend. Could Infinity War be the first $300 million opening weekend?

The MCU Countdown #8: Thor - Ragnarok

m9x0naz0ntzcfugpbfii.jpg

While the character Thor was successful in terms of audience's appreciation, the fact remained that many fans never gravitated towards Thor's solo films. That all changed last November when Thor: Ragnarok hit theaters worldwide. With the success of Guardians of the Galaxy and their journeys in the cosmic realm of the MCU, the brass at Marvel decided to have Thor and Hulk enter the colorful and comedic section of the universe. While the change of direction with Thor in his solo-adventures turned the corner in terms of audience appreciation, fans of the original material before might be left disappointed. 

In case you missed it, I already reviewed Thor: Ragnarok on this site already and if you are interested, you can check out the review for that film here. While I have been a fan of the first two outings of Thor, I can agree with many fans that his solo films are amongst the weakest in the MCU. There is no faulting Hemsworth for his film but more on the conflicting directions, character development choices, and tonal shifts within his adventures. With Marvel struggling to capitalize on the Thor property, the decided to give him another change of direction, shifting away from the mystical aspect of his stories and more towards the oddity aspect of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. How conveniently Thor fits in to this side of the MCU is a nice breathe of fresh air for the character.

Hemsworth does another incredible job at playing the role of Hulk alongside Ruffalo and Hiddleston. While Loki does play a prominent role in Ragnarok, Hiddleston is not overused like in Thor: The Dark World. Loki is used sparingly and effectively. The use of the Loki character in this film might be the best run for Hiddleston since being the main villain in The Avengers. Buffalo coming back as Hulk after a two-year hiatus was a sight for sore eyes. I still wonder if Ruffalo's run as the Hulk is so good because he's used very well or if he seriously is that good. I wish we would get more films with Ruffalo as the Hulk but sadly that probably won't happen with Universal still owning distribution rights over the character.

The biggest difference between Thor's previous films and Ragnarok is the amount of comedy on screen. The Thor franchise has never shied away from comedy but the amount that is in Thor: Ragnarok is definitely a change in the franchise. As mentioned above, Guardians of the Galaxy had a huge influence on this film and Marvel used this film as an opportunity to capitalize on the want for more films like Guardians. That decision was a financially successful one with Ragnarok being the highest grossing solo film for Thor domestically and worldwide.  

While I thoroughly enjoyed Thor: Ragnarok and laughed all the way through the movies, I do miss the original interpretation of Thor. I miss MCU trying to convert Thor's solo stories into their version of Game of Thrones. Sadly, that directional failure along with audience reactions forced Marvel to course correct and lead us to where we are. While I enjoy Thor: Ragnarok for what it is and believe the film to be one of the best in the MCU, I am still left wondering "What If?". 

TFT's Top Ten Films Of 2017

Top 10_2017.jpg

It says something to my procrastination as a critic when I'm posting my "Best of 2017" in March. Better lake than never though. 2017 was a strong year in film. Last year saw the return of big-name directors such as Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott, Denis Villeneuve, and Edgar Wright. 2017 had plenty of hits as well as misses but one thing that made 2017 different than any year was the amount of good films that nobody saw. Audiences were completely unpredictable this year with what they wanted to see. The box offices reflected this radical nature between the bombing of Blade Runner 2049 and the insane box office run of Get Out. 2017 could go down as one of the most insane years in the film industry especially with the results of this season's Oscars. Now with the new year beginning, it is time to give you our Top 10 films of 2017.


10. Mudbound

mudbound-still-2_31343915086_o.jpg

One of my top films of 2017 that I have still failed to finish my review of. To summarize the film without going into the full details of my thoughts, Mudbound was one of the most under appreciated films at this year's Academy Awards. While the film has a sluggish first half, the film has greta pace once it gets into the meat of the drama. Showcasing solid performances from top to bottom, Mudbound is one of those Oscar darlings that somehow was not able to get solid footing and also one of the most accessible films on this list and you should give it a shot.

9. Spider-Man: Homecoming

spider-man-homecoming-df-10483_r_rgb.jpg

The Spider-Man film that nobody wanted was the Spider-Man film that we all deserved. Being that this is the second time I've talked about this film (with a third time approaching in the MCU Countdown), it's safe to say how much I love this film. I was one of the few supporters of Sony's second interpretation of the Spider-Man character. While Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield did an incredible job with their characters, Sony's lack of solid villains and their focus on the future rather than the now lead to the downfall of their reboot. Thankfully Disney were able to get their hands on the character and now the future of the MCU looks very bright with Tom Holland.

8. The Post

the-post-movie-still-.jpg

While The Post was not the Oscar-darling that everyone thought and hoped it could be, Speilberg's film on the Washington Post's publication of the Vietnam papers was a solid and definitely well-timed film. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep deliver what you expect from them at this point in their careers but none of them exceed expectations. The film has a handful of moments that help bring tension to the story but it's sluggish pace and abrupt ending lead to this film falling lower than it should on this list.

7. Crown Heights

thumb_3D73A57C-7E28-4A02-84B3-ECCEB8F3E5F1.jpg

When I saw this film earlier this year, I thought that this film was Amazon's next Oscar-winning after last year's success with Manchester by the Sea. But as shown earlier in this list, the voters of the Oscars gave zero attention to films that were primarily released on streaming. The amount of pain that Keith Stanfield portrayed carries so much weight that I'm still feeling the impacts of this film months after seeing it. Crown Heights does a great job at telling this true story and the affects a corrupt and broken justice system can have on a struggling black community doing whatever they can to survive.

6. Wonder Woman

2017_The_Wonder_Woman_Gal_Gadot_wide.jpg

Whether you like the DCEU or not, you have to respect what Patty Jenkins did with Wonder Woman. With a comic book franchise on the verge of collapse, Jenkins and Gadot teamed up to show the world that this franchise doesn't need Batman or Superman to stay afloat. While the third act of this film doesn't carry the momentum of the film as powerfully as it should, Wonder Woman is still a powerful film that showcases that Gal Gadot can be a star and how the demand for female heroes is out there. Sadly, Warner Brothers might struggle to get a sequel afloat with the DCEU on life support after the complete failure of Justice League. Hopefully Warner Brothers finds a way to get audiences interested in their properties again and bring DC back as a competitor in the comic book genre.

5. Blade Runner 2049

blade-runner-sex.jpg

Blade Runner 2049 was one of the biggest shockers of the year. First, nobody thought that the film was going to be good. Just like prior sequels of films from yesteryear, Blade Runner 2049 was going to leave a stain on a cult-film classic and weaken one of the strongest sci-fi films in modern cinema history. Instead, the film found a way to surpass the original and elaborate on everything we loved about the original and brought the story to a future generation. Too bad that nobody saw this film in theaters just like its predecessor. Let us all hope that Warner Brothers allows this group of storytellers to round out this franchise and cap off what could be one of the greatest trilogies in cinema history.

4. Dunkirk

dunkirk-movie-2017_feature.jpg

Dunkirk is a personal favorite of mine this year mainly on the fact that Christopher Nolan is my favorite director working in the business today. While Dunkirk is not anything near the story-telling genius of Memento and InceptionDunkirk is a step in the right direction after somewhat of a letdown with Interstellar. I thankfully got an opportunity to watch a 70mm IMAX print of this film and that experience is one of the most intense moments I've ever had in a theater. Christopher Nolan is still a master of pacing and tension but his stories are starting to lack the intrigue that his former work possessed. I am hoping that Nolan scales back for his next film and focuses on characters instead of spectical. 

3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

sc-mov-three-billboards-review-1114.jpg

The Oscar darling of 2017, Three Billboards was one of the most talked about films during the award season and there are many reasons why. This film probably showcases one of the best top-to-bottom performances from a cast in 2017 and it showed this award season. Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell went on a tear winning award after award for their performances in this film. I personally believed that Three Billboards was going to win this year's Oscars. Between the performances and material that the film presented, I thought it could take home the award. I still don't know how The Shape of Water did as well as it did. Hopefully you set aside some time and see this film if you missed out on Three Billboards in theaters.

2. The Big Sick

004_tbs_d26_shatz_1731.jpg

How did everyone forget about this movie? Seriously, The Big Sick is one of the most inventive romantic comedies in recent memory while also being one of most heart-wrenching stories released on the big screen. Known for his quirkiness in Portlandia and Silicon Valley, Kumail Nanjiani shows his range as a performer in this true story about his life and meeting his wife Emily V. Gordon. Both him and his wife wrote one of the most original romantic comedies in in recent memory and injected a fresh take into a genre that has been dying for great content for twenty years. Hopefully The Big Sick can show that romantic comedies can be a powerful genre in cinema sooner rather than later.

1. Get Out

021317-video-Celebs-Get-out-Movie-Stills-3.jpg

I seriously cannot talk about this film enough. Back in February of 2017, I left my New York screening of this film and automatically went "This is the best film of 2017 and I do not know how any films this year will top it". I was hoping that I would be wrong and that Get Out was just the start of an amazing year in movies but not many films came close to dethroning the champion. Jordan Peele's debut is one of the strongest debuts of a first-time filmmaker I've ever seen and I hope that Peele has more up his sleeve. While The Shape of Water might have won Best Picture, Get Out will be the film on this list that truly stands the test of time.

The MCU Countdown #9: Thor

Odin_and_Thor.jpg

The first outing of Thor was one that you either liked or did not like when it hit theaters. Thor was very different than what had came before it. Iron Man was still a hero grounded in reality and The Incredible Hulk was a character that audiences were familiar with. What Thor did was teleport movie-goers to the world of gods and heroes. This was a comic-book film that nobody had ever seen before. Thor was enough of a box-office success to continue Marvel on the path towards The Avengers and the film needs to be recognized for what it did to the MCU as well as what it setup for the future films to come. 

Thor starred Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, and Idris Elba. After years of being the protector of Asgard, the time for Thor (Hemsworth) to become king has come. During Thor's ceremony, Odin (Hopkins) senses an ancient enemy known as the Frost Giants attempt to steal the tesseract. Their failed attempt and his father's lack for retaliation leaves Thor enraged and takes matter into his own hands. Thor's anger leads to a mild skirmish with the Frost Giants and these actions force Odin to strip Thor of his powers. Thor is banished to the realm of Earth where he will live out the rest of his days unless he learns to become worthy of his own powers. 

The first thing that always grabs my attention when watching this film is the cinematography and how unique it is compared to other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While many films in Phase One use more earthy color pallets and generic cinematography, Thor sets itself apart being the first colorful film in the MCU. The film's treatment of color along with it's plentiful use of close-ups and slanted cinematography gives Thor a unique image that completely sets itself apart from the early films in the MCU as well as future film. No other film in the Thor series or other films have tried to replicate this style. I do wish Marvel would put more effort into some of their camera framing to help differentiate their solo films to help make these adventures more unique. 

We must also remember that without Thor, the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be without one of it's best villains of all time, Loki. Tom Hiddleston as Loki is one of the largest stars in the MCU and quite possibly one of the best comic book antagonist in the history of film. Hiddleston's ability to convey mischievousness, anger, wrapped up in a sense of wit allows audiences to gravitate towards his charisma. I would be interested to see how the MCU might have shaped without the success of Loki. Maybe they miscast the role or Hiddleston receives pore direction but if Loki doesn't succeed, The Avengers might not have been the classic we know it as. Maybe if the MCU failed with Loki, the writing team over at Disney might have doubled down and invested more in their villains. There are tons of what-ifs when it comes to Tom Hiddleston's performance of Loki.   

While the film succeeds in many areas where it should not, it still finds a way to mess up some of the core basics of filmmaking. While the film does a great job at humanizing Thor and explaining Loki's ideologies, Thor's primary failure is the romantic plot line between Thor and Jane Foster. I'm not going to fault Hemsworth or Portman on their romantic chemistry but their love for each other doesn't feel genuine. Foster only seems to fall for Thor just on looks and being a strong male figure and not for his core beliefs and characteristics.  

Looking back at Thor, I always enjoy myself but the film is one of the least Marvel-esq films in the MCU. The film seems more mythological than superhero but that is completely the point of the film. Thor is not a film about superheroes fighting corrupted villains who are two-dimensional in their intentions. Thor is a story about gods and how they interact between themselves as well as other lesser creatures around them. The original Thor is the only true film that heavily-focuses on the mythological aspect of these characters. Thor: The Dark World tries to mimic its predecessor but fails with the villain. Thor: Ragnarok is a hell of a fun time but is more about connecting Thor to other cosmic beings in order to get him closer to the Guardians of the Galaxy. Thor is a film that is funnier than you expect and more important to the grand scheme of things than you think. While it might be one of the weaker solo-films, Thor is still a fun time.

The MCU Countdown #10: Ant-Man

580e2f20255470f5f8c6148db7686e84.jpg

Phase 2 of the MCU is definitely the "risk-taking" phase for Marvel. With the financial success of their films followed by the massive hit in Guardians of the Galaxy, Disney and Marvel were playing with house money. Marvel films were becoming more than just an inter-connected comic book universe, they were becoming a brand. Become a brand that people show up to without hesitation allows you to take risks and make films audiences haven't seen before. Ant-Man would become Marvel's next risk to take and it seemed the highest risk yet. While Paul Rudd had success being a leading man, he was known for comedy and not considered an action hero. Ant-Man also lost it's hot-shot director in Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim, Baby Driver, Cornetto Trilogy) midway through post-production with Peyton Reed filling his shoes. With the loss of its director and questionable lead, Ant-Man seemed to be the safe bet to become the first Marvel film to flop.

Ant-Man starred Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Peña, and T.I. Scott Lang (Rudd) is released from prison after serving his sentence for stealing money from corporate leaders who were taking advantage of their employees. Trying to adjust to the real world, Lang falls back into his old ways and meets up with Hank Pym (Douglas), a scientist formerly known as Ant-Man. With Pym's business protégé Darren Cross (Stoll), hell-bent on replicating Pym's technology, Hank brings in Scott Lang to take up the mantle of the Ant-Man. With the help of Pym's daughter Hope (Lilly), Scott accepts the mission to become the new Ant-Man and help prevent Darren Cross from replicating his technology. 

After watching this film, I can hold by my original statement that Ant-Man is a funnier film than Deadpool. While I find both films very comedic, I just like the comedic content and timing executed in Ant-Man more than Deadpool. While Ryan Reynold's take on Deadpool might be a better lead character than Rudd's take on Scott Lang, I feel like Rudd gets more natural laughs than Reynold's. Deadpool's humor is more vulgar and harsh whereas Ant-Man is a bit more wittier with their comedy. While I enjoy both movies, I believe that Ant-Man was more deserving of recognition in 2016 over Deadpool. 

I also enjoy the fact that we jump into the modern incarnation of Ant-Man. Instead of taking a film or two to tell the origin story of Ant-Man, the audience is given a crash course into the character and thrusted into the action without spending a ton of time on exposition. Not only does this decision help audiences get right into the meat of the story, it allows Marvel the ability to come back to the character and explain his backstory later on in the future. Maybe there is a plan further down the road for Douglas take a crack at leading the original Ant-Man when de-aging technology gets more advanced. Either way, Marvel and their decision to make this film the origin story of Ant-Man was the right decision.

While the film does a good job at progressing the protagonist along with some quality laughs along the way, the film does fall victim to another weak villain from Marvel. The antagonist of Ant-Man falls into another one of Marvel's predictable tropes of having the hero face off against a villain-ized version of himself. Similar to Iron-ManCaptain America, and The Incredible Hulk before, Lang must face off against Cross in their own versions of the Pym-particle suit. Stoll's performance as Darren Cross is definitely menacing but his character's motivations begin to become cartoonish as the film leads towards its climax. The face-off between the two does a great job at creating something new and fresh with the climax but the conflict between the two characters was very mundane and lacks depth. 

Ant-Man is definitely a quality film that gives you something different from the MCU while also  setting up future films. While Ant-Man is a very enjoyable film, I do not believe that Ant-Man is a required watch leading up to later films at this point. While Scott Lang does make an appearance in Captain America: Civil War, his role is small and very little of his origin film bleeds into the events of Civil War. That being said, I do believe you should watch Ant-Man if you are wanting to get through as many MCU films as possible before the release of Infinity War. The film is a breath of fresh air in the comic book genre and I think Ant-Man has some of the most natural comedic moments in the entire franchise. Do yourself a favor and give this movie a shot. If you go into Civil War or Avengers: Infinity War and decide to skip out on Ant-Man, you're going to be found out. Baskin Robins always finds out.

Breaking Down The 90th Academy Awards

ipanews_d1dbd5df-f462-4575-86fd-ef234930e632_embedded235354118.jpeg

Last night, millions of viewers tuned in to the Oscars to see some of Hollywood's most talented performers take the stage. Drama surrounded the award ceremony in all directions including the #TimesUp movement, #OscarsSoWhite, and even the recent allegations against Ryan Seacrest. Many, including me, were wondering how the academy was going to approach this year's ceremony and how these topics could affect the voting process. While I thought the ceremony was better than last year's awards, there is still a lot of work to be done to make this ceremony more inclusive both for the filmmakers and the audience members who go to the movies. Here are my thoughts after witnessing last night's Oscars:


Lady Bird Gets Shutout At The Oscars

One of my favorite moments of the night came when The Shape of Water was awarded Best Picture. I jumped out of my seat in celebration not for the film that won but more for the film that failed completely at the Oscars. Lady Bird was a film that was surrounded by a ton of hype  when the film held the highest Rotten Tomatoes score during its release. The hype only built more after the film began to win awards at the smaller award ceremonies including Best Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes. The discussion then switched to Greta Gerwig possibly being a favorite to land the Best Director award this year as well as Lady Bird being a dark horse for Best Picture. All of this hype and praise made me question if I watched the same film as these critics. I saw nothing incredibly special with this film besides the fact that Lady Bird was female lead and female directed. While I support more female-centric films made by female directors, we should support that these films be held at the same standard as other films within their categories. A film should not get a handicap boost because it has women or minorities involved. A film should be judged by what the film is as a whole and Lady Bird did not hold a candle to many films in the Best Picture category.

The Oscars Are Still Very White

When I was figuring out which picture I wanted to headline this article with, I found a photo featuring all of the winner in the acting category. That photo seemed to be a nice metaphor for what I wanted to discuss. While the Oscars did make progress in nominating and awarding more people of color at this year's award ceremony, the fact remains that a lot of white people still won including a complete absence of people of color winning in the acting categories. Of the twenty actors nominated in an acting category, only four were people of color. Two categories (Best Supporting Actor and Lead Actress) saw ballots completely filled with white actors. Countless of other categories saw a lack of diversity. While the Oscars are making progress, there is still a long way to go. If only the rest of the show made as much progress as the Best Director category which has seen a minority win the award in five of the last six years.

The 90th Oscars Received The Lowest Ratings Ever

Following the trend of many television programs, the 90th Academy Awards saw a drop in their ratings. The only problem is that it wasn't just a drop, it was a plunge. The Oscars saw 6.5 million less viewers than last year broadcast which lead to the lowest ratings in the history of the broadcast. While ratings drops can correlate to more viewers cutting the cord, I believe last night's awards were hurt more in part because the common moviegoer didn't know any of the films in last night's show. There was nothing for the regular audience member to connect with outside of maybe Dunkirk. Almost every film nominated for the Oscars this year were not box office successes with many losing money. Of all of the films nominated for Best Picture, only two crossed the $100 million mark (Dunkirk and Get Out). To put things in perspective, Black Panther in less than a month has made $200 million more than the total gross of every film in the Best Picture category. If nobody saw these Best Picture films, then why would they care if they win or not?  

Get Out And The Voter Bias

According to an i09 report, some of Get Out's failed success last night could have been hindered by the fact that many Academy voters were disregarding the film without even watching it. In the article, one of the new voters in the academy's initiative to inject a younger and more diverse voice mentioned the following: 

“I had multiple conversations with longtime Academy members who were like, ‘that was not an Oscar film,’ and I’m like, ‘that’s bullshit. Watch it.’ Honestly, a few of them had not even seen it and they were saying it, so dispelling that kind of thing has been super important.”

While this news is very hard to hear, the sad thing is that this has been the academy's thinking to a lot of properties in recent years. In 2008, The Dark Knight was the hottest film going into that year's award show and to a lot of dismay, the film was not nominated for Best Picture The film received eight academy award nominations but failed to receive a nomination for Best Picture or Best Director. While Heath Ledger did win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, many believe that his victory was a political move to celebrate his career in the wake of his passing. The outrage for The Dark Knight's snub also lead the academy to change their rules and allow ten films to be nominated for Best Picture instead of the traditional five. 

The situation with what's going on between Get Out and the older generation of voters is even worse than what happened to The Dark Knight and other genre films from the past. This story showcases the pretentiousness of this group and their bias towards certain types of films in full force. Maybe if their bias towards a revolutionary film like Get Out is given more attention, we could inject more discussion about rule changes and allow more new voters to join and progress the medium forward.

The Shape Of Water Won But Will It Be Remembered?

The Shape of Water was an entertaining film but will this film stand the test of time. Many films have won Best Picture in the past but while many have taken the award, that moment fades fast and the film falls into the abyss of Hollywood obscurity. Do you remember who won Best Picture in 2011? The film was The King's Speech, a film that won three of the big six awards. Yet nobody sits there and remembers The King's Speech. What moviegoers do remember if going to the theater and watching Inception, Black Swan, The Social Network, and Toy Story 3. How about 1978 when Annie Hall beat out Star Wars? Will we remember The Shape of Water five or ten years from now or will we remember the 90th Academy awards as the year that weird fish film beat Get Out? Only time will give us that answer. 

The 90th Academy Awards: Predictions

3a2193-20180123-oscars01.jpg

The weekend is finally here and this Sunday, the Oscars will air on ABC and all of our questions will be answered. Who will take home the gold this year? Some categories seemed to be pretty locked heading into this year but never underestimate the underdog candidates during these shows. Just take last year for example, where everyone thought La La Land was a lock for Best Picture and they technically were for all two minutes they were on-stage. This year might not be as surprising as last and hopefully the ending will not be as insane but you never know. 

Going into this year's Oscars, I began writing down predictions for who might win for this year but I wanted to take a different approach for some categories this year. While I will give my predictions on who I believe will win at the 90th Academy Awards, I'll also want to take a moment and give my thoughts on who should win the award as well. The favorites are definitely getting a lot of buzz and attention but I want people to recognize some of the other great work that might not be getting the recognition it deserves this year. 


BEST PICTURE:

Who Should Win?: Get Out

Get Out is the most revolutionary film on the list for this year's Best Picture nominations. What Jordan Peele did with this film is something that will be taught in film schools and discussed in pop culture for decades. The sad thing is that this film would probably win Best Picture if it were not for the fact that the film was released all the way back in February of 2017. With the film being older than a year, Get Out will not be the "sexy" film to talk about and therefore fail to take home the Oscar.

Who Will Win?: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

While Get Out, Lady Bird, and The Shape of Water have grabbed a ton of attention during the award season, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has been a sleeping giant this season. Yes, the film has faced some controversy on its journey but that hasn't slowed down the success one bit. Three Billboards has cleaned house in terms of winning including wins at the Golden Globes, SAG, Critics Choice, and the BAFTAs. Their tear will continue into the night when the film snags a few more wins including the top award of the night. 

LEAD ACTOR:

Who Should Win?: Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out

Talks about a break out role for an actor. Daniel Kaluuya jumped onto the scene with Jordan Peele's directorial debut and crushed it as Chris Washington. His performance showed a ton of strength as well as vulnerability. No matter what skin color and racial background you come from, you can understand Chris' fears. Kayuuya's performance is half the reason this film is nominated for Best Picture and should be the reason he deserves to win Best Actor. Sadly, he won't because of his youth and the academy having to award a mulligan. 

Who Will Win?: Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour

This is going to be a year the Academy says, "We're sorry you haven't won anything for your entire career" and award Gary Oldman his first Oscar. Oldman was terrific in Darkest Hour and carried a film that was basic at best. Oldman's transformation into the English prime minister is one that makes him unrecognizable to the common moviegoer. While his physical transformation is noteworthy, we've seen Oldman deliver far more powerful performances from characters that are even more unrecognizable. Oldman won't be winning the Oscar for Winston Churchill, he will be winning the award for Sid, Dracula, Commissioner Gordon, George Smiley, Mason Verger, and Zorg.

LEAD ACTRESS:

Who Should Win?: Frances McDormand - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Frances McDormand has always been one of those actresses that shows up, gives a solid performance, and goes home. She might not have the top billing of actresses such as Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, and Charlize Theron but her resume and talent speaks for itself. The emotional weight that McDormand carried with her character throughout Three Billboards is mesmerizing. You can feel Mildred's pain deep inside yourself and all of her rash and outlandish decisions somehow make sense to you. Frances McDormand makes Three Billboards just as much as Daniel Kayuuya makes Get Out

Who Will Win?: Saoirse Ronan - Lady Bird

Why this film is getting so much attention this award season is still mind-boggling. Lady Bird is not a bad film but the fact is that this film should not be a contender. Instead, the film could potentially win 3-4 of the major awards at the Oscars. There are many films much deserving and Best Actress is one of them. That being said, the academy is going to want to spread the love tonight and what better way to show love for Lady Bird than with the face of the film itself. Ronan's performance as Lady Bird was nothing truly special. It doesn't take much talent to channel the inner-thinking of a whiney, stuck-up, angry teenager that hates her life and her family and then gets everything she wants in the end. 

SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Who Should Win and Will Win?: Sam Rockwell - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This is the first category on here that I'm going to agree with who will most likely win this award. Just when you forgot how good Sam Rockwell was as an actor, he shows up in Three Billboards and gives the strongest performance of his career. While the social criticism for his character is justifiable, I don't believe that will affect his chances of winning tonight. Rockwell has nearly swept every other major award show leading up the Oscars so it didn't affect that. When you have a accused assaulter working the red carpet, do the decisions of a fictional character really matter to the academy? Rockwell will win, book it.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Who Should Win and Will Win?: Laurie Metcalf - Lady Bird

While I have criticized Lady Bird a ton on this blog and in my personal life, one of the bright spots of this film that I will praise is the performance of Laurie Metcalf as Lady Bird's mom. Marion McPherson is one of the most relatable characters in this movie hands down. All of us in our lives have had moments where we agree or disagree with our parents. We fight, we laugh, and we love them when dealing with our growth as an adolescent. Metcalf's performance is not only a performance of Lady Bird's mother but of all our mothers.

DIRECTOR:

Who Should Win?: Jordan Peele - Get Out

Talk about one of the biggest career transitions a person has ever made. From skit-comedy star to Oscar-nominated horror director, Peele is becoming one of the hottest names in the business. His directorial debut Get Out is probably the most talked about film in 2017. Peele is well deserving of this award but Hollywood might consider passing on Peele because he is a first-time director and believe that he can make something just as good later on down the road. As we've learned before and are reminded of with Oldman this year, don't try to be a fortune-teller with these awards and then correct yourself down the road when you find out you messed up. Do you want #OscarsSoWhite to stop? Do you want changes to be made in Hollywood? Then do the right thing and give this man the recognition he deserves.

Who Will Win?: Greta Gerwig - Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig has been in the independent scene for a while with her collaborations with Noah Baumbach. While her work as an actress has not gotten much recognition, her solo-writing and directorial debut has made Greta Gerwig a household name. While it is intriguing that the two favorites to win this year are two first-time directors, Greta's work with this film might be the weakest resume in comparison to her competitors. Between the technical achievements Christopher Nolan and Guillermo del Toro did to the revolutionary work Jordan Peele did, Greta Gerwig doesn't bring anything new to the table with Lady Bird. The Oscars will use this award as a statement to the #TimesUp movement. While Best Director has only been won by a woman once before, tonight they make it twice.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

Who Should Win?: Logan

When will good comic book films get award recognition? Yes, I know Heath Ledger won an oscar for his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight but Hollywood has produced a handful of incredible comic book films over the past few years. With the genre expanding and entering new horizons of story-telling, Logan is the example of what can happen when a comic book film is given serious attention. While I do not believe Logan is the best comic book film of the year, it's one of the most different comic book films we've seen ever in cinema. The swan song of Hue Jackman is one that deserved some recognition. 

Who Will Win?: The Disaster Artist

Being a fan of The Room and someone who also read the book, The Disaster Artist is a film that this team of comedians somehow got right. The behind-the-scenes story of The Room is something so complex, crazy, and weird, that it is very easy to fall into the realm of parody and full-blown comedy when approaching this material. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (and maybe others if their lawsuit continues), understood the source material well and knew that there was more than just laughs when it comes to Tommy Wiseau. I appreciate what these guys did with this film and won't be disappointed if this film takes home Best Adapted Screenplay.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Who Should Win? The Big Sick - Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani

One of my favorite films of the year is The Big Sick. When someone comes up to me and asks me what film got snubbed, I always come back to this film. The Big Sick is one of the most powerful films of the year that makes you laugh, cry, love, and laugh again. The amount of work it must have been for Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani to reopen old wounds and tell this true story about their early dating lives must have been tough. With Hollywood's lazy attempts and pumping out content by rebooting and making sequels to every property, the academy should celebrate Emily and Kumail for sharing their story and giving audiences something fresh and new. 

Who Will Win?: The Shape of Water - Guillermo del Toro

When your film is nominated for 13 academy awards, you have to win something in the major categories, right? This year's Oscars are going to be very political in terms of who wins and who doesn't this season. Trying to acknowledge the #TimesUp movement and also fight the battle against #OscarsSoWhite, the academy is going to try and find a way to make everyone happy this year. Because of that, things will be messy and The Shape of Water is going to lose some awards to films it's better than. Guillermo could still walk away with Best Director when it's all over and he is more worthy of that award than of Best Screenplay. The fact is that with Greta Gerwig most likely winning Director and Three Billboards winning best picture, Guillermo could snag this award at the end of the night. If Guillermo's film finds itself without many awards at the end of the night, he can always look at Jordan Peele and realize he's not the only person getting screwed over.

The MCU Countdown #11: Avengers - Age of Ultron

avengers-age-of-ultron-avengers-party.jpg

This was possibly one of the hardest films to place on this list. Age of Ultron is a film that is a more entertaining watch than some of the other films higher on this list. On the other hand, the film is definitely problematic including questionable plot decisions and technical choices. Everyone who went to the theaters to see the Avengers that they know and love got the interactions that make us care for them. What audiences did not get was a follow-up that lived up to the billing. No one should have expected this film to compare to the original Avengers film. Trying to surpass your predecessor is one thing but to supplant one of the greatest comic book films of all time is nearly impossible.

Avengers: Age of Ultron brings back its all-star class including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, and Don Cheadle with the addition of Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, and Paul Bettany. Following the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the remnants of SHIELD are on the run from the government and The Avengers are hot on the trail of HYDRA. After leveling the last HYDRA stronghold, Tony Stark comes across HYDRA's tech research and their work on producing an AI. Stark believes that this tech can be used to help create a new deterrent to help protect the world from future alien invasions but his work for good turns into the Avenger's newest foe. 

Joss Whedon brings his trademark witty dialogue back in full-force. Joss Whedon just does a great job at bringing every element that audiences love with these individual characters and use their traits to create incredible interactions with their peers and foes. While there are great moments that work just as well as they did in The AvengersAge of Ultron doesn't nail every landing when it comes to dialogue. The film still lands about 70-80% of its dialogue but when comparing it to the near perfection of The Avengers, it makes it easy to believe that the film failed to deliver. The film is also packed with tons of action including more "hero on hero" fighting that seem to be some of the most entertaining moments in these films. While the film showcases more moments of The Avengers being a team, none of those moments give the same impact as the fight for New York in The Avengers.

Why the film leaves a bitter taste in fan's mouths is that Age of Ultron's purpose isn't focused on the actual story going on in the film. Instead of the film focusing on the conflict going on within the film, Age of Ultron's main goal is to set up all of the major story arcs for Phase 3 of the MCU. Captain America and Iron Man seem more interested in fighting each other instead of fighting Ultron, bitterness that will lead to the events of Captain America: Civil War. Thor's focus is more on trying to transcribe a vision he's given and finding the remaining Infinity Stones, a journey that leads him to his journey in Thor: Ragnarok. All of the films in Phase 2 were a build-up to the events of Age of Ultron only for the film's purpose to set up the next three years of Marvel films instead.

Age of Ultron is a very entertaining film but the fun comes from the interplay between the heroes and not their actual actions. Audiences just had too high of expectations for this film. The second film in the Avengers franchise is definitely an entertaining film but the film's lack of coming anywhere close to their first story makes audiences believe that the film is a failure. Age of Ultron is nowhere near a failure of a film and showcases some of the best moments ever in a Marvel movie. If this film kept its focus on itself and not the future, maybe it could have lived up to the hype.

The MCU Countdown #12: Captain America - The First Avenger

captain-america-the-first-avenger-movie-image-chris-evans-hi-res-02.jpg

Captain America: The First Avenger is the first outing of Captain America in the MCU and the final solo-film in Phase One. The excitement was building for The Avengers leading into this film and many were wondering if Marvel could get their A-list hero to adapt successfully to the big screen. Marvel had already tried to make a movie adaptation of Captain America once back in 1990 with the release of Captain America. The first attempt at bringing Steve Rodgers to live-action was a complete failure. Now they were trying again but this time introducing him as the final key to putting together their cinematic universe. Marvel's casting of Steve Rodgers was one the most concerning of the Phase One castings. While Robert Downey JR. was a proven actor alongside Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans was an actor that has a lot of misses on his resume. He was also casted as a Marvel superhero in the past in Sony's first attempt at creating the Fantastic Four. Once Sony had firmly scrapped that version of the Fantastic Four franchise, Marvel thought they should capitalize and bring in Chris Evans. Many were hoping that under this new guidance that Captain America would be given the right treatment. Was Chris Evans the Captain America we were all hoping for? Thankfully, he was.

The First Avenger can be considered the first Marvel film to set up Marvel's future plan of implanting different genres into their properties. While The First Avenger is definitely a period piece at face value, the film can also be considered a propaganda film with its over-the-top patriotic tone. The film is a big-screen adaptation of not only Captain America but of the World War II poster of Uncle Sam saying, "We Need You". While it is a propaganda film, it helps audiences relate to the patriotism people had in the United States at that time. The character of Captain America himself stems from war propaganda at the time so it's fitting that the film returned the favor.

The propaganda approach to helped stylize the film and set it apart from the MCU films that had come before it. Captain America: The First Avenger was definitely the most colorful and cheerful film at that time. The cheerful tone might be a turnoff to some fans, the lighter tone was the right approach to the Captain America character. Yes, the film is full of camp but it was smartly written camp. A great example of clever writing is the explanation of Captain America's suit. While Iron Man took a tongue-in-cheek approach to explaining the colorful costume, Captain America's American flag inspired outfit was cleverly crafted to make sense as to why it was conceived and why Captain Rodgers keeps using the outfit for the foreseeable future.

While The First Avenger is not the best film in Phase One, it might be the best introduction of a character in the MCU. Captain America was the character that Marvel had to nail or else their cinematic universe would fall on its face before it could start running. Luckily audiences were granted with two more Captain America films later on and several more appearances. The First Avenger is worth revisiting for those who might have missed out on it during its theatrical release especially if fans of the series want to learn more about the relationship between Captain America and Bucky Barns.

The MCU Countdown #13: Iron Man 3

Iron-Man-3.jpg

2013 was the year that the world was introduced to "Phase 2" of the MCU. After the phenomenal success of The Avengers, Marvel was at an all-time high. After releasing what some might consider the best comic book movie of all-time, Marvel needed to follow that production up with another solid outing to know that they were not going away anytime soon. So it was predictable for Marvel to go back to the horse that got them in the race in the first place. Iron Man 3 would be Robert Downey Jr's third solo-film in the MCU and his 5th appearance as Iron Man if you include The Incredible Hulk and The Avengers. While the previous Iron Man films were grounded in reality, The Avengers showcased that Iron Man could go one-on-one with a god and creatures from another realm in space. So how was Marvel going to up the anti in this third installment? Simple, it would go where no stand-alone film had gone before.

Iron Man 3 stars Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, and Ben Kingsley. After the events of The Avengers, Tony has turned himself into a hermit of some sort. Instead of being the hero that the world expects of him now, he resides in his lab tinkering with newer suits as he begins to create an army of Iron Men. While Tony deals with the stress caused by the events of previous film, a series of terrorist attacks begin to spring up around the globe. The Ten Rings organization from the first Iron Man film is now under the leadership of the Mandarin. These attacks combined with Tony's want to return things to the way they were decides to openly challenge the Mandarin. If the country was not going to do anything to stop this terrorist, maybe Iron Man can step in and take matters into his own hands. 

The third installment in the franchise is also the first and only Iron Man film to this point that doesn't have Jon Favreau in the director's chair with Shane Black taking the helm. While I did like Favreau's introduction to the character, it might have been a smart move for him to take a step back after the fallout of Iron Man 2. Shane Black's dark comedy and wit gel perfectly with the personality of Tony Stark and gives the film new blood but not a complete tone shift. The mindset of Tony Stark after the event of The Avengers needed something that kept the humor of Tony Stark but brought the weight of the pressure he was carrying. Tony was a man who sacrificed himself to save the world only to survive because of dumb luck. Bringing the elements of PTSD into a super-hero movie was something that rarely is unpacked in a big-budget action film. Adding small elements like this will be a new staple in Marvel entertainment to come. We all can have fun but we can discuss important issues while we're at it. 

As for the film itself, Iron Man 3 has a lot of good going for it as well as some bad. Iron Man 3 is the first film of Phase 2 scored by Brian Tyler who is an unsung hero for the MCU. As I stated in my Thor: The Dark World retrospective, Brian Tyler put himself to the task of introducing character themes to each of Marvel's heroes that previous composers failed to do. His work in Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldies, and Thor: The Dark World is the best work Marvel has done musically until Guardians of the Galaxy comes around later on. The film also achieves a solid balance of comedy, drama, and action. While not all the comedy works in the film, every action moment succeeds tremendously and keeps the stakes high. The purpose of each character throughout the film is fleshed out well except for the actual Mandarin himself. Without giving away the twist of his character for readers who still have not seen this six-year-old film, the Mandarin's true self does not line up with some of real actions that he partakes in. Some of them would be completely contradictive without characters proving subtle side-notes to patch up some shaky writing. While the true villain of the film is worthy of his name, creating a more tightly woven antagonist would have elevated this film much higher on this list.  

Iron Man 3 will probably be the last stand-alone film we will ever get with Tony Start in the Iron Man suit. His character at this point is so intertwined with the Avengers, it would not make sense for him to an adventure that would not involve his fellow companions in the organization. Maybe we could see another solo film if Tony Start survives the events of Avengers: Infinity War but high probability that the third or fourth film in the Avengers story-arc will meet the end of the hero that started it all. While Iron Man 3 isn't a perfect film in anyway, the film is way more entertaining that Iron Man 2 and a good tone-setter for the rest of the MCU films to come. 

The MCU Countdown #14: Doctor Strange

p11-shoji-strange-a-20170119.jpg

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has its know heroes and famous faces, many of Marvel's heroes have started to grumble about their times in the MCU coming to a close sooner rather than later. With the possibility of some heroes preparing their big screen farewell in the coming years, Marvel began laying the foundation for their next generation of heroes to lead the charge into the next chapter of the MCU. The Guardians of the Galaxy were introduced in 2014 and they were followed-up with the introduction of Ant-Man the year after. While their introductions were a success, they were obviously not the star-power needed to lead the future of the MCU. 2016 is where things started to get serious with the introduction of Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Steven Strange in his self-titles origin film, Doctor Strange.

Doctor Strange follows the beginnings of Steven Strange, a lead nerosurgine in a Manhattan who quite simple is the best in his field. His talent for saving people from impossible circumstances leads to his cocky and arrogant lifestyle. After a near-fatal car accident, Strange is left with severe nerve damage in his hands preventing him from ever being a surgeon again. Looking for ways to repair himself leads him to Kamar-Taj and discovers the world of mystical magic. Strange must decide if he wants to return to the life that he once lived or serve a bigger purpose and protect the world from greater dangers.

The film ended up being a critical and financial success. With Marvel Studios doing their best to keep their stories fresh and inventive, Doctor Strange truly was something different in terms of visual aesthetic. The imagery of the different dimensions showcase in the film alone are worth the price of admission. Benedict Cumberbatch is such a perfect casting as Doctor Strange. There are moments in this film where Cumberbatch literally looks like the comic book renditions of Strange from the past. Cumberbatch's performance is solid along with the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, and Benedict Wong. Mikkelsen's performance as Kaecilius does fall into the realm of one-dimensional MCU villains as well as being the mirror of what the protagonist could become if given the wrong motivations. While the film nails some casting, one will always make me scratch my head and that is the problematic casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. While I understand that there is plenty of mystery to her character and where she originates from, it is obvious that her culture and beliefs stem from eastern teachings. While I'll give the film credit for tranisitioning the the Ancient One as a female instead of a male figure, they could have also taken this oppertunity to add more diversity to the film.

While I do appreciate the film's visual creativeness and introduction to the world of the mystic arts, the film lacks any other form of creativity after that. The core plot of the film is basically a beat-for-beat retelling of Iron Man's origin story from his first film. The growth of Strange going from self-centered playboy to defender of the people is completely stolen from Iron Man. Doctor Strange also deals with a recent problem in some MCU films recently with forcing too many jokes into the film. Some moments in the film that give weight to the storytelling only get ruined by forced comedic moments only to get cheap laughs. While that might work on first-time viewings, they tend to get stale over time and completely ruin the films pacing. The love tension between Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachel McAdams lacks chemistry similar to Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman in their Thor films as well. While Doctor Strange doesn't overplay the love angle as much as Thor does, the fact remains that the force plot is still there. 

Doctor Strange is still a fun and entertaining film and worth checking out, especially leading up to Avengers: Infinity War since Strange seems to be a big player in the film as well as the world to come. The film is also easy to obtain currently as it is currently streaming on Netflix as well. While I do believe the film is more entertaining than some films to come on this list, I have to place this film lower on this list due to the fact that is lacks the originality that some of these later films do. While some of these films later on rinse and repeat some plot elements, they still find a way to make you believe that they bring something fresh to the table. That being said, I look forward to seeing the next chapter in the Doctor Strange story.

Watch The Best Trailers From Super Bowl LII

super-bowl-commercials-2018.jpg

Super Bowl Sunday is an unofficial holiday in the United States of America. Millions gather around friends and family around the TV as they watch the finale of the NFL's best. While most people watching are interested in the the game itself, others are excited for all of the ad campaigns airing during the big game, including a plethora of movie trailers for the upcoming year in films. Here are the trailers that aired during the Super Bowl broadcast:


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom


SOLO: A Star Wars Story

Skyscraper

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

The Cloverfield Paradox

Avengers: Infinity War


The MCU Countdown #15: Guardians of the Galaxy - Vol. 2

MCU-Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-2.jpg

Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the riskiest moves Marvel Studios had made until recently. While Marvel was having a ton of critical and box office success with their films, all of them were based off of big-named characters in the comics. When Disney announced that they were making a movie based off the Guardians of the Galaxy, plenty of people were asking themselves "Who are these guys and is that a raccoon with a gun?" Needless to say, Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge financial hit and catapulted this band of misfit characters into pop culture stardom. Obviously, a sequel was bound to happen with the success of the first film and the Marvel structure of telling stories. Everyone was lining up for Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 with tons of excitement and anticipation.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 brings back Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista and Vin Diesel as the Guardians of the Galaxy along with other familiar faces to the franchise. Following the events of the first film, the Guardians are now guns-for-hire taking on any task that rewards them a large payday. After a job with the Sovereign goes south, Peter Quill comes in contact with a man claiming to be his father. With this revelation, Quill and Gamora decide to follow Quill's father, Ego, to his home planet where they can find out where he's been this whole time. Meanwhile the rest of the Guardians face the remainder of the Ravagers hot on their tale looking for revenge for getting ripped off in the first film.

The entire cast does their best at recapturing the magic and chemistry that made the first film such a hit. It's hard not to fall for Chris Pratt's charm and Baby Groot's adorable nature. While the chemistry between all of the characters and performers are still there, breaking the team in half for a majority of the film hinders this film's success greatly. What made the original great were not the character's individual actions but their interactions between the rest of the crew. Once the decision is made to split up, the main element that made the first film great is gone. To compensate for that lost humor, everyone cranks it to 11 on their performances. The two characters that noticeably take a downgrade in their performance is Drax and Nebula. Drax goes from a threatening figure who's literal language makes him a comedic bruit to a loud laughing monster who takes nothing seriously. Nebula, one of the weakest characters in the original film, comes back with a better story-arc but Karen Gillan's performance is still awful. Karen Gillan as Nebula is probably the worst character in the entire MCU.

This film, like many films in the MCU, is another example of a film that stuffers from sequel-itis. While films like Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World suffered from a mild cold, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 is a film that could be compared to pneumonia. This film goes over-the-top time and time again with its comedy. While the amount of comedy might be exactly what you want from this film, there is a lot of comedy in this film that doesn't serve the story at all. Speaking of story, the entire third act of this film is almost completely unwatchable on repeat viewings. The film could have easily ended 10-15 minutes earlier than it should have but Gunn's inclusion of the Sovereign in the final act is a terrible decision that only makes sense viewing the film the first time.

When I left the theater after seeing this film opening weekend, I was thoroughly enjoyed. While I didn't believe that the film was better than the original, I believed at the time that Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 did an adequate job at following-up the original film. Once I revisited this film for the third time for this retrospective, I found myself losing interest in the film midway through the film. The lack of a driving story with the supporting characters and making this film completely centered around Peter Quill was a terrible decision. While these problems are not noticeable with a first viewing, they show their ugly face in repeat viewings.