Third time’s the charm. It’s not that the first two Thor movies were bad. They were films that took themselves a little too seriously. Instead, Thor: Ragnarok finds our favorite Asgardian, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) exiled in the psychedelic, heavily-synthesized cosmos, made popular by the Guardians of the Galaxy.
The Guardians of the Galaxy return to the big screen to prove they are more than just misfits prepared to save the galaxy. In Volume 2, the Guardians prove that they need to be a family to save the galaxy.
Release Date: May 5, 2017
Writer: James Gunn
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Elizabeth Debicki
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 starts a few months after the events of the first film. Our brood of heroes, Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) are hired as the Guardians to protect a power set of batteries from an inter-dimensional monster. The batteries power the race of conceited aliens known as the Sovereign.
As payment, the Guardians take custody of Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), but as their leaving Rocket steals the very batteries that they were hired to protect. Here starts a series of plots and sub-plots, the main one being the meeting of Peter Quill’s father played by Kurt Russell, who brings Peter, Gamora and Drax to his home planet. For comic book fans, this planet is Ego, the living planet. They also meet Mantis (Elizabeth Debicki), who serves Ego. She has empathic powers.
The other subplots include Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his gang of Ravagers. Yondu has been kicked out of the Ravagers because he betrayed the other clans in the first film. Yondu is then hired by the Sovereign to hunt down the Guardians and return the batteries, but Yondu also had a mutiny on his hands when one of his officers Tazer Face (Pom Klementieff) no longer believes Yondu can effectively act as leader.
While in custody, Nebula plots to get the upper hand on Gamora and ultimately kill her and then her father, Thanos. Rocket continues his own brand of self-destructive and self-loathing behavior and then there’s Baby Groot, who wants to grow up and become a warrior, but he’s only a baby.
There is a lot going on in Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2. You can already see there is literally a shipload of old and new characters. There are about four storylines going on at the same time. Writer/Director James Gunn masterfully manages to keep the storylines interesting and followable which could have easily unraveled at any point.
The main story between Quill and Ego is not the strongest of stories and unfortunately, it is the main spine of the movie. Their relationship feels more like a morality episode of Star Trek. It feels very over-and-done by the end of the movie.
As much as this is a large galactic action movie, the best moments in Guardians are the moments the main characters spend together. Clearly, there is a Sam-and-Diane relationship brewing between Quill and Gamora. So-much-so that Quill calls it out as a Cheers-inspired romance. Drax and Mantis have an opposite relationship, which will make your head spin. Maybe, the sisterly conflict between Gamora and Nebula feels a little forced.
The tone of Guardians of the Galaxy is light, a little gruesome and stands outside the seriousness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Earth. But this movie is funny and the rollercoaster of action you expect it to be. For a long movie, the pacing is fast and because it is packed with so much plot, characters and action, you leave wanting more. Finally, please stay to the end of the credits.
Famed neurosurgeon, Dr. Stephen Strange, finds new meaning in his life when he masters of magical world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Release Date: November 4, 2016
Writer: John Spaihts, Scott Derrickson
Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Chiwatel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen
Marvel Studios has finally gotten away from the traditional superhero movie and now delves into the tricky world of multi-universes, other dimension and magic. Clearly Marvel’s biggest challenge to date because any misstep can turn Doctor Strange into the hookiest piece of garbage in the Marvel Cinematic universe. Instead, Doctor Strange is an engaging and visually stunning action film with mind-bending martial arts.
Let start off by saying there is a lot to wrap your brain around with Doctor Strange. After a car accident, famed neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) losing the use of his fingers and at the same time loses his whole reason to live. He becomes obsessed with healing his fingers and returning to his world of fame. Obsessed to the point that he pushes everyone away, including colleague and former lover, Christine (Rachel McAdams).
Searching for answers, he finds that Western Medicine is of no help and desperate for answers discovers Eastern Mysticism as a possible way to heal himself. He finds himself down to literally his penny in Kathmandu. He trained by fellow student, Mordo (Chiwatel Ejiofor), mystic librarian Wong (Benedict Wong) and the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton).
Strange proves himself to be a fast learner, but as always he is faced with the choice to heal his hands and return to his former life or risk it all for something bigger than himself. In this case, it’s the nefarious Kaecillius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his disciples. Kaecillius has decided that immortality is what he truly seeks and can only attain it by handing the earth over to the Dark Lord Dormammu.
Visually Stunning. Let’s just say it. Doctor Strange is a visually stunning movie. This is basically why you should see this movie, especially in Imax-3D. Everything is just cool to watch. Think of it as Inception on crack and with cool martial arts.
The first fight scene is amazing leading to a spectacular second fight scenes. This then leads to an almost impossible to believe final act, which will blow your mind. How’s that for no spoilers.
To his credit, writer/director Scott Derrickson, weaves out-of-this-world Ditko-esque images and ideas into a story that is solid and somehow manages to hold itself together. The story is clearly an origin story and the symbolisms regarding time hit you in the face like a lead brick. Strange must come to grips with not only losing his former life, which constantly haunts him but accepting a role that may save more lives than he can ever imagine.
Doctor Strange is a smart story with amazing visuals. It manages to find itself worthy do sit among the other Marvel films. Stay for the ending.
It is never an easy task to top a great movie. Avengers: Age of Ultron would possibly be a great movie if it were a sequel to the original. You’re going to have a great time, but you’ll always have the first movie in the back of your mind to remind you it’s a sequel.
Release Date: May 1, 2015
Writer/Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Paul Bettany, James Spader.
There is a lot going on in Avengers: Age of Ultron. If you follow Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you know that the final remnant of Hydra has Loki’s Sceptre, been experimenting on power people (i.e. Inhumans) and building some kind of an army. The movie opens as the Avengers assemble to rid once and for all Hydra and regain the scepter.
After the battle, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) allows Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) to study the scepter. Stark discovers the scepter contains a form of high-level alien artificial intelligence. Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) decide to see if they can leverage this new technology and create an army of robot “bouncers” that will protect the earth from alien invaders.
Unbeknownst to Tony, he accidently succeeds in this dream and creates Ultron (James Spader). Long story short, Ultron believes man is the earth’s greatest enemy and that the Avengers have to be destroyed first. In order to ensure success, Ultron convinces the two damaged power people, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), to slow the Avengers down.
That’s the big story, but it wouldn’t be a Joss Whedon movie if it didn’t have more b-story. Banner and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) have a budding romance brewing. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) has a bigger role in Age of Ultron, and we learn a little about his real life. Captain America (Chris Evans) is ready to accept the cards life has dealt him. The Vision (Paul Bettany) is born into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Joss Whedon manages to recreate the team dynamic from the first movie. He again succeeds the balancing the stories of the large cast. He’s also a master of telling a giant earth-threatening story and bring a great deal of humor to the cast. No one stages big fights than Joss Whedon. Whedon lso addressed the issues of collateral damage when a battle of titans go at it in a heavily populated city. Take that Man of Steel.
Clearly, the best part of Avengers: Age of Ultron is the villain, Ultron (James Spader). The tone of Spader’s voice is ominous, intelligent, theatrical and menacing. I doubt he’ll get an Oscar nomination for this performance, but I’m sure people will bring it up.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is a great action adventure and in its greatness still falls short of the nostalgia of the first movie.
Iron Man 3 is just short of being the best Marvel Comics Movie, just behind Marvel’s the Avengers. That said, it’s one of the best movies produced by Marvel Studios and you should go out and see it now.
Review by: Alan Ng
Release Date: May 3, 2013
Official Website: marvel.com/ironman3
Director: Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Writer; Iron Man 2, Writer)
Robert Downey Jr – Tony Stark
Gwyneth Paltrow – Virginia “Pepper” Potts
Don Cheadle – James “Rhodey” Rhodes
Guy Pearce – Aldrich Killian
Rebecca Hall – Dr. Maya Hansen
Jon Favreau – Happy Hogan
Ben Kingsley – Mandarin
Iron Man 3 takes place after the events of Marvel’s the Avengers. Tony Stark finds himself suffering from panic attacks after saving the earth from alien takeover. He is unable to sleep and is constantly working to improve his Iron Man armor. In the Avengers, we saw the 7th version of the armor. At the beginning of Iron Man 3, it’s the 42nd, which shows how obsessive he’s become about never being able to protect the one person he loves, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).
Also Tony has to live with the damage his playboy lifestyle and the people he’s used and ignored in the past. The villain is Iron Man 3 is a terrorist named the Mandarin. He’s created human bombs and is hitting targets in the United States. When Happy Hogan is his latest victim, Tony dedicates himself to avenging the attack on his friends. The threat is met with force when Tony’s Malibu Mansion is attacked.
Robert Downey Jr. is the best thing about Iron Man 3. Only an actor of his caliber could literally carry this movie. He can drop his playful one-liners, pull off panic attacks and keep us interested in the development of his character. Ben Kingsley made the perfect Mandarin. He really pulled off the terror aspect of a terrorist.
Special attention to the kid who played Harley (Ty Simpkins). He had some unbelievable banter with Tony Stark.
I also like the tone that Shane Black brought to this movie. It was all about Tony and everything on screen touched on his weaknesses. The action scenes were amazing and the famous Air Force One rescue had my heart racing.
Iron Man 3 is a triology. Is this the end for Iron Man? Ending of Iron Man 3 is the same as other 3 movies, i.e. Dark Knight and Toy Story. The ending is something I didn’t see coming and not in a way of cliffhanger surprises, but with the emotions that you feel for Tony Stark. This third movie ties things up in the end and makes you wonder how will Tony be brought back to the Avengers.
There were a few things that stuck out at me such as the inconsistent way the bio-enhanced soldiers. I never had the sense of this is how you kill them, this is how you destroy them. They just kept coming back.
The Dr. Maya Hansen character was not well developed and I didn’t know how I should feel about her safety.
There were also points that things bordered on the extreme to extreme silliness. The fate of Pepper is what I’m thinking about here.
Overall, I loved the story. I liked the reality of Tony Stark as a person and not as an alien superhero. You will have fun and finally the ending credits are awesome. Not so much the scene at the end of the movie.