Captain Marvel: Good, but Not Great

For the last ten years, Marvel Studios has done an amazing job creating a cinematic universe using “second-tier” heroes from their comic books. They’ve also done a pretty uncanny job of casting the right people as the heroes. Today, who could imagine someone besides Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man or Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America (and so on).

Although Captain Marvel is a good, decently paced, and entertaining latest entry in the MCU catalogue, it’s just misses the mark of being one of the great films. It’s like the Tony Romo of the MCU films: Good movie, great numbers ($900 million at the box office so far), but is just missing that extra something special to push it over the top.

The first part of the movie is a bit boring. Starforce member Vers (Danvers/Capt Marvel) suffers from amnesia and is haunted by nightmares. She has been a part of Starforce for the last six years and has no memories before that. She has issues maintaining control of her emotions, and is urged by her mentor and commander as well as the Kree leader she must learn to control them.

On a mission to recover a spy, Vers is captured by the Skrulls, an alien race of shapeshifters who the Kree have been at war with, and is subjected to a memory probe. Strangely, although Vers has amnesia, there’s nothing that prevents the Skrulls from scrolling through her memories with a high-tech TiVo. The Skrulls are looking for a specific Kree agent, and as luck would have it, Vers memories lead them to her. Vers escapes, but destroys the Skrulls ship, so both she and the Skrulls crash land on Earth in 1995.

Once on Earth, Vers runs into a young Nick Fury and SHIELD, and hilarity ensues as they try to track down the Kree agent on Earth before the Skrulls do.

The amnesia angle is a bit of a problem, because it seems like the writers have given little for Brie Larson to run with outside of being a stoic warrior. Once she has a chance to interact with her co-stars, she’s much better, and in some cases, her co-stars really outshine her. Larson does fine with what she’s given, though. She may be the right choice for Carol Danvers/Capt Marvel, but we’ll have to wait to see her in Avengers: Endgame to see if Larson has more to work with.

At just over two hours, the movie feels pretty well paced. As with any Marvel movie, you probably don’t want to overthink the plot too much (like a nit picky thing for me is: where is her Kree uniform? Danvers wears normal clothes during a large part of her time on Earth, but there’s no sign of her Kree outfit or some type of Kree fanny-pack that she’s wearing. Sure it’s something they could have explained in a few seconds, but they didn’t) . The 90’s references are fun, and ensures the film has a pretty great soundtrack. The movie does a decent job of introducing the Kree/Skrull conflict and throws in a few MCU connections.

The creators try to give Capt. Marvel a big “hero” moment late in the film. A lot of the elements are there, like flashbacks of Danvers struggling in moments in her past. But, there’s no real context around the flashbacks, and the stakes aren’t really established, so when she overcomes the challenge, it lacks the emotional connection they were shooting for. You can see what they were trying to do, and I think, with a few changes, they could have gotten pretty close.

Spider-Man: Homecoming borrows a scene like this directly from the comics, and they do a much better job of making the “hero” moment work.

The weakest part of the movie comes near the end. Once Capt. Marvel “unlocks” her powers, she masters complete control of her nearly apparently near-unlimited power within about 10 minutes of screen time. Up until that point, we’ve only ever seen Marvel shoot fusion blasts from her hands. The audience has no idea that she can do the other things or was even trained to do anything else with her powers.

I have no problem with Captain Marvel being ultra-powerful, but for me it’s a case of lazy writing. At least show the audience some glimpse of her doing something else with her powers beforehand.

Hopefully, by Endgame, Carol Danvers/Capt. Marvel will have her memories back and can bring more of a human element to her powers, so she doesn’t end up feeling like the Superman of the MCU. I really don’t want to see Capt. Marvel become this emotionless god-like character like DC has done with Superman in the DCCU/Snyder-verse.

The most touching moment of the film? For me, it was the opening credits. Normally, Marvel movies open with an animated logo sequence. As the 3D logo falls into place, we see animations of comic panels inside the logo related to the hero in the movie. For their 10th anniversary logo, the logo changed to splice in video clips of the heroes from the entire MCU. This year, in honor of Stan Lee (who passed away last November), the logo shows clips of all of Lee’s cameos from the MCU movies (I’m assuming only MCU, but I guess they could have clips from the older movies). At the end of the animation, the logo fades to black before displaying a single, simple message: “Thank you, Stan”.

I’ll be honest. I sorta had high hopes for this film. With this being the first major Marvel movie starring a female super hero, and Marvel knocking it out of the park in their most of their most recent films, I really hoped they would do something special with Captain Marvel.

Instead, it feels more like a standard MCU-paint-by-numbers origin story, and while the movie is good, it just misses that something extra to make it memorable.

It’ll be interesting to see if Captain Marvel becomes a part of one of the other teams (Avengers, Guardians), or if they’ll keep her solo and have a Captain Marvel sequel. Based on the box office numbers, a sequel seems like a pretty sure bet. But with the Disney/Marvel acquisition of 20th Century Fox (and the rights to Marvel’s top-tier heroes), it’s too early to guess if Marvel will re-think “phase four” of their plans for the MCU.

What’s a Poor Billionaire (ahem, ‘person of means’) To Do?

In the last week or so, we’ve seen at least a couple of billionaires announce or drop hints that they were exploring the idea of running for President.

Michael Bloomberg has been dropping hints for awhile, but the one out of left field has to be Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks.

Bloomberg has at least some experience as a former New York City mayor, but Schultz wants to follow the Trump playbook.

In the comics, these bored billionaires would become super heroes and fight crime: Batman, Iron Man, Green Arrow, Moon Knight, etc.

In the real world, some billionaires try to make a difference in the world through philanthropy, like Bill Gates.

But, then, there are these guys. Men who, like Trump, live in their own protective bubbles and have surrounded themselves with ‘yes men’ who happily praise any idea their bosses come up with.

After seeing two years of insanity of Trump, what makes these men want to run?

Are they bored, and looking for the next big thrill? Being President would certainly mean obtaining power at a level their fortunes can’t begin to touch.

Are they seeing what Trump is getting away with now and thinking: “Look at what Trump is getting away with, and he’s a fucking moron. Just imagine what someone with real intelligence could do with that kind of power.” They’re looking for new tax breaks or other policy changes that could help add more to their pockets and the pockets of their billionaire friends?

Are they seeing the winds of change blowing in after the 2018 midterms, with fresh Democratic faces advocating for things like Medicare for all and new taxes on the wealthy, and they want to ensure such things never happen?

Maybe they want to take a turn at being Putin’s puppet? 

As we’ve seen with the continued backlash in social media over Schultz’s announcement (which shocked Schultz and absolutely no one else), many Americans are simply not thrilled with the idea of another “Trump”, even an “anti-Trump” billionaire with zero experience running the country.

Sure, there’s the chance that a billionaire “independent” candidate could create a huge mess in 2020, like Perot and his charts did in 1992. This time, though, they could snag a huge batch of “anyone but Trump” voters, which might pull enough votes from a Democratic challenger and help re-elect Trump.

Or, maybe, that’s the plan? They may despise Trump and hate most of his policies. But, they have to love what he’s doing for the rich and corporations. What if one of them runs, not to win, but to steal enough “anti-Trump” votes to ensure that Trump wins re-election?

So far, though, Schultz also hasn’t helped himself by continuing to shoot himself in the foot, and chances are that, hopefully, his “campaign” will end before it even gets out the gate. After seeing the reaction to Schultz, the other billionaires appear to have decided to hold off a bit.

Maybe they should look into a buying a cape and dressing up as a bat?

Justice League – Watchable, but pretty meh

A couple of weeks ago, a buddy of mine and I went to see Thor: Ragnarok (again). Afterward, we were discussing if Ragnarok was worthy of being in our personal top five Marvel movies. 

 

For both of us, it was. 

 

Last week, I watched a review of Justice League and the most positive thing they could say about the movie was that they considered to be the 2nd best DC Cinematic Universe movie behind Wonder Woman. 

 

So, now, after seeing it, where does Justice League land, in my opinion? 

 

Meh? It’s watchable, but it’s also kind of boring. 

 

Instead of the top five Marevel movies, think about which one you would consider to be the WORST of the MCCU movies (starting with Iron Man in 2008). 

 

Your pick for the worst Marvel movie is still able to tell a more coherent story and may actually have a better villain than Justice League. 

 

Despite this, you may ultimately agree that Justice League is the second best DC movie to date (and that depends on how you felt about Man of Steel). The bar, though, is so low at this point, it’s hard not to beat those expectations.

 

Justice League also has the misfortune of following Thor: Ragnarok: It’s easily the best Thor movie to date, and it’s a showcase of the MCCU hitting all the right notes. 

 

So what worked in Justice League? 

 

Certainly, adding a bit of humor to the movie certainly helped along with making Batman less murdery (although Affleck’s “phoned-it-in” performance seems pretty obvious he’s lost interest in the role – or maybe that was his intent for Batman to sulk because he’s not killing so many bad guys this time around).

 

Gal Gadot is still great as Wonder Woman.  Flash and Cyborq are pretty good, and even Aqua-brah is at least tolerable. It’s disappointing that the movie didn’t take a bit more time fleshing out the back stories of these guys, especially Aquaman.  They made him look cool, sure, but there’s just not much revealed about his own story outside of the fact that he’s Atlantean.  There are some funny moments, and there are a few moments of seeing the group start to bond that are fun to watch. 

It certainly feels like Whedon had a hand in some of the bonding scenes.

 

The opening song is a bit gut-wrenching. It’s meant to echo the feeling of the world losing hope as they mourn the death of Superman, but the song also touches a bit close to home with the political situation here in the U.S. and elsewhere. 

 

I’m still a bit disappointed in Cyborg being in the League, but that’s mostly because of my background. When I read & collected comics in the 80s, the sixth member of the Justice League was Green Lantern and Cyborg was part of the Teen Titans. 

 

What didn’t work?

 

It’s hard to get into what went wrong with the movie without delving into spoilers. Basically, Batman, for reasons, suspects that something bad is coming, and that the world is in danger. He needs to put together a team to fight this thing and hopefully stop it and help restore “hope” to the world.  Beyond that, the story is a complete mess.

 

Part of the problem with Justice League is that it wants us to forget about Batman vs Superman. Part of the entire theme of that movie was that world wasn’t sure about Superman, but now that he’s dead, everyone loves him. Batman already has files on the “recruits” so it feels odd that he’s got to find them and/or isn’t sure how to approach them. 

 

Another part of the problem is the main villain: Steppenwolf. For one, he looks too much like Mars did in Wonder Woman. He’s just not interesting. He shows up, and he’s out to destroy the world: for reasons. There are hints about a backstory, but there are almost no details. 

 

Unless you’re deeply familiar with DC comics, you’ll have no idea who or what Steppenwolf or parademons or mother boxes are. They could have swapped any of the bad guys out with vampires or zombies or giant alien robots and you’d care about the same.

 

Why does this suck? 

 

Towards the end of the credits, the movie recognizes some of the brilliant creators who have worked on Justice League over the years. The Justice League/Justice League of America/JLA have been in comics since 1960, yet Warner Bros/DC could not find a single story from almost 60 years of comic archives by some of the greatest creators in the industry that would have worked in a movie? 

 

The other sad thing is that the villain most fans were truly excited to see doesn’t show up until the post credits scene. He looks amazing, and I look forward to seeing him in action. But again, in my comics background, that bad guy isn’t one of the JLA’s normal opponents.

 

I guess Steppenwolf is meant to be a kind of an harbinger of Darkseid, but outside of Steppenwolf saying the word “Darkseid” once in the film, the movie never mentions anything about that. 

 

It’s almost like the movie creators put a list of names of villains that could be powerful enough for the League to fight on a wall and just threw a dart at the wall to pick one at random. 

 

And don’t get me started on what happens with Superman. 

 

Ultimately, the movie suffers from the same thing that all of the DCCU movies have suffered from: they’re desperately trying to catch up to Marvel. But, they don’t want to spend the time in creating individual movies and building the characters up to a point where a movie with them working as a team makes sense. 

 

From a software perspective, it’s like rushing a product that tries to catch up to a competitor and trying to convince buyers that they have the same “feature set” as the competition, even though the competition has spent years getting to where they are. Look at this list of features, marketing says, we check all the same boxes as the other guys. 

 

That’s what Justice League is: See? We’ve got all the things as those other guys! They have six super-heroes; we have six heroes. They have witty banter; we have witty banter.  They save the world; our guys save the world, too. They care about protecting innocent civilians, and, now, so do our guys. 

 

And for better or worse, DC can now say they’ve checked off all the boxes, and that Justice League is “just the same” as the Avengers. 

 

Except that Marvel can still tell a better, more coherent story on their worst day.

 

I won’t even bother comparing it to Thor: Ragnarok, because that wouldn’t even be a fair fight. 

 

Justice League may check off all of the boxes and it may be better than the clusterfuck that BvS, but DC still has a long way to go before they’re able to put together something that competes with the Avengers. 

 

I wouldn’t rush out to see this one; maybe it’s worth a rental. A cheap rental.

As much as DC likes rebooting their comic universe lately, I’d say that maybe it’s time to boot Zack Snyder and start over. (Find a way to keep Gal Gadot though)

 

Additional Notes:

 

I found the second post credits scene to be a complete cringeworthy mess despite the fact of who shows up in it. It’s amazing that a single two minute scene can make you exclaim “Wait, what?!?”, then “Yes!”, then “Oh, for fuck’s sake” by the end. Again, you’d think this scene would drop hints that would tie this movie into the sequel, but nope, not so much. 

 

Will DC try to make individual movies for Superman and Batman (and Flash and/or Cyborg)? Aquaman is basically done, so they’re committed there. Obviously, Wonder Woman is a go as well. Flash seems to be getting pretty positive vibes from other reviews I’ve read, so… maybe?

 

There are also the constant rumors that Affleck wants out. Do they do an Affleck solo Batman movie and have him pass the torch to a younger guy to be the new Batman?  Do they just let him off after the solo Batman movie and then retcon Batman as a younger actor and hope nobody notices? 

(No, really, Batman is really this guy not that old Affleck guy – fake news!)

 

Of course, if not Affleck, then who would be the next to wear the cowl?

The New MacBook – Just the Beginning?

This morning, I made a comment on Twitter that the new MacBook is really meant to be a “road” or “travel” or “second” computer for people who already owned Macs. It’s probably not powerful enough or flexible enough to work as an everyday computer. 

But then, on my drive into work, I was thinking that I’d heard that before…

Isn’t that what a lot of people said about the original MacBook Air in 2008?

What’s this? A computer without a CD/DVD drive? Only a single USB port? So thin you could use it as a knife? 

What was Apple thinking?!? 

As we know now, the Macbook Air is one of Apple’s best selling line of laptops, and, in fact, now represents the “budge-conscious” side of Apple’s lineup. It’s only in the last year or so that competitors in the PC world have been able to come close to replicating the Macbook Air’s form factor and weight.

What does it mean? 

Right now, the MacBook is step towards the future. We won’t know for sure until next month, but from what I’ve read the Core M processor won’t match the performance of the Core i5’s in the baseline Macbook Air’s. It probably won’t be fast enough for power users, but it may be plenty fast enough for the average computer user. 

If I remember correctly, the first generation Macbook Air suffered from the same problem. It wasn’t nearly as fast and as the other machines in Apple’s lineup. They had less memory, less hard drive space, etc. 

But that form factor was damn sexy. 

The Air’s design elements eventually spread to the Macbook Pros: thinner, lighter machines with fewer ports and no CD/DVD drive.

Like the original MacBook Air, the new MacBook has taken some gutsy steps of its own. It’s even thinner and lighter, with a Retina display, new keyboard, new trackpad, and a single USB-C port. And, like previous MacBooks, it comes in colors!

i’ve no doubt that we’ll see Apple sell a ton of them. 

Intel is working towards moving the Core i3/i5/i7 processors to the 14nm process, so it’s possible that in a couple of generations, the MacBook may be powerful enough to meet even power user demands. It will probably replace the Air lineup in a couple of years. 

The trackpad is already in the 13 inch Retina MacBook Pro, so it’s a no-brainer that the pad will move to the other MacBook Pros.

What about USB-C? 

This is the one area i’m the most curious about. How soon will (or if) Apple will ditch Thunderbolt in favor of USB-C?  Will there be any adapters, especially since right now – the MacBook won’t be able to connect to any Apple Cinema Display. How aggressive will Apple be in moving the new components into the MacBook Pro and Mac Pro lines?

Basically, how soon will my fancy new Thunderbolt dock become obsolete?

Also, if Retina now appears in the MacBook, does that mean that the MacBook Pros will bump up to 5K displays? 

Picture that: A new, thinner 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 5k display, 4 USB-C ports and weighs less than 4 pounds? 

That would be pretty sweet.

Disneyfying-Star Wars Part Two

Ok,
After reading this post by Harry Knowles of AintItCoolNews, I’m feeling a bit less pessimistic about Disney owning Star Wars.
Harry Chimes in on Star Wars
My biggest fear is that they’ll stay the course like Lucas did with the first three films and try to specifically target an 8-to-10-year-old audience.
(Of course, strangely, Lucas says he was targeting that age group, but the plot – what plot there was – really didn’t play to that age group)
The other concern was that Disney would take some of their Disney TV shows and churn out a bunch of kid-friendly shows set in the Star Wars universe. For example, they have a “sitcom” about a bunch of kids studying karate. Take that same show, cast them as padawans, put them in the Star Wars universe, and BAM! – new show!
But…
If Disney takes a more open-minded approach and opens up the Star Wars universe to both family-friendly content and more “grown-up” content, then there could be some potential for some very cool stuff. It’s certainly something Lucas would have never done.
It will be interesting to see regardless.

Disney-fying Star Wars

So, ol’ George has finally admitted defeat…
He’s finally gotten tired of finding new ways to milk more money out of the Star Wars franchise.
So, let’s sell it off to the one corporate entity who is even better than Lucas at licensing the crap out of their creations and putting them on anything and everything…
Disney!!!
Last week’s announcement was shocking enough – that Lucas was selling Lucasfilm to Disney. Then, they also announce that they’re going to kick things off by releasing a new Star Wars movie (Episode 7) in 2015.
Ugh…
I’m dreading what Disney will do with the series. On the one hand, Lucas will only be a “creative consultant” on the new films, and NOT writing or directing the films.
So, there’s a chance they won’t completely suck.
On the other hand… It’s Disney, and I’ve seen enough of the bad television shows that my nieces and nephew watch on the Disney channel to dread what they could do with the series. It seems to me like – because it’s Disney, and they lean heavily towards family-oriented fare – that any darker tones of the story would be limited if not completely filtered out. That means no “Empire” type of movie, and there would definitely not be any execution of “younglings.”
Episode 7 implies that they’re going to pick up the story where things left off at the end of Return of the Jedi (otherwise they could have just said a “7th Star Wars movie”).
The biggest challenge there will be where to pick things up. Will they borrow from the existing canon like the Heir to the Empire books? Did Lucas remember writing rough outlines or notes about the last three films that he keeps saying never existed?
The other problem – The cast. They’ll more than likely have to re-cast the roles of the major characters (Han, Luke, Leia, etc). Hopefully they won’t pull some type of “generations” type of movie (re: Star Trek).
After seeing what Lucas did with the second set of films, I personally would rather they would just let it go.
Or, if they must make a new Star Wars movie, go back to the Old Republic days and make a film with a completely new cast of characters.
Let the story of Luke Skywalker and friends end with Return of the Jedi.

The Dark Knight (Mostly) Rises

(Note: Although I was at one of the marathon Batman screenings on Thursday evening, I didn’t learn about the tragedy in Aurora until late Friday morning.  My deepest sympathies go out to the families of those who lost their lives.)

 

I went into The Dark Knight Rises with medium hopes. I’d hoped it would be a very good movie, and it would be a brilliant ending to a great movie trilogy. I really didn’t expect the movie to complete with The Dark Knight. 

Getting a chance to see The Dark Knight just before the midnight showing did nothing to change my mind. 

Is “Rises” a good movie? Yes, it’s a very good albeit very long movie. For me, though, it could have been better. 

I’m not going into a rant here about what I didn’t like about the story because I don’t want to give away aspects of the movie. Also, this would become a novel instead of a post.

What worked in the movie? 

Christian Bale is still great as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Michael Caine has some great moments as Alfred.

I was actually surprised by Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman. I think she did a great job even though I’m not entirely sure why the character was in the movie.

Even with the voice cleanup, there were still moments where I wasn’t entirely sure what Tom Hardy’s Bane was saying. I was pretty “meh” about Bane in the movie. I understood why they picked him as the villain, but I also knew it was very unlikely anyone who played any villain in this movie would surpass Heath Ledger’s legendary Joker in the Dark Knight.

Ok. I will say this. I swear I’ve seen that mask of Bane’s from somewhere before.

Try to sit through the entire 2 hours and 45 minutes without wanting Bane to say “Luke, I am your father.” 

For me, there were more than a few holes in the story. There were a few “Wait, what?” moments as well, and I think they could have been more daring at the ending (but wasn’t surprised they didn’t go there).

There was also one name uttered near the very end that made me cringe. 

Then again, I’m a reader of the Batman comics and I’m more familiar with how things played out in the comics. There were some bad points in the comics, too, but overall, it was a very good series.

My verdict? Go see it. It’s a very good movie that wraps up the trilogy decently, just not brilliantly. 

 

Allergies Suck!

Ugh…

Allergies are the worst. Most days, I can keep them reigned in with a daily dose of Claritin.

Other days are like today.

I spent most of the day at work with one nostril constantly running and the eye on the same side tearing up as well. I joked with my co-workers that I’m “allergic” of the office, but by the end of the day, my nose looks like I’ve spent the day auditioning for the role of “Rudolph” and my eye looks like I’ve been drinking heavily.

Even then, some days I can get lucky, and things will clear up on the way to the parking garage or on the way home.

Tonight, not so much.

Now the left side has gone on break, so it’s the right side’s time to take over. The headache has kicked in and now I’m completely stuffed up, which means I have a long restless night ahead of me.

I know, there are so many greater things that could be wrong with me. There are bigger things out there in the world that I could be thinking about.

But right now, all I can think about is laying down on the bed with a cod rag pressed against my forehead and eyes and hope that I find some way to sleep tonight.

Maybe I am less allergic to Tuesdays…