Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Avengers Age of Ultron

We went to see the second Avengers for the first time in the theater with our friends, Z&A. Z is the one person among us who doesn’t get excited about superheroes, to say the least. And by the time the final battle in Sokovia was raging and roaring on the screen, I really felt her pain. This was the first time I re-watched the movie since then and, knowing what to expect, I certainly enjoyed it more.

er-avengersageofultron Avengers: Age of Ultron

Category: Movies

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
A 2015 sequel to The Avengers, still with Whedon at the helm. Iron Man is still the crux of the action, as he designs an AI named Ultron, whose job is to defend the Earth. But Ultron turns out to be the embodiment of all Stark’s worst features with a vengeance and decides to destroy the world instead, as Marvel villains tend to decide. So now it’s up to the Avengers to mop up their own mess. Marvel also got the rights to use two X-Men characters, Maximoff twins, and they debut here (and, spoiler, one of them ends here, as well).

How I found it:
After the trailers I was quite excited for the Scarlett Witch, particularly as she’s one of the characters I always liked.

Summary judgment:
When it’s good, it’s good. Other moments you can probably fast forward, unless you’re into that stuff.

Best things about it:
It manages to create quite nuanced character moments and even ask a few (obvious) philosophical questions about the nature of protection. The party scene early in the movie shows the great potential that these movies have and might be one of the best scenes in all the Avengers movies so far.

Worst things about it:
I wish they didn’t interrupt the great character scenes with fight scenes that need to happen every five minutes or so. Don’t get me wrong, some of them work to build the story, but some are just action fillers (and pretty much all of them are too long).
And they really dialled up the copy-paste villains to eleven. It’s almost literal with the Ultrons at the end. And one Ultron is way more than enough, as he is an obnoxious, irritating villain, with boring agenda and terrible jokes. If villains tell jokes, they must be funny. It’s a rule. And while the stakes in the final battle are well-drawn and the obligation to save the civilians understandable, the fight itself is soooo repetitive.

Other pluses:
✤ Scarlett Witch! I wasn’t at all disappointed with Elizabeth Olsen’s portrayal (and, as I said, my expectations were high). She shows beautiful vulnerability and her accent rocks. Pietro was okay, too, I guess – they could’ve done something better with him than kill him to save Hawkeye.
✤ I like the whole story with Thor’s hammer, particularly how they use it to characterize Vision. It’s a very well-paced beat.
✤ Some banter is very good, as expected. Stark, Banner, Fury and particularly Thor all have their moments.

Other minuses:
✤ The bogus Hawkeye storyline irritates me so much. All the movie long they pretty much tell you he will be killed and then he isn’t. I don’t mind that, as he’s better in this part than he was previously (in Civil War I straight-up like him) but this overdrawn foreshadowing is unnecessary and a waste of time.
✤ I take offence at the moment when Black Widow calls herself a monster because she can’t have children. I know what they tried to do but the result is tastelessly awkward.

How it enriched my life:
I learned about Ultron but I’m sure I could live without this knowledge. But when not watched in the theater, where the action sequences are simply too loud for a pleasant experience, it’s a pleasant enough way to spend an evening.

Fun fact:
Speaking of loud action moments, this is the only movie I saw in a theater when pregnant and J kept kicking during the fights. (Or it was just a coincidence, I guess. I don’t know much about pregnancies.)

Follow-up:
Now I’m ready to see the third Thor movie!

Recommended for:
People who liked the first Avengers but wished the villains blabbered more. People who want to see more character development and don’t mind fight scenes. People who want to see more fight scenes and don’t mind character development.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: Finally back to Orphan Black?

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: The Avengers

My preparations for the new Thor continue, this time with the third watch of

er-avengersThe Avengers

Category: Movies

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
The first movie with the Avengers, created in 2012 with Joss Whedon. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow and the Hulk come together to save the world from Loki and his insectoid army under the suspicious guidance of Nick Fury and the S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s a grand-scale spectacle that tries to keep all its balls in the air and often succeeds, and these are so many balls… Oh, Hawkeye is also there.

How I found it:
I couldn’t wait for it! It was Marvel and Joss Whedon and I was sure this would be the best thing ever.

Summary judgment:
It’s not the best thing ever. I was pretty disappointed the first time I watched it but this time I enjoyed it for what it is and focused on the good parts.

Best things about it:
It actually manages to include a lot of Whedonian banter and to build relations between the characters through it. Most characters are strongly drawn within their limited alotted time and there are clear lines of conflict between them. And, let’s not fail to emphasize it, the banter is really funny.

Worst things about it:
I wish they didn’t spend so much time on the fighting and exploding and just used it for more banter. And before you yell at me: I know that’s not what superhero movies are for but hey, why not exactly? The battle of New York is so boring I barely watched it at all this time.

Other pluses:
✤ This time I appreciated more the proportions between action and character moments. I might have been a bit too tired with the copy-paste aliens when I left the theater to realize that there’s a lot of good stuff in this script.
✤ Tony Stark steals the whole movie: it’s pretty much another Iron Man with the rest of the Avengers guest-starring. But Thor, Banner and Rogers have their good moments too.

Other minuses:
I’m still not convinced about Loki. But at least he has a semblance of motivation, I guess.

How it enriched my life:
Like so many people I learned about Hawkeye from this movie (not that it’s a colossal gain). And I enjoyed a lot of it, too.

Fun fact:
Probably my first experience with the movie was tainted by viewing it in 3D. I really dislike 3D movies, they give me headaches.

Follow-up:
The second Thor and the second Avengers.

Recommended for:
I guess everyone who already is a fan of superhero movies or wants to see if this is a genre for them: this is a pretty good test to measure your superhero tolerance.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Another Marvel week starts with Thor No. 2

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Thor

In anticipation of Thor: Ragnarok we’ve embarked upon a task of re-watching previous Thor movies. And what a task it is. Let’s start with the first one:

er-thorThor

Category: Movies

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
It’s the fourth MCU movie, introducing the Norse god of thunder, Thor, as he’s kicked out of Asgard flat onto New Mexico desert. There he meets a physicist Jane Something (in the stupidest meet-cute ever) and their redundant love story begins. But simultaneously in Asgard Loki, Thor’s (adoptive) brother is playing his games of lies. Thor is played by Chris Hemsworth, who brings a pretty good comedic timing and a whole lot of muscle to this enterprise. Oh, and Kenneth Branagh directs.

How I found it:
I watched it a while after it first premiered. The MCU was already a thing then but by no means did everyone talk about it like we do now.

Summary judgment:
It’s actually a pretty bland movie. It’s enjoyable enough but nothing special.

Best things about it:
We get glimpses of goofy Thor, which is really the best kind of Thor.
And I imagine people stand divided about this aspect, but I kind of like the visuals of Asgard: it’s memorable and mythic enough, much more interesting than the whole Earth part.

Worst things about it:
You figured it out: the Earth part, particularly the romance, which comes from nowhere and fails to explain itself. I know Thor had to forge connections with Earth for the sake of future stories but this was really half-assed.

Other pluses:
Some of the characters were quite good, including Sif, Frigga and Erik Selvig. I have very little opinion about Loki: I didn’t mind the performance but apparently everyone is in love with him and this I just don’t get. Of course, it’s where Agent Coulson’s brilliance starts and he really is charming.

Other minuses:
While I like the general impression of Asgard, some things I like less. These include the Bifrost and the Frost Giants’ world.

How it enriched my life:
It didn’t particularly, except for the usual pleasure of a spectacle.

Fun fact:
This is not related at all, but when we were first planning on watching Thor, I wanted to buy (barely alcoholic) beer for it and the lady asked to see my ID. I seriously thought she was joking and she thought I was being obstinate. Good story, huh.

Follow-up:
Unfortunately, Thor: The Dark World and Avengers, probably, all leading up to the new Thor movie.

Recommended for:
Fans of Norse mythology and (or: in) Marvel comics. People who like looking at ridiculously huge muscles or at silly horned helmets or at a desert. And I guess all those Tom Hiddleston fans.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: Avengers

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Bookworming

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Marvels

er-marvelsMarvels by Kurt Busiek

Category: Comics

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
A 1994 comic by Kurt Busiek, illustrated (or, precisely, painted) by Alex Ross. It describes the emergence of superheroes in the Marvel Universe from the point of view of a very much not superpowered newspaper photographer who tries to deal with the fact that regular human beings are no longer the top of the food chain. It shows classic events from the history of superheroes like Namor, X-Men, Spider-Man et al. as seen by someone who doesn’t really know what and why is going on.

How I found it:
I don’t even know. It’s been on my reading list for a while and I even started it twice before but I never got past the first issue then.

Summary judgment:
The art is wonderful, the story is okay.

Best things about it:
Definitely the art, it’s freaking amazing. I love watercolors in most appearances but this shows such mastery of the medium and Ross uses the style to create a fresh re-telling of old stories that has its unique flavor.
And I like the concept itself, it’s always interesting to think what superhero-infested world feels like for people who have to live in it and someone actually wrote a book about it.

Worst things about it:
After a while I got tired with how gloomy-doomy everything felt. I know it fit with the story but I wish there were more small superhero moments like X-Men anonymously viewing Alicia Masters’ exhibition while people talk trash about them.

Other pluses:
The moments like that one, most of all. Also, and expectedly, I like the X-Men storyline and how Busiek tries to explain why people in the MU accept other superheroes and hate mutants – I actually buy his explanation. The story of Spider-Man accused of murder also worked for me: basically, anything that wasn’t too grand-scale.
Personally, I love stories that redefine recognizable characters (that’s why X-Men: Evolution and 1602 are some of my favorite things ever) and this new look on old comic stories definitely speaks to me. I only wished I knew more about the original Marvel characters to recognize most allusions, especially the ones happening in the background.

Other minuses:
I didn’t very much like Phil Sheldon as a character.
Also, that zero issue is definitely skippable.

How it enriched my life:
I enjoyed the comic and it kept me company during a very unpleasant day I had to spend in bed.

Fun fact:
This is just a fact I feel the responsibility to mention: what I’ve been calling watercolors might rather be gouache, so a different kind of water paints but I imagine it doesn’t really matter to most of you.

Follow-up:
For a while I’ve been meaning to return to 1602 and I will.

Recommended for:
Fans of Marvel and/or watercolors.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: Mousquetaires du Roy

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Spider-Man Homecoming

Welcome to an unusually timely review because again I managed to catch a movie in the theater. I know I promised a different review this time but I want to talk about Spider-Man while the impression is still fresh and you might still care. So,

er-spidermanhomecomingSpider-Man: Homecoming

Category: Movies

Find it in: theaters, for now

What it is:
The newest version of the Spider-Man franchise when Marvel has finally managed to regain its flag hero (or partly regain him because it was still branded with Sony; I don’t know, you don’t come here for insider gossip, do you). For the first time ever we don’t get an origin story – instead Peter Parker is getting his sea legs (spider legs, maybe?) as the masked hero and trying to be both a high school student and a wannabe Avenger.

How I found it:
How could I not. I obviously saw the proto-trailer in the third Captain America. Then I saw the really bad actual trailer, which made me think “No way, this is going to be stupid.” But then I listened to a podcast where they said this was more of a high school movie than a superhero movie and I suddenly got way more excited.

Summary judgment:
It’s really pretty good. Not my favorite superhero movie by far but it has many things I normally miss in those. Like actual character moments.

Best things about it:
The tone. It was just light enough, without the unbearable grandiosity of most superhero movies, which made Peter believable. And it did manage to incorporate pretty well the high school aspect of the story, which also gave the creators a chance to dig deeper into character development rather than just to escalate battle scenes (looking at you, Ultron).
And super extra points for the animation in the first part of the credits, it was pretty great: creative, edgy and imaginative. It looked almost like a student project, only a really good one. I salute Marvel for keeping the art of credits alive.

Worst things about it:
Just skip this part because I’m sure I’m irritating you by now with my predictability but, you guessed it, the part I liked the least was the fight on the plane. It took too long – but at least there were just two people fighting, not a whole army of copy-paste aliens/robots.

Other pluses:
Tom Holland is great as Peter Parker. Again, a fantastic casting choice for MCU, up there with Robert Downey Jr even.
Vulture was a decent villain for Marvel, with believable (if boring) motivation. At least he didn’t want to destroy the world, he was just selfish and careless.
MJ! If she is to be a new Mary Jane, I’m all for it because it’s such a good take on this traditionally irritating character. If not – why not?!
I liked that most women looked like real women (more or less), even aunt May, whose beauty everyone was praising. And that her glasses weren’t props (pet peeve).
The school was realistic and neither glorified nor too depressing, with very naturally introduced diversity.
Oh, it had possibly the most successful product placement (the Lego Star Wars set) I have ever seen in that it didn’t bother me at all. I only noticed that it was a product placement when I read it in the credits.
And, most of all, it was a pretty funny movie.

Other minuses:
I didn’t care for Liz. She was one of those too-perfect, boring love interests and I hope MJ will be so much better. I don’t see how she wouldn’t be.
And that’s all! Can’t come up with anything else.

How it enriched my life:
I enjoyed myself. And I really like seeing how superhero movies try new modes and, pretty much, genres.

Fun fact:
So I know everyone has their canonical Spider-Man but mine is probably unsual: it’s the 90s cartoon that I was watching as a kid and it was one of the most exciting cartoons on TV at that time (but only because they didn’t show X-Men here). That, and Captain Planet. They should totally reboot Captain Planet.

Follow-up:
Next up Thor, of course.

Recommended for:
Fans of Spider-Man. Fans of MCU. People who want to see slightly differ superhero genres with actual characters.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: It will be Lizzie Bennet Diaries this time

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Bookworming

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Mockingbird

I’ve been away for a few days but now that I’m back to my schedule:

er-mockingbirdMockingbird by Chelsea Cain

Category: Comics

Find it on: Amazon – Vol 1 | Vol 2

What it is:
A Marvel comic, all 8 issues long, about Bobbie Morse, Mockingbird, who takes on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s corrupt medical system and zombies and ghost pirates… Nope, I’m not up to summarizing this one, just read it for yourselves.

How I found it:
Actually, through this podcast. I’m a fan and I will often read things they plan to talk about so that I’m up to date.

Summary judgment:
It’s an original work of art, quite fast and enjoyable to consume. It’s also funny.

Best things about it:
Humor and the visual clues that you may look for or not in the background of the main story. It’s quite entertaining and ever since I liked the first three seasons of Family Guy I’m a sucker for a cutaway joke – and this comic has so many! The rescue tally might be one of my favorites.

Worst things about it:
I guess the overall arc once we got to explanations was a bit too unreal and, if you will, Marvel-like for my taste. I wouldn’t mind something a little bit down-to-earth (and coherent) – but maybe I just didn’t pay enough attention, distracted by all the details and shirtless Hunter.

Other pluses:
Mockingbird is a cool enough character: I like her competence and her devil-may-care attitude. I’m also a fan of Hunter since Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (back when I watched it, that is). It reads really fast and you have to admire the puzzle box structure (even though I don’t think it’s as complex as the comic makes it out to be).

Other minuses:
I know it’s standard but I don’t like when art changes during a comic’s run so guest art was not my thing.

How it enriched my life:
I spent a pleasant evening and morning reading the whole run and was reminded that Marvel comics don’t have to be so standard and predictable as they sometimes appear to be.

“Fun” fact:
It’s not fun at all but apparently the author was harassed and threatened online by crappy readers who didn’t like the feminist overtones of the comic. Ugh, shouldn’t nerds be more open-minded, having been probably bullied or at least misunderstood themselves? (Not how it works, I know.)

Follow-up:
The comic was cancelled after 8 issues so I don’t expect to really follow up on it but I might be interested in other work by Ms. Cain.

Recommended for:
Open-minded fans of Marvel (or superheroes) who like twists in their superhero fare. People who like visual riddles. Feminists, maybe, or just people who like to see extremely competent female heroes.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: Typo Berlin 2017

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Guardians, Vol. 2

As promised, after the first Guardians review comes the current one. I know this movies has been received with a mild lack of enthusiasm by many critics but, conclusions spoiler, I mostly disagree with the negative opinions. In fact, I had a great time with this colorful, sentimental, unapologetic spectacle.

er-guardiansvol2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Category: Movies

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
A continuation of the Marvel space opera Guardians of the Galaxy, this time focusing mostly on Peter Quill and his daddy issues and repeating over and over again until the dumbest audience members got it, how the Guardians are each others’ family.

How I found it:
How could I not, with the marketing and the trailers all over the internet and my friends waiting for the sequel of the movie they loved.

Summary judgment:
I was surprised by how much I liked it. I left the theater quite happy and my positive impression only grew over the day.
I was the more surprised because I had zero expectations of this movie. Or no positive expectations anyway because I was steeling myself for all the shooting and explosions and sensory overload with no real storytelling and no real character moments and wondering how boring it would be. Well, it wasn’t boring.

Best things about it:
I loved Yondu and his story and I loved the actor’s portrayal.

Worst things about it:
Eh, read my lips: the fight with the planet wasn’t great, even if it was much less obnoxious than I’d expected.

Other pluses:
There are actually so many! The casting worked again and even though I didn’t expect anything good to come from expanding the core cast, it actually didn’t hurt: Mantis was an alright one-note character and some who didn’t work last time, worked a bit better now. Looking at you, Nebula.
The visual side was delightful again, with the animators letting their imagination loose. Especially Ego’s planet looked impressive.

Other minuses:
Some humor wasn’t top notch but I guess you have to cater to all kinds of audiences, not just those with refined tastes like mine. I’ll let it slide because a lot of the jokes were actually funny. I could have lived with a few less “we are your family” speeches but again, all the sentimentality worked at times. At least it was very much not a cynical movie and nobody needs more cynicism in this world. I didn’t love the space pirates, whatever they were called, and did there really have to be so many of them? (Okay, I know they’re called Ravagers.) And speaking of too much: Baby Groot. We get it, it’s great merchandise, I’m sure it would sell just as well with half the screentime. And the music wasn’t exactly my cup of tea: it worked and I like that they made it important but it’s a bit grating to listen to.

How it enriched my life:
It made me quite happy. I also liked the Jay and the Americans song, much as the rest of the music wasn’t my type.

Fun fact:
Fun is probably not the exact right word but the movie totally made me cry! I’m always embarrassed to cry in the theater and try to keep it to minimum (which is usually not that hard). And I almost did during the emotional ending but then that SPOILER Stallone I completely forgot about had to come with his fleet and salute Yondu and suddenly there I was desperately looking for tissues and feeling quite awkward.

Fun fact no. 2 (later edit):
As we went to see the movie once again, it has now become the only film I remember seeing twice in theater. And I still loved it.

Follow-up:
I still have very low expectations of the third movie. In fact, this would make a good franchise finale except it’s barely franchise with two titles. But I will gladly see this one again (edit: and now I have).

Recommended for:
People who like Disney movies and space operas but are not too serious about the quality of their enertainment (Bergman this movie ain’t). People who are not allergic to Hollywood psychoanalytic-friendship moments. People whose expectations were not overly high to begin with.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Mockingbird

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