Category: Movies


Review by C.J. Bunce

Ten years in the making.  Eighteen movies leading up to this weekend in the gigantic new blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War.  Never before have superhero fans seen so many superheroes on-screen at once:  Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Spider-man (Tom Holland), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackey), Heimdall (Idris Elba), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Wong (Benedict Wong), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt).

So many movies, especially superhero movies, depend greatly on the success of the villains.  Spider-man: Homecoming is great in part because of Michael Keaton’s Vulture.  Black Panther is great in part because of Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger.  And Thor: Ragnarok was great in part because of a load of solid villains: the CGI-created Surtur, Cate Blanchett’s Hela, and Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster (and even a great supporting tier of antagonists including Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and Karl Urban’s Skurge).  So now, at last, Josh Brolin moves past his cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron to give us a big dose of one of comic books’ best-known villains, Thanos.

Marvel Studios promised to tie everything together, including every magical talisman holding the six Infinity Stones, of which filmgoers have encountered five so far: The blue Space Stone (seen held in the Tesseract in Captain America: The First Avenger), the yellow Mind Stone (seen in the Scepter in The Avengers), the red Reality Stone (seen held in the Aether in Thor: The Dark World), the purple Power Stone (seen in the Orb in Guardians of the Galaxy), and the green Time Stone (seen in the Eye of Agamotto in Doctor Strange).  

So did directors Anthony and Joe Russo deliver as promised? Continue reading

Ten Rings

“Why are they advertising that Suicide Squad movie now?  Didn’t it come out 5 years ago?”

A major gap in the now enormous industry of producing nine-figure, blockbuster superhero movies is that the movie studios are missing an opportunity to retain audiences.  No doubt more than half of the audience for Avengers: Endgame, which earned nearly $2.8 billion at the box office, was from moviegoers that were merely passing fans of the MCU.  Maybe they accompanied a spouse or a kid to the movie.  Most probably had never read a comic book before or since.  Studios today assume audiences will just show up for the spectacle.  But are they right?  Take the trailers for competing superhero movie studio DC Entertainment’s The Suicide Squad.  Nothing in the movie trailers–the only glimpse most prospective moviegoers will see via their TVs–explains why there is another movie called The Suicide Squad.  Do they think most TV viewers catching the commercial notice the addition of the “The” in the title?  Do they assume everyone still reads a newspaper or online entertainment source and is going to make an effort to understand that this new movie is different than the universally panned Suicide Squad of 2016?  Do they really think most prospective movie ticket buyers know or care who the director is?

Which is why it’s refreshing, and a wise move, to see Kevin Feige, mastermind behind all the Marvel Cinematic Universe, discussing the background for the latest new Marvel superhero in a new short feature clip for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.  

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As the last movie before the big finale next month as Avengers: Endgame premieres, this weekend’s release of Captain Marvel provides another big win for Marvel Studios that both provides a new character to take the Marvel Cinematic Universe beyond the Avengers-centric adventures into “Phase IV,” plus it fills some gaps in the story so far.  Despite all the harangues about the history of the title “Captain Marvel” across the decades as used by both Marvel in this movie and as the lead character in the coming DC Comics movie Shazam!, oddly enough the words never get used in the film except for the title logo at the end credits.  But Brie Larson‘s take on Carol Danvers elevates the character beyond a name or title, surprisingly pulling more from the classic roots in Marvel Comics stories back to Ms. Marvel of the 1970s than from the current, cockier version of the character.  This Carol Danvers is a solid new superhero on film, who, like Black Widow, The Wasp, Jean Grey, Gamora, Storm, and Domino, happen to be women, as powerful (and sometimes more so) than their male, inhuman, or alien, counterparts.  Larson’s take on the character is certainly heroic, but initially she plays the part reserved, with Carol uncertain of her powers at first, before she settles into her boots and takes the lead role as badass against all the film‘s villainous threats.  Co-director/screenplay writers Anna Bodin and Ryan Fleck make the character smart enough to suss out the mystery behind the secrets kept hidden from her.  In many ways Danvers is unstuck in time, but the time-shifting story never causes confusion along the way–and unlike several entries in the MCU, the writers deserve credit for a fully plot-driven story.  Captain Marvel is one of the series‘ easiest to watch–all-out fun from beginning to end–with a cool cat named Goose as a bonus.

In second chair is Samuel L. Jackson playing a 1990s version of his Nick Fury character, with probably the most screen-time the character has seen in the franchise.  This becomes his chronological introduction to the MCU along with Clark Gregg‘s Agent Coulson, and fans of these two since the beginning will no doubt love seeing them back in action together, although Coulson has a lesser role.  A big surprise is Ben Mendelsohn‘s performance as the Skrull called Talos.  Mendelsohn proved he was a powerhouse character actor for years, but has taken on star status more recently in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Ready Player One, and here he is a standout force again even behind heavy prosthetics.  Talos is among the best of all the Marvel movie villains, up there with Magneto, Red Skull, Hela, Bushmaster, Surtur, Killmonger, Vulture, Venom, and Loki.

Every single character and actor in the film is done right, from Kree team members played by Jude Law, Gemma Chan, and Djimon Hounsou returning as Korath from Guardians of the Galaxy, and Lee Pace back again also from Guardians (but hardly recognizable this time) as Ronan the Accuser.  For those who are fans of the Marvel film and comics space fantasy stories like Guardians, this is the next film in that vein.

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Ten years in the planning.  Eighteen movies.  All of it the brainchild of master Marvel universe coordinator Kevin Feige.  Yet it’s still only halfway through the third act or Phase III of the grand Marvel Cinematic Universe saga.  Marvel Studios has promised to tie everything together, including every magical talisman holding the six Infinity Stones–in directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War, the first of a two-part story, originally divided into simply parts 1 and 2.  The studio released a new trailer this weekend explaining more about the plot, plus a new poster for the movie that somehow crams in every key hero that will be packed into the movie.  Call it a St. Patrick’s Day present for Marvel fans.

And that’s a roll call that includes headliners Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Spider-man (Tom Holland), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackey), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Wong (Benedict Wong), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Sean Gunn) and Groot (Terry Notary), Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow), and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt).

Presumably the poster and trailer don’t tell all, so we’ll be looking for most of the support team to have an appearance, too, including Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), The Collector (Benicio del Toro) and Heimdall (Idris Elba)–both listed on the poster in fine print, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Aunt Mae (Marisa Tomei), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and Happy (Jon Favreau).  And they will all face off against Thanos (Josh Brolin) and Black Order members/Thanos’s children: Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) and Cull Obsidian (Terry Notary) and two characters expected to be voiced by familiar, but as yet unnamed, actors: Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight.  And a new name: Peter Dinklage is listed at the bottom of the poster.  Who will he portray?

So check out this trailer where the Marvel Cinematic Universe–The Avengers, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and the Guardians of the Galaxy–come together in one film: Avengers: Infinity War: Continue reading

PCKC 2021 COMICS HEADLINERS

Friday the pop culture convention Planet Comicon Kansas City is back, this time to celebrate its 21st year.  The event hosts a pantheon of nationally recognized writers and artists for its eighth year in its downtown Kansas City, Missouri, venue at the Kansas City Convention Center.  The show runs Friday, August 20 through Sunday, August 22.  It’s a chance to step carefully back into normalcy for many pop culture fans–it may just be the biggest comic convention yet where everyone shows up in masks.  Some of the biggest names and most popular comics creators are in the line-up for the 2021 event, probably the best-known being Roy Thomas, the comic book writer and editor who was Stan Lee’s first successor as editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics.  Characters he created or co-created include Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Vision, Carol Danvers, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Red Sonja, Ultron, Man-Thing, Red Guardian, and Valkyrie, the majority of which have become so famous they’ve made it to recent big or small screen adaptations.  Famous for his work on X-Men and Avengers, Thomas is also known for his work on classic titles All-Star Squadron and Justice Society of America.

PCKC 2021 HEADLINERS

Several other comic book creators scheduled to attend include Ande Parks, Ant Lucia, Megan Levens, Seth Peck, Rob DavisJason Arnett, Bryan Fyffe, Bryan Timmins, Darryl Woods, Afua Richardson, Joe Corroney, and Darren Neely.  In addition to comics creators, novelists scheduled for the show include borg.com writer and author Elizabeth C. Bunce, noted Star Trek authors Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward, and Star Wars authors Kevin J. Anderson, John Jackson Miller, and Timothy Zahn–and many more.

Back again, the Elite Comics flight crew is planning its “Party on the Pillar” hoping for attendees to pick up some great deals on what the Con is all about–comics.

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In a prequel taking place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Scarlett Johansson at last gets her own solo movie with the spring release Black Widow Johansson is joined by Stranger Things and Hellboy star David Harbour as the Red Guardian, the Soviet answer to Captain America; Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz (The Mummy) is assassin Melina Vostokoff aka Iron Maiden; Florence Pugh (The Commuter) is Yelena Belova; and de-aged Oscar-winning actor William Hurt, who started the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe off in The Incredible Hulk, is back in the MCU as General Ross.

The villain featured in the new trailer is Taskmaster (rumored to be played by the great character actor Clancy Brown).  The character was created in 1980 by writer David Michelinie and artist George Pérez.  Pugh’s character might be getting queued up to take over the Black Widow mantle later in the new phase (#4) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as her character has been known to use the Black Widow title in the pages of the comics.

We also have a new poster:

The biggest film superheroine of them all is back.  Check out this final trailer for Black Widow:

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It’s not historical fact as much as a depiction of an era, but Amazon′s original movie The Aeronauts has a gorgeous look with plenty of historical elements.  We previewed the first trailer for the film two months ago, and Amazon just released the next.  The film is billed as biographical adventure, and that comes from its depiction of Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts) as real-life balloonist James Glaisher.  Glaisher, with another British aeronaut named Henry Coxwell, beat the world flight altitude record by reaching nearly 39,000 feet with a hot air balloon.  For the Amazon production Coxwell is being swapped out for a fictional character played by Rogue One’s Felicity Jones.  Both Jones and Redmayne were nominated for Oscars for The Theory of Everything, with Redmayne taking home an award.  Jones’ character in this film will be an amalgam of the first woman who was a professional balloonist, Sophie Blanchard, and another famous aeronaut of the era, Margaret Graham.

Even if you dismiss the elements that aren’t historical, you’re left with a big budget steampunk era film, which is a rarity for fans of the genre, The Aeronauts had top designers re-create the 1860s.  Alice Sutton, who was production designer on Bohemian Rhapsody, is production designer on this film (as well as next year’s Emma adaptation starring Anya Taylor-Joy).  The historical costumes were created by Alexandra Byrne, Oscar-winner for Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and she’s known for her work on Marvel movies Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, The Avengers, and Avengers: Age of Ultron, plus The Phantom of the Opera and Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet.

Take a look at the new trailer for Amazon’s The Aeronauts:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In the new Spider-Man film, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Tom Holland′s Peter Parker is trying to recover from the death of mentor Tony Stark in the final scenes of Avengers: Endgame.  He’s trying to take a break from literally saving the planet by going on a summer trip with his classmates to Paris.  And he’s trying to let Zendaya′s MJ know that he cares about her.  So it’s too bad Samuel L. Jackson′s Nick Fury is trying to get his help as the only Avenger available to take out a new inter-dimensional threat–a threat from world-destroying giants called The Elementals.  Spider-Man: Far From Home, which opened in theaters nationwide this weekend, is Holland’s fifth outing as Peter Parker, after Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame, and Spidey fans will be happy.  Holland continues to give the best performances of any actor to don a Spidey suit (he wears a few new great versions in this film thanks to designer Anna B.  Sheppard).  He’s also as established in the MCU as Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine–Holland is Spider-Man.

But the supporting characters and actors are equally superb.  At the top, Zendaya has carved out her own fantastic MJ/Mary Jane for the MCU, much more integral to who Spidey is than the character from the past two trilogies.  Holland continues to convey that teen uncertainty and lack of confidence, while slipping in the word “awesome” every few minutes to acknowledge he’s seeing all the cool things going on around him that the audience sees.  New to the MCU, Jake Gyllenhaal creates another memorable character after excellent work in films like Donnie Darko and Source Code with the new power-wielding Mysterio.  Gyllenhall brings equal gravitas and charm to Michael Keaton’s Vulture as seen in the last Spider-Man solo outing.  And Angourie Rice really has a stand-out performance compared to when we last saw her, playing high schooler Betty, a new close friend to Ned (Jacob Batalon)–together they make a fun duo and solid coming of age movie sidebar to the film.

How does this compare to Spider-Man: Homecoming?  It’s hard to believe that incredible reboot film was in theaters only two years ago.  Screenwriter Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers have inked both Spider-Man films plus the script for Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Homecoming still nudges out the others as the tightest story of the group.  But Spider-Man: Far From Home is a great follow-up, easily combining with the 2017 film to create the best two side-by-side solo films in the entire decade-plus run of the MCU.  No two back-to-back Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Guardians, Ant-Man or Avengers movies surpass what director Jon Watts has done with these two films.  Spider-Man has always been Marvel Comics’ #1 superhero, so it’s about time the movies at last reflect that popularity.

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First revealed at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, finally, four months later Marvel Studios has released the full trailer only a few thousand fans had been permitted to see.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe–The Avengers, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and the Guardians of the Galaxy–comes together in one film: Avengers: Infinity War.

Check out the first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War:

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Following on the heels of 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service and 2017’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle comes a prequel film, The King’s Man, and the first movie trailer has just arrived from the new 20th Century Fox.  Stepping into an early Kingsman of the type perfected by Colin Firth is the actor who should have played a Bond (but ended up as another M), the BAFTA-winning, twice Academy Award-nominated actor Ralph Fiennes.  The young recruit that looks to mimic that series hero Eggsy played by Taron Egerton in the first two films this time goes to Harris Dickinson, soon to be voicing a character in Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

As with the prior films The King’s Man appears stylish, but with a historical England twist.  Expect again wall-to-wall, part dark comedy, and that over-the-top, operatic violence.  Series director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2, X-Men: First Class, Layer Cake) continues to make his mark on the action genre, with his own British spy genre tale mixing the vibe of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers of the 1960s, based on the 2012 The Secret Service: Kingsman comic book series from award-winning creators Mark Millar (Kick-Ass, Old Man Logan) and Dave Gibbons (Watchmen).

Every great British spy story needs a Bond girl, and whether she’s a “King’s Man” or foil, this time the choice is actual former Bond girl Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) to take over where Sofia Boutella left off in the first movie.  You’ll also find a familiar face with Captain Marvel and Shazam!’s Djimon Hounsou The King’s Man reflects a cast list that includes superhero go-to guy Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass, Avengers: Age of Ultron), Stanley Tucci (Captain America: The First Avenger), Rhys Ifans (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), Daniel Bruhl (Captain America: Civil War, Falcon and Winter Soldier), Charles Dance (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Gosford Park), Watchmen and Downton Abbey’s Matthew Goode, and Pirates of the Caribbean and Bohemian Rhapsody’s Tom Hollander as King George V.

Take a look at the first trailer for The King’s Man:

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