• Sicario

    Sicario

    ★★★½

    It was interesting to see actors from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a more realist movie. MCU heads should get a kick out of how more "Cosmic" Marvel characters Brolin/Thanos and Del Toro/The Collector handled a "Street Level" character Bernthal/The Punisher (upcoming on Marvel's Daredevil Season 2). Big takeaway is that it would be fun to see Emily Blunt in a Marvel movie--I think she'd be a good Jessica Drew AKA Spider-Woman.

  • Tangerine

    Tangerine

    In case it is not clear that 1/2 means half of a star.

  • Iron Man 3

    Iron Man 3

    ★★★★

    I've written previously how much the AVENGERS movies owe to Tarantino, so it was a great move on their part to get Shane Black for this entry, reminding me how much Tarantino owes to Shane Black. This movies is so subsumed in Shane Blackness that it actually takes place at Christmas. Other Shane Blacky elements are the deft handling of the precocious kid (which in other hands would have been treacly lame, but with Downey delivering Black's unsentimental quips it…

  • Marvel One-Shot: Item 47

    Marvel One-Shot: Item 47

    ★★★½

    My only real complaint about this quick, fun little post-Avengers yarn is that it uses Lizzy Caplan and I worry that it'll be the last we see of her in the MCU. She is fantastic of course and the theme of backlash from the battle of new York resonate, calling to mind the misused weapons of tony Stark in the first IRON MAN. It's this subtext that keeps the short from slightness as it really is just a string of…

  • The Avengers

    The Avengers

    ★★★★½

    A great man once said, "I love it when a plan comes together." Watching Joss Whedon's masterful work stepping into Kevin Feige's vision for the MCU is pure bliss. This is true pop culture at its best--comparisons to RIO BRAVO are apt indeed. Whedon's knack for capturing oddball personalities and the ease that grows with camaraderie is unparalleled. I'm still astonished how all the character's egos were managed so proficiently, but then in some ways Loki is the Whedon surrogate,…

  • Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer

    Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer

    ★★½

    An improvement over the first one-shot in that it is action based and doesn't rely on stringing together clips from the previous films. That said, it is still pretty slight, existing mostly to continue to establish the badassness of Agent Colson. And, indeed, he is a badass when faced with a couple of numb-skull robbers who disrupt his packaged donut shopping while his gas tank gets filled. A fun DVD extra.

  • Captain America: The First Avenger

    Captain America: The First Avenger

    ★★★★

    Enlisting Joe Johnston to helm this entry in the MCU stepped up the game. Suddenly we are cast back in the past, and the man behind THE ROCKETEER brings the period verve and optimistic bravado needed to tell the story of the truly manufactured American hero that is Steve Rogers. The dynamic between Rogers and Peggy Carter is quite innocent and lovely and heartbreaking while his bromance with Bucky also rings true (and sets up the future quite well--Winter Soldier indeed).

    The ending with Nick Fury is, of course, thrilling, but its Cap's heartbreaking final line that hits hard and cuts to the bone.

  • Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant

    Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant

    ★★½

    This is the first of a series that grew more ambitious as it went along, but unfortunately there is not much to this one. Footage from HULK is recirculated and book-ended by talkiness. The saving grace is that the talking is mainly done by Agent Coulson and that is almost always fun. This trifle did cause me to ponder the extent to which a lot of the Marvel films up to this were influenced by Tarantino and the extended riffing…

  • Thor

    Thor

    ★★★½

    Enlisting Kenneth Branagh to handle the introduction of the Mighty Thor and the land of Asgard to the Marvel Cinematic Universe was rather inspired (though he can't resist those Dutch angles and had me flashing back to DEAD AGAIN). The Asgardian elements are given their gravitas--Anthony Hokins as Odin sleepwalks through the role *just* enough and Idris Elba does wonders with a supporting, yet crucial role. Tom Hiddleston's Loki is every bit the jealous twat he needs to be--his tragic…

  • Iron Man 2

    Iron Man 2

    ★★★★

    Obviously it was going to be hard to top the first IRON MAN, but thanks to scribe Justin Theroux's lively script it comes close. Sam Rockwell is a great comic foil for Stark who is suddenly facing down his own mortality as the palladium core that keeps him alive goes sour on his insides. Downey manages a soulful balance between Stark's natural joviality and the slow, creeping onset of doom.

    With the origin story out of the way, Stark is…

  • The Incredible Hulk

    The Incredible Hulk

    ★★½

    This is so dour, especially coming after the effervescent IRON MAN in the new MCU. They forgo the origin story and plop us into a Banner-on-the-run tale with Norton struggling to stay calm. Unfortunately his Zen demeanor creates a distance from the audience that is never bridged. If only some fun could have been had from the villain side of the equation, but Tim Roth's tenacious, militaristic spite is a drag that lacks the levity the film needed.

    Liv looks…

  • Iron Man

    Iron Man

    ★★★★½

    Downey is so perfect and all the right notes (Black Sabbath!) get hit on the way to the finale. Stark's transformation from clueless playboy to playboy-with-a-conscience works thanks to Downey keeping the character's cockiness in tact. There is no real humility on display, rather a redirected hubris that is a hoot to cheer for. Bridges is a great baddie and tying Stark to his father's legacy lends an unspoken emotional undercurrent. Gwyneth, as ever, is transcendent as Pepper Potts.

    As filmmaking goes, it moves just fast enough and gets out of the way of the personalities onscreen.