Category Archives: Reviews

Superman & Lois: Man of Steel By Way of The CW

Superman isn’t hard to get right. Donner got it. Snyder got it. JJ Abrams absolutely did not. But it looks like The CW is on the way to do so with Superman & Lois.

After more than a decade with the Arrowverse, the show is (at least from the pilot) very different from those shows. As good as they can be, everyone knows the budget can be low and the episodes can hit sub-Power Rangers levels of cheese. Superman & Lois is different, it desperately wants to be Man of Steel. From the look of the show to its soundtrack, it feels like The CW made their own Man of Steel fan film but with their patented melodrama.

The pilot deals with Clark and Lois’ twins both discovering they have powers inherited from their dad that they learn is really Superman. If you’ve seen any CW show you know how it plays out, lots of melodrama with a little bit of Superman mixed in to set up the season’s big bad. That’s not really revealed until the very end of the episode, but it hints at something from the comics we’ve been begging for in live action forever.

I’m happy. It looks like we’ll have a good Superman show to look forward to every week, and it seems to have ditched the sometimes-cheap look of the Arrowverse to be its own thing.

Marvel’s Avengers Review

It’s hard to believe that until now there hasn’t been a major Avengers video game. The characters have appeared in fighters, the Marvel Ultimate Alliances, and of course LEGO games; but it’s been decades since there’s been a dedicated Avengers game and there’s never been one this big. That’s why when Crystal Dynamics revealed that they were working on an Avengers game a few years ago, it immediately became one of the most highly-anticipated video games. Now, at the end of a console generation, the game is finally here.

The question of whether or not it’s worth it almost depends on where your opinion lands on one of the bigger debates in modern video games. While Marvel’s Avengers does have a really excellent single-player campaign, that ten-to-twelve hour epic is really just an introduction to the main portion of the game that will keep it going for years to come. Meaning, the biggest part of Marvel’s Avengers is the “Games as a Service” co-op multiplayer mode that is very similar to Destiny.

Some gamers who believe that the definition of “video game” in 2020 is a cinematic over-the-shoulder strictly single-player adventure that’s exclusive to one plastic box are currently waging a war against a multi-platform service-based co-op multi-player game, and in the process they’re spreading a lot of misinformation to try to tear down a game they’ll never play. Let’s just address the microtransactions (or MTX) in the game that some of these people are calling “predatory” or “abusive”.

There’s no “pay to win” here. All of the MTX in the game are cosmetics; costumes, emotes, name plates, etc. There are “season pass” style things for each of the Avengers, but for the six that ship with the game these are free and, again, just unlock cosmetics. Completing these Challenge Cards will also earn you enough in-game currency to pay for the Challenge Cards of any post-launch heroes that are added (and the heroes, along with their story missions, are free). With that “controversy” out of the way, I had a great time playing through Marvel’s Avengers.

The single-player campaign, which will take you ten-to-twelve hours if you only do the campaign missions and don’t bother with any of the countless side-missions, is a fantastic Avengers story with a great voice cast. I actually laughed out loud at some of the banter between Avengers at times. Many people have complained that the characters don’t look like the MCU actors, but this game was never meant to be a movie adaptation any more than the PS4 Spider-Man game was supposed to have Tom Holland as Peter Parker.

Opening with an “Avengers Day” event where young Kamala Khan wins a fan fiction contest to go on the Chimera helicarrier, things quickly go bad with a new Terrigen reactor on the ship. You know this part of the story by now; bad things happen, the Avengers disband, and five years later Kamala is swept into an adventure to reassemble the team and find out the truth about what really happened on A-Day.

Kamala is the perfect choice to be the main character in the story, as she’s a huge Avengers fangirl, and she and Bruce form a nice father-daughter relationship. I hope the MCU’s Kamala is handled as well as the one in this video game. In fact all of the Avengers are handled perfectly, and they even picked some great music for Tony, but naming one of the bands will spoil one of the best moments late in the game. Speaking of late in the game, the ending to the campaign is amazing. You will spend time playing as all of the Avengers throughout the campaign, but the finale gives each member their time to shine and the cast is handled excellently in the final battle.

During the campaign the game will alternate between crafted story missions that continue the epic set-pieces that Crystal put in their last two Tomb Raider games, and some multi-player style missions. Obviously the story missions are the highlight, and including some of the MP style missions in the single-player game is a slight disappointment, but they’re still better than those stealth levels that broke up the action in the PS4’s Spider-Man game. There’s also one part in the campaign where you will need to “grind” a War Table mission or two to complete an assignment quest right before embarking on the final mission.

While you can jump right into the Avengers Initiative multi-player mode before tackling the campaign; playing through the single-player will unlock several costumes you can use in the MP modes and all of your gear and unlocks carry over. You’ll also learn each character by playing through the campaign, so I’d recommend doing that before diving into the multi-player modes.

If you played the beta, you’ve had a small sample of these modes. What the beta didn’t have was the full skill trees (there are now three tabs), and the factions. The factions are, again, similar to Destiny where completing tasks for them will unlock special bonuses. Their assignments work just like the ones in Destiny, where you pick the one you want from the faction vendor and then go and complete the quest in missions.

Playing the beta was just a taste of what the main game would have, such as the beta campaign missions actually being from about an hour into the final game. The beta also wasn’t as optimized as well as the final either. Playing on a PS4 Pro, the High Performance mode in the final game is much smoother than it was in the beta. The game also looks really impressive at times, and even almost next-gen in some parts, which makes sense as the game will be receiving upgrades on the next gen consoles and even PC (modders have already found high-res 4K textures that are too taxing for current graphics cards).

Again, whether or not Marvel’s Avengers will be something you’ll enjoy will really depend on how you feel about online co-op games. The campaign is excellent, and is the cinematic Marvel epic for 2020. Beyond that though is the main “meat” of the game, and it’s best described as Marvel Destiny. If you like Destiny and love Marvel, you’ll definitely like this game. I’m a big MMO player and still play WoW to this day, but I do like the genre on consoles as well. One of the first console MMOs was Phantasy Star Online on the Sega Dreamcast. It took years, but Destiny adapted that model to a FPS, and now Marvel’s Avengers takes it and applies it to a superhero game.

Those who believe they’re fighting a crusade to “save” cinematic single-player games will never play this, and they’ll continue to push outrage narratives to try to attack the game due to the genre its in. Yet, the game is a lot of fun. The campaign is very satisfying, and it’s fun to group up with friends as the Avengers and smash up some levels. The most exciting thing is the future, as there’s a huge list of post-launch heroes on the way that’ll keep the game fresh well into the next generation of consoles.

I really enjoyed my time with Marvel’s Avengers. The campaign was absolutely worth playing through and delivered a great Avengers story (with just enough dangling threads for future expansions), and the multi-player modes will give the game lots to come back for. If you’re a Marvel fan who likes online games that live on past the end of their single-player adventure, it’s pretty easy to recommend this Avengers game.

Game: [usr 4]

A copy of the game was provided by Square Enix for this review. Campaign completed, and multi-player modes played.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) Review

Ever since Justice League in 2017, DC Films has been trying to find their footing. Aquaman was great, even with butchering the best song of the 80s (how the hell do you do that to Toto’s Africa?), but then Shazam hit the magic spot of being both critically successful and popular with audiences. And of course we just had Joker, and while it’s not part of the DCEU, it’s their crown jewel right now.

Which brings us to Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). Unlike Joker this one is squarely in the DCEU. It’s set after events of Suicide Squad, which are referenced and seen with a reused shot or two, and this is the same Harley we saw in that movie. Her origin, arrest by Batman, and even Captain Boomerang are all mentioned in the movie. But at the same time the movie carves out a little corner of Gotham for itself meaning you don’t have to be familiar with the past movies to understand what’s going on.

To be clear, this is a Harley Quinn movie that acts as a short origin for the Birds of Prey. It’s like an episode of a Harley TV series acting as a backdoor pilot for the Bird of Prey. Barbara Gordon fans have been mad that she’s not in this movie, but honestly with it being a Harley movie that introduces the Birds; she really would’ve been wasted. It’s much better to wait for the solo Batgirl movie to introduce Babs, and then have her team up with the Birds in the sequel.

I think one thing some people might be missing from the movie is that the Tarantino-style non-linear first act fits with Harley’s stream of consciousness perfectly. Remember, Joker zapped her head with shock therapy; so she’s just a bit crazy. Which fits how the first act of the movie plays out with the action continuously backup up and rewinding to catch you up on the story.

And the story is pretty simple. Cassandra Cain swallows a diamond that Ewan McGregor’s great Black Mask wants so everyone is after a the little girl. The gangsters want to carve her open, and Harley just wants to make her take a dump. Eventually Huntress, Black Canary, Renee Montoya, and Harley all come together to protect Cassandra and the Birds of Prey are formed.

I really want to see a sequel with the Birds with Babs. We have a great Huntress and Black Canary here and it’ll be a shame if they don’t show up again; especially since we get a great tease of the comic book costumes in the movie. It really leaves you wanting a full movie with them and Babs.

Black Mask has been a long time favorite villain of Gotham, and Ewan McGregor knocks it out of the park giving us easily the best DCEU villain yet. But Victor Zsasz isn’t wasted either. He’s been done on screen before, but never this well.

I really liked Birds of Prey and want more Harley movies and more Birds of Prey movies. It leaves so many doors open I hope WB doesn’t abandon these characters. It’s not even two hours long, doesn’t really feel slow at any part, and the action is absolutely fantastic with a great soundtrack. Just go in understanding this is a Harley movie being used to introduce the team.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review

“The Saga Ends” is an ominous phrase for a Star Wars fan such as me. As someone who grew up with the Original Trilogy and can still remember where the theaters existed where I saw the movies, I’ve spent forty years hearing from George Lucas how the saga was meant to be nine (occasionally twelve) films. And now that final installment is here.

I’ve been pretty vocal over the last five years how I wasn’t a huge fan of The Force Awakens. While I love the new characters, it didn’t feel like a sequel to Return of the Jedi. The movie felt like an intentional retread of A New Hope while JJ Abrams went down a nostalgia checklist in the hopes to woo back the fans who spent the Prequel years cursing George Lucas’ name and claiming he “raped their childhoods”. 

One of my fondest memories of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (and, yes, the Prequels) is how each movie felt new and introduced something to Star Wars we haven’t seen before. Empire gave us a snow planet and the AT-ATs, and for a kid in 1983 the B-Wing from Jedi was the coolest thing ever. I’m happy that The Rise of Skywalker does introduce new things. The Sith Troopers remind me a lot of seeing the red Imperial Guards in Jedi for the first time, there are some really cool new environments on display, and we get some great new characters such as the droidsmith Babu Frick who is almost the film’s Baby Yoda.

In returning to Star Wars, JJ Abrams had to do something with The Rise of Skywalker he really hasn’t had to do before. He had to craft an ending to the mysteries he setup for others to solve in The Force Awakens. And for the most part, he succeeds. I think he almost falls down the nostalgia pit he did in The Force Awakens with the amount of fan service, but the movie isn’t a direct repeat of Return of the Jedi outside of some rhyming, which is the sort of thing Lucas would’ve probably done. 

It’s difficult to really discuss the movie without going into spoilers, but with everything with this trilogy there will be people who will love it but will be drowned out by daily angry videos on YouTube screaming that they’re wrong for liking it. That’s unavoidable with anything related to Star Wars in the YouTube era, and it’s really frustrating.

Something I like most about it is how the trio is together for a good chunk of it. In the time since TLJ, you get the sense that they’ve become a group of friends. Finn and Poe especially have a fun rivalry, but can become partners when it matters. They remind me of Apollo and Starbuck from the original Battlestar Galactica.

Leia is actually in the movie a lot more than you’d expect, as it becomes obvious that it’s a lot more than just some unused footage from The Force Awakens. But it’s done well, and there’s only one part where you really know it wasn’t Carrie there. In regards to Lando, Billy Dee showed up and lights up every shot Lando is involved with. It was an absolute joy to see him back.

You’re going to see some reviewers this week saying they’re “conflicted” over decisions made in the movie. What that really means is that they’re upset that JJ Abrams didn’t read their mind and use their fan theory about Rey (or whatever) that they’ve been pushing for the past five years. The exact same thing happened with George Lucas. When the Prequels he made didn’t match the prequels people invented in their heads over eighteen years; toxic fans drove him away from Star Wars.

Something that has to be said about the Sequel Trilogy as a whole, that a lot of the angry voices out there seem to be uninformed on, is that George’s touch is on these movies from the beginning. The main character of this trilogy was always meant to be a girl learning to become a Jedi. It was never going to be a boy just being a repeat of Luke Skywalker.

People also don’t seem to realize that George spent the years following the Original Trilogy raising three kids, two of which were girls. As a single father George Lucas adopted them, so the theme of an orphan finding a family is something that makes a lot of sense in a Star Wars movie given that background. 

With that in mind, The Rise of Skywalker wraps up the Skywalker Saga in a way that you could have seen George Lucas doing it, based on the themes of an orphan girl learning to become a Jedi and finding a family. 

I think far too many people on the internet rush to judge Star Wars on what they would do, and not what the creator would have done. Which has been a problem for twenty years, ever since the Prequels, so it’s not exactly new. We’ve also been deprived of J.W. Rinzler “Making of” tomes for this trilogy to detail such things as George’s overall plan, which is a shame as his Original Trilogy books are absolutely required reading. 

Fans who actually like Star Wars will probably be happy with the epic scale in the movie and the surprises that tie all nine movies together. Five years ago, they intentionally removed Prequel stuff from The Force Awakens, now there are some cool Prequel surprises in this if you look and listen carefully. It’s almost as if someone convinced JJ that there is an entire generation of Star Wars fans who grew up with those movies and not the OT. Even the animated series are woven into this epic finale.

I’ve loved Star Wars from the day I opened my eyes, and I’ll love Star Wars until the day I forever sleep. There are things in every Star Wars movie I don’t like. I can’t stand the Jabba scene in A New Hope because it’s redundant and just repeats the information relayed in the Greedo scene, but that doesn’t make me go record an angry YouTube video calling it a “total cinematic failure”. There are some things in The Rise of Skywalker that bug me, but they’re spoilery yet don’t completely ruin the movie.

The Rise of Skywalker is a Star Wars movie. Meaning people are going to argue about it for years to come, and then people will change their mind in a decade or so when there’s another major thing to complain about. 

I admit I haven’t been a huge JJ Abrams fan; I like a lot of what he does, but I also dislike an equal amount. The stupidity of the Into Darkness script sends me into a rage. But I think The Rise of Skywalker is my favorite movie of his. It does tie all nine movies together with some big surprises for those who don’t seek out spoilers, and it’s easily John Williams’ best Star Wars score since the Prequels and my personal favorite score of his since the first Harry Potter.

I personally loved how it wrapped up the Skywalker Saga, especially the entire second half of the movie, and I enjoyed it a lot more than The Force Awakens. Part of me is sad to see such a major part of my life come to a close, but I’m also excited for an uncharted future in a galaxy far far away…

Marvel’s Spider-Man: From Amazing to Spectacular Review

It’s been a rough time for Spider-Man fans. Not long ago Disney and Sony broke up, putting the web slinger’s future in the MCU into question. Then Spider-Man himself saved the day and made the parents make up, bringing Spidey back to the MCU. But now with that out of the way, how about a Spider-Man history lesson?

Insight Editions has a new Spider-Man book on the way titled Marvel’s Spider-Man: From Amazing to Spectacular that celebrates the comic art of the webslinger from his debut in Amazing Fantasy #15 through the latter part of Dan Slott’s run with the Spider-Verse crossover.

This large (11×14) coffee table book is written by Matt Singer and features interviews with many of Spider-Man’s creators over the years including Brian Michael Bendis, Gerry Conway, Tom DeFalco, J.M. Dematteis, David Michelinie, Mark Millar, Alex Ross, Dan Slott, J. Michael Straczynski, Roger Stern, and more.

I’m not going to lie, when I first got my hands on the book I was struck by its size, but the most impressive thing is how gorgeous the comic art looks full page when looking through it:

Some pieces even take up more than one page, and they look incredible. It’s a great book just to flip through, and I had washes of nostalgia come over me seeing some of these old panels I remember from the early 90s era of Spider-Man.

Now, this isn’t a complete Spider-Man encyclopedia, but the book does a great job narrowing into the key moments in the character’s history. You obviously have the Venom history, the clone saga, the introduction of Ultimate Spider-Man, and of course Miles, Spider-Gwen, and the more recent era of Spider-Man.

That’s not to say it brushes over things. Even controversies are detailed, such as Civil War, One More Day, and Brand New Day. The highs and lows of Spider-Man’s history are presented here, and yes the infamous Mephisto scenes from One More Day get their own full page display.

For a Spider-Man fan, having a large coffee table sized book such as this that showcases the comic art so beautifully could just be the gateway book to get a family member or friend interested in comics if they find it sitting on a table.

I was impressed with not only the quality that the comic art was presented, but the interviews and the amount of Spider-Man history that was able to be collected into 184 pages. With so much drama surrounding Spider-Man recently, Marvel’s Spider-Man: From Amazing to Spectacular was a nice trip down memory lane of the history of Marvel’s most popular character.

A copy of Marvel’s Spider-Man: From Amazing to Spectacular was provided for this review by Insight Editions.

Spider-Man: Far From Home Review

I’ve been a Spider-Man fan my entire life. I basically learned to read with a Spider-Man vs. the Green Goblin at a carnival pop-up book, watched Spider-Man on The Electric Company and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, before beginning to read comics every week. And as good as the previous six Spider-Man movies were, none of them got it completely right…until Far From Home.

In a way, getting Spider-Man right is a balancing act. The previous movies from the Raimi trilogy, through the Amazing Spider-Man films, would get one or two things really great but the balance would tip to far in one direction. For example, the Raimi movies leaned too hard on Peter being mopey and tearful about not being with MJ to the point where he lost his powers because he was sad. The Amazing movies gave us the perfect Gwen Stacy, but the villains hit Batman & Robin levels of camp at times.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is the second of three solo Spider-Man movies in the MCU, the fifth appearance of Tom Holland as Peter Parker, and it’s not only my favorite Spider-Man movie (yes even including Into the Spider-Verse), but it’s my favorite solo MCU film. For the first time the delicate balance of getting Spider-Man right was hit, and they translated the villain to the screen better than any comic book villain before.

Set eight months following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Far From Home is truly an epilogue to the Infinity Saga. The opening moments of the movie refresh people on “The Blip” from Infinity War as well as showing what it looked like when people came back. It also briefly deals with how things are for those who were gone for five years, suddenly being brought back to life.

After that eventful school year, Peter’s class (most of who were Blipped) go on a relaxing vacation to Europe. While there, Elementals begin attacking, only to have Mysterio appear to save the day and claim to be a hero in the absence of Iron Man. If you’ve ever read a comic or watched a Spider-Man cartoon, you know the truth about Mysterio…

But the important thing about the movie is it does strike that balance that’s needed with Peter Parker. He feels like the entire weight of the world is on his shoulders to save it, while he just wants to be with MJ and tell her that he likes her. He doesn’t get weepy and stare longingly at her over a fence like in the Raimi movies. He acts like a normal sixteen-year-old would in that situation.

There’s a moment early in the movie when they first arrive at Venice where Peter goes and buys a glass flower to give to MJ. It’s a short scene, but it’s completely the Peter Parker from the comics. And we get more of that Peter as well, as we see his brilliance on display later in the movie when he comes into his own and out from Tony Stark’s shadow. Homecoming gave hints of this as Peter created his web shooters and the formula for the web fluid, this movie is the next step in that origin.

MJ plays a much bigger role in this movie, and both Holland and Zendaya pull the whole thing off so realistically. It’s never campy or melodramatic. They come off as two realistic teenagers, and they resemble the Peter/MJ relationship from the comic perfectly. This is the MJ from the comics, every bit a strong as Peter. I really can’t wait for more of this Peter and MJ in a third movie.

As for Mysterio. He’s perfect. And I don’t just mean the costume. There’s a sequence late in the movie that is so comic perfect, I really don’t think such a sequence would’ve been possible in the earlier Spider-Man films just from a VFX standpoint. It’s literally panels from a Mysterio issue of the comics pulled off the page and realized in live action. It’s one of the highlights of the entire movie.

And of course the supporting cast from Homecoming is back. Flash’s admiration of Spider-Man (which is part of his character in the comics) is growing, while he still remains comic relief. Ned’s back and it seems his role is a little smaller this time to give more room to MJ, but it works. I was also real happy to see Happy Hogan back and he has a much different relationship with Peter now.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is the end of Phase 3, but there are some things set up here for the future. Those who (wrongly) believed that the MCU Spider-Man series ended with this movie will probably think very differently after they watch this movie, and there’s a little hint at larger things for the MCU if you stay through the credits.

It’s taken six movies to get here, but we finally have a near perfect live action Spider-Man film. I hope we get another dozen of these with Tom Holland.

[usr 5]

Merchoid Advanced Tech Quantum Realm Hoodie Review

When Merchoid revealed their Avengers “Advanced Tech” hoodies a few months ago, people were immediately interested in them. The white, red, and black hoodies helped confirm that the “white suits” in Avengers: Endgame were real; despite people at the time still going around saying that they were fake. They also looked really cool, and superhero hoodies are something that’s really popular these days.

I managed to get one of these “Advanced Tech” Hoodies, which they’re now adding the Quantum name to, and can confirm it looks just as cool as the product photos on the site, and it’s a quality 100% polyester hoodie.

The red and black parts of the hoodie are smooth, while the white (or off-white) parts have a texture. The Avengers logo on the chest in embroidered:

There’s another Avengers logo on the right sleeve, which is printed:

I’ve worn the hoodie in public, and had people asking me about it and where I got it. It’s comfortable and the sizing seems to be pretty accurate. In the past I’ve had hoodies that seem to be sized a size smaller than they’re supposed to be, so I was worried about that with this one but it wasn’t an issue. So I’m pretty happy with this hoodie and it’s one I’ll be using for quite some time to come. I’ll probably even start wearing it on the MCU Cosmic YouTube channel.

Merchoid is currently running another pre-sale on the hoodies, which will ship in July 2019. You can find them on their site here.

Avengers: Endgame Review

Last March, before the release of Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige gave an interview where he addressed fans’ obsession over characters dying in a finale. He pointed out how one of the greatest finales ever, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “All Good Things…” wasn’t about death, instead it ended with Captain Picard doing what he always should’ve done with the crew (play poker). Without spoiling anything, Avengers: Endgame is the “All Good Things…” for the MCU in more ways than just how it addresses closure for the original six Avengers. It truly is a culmination of the last twenty two films, while also not bringing the MCU as a whole to a close…after all Phase 4 is just around the corner.

As you probably gathered from the trailers and TV spots over the last couple of months, the movie picks up not long after the events in Avengers: Infinity War where Thanos successfully wiped out half of the universe. Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet is one of the most iconic comic events in the last thirty years, and they actually did that in the last movie. The surviving Avengers hatch a plan to face Thanos again and use the stones to reverse what he did…only things don’t go according to plan.

Anything beyond that is what you haven’t seen in any of the promotional material, and that’s only within the first twenty minutes or so of a three-hour movie. So to say anything beyond what happens after they head into space to face Thanos would be a huge spoiler, as what does happen will be shocking to some and one of the more interesting things they did with the story. If you really pay attention to the trailers, TV spots, and promo art that’s out there and look at how the character’s look different in various scenes you can kind of figure it out, but I won’t spoil it in this review.

The remaining two-and-a-half hours after the footage you’ve already seen is an epic, mind-blowing, and nostalgic MCU adventure that really pays off the twenty-two movies that led to this. Much like how “All Good Things…” rewarded those who were with Star Trek: The Next Generation through all seven seasons, Avengers: Endgame is a hugely satisfying payoff for those MCU fans who have been here since the beginning. The movie features some things fans have waited years to see on the big screen, and there’s something that will cause more cheers than Thor’s arrival in Wakanda in the previous movie.

Again, I won’t spoil anything in this review but I will say that some character stories are brought to a close while others have new doors opened to be explored in Phase 4. Everyone wants to know what happens with Tony and Cap, and for the latter I will say that in my opinion the resolution to his story is easily one of the highlights of the entire MCU. I’m sure fans are going to endlessly debate the decision they came to, and I hope it doesn’t become another one of those Luke in The Last Jedi things where YouTubers latch on to it and make daily videos just to complain about it over and over, but I absolutely loved it. Markus and McFeely have been there writing Cap from the beginning in The First Avenger, and they bring a perfect resolution to Steve Rogers’ story. Even writing this and thinking back on it makes me emotional since it’s so perfect.

Avengers: Endgame feels like a reward for those who stuck with the MCU from the beginning. You don’t have to be intimately familiar with the history of the twenty-two movie cinematic universe to enjoy the three-hour epic, but those who are will be blown away at what the Russos and Markus & McFeely pulled off here. There are endings, and some tears, but there’s a very changed MCU out there to explore in the movies coming after this. It’s the ending to one era of the MCU, but the beginning of a new one and there are some really interesting strands that were started where certain characters will be following this movie.

I can still remember seeing the first Iron Man in theaters back in 2008, and have seen every MCU movie theatrically and multiple times over the eleven years since. Avengers: Endgame was everything I expected in a finale to the Infinity Saga, and was satisfying in every way a movie could be. It’s a giant thank you from Marvel Studios to the fans for their eleven years of support. And it’s an incredible movie you won’t soon forget.

Movie: [usr 5]

Captain Marvel Review

Captain Marvel is a character with a very long history in Marvel comics, first appearing in 1967 and being a mantle carried by numerous different characters throughout the decades. When Kevin Feige announced the Captain Marvel movie in 2014 it was no surprise at all that it would be the Carol Danvers version of the character. After all, at that time the comic was undergoing a very successful relaunch, people cheered when they heard Carol would be coming to the big screen. As Phase 3 went through some flux with Ant-Man and The Wasp being added and Inhumans being removed, Carol’s big screen debut shuffled around, but now it’s finally here and the wait has been worth it.

There are a lot of things in Captain Marvel that the trailers needed to hide, so to not spoil anything the best way to describe the movie is to compare it to Robocop; if you started that movie at the point when Murphy was already a cyborg. There’s a scene in Robocop where Murphy is going through his old house and remembering his past life, and a good portion of Carol’s story in this movie is like that. Many of the twists and revelations come when she finds out who she really is and how she got her powers.

Of course, while it has some dark humor, Robocop is pretty intense movie and this is a Marvel Studios film. So that means it needs some levity, and that comes from Samuel L. Jackson playing a younger Nick Fury who is suddenly thrust into that larger universe he invited Tony Stark into. The movie is really Carol’s and Nick’s once she arrives on Earth, and you’ll learn a lot about Nicholas J. Fury (including what the J. stands for) as well as see his early interactions with Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson.

On the alien side of things there’s the Kree, who we’ve seen before a few times in the MCU in the Guardians movies and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and at long last the Skrulls! I cannot stress how amazing the Skrulls are in this movie. Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos is so great, and a huge improvement and complete change from the comic original. He’s played many genre villains by now, from Star Wars to Ready Player One, but here he’s given perhaps his best yet. Much of the marketing focused on Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg, but Talos is the character people will remember long after the credits finish rolling.

Beyond their leader in the film, the Skrulls are delivered to the MCU in such a way that it’s made the long wait well worth it. They’re more than just evil shape-shifting aliens, and the way they’re handled here is a highlight of not just this movie but the entire MCU to this point. I can’t wait to see more of them in future movies or Disney+ shows.

And of course there’s the title character. Brie Larson brings to life the Carol Danvers of the comic, and this is completely the version of the character from the Kelly Sue DeConnick run on the book (and Kelly Sue has a cameo in the movie). There’s none of the “Ms. Marvel” baggage here, she’s pretty much the Carol as we’ve known her for the last few years in the comic, and Brie owns the part. Everyone fan-casted Captain Marvel for years before she was cast, but after seeing the movie it’s hard to picture anyone else as Carol Danvers in the MCU.

As it’s an origin movie people will obviously compare it to the previous Marvel origin films: Iron Man, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and Black Panther. My personal favorite MCU origin has been The First Avenger, and I feel Captain Marvel is about on the same level as that. The two are also very similar; both are period pieces, both come at the end of their “Phases”, and both lead into an Avengers movie.

It’s not perfect, some will find the first twenty minutes a little slow if they don’t care about the Kree-Skrull war, but once Carol gets to Earth the movie really kicks into gear and doesn’t stop until the end. It also fleshes out the MCU in some new ways. Filling in little pieces of the past with some very interesting lore, one real big revelation at the end of the movie will send some YouTubers into fits of performance outrage, but that’s one of my favorite things in the movie. Thinking about it afterwards, it gives Carol eventually meeting the Avengers a whole different meaning. And since it’s a period piece set in the 90s, there are a lot of fun 90s references and the best Marvel soundtrack since the Guardians movies.

The movie also begins with an incredibly touching tribute to Stan Lee, and it’s done in a such a way that it’s something they can easily include with both Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home this year as well. I really hope Marvel considers using it to kick off those movies when they arrive in theaters over the next couple of months.

In the end, I think Captain Marvel is a Marvel origin on about the same level as Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s a cosmic adventure, almost Marvel’s Star Wars with the whole Kree-Skrull war angle, and it brings to life one of the most popular characters in the comics from the past decade. I can’t wait to see how Carol interacts with the Avengers and how her power is used to help stop Thanos.

[usr 4]

Venom 4K UHD Blu-Ray Review

I have to be perfectly honest with you, when I saw Venom on IMAX a couple of months ago I really only liked about half of the movie. The first half, basically everything leading up to the point where Eddie meets Venom, to me was pretty boring. But once the symbiote finds Eddie, the movie becomes pretty enjoyable. Cast aside your past biases that Venom has to be connected to Spider-Man, and the movie is a brisk superhero movies that sets up a sequel that everyone wants to see.

All of it rides on Tom Hardy who seems to get the movie better than the supporting cast, and it’s unintentionally funny at times. The lobster scene is legendary and worth seeing the movie for that alone. Venom does fall into the superhero movie trope of two big CG monstrosities (literally) smashing into each other in its climax, but the chemistry between Hardy and himself (he voiced Venom as well) makes it fun.

Sony brings Venom home on 4K on a disc sporting both Dolby Vision and a Dolby Atmos track. Venom is a very dark movie, so as expected the HDR benefits the black levels in the movie, but it isn’t without some colorful moments and the rare daylight scenes see the colors get a nice boost over the standard Blu-ray. Specifically the neon-lit San Francisco night scenes in Eddie’s neighborhood benefit from the HDR with a real nice contrast between the colored lights and the dark night streets.

Detail on the 4K version also gets a very nice boost over the standard Blu-Ray. I noticed more detail in the swirling black mucus Venom CG than I did on the IMAX screen when I saw it theatrically. According to IMDB Venom was shot with a mix of 2K and 8K cameras (very much like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), and the 4K version gives you a nice boost over the standard Blu-Ray, especially in the detail department.

The Atmos track is full with a nice sound-field, and as expected Venom’s booming voice sounds great on it. The sound design of his voice being in the back of your head was part of what made the Venom scenes in the theater great, and the Atmos track on the disc replicates that perfectly.

As usual all the extras are included on the Blu-Ray, although the 4K disc does give you the option of watching the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse post-credits scene by itself as a bonus on the disc. And that looks fantastic in 4K, meaning that disc is going to be a real treat when it comes out.

There’s no commentary track on the disc, but they have a “Venom Mode” that’s one of those pop-up factoid modes where text will appear on the screen at various points to point out an Easter Egg or behind-the-scenes production detail. It’s not really a replacement for a commentary, as pop-ups aren’t constant and doesn’t give as much detail on the movie, but thankfully the featurettes that go with it are pretty decent.

The best thing Sony did with the special features of Venom was get Kevin Smith involved. He genuinely loves and is passionate about comics, so to have him in the featurettes gives a legitimate comic book voice to the behind-the-scenes stuff. “From Symbiote to Screen” is the longest at twenty minutes and discusses how they brought Venom from the comics to the movie. Yes, they do address his Spider-Man origins in the comic (they’d have to) and then do a very deft dodge to explain how the movie had to be different and standalone from Spider-Man. It discusses the symbiotes in detail, and is actually pretty good.

“The Anti Hero” at ten minutes is also pretty good focusing on the dual nature of Venom, but the highlight is showing how they did the Venom voice on set. Hardy would record the Venom lines before shooting that day, then the sound guys would play them back to him (with the Venom special effects) via an earpiece. The nine-minute “Lethal Protector in Action” focuses on the stunts, and specifically how they made the motorcycle chase on San Francisco.

“Venom Vision” is second minutes and focuses on Ruben Fleischer and the directing of the movie, with “Designing Venom” is about five minutes and details how the CG effects for Venom were created and applied to what was filmed. Finally “Symbiote Secrets” is a short thing showing the comic book Easter Eggs, but at this point does Stan’s cameo really need to be pointed out?

There’s also a minute and a half about the Venom score, then there are eight pre-vis to final scene comparisons that run a total of 14 1/2 minutes. These are done pretty well in a split screen format where to two versions of the scenes run at the same time. You also get two music videos; “Venom” by Eminem and “Sunflower” by Post Malone, Swae Lee (From Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse).

The biggest disappointment about the Venom Blu-Ray are the deleted scenes. There are three, one is about a minute and a half long and features Eddie talking to Venom in a cab, another is about thirty seconds and shows Venom destroying a car after the alarm bothered him, and the third is an extended version of the mid-credits scene. This one will disappoint fans. No you don’t see a symbiote make its way into the cell, Woody just has a few more lines of dialog before the “Carnage” line. That’s it. People were probably expecting more with that. One has to wonder if there won’t be an extended version someday.

There is a digital-exclusive extra on the iTunes version of the movie that isn’t on the Blu-Ray. “Friends of Venom” is a seven-minute featurette that discusses all the supporting characters in Venom, and it includes Kevin Smith geeking out about She-Venom.

In the end, Venom comes home with a great-looking and sounding 4K UHD disc with some pretty good extras that only disappoint in a couple of categories. In a time when a lot of Blu-Rays don’t even include this much content (like a lot of the MCU ones) that’s impressive.