KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE FILM REVIEW: CHASING AMY (1997)

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Silent Bob: So there’s me and Amy, and we’re all inseparable, right? Just big time in love. And then four months down the road, the idiot gear kicks in, and I ask about the ex-boyfriend. Which, as we all know, is a really dumb move. But you know how it is: you don’t wanna know, but you just have to, right? Stupid guy bullshit. So, anyway, she starts telling me about him… how they fell in love, and how they went out for a couple of years, and how they lived together, her mother likes me better, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… and I’m okay. But then she drops the bomb on me, and the bomb is this: it seems that a couple of times, while they were going out, he brought some people to bed with them. Ménage à trois, I believe it’s called. Now this just blows my mind, right? I mean, I am not used to this sort of thing. I mean, I was raised Catholic, for God’s sake.
Jay: Saint Shithead.
[Silent Bob elbows him; Jay motions as if to start a fight]
Silent Bob: Do something.
[to Holden]
Silent Bob: So I’m totally weirded out by this, right? And then I just start blasting her. Like… I don’t know how to deal with what I’m feeling, so I figure the best way is by calling her a slut, right? And tell her she was used. I’m… I’m out for blood. I really wanna hurt this girl. I’m like, “What the fuck is your problem?”, right? And she’s just all calmly trying to tell me, like, it was that time and it was that place and she doesn’t think she should apologize because she doesn’t feel that she’s done anything wrong. I’m like, “Oh, really?” That’s when I look her straight in the eye, I tell her it’s over. I walk.
Jay: Fuckin’ A!
Silent Bob: No, idiot. It was a mistake. I didn’t hate her. I wasn’t disgusted with her. I was afraid. At that moment, I felt small, like… like I’d lacked experience, like I’d never be on her level, like I’d never be enough for her or something like that, you know what I’m saying? But, what I did not get, she didn’t care. She wasn’t looking for that guy anymore. She was… she was looking for me, for the Bob. But, uh, by the time I figure this all out, it was too late, man. She moved on, and all I had to show for it was some foolish pride, which then gave way to regret. She was the girl, I know that now. But I pushed her away. So, I’ve spent every day since then chasing Amy… so to speak.

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Synopsis: Holden and Banky are comic book artists. Everything’s going good for them until they meet Alyssa, also a comic book artist. Holden falls for her, but his hopes are crushed when he finds out she’s a lesbian.

Chasing Amy is Kevin Smith’s third film and possibly his best. After the hit independent Clerks and the extremely disappointing Mallrats, Smith went back to his indie roots and made a personal, touching and often witty romantic comedy. With shades of Annie Hall, Kevin Smith used his real life relationship with Joey Lauren Adams as the template to make a film that was more than low-brow humour found in his previous film. The film is impressive for its realism of male and female sexuality and dealing with relationships in the 90’s.

The film revolves around Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) two best friends who created the comic book Bluntman and Chronic (based on Jay and Silent Bob). Banky is the Inker and Holden is the writer. They are a good team and have a successful comic book career. That is until Holden meets Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), a charming, sexy and fun fellow comic book writer. Holden and Alyssa immediately hit it off although Banky becomes jealous of his best friends new potential love interest. Holden is head over heels immediately and is eager to meet her again when she invites him to a bar. Unfortunately for Holden he soon becomes aware that she is gay. Alyssa notices his disappointment but wants to be his friend and enjoys being with him. After hanging out with each other for a while Holden can’t keep his feelings back anymore and confesses his love for her. Alyssa gives in and they get together. However with her sexual history and Holden’s mainstream idea of love he can’t get over her past and things begin to fall apart.

This is a very touching and heartfelt film and a huge improvement in filmmaking from Smith. Ben Affleck is great in this film. His acting is superb and he really rises to his leading man status of today after his awful role in Mallrats. Joey Lauren Adams is adorable as Alyssa Jones, she’s every comic book lover’s fantasy. She’s sexy, charming, she’s a comic book writer with knowledge of comic book history too. Her voice is also so sexy. It’s too bad she didn’t have a better career after this film. Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams have amazing chemistry and their characters relationship is sweet, charming, realistic and ultimately heartbreaking.

Jason Lee plays a similar character from Mallrats. However he has better chemistry with Ben Affleck than Jeremy London (where is he now?). His scenes with Affleck depict a really strong male friendship that can sometimes become effected by a new girlfriend. Their relationship follows Smith’s familiar tropes of two male protagonists who are best friends (usually man-boys) who don’t understand women; one more sensitive and emotional the other cocky and amusing. However in this film it feels a lot more real and personal than the relationships in Clerks and Mallrats.

The film has other common Kevin Smith tropes including pop culture references including comic books, Star Wars, TV Shows and films. Characters referring to, going to or playing Hockey. Also keeping in the same Universe of Clerks we have a scene at Quick Stop Groceries and a Jay and Silent Bob cameo.

Chasing Amy is a sweet and personal film from Smith which shows a maturity as a filmmaker. Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee also help lift the material with great performances. It is not as funny as his previous films but Smith’s skills with dialogue is still very strong and the plot flows with great twists and turns. This is my favourite film of Smith’s thus far.

A+

Highlights:
– Dwight Ewell as Hooper X a black gay comic writer pretending to be a strong Black Activist, especially his opening scene at a Comic Book Convention.
– The idea of a comic book called Bluntman and Chronic based on Jay and Silent Bob

FILM REVIEW DOUBLE: DEADPOOL (2016) & DEADPOOL 2 (2018)

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DEADPOOL (2016)

Colossus: You will come talk with Professor Xavier.
Deadpool: McAvoy or Stewart? These timelines can get so confusing.

Director: Tim Miller

Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Ed Skrein, Stefan Kapicic, Brianna Hildebrand, Karan Soni and Leslie Uggams

Synopsis: A fast-talking mercenary with a morbid sense of humour is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers and a quest for revenge.

Deadpool came out in 2016 in the peak of Comic Book Movie saturation. However with its R-Rated graphic violence, tongue in cheek humour and iconic performance from Ryan Reynolds this became the highest grossing X-Men film and a refreshing new take on the genre.

This is an average superhero origin story about a mercenary named Wade Wilson who falls for a stripper named Vanessa (played by the stunning Morena Baccarin) but soon gets cancer and doen’t have much longer to live. He decides to go through an experiment which will give him mutant powers similar to Wolverine where he can grow back his body parts and is unkillable. However the experiment leaves him disfigured and he leaves Vanessa and becomes Deadpool to exact revenge on the man who led the experiments, Ajax (Ed Skrein).

Although the plot is mediocre what elevates the material is the mix of R-Rated graphic violence
with the comedy of the character Deadpool who has constant witty remarks, breaks the fourth wall, insults himself and the X-Men Universe. Ryan Reynolds is brilliant as Deadpool, after many misfires as a superhero including Deadpool in the maligned Wolverine: Origins he finally found his own iconic performance. After this film everyone now knows him as Deadpool. Reynolds has always been a great presence on screen with his charming looks and Jim Carrey-esque humour. However he had more misses than hits. This film changed all of that as it was a massive success for an R rated Superhero film. Something the Studios never predicted.

The film also excels with its wonderful mix of supporting characters. The beautiful Morena Baccarin as Wade Wilson’s love interest is every comic book nerds fantasy. You have Karan Soni as the Indian Taxi Driver Dopinder, who seems sensitive and sweet in the beginning but has a dark side by the end. T.J. Miller as Weasel, Wade’s bartender who offers advice in times of need. Leslie Uggams (scene stealer) as Blind Al the ctrotchety blind old black woman who becomes Deadpool’s roommate.

This film is a lot of fun and similar to Iron Man, I wasn’t aware of the character from comic books or the X-Men Film Universe however this film changed all of that and I am now a huge fan of the character on screen and the comic book page.

A-

Highlights:
– Stan Lee as the Strip Club DJ
– Excellent opening establishing Deadpool as a character with his witty banter, conversations through the fourth wall, and then the action packed car chase sequence.
– The Soundtrack of cheesy 80’s/90’s hits

 

DEADPOOL 2 (2018)

Cable: You’re no hero. You’re just a clown, dressed up like a sex toy.
Deadpool: So dark. You sure you’re not from the DC universe?

Director: David Leitch

Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick & Ryan Reynolds

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Stefan Kapicic, Brianna Hildebrand, Karan Soni and Leslie Uggams

Synopsis: Foul-mouthed mutant mercenary Wade Wilson (AKA. Deadpool), brings together a team of fellow mutant rogues to protect a young boy of supernatural abilities from the brutal, time-traveling mutant, Cable.

Deadpool 2 is as fun and entertaining as the original. Ryan Reynolds is still perfect as the Merc with a Mouth. However like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 you love these characters and enjoy the ride but the movie doesn’t surpass the original as it is exactly the same experience without the surprise of the first time you see these characters and their depiction on screen. The format is the same with Deadpool still breaking the fourth wall with witty jokes about X-Men films, comic book and pop culture references, and a sweet heart. This time instead of a love story it is a family story at its core.

The film actually borrows a lot from one of the best sequels of all time Terminator 2. A soldier from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin’s second Marvel villain this year) comes back in time to avenge the loss of his family by killing the Mutant who killed his family as a child. That child is Russell (Julian Dennison) a flame throwing mutant who is tested on in a Mutant Orphanage which is a front for dangerous tests and possibly sexual harassment of Mutants. Cable believes that if he kills him he can change the future and save his family. There isn’t much explanation of the character of Cable, all we know is that he is a strong soldier from the future with a cool gun who lost his family. Josh Brolin has a strong presence on screen however the character is quite underdeveloped and could have had more to do than being a killing machine like the original Terminator. Julian Dennison as Russell is a sympathetic character with a great story arc which coincides with each character. Deadpool’s bond with him becomes the heart of the story and provides drama to each action scene where he needs to protect Russell.

The Deadpool films aren’t your typical X-Men films. They are not dramatic character stories involving Mutants dealing with humanity. They are first and foremost superhero comedies (even parodies at some points) so you won’t get the characterisation and drama you expect from an X-Men film. All of the characters aside from Cable and Russell are comic relief with Deadpool as the main funny guy. I love this as it is a fun and different approach to the typical Marvel and DC fare, especially after the grim Avengers: Infinity War. This is just a fun pop-corn film with great action (new director David Leitch from the John Wick films brings a slickness to the action which was missing in the first) and great comedy from not only Ryan Reynolds Deadpool but from the supporting cast including Karan Soni as Dopinder, T.J. Miller as Weasel, Stefan Kapicic as Colossus, Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Leslie Uggams as Blind Al. The original built a successful formula with these characters and the sequel continues with their characters building on the original.

The sequel does introduce more comedic sidekicks with Deadpool trying to create his own version of the X-Men with X-Force which includes one of the best sequences of the film on their first mission to save Russell. Domino (played with charm and toughness by Zazie Beetz) is the stand out of the team and a great new addition to the Deadpool films.

If you enjoyed the first Deadpool I can’t imagine you wouldn’t enjoy this one. There is plenty of tongue in cheek humour and gruesome violence for the older comic book film fans to enjoy. It doesn’t capture the magic of the original but it is still a fun ride and I hope we get more Deadpool soon.

A-

Highlights:
• Best post credit scene ever
• The cameos
• Every scene with Dopinder
• Dubstep

KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE FILM REVIEW: MALLRATS (1995)

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Brodie: My Grandmother always used to say “why buy the cow, when you can get the sex for free”.
T.S. Quint: She didn’t!
Brodie: All the time, before she became a lesbian on her 60th Birthday, but that’s besides the point.

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Synopsis: Both dumped by their girlfriends, two best friends seek refuge in the local mall.

Mallrats, Keven Smith’s sophomore feature is a steep drop in quality from the promise of his indie hit feature film Clerks. The plot, characters and jokes are all very lame and it is in some ways structurally very similar to Clerks. Two best friends; one is emotional and depressed with his life and the other is cocky, has witty dialogue and argues with his friend for not “manning” up and enjoying his life. However compared to Clerks these characters don’t have Dante and Randal’s chemistry. Jason Lee is a scene stealer similar to Jeff Anderson’s performance as Randal and he is the best thing in the movie. Jason Lee of course went on to a successful comedy career on screen and television and this breakout performance proves why. Jeremy London however is extremely bland and looks like he was picked out of a generic 90’s sitcom. He in no way compares to Brian O’Halloran’s performance as Dante in Clerks (Brian O’Halloran has a cameo in the conclusion of the film and you miss his presence from Clerks he should’ve been in this film more) even though he is his surrogate in this film. Another familiar trope from Clerks has our two protagonists spend a day in one location. He swapped a convenience store to a Mall. It parallels Kevin Smith’s career at this point as he made a small independent film based in a small convenience store and now he is more popular as a filmmaker has a larger budget with access to better actors and behind the scenes crew and he has his characters wonder around a giant Mall instead of being stuck in a small convenience store. It’s like a kid with bigger and better toys than his old broken ones but still plays the same game with them. Although he had a larger budget and professional actors he seems to be repeating the same beats as Clerks and the film suffers for it. It looks a lot better than Clerks, the actors and settings are also better however the overall plot arcs, jokes and characters are all quite boring and bland compared to the protagonists and bizarre customers in Clerks.

The film follows TS Quint (Jeremy London) who is dumped by his girlfriend Brandi (the beautiful Claire Forlani) because her father doesn’t like him and he is too clingy and wants to get married right away. Already a poor plot opener. TS’s best friend Brodie (Jason Lee) is also dumped by his girlfriend (Shannen Doherty, in her hot 90’s phase) for being a loser who lives downstairs in his Mom’s house and plays video games and reads comic books all day. The film does reference comic books and Star Wars a lot more having Kevin Smith’s passions start to filter through his films more. The two friends decide to spend their day in the Mall to get their minds off their dramas. Once they get to the mall they meet a few interesting characters including William (Ethan Suplee) a guy staring at a Magic eye image desperately trying to see the Sail boat everyone is seeing, Gwen (Joey Lauren Adams) who is just there to be cute and pretty and ogled by the male characters but nothing else, Shannon played by Ben Affleck in one of his earliest roles at his most unlikable and sleaziest, Tricia (Renee Humphrey) a 15 year old girl who is doing a research project on sex with different men and finally the link to the Kevin Smith Universe – Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith). I love Jay and Silent Bob however they seem a bit muted down in this film especially Jay compared to his foul mouth in Clerks and future installments he seems to be trying to play a proper character instead of a fun side character. There plot in the film is also pretty lame as they are asked to stop a dating game show run by Brandi’s father Svenning (played by Michael Rooker in a scene chewing bizarre performance) so TS can win back Brandi.

If you haven’t seen Clerks and you were a young teenager in the 90’s you would probably find some enjoyment in this film. However looking back today in 2018 after following Kevin Smith’s career this is definitely one of his lowest points in his film-making career.

D

Highlights:
– Stink Palm
– Stan Lee’s cameo and possibly his best performance in a film.
– The homages to Batman and Star Wars.
– The Comic Book Cover Artwork for each character in the opening credits
– All the comic book references and the representation of comic nerds that aren’t glass wearing skinny little boys they can be tough and cocky like Brodie. Don’t forget this was the 90’s when comics in the cinemas were portrayed as kiddie stuff. Kevin Smith treated it seriously and look where we are today.

KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE FILM REVIEW: CLERKS (1994)

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[Randal is on the phone when a woman and little girl come to the counter]
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: Excuse me. But do you sell videotapes?
Randal Graves: Yeah, what’re you looking for?
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: “Happy Scrappy Hero Pup”.
Randal Graves: Uh, one second. I’m on the phone with the distribution house now; lemme make sure they got it.
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: ‘Kay.
Randal Graves: What’s it called again?
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: “Happy Scrappy Hero Pup”.
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Kid: “Happy Scrappy”!
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: She loves it.
Randal Graves: Obviously.
[into the phone]
Randal Graves: Uh, yeah, hi, this is RST Video calling. Customer #4352. I’d like to place an order. Okay, I need one each of the following tapes: “Whispers in the Wind”, “To Each His Own”, “Put It Where It Doesn’t Belong”, “My Pipes Need Cleaning”, “All Tit-Fucking, Volume 8”, “I Need Your Cock”, “Ass-Worshipping Rimjobbers”, “My Cunt and Eight Shafts”, “Cum Clean”, “Cum-Gargling Naked Sluts”, “Cum Buns 3”, “Cumming in Socks”, “Cum on Eileen”, “Huge Black Cocks with Pearly White Cum”, “Girls Who Crave Cock”, “Girls Who Crave Cunt”, “Men Alone 2: The K-Y Connection”, “Pink Pussy Lips”, oh yeah, and, uh, “All Holes Filled with Hard Cock”.
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Kid: “Scrappy”!
Randal Graves: Yup. Oh, wait a minute.
[to the woman]
Randal Graves: Uh, what was that called again?

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Starring: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith

Synopsis: A day in the lives of two convenience clerks named Dante and Randal as they annoy customers, discuss movies, and play hockey on the store roof.

Inspired by the Richard Linklater independent film Slackers, Kevin Smith who was still a Film Studies College student decided to drop out and make a film himself with his friends. He got loans, maxed out his credit cards and convinced his friends and upcoming actors looking for a gig to join him to create a low-budget film based on a life in the day of a depressed Clerk Store worker. In Melbourne, Australia this would be the equivalent of working in a Milk Bar. Kevin Smith himself worked in a convenience store and came up with the story on those boring days stacking shelves and serving idiotic customers. The film mixes comedy with a side plot that borders on soap opera with the main character in a relationship but still pinning for the girl who got away in High School.

The film was a surprise hit when it came out in 1994 winning awards at Cannes Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival and it quickly became a cult hit with teens and young adults in the 90’s for its raunchy dialogue, witty script and relevance to a lot of disenfranchised young adults in the 90’s. Anyone who was working in a job they hated with dreams of more to life could easily connect to the character of Dante (Brian O’Halloran). Dante gets called into work on his day off, which becomes his catchphrase over the course of the film “I’m not even supposed to be here today”. He is a good guy and doesn’t want to upset his boss so he agrees to go to work even though he had planned a hockey match that afternoon (shades of Kevin Smith’s Hockey obsession are apparent here. Also after the 90’s any public appearance Kevin would always be wearing a hockey jersey). As Dante begins his day he has to deal with idiotic customers in and out. We are also introduced to his friend Randal (scene stealer Jeff Anderson) who works next door at the Video store. There conversations are where the film shines. From their musings on porn, Star Wars, customers, relationships all of it is gold and I believe makes this film break out the way it did.

There is a sub-plot involving Dante’s girlfriend Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti) who is good to him and tries to get him to move on with his life instead of wasting it working in the convenience store. Dante is disappointed when they share their sexual history and discovers she had felatio with many men. However the real reason Dante isn’t invested in Veronica is because he is still in love with his ex-girlfriend Caitlin (Lisa Spoonauer) who he discovers is getting married. Over the course of the day Dante has to deal with his feelings for both girls, while also trying to fit in a Hockey game upstairs and attend a funeral which doesn’t go well. (Check youtube for the animated delted scene).

Kevin Smith is brilliant with dialogue. His humour mixes pop culture relevance with crude low-brow punchlines. Throughout his films he has a great way with words. I would say this is his strongest quality as a filmmaker. His films (especially Clerks) aren’t visually appealing. He is no Scorsese. He relies on slow takes letting the characters revel in the dialogue with each other. The acting isn’t the best either but as it is a low-budget first feature you can forgive these minor quibbles.

Re-watching the film today you can see a talented filmmaker on the rise to success. He took a chance and he was rewarded with a great career in filmmaking and pop-culture. All his films aren’t classics but they all have entertaining characters, tight plots and brilliant dialogue. This could possibly be his best film and put him on my map of directors to watch.

A

FILM REVIEW: THE WEEK OF (2018)

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Kirby Cordice: That’s my turn on the AC nod.

Director: Robert Smigel

Writer: Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel

Starring: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Rachel Dratch, Allison Strong, Roland Buck III, Steve Buscemi and Nasser Faris

Synopsis: Two fathers with opposing personalities come together to celebrate the wedding of their children. They are forced to spend the longest week of their lives together, and the big day cannot come soon enough.

The Week Of is the latest Netflix Adam Sandler comedy and easily its best. Adam Sandler is one of my guilty pleasure actors. His comedies offer silly, low-brow humour that at times is what you need on a lazy afternoon or after a long day at work. However his films over the last decade have been decreasingly unfunny. Instead of low-brow humour he turned to lazy jokes that were unfunny and most of his Netflix films I haven’t even bothered to finish because after a few lazy jokes I would just get bored. I think his last really good film was Funny People back in 2009 directed by the talented comedic director Judd Apatow. He turned in a great performance as a somewhat biographical character who was a comedian/actor who had fallen from his glory days and becomes terminally ill. He had great chemistry with Seth Rogen and I’m surprised he hasn’t worked with them since. It could be because the film was one of his lowest grossing films.

In the 90’s Adam Sandler was a comedy juggernaut with comedy classics including Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy, and Big Daddy. I can watch those films anytime and have a good laugh. He had a bit of a slump once the 2000’s came around. Although he still had box office hits like Anger Management, 50 First Dates and Click. The magic of those 90’s comedies started to dissipate. He also began to dabble in dramatic roles such as Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me. He found success again with later hits such as The Longest Yard and Grown Ups but as his box office draw began to slow down he made a deal with Netflix to continue making his comedies without the pressure of releasing them at the cinema. His first film on Netflix The Ridiculous Six was awful. He followed that up with The Do-Over and Sandy Wexler which weren’t as awful but still not on par with his 90’s comedies.

Last year he surprised me with the touching dramedy The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). He turned in a great performance as a disillusioned son and father dealing with his overbearing father (Dustin Hoffman in a brilliant performance), uptight brother (Ben Stiller) and rebellious daughter (Grace Van Patten). This review has turned into an Adam Sandler retrospective so I’ll get to the film I came to discuss.

The Week Of is a mix of Father of the Bride, Meet the Parents and Punch-Drunk Love. It is brilliantly directed by comedy genius Robert Smigel (writer for SNL, Late Night with Conan O’Brien and voice of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog). He brings a documentary style to an intense week for a father of the bride Kenny Lustig (Adam Sandler) who is trying desperately to give his daughter the best wedding and also keep everyone in his dysfunctional family happy as well as deal with his new in-laws to be. He is a blue collar kind of guy and has organised his daughter’s wedding in a cheap hotel run by Hanan  played by Nasser Faris in a hilarious and always scene stealing performance.

Kenny is an old school family guy. He wants to provide for his family although he seems to be of low income. The film also dips into stereotypical Jewish family dysfunction. His cousins, Aunties and Uncles are all stereotypical comedy Jewish characters. Rachel Dratch as his wife is hysterical in her scenes with Sandler when they argue in private (but everyone can hear). She also wants to provide the best for her daughter while making everyone happy but slowing exploding inside.

Chris Rock plays the father of the groom. He is the complete opposite of Sandler’s character Kenny. He isn’t a family man. He left his family early in his marriage to chase girls. He is extremely wealthy as a successful doctor. He is also calm and collected throughout offering financial assistance to Sandler with constant rebuttal. Although Rock is second billed to Sandler I was surprised at how little he is in the film. He pops up in the first half in random scenes where he is working on his patients or seducing women. This is a different type of performance from Rock. I don’t recall seeing him as a confident ladies man in his previous films or even his stand up specials. I thought he brought something new to his oeuvre and I would like to see more performances like this. He reminded me of Eddie Murphy in the 90’s romantic comedy Boomerang. However in the second half of the film as he arrives to stay with Sandler a couple of days before the wedding, we get the type of comedy we are used to from Chris Rock, witty one liners, black jokes and some slapstick comedy involving a crippled old Uncle. Rock doesn’t have great chemistry with Sandler in this film however in the 2005 comedy The Longest Yard they had great chemistry. It could be that in this film they are playing different types of characters.

The film could have been stronger however for a Netflix Adam Sandler film it provides enough comedic moments to make you laugh on a lazy Friday night. I think it is one of the better Adam Sandler comedies from this decade.

B

FILM REVIEW: AVENGERS INFINITY WAR (2018)

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Groot: I am Groot.
Steve Rogers: I am Steve Rogers.

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Starring: Josh Brolin, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Benedict Wong, Don Cheadle, Karen Gillan, Winston Duke, Peter Dinklage and Tom Hiddleston

Synopsis: The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

The third entry in the Avengers Trilogy and the nineteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From the post credit scene in Iron Man (2008) when we were introduced to Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, Marvel fans around the world leapt for joy as they knew this was the beginning of a Marvel connected Universe. Over ten years we have been introduced to iconic Marvel Heroes such as Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man and even deeper cuts such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and Doctor Strange. Each film is unique in its own way but they have all grown into a similar formula. Regular man whether rich or poor comes across gaining special powers and learns life lessons from friends and villains then eventually saves the day. It is a common trope among all superhero movies however Marvel Studios has perfected the formula through perfect casting, strong directors and heaps of nods to the classic comic books where they all originate.

One thing that has spanned across most of the Marvel films is the threat of Thanos and the Infinity Stones. Fans have been waiting for this epic showdown and I’m sure for the fans it does not disappoint. The film opens with a dark and cold introduction of Thanos (brilliantly played by Josh Brolin with menace and ferocity) to show his true power and cruelty. This picks up straight after the previous Marvel film; Thor: Ragnarok. Thor and his team are powerless to his destruction and Thanos begins his quest to find all of the Infinity Stones. He comes to earth to wreak havoc on the streets of New York as Iron Man meets Doctor Strange and Hulk falls from the sky to warn them of what just happened and the threat of Thanos. What ensues for the rest of the film is the team all trying their best to stop Thanos from getting all of the Infinity Stones and ruling the world (or destroying it). The plot is quite simple and there isn’t much time for character development or character arcs except for perhaps between the Guardians of the Galaxy. The characters are still all played to perfection from the cast we know and love including; Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man/Tony Stark), Chris Evans (Captain America/Steve Rogers), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Tom Holland (Spider-Man/Peter Parker), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther/ T’Challa), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Chris Pratt (Star-Lord/ Peter Quill), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Bradley Cooper (as the voice of Rocket), Vin Diesel (as the voice of Groot), Paul Bettany (Vision), Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff), Anthony Mackie (Falcon/ Sam Wilson), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes), Benedict Wong (Wong), Don Cheadle (War Machine/James Rhodes), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Winston Duke (M’Baku), Peter Dinklage ( Eitri) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki). Although Josh Brolin’s Thanos is perhaps Marvels best villain to date his henchmen – The Black Order are pretty forgettable. Proxima Midnight (Monique Ganderton) brings a tough female villain for the female heroes to battle and Corvus Glaive (Michael James Shaw) is chilling, particularly his torture scene with Doctor Strange. However the rest of the villains just reminded me of the Orcs from the Lord of the Rings films, simply fodder for our heroes to punch and kick.

Most of the film is filled with epic battle sequences and it is very fast paced for a 2 and half hour film. It is fun to see all of our heroes together although they eventually split up into three factions. Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man end up on a spaceship trying to uncover the true identity and motives of Thanos. Captain America, Black Widow, Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Hulk end up on Wakanda joining Black Panther’s team to help protect the stone in the Vision. Then we have the Guardians of the Galaxy rescuing Thor from space. Thor’s initial meeting with the Guardians is fantastic especially his meeting with Peter Quill provide some great comedic moments. Eventually Thor teams with Rocket and Groot to travel to another planet to find a weapon to kill Thanos and the rest of the Guardians join Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man to stop Thanos from getting the time stone from Doctor Strange.

The Guardians of the Galaxy were a real highlight in this film from their opening to the song The Rubberband Man by the Spinners they add comedy to dramatic scenes (especially Drax) but also have really strong heartfelt moments especially between Peter Quill and Gamora. Rocket and Groot teaming with Thor was also a stroke of brilliance.

All of this leads to an epic fight in Wakanda where Thanos tries to get the stone from Vision. I won’t spoil the rest (read below) however the epic scale of this battle is jaw dropping and reminiscent of the end battles of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999) and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Overall the film is quite grim for a Marvel movie. There are jokes and fun banter between the heroes but overall this is the darkest Marvel film and it is more similar to a fantasy film in the style of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones rather than the Iron Man or Captain America films.

I enjoyed the film but I did feel it was a bit too overstuffed with characters and overall the plot was quite thin; stop Thanos from getting the Infinity Stones nothing more and nothing less. What was impressive were the incredible epic action scenes from start to finish and just generally catching up with characters we’ve grown to love over these ten years.

B+

Spoilers & Extra Thoughts:
• Gamora was a real highlight in this film. The scene of her backstory was gut-wrenching. Zoe Saldana’s performance was brilliant. Also her death was shocking and heartbreaking. However I have a feeling she may return in either the next Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
• I thought this would be a stand-alone film like the original Avengers and its sequel Age of Ultron. I remember hearing they were going to split it up into two parts like the final Harry Potter and Hunger Games films but Kevin Feige decided against it. However that’s exactly what they did! They ended on a cliffhanger. I didn’t enjoy the ending and to be honest I’m still confused as to why some characters began to die/disappear while others didn’t. I guess we’ll find out in the next one.
• I love Drax’s scene watching Peter and Gamora kiss while eating chips stating he has been there for hours and he has perfected the art of being silent and still.
• I loved how Thano’s killed Loki in the opening scene. Loki has been useless since the original Avengers. In hindsight he probably should’ve died in the original Avengers film.
• Speaking of characters dying I am disappointed that (besides Gamora) none of our major heroes died. The scene where Tony Stark got stabbed by Thanos had the crowd in my cinema gasping and I thought this could have been a great end to the character who had been around for ten years and launched the franchise. Marvel could have moved on and created a new path for the series. But they wimped out and let him survive. Most disappointing part of the film for me.

Marvel Cinematic Universe 2008 – 2018: Ranking

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I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I had a lot of fun re-watching them all before I saw Avengers: Infinity War yesterday. Here is my current ranking from the first Iron Man in 2008 to Avengers: Infinity War this year. I may have to update later in July when Ant-Man and the Wasp comes out. But for today here is my ranking of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Also by Marvel Cinematic Universe I mean the films solely produced by Marvel Studios so not X-Men, Deadpool or Fantastic Four which are produced by Fox or the old Spider-Man films produced by Sony.

Feel free to leave any feedback if I missed anything or if you agree or disagree. Let’s begin at the bottom.

  1. Thor: The Dark World

Pretty much a repeat of the first Thor but worse. Instead of Thor battling in space he again returns to earth to swoon over Natalie Portman. Forgettable villain and Loki is wasted in the film. No one looks like they are even trying. At least they got it right the third time around.

D-

  1. Thor (2011)

Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston deliver good performances as brothers Thor and Loki. But the rest is pretty boring and clichéd. When we should have been given an epic fantasy we got a fish out of water comedy. Asgard was beautifully designed however we are only there for a quarter of the film and we are left in deserted Texas for the rest of the film. Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, Anthony Hopkins, and Idris Elba deserve better. One of the weaker entries in the Marvel Universe.

D+

  1. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

I actually liked Edward Norton as the Hulk. I don’t think he was given a chance to shine in this film. He is one of my favourite actors check out Primal Fear, American History X, and Fight Club. He did a good job however the film feels dated perhaps it’s the special effects or just the bare bones plot. I enjoyed the action in the opening scenes reminiscent of the Jason Bourne films or Fast & Furious 5 when they’re in Rio. The sequence in the University is also a great showcase for the Hulk’s true powers. It’s a good entry in the series but seems to now been forgotten since Mark Ruffalo took over as the Hulk in the Avengers.

C-

  1. Iron Man 2 (2010)

Still love Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man and enjoyed Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. I also actually enjoyed Mickey Rourke as Whiplash and Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer. However the film got bogged down with too many setups to future films and seemed a bit aimless. Should have been a stronger sequel to the first-rate original.

C

  1. Ant-Man (2016)

Pretty small entry (pun intended) entry in the Marvel Universe. Paul Rudd is great as Scott Lang/Ant-Man with his usual style of laid back humour. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly are fine but the stand out is definitely Michael Pena as his con man buddy. Great visuals when he shrinks. Another generic villain. Would’ve loved to see Edgar Wright’s version. Fun entry but definitely in the lower end of the MCU

B-

  1. Doctor Strange (2016)

Enjoyable and trippy entry in the MCU. With dashes of Inception and Batman Begins. Benedict Cumberbatch is good as Steven Strange. Overall pretty formulaic origin story though.

B

  1. Iron Man 3 (2013)

Underrated entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Robert Downey Jr is still great as Tony Stark/Iron Man. I love how he has to depend on his wits instead of his suit to solve the crime. Also his chemistry with the little boy really shines. I love Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin and the twist that follows. Also the first Christmas Marvel film. Great action and great performances all around.

B-

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Enjoyable sequel to the original smash hit. Delves deeper into each characters past and also introduces new enjoyable characters. Lots of daddy issues in this film. Soundtrack and action scenes are great too. Cast is awesome. Very funny and entertaining but doesn’t surpass the original for me.

B-

  1. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Excellent opening scene featuring great action and fun banter between our favourite team. Also another classic scene is the crew having a chill out party all attempting to lift Thor’s hammer. 🔨 I love James Spader as the titular villain Ultron. However overall it is rather long, formulaic and relies too much on sub-plots to play out in future films.

B-

  1. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Really funny third entry in the Thor series. I love the 80s cheesy fantasy vibe. Chris Hemsworth leans into his comedy side we saw from Ghostbusters and SNL. Tessa Thompson is great. The real standout is Korg voiced by director Taika Waititi. Great action and visuals. I was very surprised by this entry.

B+

  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Tom Holland is great as the new Spider-Man and I love the 80s high school romantic comedy vibe. Michael Keaton is an excellent villain and Marissa Tomei is cute as Aunt May. The action scenes are pretty average. However I still really enjoyed this one.

B+

  1. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers in space! Epic action from start to finish. Lots of surprises and real heart. The consistent fun banter between our heroes is still present and Thano’s makes an excellent villain. However I was left wanting more. Seems like the first in a trilogy. Extremely reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings first entry in their trilogy. Have to see it a few more times to take it in a bit more but for now…

B+

  1. Iron Man (2008)

The introduction to the Marvel Universe. Again perfect casting of Robert Downey Jr as the cocky, sleazy billionaire Tony Stark who loses his heart but gains a soul. Jon Favreau crafted a unique origin story for a character honestly I barely knew about. When I was a kid I was raised on Spider-Man and Batman comics. However Favreau took all the tropes of the 90s comic book films and created something very special and timely dealing with the still at the time war in the Middle East. This was an origin story which was different – quirky, funny, action packed and still had heart. Great introduction to this universe.

A

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America is perfect casting. He brings a physicality and nobility I can’t see any other actor bringing to this role. I also love the supporting cast of Sebastian Stan, Stanley Tucci, Hugo Weaving and Hayley Atwell. I love the WW11 setting and this is a great introduction to my favourite onscreen Marvel character.

A

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Great film. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista turn in excellent performances and Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel are awesome as the voices of Rocket Racoon and Groot respectively. Really fun space adventure in the groove of the original Star Wars.

A

  1. Avengers (2012)

Great ensemble team movie getting the band together. Captain America, Thor, Loki, Iron Man, Black Widow and especially Mark Ruffalo as the new Hulk all knock it out of the park. Great action and funny quips from beginning to end. I miss Joss Whedon’s sensibilities in the Marvel Universe. This was the first true beginning of the Marvel we know today.

A

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Previously my favourite Marvel film. So many epic action sequences including the elevator fight, the car chases and the opening. However it is the chemistry between Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson. Then Chris Evans and Anthony Mackie. However especially Chris Evans and his long time friend turned enemy Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier. The Russo Brothers really surprised everyone with their realistic direction and staging of each scene. Chris Evans is perfect in this film as the stoic and noble Captain America.

A+

  1. Black Panther (2018)

Strong Marvel film with a diverse cast and a whole new aesthetic to the formulaic Marvel mode which has grown over the years. This is bold, daring and gives the African Americans a true hero to see on screen instead of another white actor named Chris. Only since Blade has their been a strong black superhero lead (not counting Luke Cage on Netflix). Top acting from Chadwick Boseman and especially Michael B. Jordan as the conflicted villain. Brilliant direction from Ryan Coogler (Creed) and beautiful production design. The special effects and action sequences could have been better however the characters and plot overcome those quibbles. Excellent Marvel film and could be the best film of 2018.

A+

  1. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

My favourite entry in the Marvel Universe thus far. Excellent performances from everyone in the cast especially Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. Brilliant action sequences from start to finish and the Airport face off is possibly the best sequence in all of the films. Excellent introductions to Black Panther and Spider-Man (3.0). The Russo Brothers deliver on every level. Also plenty of twists which really changes the characters and their dynamics for future films. Excellent film!

A+

 

*Stay tuned for my full review of Avengers: Infinity War after I see it a few more times.

*Also I’m going to make a top ten list of best moments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far