Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Directed by: Jon Favreau   Rated: PG-13   Runtime: 2 hrs. 4 mins. 

Studio: Paramount Pictures/Marvel Studios   Screenwriter: Justin Theroux

Based on: ‘Iron Man’ comic by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Larry Lieber

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Micky Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany, Scarlet Johansson, Greg Clark, 

Iron Man 2 picks up six months from where the first one left off. Here Tony (Downey) must deal with the downside to coming out as Iron Man. His company, health, and reputation are suffering, and through all that, some heavy choices and discoveries happen. 

Marvel Studios’ and Paramount Pictures ‘Iron Man 2’ Trailer 2 via

The main question that’s asked, ‘is the Iron Man suit a weapon?’ If so, should it just be handed over to the government? This question is one of the main conflicts. The idea/fear is that not just anyone should build such a device; just because they can. That’s logical from a legal perspective; people can’t make explosives at home and use them. Or a nuke, if one was resourceful and intelligent enough. For Tony, it’s more-it’s also keeping him alive, so he argues. And yet, it’s the device in his chest that does that, not the suit. Still, it’s proprietary. He created it. Tony’s grandstanding and ego aside. 

Mix the above with the lifetime grudge Ivan Vanko (Rourke) has for the Stark family, and the story begins to take shape. On his own, Ivan’s character and mission could never hold up as a plot. However, when Justin Hammer (Rockwell) joins the party, things fall into place. Yeah, Hammer is like that guy that shows up and tries to fit in but never quite does. Still, his desperate efforts and use of Ivan’s hatred tie in effortlessly with the government’s issues with Tony Stark as Iron Man. The merging of the subplots is clean, logical, and drives the story forward. 

Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Downey Jr. in ‘Iron Man 2′ Image Credit: Marvel Studios’ and Paramount Pictures via

Iron Man and many of the components of the film also move forward seamlessly because of the CGI. The costumes, flying, explosions, race sequence, and fight scenes all add to the film but don’t overpower it. It’s balanced. 

Agent Coulson (Clark), Happy Hogan (Favreau), and the voice of JARVIS (Bettany) all return for their respective roles. Other new additions are Nick Fury (Jackson), Natasha Romanoff (Johansson), and Lt. Col. Rhodes was recast with Don Cheadle. Everyone has more of a role in this film, and they execute their characters very well. It’s always nice to see character growth (development) with established characters. 

Rourke’s performance is forgettable, but his character is meant to be. Ivan’s merely a plot device to further Tony’s journey and nothing more. 

Hammer has always been a cast-off, a joke in the comics. Hammer tech is the two-star rated company you settle for because the best-rated ones are out of stock/back-ordered, and you can’t wait. Sam Rockwell really does a suburb job of bringing his character from page to screen. 

Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke in ‘Iron Man 2′ Image Credit: Marvel Studios’ and Paramount Pictures via

A real treat is watching Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) bust some ass-kicking moves on a group of security personnel. In this film, the audience gets a glimpse that theres’ more to her than she lets on. Her character is instantly one you want to see more of. 

RDJ continues to shape the character of Tony Stark/Iron Man in a performance that never disappoints. 

Iron Man 2 is a good sequel and is a staging ground for many stories and characters to come. The film is worth a place on your watchlist for a fun watch with a good story and engaging characters. Be sure to stick around for the end credit scenes. 

—a pen lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Captain Marvel (2019)

Captain Marvel (2019)

Directed by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck  Rated: PG-13  Runtime: 2 hrs. 5 mins.

Screenwriter: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet Studio: Marvel Studios  

Created by: Roy Thomas & Gene Colan Cast:  Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Ben

Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch, Greg Clark, Djimon Hounsou, Annette Bening

Captain Marvel is a vibrant, well-told story with details, great CGI, and character development. It moves along at an enjoyable pace too.

It’s difficult to find movies sometimes that represent strong, fun, well-acted female characters in stories that haven’t been done before. So when Captain Marvel came out, nearly ten years after the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the first thing many said was, ‘about time.’ 

Marvel Studio’s Official Trailer for ‘Captain Marvel’ via YouTube

That’s not to ignore the many female characters who fit the above description within the MCU already, but Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel is the first to have a standalone film. 

Captain Marvel is technically the twenty-second MCU film. It’s sandwiched between Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019). Its placement is only essential because of the scenes in the credits, which logically explains Captain Marvel’s place in Endgame, the film after this one in release date order. Chronologically, Captain Marvel takes place in the mid-90s, so it’s natural to place it after Captain America: The First Avenger

Vers/Carol/Captain Marvel is played by Bri Larson, who took a ton of flack for being cast. Some didn’t like how she looked for the role. Others objected to her cocky or unemotional depiction of the character. First, up to a certain point, women were not allowed to always fly, so when they could, being quiet and meek just wouldn’t do. Second, if male test pilots can be smug adrenaline junkies, why not women? To argue one can be but not the other is sexist. Third, Carol forgot everything about her life literally at one point. You can be told about your life, but there is little emotional resonance to be found if you don’t remember. Taking all the information provided about such a layered character and then crafting an authentic-like person from that is no small order. 

Lashana Lynch and Bri Larson in Marvel Studios ‘Captain Marvel’ Image Credit: Marvel Studios via the LA Times

Vers/Carol/Captain Marvel’s journey of discovery is the main thread of this film. Other threads are not loose ends but tie-ins to the MCU as a whole. Some of those threads make more sense in chronological order viewing than the Captain Marvel story being introduced so late into the MCU. Those threads can seem like an afterthought as initially distributed. Still, discovery and agency are the leading personal themes of the movie, on top of how this story adds to the MCU. 

Speaking of adding to the MCU, think about Djimon Hounsou, Greg Clark, and Samuel L. Jackson. Hounsou first appeared in the MCU in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 (2014) as Korath the Pursuer. An older version of the same character seen in Captain Marvel. Despite some visual issues with his facial hair and eye color between the two films, I can’t tell if de-aging technology was used on him. He ages so well; I just don’t know. It was used on Greg Clark and Samuel L. Jackson. That’s not to say any of them look bad with its use, just an observation on the technology itself. It removes the need, in certain projects, to cast a younger version of an established character. It’s ingenious! 

The MCU is known for taking licenses with established characters, minor and significant, so they fit an enormously pre-planned cinematic adventure. They did this with Lashana Lynch’s character, Maria Rambeau. And Mar-Vell, played by Annette Bening. One is a clever reimagining connected to Carol’s origin story, and the other is a letdown. I won’t elaborate because that rabbit hole leads to spoiler territory. Still, both actresses brought convincing energy to their respective characters.

Still image of Kree Starforce from Marvel Studios ‘Captain Marvel’ Image Credit: Marvel Studios via Screen Rant

Everyone performs their roles well, and many of the characters seen again in future MCU roles are fleshed out here. It’s like a window into their origins without the need for their own story. If a viewer is familiar with Agent Coulson (Clark) or Agent Fury (Jackson), it’s a nice insight. If not, they can learn and appreciate the development of certain characters from a fresher perspective than others. 

In terms of tonality, Captain Marvel is a stark departure from that of Captain America: The First Avenger, but that’s to be expected. The individual stories of Steve Rogers, Carol Danvers, Thor, Tony Stark, and every other Avenger shouldn’t be the same. They are all vastly different people or aliens. That fact means audiences will not like certain characters over others, just as all people don’t like everyone they encounter. So it’s okay to not like a character, or specifically their standalone film(s). However, the character should be given a chance of redeemed likeability when working with others in the MCU. To be fair, that point is only valid if you plan on watching all the Marvel movies to date. 

Jude Law and Ben Mendelsohn in Marvel Studio’s ‘Captain Marvel’ Image Credit: Marvel Studios via

I enjoyed Captain Marvel and Bri Larson’s portrayal of her. With Disney/Marvel now owning the rights again to the X-Men franchise, my sincerest wish is that they do better by those characters. Specifically that of Rouge, because her story is tied in with Carol Danvers in such vital ways. In the comics, that is when Carol was Ms. Marvel (later becoming Captain Marvel). Still, the MCU can be decently creative when they want. So time will tell. 

Whether you want to watch the whole MCU or not, Captain Marvel is a fun, energetic superhero adventure story worth a place on your watchlist. 

—a pen lady 

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews, Uncategorized

The New Mutants (2020)

The New Mutants (2020)

Directed by: Josh Boone   Rated: PG-13   Runtime: 1 hr 39 mins

Studio: 20th Century Studios     Screenwriter: Josh Boone, Knate Lee

Cast: Maisie Williams, Blu Hunt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Henry Zaga, Alice Braga

Movies adapted or based on comics have a wealth of material to work with when choosing which direction to take when crafting a script. Some characters, or ensembles, have exceeded expectations at the box office. Others have crashed and burned, making audiences cringe, even purging the experience from their memory. The New Mutants, however, created a whole new category, scripts that should be used as toilet paper. The numerous trailers are misleading as fook. I cringe even adding one.

The New Mutants is a spin-off series of the popular X-Men comic, so it has its spot in the comic world. It has no place in any cinematic universe. This film isn’t a hot mess because it was delayed due to Disney acquiring 20th Century Fox, including the X-Men film franchise. It sucks because writers Josh Boone and Knate Lee wrote a shit script. Fox being attached to it in some way is a curse, too; I mean, there are those other X-Men films we want to forget about. Fox let those happen…

20th Century Studios Offical Trailer for ‘The New Mutants’

Writer and director Josh Boone said in a Screen Rant interview he wanted younger people who feel like outsiders to see this (when it was in theaters), to see themselves reflected in it. To reflect the darker artwork of the The New Mutants series. Well, it does have a depressing, worn down, hopeless vibe going on in the film. It’s not a compliment. If I was a younger viewer, I wouldn’t want to relate to any of these characters. The X-Men comics and films reflect guilt when appropriate for damage or harm when a younger person’s mutant abilities manifest. The New Mutants do not. 

Dr. Reyes (Braga) is this “doctor” in charge of keeping these teenagers safe. New mutants can be a danger to themselves and others and need to learn control. That is easy enough to accept, but not when she’s the only person in a dilapidated holding camp, essentially. Unlike the minor afflictions or damage the X-Men characters caused before learning control, none of them had blood on their hands. That aspect is a fresh perspective and an honest one, never previously explored in comic films to date. Moving on from that and finding a place in the world is not the intended outcome for these five characters. 

I liked the idea of what to do with such mutants because let’s be honest, why would it not happen like that? Instead, our five teenagers are tested and assessed for possible inclusion in Dr. Reyes’s superior’s facility. A man who knows when a person manifests in their mutant ability, which is how they found Dani (Hunt). Fans might infer she means Charles Xavier. Given conversations between Dani and Illyanna (Taylor-Joy), it’s obvious this takes place well after X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Also, Dr. Reyes works for the Essex Corporation. If this film hadn’t bombed at the box office, that villain tidbit could have introduced the X-Men into the MCU. It’s safe to say The New Mutants will not be that inlet.

Masie Williams, Henry Zaga, Blu Hunt, Charlie Heaton, and Anya Taylor-Joy in 20th Century Studios film ‘The New Mutants’

The opening sequence in this film seems like it was chosen because they forgot to shoot the beginning of this film before running out of budget and time. Plenty of films out there require the audience to pay attention right out the gate and catch on shortly after. This movie’s beginning, however, misses the mark. It’s as if I started the film by selecting some random chapter in the movie and started from there. 

Most of the film is slow and offers nothing meaningful, even with the character’s worst memories coming to life. The fight scene at the end of this is a weird patchwork of those memories coming after them. The thing from the begging of the film (that was never really explained) shows up again too. It feels forced as Boone tries to have everyone’s origins come full circle, offering closure and self-esteem boosts.

While I am familiar with some of the cast and know they can act, this film does nothing for any of them. These teenage characters are portrayed as angsty, suicidal, depressed, and confrontational, on top of how they ended up in this facility. It’s a bit on the nose. Even with their feelings resolved some, it’s a stretch to say this movie is for the outsider YA fanbase. Every X-Men film has done better at that. The inclusion of an openly gay relationship between two teenage characters is not enough to save a movie with no clear definition of what it is.

Image from 20th Century Studios ‘The New Mutants’ via The Ringer

The New Mutants is tagged as a horror/fantasy film. Slightly creepy and messed up, yes. Scary? Not a fucking chance. It’s more horrifying that Disney continued to greenlight this train wreck after they acquired Fox. 

If I didn’t know that this ensemble was a spin-off from the X-Men comics, I would curse Josh Boone and Knate Lee for associating this film with vestiges of the X-Men universe. It’s beyond embarrassing. I feel bad for the actors who have this attached to their film biographies and that I wasted time watching it. While I yelled and cursed when watching X-Men: Last Stand and X-Men: Dark Phoenix, they at least had better stories, pace, character development, and action. I’d rewatch them than ever watch The New Mutants again. 

This movie should never be on your watchlist, not even if someone pays you. 

—a pen lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Fantastic Four (2005)

Fantastic Four (2005)

Directed by: Time Story    Rated: PG-13    Runtime: 1 hr. 45 mins. 

Studio: 20th Century Fox    Screenwriters: Mark Frost, Michael France, Stan Lee

Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon

When you’re too broke to go to space on a whim to research a cosmic event that might help improve humanity, where do you turn? Your old school mate to ask to borrow his space station. Even though you two can’t stand each other. What could go wrong when cosmic radiation is in the mix, and you’re too smart to ever be wrong? 

The Fantastic Four has had a horrible journey to the silver screen every time someone needs to put them there. Put them there? Yeah. It’s pathetic that each of the times this superhero team has been made into a film, it’s so some company wouldn’t lose their rights to create or distribute it. The two are not mutually exclusive. There was a 1994 Fantastic Four film made, but it should never be brought up in conversations. It was so awful it was never released. Marvel extended the rights to Constantin Films to make something better within seven years. Enter 2005s Fantastic Four

‘Fantastic Four’ trailer – Fox Home Entertainment UK via YouTube

While the introduction to the plot is rushed, it gets you where you need to be. There is a strong character setup right out the gate. It sets up the situations or circumstances that helped shape the purpose of the first scenes. It comes across as organic, which is something you should expect in people with history. 

Julian McMahon was a great choice to portray the villain, Dr. Victor Von Doom. In this iteration, he’s a massive company CEO, but he’s also a scientist. That’s not a spoiler, but it helps those that don’t follow along with comics because it’s not overtly stated in this film. Otherwise, he comes off as a rich guy who wants to live vicariously through others via a power trip when he goes to space. That’s in the trailer, so, also, not a spoiler. 

Dr. Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, played by Ioan Gruffudd, has a history with Von Doom. That is displayed decently in this movie. You get the gist of their history without getting too deep. Gruffudd was a good casting choice for Richards, one he can act (like McMahon), and he looks like the image depicted in comics. When you first start off with a franchise based on something, it’s nice to stay faithful to the source material. It is what the fans are used to. Tweaking stuff can come later, depending on the box office results. 

‘Fantastic Four’ still of Julian McMahon as Dr. Doom. Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Entertainment

Tweaking stuff is the most basic explanation for what happens to the characters in this movie. Again, cosmic radiation is at play. None of them was “tweaked” more than Ben Grimes, the Thing, played by Michael Chiklis. Seeing emotion on his rock face is critical to connecting him to the human being he started off as. Chiklis did a decent job of performing (stunts) and acting (his lines) in that suit. With most superhero films’ costumes, I wonder how easy it is to get out of when you need to use the bathroom? 

Decent acting is how Jessica Alba’s performance as Susan Storm/The Invisible Woman can be described. This is probably one of her better roles. She convincingly comes across as Reed’s irritated ex and Johnny’s annoyed sister. Her performance as The Invisible Woman was mediocre, but the script left her little to work within this area. Her character could have been developed better, but the movie itself was campy in many ways.

Campy, comedic-showboating, cheese describes many of the early 2000 films. However, in Fantastic Four, Chris Evans’s depiction of Johnny Storm/The Human Torch is gold. He’s cocky and impulsive with an obvious need for adrenaline. Yet, he also comes across as caring for Sue, Reed, and Ben. When he’s not annoying Ben like a little brother. Evans ability to bring to life this iconic character without going overboard is an aspect that makes this film fun to watch. 

‘Fantastic Four’ still via Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Entertainment

Kerry Washington is a stellar actress who is in only two scenes in this film. I want you to seriously consider if she’s a vampire. She has aged so well since this movie. Short though her part was, it is a humanizing connection for Ben’s character. 

The movie moves at a pace that is balanced between the science and action sequences. At the time, this script’s casting choices were a fantastic mix (no pun, I swear) and performed better than this script deserved. 

Fantastic Four has never been done right on the big screen, and it would take some magic to make it happen. Until a time comes when someone does this team/family justice, this adaptation is the best by far. So, if you want a fun watch that’s not too heavy with expectations of greatness, put Fantastic Four on your watchlist. 

—a pen lady