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Dark Phoenix

Dark Phoenix 2019

This is apparently the swan song for the Fox version of the X-Men that really started the modern era of superhero movies and re-started with 2010’s First Class, and is now lumped into the Disney conglomerate so future cinematic X-Men will likely be tied into the MCU. It’s also one of the few 2019 releases that I wasn’t able to make it out to see in theaters even though this was a generally lighter year for superhero and comic book movies, or at least the year was heavily front loaded with several releases in the early months of the year. In general, I’ve been a fan of nearly all of the X-Men movies aside from the ones everyone hates. But I’ve also generally enjoyed the more recent ones that have been pretty middling to most audiences. I don’t think they handled every character very well, but they did do a few things right in this movie and I enjoyed more than I disliked. And while this is still a relatively new release, I will be discussing the plot in its entirety so there may be spoilers.

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BlokeBusting The Essentials #92: Howard The Duck

So strange, we had to use a poster from another country to do it justice!

#92: Howard The Duck

Or

How Did This EVER Get Made?

Uuuhhhhhhhhhh…….

First Impressions

…… Right. This film was one that I’d heard of before but had never bothered trying to watch. And when I say I’d heard of it, my entire knowledge of it is that:

1) The Nostalgia Critic did a review of it.
2) There are female duck breasts on screen. I’m not joking.
3) It’s based on a loved but obscure Marvel comic character.

That’s it. That’s my entire previous knowledge of this film. I didn’t even look anything up about it before I watched it because I wanted to go in blind. I’m fairly sure I made the right call, so if you also haven’t seen it yet, I would suggest doing so before reading this review (unless you don’t mind spoilers or just want to prove me wrong).

So I hit play, I watched it and now I need to talk about it. Be prepared, this review is going to some weird places.

The Characters

  • Howard The Duck (Ed Gale/Chip Zien)

    There’s honestly way too much to unpack here for me to not make this the longest review I’ll ever write. So here’s what you need to know. He’s brought from a duck planet to ours by Deus Ex Machina, he’s supposedly a master fighter but manages to not really show that at all, he effectively forgets that he has a girlfriend from the moment he meets Lea Thompson and his jokes don’t land. However, for a product of its time, he actually works quite well. And compared to the live action TMNT of the 90’s, it’s astounding how well the duck costume works! But this character was definitely one that should have been on the back burner for a while before being brought forward, not the first Marvel live action film main star!
  • Beverly (Lea Thompson)

    So remember when Lea Thompson played Lorraine in BTTF? Well, take the young version of that, imagine her as a punk rocker who spends a fairly long scene in her underwear and then accept that she’s the love interest of the film. Yeah, you’ve got this character down. She’s fun, she’s very odd and she works really well. The only issue I had was that the bed scene (yep, there’s a bed scene) kinda looked like she was attempting to canoodle with a large kid’s toy. And that I just had to write that last sentence…
  • Phil Blumburtt (Tim Robbins)

    I….. honestly don’t know how to describe this guy. He’s insane, he’s very annoying and he’s kinda hard to watch. At least until the demon arrives. Then it’s as if Tim Robbins simply said “Screw it, I’m just going to have fun here!” and he hits the right level of snarky and over-the-top. And anyone who hasn’t seen the film is probably more interested in the demon bit. Don’t worry, he’s next! But seriously, this film has two very different versions of this character, with the latter half making up for the former half. So an overall “ok” grade then.
  • Dr Walter Jennings (Jeffrey Jones)

    And in this film about space ducks and a very odd 80’s Cleveland, OH, we reach the strangest character in the film. He starts off just fine. And then he’s possessed by an ancient evil from outer space (just roll with it) and starts to talk as if Judge Doom (the REAL JD) had a total laryngectomy. And he stays just like that for about 80% of his screen-time. This was a VERY odd choice. And I don’t know if it was the right one. It really is difficult to get used to. I’m sure many people love this guy, but it really didn’t work for me.

The Setting

I’m going to simply type out how this film is set and let you do the jokes in your own head.

“A 27-year old Howard from Duckworld gets sucked into space and lands in 1980’s Cleveland, Ohio. He meets (in chronological order) the front lady for an all-female rock band, a scientist who’s actually a janitor and a scientist who becomes a demon. He then saves the world.”

Yeah, there’s nothing I can say that could poke more fun at that premise than the premise itself. So, moving on!

Who Is This Film For?

I’m honestly not sure who this was made for. Clearly the people involved were passionate about the project, since it’s just so odd that anyone not invested would have just given up or underperformed. I’ve done a little research into Howard and it seems like there’s quite a huge lore and rich history there. He even fights a Hellcow. I bet you wish they’d put that in this film! But anyway, back to the question at hand. I feel like everyone involved had an idea in their heads, but it never lined up. This also feels kinda like a first draft that nobody ever bothered to go back to before filming started. It’s definitely not one of the worst films of all time, but it’s nowhere near good cinema!

Anyway, on to Bubba’s thoughts on the whole thing.

I’ve actually seen this a few times now and I think the more I see it, the more I appreciate it although I would never in my right mind call this a good movie. There’s a lot to appreciate here, front and center is Lea Thompson’s Beverly. One of the most talked about scenes in this movie is when she is coming on to Howard, but I think it’s actually a more subtle performance and it’s more like they are joking around with each other and she is calling Howard’s bluff. You can see it in her face right before she starts going at him. Most of the rest of the movie just plain doesn’t make sense though. There’s nearly adult humor, like how Howard gets a job as a mop boy at what appears to be a sex motel. There’s an odd chase scene with an ultralight plane. Nearly every person in the film reacts differently to the fact that Howard is a duck, they either scream or act like it’s completely normal. And the rest of the acting is way over the top. It’s tough to know if they were really going for action, comedy, love story, or adventure and it fails at most of them.

Without going too much farther, it’s an odd thing to say but this is the first theatrical adaptation of a Marvel comic. Instead of going with one of their A-list characters, or even their B or C list characters, they go with the adult satirical non-superhero Howard the Duck. Not only that, but they get a pedigree behind it, George Lucas helped push to get this film made. And while it was originally considered as an animated film, they pushed up the release date and decided to make it live action to shorten the production time. This caused plenty of headaches with the duck suit and ultimately it became a box office bomb. It only grossed $37M worldwide on a $36M budget. In 1986. Nowadays it’s a bit of a cult film but overall it’s still considered one of the worst comic book movies ever made. But even so, nothing can take away from the fact that this was the first theatrically released Marvel movie.

Thanks once again Mr Wheat! So, let’s dive right into the last part. It’s time to ask those three important questions:

  1. Would I recommend this film to others?
  2. Does this film deserve to be on the list?
  3. If so, where does it appear on the list?

And before a Dark Overlord turns up, let’s get those answered!

1) Yeeeeeeeesssss? It’s something that a few of my friends would find fascinating. However I’d never suggest that someone who isn’t fully prepped. So make sure you adequately prepare anyone you suggest this to.

2) Yes it does. Despite any particular feelings you may have about this film, it is the first proper Marvel Live Action film (if you don’t count the 1944 Captain America B&W serial, which you shouldn’t) and as such should have a place on the list. And speaking of that…

3) Well, here it is:

  1. Hellboy
  2. Captain America: The First Avenger
  3. The Crow
  4. Dr Strange
  5. Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
  6. Batman: The Killing Joke
  7. Superman 3
  8. The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
  9. Supergirl
  10. Howard The Duck
  11. The Fantastic Four (1994)
  12. The Punisher
  13. Batman & Robin
  14. The Amazing Spider-Man
  15. BvS: Dawn Of Justice

Potential Substitutions:

Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)
X-Men: The Last Stand (replacing Catwoman)

I’m sure you guessed where it would go. It wasn’t quite the earliest Superhero film, but it was obscure and an attempt to bring a more interesting character to the masses. And possibly with more care and attention (and just better effects overall), we can get a remake/reboot that will do the character justice in the not-too-distant future.

And so, with all that being said, I better get out of here before I have to lay some Quack Fu on a local band manager!

Spider-Man: Far From Home

This is the last movie in phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the second live action collaboration with Sony. We get to see the repercussions of Endgame and the introduction of a Mysterio that unfortunately wasn’t played by Bruce Campbell while Peter Parker tries to figure out whether or not he wants a normal life or a superhero life. It does a good job at balancing the teen comedy angle while still giving plenty of great action setpieces as well as a mind bending sequence that almost felt straight out of Doctor Strange. Like with most MCU movies it was fun and enjoyable with a touch of heart mixed in for good measure. And as with many of my recent posts, since this is a new release I will be discussing the plot in full including any potential spoilers so here’s your warning.

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BlokeBusting The Essentials #46: Doctor Strange

doctor-strange

#46: Doctor Strange

Or

Movie-Goers, We’ve Come To Bargain

Well folks, we’ve finally hit the first proper MCU film in the list. So, let me get a few things straight before we continue:

  1. I love the MCU. I’ll admit that happily. However, I want to be clear that I will still be looking at the MCU films (as much as possible) as individual entries and judging them by how they hold up, any flaws and/or great parts, good/bad acting and so on.
  2. I am a Cumberbatch fan. Sherlock is one of the best TV shows created as far as I’m concerned, he was fantastic as Hawking in the TV film of the same name and he’s an overall lovely man. Again, I bring this up to be transparent. But also I hope it’ll help you give me a little slack a bit further down the article…

Ok, on with the review!

First Impressions

This film was one that I really was looking forward to when I heard about it. I was not a comic reader, though I did know a few things about it through basic osmosis and the fact that I’m a nerd with an internet connection. I heard the rumours, I really enjoyed hearing the casting news and I was a little thrown by the controversy surrounding The Ancient One. However, I went into the cinema to watch this very ready. What followed was a visual feast and some interesting choices. I have rewatched this film twice since then, for two different reasons, and it remains essentially unchanged as far as I’m concerned. So, how did it do?

The Setting

This film marked a bit of a risk for the MCU. Where as GOTG had a whole team of funny (for different reasons) characters to use for comedic effect throughout the film, thus making the “lesser known” gang easier for new audiences to digest, Dr Strange is different. The premise and ending are just as out there as GOTG, but we only really have Strange to lean on throughout the film. Perhaps it was a mark of Marvel realising that we will happily watch new IP’s, since GOTG did so well, or a sign of how much the studio trusted the actors and director, but what we got was a film stepped in fantastical spiritual messages, a couple of sequences that were clearly dreamt up after a very good LSD trip and some stunning visuals. All this, including symbolism and setting from Tibetan culture, led by a cast that’s primarily Western. I will say that I feel kinda conflicted about that. I refuse to believe that there were not many great actors/actresses who could have done the job, though I do understand that the studio clearly wanted well known and established actors/actresses to help deliver the strangest (pun-intended) MCU film of them all to date to the average patron with the minimum of difficulty. Anyway, it wasn’t as bad as the live action GITS film. That one hurt. As in physically hurt…

Characters

  • Dr Strange

    BC is a joy to watch, in everything else. He’s also very good at what he does in this one. He’s smarmy with just the right amount of character development throughout the film, he’s really good at reacting to the incredible things with distrust/disbelief/acceptance and he really does look cool once he gets fully decked out as the Sorcerer Supreme. So I’d say he totally killed it. Well, 95% killed it. There’s one small, tiny, little thing. That accent. In case you didn’t know, BC is English. Even his name, Benedict Cumberbatch, is a HUGE giveaway. But whoever decided that he needed to put on an accent that harsh, that extreme and that strong needs to be talked to. It’s VERY distracting. Every scene where he has a lot of dialogue just has you watching knowing that he’s putting on a show. As I said, everything else is great! That voice is simply grate…

  • Sorcerer Supreme (The Ancient One)

    Tilda Swinton is always fun to see. She’s played a rather wide range of characters over the years. And I thought she did very well as the leader with a dark secret. However, I was kinda surprised to learn that the community was very thrown by her casting. The character is designed to be gender-neutral in the film, and I feel that they do that well. But the character in the comics was of Tibetan descent and many people were dismayed that a white actor was playing the role. Again, I think that the studio had a reason for doing this and I fully acknowledge that the MCU is a different beast to the comics, but it would have been nice to see a more accurate representation (although a little research will tell you that the director felt that the original comics treaded too close to racist territory in that regard and didn’t want to risk that in the film). Regardless, what we got was still very good and I appreciated that the character clearly acted using their own morals and rationalisations. It was kinda fun to see a character die without a solid, neat ending to everything.
  • Wong

    I really liked Wong. He was the comic relief, he was a straight man to Strange’s rogue manner and he had some of the best lines in the film. And despite being used mostly for comedic effect, he was possibly the character that most people were drawn to. There’s not much else to say here, he’s just a great character that was used well. Go Wong!
  • Mordo

    I know that this actor has done a lot of stuff. However I will say that I’ve seen him in just this and Serenity. So he has a type apparently. Anyway, this character felt a little stiff. He only existed to be the one that gets disillusioned and leaves the path of righteousness. And we already had that with the primary protagonist. They did give him the WiFi joke though, so there’s that.

  • Kaecillius

    Mads, Mads, Mads. You were perfectly cast, though this villain was a bit of an odd one. He was powerful, more so than most of the main characters, and he knows it. However he’s also adept at using said power, which actually makes most of the film turn into a chase scene when he’s on screen as Strange runs away. He actually is interesting and could have had some fantastic moments, but this film had to hold back. I would have been more interested in having him in the second film, possibly connected to a different entity. that way you could have spent more time on his story. Ah well.

  • Dormammu

    Yes, that’s BC again. Bet you didn’t notice that one! Anyway, this character is VERY interesting and this film only touches on him a little. But it REALLY uses him well. Anyone who doesn’t start grinning during the “I’ve come to bargain” scene just doesn’t know funny. I’m very intrigued to see what they do with him moving forward. That’s it, moving on.

 

Taking Risks

 

The MCU had already taken its big risk with GOTG, as I mentioned earlier. However this film was possibly a bigger risk than that. It has by far the weirdest visuals in the entire franchise, it’s based on characters that can work on paper but would actually be tricky to get properly balanced on film and the main villain is only actually on-screen for less than 5 minutes (that’s 13 minutes less than Beetleguese!). All-in-all, this would have been THE film that showed Marvel if they had earned enough clout with audiences to get bums in seats when it’s not a more well known character. There’s no gang of intrepid heroes, there’s no space battles and there’s no talking tree. It’s a man who loses the use of his hands and simply wants them back stumbling into the mysteries of the cosmos and coming away with astonishing magic powers. Benedict Cumberbatch is the face of the film, and he’s the one who needs to carry it forward. The film made roughly 3 times its budget in the Box Office and really showed Marvel that they were doing things right and could now not worry about bringing in other characters. And bloody hell, did they! But that’s a conversation for another time.



Now it’s over to Bubbawheat to see whether he felt this film was worthy of the Cloak Of Levitation:

While I had only watched this film once before, it always stuck with me. In part because I had watched and enjoyed the cartoon version of Doctor Strange’s origin story that had come out several years before so I knew more or less what I was getting into. Benedict Cumberbatch was an obvious choice for the role and he plays the arrogant know-it-all as well as anyone. And while the MCU didn’t really need another rich and talented white guy superhero alongside Tony Stark, it’s nice to bring in a mystical element to the MCU, and Scott Derrickson brought a unique visual style that really captured the mind bending alternate dimensions that the Doctor Strange comics are known for. That, and I’m a sucker for a little time travel mixed into a movie. The love story was a nice touch that didn’t overwhelm the narrative, it was given just enough weight to ground the character and the visuals are just absolutely gorgeous to look at. It’s a fun movie with a handful of serious moments.

As far as its place in the MCU, there was a bit of controversy in the form of the Ancient One. While the character was traditionally a stereotypically elderly Asian man in the style of Confucius, the filmmakers decided to avoid the stereotype while still taking the role away from an Asian actor and instead gave it to Tilda Swinton. For my part, I think she does an amazing job, and at least they kept one Asian actor with Wong, but for a story that has so much to do with Asian culture, it was a bad call to have so few Asian actors in it. In terms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and box office, this actually ranks in the lower third but that still comes with an $85M opening weekend and a $677M overall take, certainly nothing to sneeze at. It’s a little early to tell how much of a role he will play in the later Marvel movies, though he is definitely coming back for a sequel. This also continued somewhat of a trend with horror movie directors given superhero movies like Sam Raimi before him and James Wan after, as Derrickson was most well known for Sinister before this film.

Our Epic Conclusion

Alrighty. So, we’ve reached the main 3 questions again. Just in case you weren’t sure what they were, we wrote them down here beside the Wi-Fi password:

1) Would I recommend this film to others?
2) Does it deserve to be on this list?
3) How do I rank the films thus far?

And, without further ado, beating around the bush or other idioms, here we go:

  1. Yes. If you’re an MCU fan, you need to see this. The character is quite important, for one, and the entire cast is really fun to watch. If you’re not an MCU fan, you need to see this. The creative decisions within this film make it a visual joy to behold and need to be seen on the biggest screen you can find.

  2. I would say yes, for all the reasons mentioned above and more. Though I think you guys could probably have worked that out by now!

  3. Good question me! Here’s the current rankings:

    1) Dr Strange
    2) Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
    3) Batman: The Killing Joke
    4) Superman 3
    5) The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
    6) Supergirl
    7) Batman & Robin
    8) The Amazing Spider-Man
    9) BvS: Dawn Of Justice

    Potential Substitutions:
    Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)

    Yeah, I couldn’t justify placing this anywhere else. The visuals, the cast, the subject matter, the overall feel of the film and more just add up to a fantastic and very well made Superhero film. Congratulations Dr Steven Strange on your victory over Dr Horrible!

And so another review draws to a close. We’ll be back next month with a look at another film on the list, one that many will assume that I won’t like. As if I would be that catty…

Anyway, always be sure to carry your Sling Ring with you, just in case!

 

Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame 2019

Even though it’s only been out for a little over a couple weeks, it feels like everyone has already seen this movie considering that it’s about to top Avatar to become the second highest grossing movie in the US of all time. The MCU in general has become the biggest franchise of all time in short order, offering up 22 movies over the course of only 10 years, and while most of the films follow a similar overall formula, the specifics of each film tends to vary wildly among secondary genres. The MCU films are safe, and yet they still manage to take chances, whether it’s giving unknown characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy a chance to shine, or what it does in this movie: it spends time to show the audience how the characters react to loss. This film feels like a culmination of all the previous MCU films in more ways than one, it revisits moments from earlier movies, and it generally offers closure for the majority of the original six Avengers in a rather satisfying way. And while the official spoiler has ended, I am still offering my typical spoiler warning from here on out.

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Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors

Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors

This is the most recent animated project from Marvel which have been very hit or miss and mainly focused on TV series lately. This almost seems like a response to DC’s Super Hero Girls only instead of making a team of super hero girls and market it directly to girls, this seems like just a generally diverse group of heroes that happen to be made up of more than half women. And while I haven’t seen much of the marketing for it, I get the impression that it is geared slightly more towards girls, but also generally gender neutral. This is my first experience with the majority of the heroes presented in here, though I have heard about several of them in passing and I was familiar with Chloe Bennet’s Quake from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. though I stopped watching shortly after she first got her powers. It also is an odd release strategy as this is basically the pilot movie that aired on TV and is now available on Marvel’s YouTube channel Marvel HQ. But the next two releases are 30 minutes followed by 44 minutes and are considered “TV specials”. It’s not a series, it’s not movies, the lengths are all over the place so far, but I’m curious where it’s going to go.

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Venom

Venom 2018

This is still just the second to last theatrical release I have to catch up on from last year. After this, there’s just Aquaman left for me which is currently out on digital so I hope to get around to it soon. When this came out, I heard a lot of mixed things about it, even those who didn’t enjoy it gave at least some credit to Tom Hardy for his performance. I generally like Venom as a concept, but I haven’t really gotten much of a feel for him past Spider-Man 3. This movie tried to take that concept and mix in a few too many genres. It feels like they wanted to go much more of a horror route, but the horror elements were very minor overall, there’s honestly more of a character drama with a really weird buddy cop comedy mixed in only it’s very much on the dark side of things where the humor is concerned. Overall, I did enjoy it, but I thought they could have taken it a bit further and made it great. Instead, it was just ok.

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Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel 2019

So here we are with the first MCU release of the year to kick things off into spring even though it’s still pretty damn cold here in the Midwest. Also, after 11 years and 18 movies, Marvel finally gives a woman center stage and on International Women’s Day no less. Captain Marvel is someone that I know very little about, I’m not overly familiar with the Kree or the Skrulls, so I was coming into this movie pretty fresh. And for the first time in my life, I actually went to see this movie on opening Thursday as the Friday release date keeps getting pushed back further and further. All things considered, this ended up being a fairly standard MCU movie that hits all the same beats along with some fun twists and a female empowerment message. Of course, fairly standard MCU is still an above average superhero movie it just doesn’t do anything to break new ground with the gold standard. And as I always do in my reviews, I will be discussing the movie in full so here’s your spoiler warning.

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Ant-Man and the Wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp 2018

It’s taken me a little while, but with the next MCU movie coming out next week I thought I’d finally catch up with the only Disney Marvel movie that I missed last year. I actually quite enjoyed the first Ant-Man and I was looking forward to this one but for whatever reason I just never got around to it until now. It followed up with the fun of the first movie without going quite as far into the comedy realm as Thor: Ragnarok though it is a little heavier on the comedy than most MCU movies. But what this film really has going for it is the positivity between the characters. There are villains including one who’s the prototypical bad businessman jerk like Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2 or even Darren Cross from the first movie, but there’s no unnecessary negativity outside of the antagonist/protagonist conflict which is actually refreshing. Especially with Scott Lang’s family issues with being a divorced father. It’s a fun movie that expands what is possible with the Ant-Man tech and it’s always nice to have a mostly stand-alone story with only post-credits connections to the other movies.

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Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2 2018

Generally, the two most difficult types of reviews to write for this site are comedies and films that I enjoy. To put it mildly, Deadpool 2 is both of these things. When the first movie came out, it was a surprise hit and quite possibly rejuvenated the R rated superhero movie despite Watchmen’s mild success back in 2008. Deadpool’s comedy was something that hit in just the right way for audiences that were nostalgic for 80’s music but also current internet memes and Ryan Reynolds has the right kind of passion to get the film into the right people’s hands to make it something that does justice to the character that it previously lacked. The sequel ups the ante with a better story, better characters, a bigger budget, and keeps the humor intact for a ride that’s more enjoyable than the first movie as long as the humor hits you in the right way.

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