One of MCC’s steadfast rules is that every film I see in theaters gets its own entry, for better or worse or in between. My wife Anne and I saw Roland Emmerich’s Midway on opening weekend because World War II history is among her greatest proficiencies. Theaters don’t screen as many WWII films as they used to back in ancient times, but when they do, we try to be there. For us they’re good excuses for am afternoon date, even when they’re not a good use of filmmaking funds or resources.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: six years ago Disney’s Frozen made a kajillion dollars, set off a new merchandising phenomenon, and inspired more than a few cosplayers at our favorite conventions. The cooled-down coterie is back for Frozen II, which was rightly deemed good enough for a theatrical release and not immediately consigned to Disney+ like that Lady and the Tramp do-over or the Teenage Kurt Russell Comedy Collection.
The trailer calls it Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood. Some online resources call it Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. Others call it simply Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and rip out the ellipsis like the vestigial decoration it is. It’s not as though this site suffers from an ellipsis deficiency, so I’m leaving them out as Quentin Tarantino’s latest period piece has more than enough “period” to go around.
Courtesy warning: spoilers ahead for thoughts after 161 minutes of viewing. Not everything is revealed here, but a few tidbits cry out to be explored, particularly that controversial ending…
The inspired, rambunctious Spider-Man: Far from Home marks Tom Holland’s fifth film as everyone’s favorite put-upon wall-crawler, meaning he’s now done as many Spider-films as Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield combined. While every Spidey has had his high points in my estimation, Far from Home may be the best translation to date of the Spidey-era from my own childhood, roughly 1978-1989 plus Marvel Tales reprints of the first sixty issues of Amazing Spider-Man (the entire Steve Ditko oeuvre plus John Romita’s first two years). It’s a winning coda to the emotional pinnacles and pitfalls of Avengers: Endgame, an encouraging sign of heroism to come and a herald of hopefulness for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Fair warning: this entire film follows the events of Endgame and reverberates from its ramifications. If you’re waiting for Endgame to hit DVD and living in the off-grid wilderness has sheltered you from learning of its major MCU-changing moments, you may want to flee now if you want to maintain your cone of silence. (True story: I know at least one person in this very situation. It is possible. I realize it’s hard to imagine, but not everyone in America is as entrenched in online living as you and I may be.)
On another level, anyone with zero foreknowledge of the antagonist Mysterio and his motifs from old Spidey-comics will want to skip the regular “Meaning or EXPLOSIONS?” section because, frankly, it was kind of boring to ruminate on that aspect spoiler-free. I’m not revealing all his secrets or recapping his scenes shot-for-shot, but…well, there’s stuff that spoke to me.
The Toy Story trilogy remains an unparalleled cinematic achievement in animation with its track record of consistent excellence through every chapter. The original put Pixar on the map and legitimized three-dimensional computer animation as a feature film-making medium. The follow-up was loaded with at least as much humor and heart, and arguably topped the original for some viewers. The grand finale may have been a hairbreadth beneath its predecessors in quality, but it brought the series full circle, gave us fully satisfactory closure on the saga of Andy’s room, and remains the only animated sequel ever nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. All three remain shining jewels in Pixar’s crown, a fixture in millions of childhoods, and an object lesson for anyone who wants to teach kids what grade-A movies look like so that they can judge the hollow offerings of other Hollywood studios all the more harshly.
It’s therefore with a sigh that we now give a round of polite, lukewarm applause for the arrival of Toy Story 4, the Zeppo of the series. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, mind you.
The never-ending battle to distance us all from Dawn of Justice continues as DC Comics proudly presents the mostly lighthearted Shazam!, based on a 1940s alleged Superman copycat that DC acquired in 1953 after they sued original publisher Fawcett Comics into oblivion. His original name was Captain Marvel, which DC kept using in multiple series and projects for the next few decades but made sure never to print on any covers lest their competition sue them, even though Fawcett’s Captain Marvel predated Marvel’s Captain Marvel by almost 28 years. Prior to this nomenclatural conflict, Fawcett’s Captain Marvel was conceived with the name Captain Thunder, but this was also the name of a non-superhero character in a series called Jungle Comics published by Fiction House, neither of which survived past the mid-’50s. Technically DC could call him Captain Thunder without repercussions today except no one wants that.
Comic Books: Overcomplicating What Should Be the Simplest Things Since 1939.
Years from now we’ll all look back on the historical debacle that was the Not-Great Captain Marvel Flame War of 2019 and we’ll laugh about it if only to keep from breaking down in tears at how deeply the fandom-at-large had reached yet another embarrassing nadir. Until then, here’s a shout-out to those millions of kids out there finding delight and inspiration in the sight of a wondrous super-woman punching her way through an evil spaceship armada at hyperspeed, like a young Princess Diana plowing through German soldiers.
Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Aquaman “The Most Entertaining DC Comics Film Since Wonder Woman!” Also, “The Best Screen version of Aquaman Ever!” Also also, “The Greatest Film with Patrick Wilson in it of All Time!” although my son insists I really need to see Hard Candy at some point. Until I do, Aquaman beats Hard Candy.
Millions of viewers who depend on Marvel movies for all their fantasy escapism needs went home shell-shocked after Avengers: Infinity War slaughtered far, far too many of their favorite heroes and threatened to turn the Marvel Cinematic Universe into just another super-hero realm of perpetual misery like Dawn of Justice or the upcoming, dreadful-looking Titans. Now, in Ant-Man and the Wasp, two heroes who weren’t invited to Thanos’ big coming-out party are here to remind everyone that there’s still hope to be found in this world, along with heroism, teamwork, and happy endings…as long as you don’t stay for the end credits.
Hi, My name is Randy. It’s been five years and two months since the last time I pledged money to a Kickstarter campaign. This week I achieved closure on that chapter in my hobbyist life at last.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: Ryan Coogler’s emotionally charged directorial debut Fruitvale Station was my favorite film of 2013. His follow-up, Creed, struck a bone-deep nerve inside me and was one of my two favorite films of 2015. It didn’t hurt in the least bit that the star of both films was Michael B. Jordan, who’s been raising his game with every project from his early start in The Wire to Chronicle (my favorite film of 2012) and beyond.
As a longtime comics fan who counts Christopher Priest’s ’90s runs on Marvel’s Black Panther as one of the all-time greats, and who wouldn’t have dreamed of this past weekend ever happening as a kid, I was beyond excited when the reins for the big Panther motion picture were handed over to Coogler, and that Jordan would be a part of it.
In a rare move for me, I kept my expectations unreasonably high. In a rare move for Hollywood, my expectations were blown away.
Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Justice League “Not Remotely the Worst Film of the Year!” I mean, y’all do remember 2017 spawned another Transformers sequel, right?
As a comics fan for nearly forty years, I’m not among those with unconditional love for every project with the DC Comics imprimatur on it, but their creators have made cool things over the decades. I found Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice the Worst Film of 2016, but The CW’s The Flash is my favorite current TV show, and I thought more highly of the first half of Suicide Squad than many people did. In comics I found the New 52 reboots largely dreadful, but love that “Rebirth” brought Christopher Priest’s Deathstroke and Gene Luen Yang’s New Super-Man into the world. The Flash was among the first super-heroes I ever followed monthly beginning at age 6. When I started making up my own super-heroes circa age 9, Cyborg was among the first ones I ripped off. But I pledge unquestioning allegiance to no fictional characters.
I fully expected Justice League to be an enormous waste of time that would have me nitpicking and raging for hours, given: (a) the departure of director Zack Snyder under tragic circumstances; (b) that former Marvel movie overseer Joss Whedon, the opposite of Snyder on every conceivable level, had been tasked with stitching together the pieces; (c) that Warner Brothers executives had demanded nearly a third of the movie be chopped out to enforce a shorter running time for reasons of greed; (d) they were trying to foist a redundant Flash on us despite the ongoing awesomeness of Grant Gustin; and (e) it’s mostly from the makers of Batman v. Superman. That’s a lot of strikes even before getting to the plate.
Honestly? It wasn’t that bad. In fact, I’ll go on record here and confess I wouldn’t call it “bad”.
Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Thor: Ragnarok The Greatest Thor Movie in World History!
Granted, it’s for lack of competition, but still. Director Kenneth Branagh’s opening kickoff set the tone for the shiny city and cast of Asgard and gave the Marvel Cinematic Universe one of its core creations in the form of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, saddled with a big stupid brother that his dad made him bring along. The neglected middle child Thor: The Dark World was a forgettable playground romp that remains my least favorite MCU entry to date and left me with virtually no impression except tremendous pity for former Doctor Christopher Eccleston. I had to go reread my own take on it to recall that I liked all the Loki parts, and my wife had to remind me whatever happened to Rene Russo because I totally forgot. Sorry, I mean “forget”. I still can’t remember her final scenes. At all.
The trilogy now concludes with Ragnarok under the direction of Taika Waititi, one of the few survivors of Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern, who went on to a second life as an indie director (my son tells me What We Do in the Shadows is “amazing”). Someone apparently handed the keys to the series to Waititi, told him “go nuts”, walked out of the Marvel Studios mansion leaving him unchaperoned, and asked themselves, “What’s the worst that could happen?” And for the first time in world history, the answer was the complete opposite of an immediate disaster.
If it’s Marvel, that means it’s time for summer blockbuster extravaganza movie-going season again! And what more appropriate way to kick off than a sequel. Thankfully Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is not one of those Marvel sequels that makes fans regret their obsession with seeing every Marvel movie ever. Better still, the series proves there’s no such thing as a useless character. If an angry space raccoon, an Ent with no vocabulary, and three remnants from Marvel’s 1970s sci-fi era can strike a chord in today’s world, any character can if a talented filmmaker is allowed to try hard enough.
New rule: anyone who was in line opening day for the King Kong reboot Kong: Skull Island hereby relinquishes all rights to complain about too-soon Spider-Man reboots. Peter Jackson’s 2005 cover of the original Kong isn’t dead and buried yet. The return on its $250 million investment wasn’t as robust as the studio would’ve hoped, but considering its Tomatometer rating tops Skull Island‘s (84% vs. 78%), I wouldn’t call it a failure that needed to be erased — unlike, say, Spider-Man 3.
My wife and I first heard of Lion when we attended last fall’s Heartland Film Festival preview night here in Indianapolis. I’m sorry we missed its festival screening, but now that it’s been nominated for Best Picture, once again the film and I crossed paths as part of my annual Oscar quest.
With the invigorating Polynesian nautical epic Moana it’s time once again for Disney to flaunt their recovered mojo while the once-flawless Pixar pins their hopes on selling more Cars merchandise as well as the expensive, grim, Zack Snyder-looking commercial they made to go with all of it.
In my comic-collecting childhood, I thought Dr. Strange was okay. He’s had occasional memorable stories from talented writers and artists such as Roger Stern, Peter B. Gillis, Michael Golden, Marshall Rogers, Paul Smith, Chris Warner, Chris Claremont, Gene Colan, Brian K. Vaughan, Mark Waid, and so on. The current run by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo isn’t bad and looks stupendous. The original stories by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were okay, but never left the same impression on me that their three-year Amazing Spider-Man collaboration did. Doc has never exactly been an all-time Top 5 hero for me. I bought his series on and off, skipping entire years and runs. I don’t mind him, but I didn’t have to have a movie about him.
It’s a good thing Marvel didn’t ask me for my opinion before arranging for Benedict Cumberbatch and director Scott Derrickson to turn Doctor Strange into such a profound panoply of prismatic panoramas. I mean, I still cling to hope of one day buying opening-day passes for Squirrel Girl: The Motion Picture or maybe a Mary Jane solo movie, but I’m okay with the Master of the Mystic Arts going first. I guess.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: I went ahead and reviewed co-writer/director Paul Feig’s controversial Ghostbusters reboot without seeing it first:
A-plus-plus-plus-plus-plus-plus. Eleventeen stars out of six. Two thumbs and five “WE’RE #1” giant foam fingers up. Two standing ovations, twelve “Good Job!” happy grading stickers, four Employee of the Month certificates, three Peabody Awards, a two-year supply of Rice-A-Roni (the San Francisco treat!), and one honorary “Joe Bob says check it out!” Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Ghostbusters “One of the year’s best films!” based on the fact that I just felt like typing those words in that order for this purpose. Since I haven’t had a man card to my name in ages, this is the kind of arbitrary whim that really impresses my wife.
…because someone had to bring balance to the internet. That someone didn’t have to be a guy, of course.
As of last night, now I’ve seen it for real. And every movie I watch in a theater for real gets an entry, even if I technically covered it already, even if the rest of America has already moved on to the next movie discussion.
America’s favorite fish are back! (Sorry, Charlie.) Finding Dory is a rare sequel in which the main character returns but is relegated to a sidekick role and gets fewer lines, like the third Hobbit movie. Seems unfair that Ellen DeGeneres’ agent can beat up superstar Nemo’s agent, but that’s how it goes in Hollywood.