Nearly a decade in the making and fourteen months in the releasing, the next chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is here at long last, two years after Spider-Man: Far From Home capped off Phase III in theaters. Fans had to content themselves with Marvel’s new above-average TV fare on Disney+ (or, I guess, some comics) until the world was ready for Black Widow…or at least a lot of the world. Calling them “most of the world” might be an overstatement considering the pandemic has not yet been called off in numerous countries and states. Alternatively, Disney+ subscribers who can’t wait for the home video release in October can cough up thirty bucks and slightly expand that virtual library of above-average TV fare.
Of all the films to be released in theaters after March 2020, I’ve regretted missing none of them more than I’ve been regretting missing Bill & Ted Face the Music, the long-awaited reunion of Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves as good-natured rockin’ goofballs Bill S. Preston, Esq., and Ted “Theodore” Logan. The first two films were hilarious delights back in their day and, while I was prepared to live the rest of my life without a trilogy realized, years of negotiations with skeptical studios finally came together courtesy of original writers/creators Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, along with director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest). Thus did their dream come true in the worst possible year of this millennium.
From August onward I kept doggedly checking On Demand prices every weekend but was reluctant to pull the trigger on a $15-$20 home viewing experience. Fans of pay-per-view sports may be accustomed to that or far worse, but for that price, if I have to play it on my own inferior equipment, then I insist on physical custody. I was willing to go as high as maybe eight bucks, but they kept holding out on me. This past Tuesday The Powers That Be relented and BTFM finally materialized at Redbox. And for a most non-non-non-heinous price well under eight bucks.
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.