Movie review: “Captain Marvel” (2019)

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“What is this?”

“It’s a S.H.I.E.L.D. logo.”

“Does announcing your identity, with branded clothing, help with the covert part of the job?”

“…Said the space soldier who’s wearing a rubber suit.”

Captain Marvel, the latest but hardly last in the current glut of attempts to shoehorn yet another theoretically resonant new standalone superhero into our already righteously taxed moviegoing consciousness – bookended at the box office by DC’s Aquaman and, gulp, Shazam! – arrives at a precarious moment for the formerly sturdy Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), whose equally hyped and hype-worthy Infinity War event saw an unprecedented, slightly ridiculous number of Avengers assemble across multiple worlds in a last ditch effort to beat back the intergalactic threat posed by jewelry enthusiast/genocidal sociologist/city planner run amok Thanos. Sorry, but I think we’ve evolved well past spoiler territory here. Continue reading “Movie review: “Captain Marvel” (2019)”

Movie review: “Kong: Skull Island” (2017)

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“You heard of the U.S.S. Lautmann? Neither did the public. Out of a thousand young men on that ship, I was the only survivor. They told my family she was sunk in battle, but I know what I saw. It had no conscience. No reasoning. It just…destroyed. I’ve spent the last thirty years trying to prove the truth of what I learned that day. This planet doesn’t belong to us.”

King Kong’s rugged origins as oversized simian emperor of the lush, forbidding, prehistoric death trap Skull Island constitute an archetypal adventure story that has rarely ever shared the screen to the degree it deserved, despite being a prominent aspect of almost all the big ape’s previous cinematic incarnations. It’s a straightforward though hydra-headed equation that can set forth with confidence in most any direction a fairly competent, fairly ambitious director might choose: Man against monster; monster against monster; man against the unknown; monster against monsters (squee!); man against the elements; man against nature (however unfairly extra-natural the island’s odds often seem); even man against man, assuming it doesn’t slow things up too much. Continue reading “Movie review: “Kong: Skull Island” (2017)”

Movie review: “The Hateful Eight” (2015)

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“Move a little strange, and you’re gonna get a bullet. Not a warning, not a question…a bullet!”

The first one-sheet poster I recall seeing for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight was wondrous in its stark, throwback simplicity. It depicted a lonely stagecoach being drawn by a team of six horses across a forbidding, bone white landscape, scrubbed clean of any other hint of terrain save a cabin in the distance. Instead of wagon treads in the presumed snow, the coach trailed a great wash of fresh blood behind it. The end. Interested? I sure was. The mercurial director has, of course, long exercised a singular gift for turning the straightforward into the convoluted, and, by the same token, for instilling sense, order, and gravity onto the hopelessly labyrinthine. It all depends on your perspective. Continue reading “Movie review: “The Hateful Eight” (2015)”

Movie review: “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2014)

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“Do you like spy movies, Mr. DeVille?”

“Nowadays they’re all a little serious for my taste. But the old ones? Marvelous. Give me a far-fetched, theatrical plot any day…”

“The old Bond movies! Oh man. When I was a kid, that was my dream job: gentleman spy.”

“I always felt that the old Bond films were only as good as the villain. As a child, I rather fancied the futuristic, colorful megalomaniac.”

“What a shame we both had to grow up.”

As long as the genre of “gentleman spy” movies has existed, there seemingly has run a parallel offshoot dedicated to spoofing it. James Bond has always been a moving target, and, having presented a subtle element of camp even in his earliest days, something of a tricky one. It’s worth questioning whether his original parodists plied their trades more out of a sense of affectionate homage or from pure mercenary proximity attraction to big box office…or it would be if the answer wasn’t obvious. As Bond has evolved throughout the years – from Sean Connery’s flinty sex appeal to Roger Moore’s suave drollery, from Timothy Dalton’s aloof workmanship to Pierce Brosnan’s refined amusement, and finally to the grit and athleticism of 21st Century Bond Daniel Craig – his sendups have often seemed terminally lost in their own worlds. Perhaps the time is finally right for a new breed of high class imitation to stake its claim. Continue reading “Movie review: “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2014)”