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Josh Reviews Captain Marvel

Hi friends!  Before we continue with my Captain Marvel review, a quick note.  Perhaps you’ve noticed the Amazon links in my posts for the past few weeks.  MotionPicturesComics.com is now an Amazon affiliate.  I ask your help to please support MotionPicturesComics.com by clicking through one of our Amazon links whenever you need to shop!  We’ll receive a small percentage from ANY product you purchase from Amazon within 24 hours after clicking through.  You DON’T have to purchase the product I’ve linked.  Just click through any link on this site over to Amazon and purchase whatever you normally would.  We’ll receive a small percentage, and that will help pay for keeping this website up and running.  Thank you for your help and support!

It’s been a long time coming, but here, at last, is the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film focusing on a solo female super-hero!  (Last year’s Ant Man and the Wasp featured Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp, though she shared title billing with Paul Rudd’s Ant Man.)  Brie Larson stars as Carol Danvers.  When the movie opens, Carol, known as Viers, is serving as a super-powered soldier for the Kree, an intergalactic race at war with the shape-shifting Skulls.  Carol/Viers has no memory of her past prior to six years ago, when she awoke after a crash and was rescued by the Kree soldier Yon-Vogg (Jude Law).  When their unit is ambushed by Skulls, Carol winds up trapped, alone, on Earth, where she discovers that she had a past here.  She meets up with Nick Fury, a young (two-eyed) agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the two team up to attempt to discover Carol’s past and the secret that so many seem to be after.

Captain Marvel is great fun.  It’s a delight to see this strong, powerful female super-hero brought to life on-screen, and Brie Larson is great in the role.  The secret ingredient to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s success has been the impeccable casting of its main characters, and the win streak continues here with Brie Larson.  Ms. Larson absolutely looks the part, but far more importantly is the way this Oscar-winning actress is able to handle the film’s emotional beats.  In fact, she’s at her best in the film’s quiet moments, interacting with characters like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), or Maria’s young daughter Monica (Akira Akbar).

The film takes place in 1995, before all of the other Marvel Cinematic Universe films, and so in many respects it serves as an origin story of sorts for the MCU, and there are lots of fun connections to be found.  Samuel L. Jackson gets his largest role yet in the MCU as a younger version of … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Kong: Skull Island

In 1973, as the United States forces leave Vietnam, a group of soldiers are assigned to what is supposed to be a geological expedition.  Unfortunately, it turns out their mission is at the behest of U.S. government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman), who is attempting to prove his theory that giant monsters exist.  Turns out he’s right, and he has led his unfortunate group to Skull Island, home of King Kong and lots of creatures that are even worse.

Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ film Kong: Skull Island is a fun, clever reinvention of the King Kong mythos.  The film is part Apocalypse Now, part monster movie, part multi-character ensemble drama.  It has some intense action beats and some moments of great comedy.  Skull Island is a robust mixture of a lot of different influences and elements, and somehow it all comes together to create an enjoyable, modern take on King Kong, a character originated in 1933.

I write “modern” take, though I was surprised that the film is actually a period piece.  The prologue is set in 1944, and the rest of the film takes place in 1973.  I love this choice.  The film has a slightly retro look that differentiates it from other recent monster movies, and the post-Vietnam setting winds up being a perfect opportunity for the film to explore some interesting character beats.  (This isn’t a film that dives too deeply into any characters, which is the film’s main weakness, but the post-Vietnam setting is effectively used as a shorthand to help create a bunch of interesting characters even though the film doesn’t really take the time to explore most of them.)

Mr. Vogt-Roberts’ film is gorgeous.  There are some extraordinary visual effects, no surprise.  Kong himself is magnificently realized.  From the trailers, I was uncertain by the decision to make Kong so enormous, but it works in the film.  This behemoth-sized Kong has quite a different feel from Peter Jackson’s 2005 film.  But in this film’s entirely different setting, it works.  Kong is referred to repeatedly as a god, and this mammoth Kong has that feeling.  The CGI effects that brought him to life are terrific, equally effective when we are looking into Kong’s eyes in extreme close-up or watching him throw down with enormous other hideous creatures.  Tremendous credit must go to Terry Notary, whose motion-capture work was the heart of Kong’s performance.  (Mr. Notary has been doing great work at creating characters in fantasy spectacles for many years now.  I first became familiar with his work from watching the behind-the-scenes documentaries on the DVDs of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films.)

The film includes a number of sequences of rip-roaring monster mayhem.  The intro to … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Trainwreck

I’m a huge Judd Apatow fan.  Have been ever since I fell in love with Freaks and Geeks back in 1999.  I adore that show, and its equally criminally underrated follow-up Undeclared.  (Important note: Paul Feig was the co-creator of Freaks and Geeks.)  When Judd Apatow found big-screen success with the brilliant The 40 Year-Old Virgin, I was thrilled.  I love that movie and I watched it a lot in those first few years after it came out.  It seemed like a perfect distillation of everything I’d enjoyed about those two failed TV shows.  Knocked Up was just as much fun, but then came Funny People and This is 40.  There is a lot to enjoy about both of those films.  I think they’re far better than many reviewers gave them credit for being.  But even I must admit that both of those films are a little bit too long, and perhaps a little bit too indulgent.

And so I was excited when the news came that Mr. Apatow’s fifth film as a director would be the first one he wasn’t writing himself.  Trainwreck was written by and stars Amy Schumer.  I loved the idea of Mr. Apatow’s voiced being combined with that of another strong comedian.  That seemed like a good recipe for success and a nice change of pace for Mr. Apatow.

Trainwreck did not disappoint.  Amy Schumer hits a huge home-run with her work in the film, creating a wonderfully raunchy, extremely funny comedy.

Celebrity Sightings In New York City - July 16, 2014

Amy Schumer plays Amy, an attractive thirty-something woman who has a nice life working for a trashy mens magazine and partying in New York City.  She’s a serial dater who enjoys having a good time, and she looks down her nose a bit at her sister who is married with a stepson.  When Amy gets roped into doing an assignment for her magazine interviewing a sports doctor, Aaron (Bill Hader), she is shocked to find out she actually likes this relatively normal, together, professional guy.  Can she possibly hold down a stable, monogamous relationship?

The over-all story beats in Trainwreck are fairly predictable, with the film’s big idea being that it’s the woman who is the immature one who loves to go to parties and get drunk and/or stoned and date lots of different people.  This would have felt a tad more ground-breaking a few years ago before Bridesmaids, but I certainly don’t think that one female-centric film means that whole idea is over-done.  I hope we continue to see many great female-driven comedies in the future!!  So let’s be clear: while I like the idea of a raunchy Judd Apatow comedy focused on a female character, there’s far more to … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Spectacular Now

I am a sucker for a good coming of age story, and this season has seen a couple of excellent ones.  I was over the moon about The Way Way Back (click here for my review) and I was equally smitten by James Ponsoldt’s new film The Spectacular Now.  It’s a beautiful, powerful story about two young people finding themselves in the closing days of their high school years.

In the film, Miles Teller plays Sutter.  He’s a good looking, fast-talking, confident high school senior.  Sutter is the king of his high school hill.  He’s a popular guy with a pretty girlfriend.  He loves to party and to have a good time, and he’s never really thought about aspiring to anything beyond that.  But when his girlfriend breaks up with him, Sutter finds it harder than he’d expected for his nothing-can-bother-me, it’s-all-good attitude to keep out the pain.  Suddenly his hardy-partying ways seem less like the antics of a fun-loving high school kid and more like a crutch.  It’s after one-such night of drinking that Sutter finds himself passed out on the lawn of his classmate Aimee (Shailene Woodley).  Aimee is sweet and kind and smart, and as something of a bookworm she is not at all in Sutter’s social circle.  The two begin an unexpected friendship, and soon — to surprise of both of their sets of friends — they begin dating.

From that point, I was expecting the film to go in one of two directions.  Either we’d get the story of the special girl who makes the boy into a better man, or the story of the innocent girl who is seduced by the appeal of the bad egg, almost allowing him to ruin her life before she sees the error of her ways.  But The Spectacular Now, luckily, is a much more nuanced film than that. The film doesn’t go down such expected directions, and though there are aspects of both of those ideas I just mentioned in the film’s story, the heart of the film lies in the many, often unexpected ways in which Sutter and Aimee affect one another.  Some of those changes are positive, while others are more up for debate, and the film is surprisingly deft at not drawing judgments and allowing the audience to make their own evaluations.  (I am thinking specifically of the way Aimee starts drinking once she begins seeing Sutter.  I was all ready for that to lead her down a dark road, and while there is not question that there are some ways in which she is negatively affected by her new taste for alcohol, the film has a more nuanced perspective on her new … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Don Jon

Don Jon is written, directed by, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  It’s a great film and I love watching something that feels like a unique, singular voice (as opposed to the movie-by-committee sameness found in so much Hollywood product).  This has been a great season for debut films by actors who have taken it upon themselves to write and direct a film in which they would also star — just recently I was bowled over by Lake Bell’s film In a World… (click here for my review).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Jon, a buff, confident young Italian-American stud who is so successful with the ladies that his buddies have nicknamed him the Don.  Jon and his pals have a regular routine of looking for women out at nightclubs, and the Don has a streak of successfully scoring with girls the guys rate to be an 8 or higher.  One night, they spy a fabled “dime” — the gorgeous Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) — and while Jon is able to flirt successfully with her, to his surprise she doesn’t let him take her home.  Not one to give up, Jon asks around and is able to figure out her last name, contact her via facebook, and ask her out on a date.  She agrees and the date goes well, but even then, again to his surprise, she won’t let him sleep with her.  The two begin seeing one another regularly, and it looks like for the first time Jon has found a girl he loves, one he’s even willing to bring home to meet his parents (Tony Danza and Glenne Headly).  Everything seems to be going great until Barbara discovers Jon watching porn, and realizes that he watches porn constantly.

There’s a scene about halfway through the film in which Barbara angrily confronts Jon about his porn watching, when he retorts to her that the porn he loves is no different than the Hollywood romantic films that she loves.  Both give the viewer an unrealistic, and perhaps unfair, set of expectations as to what love and relationships should ideally be.  Now, I don’t happen to agree with Jon’s perspective that porn and romantic comedies are the same thing, but the film has an interesting time exploring the ways in which there are similarities between the fantasies that both create.  Prior to their big argument, we have heard Jon lament, in voice-over earlier in the film, that even though he has a lot of sex — and always with absolutely beautiful girls — the sex is never as perfect as what he sees in his videos.  We have also seen Barbara walk out of a movie, on a date with Jon, awestruck by … [continued]