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Josh Reviews Black Widow

The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have finally returned, after their longest hiatus since the earliest days of the MCU, with Black Widow!  I have not yet ventured back into a movie theater, but I was delighted to be able to watch Black Widow on Disney+.  Marvel’s Phase 4 was supposed to launch with this film back in May 2020, but it was of course delayed by the pandemic.  This Black Widow solo film shines a long-awaited spotlight on Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, and it’s another strong outing from the fine folks at Marvel.  (Beware minor spoilers in this review — to go into the film completely unspoiled, you should watch the film first and then read this review!)

The film is set after the dissolution of the Avengers at the end of Captain America: Civil War, and before the events of Avengers: Infinity War.  I was wondering if the film would open with a framing sequence set after the events of Infinity War/Endgame (the “present” of the MCU, though I believe that Endgame takes place in 2023), but I was impressed that the filmmakers evidently thought that wasn’t necessary and that the audience would be able to quickly figure out this film’s place in the MCU timeline.

We’ve gotten hints in previous films, especially in Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, about Natasha’s past as a Russian assassin who has a lot of “red on her ledger”.  It’s exciting to finally get to explore her backstory in more detail here.  I wasn’t expecting the film to open with a set-up reminiscent of the wonderful TV show The Americans, in which we see Natasha and her sister Yelena as young kids living in Ohio with “parents” who are actually undercover Russian agents.  I loved that whole opening sequence and the great car/plane chase sequence it builds to.  That was a great way to open the film!

I was a little dubious of Scarlett Johansson’s casting as Natasha Romanoff back when she first appeared way back in Iron Man 2.  Ms. Johansson is a great actress, but she seemed so American to me that she felt miscast, and that film didn’t make the best use of her.  But I loved her immediately in The Avengers, right from that wonderful introductory scene when Coulson interrupts her on the phone when she’s undercover… and then the terrific next scene when she makes contact with Bruce Banner.  Suddenly the character seemed to come into focus, and I’ve enjoyed following her story through the films, building to her very moving sacrifice in Avengers: Infinity War.  I was sorry to see her go!  Thankfully, Marvel decided to give a gift to the … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Catching Up on 2016: Josh Reviews The Lobster

In Yorgos Lanthimos’ film The Lobster, Colin Farrell stars as David.  Upon discovering that his wife has left him for another man, David checks into a hotel where single people have 45 days to find a life partner, or else they will be transformed into an animal of their own choosing.  David makes friends with two of the other single men there, Robert (John C. Reilly) and John (Ben Wishaw).  Eventually, Ben runs away from the hotel and begins living with the “loners” who live in the woods nearby.  Though the loners forbid any sort of romantic connection between two people, David finds he has feelings for a woman (Rachel Weisz) he meets there.

The Lobster.cropped

The Lobster is an incredibly bizarre film, one that creates a fascinating alternate reality to our own.  Though much of the world of The Lobster looks and sounds just like our own, we are presented with two fanatically extreme versions of society: one in which coupling is so important that failure to do so results in the end of one’s human life, and another in which coupling is absolutely forbidden.  The film is a compelling commentary on societal pressure to find romance and a life-partner.  How critically important to one’s life and happiness is finding a romantic partner?  Why do we, as a society, put so many rules on people’s love lives, on what is expected and what is permitted?  The Lobster is a rich satire that prompts deep questions.

Colin Farrell is terrific in the lead role, marvelously underplaying the character of David.  Mr. Farrell is beautifully naturalistic and honest in his performance.  While the world of The Lobster can feel outlandish at times, Mr. Farrell provides a critical anchoring to the proceedings with his emotional honesty, and his depiction of a man at a crossroads, struggling to figure out who he is and what he wants and whether he feels he has any self-worth.  The film works as well as it does 100% because of Mr. Farrell’s strong performance.  Mr. Farrell is a handsome man who usually exhibits a ferocious, kinetic energy in his performances.  But here, beneath a paunch and glasses and a ridiculous moustache, it’s as if he has drained every ounce of life and energy out of himself in order to bring the sad-sack David to life.  It’s quite spectacular.

John C. Reilly is always great, and he’s a ray of light in this mostly downbeat film.  His character, Robert, is lonely and unhappy, but Mr. Reilly brings a little spark to every one of his line readings that brings a sense of fun and play into what is, when you think about it, a very broken character.  Ben Wishaw (… [continued]