“The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King” Throwback

Today is Tolkien Reading Day, the best time of year to go out and read up on the works of the great J.R.R Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. However, if you don’t have access to the books, why not take three hours out of your day to watch one of The Lord of the Rings movies? And since this day is intrinsically linked to things that happened in The Return of the King, Part 3 of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, we’re going to be talking about that film.

Spoilers Ahead!

So let’s start our discussion with a reminder that I am one of those people who read the books first, before seeing the films – but, I am not a book “purist”, someone who believes that everything in the text could have been adapted word-for-word onto the big screen, without any need for changes, additions, omissions, etc.

Now, having watched the film about six-thousand times, I have noticed a number of flaws – little things, for the most part, but we’ll discuss them here: I say “we” because I’m going to be writing this post in Gollum/Sméagol fashion, as an argument between my purist self and my revisionist self. We’ll also discuss a number of scenes that capture perfectly the spirit of the book, and even manage to almost elevate the material (which is so good to begin with).

But, we’ll also talk about the movie in its own right, because it’s just such a good movie. Even if you go into these films never having heard of The Lord of the Rings, or J.R.R Tolkien, you’ll still be swept up into this magical world, and, assuming you’re anything like me, you’ll never leave it again as long as you live. The joy and wonder is still there, every time I open the book or watch one of the movies.

Well, now we’re off at last!

Let’s begin with a breakdown of the plot: the film follows the journeys of a group of Men, Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits as they travel across Middle-earth. Our hobbit protagonist, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), carries with him the deadly but beautiful One Ring, an object of incredible power that contains the very soul of the Dark Lord Sauron. Only by destroying this Ring can Middle-earth be freed from the horrors of war and evil that have been relentlessly assaulting it. The film opens with Frodo and his loyal gardener Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin) being led through the dangerous country around the Dark Lord’s realm of Mordor. Their guide? A treacherous and utterly wretched creature named Gollum (Andy Serkis), who once possessed the One Ring and wants it back. Can he be trusted? Can Frodo be trusted? Can anyone be trusted around the Ring? – for the Ring wants to get back to Sauron, and it has the power to corrupt anyone who owns it. By the time we see Frodo here, in The Return of the King, the Ring has betrayed many masters: it was cut from Sauron’s hand long ago but quickly killed its new owner, a man named Isildur – it fell into the River Anduin, and was there picked up by a hobbit named Deagol, who was very soon murdered by his friend Sméagol. Sméagol took the Ring and fled with it into the mountains, and there, dwelling in dark caves and pits, he changed into Gollum – the Ring abandoned him too, though, and was found by another hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), but Bilbo was good enough that he was able to give up the Ring willingly – he gave it to Frodo. But the Ring betrayed one of Frodo’s friends as well, the noble man Boromir (Sean Bean), who tried to kill Frodo in an attempt to steal the Ring.

That is, of course, the main plot: the Ring must be destroyed, but destroying it takes great effort and great willpower. And the only place it can be unmade is in the fiery forges beneath an active volcano named Mount Doom, in the very heart of the realm of Mordor. Sauron dwells here, a giant flaming eye atop a horned tower.

Purist’s Note: in the books, Sauron is not a “giant flaming eye”. He has a physical form, but it is terrible and maimed, because he has been unable to take any shape fair to the eyes of Men ever since he fell into the ruin of Numenor in the Second Age. The Eye is merely a metaphor, in the books, for his piercing knowledge of all things that move on Middle-earth.

Thank you, Inner Purist, for making that clear.

Moving on. Many miles away from Frodo, his other friends are busy fighting Sauron’s vast armies of Orcs, Ringwraiths and Haradrim. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) is the reluctant King of Gondor who must rally his people to stand in defiance of the shadow. Gandalf the White (Sir Ian McKellen) is the good wizard entrusted with helping all the Free Folk of Middle-earth. Arwen Evenstar (Liv Tyler) is the Elven princess in love with Aragorn, who must choose between an immortal existence with her family, or a mortal life with the man she loves.

But, the fight for victory will not be easy. Sauron has unleashed all of his forces, and they are heading straight for the greatest city in Middle-earth: Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor. Will Gandalf be able to keep the city’s defenses firm against such reckless hate? Will Aragorn reach the city in time to save it? Will Arwen choose love over the promise of immortality? The stakes are so high, they’re incredible.

Purist’s Note: in the books, Arwen had already chosen love over immortality, many years before the events of The Lord of the Rings. She and Aragorn had been betrothed on the hill of Cerin Amroth, and they had rejected both the Shadow of Sauron and the Twilight of the West.

Yeah, well, that’s not the case here. Here, we have a cast of incredible characters – played by an extraordinary cast – who collide with each other in the most brilliant ways. When the hobbit Merry Brandybuck (Dominic Monaghan) meets Éowyn, shieldmaiden of Rohan (Miranda Otto), will they overcome prejudice to fight in the war for Middle-earth? When Pippin Took (Billy Boyd) swears loyalty to the Steward Denethor (John Noble) will this choice come with a terrible responsibility – to watch as the Steward goes mad and tries to burn his own son alive?

Purist’s Note: well, no, apparently not, because in the movies Denethor releases Pippin from his service – whereas, in the books, Pippin remains in allegiance to Gondor.

This purist is getting on my nerves. You know what, Inner Purist, how about that scene where the Riders of Rohan appear over the hills at dawn and ride down to meet the orcs of Mordor in battle on the Pelennor Fields? Hmm, how about that? Was that not exactly as in the books?

Purist’s Note: well…well, I mean, no, because…

And what about the scene where Gandalf and Pippin discuss the prospect of death, using words directly from the book?

Purist’s Note: okay, that was touching, but the scene itself wasn’t in the books…

How about the scene on Mount Doom? Where Frodo finally stands above the consuming fires, unable to throw the Ring to its destruction? How about when Gollum takes the Ring from him in their last desperate struggle, biting off Frodo’s finger to get the corrupting treasure, dancing madly for joy on the brink of the fire – and falling, to his death? How about that terrifying scene where the Ring sits, motionless, on the surface of the lava, unwilling to be destroyed? And Frodo hangs from the cliff far above, staring down at it, contemplating with himself in those final moments whether he should leap into the fires after the Ring, or if he should take Sam’s hand and be carried to safety? How about that scene?

Purist’s Note: ooh, and how about that tortured look that Frodo gives to Sam as he makes his choice – but then, he reaches for Sam’s hand! And Sam pulls him up! And…uh, I mean, yeah, that scene is fine.

What about the final scene, at the Grey Havens, where Frodo goes off with the Elves to sail across the seas into the West? That emotional goodbye to his friends that has me in tears every time I watch it? That smile he gives as he boards the boat, and you know in your heart that he’s finally going to be healed of all his pain and hurt.

Purist’s Note: and when Sam says “well, I’m back” as he returns to his home, just like in the book…

Well, not just like in the book. If it had been just like in the book, he would have gone home to Bag-end, since in the book he inherited it from Frodo. Also, he should have only had one child at that time, but he had, like, five.

Purist’s Note: well, yeah, but, come on, the emotional heart of Tolkien’s work was all there. Director Peter Jackson could easily have gone for a more traditional route and had them all live happily ever after, but he didn’t. He showed the incredible pain that Frodo went through, and how it could never be healed – unless he left Middle-earth.

Yeah, I know, but Peter Jackson got a lot of things incorrect too. Let’s not forget the infamous scene where Frodo tells Sam to “go home”, which goes against everything in the books. That scene is painful to watch, it’s just so annoying.

Purist’s Note: okay, sure, but don’t forget that that scene was shot really early on, before the actors had any clear idea of the emotional journeys their characters were going on – before Andy Serkis had been cast as Gollum, in fact.

Good point. But how do you explain that scene with the skull avalanche in the Paths of the Dead?

Purist’s Note: wait, I thought you liked that!

I do! But…wait, aren’t you the purist? I feel like things got switched around here. I’m not supposed to be grilling you, it should be the other way round!

Purist’s Note: well, this is pretty normal when dealing with the movies. They’re conflicting, but in the end…they are pretty good movies, even when they’re not great adaptations. And, for the most part, they are great adaptations. Except for…a handful of things.

More than a handful. But, you’re right. No matter how many things might be wrong with the movies, I’m always going to love them. I’m always going to cry when Frodo sets sail into the West, or when Annie Lennox’s beautiful song starts playing over the credits…I’m always going to cheer when Sauron is cast down, and the Eagles rescue Frodo and Sam. I’m always going to feel completely heartbroken after the credits roll, when I realize that the story has finally come to its end. It’s the magic of this movie that makes that possible: you can overlook or even ignore every minor change to a character’s appearance, every faulty line of dialogue, every blunder or misstep. Because the magic is still there.

Purist’s Note: you’re going to tell me what the magic is now, aren’t you?

Yes, I am! It’s the magic of Frodo struggling through pain and torture to do the job that needs doing. It’s the magic of Sam carrying Frodo up Mount Doom, even when all seems lost. It’s the magic of Aragorn going to what seems like certain death so that he can buy Frodo just a little time. It’s the magic of Merry and Éowyn standing up against the Witch-King. It’s the magic of Pippin leaping into the flames to rescue Faramir. It’s the-

Purist’s Note: you’ve gone on long enough. I get it. It’s magic.

It is, and it’s the sort of magic that doesn’t go away, even after multiple viewings.

 

So there you have it: my thoughts on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. No movie quite compares to it, honestly. It is everything I love about cinema, all rolled into one beautiful movie. From the opening sequence to the moment the screen fades to black, I am entranced, brought into another world, a world that I know and love from the books: not everything from those books made it onto the screen, but that’s okay. This sort of magic is rare. Enjoy it as it is.

Movie Rating: 10/10

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Unicorn Store Trailer Review!

Can every movie just be about the beautiful chemistry between Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson?

Seriously, these two are just incredible onscreen. Here, in the trailer for Brie Larson’s directorial debut, Unicorn Store, they are blurring the distinctions between reality and fantasy in an abstract fashion that’s a delight to watch.

Larson plays Kit, a struggling artist who is trying to get along with her family and make a living – and has had to put aside childhood dreams. Jackson plays “The Salesman”, who runs “The Store” – his motto is simply “we sell what you need.”

When The Salesman invites Kit to come to The Store, she finds out that what she needs is…a unicorn. No kidding, a unicorn. Her family objects, as might be expected, and what ensues is not only brilliant hilarity and humor, but also a touching exploration of what it means to embrace your dreams and find your way in life, as Kit tries to make her dream of owning a unicorn become a reality. People call her crazy, and ask her if maybe she just wants a dog instead, but nothing can stop her from being the person she wants to be.

“Everybody needs some magic in their lives, even if they’re all grown-up,” Kit states in the trailer, and that’s pretty true. But nothing – and I mean nothing – is as magical as seeing Samuel L. Jackson in a very snazzy pink suit, with a glittery afro and large pink glasses. It’s an artist’s dream come to life, and I’m so here for it.

Unicorn Store will debut on Netflix, April 5th.

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Toy Story 4 Trailer Review!

Deeply conflicting though this whole endeavor might be, I know I’m still interested to see how the Toy Story saga comes to a close. I love the first two Toy Story movies to infinity and beyond, but the third was a massive letdown, and I still don’t want to get my hopes up for the fourth – the final installment in this series that is so deeply ingrained in the public conscious, and in the hearts of so many people.

It’s been a harrowing adventure getting to this trailer – the first teasers were rather dull, and the first look at Bo Peep (Annie Potts) was so different, that I think a lot of people have been slightly concerned, or maybe just uncertain whether or not this film is worth going to see in theaters.

But come on, this is the end of Toy Story. Even if it is awful, are you really going to miss out on this movie?

Well, let’s take a look at the trailer that Disney/Pixar dropped today, and we’ll see.

So it starts out with Woody (Tom Hanks) introducing us to a new toy, Forky (Tony Hale) – who is, as the name suggests, a fork: or, rather, a spork, as one of the other toys says when they meet this pessimistic piece of plastic.

It soon becomes clear that Forky is no ordinary toy. He was created by the toys’ owner, Bonnie, and he clearly has no idea why he’s alive, or what it means to be a toy: in his own words, “I was made for soup, salad, maybe chili, and then the trash!”

So he tries to escape, by literally jumping out of a moving vehicle. And Woody, who has decided that nothing is more important than keeping Bonnie happy, jumps out after him, in a desperate attempt to rescue the spork, and bring him back.

The logistics would suggest that a spork that goes flying out of the back of a trailer would be lost forever on the highway, but Woody finds him and tries to remind him of his duties as a toy: he is there to “help create happy memories”. Forky doesn’t seem particularly interested, and you can’t blame him – I mean, the chances of them ever finding Bonnie and the other toys again is slim to none.

But…all is not lost.

The two lost toys stumble wearily into the town of Grand Basin, which hosts a large fair and a massive antique store. Woody glances through the grimy window of this store and happens to spot something quite unusual: a very familiar lamp. It’s a real gasp-out-loud moment, and I love it. This lamp, of course, is Little Bo Peep’s lamp.

So Woody enters the antique store, and goes looking for Bo Peep. Instead, he finds a collection of extraordinarily creepy antique toys, led by a frightening little doll named Gabby Gabby, who rides around in a perambulator with ventriloquist-dummy bodyguards. Woody and Forky look to be in a dangerous situation when they are suddenly rescued by the intervention of Little Bo Peep herself, who comes flying out of nowhere, wielding her shepherd’s crook with skill – she expertly nabs Gabby Gabby and tosses her off a shelf. Seeing Bo Peep as a crime-fighting superhero is rather odd, and takes some getting used to, but there’s still something natural about her, that makes her likable, and fun. Clearly, something has happened to Bo Peep that we’re only now going to learn about – the mild-mannered shepherdess has become tougher and wiser, and she’s decided to take risks and go solo: she tells Woody that toys don’t have to spend their entire lives making kids happy: they can have lives of their own, on their own.

What’s really surprising is that we see Woody beginning to agree. The roles are now reversed: Forky asks him if they’re going back to find Bonnie, and Woody doesn’t even seem to hear him.

But the other toys aren’t going to just let their friend go this easily: Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and Jessie (Joan Cusack) make a plan to go find Woody, and they end up at the fair too. There’s a clip of Bonnie searching desperately for Forky, and crying – Pixar’s going to have us all in tears by the end of this, of course.

Meanwhile, Woody is having the time of his life: in fact, he and Bo Peep are going to clubs and going on dates – “Change can be good,” Bo Peep tells him, and it seems she’s right.

Obviously, Woody will be having an existential crisis, as is normal for him, but this one seems more serious than anything he’s faced before. Something tells me that, at the end of this, the toys might all go their separate ways. Some might stay with Bonnie. Some might stay at this fair, where Bo Peep seems to be living. Some might just go off into the world. But nothing’s ever going back to the way things were: the trailer helpfully inserts a flashback of Andy, the toys’ original owner, playing with Buzz Lightyear and Jessie, to illustrate this point.

Except, it’s not Andy.

Anybody with even a cursory knowledge of Toy Story knows that Andy’s room had wallpaper decorated with clouds: it’s iconic. The cloud wallpaper is closely tied to the whole franchise, and was even featured in the first teaser for this movie. But here, where, supposedly, we are getting a flashback to the good old days when Andy owned the toys, there’s no cloud wallpaper: there’s large yellow stars on the walls, and they stand out like…like, large yellow stars. The kid clearly has Andy’s hat – so my best guess is that Buzz Lightyear and Jessie end up with Andy’s kid, somewhere down the line. I don’t want that to be true, but that’s my prediction.

Anyway, the trailer than packs a last little punch: there’s a scene with Woody and Bo Peep standing under a car in the rain, which looks like it’ll be incredibly emotional. “Kids lose their toys every day,” Bo Peep reminds Woody.

In the end, it’s Forky who, surprisingly, looks to be the moral compass of this movie: he tells Woody that “everything’s gonna be OK”, and then we see one last shot of Woody smiling, before the title appears, and the screen fades to black.

Now, in some ways, I really like this trailer: Pixar knows how to leave us sobbing in the theater, so I have no doubt it’ll be an emotional sledgehammer. But will it be a fitting conclusion to the story? Will we be given a chance to say goodbye to each and every one of these wonderful toys? Will Andy ever show up again? Where will Woody, Buzz and Bo end up spending the rest of their lives? There’s too many questions, and too little time to wrap up all the loose ends.

But yeah, the movie could be good, bad, or just middle-of-the-road, but it’s the last one. Let that sink in before you decide to skip this film in theaters.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

 

EDIT: I have learned that the star wallpaper is in fact in Toy Story 2, and I feel quite humiliated that I did not realize that – I guess my supposed knowledge is less than comprehensive. So, yeah, that probably is a flashback: I will, however, point out that the animation there does nothing to convince me of that, since the kid looks nothing like Andy from the original Toy Story movies.

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Ezra Miller’s New “Flash” Script

It’s been common knowledge for months now that Warner Brothers is still working out what to do with the DCEU. They’ve experienced a pretty uneven string of hits, mild successes, and epic fails – from the peak of their creative genius, Wonder Woman, to the disastrous Justice League. But last year’s Aquaman proved to be a billion-dollar hurricane at the box-office, and paved the way for a new take on the DCEU – one that is light-hearted, cheesy, over-the-top, and…well, still completely discombobulated. The emphasis now was on making DC movies stand-alone adventures, without trying to tie them into some bigger universe. Gone was the grim-faced Henry Cavill; gone was the dour Ben Affleck; gone was Geoff Johns, the man behind Justice League: gone was the dark and serious tone of the prior DC movies.

And then, today, we learn that Ezra Miller is making one last effort to try and stop DC from going down this path.

Ezra Miller, the actor who has portrayed The Flash in Justice League and Batman vs Superman, is set to star in an origin movie titled The Flash, which should start production later this year. Just the other day, however, we got news that Miller is taking it upon himself to completely rewrite the script for the movie.

Yes, Miller has enlisted the help of author Grant Morrison, and is going against the wishes of Flash writers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who currently have a very light-hearted, funny script written for the film, in keeping with Warner Brothers’ new approach to making DC movies. Miller, on the other hand, is writing a much darker, more serious screenplay, and is actually showing incredible bravery in doing so: the official writers don’t seem to be backing this idea, and Miller’s future in the DCEU could be at stake. His script could be submitted as early as next week, which means we will soon learn if a new Flash is coming onboard, and Ezra Miller will be joining the lengthy list of cast and crew members kicked out from the DC franchise.

My feelings are quite conflicted: I do not like this new approach to DC movies, where they all have to be completely stand-alone and ridiculously comical. It works for one or two, like Aquaman, but characters like Wonder Woman would not, in my opinion, benefit from a more humorous approach, and the Flash, even though we’ve only seen him as a funny character, certainly has the capability to be more serious. Ezra Miller has done a great job as the dark and brooding Credence Barebone in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what’s inspired him to rewrite the script – to complement his own expanding talents as much as to help out the DCEU.

So what will happen? I have an uneasy feeling that Ezra Miller’s script probably won’t ever see the light of day, and the Flash will be recast. But maybe…just maybe…there’s a chance that Miller’s script is too good to pass up on, and the movie will end up being a more serious installment in the DCEU. Maybe Miller can initiate a new tonal style for DC movies, who knows? Despite what Warner Brothers likes to claim, none of their “serious” films were all that serious, except Wonder Woman, so this would be a great opportunity to expand the brand.

We should find out next week.

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James Gunn Reinstated by Disney

Last July, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was fired from Disney after old tweets of his surfaced, in which he had touched on multiple sensitive and offensive topics, making jokes of them. Gunn appeared to apologize, and the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy came out in support of him – most notably Dave Bautista, who plays the character Drax in the Marvel films. There was a social media debate that lasted for months, James Gunn retreated from Twitter, and there was even speculation that Dave Bautista would also be let go.

James Gunn then got picked up by Warner Brothers in October to direct the DC Suicide Squad sequel. Meanwhile, Disney appeared to be looking for someone new to helm the Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 film, but it seemed no one could be found. However, Disney CEO Bob Iger said he had supported the unanimous decision by Disney executives to fire Gunn, and, “I haven’t second-guessed their decision.”

Yeah, well, today, it became clear that he did.

Today, Disney brought James Gunn back to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3. There was fanfare about it too: Marvel directors such as Peyton Reed and Scott Derrickson welcomed him back, and Guardians of the Galaxy star Karen Gillan quoted the franchise’s mascot Groot with the line “we are groot”, as if to say the Guardians family is back together at last.

James Gunn himself has issued multiple apologies for his offensive statements, and it is worth noting that the tweets were brought to light for overtly political reasons: on the other hand, was this really the right move? As a marketing strategy, certainly, this doesn’t seem like a good idea: for Marvel fans, it has already proven divisive, with some saying the firing was misguided and provoked by politics, and others claiming that Gunn shouldn’t get a second chance after some of the remarks he made.

For myself, I believe that Disney should not have rehired Gunn: I just feel that this will increase rifts between the opposing sides of the fandom. A new director, such as Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), could have filled Gunn’s shoes easily. I also understand, though, that a lot of people believe the outrage that sparked the firing was itself contrived, and that the tweets were made long ago. But I don’t know if I, personally, can feel comfortable supporting this decision yet. If I can have solid proof that Gunn’s old tweets do not represent who he is as a person (proof other than his own apologies) then maybe…maybe I can get on board. But this is simply not the sort of controversy that should have to accompany the MCU going forward, nor was it unavoidable. Disney could have hired a new director: however, we know now that they never even considered the possibility. They always meant to bring him back on. Which means Bob Iger lied.

And that…that is what makes me so angry. Why fire him in the first place, if you knew he was blameless? Iger’s plan seems to have been to let the scandal die down for a few months before bringing him back into the MCU. This is something that, even if it is entirely innocent, simply doesn’t look good.

Will it prove to be a blunder for Disney? Will James Gunn be re-fired and re-hired again? Well, we don’t know yet. But I know that from this point on, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 will become a hot-topic in the Marvel fandom, and maybe not in a good way. But who knows? Maybe Gunn (who apologized again today) really is a better person: maybe he isn’t the man that he implicated himself to be with those tweets: maybe.

This debate, I feel, does not end here.

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Avengers: Endgame Trailer 3!

The end of the MCU as we know it is almost upon us, and we have our first full length trailer for the movie that will bring it all crashing down into ruin and despair. Blood will be shed, heroes will die, Natasha Romanoff’s hair will change color again. Very few of our questions about this movie have been answered by this tantalizing teaser, which is the way I like it: honestly, I think at this point we don’t even need another trailer for Avengers: Endgame – the less we know, the more we are excited to find out.

So here it is! The trailer is so atmospheric, so dark – the opening scenes are black and white flashbacks to previous MCU movies: Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Thor. Voice-over is provided by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). The first new shot in this trailer is at 0:38, and here we see Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) training a girl with a bow and arrow. Fans were quick to jump to the conclusion that this girl was none other than superheroine Kate Bishop, an archer from the comics who ends up taking the name Hawkeye herself. However, it seems more likely she is Hawkeye’s daughter, Lila Barton. Whoever she is, though, I have no doubt that she and the rest of Hawkeye’s family (who can be seen in the background) will be dusted in this scene, and this is where we’ll see the lovable archer’s transformation into the grim, sword-wielding, mohawk-wearing assassin that he is in the very next shot, at 0:43, where we see him meeting Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Here, he is Ronin, one of his darker aliases from the comics. Something to note about this scene is that he and Black Widow hold hands – could we see them get back together? Clearly, there are still some romantic feelings between the two. (And I’m here for it – those two were made for each other, and no one can tell me otherwise).

At 1:12, after a heartbreaking montage of characters from Avengers: Infinity War being turned to dust, we see Black Widow’s new look – her hair has grown out quite a bit, and looks quite good, part red, part blond. The fact that it’s grown so long, though, is reason for us to believe that some time has passed between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Some have speculated there could be a five-year gap between the two movies.

Blink and you’ll miss Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) at 1:14. This poor guy, who was sidelined in Avengers: Infinity War, definitely needs more screentime to make up for that – but so far, we’ve seen very little of him, and no hint of whether he can transform into the Hulk yet.

Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) shows up for the first time in the trailer at 1:18, staring in bewilderment at posters that read MISSING. Last we saw Ant-Man, in Ant-Man And The Wasp, he was trapped inside the Quantum Realm: I believe this is just after he’s escaped, and he’s come back to find half of the world’s population missing – possibly including his own daughter, Cassie Lang: though others speculate that Cassie will be in Endgame, played by Emma Fuhrmann, and will be a superhero in her own right.

At 1:21, we see the Avengers’ Quinjet flying over New York City: interestingly, in the previous teaser we saw NYC looking very dark and lifeless, but here there are city lights shining.

Black Widow and Hawkeye still look pretty close in the next shot: seriously, can these two just GET BACK TOGETHER ALREADY?

Unfortunately, Hawkeye seems to be in danger: we see him running down a tunnel filled with fluorescent red light, running through water – and then suddenly the tunnel is filled with an explosion of fire. I don’t know how he’s going to make it out of that situation, or why he’s even in that situation to begin with, but I’m terrified for him.

1:29 shows us two old friends: Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and War Machine (Don Cheadle). They seem to be gearing up for war. Rocket’s interactions with the other Avengers is something I’m looking forward to – I can only imagine how serious characters like Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Black Widow will deal with him.

Speaking of Steve, he looks pretty surprised to see Hawkeye in the next shot: granted, I would be too, if I saw someone with that haircut. I’m not sure exactly why losing his family would inspire Hawkeye to cut his hair into the ridiculous style, but, I mean, you do you, Clint.

In quick succession, we see Ant-Man at Avengers HQ (looking less than cheery), Thor powering up Stormbreaker, and Nebula (Karen Gillan) charging into a fight with a battle-cry: could she be taking vengeance on her father, Thanos, for what he did to Gamora (Zoe Saldana) in Avengers: Infinity War? I can’t imagine how she’ll take him on, since he’s armed with the Infinity Gauntlet, and she’s got…batons. But she is pretty formidable – though I’m not sure if she could top her incredible entrance in the third act of Infinity War, where she literally drove a spaceship straight into Thanos (which, by the way, didn’t even slow him down: Nebula, you gonna die).

Hawkeye’s back in the tunnel at 1:39, now wielding his bow again – somehow, I can’t imagine he’s facing off against Thanos in this scene (the tunnel doesn’t seem large enough to fit the gigantic purple Titan, first of all), but if not, then who is he up against? There have been rumors circulating for months that Thanos won’t be the main villain in Avengers: Endgame, or that he might even team up with the Avengers against another threat. Could Hawkeye be coming face to face with some greater villain? (And if so, will he make it out alive? Armed with a bow? Yeah, no.)

There’s a scene from the previous teaser of Black Widow target-shooting: though again, when does this scene take place? Here, she has long, fully blond hair.

At 1: 44, we have Steve Rogers, fully geared-up in the Captain America suit, looking very angry about something. Please, let it not be that Tony Stark has just died. I can’t take that kind of pain. I know that somebody has to die, but just…let it be, like, I don’t know, Drax. Oh wait, he’s already dead. Well, just, don’t take Tony Stark or Steve Rogers, please!

This shot of Steve is followed by a clip of a very tiny Ant-Man leaping through a bizarre landscape that seems to be composed of…a pencil, water, and a power-cord? I have no idea where he is, but if I had to bet, I’d guess either of two things: one, most likely to me, is that this is at the beginning of the film, and we’re seeing Ant-Man escaping from the Quantum Realm. Two, less likely I think, but more terrifying, is that this some weird fight sequence where Thanos is wielding the Reality Stone – which, if you remember from Infinity War, had the power to transform bullets into bubbles, among other things. Either way, things don’t look good for Ant-Man.

Finally, the money-shot of the Avengers walking (destination: unknown) in their new Quantum-Realm suits. The suits are fantastic, and look great. Steve is leading them, and behind him are Tony Stark, Black Widow, Nebula, Ant-Man, War Machine, and Hawkeye – I think Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is behind Black Widow too, though it’s kind of hard to tell. They look absolutely great, and this seems to confirm the theory that the Avengers would be going into the Quantum Realm – or back in time – to try and reverse the Snap that wiped out half the population of the universe. Some think they’ll be going back even further than that, to the Battle of New York from the first Avengers, for instance, and this would seem to be backed up by the fact that Steve Rogers is wearing his old Captain America suit in the shot at 1:44.

The title – Avengers: Endgame lights up in brilliant purple, and the screen goes black. Is the trailer over? No, wait, I don’t think so…

Thor is walking towards a woman who has her back turned. She turns to face us – CAROL DANVERS! Yes, Carol Danvers, a.k.a Captain Marvel, (Brie Larson) is here, in Avengers HQ, and, boy, does she look fantastic or what? She stares back at Thor steadily as he extends his hand past her shoulder, testing her reflexes: his axe, Stormbreaker, flies into his hand.

Carol just barely flinches, and glances down at Stormbreaker with some curiosity.

Thor grins. “I like this one”, he says, and the screen goes black.

Just from that one scene, I already know Thor and Carol’s dynamic will be one of the best parts of this movie: Carol’s new wardrobe, also, looks to be pretty snazzy – she looks quite glamorous. I wonder if they’ll be friends, or perhaps…more than friends?

Okay, so April 26th needs to just arrive now, so that I can see this movie. I’ve got a lot of questions, like, why isn’t Thanos shown or even mentioned in the trailer – he also was absent from the second teaser, and only his armor was seen in the first teaser. What is the plan that the Avengers have for bringing back half the population? Will they time travel – where to, or when to? How do Tony and Nebula go from “lost in space” to “wearing fancy new outfits, walking alongside the other Avengers on earth”? What is going on?

And do Hawkeye and Black Widow end up together?

Trailer Rating: 10/10

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Aladdin First Full-Length Trailer!

As someone who (a) was never a die-hard fan of the original animated Aladdin, (b) isn’t too fond of the Disney Remake trend, and (c) wasn’t impressed by either of the two teasers put out for this Disney Remake of a film I don’t really care one way or the other about – I went into this first full-length trailer more than slightly concerned that this would just be…flat. Meh. Forgettable.

But now, I see how wrong I was.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, this could just be a trick of the trailer-editing: after all, the teaser was greeted with so much backlash that Disney basically had to put together a trailer that was beautiful, nostalgic and action-packed, so I shouldn’t be surprised that this looks so good. Maybe they just stitched together all of the best parts from the movie, and the rest of the film is less than perfect.

But look here: the trailer opens with a cool action sequence of Aladdin (Mena Massoud) dodging some soldiers in the marketplace of Agrabah. After escaping from them, he runs straight into our beloved Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). The tingle of romance in the air is palpable: Massoud does a great job in this scene, and looks completely infatuated. Jasmine herself is in street-garb, maybe hiding her royal identity: it’s been said that in this remake, Jasmine takes more of an interest in the people of her city, and is trying to explore Agrabah to help the impoverished citizens.

The trailer then takes a turn, and gets dark: Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) strides confidently through his underground lair at 0:24, while Iago flies past (more on him in a minute). Jafar looks good enough from the back, though I’m still not sold on his voice. He leads Aladdin through the desert, promising him wealth: wealth enough “to impress a princess”. At 0:35 Jasmine appears again, but now she is in full royal garb: she’s got her tiger, and her guards, and she looks majestic. The palace itself looks absolutely stunning: we haven’t gotten quite enough wide shots of the entire palace, but what we see in this teaser is enough to make me feel very awed and humbled.

Anyway, the next shock is that Aladdin actually speaks! This is the first time that our lead character has said a single word in the promotional material for this film – such an achievement. Well, now that he actually does speak, his voice sounds fine: he’s not got an impressive voice, by any means. Better than Jafar’s, though.

The Cave of Wonders! At 0:43, we enter the Cave – it looks fine. Very blue-toned, still. Not, maybe, as wondrous as I would have liked, but good enough. But whatever: we’ve seen this same scene in all the teasers now, and – but wait! The Lamp! It’s so beautiful, and it’s filled with swirling blue light under what seems to be a transparent lid: a nice touch. I’m now holding my breath, waiting to see what I think of The Genie (Will Smith), The Genie that will emerge from this beautiful lamp and possibly make or break this movie, The Genie that looked so awful in the second teaser. The purple and blue smoke begins to rush from the lamp…

He looks fine.

The Genie looks fine. Still looks like a blue Will Smith, but the CGI has been much more exquisitely handled, and at least now it doesn’t seem like Will Smith’s head has been superimposed on someone else’s body. I mean, am I blown away by The Genie now? No, not exactly – that is to say, not in his Genie form – but he at least looks good enough now that he’s downright bizarre or even disturbing. There’s a snipper of “A Friend Like Me”, which seems good: Carpet has maracas, and that’s what really stood out the most to me about this scene. It really looks fun, and kind of awesome.

Our time in the Cave of Wonders is brief, as we are suddenly back in the desert, with Aladdin and The Genie side-by-side looking out over a barren landscape at 1:09. The Genie is only seen from a distance here, but the CGI looks not-so-good in that one shot.

But now, the trailer really starts making me interested – no, not just interested, but invested. The Genie transforms into, well, Will Smith, but not blue anymore, and it’s a relief. There’s some great humorous banter here. It’s great to see how Aladdin is prepared to just shamelessly take advantage of the fact that he now has three wishes at his disposal: he asks immediately “Can you make me a prince?”

The Genie, though, has a great response: “There’s a lot of gray area in: make me a prince” he states, and demonstrates by literally making a prince for Aladdin. I hope he has more scenes like that in the movie – it’s an almost Alice In Wonderland type joke, and I just love it.

Things start moving really quickly: The Genie changes Aladdin into Prince Ali; there’s a celebration in Agrabah – and another great shot of the palace; and there’s a party where The Genie is playing matchmaker for Aladdin and Jasmine. The next scene after that has Aladdin and Jasmine speaking to each other, probably after the party – Aladdin says he “thought a princess could go anywhere”. “Not this princess” Jasmine replies.

And then, we get our first look at “A Whole New World” – and it looks great. Pure magic, even for someone who really doesn’t consider the original Aladdin to be a great film. This looks really awesome. As our two lovebirds sing their hearts out, however, there’s other stuff going on onscreen that shouldn’t be ignored: Jasmine and Aladdin dancing, Aladdin falling towards the water, Aladdin in the Cave of Wonders again, Aladdin creeping along the rooftops of Agrabah, Aladdin in an icy landscape (wow, this trailer is going overboard to show us Aladdin after barely showing him at all in the first two teasers), and then Jafar with his cobra-staff, looking more impressive and villainous. At 2:02 we see Jasmine singing – this probably comes from the solo musical number they’ve given her for the remake. And then at 2:03 we have…

Wait, hold up…

Aladdin being chased by a giant Iago?

I honestly have no idea what this scene could be, or why Iago is gigantic, but it looks COOL, so I’m going to just accept it.

And then it ends, with one last beautiful glimpse of the Cave of Wonders. It looks very fun, very enjoyable, and everything looks so much better. I can’t wait to see more, and I can’t wait for May, to go see this film! Here’s hoping this is actually indicative of the finished product, and not just the work of some very savvy editors!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

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Marvel’s “The Eternals” casting FIRST GAY SUPERHERO?

Some big news broke recently concerning Marvel’s The Eternals, a movie set to begin filming in August, which should be released next year. We had been getting some small teases as to what this film might be about, and which characters might be in it – for instance, we had received news that Margo Damian might be in the film, though this is unconfirmed and the female lead is still going under the alias “Karen”, while her character description is vague and says Marvel is looking for an actress in her early 30s, of any ethnicity (but especially African, Native American or Middle Eastern). Meanwhile, other character descriptions had also been revealed, which seemed to suggest that classic Eternals characters like Ikaris, Makkari, Sersi, Starfox, Thena, Zuras, Druig and Gilgamesh were being considered for roles in the movie: there were also surprising additions to the line-up like Elysius and “Piper”, who seems to be a take on the Eternals character Sprite. But one of the most interesting by far was the male lead, which didn’t even get so much as an alias, and was described merely as a Greek God. Now, thanks to a new report, we may have a clue as to who that character might be – and it bodes well for the future of LGBTQ superheroes onscreen.

Because, yes, the news that broke March 1st – and appeared to be given additional credence first by Marvel production chief Victoria Alonso, and then by Marvel mastermind Kevin Feige himself – was that Marvel is seeking to cast an openly gay male actor to play the male lead: who is set to become their first openly gay superhero. Combine that with the fact that this male lead is described as a Greek God, and what do you get?

Hercules, that’s what.

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The character, a Greek God who is somewhat similar to Thor (well, Thor post Thor: Ragnarok that is), has been bisexual in the comics – but it didn’t end very well, and attracted some backlash after the character was suddenly made straight again. Bringing Herc back, and making him definitively gay or bisexual in the MCU would be a great way to settle that issue. The character description, it seems, has been updated so that now Marvel is looking for an openly gay male actor age 30-49, who “physically looks like a superhero”. That last note is interesting: other actors have been able to bulk up for roles in Marvel movies, but Hercules is massively muscled, and would probably require an actor who is already at least similar in size.

So, considering all that we know so far, I’d say that Hercules is, if not a sure bet, than at least a definite possibility. It could be that Marvel is choosing to make Ikaris or another male character gay instead, and that Hercules won’t show up at all, but fans have definitely been looking forward to seeing him in the MCU, and having him be the first gay male superhero in their impressive roster would be pretty cool. But either way, this news is most interesting because it means Marvel will finally be delivering its first gay lead – scratch that, its first gay character, period. Another Marvel character, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) has been confirmed to be bisexual, but this was never even hinted at in the films, and in fact a scene with some lesbian overtones was cut from Black Panther. This is a step in the right direction for the MCU, and I can’t wait to see where we’ll end up.

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Captain Marvel Review (SPOILERS!)

It’s time to talk about everything that happens in Captain Marvel, so if you’ve not seen the film yet – don’t go any further!

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Still here? Good. Let’s dive right in.

So there are several surprises in the movie, obviously: Carol’s backstory was completely unknown to us, so piecing it together is not only an incredible journey but also uncovers a lot of interesting stuff; the truth of the Kree-Skrull War; the history of the Tesseract; a surprise villain; and a very shocking end-credits scene. Not to mention some hints as to what might come next. Let’s break it all down.

For anyone who was confused during the movie, here’s what happened, in chronological order:

Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) was a USAF pilot in 1989 when she and her friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) found work testing new aircraft designed by a member of Project PEGASUS: Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening). Lawson had created a lightspeed engine core for her aircraft which harnessed the power of the Tesseract, the Space Stone – it seems she worked for S.H.I.E.L.D and thus was able to get her hands on the powerful artifact, which allowed her aircraft to fly at seemingly impossible speeds, and even into space. What no one knew, however, was that Dr. Wendy Lawson was a rogue Kree agent, who had discovered that her people were fighting an unjust war against the Skrull shapeshifters: the lightspeed aircraft were designed to be powerful enough to end the war. The Kree found her, however, and intercepted Danvers when she and Lawson were flying one of the test-crafts. Forced to make a crash landing, Danvers and Lawson were injured, but Lawson attempted to destroy the lightspeed core before it could be taken by the Kree. Before she was able, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) the Kree pilot who had downed their plane, shot and killed Lawson. Carol Danvers, however, was able to destroy the core – but not fully. She absorbed the power of the Space Stone when she blew it up, and was then knocked unconscious. Yon-Rogg, seeing this, took her back to the Kree planet of Hala to try and harness the power she now possessed. By the time we see her in Captain Marvel, Carol has no memories of her past life, and has been completely brainwashed by the Kree.

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The obvious shocker here is that Carol Danvers received her powers from the Space Stone, which could mean that, like Vision and the Mind Stone, she is inextricably linked to that Stone’s power. How will her own powers be affected by the fact that the Space Stone now resides in Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet? There are differences between this and the situation with Vision: Vision was created by the Mind Stone, given life by it, and when it was taken from him, he died. Carol, however, only got her powers from the Space Stone, and seems to retain them without needing the Space Stone at all. However, this does not rule out the possibility of a link between Carol and the Space Stone in Avengers: Endgame. She should be capable of wielding the Stone, for instance, and that would be quite an interesting possibility.

On a side-note, it’s cool to learn just a little bit more about the Tesseract, between its appearances in Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers. Before Captain Marvel, we all thought it had just been in S.H.I.E.L.D hands up until the time Loki stole it. Little did we know it had started an intergalactic war, created the most powerful entity in the MCU, and been carried around in an orbiting laboratory, a lunchbox, and the insides of a Flerken, in between those two movies.

Speaking of the Flerken, that was one surprise I saw coming: it had been all but spoiled for me months ago, when toys were revealed that showed a muzzled Goose the Cat. Considering that there is only one species of alien in the MCU that takes the form of cats and has tentacles that explode from its mouth, it was pretty easy to guess that cat was a Flerken, especially when early reactions said that Goose stole the show.

The next surprise has to do with the Skrulls: throughout the first half of the film, we think we should be siding with the Kree, even if they are a bit warlike, and their leader, the Supreme Intelligence, is downright creepy. At any rate, it’s quite easy to see that the Skrulls are the bad guys: they’re green aliens who can shape-shift, and they take Carol captive in an ambush. They strap her into a device that makes all of her memories visible to the Skrull leader, Talos the Tamer (Ben Mendelsohn). Like, seriously, with a name like Talos the Tamer, how can you not be a villain?

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But they’re not. Turns out, the Skrulls are the victims of brutal oppression at the hands of the Kree, and they have been scattered far and wide across the universe. Talos himself is looking through Carol’s memories because he’s trying to find Dr. Wendy Lawson’s laboratory, where she was keeping Skrull refugees safe from the Kree. Not only that, but the Skrulls are also incredibly funny, and Talos himself is just hilarious. The Skrulls become instantly likable, especially after we see Talos reunite with his wife and daughter, who have been waiting for him for years.

At the end of the movie, when Carol has defeated the Kree, she promises to help the Skrulls find a new home: we see them vanish into the darkness of outer space, but their destination after that is still unknown.  Where will the Skrulls go? Will the Kree find them? And what about Secret Invasion, the comic-book storyline that everyone and their mother thought was going to be started in this movie: the story where Skrulls infiltrate the Avengers for evil purposes? Well, there are definitely still opportunities for that to happen, even with the Skrulls on the good side for now. It’s possible that other Skrulls could challenge Talos’ peaceful goals, and want to continue their war. It’s also possible, as Grace Randolph of Beyond The Trailer speculated, that Talos’ daughter, who was featured prominently in the film, could turn down a dark path and initiate the Secret Invasion.

Now let’s talk about some other things that I found noteworthy in the film: at the end, when Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) has been foiled in his attempt to blow up most of the western side of the United States, Captain Marvel hovers above the earth, daring him to try again. This immediately brought to mind the Alpha Flight storyline, in which Captain Marvel and a team of other superheroes act as Earth’s first line of defense against extraterrestrial threats. Whether this will be expanded upon in a Captain Marvel sequel remains to be seen, but I would be here for it.

There’s also two things relating to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in this movie that are worth talking about: well, three, really, if you count the fact that we learn here that Fury cannot bring himself to eat toast that is cut diagonally. But we see how he lost his left eye, and how he came up with the name “The Avengers Initiative”. The answer to the first question is simple – perhaps too simple: his left eye was scratched out by that angry Flerken cat Goose. The answer to the second question – well, to call it a question is misleading, since I’m not sure anyone was really asking for an answer, but we got one anyway and I like it – is that Fury was inspired by the name of Carol Danvers’ plane, “Avenger”. It was a very cool scene, right at the end, when the Avengers theme started playing. A great way to finish a great movie.

However…it wasn’t technically the end. There’s a mid-credits scene and a post-credits scene, which we’ll talk about now: the mid-credits scene is actually from Avengers: Endgame. So firstly, you remember that in the post-credits scene for Avengers: Infinity War, we saw Nick Fury desperately trying to page Captain Marvel, before he was dusted. Turns out that pager was found by the remaining Avengers and brought back to the base, where we see it still beeping. Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) are all gathered together when the pager suddenly stops sending out its signal: but as Black Widow tells them to charge it up again, she turns around to find…CAPTAIN MARVEL! Yes, Carol Danvers, standing right behind her, looking very serious and no-nonsense. It’s a scarily good scene, and really sets us up well for Avengers: Endgame, where we know we’ll see Captain Marvel and the Avengers face off against Thanos.

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Oh yeah, and the post-credits scene? Typical Marvel prank: it’s simply Goose throwing up the Tesseract, which he had been carrying around in his stomach during the final act of Captain Marvel. We know from that scene that Nick Fury will thus be able to recover the Tesseract and put it into the secret base where Loki, years later in The Avengers, would steal it, setting off a chain reaction of events. It’s amazing how much the Space Stone has caused in the MCU, and I am curious to see if there’s a reason for that. Could the Space Stone – and, by extension, Captain Marvel – be the key to defeating Thanos? Only time will tell.

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Captain Marvel Review (No Spoilers!)

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After all the negativity, the backlash and controversy surrounding this film – and lead actress Brie Larson – it is something of a triumph to see how marvelous this film actually is. Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have created something very, very special. Not only does it equal the cinematic masterpiece that is Wonder Woman, but in some places it even manages to surpass it. It is a better origin film than any other in the MCU thus far, including Black Panther. Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers is one of the most likable protagonists to come from Marvel – it’s not just her wit and sass that make her so much fun to watch: it’s seeing how she was before the event that changed her life, and seeing her try to rebuild the relationships she had with friends and loved ones on Earth. There is something bittersweet about the movie, something very sad about every scene where Carol reminisces on her past life, or has a sudden memory of something she cannot fully understand. Seeing her struggling with this trauma is moving, and is one of the finest aspects of the film.

Of course, it is made so only by the fact that Brie Larson is an incredible actress, and even when she is an amnesiac on the planet Hala she still manages to take very difficult material and run with it – fly with it, in fact. When the film opens, she is a soldier living on Hala, the homeworld of an alien race of “noble warrior heroes” – the Kree. But she has memories of something else, a different world, a different life: it’s a classic storyline, but there are so many interesting and unique elements, so many unexpected twists, that it feels fresh and exciting: and poignant – and also, it has Brie Larson, and she carries the whole story with ease. She has moments of intense drama and laugh-out-loud humor, and she blends the two in a way that no other Marvel hero has done with such skill. She is, without a doubt, the definitive reason to go see this film: I, for instance, went into the movie as a Thor fanboy – but when I left, Carol Danvers was my favorite Marvel superhero, and one of the best heroines ever brought to the big screen.

The aforementioned storyline of Carol Danvers, however, is the second reason to see the film – if you like a story that is twisty, complex, and as deeply layered as Captain America: Winter Soldier, or Captain America: Civil War. Admittedly, when the film begins it is hard to follow. There are dream sequences and vague hints, and things that happen very fast and very chaotically – but even Carol doesn’t know what’s going on, which is both a help and a hindrance: on the one hand, it gives us the opportunity to relate to Carol as we see things through her eyes and learn with her, but on the other hand…her confusion rubs off a bit on the audience, leaving us a bit perplexed in the first fifteen to twenty minutes. But then, just as we are wondering what is going on, clues start falling in place, things happen that set off a chain reaction of other things happening, and we suddenly realize that things are not as they seem. The major problem, I think, with the flashbacks that are used frequently in the movie is that, while some of them are relevant, there are others that are not – though they appear to be – and they are interspersed with the relevant flashbacks in a way that can be confusing. Thankfully, this problem goes away early on in the film, and after that it’s smooth flying – well, aside from one spot of space turbulence.

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The space aspect, actually, is one of the most interesting things in the film: we are brought to a total of three different worlds in the film – the Kree homeworld of Hala, the Kree border-world of Torfa, and Earth. Hala is the most interesting of the three worlds – since Torfa is mostly irrelevant. Hala is a fantastic place, brilliantly lit, and is inhabited by a race of blue alien warriors – or rather, mostly blue warriors: Jude Law’s character is, for some reason, not blue. This race, the Kree, are for the most part background characters: Jude Law portrays the Commander of Starforce, a team that consists of “Vers” (Brie Larson), Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan), Korath (Djimon Hounsou), Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), and Bron-Char (Rune Temte). Aside from Law and Larson, the rest get very little screentime – though not as little as Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser, a character that will no doubt be familiar to fans of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Besides Ronan, there are many other tie-ins to various Marvel movies – and the most notable is the appearance of Nick Fury, once again portrayed by the great Samuel L. Jackson (though here, Fury is much younger and more naive, and has both of his eyes: his apparent youth is achieved by incredible de-aging techniques that are so seamless you will actually believe you’ve been transported back in time to 1995, which is when this movie takes place). S.H.I.E.L.D agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) also shows up – also de-aged – though very briefly. There are some terrific nods to the first Avengers, one of which will make fans gasp in surprise, and one of which will fill in some blanks. The mid-credits scene is also…shocking.

Speaking of shocks, there are twists in this movie, twists that you will never see coming. And obviously, because this review is Spoiler-Free, we will leave it at that.

However, I can say this: the film takes place during the war between the Kree and their mortal enemies, the shape-shifting Skrulls – and Ben Mendelsohn portrays the leader of the Skrulls, Talos. I went in expecting a two-dimensional villain: I was very surprised at how much depth this villain had, though, so much so that by the end of the film he was one of my favorite characters. I can’t say any more, but there’s a lot to say about Talos.

No review of this film would be complete without mentioning three stand-out performances: Lashana Lynch, who plays USAF pilot Maria Rambeau, Annette Bening, who plays…well, somebody whose name should not be revealed in the Spoiler-Free review, and Goose the Cat. Lynch is incredible, and the first scene that she appears is one that left me in tears: the sheer force and range of her acting was extraordinary, and entirely unexpected. As for Bening – well, she is surprising. That’s all I’ll say about her. She has one very interesting action sequence, though, that had me at the edge of my seat. And Goose? He’s adorable, and is a great mascot for the film, just like Groot is for Guardians of the Galaxy.

What about the action – and especially, the third act battle? Third act battles have become synonymous with “meh” in comic book movies, with even great ones like Black Panther and Wonder Woman failing to stick the landing. So how does this one hold up?

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Very well, almost perfectly. There are only two fights in the film that are somewhat flat – a fight on Torfa, which actually does get more interesting after a minute, and the fight sequence on the subway train that we’ve seen in basically every trailer for the movie: more interesting to me was the car chase that was happening at the same time as the train fight – and there was one particularly shocking moment in the sequence that does elevate the stakes a lot. As for the third act battle: perfect. The crown jewel of the film, in fact. Again, it’s too spoilery to say much about, but it has a lot of layers, and all of them are very well-done: and there is one very special moment that seems to tease something that I really hope we get in a future Captain Marvel movie.

So to sum it all up: don’t miss out on Captain Marvel. You need to see her to believe her, really – her powers are incredible, and she could very well become your new favorite Marvel superhero. The movie has a great cast, great acting, a great storyline, and sets up neatly for Phase 4 of the MCU. Also, there is a very touching tribute to the late Stan Lee, that will have you in tears before the movie even begins. This movie is a great tribute to the power of women, and to the power of all individuals to choose for themselves who they want to be.

Movie Rating: 9.5/10

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Tolkien Trailer 2!

This movie is either going to be very dear to my heart, and will remain that way forever, or it will be something that I will regret seeing for the rest of my life. I know so much about J.R.R. Tolkien, the legendary author of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and posthumous author of The Silmarillion, that any attempt to translate his life to the big screen is bound to be met with some trepidation from me. There are just so many things that they could get wrong – plus, the first teaser for this movie did nothing to ease my fears, and in fact only made them worse.

So, it was with a heavy heart that I clicked on this trailer, after hearing of its release on The One Ring.net – I was terrified that I would be treated to more of those strangely animated fantasy-sequences from the first teaser, and more not-so-subtle hints at things in The Lord of the Rings.

I was more than pleasantly surprised.

The trailer immediately gets off to a good start, with Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) speaking to the love of his life, Edith Bratt (Lily Collins). He makes a casual statement about how he has always been fascinated by languages, and how he has created his own, and crafted stories around them. Edith is startled, and asks him to tell her a story.

This scene is perfect, and had me wondering if I could possibly be in for a surprise: the real J.R.R. Tolkien was indeed fascinated by languages, and became the world’s leading philologist in his time (philology, the study of languages, is an art that sadly died out with him). It is also true that Tolkien created the languages of Middle-earth before he had ever even conceived of the notion of hobbits, wizards, or the One Ring. Seeing that realized onscreen – and apparently made the focus of the film – is a true relief. Tolkien’s mastery of languages was noticeably absent from the first teaser, and was one of the many things I thought would be lost in translation here.

At 0:34, we get a shot from the first teaser: that odd dream-sequence animation with the rearing horse – that seems to be referencing the design of a Black Rider. Seeing this of course made me think that my hopes were dashed. However, that shot soon gives way to more familiar things: Tolkien as a young boy, play-fighting with friends – a scene that is dramatically followed by one of Tolkien, now a young man, on the all-too-real battlefields of the First World War. It is a striking contrast. We see him lighting a match in the trenches, which fades into another shot of him, as a boy, lighting a candle inside a very ornate lamp that casts beautiful images of eagles and horses on the walls of his room.

Then, at 0:54, we see the T.C.B.S (or, for those unversed in Tolkien lore, the Tea Club & Barrovian Society: that is, Tolkien and his three good friends, Rob Gilson, Geoffrey Bache Smith, and Christopher Wiseman). These young men were all deeply interested in classical arts like poetry and music – we see them at one of their councils, discussing these very matters.

After that, we see Edith and J.R.R. in a wooded area – not, I think, the hemlock grove of legend, as they both seem pretty young in this scene. There are various romantic scenes (Edith and Tolkien with their hands intertwined, or kissing, etc). These then fade to black, and are replaced by a scene heralding the outbreak of the First World War.

This scene is chilling, though its significance is somewhat diminished since we have just seen the War a little earlier in the trailer. But be that as it may, seeing Tolkien in his military uniform, or him and his friends posing for a photograph before they are sent off to the front – it is certainly heartbreaking. No spoilers, but the tragedies that are about to befall this young man are so bitter and painful that I imagine I’ll be crying in the theater.

What follows is the most beautiful scene in the trailer: Edith Bratt dancing for Tolkien in the hemlock grove at Roos in Yorkshire. Here, Tolkien found in Edith the inspiration for the story that is at the heart of all his works: that of Beren and Lúthien. Their love story is one of tragedy and great loss, but also a bittersweet joy that pierces the heart: it is, as Tolkien says in the trailer, a “magic beyond anything anyone’s ever felt before”. The story of Beren and Lúthien mirrors that of Tolkien and Edith, so much so that those names are inscribed on the couple’s shared gravestone.

At 1:44, we see a literal fire-breathing dragon – I don’t even know what to say about that, but I’ll acknowledge that it looks better than the fantasy horses and riders from the first teaser.

Additional touching moments include seeing Tolkien playing rugby, and Edith coming to visit him in the hospital where he was sick with trench fever. The trailer concludes with a haunting image of a man (possibly Tolkien himself, or something in a fantasy sequence) walking onto a fiery field of war.

And as the screen fades to black and promises me that Tolkien will be “Coming Soon”, I am left wondering: how is it that I actually liked this? I got goosebumps at all the right moments, I was entranced by the visuals, the actors seem perfect in their roles (even Nicholas Hoult), and the overall tone is spot-on. I think I may end up liking this movie after all, and I am quite happy about that.

Coming soon…

It can’t come soon enough.

Trailer Rating: 10/10

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Shazam Trailer 2!

Finally, is my first reaction when seeing this pop up in my YouTube recommendations. We’ve been waiting for this trailer to drop for what feels like an eternity.

I was, honestly, ever so slightly disappointed: much of the footage in the trailer is stuff we’ve already seen before. There’s not a lot new to talk about – more fun little things, like Shazam trying to leap high buildings in a single bound, only to drastically fail by smashing into the side of a skyscraper. That cracked me up. But other than that, and a scene with Shazam holding up a falling bus, there’s just not that much. Thankfully, though, the trailer doesn’t lower my expectations in any way: I’m still pretty sure that this movie will be a very fun experience, and it’ll probably be a good Christmas movie – frankly, I’m confused as to why they decided to release this obvious holiday movie in early April, which just seems…odd. This trailer does, in fact, seem to be downplaying the strong Christmas element from the first one, though, so perhaps it’ll end up working in its spring release date anyway.

This trailer also gives us one particularly great shot, at 0:25, of Billy Batson transforming into Shazam as he leaps from a building – it’s a great shot, even if we saw it before in a teaser.

I am definitely eager to see this movie: unfortunately, it’s been dragged into the ongoing social media outrage about Captain Marvel, which led to Shazam actor Zachary Levi making a statement on Twitter, where he asked fans not to pit the two films against each other simply because Shazam happened to be called Captain Marvel years ago in the DC Comics. If I wasn’t excited to see Shazam before, I definitely was after that, because Levi proved himself to be a truly good human being with that statement.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

Looking for a terrific self-storage facility?

Check out the Self Storage Barn of Morris which is where I have been keeping my BobbleHead collection of late!