Underrated Performances from the OG Avengers

Ahead of Avengers: Endgame, I thought I'd look back at the past performance of our original Avengers line up. I almost went with my favorite non-Marvel performances, but then I decided I'd rather talk about some of their films that are more on the underrated side. 

Robert Downey Jr -  I've got go with his very understated performance in Fur. You don't see his face for most of the movie so it's his voice and his eyes that are conveying everything, and I think it's a wonderful performance of his. I really liked this movie although I know plenty did not. 

Chris Evans - I feel like early Chris Evans didn't take a lot of roles that let him flex his acting skills, but that changed with Puncture. This was the first film of his I saw that I felt like he stepped out of his comfort zone. It was very meaty. 

Chris Hemsworth - I have to cheat a bit here. Hemsworth does a lot of bigger budget action movies and that's essentially all I've seen from him. That said, I think his best performance is in Rush. People tend to talk about Daniel Bruhl the most in reference to that movie, but Hemsworth was good too.

Scarlett Johansson - Johansson's always had a very mature career. She never had to play a high schooler well into her 20's, she always seemed to grab interesting roles even when she was young. One that I don't think gets talked about enough is more recent, and it's her turn as a romance movie loving woman in Don Jon. I don't think she gets enough credit for how funny she was in this and her accent was absolutely perfect. 

Mark Ruffalo - Funny thing about Ruffalo, he was not an actor I liked at all until around 2010. He did the McConaughey thing for me. There just came a point where I started enjoying him and his movies more. One movie he never seems to get enough attention for is Infinitely Polar Bear. Sure, he got a Globe nomination but he should've gotten more. That was such a lovely film.

Jeremy Renner - I haven't seen a lot of Renner's movies to be honest, at least not a lot of his smaller ones. He played that pervert in The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, which I saw, but a lot of his early work has escaped me. Because of that, I'm going to go with Wind River. Sure, this is recent and popular with Film Twitter but it doesn't appear to be popular anywhere else and it should've been for how important it was. 

Thursday Movie Picks: Interviews

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is about interviews. I struggled thinking of films where interviews were central to the movie, aside from one of my picks, but the two other films have very memorable interviews in them.

1) Frost/Nixon

It took me forever to watch this from start to finish and when I did I couldn't believe I sat on this for so long. It was so well done. Obviously the interview between David Frost and Richard Nixon was the main selling point of this movie.

2) Step Brothers

This is one of my all time favorite comedies and Brendan and Dale being forced to go out for job interviews was a great scene. "Are you saying Pan?" 

3) Atonement

Briony's interview at the end of this film is what reduced me to a sobbing mess. The truth hurts. 

Ranking The MCU Films

As we come upon Avengers: Endgame, the start of a next phase, what a wonderful legacy to look back on. Also, I haven't been to see a lot of new movies so might as well post what everyone else is doing too. Here's my ranking of the MCU films. I think it's slightly different than a lot of the other lists I've read, at least when it comes to the lower ranked films. 

The Best

1) Captain America: Civil War

This remains my favorite Marvel film. I absolutely love the arcs Steve and Tony get and it was a great introduction to Black Panther and the newest version of Spider-man. It also give us the first taste of a bigger team coming together.

2) Infinity War

I've re-watched this so many times within the past year and it keeps rising up on my list. I'm not sure it will ever bump Civil War from the top, but this film is so special.

3) Thor: Ragnarok

It turns out Thor, who was already a pretty great character just needed to get in touch with this ridiculous side. This was hilarious. 

4) Black Panther

Rarely does an origin story come together as well as Black Panther. The characters, the costumes, the rich villain, this has it all.

5) Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Chris Evans plays Captain America so well I can't help but love his set of films the most. This works as a wonderful spy film and I loved the rapport Steve and Natasha have in this one.

6) Avengers: Age of Ultron

Everyone hates on Age of Ultron but it's still one of my favorites. I love the introduction of Wanda, Pietro, and Vision. Ultron was one of the better villains they've had too. The scene of all of them fighting by the cradle is still one of the most stunning things they've filmed.

7) Avengers

While the original movie feels a tad dated due to Cap's suit. (Seriously, who's idea was the hood?) I still have fun with this. 

8) Iron Man 

The film that started it all. It bothers me that I don't enjoy the sequels as much because I really loved this.

9) Captain America: The First Avenger

Ugh, Cap and Peggy. I miss them.

10) Spider-man: Homecoming

I've always had a soft spot for Spider-man, and this was a great follow up to Civil War

The Rest

11) Captain Marvel
This felt like a phase one film, but one we definitely needed. I went back and forth with this and Spider-man for the #10 spot. 

12) Ant-Man & The Wasp
I thought this was even better than the first. Scott and Hope just work so well together.

13) Thor: The Dark World
This is another one that gets shit on a lot, but I dug this. Sure, the villains are kind of a mess but overall, I enjoyed the story.

14) Ant-Man
I still can't believe I almost didn't go see this in theaters. It was such a delight

15) Doctor Strange
I think Doctor Strange really shined in Infinity War more than he did in this film. I will say, until Black Panther came along this had the coolest score.

16) Guardians of the Galaxy
I knew nothing about the Guardians and it turned out so much fun. And it was before Chris Pratt turned into an annoying twat. I miss those days.

17) Thor
I actually didn't like Thor the first time I saw it, it was only after watching Avengers that I went back and appreciated it a bit more. 

18) Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Half of this movie is excellent, but the main plot with Star Lord is awful, which brings it down. 

19) Iron Man 2
I don't hate this movie as much as others do, but it does rank low. I really like Tony here and Don Cheadle picking up as Rhodey is perfect. It's just slightly lacking

20) The Incredible Hulk
This one is usually last on a lot of lists I read. Which I get, because it's very unmemorable and Ruffalo is so much better in the role. I can't even imagine Edward Norton playing Banner anymore. Especially in Ragnarok. You know he would've tried to take over that script.

21) Iron Man 3
This is the only MCU movie I flat out hate. I wanted so badly to like Iron Man 3 and I did until that annoying kid showed up and Pepper did...whatever she did. They also under utilized the great Rebecca Hall and the villain was lame. Upon first watch, I was just medicore, but on the second watch....nope. Just hatred. 

2019 Blind Spot Series: Network

What I knew going in: The basic plot, and I thought I knew the ending.

When aging anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) goes off on a tirade on air, his Network execs decide to exploit his outbursts for higher ratings. Diana Christianson (Faye Dunaway) is ruthless and will do whatever it takes to make this show a ratings winner, where as Max Schumacher (William Holden) feels a bit more bad about the situation. 

Of all the Blind Spots I had this year, I was looking forward to this one the most as I enjoy journalism/newsroom type scripts and this did not disappoint. It's aged very well and the performances are just as good as everyone said they were. Faye Dunaway was my favorite. I'll admit to only thinking of Mommie Dearest when I hear her name so seeing her give a performance like this was wonderful. 

The only thing this film does that wasn't perfect was blending in the other subplots within the network. I kept waiting for them to all come together smoothly but I feel like it didn't translate as well as it should.

The ending surprised me because I thought I knew how it went down. I had always heard this movie being inspired by what happened to Christine Chubbuck, so I was expecting a suicide to play into it. What actually happened was so cold and calculated it caught me by surprise.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore." - Howard Beale (Peter Finch)

Thursday Movie Picks: Let's Start At The End

This week's Theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is all about those movies that begin at the end. There's so many to choose from so I went with three films that start out with the main character's death before we see how they got there.

1) American Beauty

Lester Burnham tells us right from the get go that "in a few months, I'll be dead." This remains my all time favorite movie.

2) Sunset Boulevard

This is one of the best films I've seen on my Blind Spot list and one of the first things we see is our lead's lifeless body floating in a pool. 

3) Into The Wild

We know immediately that Chris' wilderness trek isn't going to end well. This was a wonderful little film that despite being an Oscar nominee, feels a bit underrated. 

Review: Shazam!

I choose you as champion.

Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a foster kid that is constantly running away trying to find his real mother. One day a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) chooses him to inherit his powers when he says the magic work - Shazam! The only person Billy can tell at first is his new foster brother, Freddy. (Jack Dylan Grazer) They attempt to test out his powers before having to face off with a real villain, Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong)

Shazam is a comic character I'm not familiar with at all, so I went into this pretty blind and was pleasantly surprised with how much fun this is. Zachary Levi, who plays Billy in Shazam form has excellent chemistry with Grazer and the film is at its best when the two of them are together. It's definitely geared towards tweens/teens. It makes me wonder if this will be some generation's Last Action Hero. Plenty of the jokes land, and I appreciated the quick Street Fighter reference. If you're bringing young children, there is one part that's pretty scary for them. It's actually surprising how graphic this specific death is, but they'll recover quickly. Or at least my son did.

The actors and the jokes are what carry the film but it suffers from a few things. Mainly the special effects, which are pretty terrible. I know this film didn't have a huge budget but if they're building a universe they need to throw some of their Aquaman money at these other films too. It's bad enough that Levi is clearly running around in a rubber padded suit, but those demons felt like they were from the early 2000's. The 3rd act also has some pacing issues. You should never go into a comic book movie's 3rd act and wish they'd hurry up and get to it, they're supposed to be fast paced.

There's one other thing I'm undecided on and I'd love to hear your thoughts: This movie pokes a lot of fun at Batman v Superman (Aquaman too in the second end credits scene) and I'm torn on whether or not it's funny or a bad idea. It's really on the nose, and even if those were misfires should you really be taking the piss out of the films that started the very universe they're continuing to build? We do that enough on the internet already. I think it might be better to not acknowledge how much they crashed and burned and just try to move forward.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Get him, Batman!" - Shazam (Zachary Levi)

Review: Unicorn Store

We have what you need

Kit (Brie Larson) is a 20 something who has just failed out of art school because no one appreciates her childlike vision. She moves back in with her parents, (Joan Cusak and Bradley Whitford) and takes a temp job at an office to try to feel more adults. Then she receives an invitation to a store that "sells what you need." She meets the eccentric Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) who says he can sell her what she's always wanted....a unicorn.

When this premiered at TIFF back in 2017 it got pretty lukewarm reviews and currently sits at a 5.0 on IMDb. But has a big fan of Brie Larson and a 31 year old woman who loves a good shimmer eye shadow, I was always going to see this no matter what the reviews said. 

I think the underwhelming consensus is wrong of course because Unicorn Store is an absolute delight of a film. Larson seems very comfortable behind the camera despite this being her first time directing. I suppose you could make an argument that some of the supporting characters falling flat, but that felt like the point to me. Kit is trying to fit in a dull world when she wishes she could be in a world full of glitter and color. And she can, but she doesn't know how to find that yet. She's not exactly coming of age, but she's coming into a balance of sorts.

Brie is great of course, as is Samuel L. Jackson in his small role, but there are two other supporting characters that I think are wonderful as well. Karan Soni (Who was hilarious in Miracle Workers) who plays her old friend and somewhat nemesis Kevin, and the more prominent Virgil (Mamoudou Athie, who was the standout in The Front Runner) who plays the man she enlists to help build a stable for her unicorn. I especially loved the chemistry Athie and Larson had together.

The plot is outlandish enough to where the ending could go a few different ways, and I think the note it ended on was lovely. Netflix has really been getting me with these lighter films. I feel similarly to this as I do Dumplin', I just adore it. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "Don't you just want to jump into that screen and hug the shit out of your own precious pink unicorn? - The Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson)