Marvel review: Ant-Man & the Wasp and the final two Avengers movies

The latest three in our series of Marvel movies— Ant Man and The Wasp and Avengers Infinity War and Avengers End Game— brought some fun moments into my experience of the Marvel Comics Universe.

The teenager brought home generic takis from the Dollar Tree and I had some of those and Cabot Cottage cheese for supper.

I still think the length of the Avengers movies is unnecessarily long— fight scenes and excessive fancy CGI does not attract me. The contrast between Infinity War and Endgame is strong. The former clearly is conflict driven while the later seeks resolution to the past as its plot. So whereas Infinity War offers the fighting of villains vs heroes, Endgame offers a chance to solve a puzzle.

Ant-Man, as in his previous film, blends pure silliness with the everyday experience of the Everyman and the Ant-Man & The Wasp storyline puts Scott slang, as the Everyman, in a unique position to miss the events of the Infinity War and have a worldview that gives him the strange understanding of quantum physics that he doesn’t really “get” but has lived. He has the knowledge potentially to revive the world.

I love the dynamic paths of Hawkeye— I’m drawing a blank on Clint’s full name— and Tony Stark. And Thor’s deterioration from a god to an overweight alcoholic is a beautiful tribute to the toll trauma takes on any hero.

We still have an hour to go on Endgame, so perhaps my opinions will grow. But for now, here it is.

Marvel update: some more Thor, some more Captain and some one shots

This blog entry may not be as thorough as some of my other Marvel reviews as the movies have struck me as blah lately, too reliant on special effects and fight scenes with the occasional plot point and/or humor to glue it together.

I found Thor Dark World to be overstocked with fantasy and ignorant of any attachment to reality. And perhaps the best part of the movie is when Erik Selvig has gone crazy enough to refuse to wear pants, a great piece of connective tissue to the first Avengers movie.

And the Captain America Winter Soldier proved to be better, but didn’t really hold my interest. The idea — spoiler alert — that Hydra took root within S.H.I.E.L.D. is a fantastic one, and much of the plot pleased me, but again, too many fights, special effects and showing off of technology that doesn’t exist.

Today we were scheduled to watch Guardians of the Galaxy, and we are, but the teenager discovered two Marvel one shots: Agent Carter and one about the Ten Rings and the Mandarin.

The one involving Trevor Slattery in prison provided some good information about the background of The Mandarin from the Iron Man franchise.

But the best part of all of this was Agent Carter. We learn that Peggy, Captain America’s crush, had to force her way into active duty and proved to be a insubordinate bad-ass.

Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the teenager’s favorites. I don’t remember being impressed the first time I saw it, so here goes…

More Marvel Movie Reviews— Can we go for shawarma?

The teenager and I started watching the Marvel movies in order, as I posted here and here.

This is what we have watched so far:

  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • Captain Marvel
  • Iron Man
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Iron Man 2
  • Thor
  • Marvel’s The Avengers

I left off with the last movie we had completed, Iron Man.

The teenager had to rent The Incredible Hulk as it is not available on Disney Plus, Netflix or Hulu. And she made a good point that if we were going to commit to watching the whole franchise, we had to watch the whole franchise.

The teenager has the very strong opinion that the actor portraying the Hulk in The Avengers is physically better suited to the role. (Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk vs. Mark Ruffalo in the later films). I realized that I had never seen The Incredible Hulk but instead I had seen Ang Lee’s Hulk. (I have also seen the TV Hulk as, after all, I am Gen X.)

I enjoyed both men, but Mark Ruffalo, to me, had the right demeanor in the role to seem intelligent, mild, and also funny. To me, Ed Norton always seems a little awkward and a little cocky.

But the movie was fun.

I, of course, enjoyed Iron Man 2 because Iron Man is an eternal wild card. I like that Pepper takes control of Stark Enterprises, and I also like that Tony Stark has to both fight and work with his friend Rhodes in this installment.

This push-pull of situations that force friends/family into enemies and enemies into friends resurfaces everywhere in the Marvel Universe. In Avengers, we see Natasha Romanoff have to fight Clint Barton, Thor have to detain Loki, and the whole damn Avengers team resort to bickering amongst themselves.

Is it a theme of “watch your back?” Or merely a reminder than humans are creatures that respond to their circumstances? We will turn on one another — sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for selfish ones.

Speaking of The Avengers, from the original Iron Man to The Avengers, Tony Stark has experienced the largest transformation. He, more than anyone in the group, transitions from a typical human to a hero.

I have a very large problem with my willing suspension of disbelief with Tony Stark. In Iron Man, he receives an oversized magnet in his chest to prevent a piece of shrapnel from entering his heart. In Afghanistan. In a cave.

The person who tended to Tony in this environment could rig up a massive magnet, somehow make a hole in Tony’s chest and find a way for it to heal into a nice little chamber, and power it with a car battery… but he was incapable of finding the shrapnel and removing it?

But that aside, and ignoring the subplots created by that device, Tony Stark is the one in the group who choses, as Bruce Wayne similarly choses in the D.C. Universe, to arm himself. Except Bruce has motivation to become a vigilante. And Tony just wants to build cool toys as a thrill.

So, Tony progresses from a thrill-seeker, to a weapon, to a hero. He voluntarily carries a nuclear bomb into outer space.

Tony Stark controls every change in his character arc and actively choses where to go.

Captain America? Drafted by the army and chosen to be transformed by super serum.

Captain Marvel? Military accident then kidnapped and brainwashed by aliens.

Hulk? Radiation accident.

Thor? Alien/God.

Let’s take a minute to talk about the movie Thor. Chris Hemsworth— he’s easy on the eyes, especially when he takes his shirt off. I love the speech patterns of the Asgardians. I also love the humor in the alien-arrives-on-earth scenarios. And I respect Jane Foster’s physics research.

That brings us to The Avengers. I remember being ridiculously tickled by Joss Whedon’s script when I saw this in the theaters. (Has Joss Whedon been officially canceled for his bad behavior on the Buffy set?)

The humor stands the test of time.

I also remember being confused by the plot. There was a great deal of character soup and the enemies came out of nowhere.

Watching the series in this order certainly solves those particular problems. The movie is still funny, but also ridiculously long. It took three days for us to get through it.

The movie made so much more sense now, and I look forward to the next on the list, Iron Man 3.

As for my title, at the end of The Avengers, Tony asks the team if they can go for shawarma. The very last scene, after the traditional teaser for the next movie, is the group eating silently at a table at a restaurant called Shawarma Palace as the owners clean up after the big end fight.

A Comedy of Errors 17th Birthday

Teenager #2 moved out last week, and Teenager #1 celebrated her 17th birthday last night— a celebration that included a good friend, her favorite movies, pizza from Dominos and Cards Against Humanity until past 1 a.m.

I got to bed at 3 a.m. after wrestling with temperamental Touch of Grey foster kitty, and ending the evening with a dog so exhausted that she wouldn’t leave her crate leaving me no choice but to lure her upstairs with a piece of bologna.

My living room is full of pizza and pizza boxes but it was a great day for the teenager.

The morning had a rough start. The teenager left for summer school. I had a 9 a.m. online therapy appointment. At 8:57, the dog walks to the door.

“No sunbathing,” I warn her.

But, the sun did distract her and as I tried to her back into the house, our cat Oz escaped and ran into the back yard. The dog, being a dog, engaged in chase. Oz ran. Bean ran. I ran. I fell. I got back up. I saw no sign of either. That’s the teenager’s dog and her first cat she raised from a kitten.

I frantically call them.

You cannot lose the dog on your daughter’s birthday.

The dog responded to her name.

But my neighbor’s dog Buddy starting barking hearing Bean outside his door. So Bean went on his porch and refused to budge.

It is 8:59.

I grab a leash off my neighbor’s tie. I clip it to Bean, drag Bean to our house, shove her in, and race back to the neighbor’s to return the leash.

9:00 a.m.

My heart is pounding. I dart into the house, grab my laptop, flip on the couch, log in, open my email, click on the link for video-chat, log in, authorize camera, authorize mic.

9:01 a.m.

My therapist pops on screen.

“Are you ready for me?” he asks.

“Not exactly,” I reply. “Give me one second.”

I tell him what happened. He asks if I’m okay post-fall. I mention I might have a bleeding toe but I will evaluate later.

“You certainly are resilient,” he says.

After the session, I take the dog to pee and Oz is on the neighbor’s porch, in her back yard, as if trapped. I put the dog away and retrieve him.

Oz

I bring him home, bring the dog out, tie her to her lead, and begin to hang the laundry on the clothesline.

Bean starts acting rammy. I wonder if the teen is home from school. I turn to look. Another dog is standing under Bean’s body. I have never seen this little black dog before, but Bean is trying to get it out from under her body. I don’t think our dog is acting aggressively, but I don’t know if she’ll eat this small dog.

The dog runs.

Bean did not touch it.

Teenager comes home and decorates the cake she made for her birthday. She leaves to get a friend.

Bean takes a bite out of the cake.

Lucky I caught her so we still had a cake.

Just another day in our menagerie.

Ford v Ferrari and my obsession with history

I once had a stranger walk up to me and ask if I felt out of place. She specifically asked me if I felt as if I were in the wrong time.

She continued to tell me that she saw an air of an earlier era about me, circa the 1950s, which struck me as odd because my specialty in my academic work was 20th Century colonial/post-colonial Francophone Africa.

I gravitate toward post-World War II history and have to feign interest in anything 19th Century or earlier (though I can handle specific topics like the Industrial Revolution and Early French secularism because of their direct impact on the areas I enjoy) and have equal distaste for things that happened during my lifetime.

I love movies based on real events, and the rise of cinema celebrating real people and their achievements (like First Man, for example) and even historical settings (like the Downton Abbey feature film) are likely to get me into the theater.

Ford v. Ferrari had been on my calendar since I saw the trailer months ago.

In addition to “liking” the mid-Twentieth Century and, of course, how can you not look at Ford v Ferrari and not see a nod to American Industrial Complex v European Artisan Mindset… I also really like cars.

I can recite most of the Nicolas Cage version of Gone in 60 Seconds. My initial thought when I say the Ford v Ferrari trailer was “oh, they made a biopic for Eleanor.”

So last night my teen daughter and I saw Ford v Ferrari. We laughed. She cried. She jumped from her seat at every spin the car made. And squealed with every race lap.

And it was also interesting to see Lehigh Valley native Lee Iococca represented on the big screen.

But I left the film with a sense of homesickness, or maybe heartsickness. Perhaps a piece of my soul belonged to someone perhaps my dad’s age, born in the late 40s or maybe 50s, and perhaps they died young. Maybe these yearnings I have for the past are desires to finish a life someone else didn’t have the chance to complete.

Maybe they died in a car accident… who knows?

New Adventure: Reviewing Horror Movies with my Teen

It’s probably been a decade since I met William Prystauk at an after-party of sorts when Kaylie Jones came to the Lehigh Valley to promote her memoir Lies My Mother Never Told Me. My attendance at that book signing was itself a convergence of factors, primarily two: my attraction to Paris and my experiences with parents dealing with alcoholism.

The party in question was hosted by a former work colleague then involved in an MFA program as one of Ms. Jones’ students. She invited me to her home after the event and that’s where I met Bill, also in the same MFA program. And we discovered we had similar interests and were practically neighbors so somehow we ended up meeting for coffee.

At some point in the last week or two, Bill suggested my teen daughter write for his web site, Crash Palace Productions, http://crashpalaceproductions.com/, reviewing horror movies. Except, I pointed out, that my daughter doesn’t watch horror movies due to bad memories of The Walking Dead.

That request got me thinking and I proposed doing a joint review. Last night we watched Netflix’s I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House. And this morning, I wrote and submitted the review.

My next hope is that my daughter will watch the 90s classic The Craft and examine whether it holds up with today’s generation. I might even consider that a project for today.