Film Review: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (2023)

“Your brother is dead, but he isn’t gone.”

A considerate, political potboiler honoring the brilliant shadow that stands over it. A refreshing pivoted superhero origin story. The Furious 7 of the MCU.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “The opening sequence is some of the most emotional and sneakily meta filmmaking that I’ve seen in a long while. I can’t imagine we’ll ever achieve the heights of emotion present in the first ten minutes in the MCU ever again. It is powerful, for it is born from the connections we make between fiction and reality.”

Are there skeletons? No 😦

Film Review: “Thor: Love & Thunder” (2022)

“Another classic Thor adventure! Hurrah!”

Thor: Love & Thunder is lovable and… thunderable? It rides those good time Ragnarok vibes and adds some emotional tonal shifts to tell a story about reconnection and the care we demand of and give to others. Above all else, Natalie Portman (and Jane Foster) gets the superhero story she deserves as The Mighty Thor and the villain is a sympathetic, creepifying Christian Bale. I just wanted more of him.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I liked it when the giant goats screamed.”

Skeleton count: 0 human skeletons, but one big alien skeleton that probably counts as like 7 human skeletons

Film Review: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (2022)

“Pizza papa always gets paid!”

Army of Darkness (1992)

A campy, Sam Raimified entry into the MCU and a few of its multiverses, with groovy Evil Dead energy, Dutch angles, and POV shots to spare. The more horror in the MCU the better, and Dr. Strange MoM completes a critical arc with a darker, sometimes surprising turn into the genre.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Bruce Campbell and Benedict Cumberbatch have the same initials, so I naturally assumed Campbell would be playing another version of Strange.”

Film Review: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)

“I promise I will never become a supervillain and try to kill you.”

Spider-Man: No Way Home is the realization of a fever dream/premonition I had the night before seeing the first Spider-Man movie in theaters all those years ago.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I want to sit down and explain this movie to 11 year old me, watch the brains drip out of their nose and ears, then cease to exist.”

Film Review(s): Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy

“I believe there’s a hero in all of us.”

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy successfully brought comic book pages, in all their glorious tone, goofy dialogue, and mustache twirling villains, to the screen. From beginning to end, none of these movies feel like they’re in service to anything other than telling an entertaining, comic book spider-story. Not a wider universe, not box office receipts, and not a need to retain rights or something. These are the clearest, untarnished, wide-eyed Spider-Man movies that I think we’re ever going to see.

Even Spider-Man 3, which I saw in 2007, in a sketchy boardwalk movie theater in Wildwood, New Jersey during a senior year band trip in high school, accurately captures the ways in which comics can falter when they become bloated. Still, a strong humanity shines through these movies even in their corniest and worst moments (I will defend emo Peter on my death bed). Raimi, Maguire, Dunst, Franco (yikes), and the top tier talent jumping in as villains, never let that humanity collapse under the weight of the effects and superheroics. Obviously the prime example of this is Spider-Man 2 and its handling of Dr. Octopus, but at every level of these movies the intention seems to be story and humanity. Some of the effects, dialogue, and MJ’s chronic status as the captured damsel haven’t aged well, but for early 2000s movies I think they acquit themselves pretty nicely.

Also, the subjectivity and insurmountable power of nostalgia is always at play when talking about these flicks. So, they’re just so dang wistful for that reason.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I am jealous of future college students majoring in Classic Meme Studies because they will be assigned to watch this trilogy for homework, parse out the memes, and listen to Nickelback’s “Hero” for 30% of their grade.”

Film Review: “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” (2021)

“Abuse. This is abusive.”

A romantic dramedy in the guise of a modern dark antihero/superhero movie. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is what it is, and that’s okay. That’s beautiful, even. They took what worked about the first, namely two Tom Hardy boyz interacting with each other and figuring out their relationship, and just built the entire movie around it. Then they gave Woody Harrelson a silly red wig and slapped some CGI on him to transform him into 90s icon Carnage, and it all just kind of works in a fun, B-movie kind of way.

My mildly spoilery VHS cover pull-quote: “Exciting things are no doubt in store for the Venom character beyond the Sony Spideyverse, but I appreciate this little weird 90-minute corner of the superhero genre and hope it continues to do its own thing. Like Morbius? That’s going to be wild. He’s a living vampire and some filmgoers are going to confuse him with Owen Wilson’s character Mobius from Loki. What an odd treat that will be!”

Film Review: “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (2021)

“Did America make you soft?”

Fathers. Sons. Dragons and Awkwafina, together again. This movie has it all, including some of the most kinetic and gorgeous hand to hand combat scenes that blow even The Winter Soldier out of the floating, mystic water. It feels like a thoughtful, bona fide martial arts film that just happens to be in the MCU. I was only left wanting more of the coordinated physicality and more of the characters.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Cool, quick knife flips while in the middle of a fight are how you can tell if it’s a good MCU movie. So, my official MCU movie rankings are Everything Else, Shang Chi, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I don’t make the rules.”

Film Review: “Avengers: Endgame” (2019)

“On your left.”

A slight step down creatively from Infinity War but still absolutely everything it needed to be to get people cheering, blubbering, arguing, screaming, losing their minds, abandoning all hope, and shivering with fear unsure of what comes next in their lives in their theater seats.

My VHS Cover Pull-Quote: “Wanda Maximoff could have done this all on her own.”