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Avengers: Endgame – Russo (2019)

  • action

This three hour ‘episode’ seems to come right after “Infinity War”. Thanos has wiped out a large part of the inhabitants of the universe, including earth. The Avengers are depressed, the movie is rather gloomy. Then the idea emerges to use Ant-Man’s “subatomic” state for time-travelling, go back in time, gather all infinity stones and prevent Thanos from obtaining them.

First we have the usual Avengers. Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, Hulk and Thor. Ant-Man joins the team and different parties go to different places and times to get the stones. During that proces the Guardians of the Galaxy join the club, Captain Marvel, Spider Man, Dr. Strange and when the war with Thanos becomes serious even the Wakandians.

A lot of drama, a massive battle halfway. “Endgame” has less of the feel good atmosphere of earlier Avenger films. There are a few jokes and funny dialogues. Beer belly Thor is amusing.

The story is not too interesting. An alright twist is that some characters from different times end up in the same time, such as Nebula giving the story a new twist.

An alright Marvel.

Ant-Man And The Wasp – Peyton Reed (2018)

  • action

Apparently I saw the first “Ant-Man” well before I started watching the Marvel franchise. At the time (2015) I was not impressed, still expecting a film with comic book elements. Yet the Ant-Man ‘concept’ is very familiar. Did I see the old film again or did Ant-Man appear in another Marvel production?

The scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) created a suit that can shrink a person. Initially using it together with his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), something went wrong and Pym put the project in the closet. Later the random Scott Lang becomes the new Ant-Man.

The thing that went wrong was that Pym’s wife went “sub atomic” and got lost, but Scott proves that coming back is possible, so in this second movie, the quest is to retrieve Janet van Dyke.

The only reference to the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” is that Ant-Man is under house arrest for having wreaked havoc together with the Avengers. During that period Hank Pym and his daughter (Hope van Dyke) have recreated the project and even expanded it. Now they can not only shrink a person in a suit, but they can shrink anything, whether a car or a complete building. This makes some amusing finds and brings an extra element to the ‘shrink-hit-grow’ type action scenes.

I find Ant-Man not the best Marvel character, he is a bit too goofy for me, but the shrinking-while-fighting concept does bring more of the amusing Marvel action.

Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom – James Wan (2023)

  • action

I am starting to loose track of all the different ‘cinematic universes’. I thought “Aquaman” was the character who appears in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever“. That ‘aquaman’ is called “Namor” though and does not really look like “Aquaman”. So my confusion about how a DC Comics character that ended up in a Marvel film is cleared up: it did not.

So why does this Aquaman look so familiar? The character proves to appear in other DC based movies. There is even an “Aquaman” movie from 2018. I do not think I saw that one though. It does seem that Aquaman also apears in “Batman vs Superman” (2016) and I did see that one. So also DC characters appear in different productions.

Anyway, Aquaman is the king of the underwater kingdom Atlantis, but he also has a life on the land. Probably in the earlier film, he killed the father of “Black Manta” who decides to take revenge by not only destroying Atlantis, but the world as a whole. For that he accelerates global warming.

You get your usual humor, fighting spectacles (below and above the water), monsters, villains and everything that you can expect from a comic-based spectacle. The story is rather thin though.

Paradise – Boris Kunz (2023)

A German attempt at a critical science fiction.

In some future it is possible to sell years of your life. The poor can make an extra buck and the rich can buy extra years. It is not even ‘extra years’, you actually buy an age. When you sell 15 years, you get 15 years older within a few days. The years are not just sold, you can also use them as collateral for a loan.

So we follow Max who works at the company buying and selling life’s years and his wife Elena who -unknown to Max- pledged 40 years of her life for the couple to be able to buy a fancy apartment. Needless to say what the story is about.

The improbably red thread probably sounded like a great idea, but the creators of the film did not manage to turn it into a credible story. The story does bring the opportunity to put the magnifier on the difference between rich and poor and ethical questions surrounding this divide.

Kick-Ass – Matthew Vaughn (2010)

  • action

A rather ‘teeny’ ‘superhero’ movie. Actually Dave is not a superhero. He is just a comic-loving-nerd who gets the idea of buying himself a suit and try to be a superhero. Since he has no ‘superpowers’ he gets his ass kicked himself.

People do pick up his effort to do something about the downfall of society, so in spite of everything he becomes a hero. Yet there are better equipped crime fighters out there in the form the a great Nicholas Cage (as Damon Macready) and his daughter.

There were not the cartoon effects that I expected and overall “Kick-Ass” is but a teen action movie.

The Mask – Chuck Russell (1994)

  • comedy

A while ago I was looking for movies that contain cartoon elements. “The Mask” was not the first one that came to mind, but somebody mentioned it. I could not find an easy way to watch it and I forgot about it until it popped up on Amazon Prime when I was looking for something else.

I am not sure if i saw the film before. I was never a bit Jim Carrey fan and comedy is not my usual genre. In any case, “The Mask” is fairly funny.

You probably know the story. The very boring bank employer Stanley Ipkiss (Carrey) finds a wooden mask that turns him into an overly hip green faced guy. Fast, unkillable and weird. In a good neo-noir story, we have a beautiful nightclubsinger in the form of Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz) who has a criminal boyfriend.

No surprises in the story and perhaps not even in the cartoon film ‘genre’ that was shortly popular in these days, but “The Mask” is -like I said- fairly funny. It did not change my opinion about rubber face Carry, so I am not planning on watching his other films that I might have missed as well.

The Big Short – Adam McKay (2015)

  • drama

Just as in “The Laundromat” some big actors joined forces to criticize the Western financial system.

In the early 2000’ies former doctor Michael Burry (Christian Bale) finds a flaw in the American banking system. He expects the mortgage system to collapse and thinks of a way to turn that into a profit for the organisation that he now works for.

His idea is picked up by Jared Vennett (Ryan Goslin) who goes to the criticaster of the financial system Mark Baum to also turn the predicted event into profit. Two young dare-investors accidentally see the documents of Burry and they pick up the same plan consulting Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt).

The problem that Burry found was that the portfolios of mortgages of banks are no longer filled with (very secure) mortgages, but less secure investments are sneaked in which on their turn are put in another package, etc. etc. These packages are rated, but due to competition, ratings are always good and they say nothing about the security of an investment.

First individually, later conjoined, the different troupes start to make sense of the complex schemes that financial businesses use to sell their products and make the most profit. These complexities are explained in strange interludes. Basically “The Big Short” is more of a movie than a documentary about the gigantic financial crisis of two decades ago, that some saw coming.

Not quite the film that I thought that I was going to watch.

Sense8 (series) – Wachowski (2015-8)

I ran into this Wachowski series on Netflix. It does not have the pomp of some of their creations and (perhaps) not even the complex story.

Well, there is an ‘attempt’ at a complex story. The title refers to a different kind of human being. Besides the “homo sapiens” there is also the “homo sensibilus”. The series do not explain how these “sensates” are born to ‘normal’ humans. We follow eight such sensates. It seems that they all have the same age and that they discover their abilities only later in life. We have the Korean daughter of a wealthy business family. A German criminal. An Indian beauty about to marry rich. There is an LA cop, a Mexican actor, a Nigerian buss driver, a woman who used to be a man and an Icelandic DJ.

The sensates can be in each others presence whereever they are. Also they can take over each other’s bodies. Along the way our eight sensates learn that they are a “cluster”, that there are other clusters and that there are also people hunting them. The last element brings thriller elements to the series.

The series show the characters with both the personal and the joint problems. Nomi has frictions with her parents who do not accept her transition. Lito is a popular actor, but he fears the end of his career when his fans learn that he is gay. Sun takes the fall to save her brother’s career in the family business. Wolfgang tries to do his own thing, but the criminal underground of Berlin tries to draw him in further. Kala has a loving future husband but second thoughts about the marriage. LA cop Will has frictions with his father. DJ Riley tries to balance between succes and personal life. Capheus (played by another actor in the second series) unintentionally becomes the hero of his slum.
In times of crisis, another member of the group, or all of them, team up to solve a problem of one of them. This often brings unnecessary extra drama or another tension. This typical ‘enhanced drama’ that is present in many American films and series, also crept into the work of the Wachowski’s. Sometimes these elements even overshadow the development of the story.

Overall, “Sense8” is alright. Especially in the first season (which is directed by both Wachowskis) there is quite some stress on ‘minority issues’ (trans, gay). Later (only Lilly Wachowski, but also guest directors) the ‘larger story’ gets the upper hand, making more of a thriller. There is the earlier mentioned drama, but the creators also wanted to add a layer of sensuousness, both are overdone and superfluous in my opinion. The story develops alright, but it seems that some turns had to be made to allow for future episodes or seasons. The two-and-a-half-hour final episode seems to have been made to wrap things up (quite thinly) when there no more would be a new season.

Not bad, but not the Wachowski’s best work either.

Leave The World Behind – Sam Esmail (2023)

The hard working Amanda (Julia Roberts) spontaneously books a house for the weekend, leaving immediately. The house is not too far from the city of New York where the family lives and it proves to be a villa with a swimming pool.

Settling in, the first evening the doorbell rings and two people are outside claiming to be the owners of the house and asking if they can come in. The film grows into a psychological drama. Are these two really the owners of the house? The house is so big and they are black. Also, the man seems to know something about the fact that the internet is down.

The psychological drama becomes a thriller when it starts to dawn on the people in the house that there is something going on in the world outside. TV only broadcasts emergency messages. Animals act strangely, there are awful sounds, planes crash. Is the world falling apart while two families who did not yet know each other are stuck in the villa?

“Leave The World Behind” is descent thriller with a Stephen King type story. The alienation and rising panic of the people involved is well portrayed and people’s weaknesses are enlarged.

Then the film suddenly stops as if it is only half of a story.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 – James Gunn (2017)

The new troupe of heroes from ‘vol. 1‘ have become a team. The talking tree Groot has been replaced by a baby tree, but for the rest, the group remained the same. Even the villains partly did.

The movie is more to the comedy side of the Marvel franchise with silly jokes and screwball humour. The adventure this time involves the father of Peter Quill who may not have such great plans for the universe.

So there is some humour, some drama, some action, a not-too-interesting story. A bit of a filler in the Marvel franchise perhaps. Not even an addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe it seems.

Not boring, but nothing that needs to be high up on your watch list.