Captain Marvel: An Honest Review

•March 12, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I saw Captain Marvel on opening night. I’m going to be very honest in this review, which means there are spoilers ahead, so I suggest saving this for later if you don’t want me to ruin anything for you. You’ve been warned. For anyone about to see the movie and come back to read this later, yes, there are two scenes during the credits. One for Avengers Endgame next month and one that’s just cute.

This is a side note – and more time for those who don’t want spoilers to bookmark this and come back later – about the opening Marvel montage. Traditionally it’s a mash up showing all our favourite heroes, but for Captain Marvel it’s all Stan Lee cameos, topped off with a thank you to the man himself. I thought it was very touching. Those who know me will not be surprised to know that there were tears but they will be surprised to hear those were the only tears during the whole movie. (In my social circle it’s well known that I cry frequently in movies)

I considered carefully before I wrote anything down, which is why although I saw the movie opening night I’m only posting my review now. Initially I thought the movie was delightful but lackluster and even a little underwhelming. My reaction surprised me as I sat there waiting for the post-movie tidbits because I had so been looking forward to the movie, but later I reminded myself of all the hype surrounding the movie and the fabricated controversy (stop with the click baitey half quotes people, it’s irresponsible and lazy reporting; plus the truth comes out eventually). Then I reminded myself that I can’t go into a movie with all that backstory and history and expect my mind to be blown. It would be like going to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince having read the book and then expect to be surprised that Dumbledore dies.

Let’s start with the delightful shall we? Carol and Fury! Carol and her ability to emote just with her eyes! Carol & Maria! Fury and Goose! Carol and Lt Trouble! Rookie Agent Coulson! Goose!

The lackluster and underwhelming. The lack of surprise around both the plot and the villains is really the culprit here. But remember that reminder that I just mentioned? Well, it’s time to come back to that. Of course it’s not a surprise that Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg is a bad buy. I mean we already know thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy that Korath (Honsou) and Ronan (Lee Pace) are baddies and that the Kree as a race are primarily villains. Add that to the fact that they’re backing Carol Danvers’ origin into the larger, existing tapestry that Marvel has spent the last decade building and there isn’t much room for surprise in the major points. So with that lightbulb I went from underwhelmed to respectful of the talent it took to give Carol a backstory that not only makes sense for her and is true to the character of Captain Marvel, but also fits into the universe that we’re already so familiar with. They managed to explain why she wasn’t around for the events of New York, Washington or Sokovia in a way that is logical, instead of taking the easy way and doing something like “Dr. Strange  came back in time and told Fury not to call her until such and such a time when he was going through those 14 million plus possible outcomes”, which would have worked but would have been very lame. Instead, what Carol is doing makes perfect sense with the person we watch her evolve into.

Back to the good stuff. This movie is chock full of great acting talent (with multiple Academy Awards between the primary cast members). You have Brie LarsonSamuel L Jackson and Annette Benning as the three names carrying the movie (the latter doesn’t have a lot of screen time but it’s impactful). Then you have Jude LawBen Mendelsohn (another spectacular performance as the Skrull leader by a man who is often underrated), Djimon HonsouClark Gregg & Lashana Lynch rounding out the major cast. Oh, and under her Kree makeup that’s Gemma Chan, who is criminally underused if you ask me (which is why I left her in a sentence on her own so that you’d see even though I happen to love her I also forgot about her being in the movie for a minute). Captain Marvel’s origin story set in the 90s, which is when I grew up, so I have very rich memories of that decade which means my expectations were pretty high, and I was not disappointed. The soundtrack anchored you in the decade in the best possible way and the fashion choices, technology (hello phone booth!) & cars cemented the impression. For an origin story I certainly smiled more and cringed less than I did when watching Cap or Thor’s initial ventures into the MCU. (Although to be fair since I’ve grown to love Cap his first sojourn has grown on me.)

There is the obligatory final battle between our hero and the villains. Although can you really call it a battle when the other side is hopelessly outclassed by the hero Carol becomes when she stops listening to the toxic messages that had been shackling her previously?  When Carol was letting herself be caged by what she thought was her place, when she was listening to the messages “control yourself”, “just do as you’re told” she wasn’t able to tap into her true potential. I’m paraphrasing a bit, but in her funeral scene in Civil War there’s a quote from Peggy Carter that basically says Even when everyone else is telling you that something is right when you know it to be wrong, it’s your duty to plant yourself firmly and say No, you move. It’s not until Carol does this, until she stops listening to what other people tell her she has to be, until she realizes that she has nothing to prove to anyone and embraces who she is on every level that Carol Danvers becomes Captain Marvel and unleashes her true potential. And for anyone who wants to push that message aside or say “yeah, yeah woman, whatever”, I’ll remind you once again of Thor. He too had to go through a similar journey (over the course of 3 movies) before he was able to truly become the Thor he was meant to be. What I’m saying is that Carol’s journey isn’t about gender, it’s a universal message about your most authentic self also being your most powerful self, so try again, haters!

If I can get on my feminist soapbox for a moment here though: How many female-led projects does Hollywood need to tell them they sell? Wonder Woman, Ghostbusters, Black Panther (while starring a dude he’s surrounded by a bevy of very capable women) and now Captain Marvel are just a few off the top of my head. The numbers I have heard reported for Captain Marvel are in excess of $450 MILLION dollars worldwide. Wake up and take notice because equality, whether it’s in the boardroom, on the press junket or in the movies benefits everyone, regardless of gender.

I want to end on one last spoiler…click away if you need to…when Captain Marvel absolutely destroyed the Kree spaceship I thought to myself: You are going to LOST Thanos, becuase Captain Marvel is coming she she is going to KICK YOUR ASS!

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Geordi La Forge Hugged Me the Other Day

•November 1, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been toying with bringing the blog back off and on for the last couple of years and this seemed like a great post to re-open with.

I was in Montreal last week for a meeting and while I was at the airport having a quick pre-flight meal with a colleague, LeVar Burton came into the restaurant. He walked right by our table and I recognized him instantly  (strange that it would be the eyes that are so recognizable when he spent more than a decade hiding them) so I said “Hi” as he walked by and he said “Hi” and kept walking. My colleague didn’t recognize him and asked who it was. By that time my brain had caught up with my eyes and I was like That was LeVar Burton!

Before I tell you how exactly the hug occurred, let me back up for a minute. I grew up outside of Toronto, went to school in the city and now live and work in the Greater Toronto Area. I mention that because then you’ll know it’s not unusual to see actors of any fame level any day of the year given that Toronto is a filming hub. My personal rule has always been that I will not approach an actor, musician etc. when on their personal time. It used to be simply because I thought it unfair they shouldn’t be allowed a personal life just because I happened to be a fan. These days it’s also security concerns for the person in question that also hold me back. It only takes one tweet and then it can all go to hell in minutes. Typically, I’ll nod and smile if I pass them on the street or perhaps say “Hello” in passing as I did when LeVar Burton walked by our table. I mention my rule so that you’ll understand that despite the fact that my dad, brother and I are all massive Star Trek fans I didn’t run over all “Geordi, Geordi, over here!” even though my brother asked for a picture and the little girl inside me who has always loved TNG really wanted to. I did however bend my rule. For every rule there’s an exception and in my case the exception is that if it’s someone who is really important to me and there’s a way I can unobtrusively deliver a note that says Hey, you’re great, love your work or something like that, then I will. (Still waiting for the opportunity to do that with Bryan Adams.)

Because LeVar Burton was in Star Trek the Next Generation and because it’s been such an influence on our lives, I decided that this was a time I would bend the rule if I could do it without attracting attention. So I wrote a quick two line note on the back of my business card expressing thanks and admiration on behalf of myself and the family which I was then able to unobtrusively drop off before we gathered up our luggage to head out. I didn’t get away with it though. LeVar Burton saw the note within seconds and was looking around to see who had left it while we were still making our exit. My colleague pointed at me and I turned around to see him pointing from the note to me. Caught I admitted that I had been the one to leave the note. He put his hand over his heart and said “Thank you.”

“No, thank you,” I replied. “I didn’t want to disturb you, but my brother would have killed me had I not at taken the opportunity to let you know what you and Star Trek have meant to us.”

“Next time you see him you give your brother a big hug for me,” he said with a smile.”In fact…” And then LeVar Burton got up, walked over to me and enveloped me in a lovely, warm hug. And I mean a real hug.

Then he wished me safe travels, I wished him the same and we parted. I know it sounds a bit like I’m bragging, but if I wanted to do that, I’ve interacted with celebrities who have a higher profile and I’d talk about those interactions instead. I mention it because it was such a meaningful experience that went completely above and beyond. Had LeVar Burton stopped at “Thank you,” when acknowledging my note or even “Give your brother a hug for me” it would still have made for a perfectly lovely celebrity meet cute. But he went that extra mile, showing what a wonderful human being he is.

I’ll be completely honest with you, Geordi La Forge was not my favourite, but you know what? Now LeVar Burton just might be.

Post Script: When I called my brother and explained what had happened and that the next hug he got from me was really from LeVar Burton he was so touched that a simple “Thank you” to a man who helped bring so much happiness to us was met with such gratitude and warmth.

#StarTrekTNG, #LeVarBurton, #GeordiLaForge

A Good Day to Die Hard

•February 15, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Yesterday really was A Good Day to Die Hard. It was a salve for those of us with V-Day fatigue to sit in the theatre and wait for John McClane to utter yippie kay yay…well you know the rest. Caution to those who haven’t seen the movie, this review will have spoilers, so you might want to mark the page, run out and see the movie and then check back with me after. I wouldn’t want to deprive you of the fun of discovering it for yourself.

A Good Day to Die Hard finds Bruce Willis’ John McClane on his way to Russia, to support (or possibly rescue) his son who is in trouble again and has been out of touch for a few years. As it turns out, McClane manages to screw up his son’s mission – that’s right, mission – to rescue Komarov and thus embroils himself in another blockbuster mission that’s not really his problem, but there’s no one else to step up to the plate. What follows (after the WAY too long car chase scene) is the two McClane men, father and son, doing what they do best: taking out scum bags. This time it’s the Russians playing the part of the bad guys and it’s up to the dynamic McClane duo to save the day before the Russian baddies can get away with weapons-grade nuke materials.

At 1 hr 37 mins, it’s considerably shorter than the first Die Hard (which clocked in at 2 hours plus) but during that hour and a half, it’s non-stop. And after that hour and a half of action-packed entertainment, I could come up with only two complaints. One is the aforementioned overly long car chase and the other is McClane the younger. If they had shortened the car chase/gratuitous vehicle destruction scene at the beginning, they could have afforded a better actor. I’m not saying a Die Hard film requires an Oscar contender, but someone who has more to offer than biceps would have improved the tenor of the movie immeasurably.

In the end, A Good Day to Die Hard, like all movies in the series is about good triumphing over evil and this time in addition to kicking some bad guy ass, John McClane and son repair their relationship amid the veritable hail of gunfire and multiple explosions we expect and love about these movies. All that family reunion cost them were a few cuts, scrapes and a concussion or two. The movie manages to avoid getting too sappy as the men bond in a suitably “manly” fashion but you still get the heart warming feel of it – if you’re watching for it.

While the original Die Hard (1988) and 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard remain my favourites due in large part to villains Alan Rickman and Timothy Olyphant respectively, A Good Day to Die Hard is still a lot better than the worst of the series, Die Hard: With a Vengeance and in my estimation, totally worth your $12 to see it in on the big screen.

 

And that’s my yippie kay yay 2¢ for today.

The Following Series Premiere

•January 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Did you watch Fox’s new drama The Following last night? I did. And despite compelling performances by series stars Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy, I’m not sure I’ll continue to watch the show. I was just thinking to myself that I had the same feeling I had about Prison Break when it opened (that it had a fresh angle and had a shot at being really great because of that) but at approximately 9:12 pm local time I found myself exclaiming at the TV. Spoiler alert – the crazy Joe Carroll (Purefoy) fan with writing all over her body declaimed Poe’s last words and stuck some kind of pick into her eye, committing suicide in a very graphic way. Unnecessarily graphic if you ask me. They could have gotten their point across and managed the visuals in a way that was less…icky. I was hoping that would be the last of the really gross stuff, but it wasn’t. A few minutes later I was crying for some tortured to death puppies another crazed fan had killed when I had a couple of years scared off my life when the poor Sheppard on the table was still alive. I abhor animal violence, even when it’s faked. I can’t even handle when horses fall down in movies even though I know they’re fine.

We’re now about 20 minutes in and by this point, all I’ve really gotten from the story is that the guy escaped from death row and the FBI brought back the guy that caught him (Kevin Bacon playing the part of a psychologically damaged former agent), most of which I got from the previews. I can’t help thinking the writers are going for shock value over story. A mistake when you’ve got actors of the caliber of Bacon and Purefoy. (By the way writers, you are truly twisted.) The violence isn’t what’s putting me off; I’ve enjoyed a lot of the procedural “cop” shows, of varying levels of violence over the years, but something about The Following is turning me off rather than pulling me in. I haven’t decided if it’s the train wreck you can’t help watching or if I’ll be able to resist the pull of The Following. I guess only time will tell.

 

And that’s my disturbed 2¢ for today.

THE GODS OF ATLANTIS by David Gibbins

•January 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Don’t ask me why it took reading The Gods of Atlantis to make me realize how much I like fusion (be it cuisine or books) but it suddenly dawned on me as I was drafting this review. Thanks to the pile of books on my nightstand it was almost a year in between my first David Gibbins book, The Mask of Troy and my second, but The Gods of Atlantis made it easy for me to pick up the threads of the characters lives again, which really appealed to me. I quite enjoy that sense of continuity once I’ve made a connection to characters. The Gods of Atlantis is a well-told story of what might have happened when naturalistic and anthropomorphic religions/worship clashed. It’s a story that will fascinate you even as you race through the pages on the edge of your seat, unable to wait to find out what adventures Howard and his IMU companions will have and what they will discover on their never-ending quest for answers.

It’s no coincidence the word Atlantis was in the title either. Much like Ancient Rome or Camelot, it’s a topic that never fails to catch my interest. (No I haven’t read Gibbin’s Atlantis yet, but it’s on my list, you can be sure of that, especially since it’s the prequel to The Gods of Atlantis.)

Gibbins fuses the myth of Atlantis with the myth of Noah and the flood and the actions of the Nazis during WWII. It’s fascinating the way his mind manages to take what we’ve established as historical fact and combine it with rumours and imagination to come out with a piece of fiction that is at once believable and entertaining. I got so excited reading Gibbin’s description of Jack Howard scuba diving at Atlantis that I’ve put “learn to scuba dive” back on my bucket list because the conclusion that if Atlantis existed and is to be found it will be underwater, seems so logical (not to mention obvious) that I want to be prepared if it’s ever discovered and turned into a tourist attraction like Stonehenge.

Join Jack Howard and company on this journey to uncover the truth about Atlantis – or at least one possible explanation for it – its connections to history and to discover some of the truth behind the mystery surrounding Himmler’s Ahnenerbe and the last days of WWII. And once you’ve done that, be sure to come back and let me know what you thought of The Gods of Atlantis.

 

And that’s my 2¢ for today.

 

THE ORACLE GLASS by Judith Merkle Riley

•December 14, 2012 • 2 Comments

I’d never heard of Judith Merkle Riley or The Oracle Glass before the day I bought it. I was wondering around Chapters, which long-time readers will know is probably the best way to fine me on a weekend, when someone came up and gave me one of those you could win as much as 50% off your entire purchase as long as you spend at least $30 kind of promotions, so I was on the hunt for one more book to take me over the amount and just figured I would put the book back if my discount wasn’t significant. By the time I got to the cash I couldn’t bear to part with the book, even though I only saved about $2 on it, and I’m glad I didn’t.

The Oracle Glass is set in Paris, the most romantic city in the world during the late 1600s, in the time of Louis the XIV when the occult and witchcraft were at the height of popularity with the French aristocracy. It centers around the life of Genevieve Pasquier, a young girl who is taken under the wing of La Voisin, the Queen of Shadows and her….let’s call them adventures.

I was first drawn to Riley’s book because it was historical fiction, which I quite enjoy but was still out of my typical milieu of that genre (since it takes place after the Fall of Rome). I’d never heard of Judith Merkle Riley and it was only after reading the book that I investigated further and found out that she’s a native of California and died in September 2010. A quick read of her bio revealed that she was a woman after my own heart, a lover of books. In addition to The Oracle Glass, Riley wrote several other historical novels; to see a full list, please click here.

Mlle Pasquier did not have an easy home life. Beware! Spoilers ahead! She was much beloved by her father and rather hated by her mother due to her deformity. After her father’s untimely death, Genevieve escapes her family and before she can commit suicide is recruited by La Voisin, the Queen of Shadows. La Voisin makes Genevieve into her protégé because Genevieve can is a water reader. (She can read a person’s future in the pictures she sees in the water.) La Voisin clothes her, trains her, creates an alternate past for her to permanently escape her family and then sends her out into the world to make money both for herself and for La Voisin. By the time she is in her early twenties, Genevieve has experienced rather a lot, but then, people didn’t live so long then as they do now, so that’s to be expected. I found the characters to be a little bit clichéd but not so much as to take away from their robustness. (Meaning they were still appealingly “real” characters) but the true beauty of the story was in Riley’s ability to paint the city of Paris and its inhabitants so that you could, if you squinted just right, almost see them shimmering in the air before you. She captures the attitudes of the era perfectly (rife with superstition, discrimination and pomposity). Her one failing is in the occasional slip into modern vernacular (I doubt anyone who lived in the time of the Sun King would have said “Hey!” to get someone’s attention, let alone a Parisian who would have found the exclamation the height of vulgarity).

The bottom line, I would definitely recommend the book if you enjoy the genre, or if you’re looking for a really cheap trip to Paris and have a good imagination. And should I come across another of Riley’s books in the future, I won’t hesitate to add it next to The Oracle Glass on my book shelf.

 

And that’s my 2¢ for today.

COLD DAYS by Jim Butcher

•December 3, 2012 • 4 Comments

Thank you Jim Butcher for writing Cold Days. Harry Dresden, alive (as opposed to being a ghost) and if not quite well at least functioning, emerges from Arctis Tor as the Winter Knight and is poised to once again save the world. Life inexorably marched on and in Harry’s absence much has changed in his city and in the people he loves.

The latest novel of the Dresden Files, Cold Days just came out on November 27th and I immediately went to Amazon to order my copy (they had the best price and it was delivered to my door less than 48 hours later). I tore the packaging open with my bare hands I was so excited.

Cold Days is a superior story and was a joy to read. This weekend I locked myself indoors on Saturday and read the whole thing in one sitting. It’s no secret that I am a fan of the Dresden Files, but I was definitely pleased with this book, which I can say with complete confidence is the best piece of writing Butcher has published to date. By turns hilarious, entertaining and poignant, Cold Days is a testament to the development of Butcher’s skill as a writer and Dresden’s growth as a wizard, and more importantly, a man. It was a masterpiece of storytelling, full of the wit and sarcasm we love in Harry Dresden and company, and surprisingly, weaved in very apt character development that was completely in line with what I would expect from these people if they were real. That’s not to say there wasn’t a surprise or two along the way, because there was indeed a twist near the end that I didn’t see coming until the very last minute. Readers, Cold Days, is your reward for still keeping faith with Butcher as he continued to write those awful Fury tales that thankfully, seem to have ceased.

With only 20 shopping days left before the big day, consider Cold Days, or any of the other Dresden Files, of which you can find a list here, for the book lover on your list this year.

 

And that’s my 2¢ for today.