Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Movies: May - June

Summer movie season has been so entertaining for me. I love going to see these major franchise continue and the horror, action, and drama movies sprinkled in with a few decent comedies have made going to the theater more than worthwhile. My favorite film of these last two months blended the genre and after the shock of the first major blockbuster of the season, it was nice to see some films with lower stakes. 

Deadpool 2
The sequel to the irreverent meta-superhero film, the first to really embrace an R-rating and find box office success, has tons of fun twists and turns with a steady stream of comedy that accompanies some awesome action scenes. Deadpool is easily at the top of my favorite superhero franchises if it keeps up this hilarious and action-packed momentum into X-force and other promised sequels. I wonder what will happen if Deadpool joins the MCU.

Incredibles 2
The long-awaited Pixar sequel delivers with a cool premise and solid action. The new movie picks up immediately where the last one left off despite nearly two decades between the original release, but it quickly establishes a story of its own. Jack Jack and Dash are cute and hilarious while a bike chase scene with Elastigirl and a train is astonishing. The actual twist is predictable but I guess this is expected from a kids movie.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
The second Star Wars spin-off turned out to be a bit of a disappointment at the box office, but I found the film charming and fun. As soon as Chewbacca showed up, I was entranced, and the Darth Maul twist appealed directly to me. Emilia Clarke improves as an actress and Alden Ehrenreich did a decent job mimicking Harrison Ford.

American Animals
This extraordinary Kentucky story mixes documentary and brilliant acting to tell a compelling heist tale. Evan Peters is great and it was funny when he talks to his real-life counterpart while Barry Keoghan shows he's going to be an awards contender in the future. I do wish Ann Dowd had a bigger role because I've been a fan since the Leftovers. 
 
On Chesil Beach
I enjoyed this book so much in college and finally watching the film was a moving experience. The epic nature of the last few scenes captured the lifelong regret and solid performance from Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle make this a fascinating film. It reminds me of Brooklyn, another film starring Ronan that was very epic and fascinating. 

Upgrade
Violent sci-fi is a ton of fun while I enjoy Logan Marshall-Green in a lead role. The story lacks a lot of thought but there are some absurd scenes that make up for the shallow plot.
 
Hereditary
I actually like jump-scares a lot and while this horror film had plenty of dread and one really disturbing car wreck, it left me wanting to be frightened and shocked more. I was a little confused about the ending and didn't like it enough to put too much thought into what exactly happened. 

Sicario: Day of the Soldado
The first film is a masterpiece. This sequel has decent moments but never amounts to much. I'm all for this franchise continuing though and revisiting Taylor Sheridan's other movies was fun. I actually saw this July 1st and I'm late posting this monthly update, but there are new rules on this blog and I consider this the last June movie. 

Tag
Comedies have been really entertaining this year so I have made an effort to see more in theaters. Tag is one of those very entertaining movies and they clearly take liberties with the true story. The fact that Jeremy Renner's arms were broken is insane and I like seeing Jon Hamm in more movies. I do wish he would do more dramas, I didn't see his other film Beirut but I plan to rent it. The standout for me was Jake Johnson as his character was really funny. 
You Were Never Really Here
This movie was messed up and weird. I read somewhere that they rushed the process of editing and it feels that way a bit. Definitely something to this film but I don't know if I'll ever want to watch it again. 
Ocean's Eight
I revisited the newer Ocean's trilogy before seeing this and I don't really like any of these films. It's cool to see big stars walking around and saying lines and dressing nice, but as far as any plausible heist and clever twist, it didn't try very hard. I'd be up for another one, I just wish they would put more thought into the heist and maybe have a good villain. 

Hotel Artemis
The most disappointing movie of the last two months was such a missed opportunity. Sterling K. Brown is going to be a great leading man while Dave Bautista continues to show his comedic skill. Sofia Boutella should get her own action franchise. Jodie Foster had an interesting character but even support from Jeff Goldblum and Charlie Day couldn't make this very funny or elevate the action. I want more movies like this one, just better. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Sports: May - June

Sports has been crazy these last two months and it's unfortunate that I'm not very good at writing about it. Soccer has become a new interest that has paid off with tons of exciting games in the World Cup. Hockey and basketball both finished seasons that had surprises and predictable moments. The College Baseball World Series finished up with a new champion just as Major League Baseball barrels towards the All-Star break with tons of great games. 

Basketball: NBA Finals
A predictable and repetitive NBA finals led to a blowout and sweep by the Golden State Warriors over the Cleveland Cavaliers. We did a pizza party each game, which was hell on my new diet, but luckily we only had four nights of pizza thanks to the Warriors' dominance. Lebron James, my current favorite player and the best I've ever seen, did his best but Steph Curry was backed up by Kevin Durant and an unstoppable crew. I enjoyed the playoffs a lot this year and liked the relief of not having to do my terrible job of blogging about them. 

Hockey: Stanley Cup Finals
This was my first full season of watching hockey and I put a considerably larger investment of time and money into it. I only see myself diving deeper into this brutal competition on ice as I'll now follow four teams. The Washington Capitals are a bit of a rival to my early favorites like the Blue Jackets and Penguins and I was pumped to purchase a Vegas Golden Knights hat, but I'm sure they'll get one eventually. The Stanly Cup playoffs make a great pairing with basketball and I look forward to both season starting again in the winter. 

Soccer: World Cup
Soccer is something that I was a bit hesitant to dive into but I have no regrets trying to keep up with this excellent global competition. While the knockout round begins the first day of July, I have no idea who will eventually triumph but I've bought in on my pick of Brazil even going so far as ordering a bright yellow shirt. There are a ton of great teams and the matches are going to be exciting from here on out.
 
College Baseball: World Series
It's not always easy to keep up with college sports, but the College Baseball World Series is an exciting series of games. The ending of this one was especially exciting as I was about to get an Arkansas hat contributing to my SEC collection when a dropped foul ball refused the Razorbacks fortune leading to a win for the Oregon State Beavers.
 
Soccer: USA Open Cup
After Atlanta United go eliminated, I haven't been paying as much attention but the action picks up next month so I'll have more to write about this Cup once it picks back up next month. I do hope to write about this tournament and the MLS in the next month. Atlanta United is doing really well in the league so I'll be following them closely until tournament time. Louisville City FC is who I'm rooting for now and I hope to attend a game in August. 

Major League Baseball

The Atlanta Braves are in first place in the NL East. That's all I really care about but I follow three other teams. The Cincinnati Reds have turned things around under their new coach but this season is far from salvageable. The Chicago Cubs fight for the top of their division against the Brewers. The reigning champs, the Houston Astros are holding off the Seattle Mariners. A battle in the AL East between the Boston Red Sox and Yankees should get national coverage while the Indians hold strong in the AL Central. Arizona remains at top of the NL West. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Blog Pause

I'm taking a break from writing this blog to focus on other work.

Movie Review: Avengers: Infinity War

This review will be my last for a while and it is a great film to go out on. The third Avengers film is the culmination of a giant interconnected universe. Going to a late Friday night screening was a great experience as the packed audience was caught up in the excitement and shocking finale of this crossover event. I thought I would be tired but instead, I was enthralled from the opening scene to the post-credits teaser. This film made for one of the most exciting films I've seen in a theater in a long time and I left the film shocked by the ending and I still haven't had time to process all the characters and everything that happened. The film is pretty long but it sped by and I can't wait to see it again so that I can analyze the little details that I didn't catch on my first viewing.

The film follows close behind the third Thor film with Thanos (Josh Brolin) taking on the ship of fleeing Asgardians. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is caught and forced to bear the pain of the Power Stone as Loki (Tom Hiddleston) conceals the Space Stone, or the Tesseract. Loki reveals it and Thanos chokes him for his trouble. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) fights Thanos but Heimdall (Idris Elba) transports him away to Earth before he can be killed. It does cost Heimdall his life as the other characters from the last Thor are not even shown. The film is busy so minor characters like Thanos's henchmen The Black Order don't get much of an introduction. 

The various villains set out to find the remaining four Infinity Stones heading first to New York City where Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has the Time Stone. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) Has to leave his fiance Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) to talk with Strange, Wong (Benedict Wong), and Hulk. They reveal the danger of Thanos and fight one of the villains. Spider-Man (Tom Holland) assists Iron Man in fighting the Black Order and they all take off into space after the Time Stone. Bruce Banner is unable to transform into the Hulk. The Guardians of the Galaxy discover Thor in the wreckage and Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is jealous while Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is impressed. She warns of Thanos and they split off on various missions.

Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Quill and Gamora head to Knowhere to find the Reality Stone. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) go with Thor to a dying star to build his ax. Vision (Paul Bettany) is in hiding with Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) when they are attacked by the Black Order for his Mind Stone. Captain America (Chris Evans) arrives and with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to fight the Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon) until they leave. Thor encounters Eitri (Peter Dinklage) and they make the Stormbreaker and it is made from Groot's arm. The Avengers meet up with Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Shuri (Letitia Wright). The final battle is epic.

I'm not going to get too deep into the finale. Maybe one day in the future I'll have a chance to analyze it and assess what happened but for now, I'll just say it was an amazing even though I felt it ended a bit abruptly. The final moments are amazing and I was so stunned at the end, I didn't know what was going to happen. I am reading the graphic novel collection of the comics and can see how they got to this point. I don't think I'll ever get tired of revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

The heroes of the Marvel universe reunite for a second fight, this time against a murderous artificial intelligence created by one of their own members. The epic superhero blockbuster begins with a wild battle at a Hydra base where the scepter was hidden and used for advanced experiments. The weaponry allows the Hydra soldiers to fly and shoot lasers but they are no match for the Avengers. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) makes it inside but he is given a vision by Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) who has been enhanced along with her brother Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is able to calm down the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) so he turns back into Bruce Banner. Captain America (Chris Evans) takes out Baron Von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) plans to return the scepter to Asgard, but not before a party.

Tony Stark has created a group of robots to help them fight and they are controlled by Jarvis (Paul Bettany) so he noticed a similarity in the scepter. Stark and Banner experiment with the scepter but can't figure it out before the party starts. Ultron (James Spader) wakes up and destroys Jarvis. As the Avengers party and try to lift Thor's hammers, Ultron takes control of Stark's robots. The Avengers fight the robots until Ultron flees with the scepter back to the Hydra base where he begins to build an army. The Avengers search for a clue as to Ultron's next move and learn of Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and his hidden stash of Vibranium near Wakanda. Wanda and Pietro Maximoff confront Klaue who is unintimidated until Ultron shows up and cuts off his arm. The Avengers show up to fight Ultron but Scarlet Witch hypnotizes several of them including the Hulk.

Iron Man uses his Hulkbuster army to fight the enraged and out of control Hulk through the streets and buildings of an African city until he finally renders him unconscious. Defeated, the Avengers head to the home of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Thor recalls his vision and soars off to find Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) where he has a vision of the Infinity Stones. As Tony and Steve Rogers debate what to do next, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up to help them come up with a plan. The Avengers figure out that Ultron hopes to build a body with Vibranium and something is stopping him from getting to the missile launch codes. Wanda and Pietro learn that Ultron plans worldwide destruction. Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow head to South Korea to stop Ultron from uploading his body. Cap fights Ultron atop a truck through the streets. Their fight is moved to a train that Ultron sets on a destructive path until Scarlet Witch manages to stop it and Quicksilver pulls people out of the way.

Hawkeye receives the cradle containing the Vibranium body but Black Widow is captured by Ultron. Stark convinces Banner to put Jarvis into the Vibranium body to create Vision. Captain American has teamed up with Wanda and Pyotr. They try to prevent Tony from doing it but then they see the result is not as dangerous. The Avengers learn of Ultron's plan and head to Sokovia to fight him and his army of robots. Ultron has put a drill into the ground and plans to lift it up into the air only to drop it back down as a meteor and destroy the Earth. The Avengers work together to protect the drill though they don't save everyone as witnessed in future installments. 

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a step down from the first Avengers film but still has plenty of great superhero action and benefits from a cool villain. Seeing the Avengers back together is pretty cool but this film feels like it is biding its time for something bigger. There is a lot of set up still going into this film and it kills off Quicksilver before he gets through one film, mostly I think because of rights with another superhero franchise. The film is improved by what comes after as the finale proves to be a pivotal moment in the relationship of the superheroes. I enjoyed Age of Ultron but I suspect this is when many people became bored with the franchise and wanted something else to dominate theaters. 

Movie Review: The Avengers

The heroes of the Marvel universe unit to fend off the destruction of the world. With five solo films to introduce each superhero explore their origins, the characters finally come together hinting at a larger story. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his agents of S.H.I.E.LD. like Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Maria Hill (Colbie Smulders) become aware of a disturbance with a strange artifact known as the tesseract. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) was experimenting on it under the watchful eye of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) aka the Black Widow is pulled from an assignment to seek out Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) who struggles to contain his alter ego, the Hulk. 

Coulson recruits Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his Iron Man suit to join the Avengers. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) aka Captain America is still recovering from waking up from his frozen slumber. The villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston) gathers a group of soldiers using mind control with his scepter over Hawkeye and Selvig. He builds a portal with the tesseract to bring an extraterrestrial army known as the Chitauri to earth. The Avengers gather on a floating ship and search for the tesseract cube. Loki turns up at a wealthy dinner where he extracts the eye of a man in front of a crowd while Hawkeye breaks into a secure facility. Captain America arrives and confronts Loki but he's having some trouble until Iron Man shows up.

With Loki captured, Black Widow flies back to the floating fortress but Thor (Chris Hemsworth) intercepts them. The God of Thunder tries to reason with his brother but Iron Man crashes into him. They fight in the trees until Captain America breaks them up. They regroup on the Helicarrier keeping Loki in a secure glass prison. As Dr. Banner researches the tesseract, the other Avengers learned of SHIELD's true plan and disagreements grow into arguments. Hypnotized, Hawkeye storms the floating base with soldiers to free Loki. Iron Man and Captain America are forced to work together to stay afloat as Banner loses control turning into the Hulk and chasing Black Widow. Thor tries to stop him from destroying too much as Coulson tries to stop Loki from escaping at the cost of his life. Hulk falls to the ground on a jet while Thor is tricked by Loki who locks him in the glass vault and drops him to the ground. Black Widow manages to knock Hawkeye in the head and stop the mind control. 

Tony Stark realizes that Loki plans to use his Stark tower to create the portal and confronts him on the top floor. Loki throws him off the roof but his new suit saves him. The portal opens and the Chitauri fly through attacking New York City. In one of the most spectacular superhero battles in any movie, the Avengers fight the Chitauri and prevent a nuclear missile from destroying New York. Iron Man makes the sacrifice that Captain America didn't think he was capable of making. Bruce Banner shows up to reveal his secret of always being angry and the Hulk smashes the alien army. Loki is imprisoned and returned to Asgard by Thor. Nick Fury allows the heroes to head on their way to phase two.

Avengers is an extraordinary superhero film, something never before seen on film. Joss Whedon does an extraordinary job of juggling all the characters and still having a solid amount of development while also showing some amazing action sequences. The film is a bit cheesy now that I watch it again but I still can't help myself from enjoying it a lot and wanting to see more just like it. There is a reason this film was a box office smash and spawned so may more Marvel films. 

Sports: NBA Playoffs (Second Round)

Same as hockey, I just don't have space in my schedule to research and write about sports as I would like, so I'll just make some quick predictions and then spell out the rest of the playoffs. I'll probably be wrong but that's the fun of unpredictable sports, at least I hope it's not easy to predict what will happen. Having basketball playoffs on television is a lot of fun but unfortunately, I can't stay up late to watch them all. 

East
Philadelphia 76ers vs Boston Celtics
The process and injuries lead me to this one.

Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers
I'm not going against Lebron James.

West
Houston Rockets vs Utah Jazz
There has already been one blowout in this series and James Harden is the MVP.

Golden State Warriors vs New Orleans Pelicans
Best team in basketball does it again.

I think the Rockets should upset the Warriors, it'll be a great series. I am also thinking that Lebron makes it back to the finals and falls to James Harden and Houston.