Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Movie Review: X-Men Apocalypse (PG13 – 144 minutes)

The X-Men have been Marvel comic book characters since they were created in 1963.  They were mutant superheroes, led by Professor Charles Xavier – the X in X-Men.  The ‘mutant’ powers manifested differently in each person – so essentially you could have a group of mutants each with very different skills of varying strength.  This is also a bit unfair. You can get one mutant with amazing telekinesis, and another who can be stretchy - not really fair. The original line up was Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Marvel Girl (Jean Grey).   Throughout the years, the lineup has changed and evolved, but they all share the same goal as Xavier’s original plan: integrating mutants and humans to live in peace.  Xavier founded his ‘school for the gifted’ to help mutants learn to use their powers and control them. If they stayed on at the school, they had the opportunity to become one of his X-Men.  

Apocalypse was a character who debuted in 1986 in X-Factor #5.  Essentially, he was a being born thousands of years ago, perhaps the first mutant - he had gray skin and blue lips and was named En Sabah Nur. Over many years, he traveled the earth, convincing different civilizations that he was a god.  He encouraged everyone he met to start various wars, to go towards his ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality.  He was a major villain in the 90s animated X-Men cartoon – which was easily the best depiction of the X-Men, and if you want to know more about them, Netflix that show.

The X-Men movie universe started in 2000 with Fox (not the Disney-Marvel MCU) when director Bryan Singer released X-Men. The casting was just about perfect, and the movie did what it could to bring the super-powered mutants to the screen.  The best thing it did was introduce the world to Australian actor Hugh Jackman, who got the movie days before it started shooting as Dougray Scott, who was supposed to play Wolverine, was unable to get out of his Mission Impossible role in time to shoot the movie.  Wolverine was already a fan favorite, but Jackman’s performance elevated him to a new level of popularity.  This was expounded on in the second movie, X2, released in 2003, as the X-Men found themselves under attack by the mutant-suspicous government and William Stryker.  For X3 – or The Last Stand - in 2006, Singer stepped out to shoot Superman Returns (a huge mistake on his part), and Brett Ratner (the man behind the Rush Hour movies) stepped in.  There are parts of this movie that are interesting, but the majority of it is not great.  It did try to tackle the ambitious Phoenix Saga from the comics. 

Wolverine swiftly got his own spin-off origin movie in 2009 – notable only for casting Ryan Reynolds as non-Deadpool and giving him the motivation to make a good Deadpool movie.  It also managed to ruin Gambit – but I will say that I enjoyed Liev Schrieber’s take on Sabretooth, plus – everybody loves Will.I.Am, right? 

The X-Men themselves were re-booted in 2011 for X-Men First Class.  The movie was set in the 60s and we got to see the friendship between Magneto and Professor X start as they began to build the X-Men. Wolverine got another spin-off in 2013 as Wolverine traveled to Japan to fight the Silver Samurai.  Then Singer stepped back in to tackle one of the most ambitious storylines from the comics, Days of Future Past, in 2014.   The movie was entertaining, and managed to capitalize on both Jackman’s popular portrayal of Wolverine and the popularity of Jennifer Lawrence by having the older set of X-Men from the first go-round of movies send Wolverine back in time to interact with the younger set of X-Men from the second go-round of movies and try to stop Mystique from killing the president.  It’s all very confusing, but it was a really entertaining movie.

That brings us up to date and to X-Men Apocalypse. In this movie, Apocalypse is a mutant who believes himself to be a god, and was perfectly happy to traipse through ancient Egypt with his four horsemen, shifting his consciousness from mutant to mutant, picking up powers as he goes.  They finally seem to find a mutant with indestructability as a power, and he shifts into that mutant, just as some ancient Egyptians rebel, and he winds up getting buried.

Cut to present day – and by present day I actually mean 1983.  Slight spoiler alerts from here on down - you've been warned!
CIA operative Moira Taggert has been tracking a cult worshipping En Sabah Nur, and stumbles across them just as they manage to get him to wake up.  He sets out to immediately get familiar with this new world, and promptly begins recruiting horsemen.  He starts with Ororo Munroe – or Storm, as he encounters her running a group of young thieves in Egypt. They head up to Europe and collect Angel and Psylocke, who is working for Caliban.  They head out to recruit Magneto – who, after the very public events of Days of Future Past in Washington D.C., has been living a very quiet life in Poland with his new wife and daughter.
We see Mystique, who seems to be spending as much time as possible in Jennifer Lawrence form, as opposed to her natural blue state, perhaps to show off the Oscar-winner, or to save makeup time, or storyline-wise, to hide out after the events in Washington.  She is rescuing Nightcrawler from what seems to be a underground mutant fighting ring?  I assumed because he’s her son, but at no point is that mentioned in this movie – so maybe that’s not part of this universe?  In any case, she hears that Magneto has resurfaced after he uses his powers to save a co-worker at a metal factory, and his co-workers promptly turn him in.  During that altercation, his wife and child accidentally get killed, and he quickly shifts back to angry vengeance.   That’s the perfect time for Apocalypse to find him and win him over to being a horseman.  Mystique takes Nightcrawler back to the X-Mansion to talk to the Professor about Magneto.

Well, the Professor is all upset, Beast is happy to see Mystique (although he too is more in his Nicholas Hoult form instead of his blue Beast form), and new recruits Jean Grey and Scott Summers are flirting. Scott was brought to the school by his older brother Alex Summers – Havok from First Class…try not to get to concerned about the fact that in the comics, Alex is younger.  It’s worth pointing out here that in this timeline, the Professor, Magneto, Beast, and Mystique are all between 35-40ish; and Scott, Jean, Nightcrawler and Jubliee are all 18ish.  I point this out, because it seems key, but is never really mentioned in the movie.

The Professor uses Cerebro to try to find Magneto – but unfortunately, since he’s with Apocalypse, Apocalypse is able to use Cerebro to find all kinds of people, show the Professor how powerful and end-of-worldly he is, and then have Psylocke promptly teleport he and the four horsemen right to the X-Mansion.  They take off with the professor, leaving the rest of the X-Men to try regroup to stop him, even though Stryker and the government promptly show up to destroy the Mansion, the mansion is always getting destroyed. Stryker takes everyone to the same base in Canada we’ve seen in multiple movies, so of course, the kids find Wolverine who gets loose and kills everyone he comes across, allowing the kids to use that as a distraction to get everyone out.  They head back to Egypt, where Apocalypse took the Professor to rebuild a pyramid, and then attempt to transfer his consciousness into Xavier.  The X-Men arrive just in time to turn Jean loose for a final battle with Apocalypse.

The negative word of mouth with this movie started early, really based on some early footage of Apocalypse, and the fact that he looked like Ivan Ooze from the Power Rangers movie. To be fair, he wasn't really that color in the movie - but he was that small, and despite the fact that they were insistent on telling us he would change size like he did in the cartoon - he only gets bigger in one scene, and it's a mental fight inside Charles's mind. So - he doesn't really change size. 

I will say the world-wide destruction really looked animated and not all that believable, but I did not see it in 3D. Maybe that would make a difference?  Singer knows how to direct these movies, and the core cast has been together long enough that they really play well off one another.

  • James McAvoy is back as Professor Charles Xavier, and yes, he finally loses all that hair in this movie and gets the same wheelchair as the one the Professor had in the first movie. He’s great in the role, and it’s easy to believe that he eventually grows into Patrick Stewart.

  • Michael Fassbender returns as Magneto, and he actually does the best job in this movie but mainly because he has the most to do emotionally.  We encounter him finally almost at peace, and then he is completely broken when he loses his wife and daughter. He shifts into anger and hatred, then to vengeance and hopelessness – and then finally back to a little bit of hope as he helps to rebuild the mansion.

  • Jennifer Lawrence’s role has increased in these movies as her popularity and Oscar quantities have increased. She’s fine as Mystique, but I didn’t like that she spent so little time blue in this movie – and I also have never really liked this version of Mystique, since she was one of my favorites from the animated series.  Would it kill her to put on the white dress? To be fair, her outfit at the very end in the danger room is closest.

  • Nicholas Hoult is back as Hank McCoy or Beast – and again, spends most of the movie in non-blue form.  He’s still really smart, and is all excited about his new X-Jet.

  • Oscar Isaac plays Apocalypse, and while he did a great job with the over the top speeches, he wasn’t anywhere near the physicality that Apocalypse should have. He’s always towered over everyone else, and should have been much taller.  The costume was also not quite right, but the color was better. Didn't he have some sort of mind control over his horsemen? Here, he just seems to talk people into following him.

  • Rose Byrne is back for the first time since the First Class movie – yes, timeline wise, that was almost 20 years ago – try not to think about that, or you’ll wonder why none of the characters look like they have aged 20 years.

  • Evan Peters plays the Fox-Marvel version of Quicksilver, and once again has a wonderful scene that steals the movie as he rescues everyone from the Mansion as it is exploding. He tells Mystique that Magneto is his father, but never mentions it to Magneto.  At no point is Wanda mentioned, and she seems to not exist.

  • Josh Helman plays young Stryker, who has also been Danny Huston and Brian Cox. He’s dastardly and evil, and manages to sneak out of his secret base just before it all goes to hell.

  • Sophie Turner plays Jean Grey – and does a really good job of being terrified of her own strength for most of the movie, and then letting loose in the end – I really enjoyed that part.

  • Tye Sheridan plays Scott Summers, he really just has to have issues with his eyes, and he’s not yet the Scott we need in terms of the ‘boy-scout’-style leader of the group, but maybe he will get there.

  • Lucas Till (your new MacGyver – you heard that right) plays Alex Summers – Havok, and seems to disappear halfway through the movie. Will he be back? Who knows.

  • Kodi Smit-McPhee plays Nightcrawler, and does a great job of being fun and sympathetic while blue.  But still – he’s Mystique and Azazel’s son – which is not mentioned at all, even though Quicksilver is all about telling people who his father is – except for his actual father.

  • Ben Hardy plays Angel for 10 minutes, then Archangel for 15 minutes. He’s barely in the movie, and really, the Ben Foster versions was one of the good parts of the X3 movie, so I’m not sure we needed this 1983 punk version.

  • Alexandra Shipp plays Storm, and she’s interesting at this point, young and thieving. She’s a huge fan of Mystique’s so it’s pretty easy for Apocalypse to win her over to his side. However, at the end, she flips sides and becomes a hero, choosing to stay at the mansion, and eventually grow into Halle Berry, because wouldn't we all choose to grow into Halle Berry if we could?

  • Lana Condor plays Jubilee – who gets nothing to do, and we don’t even get to see her fireworks powers. Apparently she had more scenes, and action – but it was cut out of the movie.  I keep waiting for them to do something cool with her, since she was the lead-in character of the animated series.

  • Olivia Munn plays Psylocke, and really looks the closest to her comic counterpart of anyone in the movie – especially the outfit.  Although, no one else is dressed that skimpy.  Maybe it’s easier for her to move around in that?  Plus, the high-thigh unitard thing was big in the 80s.  She makes it out in the end, so I expect she will show up again.

Overall, I did like it far more than I was expecting to like it.  I really appreciated how it fit so well into the X-Men cinematic universe they have built – which is tricky because they have ‘young’ and ‘old’ versions of folks.  The action was pretty good, but it’s tough in a summer with Captain America Civil War in it – because the action wasn’t as good in this, the story wasn’t as good in this, and the performances weren’t as good in this.  Civil War really nailed all parts of making a great comic-book movie, and Disney-Marvel again nailed the perfect tone of balancing the heavy with the light.  I’m not sure this did as good a job.  The majority of it was heavy, making the light moments feel really out of place – but I did appreciate that they were there. I know it’s an unfair comparison – they are completely difference franchises and should not be compared – but, in the same way that you couldn’t help but compare Batman Vs. Superman with Civil War – you can’t help but compare this as well.  I was disappointed in Apocalypse, he was always one of my favorites from the animated series.  But my favorite villain was always Mr. Sinister. Stay after the credits – perhaps we’ll see Sinister in future movies?

7 out of 10 – it’s not terrible, it has some good parts, and it fits in the universe well. I’m still excited for the potential Channing Tatum Gambit movie, and for the next Wolverine movie, and for future X-Men movies. 
Bonus - the trailer for this movie, done with scenes from the animated series - genius!
Cast interviews:

Friday, May 27, 2016

Movie Review: Neighbors 2 Sorority Rising (R – 92 minutes)

I did not see the first Neighbors, mainly because I usually feel too old and too square for Seth Rogen comedies.  While one dick joke or stoner joke might be funny to me, I can’t handle 2 hours of it.  That’s just a personal preference, I actually really enjoy him in ensemble comedies.  The first Neighbors came out in 2014, and essentially featured Rogen and Rose Byrne as a young married couple dealing with the horror of living next door to a fraternity.

In this swiftly made sequel, the couple, Mac and Kelly Radner, are pregnant with their second child and getting ready to move out of their house and into a bigger more isolated location, where the neighbors are further away.  

All they have to do is make sure the current house stays lovely for the next month while they are in escrow.  The new buyers can stop by at any time, and any off-putting moment could be enough for them to back out of the deal.

Everything going fine when suddenly, new college freshmen Shelby, Beth and Nora move in to the old frat house next door.  They are frustrated with the sorority options on campus. 

Apparently sororities are not allowed to ‘party’ only frats are – and those parties are all a bit…sexist doesn’t quite cover it – let’s go with rapey.  Very very rapey.  The girls just want to hang out, smoke weed, and dance.  Feeling like they have no options to do that on campus, and under the guidance of Teddy Sanders (the infamous frat dude from the first movie), they get the house next door and start their own external sorority, where they can throw the themed parties they want to, without constantly worrying that they’ll be drugged and raped.  Teddy is going through his own nonsense, since his best bud Pete is getting married and wants him out of their house.

Teddy starts to help the girls get pledges, members, and throw parties.  The Radners get upset and try to shut down the sorority, which proves difficult, especially with Teddy helping them.  The girls eventually kick Teddy out, and he switches sides, helping the Radners shut down the girls.  Hijinks ensue.  

The movie, like the first one, is directed by Nicholas Stoller – who also did Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek – so he’s used to R-rated comedies, and this one is certainly rated R.  There’s a running gag throughout the movie of the Radner’s toddler daughter playing with a dildo as her favorite toy, and that’s mild compared to some of the other jokes. Yes, there were many laughs throughout, and chances are – if you liked the first one, you’ll like this one. 

  • Seth Rogen stars as Mac Radner, and once again – seems to play Seth Rogen. He’s a stoner not quite sure he’s a good parent and a little overwhelmed at the thought of a second child.  Once he teams up with Teddy, they become a bit of a wrecking crew, neither of which is the brains of the operation.

  • Zac Efron and his abs (seriously, they featured in the movie so much they needed their own credit) play Teddy – a self-absorbed jackass who just wants to feel valued, and isn’t really finding that at his retail job as all his friends have grown up and gotten real careers.  Efron is good at playing dumb and pretty – so he should be great in the Baywatch remake/spoof that’s coming up this summer.

  • Rose Byrne continues to be surprisingly good at slapstick comedy for a British lady.  She was very funny in Bridesmaids and continues that trend here.  Kelly Radner stays just on the edge of surprised panic for most of the movie, and can really curse out a kid with the best of them.  Her final resolution with the sorority next door is both sudden and implausible, but it works for the movie.

  • Chloe Grace Moretz continues to age in front of us and this time plays stoner college freshman Shelby.  She doesn’t really seem to have a goal for the movie aside from just partying as much as possible, but only the way she wants to.  I kept wondering if any of the ‘college’ kids in this movie were actually going to any classes.

  • Kiersey Clemons plays Beth, one of the three girls.  She gets next to nothing to do, and a scene where L.L. Cool J played her father was cut out, which is a shame.

  • Beanie Feldstein plays Nora – and again, really has nothing to do, Moretz is the leader of the trio, so the other two are just there to complete her triangle of crazy. It’s a shame, because I feel like they could have added a bit more given the opportunity.   

  • Ike Barinholtz plays Jimmy – Mac’s friend and go to insane person.  He and his wife are also expecting, and they try to help out in the battle with the sisters next door.

  • Dave Franco plays Pete again – and while not in this movie as much, he does steal quite a few of the scenes he’s in.  His boyfriend proposes to him at the beginning of the movie, prompting him to kick out Teddy, which then leads to Teddy floundering and finally growing up.

  • Jerrod Carmichael and Christopher Mintz-Plasse basically cameo as former frat buddies; I’ll assume they were in the first movie – and Hannibal Buress cameos as Carmichael’s cop partner in a funny scene where they try to shut down as many weed dealers in the area as possible.

  • Selena Gomez keeps her hands to herself while playing the president of Phi Lamda, a sorority on campus that Shelby, Beth and Nora attempt to pledge, but then hate, but then come back around to accepting at the end of the movie.

Overall I laughed more than I thought I would, but I still spent a lot of time being grossed out.  I did try to remember that this is a slapstick comedy, so I should not expect any of the characters to have any real growth or development through the story.  Even the three girls have very little arc.  They eventually become so desperate to get money to stay in the house that they end up throwing one of the type of parties they hate – then are guided by Kelly to realize that they don’t have to compromise their values to get what they want, and instead go back to throwing their type of parties where they could be themselves.  Was that growth? Not really, they just get back to where they started.  I suppose you could argue that’s a positive message for young women, but it’s buried under so much nonsense that I couldn’t really get behind that.  And honestly, the Danny Glover in me just kept wondering if there were no classes at this college? At all? Because none of these kids seem to be going to classes. All they do is smoke weed and party, and I’m pretty sure you can’t get a degree in that.  I did enjoy that the girls referred to their new pledges as minions – and literally for any scene with them, they dressed like, acted like and sounded like the yellow animated minions – very clever. There are certainly parts that are funny, and if you don’t go in expecting more than that – you’ll be pleased. 

5 out of 10 – Gained points for Seth Rogen’s painted-on abs.  Lost points for no one at this college going to any classes whatsoever. Also – Kelsey Grammer cameo – not sure if that gains you points or loses you points.

Cast Interviews - 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Movie Review: Captain America Civil War (PG13 – 147 minutes)

The MCU – or Marvel Cinematic Universe – started in 2008 with the release of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man and the re-re-invention of Robert Downey Jr.  It was carefully crafted to begin a series of films featuring Marvel characters, and create a wide-ranging universe that would allow these characters to interplay with each other in their own films and come together in group efforts.  Phase 1 included Iron Man (2008), Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), Captain America (2011), and built towards Joss Whedon’s The Avengers in 2012 which managed to bring all the characters together in a really fun way.

Phase 2 continued with Iron Man 3 (2013), Thor 2 (2013), Captain America 2 (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Avengers 2 (2015), and Ant-Man (2015).  The second Avengers again featured many of the heroes working together, but I found myself enjoying several of the more individual movies a little bit more.  In particular Guardians of the Galaxy introduced characters I was mostly unfamiliar with, but was done with so much fun and general space badassery by director James Gunn that it swiftly became one of my favorites.  I also really loved Ant-Man, which was a super fun tight little heist movie by Peyton Reed.  Captain America 2 – the Winter Soldier – was directed by the Russo brothers, who started on episodes of Arrested Development and Community, and really announced themselves as terrific action directors.  The movie felt like a 70s espionage movie, introduced Falcon, strengthened Black Widow, and brought back Bucky Barnes as the vicious Winter Soldier.  It was an incredible movie that is still one of my favorites. 

MCU Phase 3 kicks off with Captain America Civil War, which features so many characters it’s almost Avengers 3.  However, it tells a more personal story, it just happens to have a ton of people in it.  In the comics, the Civil War storyline took place from 2006 – 2007.  

Essentially, the government passes a Superhero Registration Act, designed to have super-powered individuals act under official regulation, like a higher level police unit.  Superheroes opposed to the act (Cap and team) find themselves taking a stance against those who support it (Iron Man and team).  The X-Men remained neutral – having dealt with a lot of anti-mutant sentiment already, and Mr. Fantastic and Ms. Marvel join Iron Man in support of the government.  The pro-registration team becomes more authoritarian, and in the aftermath, Captain America surrenders and is imprisoned.   There are lots of other things that happen – but that’s a quick summary for you – this movie uses some themes from the comics, but the main storyline is different.

This is definitely a Captain America movie, and picks up with Cap leading his group of new Avengers from the end of Age of Ultron on a mission to find and stop Crossbones, who is what’s left of Brock Rumlow.  You remember him – he was the leader of the strike force in Winter Soldier who betrayed Cap and was revealed to have been Hydra the whole time.  Well, he’s leading a ragtag group of mercenaries on what seems to be random terrible missions.  He and the other mercenaries are trying to steal a biological weapon from a disease center in Lagos, Nigeria when Cap, Falcon, Black Widow, and Scarlet Witch team up to stop them in an absolutely incredible action sequence.  They are pretty much successful, except for the fact that Crossbones attempts to win by blowing up himself and Cap – but Scarlet Witch contains the explosion, and sends it upwards – right into the side of a building, resulting in the deaths of several people – including eleven citizens of the very wealthy, very technologically advanced, very private, and very fictional Wakanda, who were on a peace mission.
Back at the Avengers compound, Scarlet Witch is wallowing in her guilt over the situation when the Secretary of Defense, Thunderbolt Ross (who we haven’t seen since the Incredible Hulk in 2008), comes by to tell them about the Sokovia Accords.  Everyone gathers at the Avengers Compound Official Conference Table.

Essentially, the UN is tired of the collateral damage of the Avengers fighting evil, and wants something in place to hold them accountable.  The heroes who sign the accords will report to the UN, going only where they are sent, and taking action only when they are allowed.  Cap’s not sure that’s the best bet, he knows that even though the Avengers can make mistakes, they are still better off operating on their own.  As everyone is arguing, and Vision is quoting math and logic, Cap gets a text that Agent Carter has passed away. 

He heads to London for the funeral, where he’s reintroduced to Sharon Carter – Agent 13 who lived across the hall from him in Winter soldier.  Everyone else heads to Vienna to sign the accords, where Black Widow gets to chatting with T’Challa, the prince of Wakanda, there to support his father T’Chaka as he pushes for the signing of the accords.  While there, a bomb is set off, T’Chaka is killed and the Winter Soldier is the main suspect. T’Challa sets off with vengeance on his mind, and Sharon gets word to Cap that Bucky has been spotted in Romania - probably because Sebastian Stan was born in Romania and speaks it fluently.  This leads to the amazing Bucky/Black Panther/Cap/Falcon chase/fight that you’ve seen clips of, and yet – it’s still a downright amazing action sequence. 

Inevitably, everybody gets captured, Cap gets chastised by Tony Stark, who is pushing hard for everyone to sign the accords thanks to his guilt over the amount of people killed in Sokovia while fighting Ultron (his fault). Black Panther is still all about killing Bucky, Falcon is about backing up Cap, and Cap is about trying to help Bucky, believing him when he said he didn’t do the bombing.  Here, the main villain’s plot starts to really come together, and Bucky gets out, leading to the escape action sequence.

That leads to both sides calling in assistance wherever they can find it for the airport action sequence.  Cap’s team is there to basically distract as Cap and Bucky get to a plane to get to Russia, and Iron Man and his team are there to arrest Cap and team.  Listen, by now, you’ve heard about the sequence, and I will confirm that it is easily the best fight sequence in any superhero movie to date – but above that, it’s an exceptionally fun fight sequence in any movie.  The weight of the emotional aspects of the story never gets lost, but there are enough jokes and fun spots sprinkled in that the entire scene is entertaining and spectacular.

I won’t say much else, because really you do need to see this movie.  The Russo Brothers have outdone themselves with this one, and really, the best news to come out of this was that they have been confirmed as the directors of the next two Avengers movies in late 2018, and 2019. It is so much fun, the action is incredible and the performances are wonderful.  Spoiler Alert from this point down.  You’ve been warned!

  • Chris Evans has really seemed to settle in to Captain America’s spangly outfit.  I wasn’t sure about casting him at the very beginning, but he has swiftly become my favorite Avenger.  Even Evans himself was at first skeptical about signing on for a multi-picture deal, but you can see how much he enjoys the character, and how much fun he brings. He does a beautiful job of making you see how Cap is truly torn about what he feels is right and where Tony states the Avengers should be.  And yes, those are really his biceps as Cap prevents a helicopter from taking off by grabbing it.  BY GRABBING IT.

  • Robert Downey Jr. really does share the top billing in this movie with Evans, but never really steals the show, which is interesting – because it’s very easy for him to do. He’s just so darn charismatic.  At no point is either viewpoint depicted as wrong – it’s very easy to understand how both IronMan and Cap choose the sides they are on.  RDJ is once again fantastic, fun, action-capable, and really entertaining.  And I was once again reminded of just how great an actor he is in this movie.  Tony begins the movie racked with guilt, shifts to determined and angry, and at the end becomes completely overwhelmed with grief, despair, and then vengeance and fury.  He is so great in this.  Plus – bonus points for the CGI-ed younger RDJ that reminds you of what he looked like in Less Than Zero.

  • Scarlett Johansson plays Black Widow, and is torn in this movie between her loyalty to Cap and her desire to keep the Avengers together.  Keeping in mind her viewpoint at the end of Winter Soldier, it’s interesting that she starts on Team Iron Man in this movie, in support of the government, but after-all – she’s trained as a super-spy, so she will of course try to keep open to all and any information. 

  • Anthony Mackie plays Falcon, and yes in this one he gets Redwing!  Okay, so it’s not a real bird as it is in the comics, but it is a little bird-shaped drone that becomes his eyes and ears at a distance.  Also – again, incredible hand to hand fight combat scenes, and the wings are so much more involved in various ways.  Mackie again manages to be really fun and hilarious while also being a serious sidekick/friend to Cap. 

  • Sebastian Stan plays the Winter Soldier, and really, does a great job of trying to fight his way back to being a good guy after spending years brainwashed by Hydra.  Some of my favorite scenes were he and Falcon running, fighting, or sitting in a Volkswagon together. They are really great as a pair, especially in the scene where Cap finally gets a kiss from Sharon – and they both look very happy for their boy. 

  • Don Cheadle plays James Rhodes, or War Machine – and it's no surprise he sides with the government and Iron Man - after all,  he’s a soldier through and through. He doesn’t have many scenes, but really does a great job in the ones he has of keeping Stark grounded.

  • Jeremy Renner continues to make me like Hawkeye in spite of myself. He starts the movie as telling everyone he’s not involved because he’s ‘retired’ but as soon as Cap needs him, he’s there no questions asked. That makes sense to me, since Cap was the first one to trust him and give him the chance to prove himself after Loki poked around in his head in the Avengers. Renner has been very vocal about wanting Hawkeye to get his own Netflix series, and after this movie I’m in agreement. I particularly loved his chastising of Stark once team Cap is imprisoned in the Raft. Hey! The Raft is in this movie!

  • Elizabeth Olsen plays Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, and she is much better in this movie than she was in Ultron – and she wasn’t all that bad in Ultron.  You absolutely believe that she is filled with guilt after the explosion in Lagos – she struggles with trying to master her new powers, and prove that she is not a thing to be feared.

  • Paul Bettany plays the Vision, who – to everyone’s delight – spends time lounging around the Avengers compound in classy sweater/shirt combos, practicing his cooking for Wanda.  And yes – the flirting between he and Wanda is more this time around, and I can’t wait to see where that goes.

  • Emily VanCamp plays Agent 13 – or Sharon Carter, and from the moment she shows up at Peggy’s funeral to give the speech that Cap gives to Spiderman in the comics, she helps to remind Cap that he is on the right side, and taking what he believes to be the only course of action.  And – spoiler alert – unlike the comics, she does not kill him in this movie.  Martin Freeman does show up briefly as Everett Ross – a government stooge?

  • Frank Grillo (who still has the best action-movie name ever) plays Crossbones, and is great for the brief time he’s in the movie. Honestly, I don’t think you need any more than what he got – he’s a great cold-open villain.

  • Daniel Bruhl plays Zemo – and not the purple-clad Baron Zemo that you’re expecting, but a Sokovian special forces soldier named Helmut Zemo.  He brings a very cold determination to the role as he pursues the Winter Soldier with a singular focus.  I loved his portrayal of a man who has lost everything, so pours all of himself into what seems to be a really convoluted plan, but proves to be exceptionally effective.  I have heard some say that he’s a weak villain, and that his plan has no real point, causing the third act of the movie to peter out.  I disagree, I think his plan is very strong because his point is only to drive a wedge between Cap and Stark – and to completely break their trust in one another – which he pretty much does.

  • William Hurt is back as Thunderbolt Ross – and it was fun to see him back since we haven’t seen him since the Edward Norton Hulk movie – which I really enjoyed.  I am hoping this will bring back Liv Tyler as Betty Ross in further movies that have Hulk, but we’ll see.  He’s big time government evil, and plays that well.

  • Marisa Tomei plays the youngest version of Aunt May ever – I’m not sure how comfortable I am with that, and all I could think about during her scenes with RDJ was the 90s movie Only You –which is a truly fabulous rom-com and if you haven’t seen it – rent it now.
Now to the three guys who stole the movie in various ways.
  • Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, AntMan again. He shows up as a recruit for Team Cap when they need back up at the airport fight.  He’s so charming, so fun, and provides just the right amount of levity to his team.  The excitement that Lang shows when meeting Cap is infectious, and carries all the way through the fight.  And yes, that thing that AntMan can do in the comics to become another type of ‘Man’ does happen, and it is beyond awesome.

  • Tom Holland is your new Peter Parker, and as much as I would have preferred Miles Morales in this movie, Holland completely won me over. He is easily the best SpiderMan on screen to date, and his Peter is also fabulous. I did giggle as he found a very stumbly way to say “with great power comes great responsibility” when IronMan asks him why he’s become SpiderMan.  He is constantly talking and cracking wise during the airport fight, and moves exactly like you want SpiderMan to move.  Plus – the eyes – the eyes on the costume move like they always did in the comics and animated series to show when he was reacting to things – and there’s a logical explanation for it!  The BEST! 

  • For me, the very best part of this movie is Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, the Black Panther. He is not nearly as light or fun as the other two scene-stealers, which is good.  Black Panther is very serious, spending most of the movie angrily pursuing the man he believes killed his father.  I particularly enjoyed his response to Hawkeye when Clint attempted to introduce himself. “I’m Clint.” “I don’t care.”  Black Panther has no time for nonsense.  His hand to hand combat is astounding, in and out of costume – the suit is astounding – the performance is astounding – everything about him is fantastic.  I love that every time he lands, it’s silent, like a cat.  I love how he is non-plussed by Falcon’s wit/charm. He’s a king, he’s a warrior, and he’s going to get the man he’s after. Introducing this character as such a badass in this movie is brilliant, because now, people who had no idea who he was, or what he was in the comics will now be really excited for his stand alone movie, which will be out in early 2018.  

  • And yes, there is at least one member of the Dora Milaje present – she is a bit of a scene-stealer with one line in this movie.  So we can assume they will have a larger role in the standalone movie.

In reality, there is no comparison to the other ‘comic’ movie that came out earlier this year, Batman vs. Superman. They are completely different movies from completely different franchises, and each achieves their own goals.  However, comparisons are going to be inevitable. I loved this one, and I hated the majority of BvS. That movie was so completely joyless, with only two humorous lines in the entire movie. The fight between the two leads in BvS felt forced, and made almost no sense, because really, they both should have figured out they were being manipulated into hating one another by Lex. Also – Batman should not be manipulated, by anyone. Ever.

By contrast, this movie, while dealing with fairly heavy subject matter, never once sells that subject matter short, but never once falls into ‘joyless’.  It remains fun, entertaining, and exceptionally watchable.  It’s really long, but moves fast almost the entire time. By contrast to the fight sequence in BvS, which felt forced and was very short – the airport fight sequence in this movie makes sense, and again is one of the best action sequences ever.  When the two factions face off, it is easy to believe that these two groups don’t really want to hurt one another - both believe their side is the right side – but they are all still friends. Marvel continues to cast the right people in the right roles – ensuring that each new player fits into the larger universe, gets along with everyone else, and is ready to help make the greater universe better in whatever way possible.  This was more than evident when watching the Civil War red carpet footage – everyone from all Marvel properties were there, from this movie, from other movies, from the TV Shows, and from the Netflix Shows.  Marvel has taken great care to craft this universe and deliver quality stories within it. 

Dr. Strange comes out this fall, and while that’s a character I never really felt a great attachment to, or had a great interest it, I am excited for the movie – because Marvel has proven themselves time and time again.

11 out of 10 - tempted to give it a 12. Yes, that is how my numbers work. I loved it top to bottom.  Yes, it was long, and yes, there are a few tiny issues here and there – but honestly, there’s so much good in it, it completely overwhelms the small issues. I can’t wait to go see it again.

Bonus - The Russo Brothers being awesome:

Only You, so charming.