Those last two Avengers movies

The ever-young Samuel L. Jackson

avengers.endgameI thought I had all of the movies secured between DVD and what was available on cable. By the time I got up to Spider-Man: Far from Home, that film was no longer showing. I ended requesting four different Spidey films, which I’ll write about when they show up from the library.

In the meanwhilst, as they say in Life of Brian:

Avengers: Infinity War (2018). Lots of stuff – I love the word “stuff” – happens all over the freaking universe. Keeping track of all of the characters wasn’t too bad, though the simultaneous plotlines made it a bit of a jumble. I read about more errors and alleged goofs on IMDB – I disagree with a few – than I’ve seen on that site.

The movies did allow for some humor to peak through before the amazingly overlong final battles. Still, I want to see how they get out of this predicament. So it’s a really long tease for the finale. It was oddly reminiscent of how I felt after watching Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows, Part 1.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) – if I had seen this right after Infinity War, rather than back in 2018, would it have changed my view? Probably not. In fact, Infinity War was so Big, So Significant, that I appreciated a story that was much smaller in scope. I like these people and care about them. And that’s enough.

Back to 1990?

Captain Marvel (2019). OK, this film takes place after the first Captain America, but before the first Iron Man. Well, except for the coda, which clearly happened AFTER Infinity War.

I really wanted to like this movie more than I did. The Kree-Skrull narrative was murky, both in terms of story and visuals. I didn’t really enjoy this until Nick Fury (the ever-young Samuel L. Jackson) shows up. I did like the camaraderie with her and her former pilot colleague. But damn, she was SO powerful, but didn’t know it until the movie’s practically over? My favorite part of the film was the nod to Stan Lee in the opening.

Avengers: Endgame (2019). This movie actually benefitted from far fewer people in the cast throughout most of the film. The good guys have lost. They want a do-over. Can they pull it off?

The question, I suppose, is the journey over nearly two dozen movies worth the payoff? Despite a few seeming inconsistencies, I say yes. I always knew where I was, though sometimes I was less clear when I was. My patience with the overly long final battle scene began to fray. Yet my single favorite moment was during the fracas, when Thor declared, “I KNEW it!”

And a small thing, I suppose. After the greatest number of named cast appearances that I’ve ever remember seeing, they gave proper credit to the big six: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. I was happy with Cap’s last act. Smart Hulk was a hoot. One hopes Thor finds his physique again.

This was, in the end, a Hollywood spectacle. Cecil B. DeMille might be proud. And I got the emotional payoff that one needs after 50 hours or so of narrative by over a dozen directors and more than two dozen screenwriters. That it is as coherent as it turned out to be is a cinematic miracle.

Winter Soldier, other MCU Phase 2 films


Winter SoldierMore Marvel Cinematic Universe movie reviews. The ones marked in italics I’ve seen since the summer solstice 2020 in the northern hemisphere.

Iron Man 3 (2013) – Entertaining enough, I suppose, but a bit of a slog. It does bring us the Black Widow for the first time. I don’t love the theoretical villain. “Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?” Yeah, yeah.

There was this recent article about racist terms. Somehow the author determined that “douchebag” could be a slur towards certain white people. I didn’t quite get the argument. Still, it suggested that Tony Stark was a douchebag and that Steve Rogers, Captain America, most assuredly was not. And that’s the underlying annoyance about Iron Man. He’s that guy named Steve in my library school classes who claimed to know everything.

Thor: The Dark World (2013). I suggested to a friend that IM3 was a slog. “Wait until you watch the next one,” they said. I’m afraid they were right. It was confusing keeping track of the nine realms. Any time you have that many screen overlays to try to let you know where you are, it’s usually problematic. Wormholes that lead to where? What? I did like the fiery farewell to one of the characters. And the final fight was a bit of goofy fun.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). This movie was great! You don’t even need to know the characters well to appreciate this conspiracy-laden story. Who ARE the good guys? Nick Fury of SHIELD (Samuel L. Jackson) doesn’t even know. I was holding my breath quite often, particularly when the title pair collide. And Robert Redford’s character is unfortunately quite credible. The introduction of Sam Wilson, the Falcon.

Hooked on a feeling

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). I may not have seen this in the right setting. It was on a bus tripon the way to Indiana in 2019. The movie seemed disjointed and dark. The ’70s soundtrack, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, was often an affectation and a distraction to me. And yet I later bought the album, mostly for the Bowie, 10cc, Redbone, and Five Stairsteps. I don’t suppose it helped that one of my pastors thought the film was pointlessly violent. I should probably watch it again.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Now you’ve done it, Stark. You’ve helped create an Artificial Intelligence that wants to destroy humanity. Earth’s mightiest heroes need to work together. I’m glad I used to read the comics, as I understood better who the Vision, the Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver were. The movie was occasionally confusing, but I got the gist. An overstuffed film which I nevertheless mostly enjoyed.

Ant-Man (2015). As I noted in my review, my wife, who is not a big comic book fan, and I saw this when it came out. I figure that an origin story could stand alone, and it did. We liked it quite a bit. It’s light and funny when so many of these MCU films seem serious and ponderous.

Thor, Cap, and The Avengers, BTW, I watched in one 28-hour period on July 4 and 5 when my blog was down. Viewing them kept me from looking at my URL and wondering, “Is t working yet? Is it working yet? Why isn’t it working yet?”

The Avengers and more MCU, Phase 1

A wait of eight years

On March 13, just a couple hours before the COVID lockdown in New York State, I ran to the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library and grabbed seven Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) DVDs to check out. Sure enough, the library was closed the very next day. Three months later, they remained totally unwatched.

I then decided that Alan David Doane’s very good idea of rewatching all the films in order was going out of the window. I had plenty of movies to see, and not just the seven. Fortunately, every single one that I did not have I could catch on cable.

MCU, Phase One

I saw all of these within the year of their release, except IM 2 and The Avengers. I’ve not rewatched any of them.

Iron Man (2008). I liked it quite a bit, as I noted.

The Incredible Hulk (2008). I never saw the 2003 movie directed by Ang Lee. My recollection of this film, which starred Edward Norton as the scientist Bruce Banner, was that it was murky. It looked weird, the storyline was confusing, and the behemoth was unimpressive.

Iron Man 2 (2010). It wasn’t as good as the previous one, but I saw it on video, not the big screen. Don Cheadle replaced Terrance Howard as James Rhodes.

Thor (2011). I remember liking it well enough. Yer basic god kicked out of Asgard and set straight.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). Now, THIS film I unabashedly liked a LOT. A great telling of the origin story. The Red Skull. Government experimentation. A man out of time. Chris Evans played Johnny Storm in those non-MCU FF movies; this is quite a step up.

Put the brakes on

But then I stopped watching the MCU films. There was a great dispute at the time over the credit that the late Jack Kirby, co-creator of almost all the Marvel characters, should receive for the films. (The general consensus: Jack was owed a LOT, including monetarily.) When the situation was finally settled in 2014, I never got back to see the ones I missed. Until now.

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012), which I watched in late June 2020. Having all those characters in one film could have been a recipe for disaster. It’s a bit slow as the formation of the group develops. But it turns out to be an entertaining enterprise, filled with action. And it had a REASON to get together and fight as a team, “to stop the mischievous Loki and his alien army from enslaving humanity.”

A lot of its success involves the humor among the disparate characters. It may have been the most fully realized comic book to hit the screen to that time. The action sequence, which must go on for a good half hour I allowed myself to get sucked into.

Video reviews: Iron Man 2 and The Parent Trap

Maureen O’Hara is gorgeous in The Parent Trap.

The Parent Trap (1961), if I saw it – and surely I MUST have seen it at some point – mustn’t I? – I watched SO long ago that the details are surely erased from my memory. It was a Disney film starring Hayley Mills… and Hayley Mills! I DO recall that ad campaign. The script was based on Das Doppelte Lottchen, a novel by Erich Kastner, that had been made into British and German films, using twin girls.

Two girls, one from tony Boston, the other from freewheeling California, meet at a summer camp and take an instant dislike to each other. Each just doesn’t like that other girl with her face. Antics ensue, including a social event with the boys from a neighboring camp, ruined by the duo.

Forced to spend time together in isolation, Sharon and Susan discover they have the exact same birthday… and the same mother! They figure out that their parents separated when they were infants, with Sharon staying with their mother, and Susan off with their dad. They decide to switch places, which involves Susan cutting Sharon’s hair, in order to get their parents back together.

Susan gets to spend time with her mother (Maureen O’Hara), grandmother (Cathleen Nesbitt), and grandfather (Charlie Ruggles), who is the first to uncover the scheme. Meanwhile, Sharon finally sees dad (Brian Keith) on his ranch. His housekeeper (Una Merkel) notices a “change” in the girl. But trouble is brewing: Dad is engaged to some gold digger named Vicki (Joanna Barnes).

Eventually, Susan and mom head west, and the plot goes from there.

The not-so-good:
It’s too long! At 129 minutes, we watched it in two sittings. I would have cut some parts of the 30-minute set-up.
A couple of the songs, by Richard and Robert Sherman, were period pieces, and not very impressive.
For both of these, I blame Uncle Walt. I discovered, from the extras disc, that the movie lacked a title song for a good while. One working title was Let’s Get Together; the Sherman Brothers wrote a song by that name, and then Walt insisted that director David Swift insert the song into the movie, not once, but twice. As sung by Annette Funicello, it’s on a record at the dance; as sung by Susan and Sharon, (unconvincingly) playing guitar and piano, it’s a serenade to mom and dad.
The ultimate title song, performed by Tommy Sands and Annette, isn’t great either.

The quite good:
The winning cast. In spite of the implausibility that parents would keep the sisters’ existence from each other, and the unlikely coincidence of the meeting, good chemistry between the siblings, and with their family.
Hayley playing opposite Hayley, much more difficult in the day than it would be now, was quite effective. The filmmakers, I discovered, looked for some physical background, such as a wall design so that if the matting weren’t perfect, it wouldn’t be as obvious.
From the extra disc: highly entertaining six minutes with Susan Henning, who played Hayley’s double, who only appeared on-screen when one girl was at an angle to the other, or when you saw one girl’s back. She is uncredited in the film, but Walt Disney himself gave her a special trophy at the end of the shoot.
The other Sherman Brothers song, For Now for Always, sung by Maureen O’Hara, as mom recalls the first date with dad, is lovely. This too was a title song contender. Speaking of lovely, O’Hara is gorgeous in this film, more beautiful at 40 than the 26-year-old Barnes.

I think this review is largely accurate, especially with regards to the extras, although the disc I rented paired Parent Trap with its 1986 TV sequel.
Which brings me to:
The Parent Trap II (1986). A quarter century after Susan and Sharon’s successful maneuver, a now divorced Sharon (Hayley Mills) wants to move to NYC for her job. Her daughter Nicki fears losing her best friend Mary, unless Sharon marries Mary’s dad Bill (Tom Skerritt); then they would be sisters. They get aunt Susan (Hayley Mills), who is married, to pretend to be Sharon to get him interest in Sharon. Wha?

The motivation for Susan is so non-existent. It’s one thing to get her parents, who were once married, BACK together again. This matchmaking, though, is bizarre. The film had the feel of a clunky 1980s TV movie because it is. There is one rather funny scene near the end, but both the Daughter and I were either bored or confused through much of this.
Iron Man 2 (2010) was OK. I LOVED the first film but was concerned about the big reveal at the end that Tony Stark was Iron Man. In this iteration, Tony tangles with a self-important Senator (Gary Shandling) and a military weapons expert (Sam Rockwell). Can the secrets of the powerful Iron Man suits fall into the wrong hands? Apparently so, as Ivan (Mickey Rourke), son of Tony’s father’s colleague, poses a serious threat.

Meanwhile, Lt. Rhodes (now played by Don Cheadle) gets all conflicted about his obligations to the military and to his friend Tony. Does Tony just give Stark Industries to his secretary, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow)?! And what’s the story with Stark Industries legal consultant Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson)? It all made sense at the end but felt convoluted along the way.

Oh, and obviously, I was supposed to have seen this BEFORE the Thor movie. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) continues to be involved in the mix. In any case, I think I’m now finally ready to see the Avengers movie.

Yes, there was a real Vidal Sassoon

The elimination of the ACS would mean the loss of all the data Census used to collect on the long form. A voluntary ACS would actually cost MORE to operate than it does presently.

I was on Facebook recently, and someone, who I believe considers herself a bit of a fashionista, wrote: “Did you have ANY idea Vidal Sassoon was a real person? I did not.” She must be even younger than I thought because that means she never saw this commercial and others like it. This made me feel rather old but also puzzled. I found this list of companies named after people, and Sassoon was not on it; maybe it seemed too obvious. 

At a conference last week, I was talking to some folks about movies. I mentioned how cinematic offerings so often come from another source, such as The Avengers (a couple of no-spoiler reviews here and here, BTW) I said I didn’t know why they bothered to slap the name Dark Shadows on it, since it has such a different feel than the TV show. Both of them expressed shock. I said, “Look it up!” at which point one pulled out his smartphone. “Go to,” I directed. He exclaimed, “Dark Shadows 1966-1971, 30-minute gothic soap opera. I didn’t know they had goth back then!” I just walked away. They must have missed Jonathan Frid’s obit; he originated the character Barnabas Collins in 1967 that Johnny Depp will play in the film.

All the obits for Maurice Sendak mentioned first Where The Wild Things Are; I don’t think I’ve ever read it! Yet I immediately recognize the artwork. I DID watch Really Rosie and saw some of his other work, such as in The New Yorker.

A guy who’s my sister’s friend, and my Facebook friend and real-life acquaintance, lives in the San Diego area. He wrote of Junior Seau, the San Diego Chargers linebacker who committed suicide: “There’s an outpouring of sadness in this city. He was much more than an athlete: his charitable contributions were well-respected. We won’t know what demons were in his life; we’d rather remember the goodness that he radiated, at least in public.” What Jaquandor said, I would echo.

From the Association of Public Data Users:
“The U.S. House of Representatives voted on May 9th to eliminate the American Community Survey. This amendment to the FY2013 Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill passed by a vote of 232 to 190. Right before this vote, the House passed the Webster amendment, approved by voice vote and sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), to make a response to the ACS voluntary by prohibiting both the Census Bureau and the Justice Department from using funds to enforce penalties in the Census Act that make survey response mandatory. (The amendment had to be written as a limit on the expenditure of funds in order for it to be ruled “in order” on an appropriations bill.) The outcome of this vote demonstrates the importance of proactivity among data users in conveying their support for the ACS and other surveys to all members of the House and Senate. The Senate is expected to take up the FY2013 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill next week.”

The elimination of the ACS, for those who don’t deal with Census data, would mean the loss of all the data Census used to collect on the long-form, discontinued after Census 2000 to make way for the ACS, at Congress’ urging! The ACS has provided data more regularly. A voluntary ACS, because it would involve contacting more households, would actually cost MORE to operate than it does presently, and because of participant bias – i.e., people who like to fill out surveys – would lose its statistical validity. Governments, businesses, and individuals use these data daily, I know from experience.
Evanier notes that on a recent trip how much of it was made possible by technology that didn’t exist a decade or two ago.

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