Movie Review: Captain Marvel

The most powerful hero has arrived in Marvel’s giant cosmos of superpowered characters. Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) glows, blasts, and soars as one of the most loveable and endearing personality to come through the already strong roster. While her debut is strong, some flaws make the film taken down a tier compared to its predecessors, but manages to have everything that makes a Marvel movie irresistible.

Hala, the home planet to the Kree, an advanced population that is in the middle of a war against the Skrulls, an alien species that has the power to transform into anyone. After a botched mission, our hero finds herself on Earth in which she meets a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). She convinces him to get on her side to put a stop to the Skrulls, meanwhile discovery a lot about her past. An origin story that manages to improve upon the formula of Marvel’s past debut narratives while still holding onto the weak villain issue that so many have discussed over these past 11 years.

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Larson and Jackson not only are excellent on their own, but their chemistry is equally wonderful. Due to the two stars working together in the past in films like Kong: Skull Island, it is not surprising that they have developed a relationship that can translate onto the big screen to make for a more believable and enjoyable experience.

Plenty of new characters were introduced along with a couple of old ones fans will recognize. Everyone stood fairly strong except for the underdeveloped Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) who had a strong performance with not a lot to work on. The other main new introduction was Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), a high ranking leader for the Skrull, who had a far stronger presence than Law.

Out of every standalone flick that has been unleashed in the MCU, Captain Marvel has the most expansive world-building we have seen so far. While more significant films like the three Avengers bring more the evergrowing universe, this narrower story ties together important arcs and small details. Plenty of moments put a giant smile across my face seeing characters from the past and other references from past movies being further developed from a time that was not previously explored.

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Blending drama, action, and humor did not work as well compared to previous entries. Most of the action was entertaining, but underwhelming until the final act, which was spectacular. Jackson took all of the laughs with a few lighthearted moments with Larson, but nothing that had a big “laugh out loud” moment that stood out. The serious beats landed perfectly and melded well with all of the alien gunfights and playful banter.

The visual aesthetic along with the music brought the 90’s to life creating a more unique feel throughout the film, even the subtle details like the clothing and cars driving around the city. The crew managed to make this prequel not feel like a gimmick, but more of an individual amongst the many movies in the franchise.

Going back in time when Nick Fury had two eyes, hair, and that youthful energy is easy for the talented Samuel L. Jackson, but making him look young can be a big miss since so many movies tend to make the actor look odd rather than like their younger self. The de-aging technology worked flawlessly bringing Jackson to his exact look back in the day.

The sci-fi elements had their glowing effects with some breathtaking moments with space battles and Hala. Sadly, not much was explored on Hala, but what little was seen impressed me further on how Marvel can develop unique appearances for planets to make them feel special and alive. While some of the suits in the MCU may not be the most appealing, our photon blasting protagonist’s suit rivals the best costumes of her soon to be crime-fighting pals in the Avengers. The special effects mostly work, but Marvel continues to show some inconsistencies here and there in some scenes.

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Steps forward were taken that takes Captain Marvel to new heights, but Marvel also proves they are much better when making bigger stories that an origin film cannot accomplish. An uncompelling villain along with some rough pacing in the first act leads this new adventure into the mid-tier section of the MCU rather than being next to the likes of the much better standalone films we have seen from Spider-Man and Captain America. Now that she has been included in the universe, the future looks much better for Larson as her character gets further development with future films.

Score: 8/10

Images via Marvel Studios

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Journey From Uncaring Bystander to Super Fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Longtime readers may know that the early days of this one-year-old blog that I was not a big fan of the MCU. That may shock people who have only read my later posts in the last six to nine months since I come off as a hardcore fan. The universe has not only sold me to go in to watch every new entry but to become obsessive about knowing every detail possible and consume all that I can. It took years, but now I am here to stay with the constant anticipation for Captain MarvelAvengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Theatrical releases alone, I have seen a decent chunk of the MCU starting way back with Guardians of the Galaxy then not going to see another Marvel film until Doctor Strange. A two-year gap, meaning I skipped three films, two of which are quite significant, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. Since the psychedelic experience from the surgeon turned wizard, I went into the theater for every superhero flick in this expanding world, but I was not sold yet.

By time Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians 2 released, I had gone back to see some of the past films I had missed out on. Civil War was a mistake since I had not known about so much of the universe at that point, but going back to rewatch it, the hero vs. hero story grew from my least favorite to one of my top favorites. The fan in me was developing, but not fully matured.

Here comes the tail end of the third phase when I have given into this juggernaut of a franchise. Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther sold me on the consistency of these movies because when seeing the trailers, I thought they both looked awful. I adore Ragnarok for its eye-catching visuals, constant sense of humor without taking away from serious beats, and some of the best moments of the entire MCU in this one film. Black Panther does not rank too high compared to some of the others (even though I rated it so highly in my review, I would probably give it an eight rather than nine), but it is the final piece to cement my fandom by being something different while having everything I already liked from the universe.

Three additional films coming each year with consistent quality helps the franchise thrive and for fans to keep having something to consume. Captain Marvel has arrived as Marvel Studios’ most powerful hero revealed in this evergrowing cosmos. Expect the typical cookie cutter pacing and story, while still being better than a lot of the pathetic blockbusters that lack any heart. Naysayers out there may have valid criticisms, but Carol Danvers will blast you into the afterlife if you decide to say that to her face.

Massive series of films that tie together happen all the time, but nothing is quite like what Marvel has built. Starting with some inconsistent movies and some flaws that continue today, but remain strong with its characters, balancing different tones, and piecing together so many movies with dozens of super personalities into something, unlike any other franchise.

Image via Marvel Studios

 

10 Bands Everyone Must See Live

The legendary Slipknot have announced their first North America tour with Volbeat, Gojira, and Behemoth. The nine-member outfit has been recognized for not only their theatrics, musical abilities, but also their impeccable performance live. To celebrate the Knot coming back to tear the world apart with new music and their shows, here are 10 bands that everyone needs to see live.

To note, I will not list Slipknot due to the obvious mention above, but do enjoy the beginning of this article with one of their best performances to date:

#10: Amon Amarth

The Viking infused death metal group delivers a unique experience full of fierce pyrotechnics, tight playing, and their Viking thematics coming to life on stage. From giant recreations of Viking ships to having full on battles to create full-on war for the masses to witness. It is hard to beat Amon Amarth when it comes to theatrics for a concert.

#9: Behemoth

Nothing is more metal than corpse paint, fire, and Satan. Behemoth delivers on all fronts for a theatrical show for the evilest metalheads.  Be sure to bring a pentagram and ready to make a sacrifice when coming to see this Polish blackened death metal group.

#8: Lamb of God

One of heavy metal’s most melodic, groovy, and heaviest bands to come out in the last 20 plus years. Lamb of God has that perfect mix of something melodic and brutal. The biggest attraction to them is their hyper-energetic frontman, Randy Blythe. Expect nonstop running, jumping, and all-out carnage when watching this man perform.

#7: The Black Dahlia Murder

The tightest band I have ever seen live, which says a lot compared to the many superb musicians I have been able to witness in concert. The Black Dahlia Murder stands as one of the strongest death metal acts that continue to bring energy with a twisted sense of humor with the random things you may hear from vocalist Trevor Strnad.

#6: A Day to Remember

It is hard to find a band more diverse than A Day to Remember. A fusion of metalcore, pop punk, and plenty of soothing acoustic tracks to make for a show that can satisfy everyone. The energetic songs are accompanied by the band’s production and high energy as they are in the air most of the duration of the show while able to transition into those more intimate moments for the softer portions.

#5: Skillet

While the Christian rockers might standout compared to some of heavier acts here, but they still pack a punch harder than some of the most extreme metal groups. Skillet goes all out on their production and has relentless energy that will have veteran metalheads start to sweat in the pit or in the back as they bang their heads.

#4: Rammstein

The all mighty German band has made a name for themselves both on and off the stage. Their lighting and fire beat out almost everyone in the rock and metal scene. When looking at any list of top live bands to see, Rammstein will always pop up.

#3: Iron Maiden

Many bands burn out on their shows as they get older, but not Iron Maiden. The legendary group has not tired out. While the energy is higher than some bands in their 20s, they have the money to put into some insane production. Despite their age, they still manage to play plenty of shows so nobody can have an excuse to miss this one.

#2: Korn

Korn has remained as a dominant force since the 90s and still reign supreme amongst other artists and performers. Full of spectacular lights and platforms that disperse the band all throughout the stage as they tear things apart can never be a bad thing for any rock or metal act.

#1: Parkway Drive

Besides Slipknot, these Australian metallers are my dream band to see live. Going to one of these shows will surely singe the hairs your hairs and leave your neck hurting in the morning. Nothing wrong with a lot of fire and some neck snapping music.

Who are some of your favorite live bands? If you have not seen someone, then put out some of your bucket list bands that you are dying to see in concert.

Image via Commons Wikimedia/Matthias Bauer

 

Interview: Days to Come

1. Competition is rough in the music industry, what is your band doing to grow and continue to reach for success?

A: Justin – We use social media a lot. It is such a wonderful tool – especially for indie artists and bands. We live in the golden age for indie artists. For the first time, indie artists are able to produce, distribute, and market their work completely DIY and without a major label.

This is huge.

Social media and the connection it brings just helps that cause. We’re able to connect with people at shows and continue to develop those relationships online.

2. If someone goes to one of your concerts, what do you think they should know going in?

A: Brandon – We try to be as wild as possible. We put on a high energy show and try to have as much participation as possible. It’s a lot of fun.

3. What is your dream tour or festival?

A: Jalen –  I would love for us to support Sevendust. They’re legendary and some of the hardest working in the genre.

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4. If you could collaborate with any musician, who would you choose?

A: Brandon – Plini. He’s such a talent. I would love to collaborate with him.

5. Out of every concert you have been to, who are the best live bands?

A: Justin – Nothing More. A few years ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to see them in Atlanta at the Masquerade when they were touring on their first record.

Their energy and showmanship completely captivated me. They’re phenomenal performers.

6. Who are some of your biggest influences?

A: Jalen – I’ve never had any main influences. Anyone that strives to create and inspire is an influence to me. I do enjoy The Rev, Mike Portnoy, and Joey Jordison.

7. When did you first start playing music and how did that come together to lead you to where you are today?

A: Justin – I’ve wanted to be in a band since I was 17. I was a military brat and spent my teenage years moving around a good bit and wasn’t able to commit to a group until I was in my 20s. I spent years playing solo acoustic gigs. I tried to join bands and find other musicians to start one, but nothing worked out until I found the guys and started Days.

The band officially formed in 2014. I met Brandon at a local music store one afternoon before a gig and we hit it off pretty quickly. Jalen joined us in early 2018. We’ve had a few lineup changes over the years but we feel pretty confident in the team we currently have.

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8. What are your plans for the rest of the year for the band?

A: Jalen – We just released our single Siren (January 25th). It’s such a fun song to play at shows and, so far, the reaction to it has been great. If you’re a fan of hard rock with clean, melodic vocals, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy it.

We’re playing a few dates in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama in April and June with our friends in Ventruss. After that, we’ll embark on our biggest tour yet in July for Rockfest! It’s gonna be a doozie.

We’re planning on releasing our next single Wolves in April and we’re shooting to release new music every 10 or so weeks. This is an exciting year for us and we can’t wait to share it with you!

Follow Days to Come on their website to keep up to date with their music.

Special thanks to Rogue PR for the interview

Trailer Impressions: Hellboy (Red Band Trailer)

I rarely watch the second trailer of a film I am sold on, but seeing Hellboy with all of its rated R glory, I could not resist. Full of CGI havoc of demons and death with quick quips from our demonic protagonist. A mix of worry and excitement flows through my blood as I am ready for this possibly terrible, entertaining over-the-top adult reboot.

A ritual began to end humanity from the Nazis, some of whom are wearing Swastika 3D glasses, which gives us a glimpse into the origins of Hellboy (David Harbour). Lady Hatton (Sophie Okonedo) tells the large handed hero about how he came to Earth. A nice touch of information that does not give away too much, just enough for newcomers who may not understand what they are about to get themselves into if they buy tickets.

Introductions of Professor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane) as the father of Hellboy, Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane) as Hellboy’s friend who will help him on his journey, and Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) a man with powers of a jaguar as the final member in the military organization titled the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense in most of the cast is a part.

After a helicopter ride that looks like too early of footage to put out into the world, we get the introduction of the film’s villain, a sorceress named Nimue the Blood Queen (Milo Jovovich). The Resident Evil star should make for a worthy adversary. While Ian McShane and David Harbour sold me on the cast, but with the addition of Jovovich, I am ecstatic to see the talent bring these characters to life.

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A series of conflict while giving some additional story details of the relationship between Hellboy and Nimue. Consistently some scenes look somewhat inconsistent with its visual effects. Some CGI looks spectacular while some looks washed out. Despite some worrying aspects, seeing monsters kill and destroy massive cities and Hellboy blowing enemies to pieces with any method he can achieve makes for one entertaining montage.

Amid all the chaos, some of the powers from other characters are revealed in this trailer. Ben’s jaguar powers come to life while he and Hellboy fight off a giant animalistic entity (looks like it could be part boar, but hard to tell, maybe one of you readers know your animals better).

An epic montage happens again to show off plenty of monsters that will probably end up getting their bodies mangled by one of the heroes. Even with some poorly done CGI here and there, the ones done right look incredible. With the source material laying the groundwork, the creature designs look equally spectacular and terrifying.

Now the blood and guts come in as our hero slashes and guns down everything in his path. One giant monster gets his limbs cut off while another gets its head blown to pieces. One of the last glimpses into this fantasy flick shows Hellboy with a flaming sword and crown riding a dragon into a hell-like landscape to face thousands of demons. Issues may clutter this ride, but at least it will be a bloodbath to keep things rolling.

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Some ways the new look into Neil Marshall’s (The Descent) reboot seems more flawed than a grand entry that delivers a rated R experience to fans of the comic. None of the humor shown cracked a smile on my face, and a lot of the practical and special effects look poor for a blockbuster. My hopes might have gone down, but they are still high in the idea of an entertaining adventure that may not rate as the best film in a review. We will see when it comes.

Hellboy releases April 12

Images via Lionsgate and Millennium Films

What We Know: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

The evil geniuses behind the infuriating Dark Souls trilogy and its gothic sibling Bloodborne, FromSoftware, are ready to unleash a Samurai inspired project in the same vein called Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Before you jump in to die thousands of times against epic bosses, I will try to dissect everything that needs to be known before playing, at least what has been identified due to FromSoftware being always cryptic when promoting any new title.

Story

Set in Japan’s Sengoku Era, a deceased warrior comes back for revenge after his death and the kidnapping of the Young Lord, a child he must protect. A story of revenge and seeking to complete the ultimate task of defending a child.

Knowing their previous work, expect an ambiguous narrative that will take a magnifying glass, tons of exploration, and plenty of reading to understand every detail.

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Gameplay

One distinct difference from previous games by FromSoftware is the mobility, and how death plays a role in gameplay, yes death will be a core mechanic like always from these developers.

First, mobility gives more freedom when traversing levels and defeating enemies. You are equipped with a grappling hook to get higher ground. Any restrictions on the mechanic are unknown as of now.

Death’s meaning is hard to decipher, but elements are known. A reviving mechanic allows the warrior to stand right back up after death for a limited amount of times. Resurrection gives an opportunity to kill the foe who took your life since they will leave your body thinking they are victorious. Once those limited revives are out, then you will respawn at the last checkpoint.

The protagonist’s left arm is a mechanical arm that offers itself as both an ax to break down shields or to transform into a shield. The perfect blend of an offensive and defensive tool that will surely be needed in this hostile landscape.

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The katana will be the only primary weapon, which loses a lot of the customization of playstyles, but the prosthetic will have plenty of tools and options to alter strategies, giving that freedom during gameplay.

Stealth allows for a new way to play for fans to master. Listening in on conversations will reveal plenty of hints about the world around you to help on the adventure. Sneaking around allows for a refreshing take on combat to assassinate unsuspecting foes.

The world opens itself up more than previous titles from the Japanese developer. Settlements to meet NPCs in and plenty of room for exploration to seek out new gear.

Progression

Progressing as a warrior differs greatly from the Souls series by focusing less on stats and more in a different direction to give more power to your style.

Defeating enemies drops gold and experience points. Once a skill point unlocks and find a specific item in the map, go to the Sculptor’s Idols, essentially a bonfire from Dark Souls, to upgrade.

Three skill trees lend themselves for new abilities. They are listed by the following: stealth, combat, and the prosthetic arm. Passive abilities and special “combat arts” moves come together with these skills to provide many different styles to tackle this Samurai based journey.

The point Miyazaki wants players to understand is that this is their adventure. People will discover upgrades along the way and figure out how they want to build their warrior as they slash through hostiles that get in their way.

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Multiplayer

Sekiro‘s family of brutally difficult games ease themselves up to allow other players to join for PvP or cooperative play. Here there will be no multiplayer in any form.

PC Specs

Minimum PC System Specs

OS: Windows 7 64-bit | Windows 8 64-bit | Windows 10 64-bit
Processor: Intel Core i3-2100 | AMD FX-6300
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 | AMD Radeon HD 7950
DirectX: Version 11
Network: Broadband Internet connection
Storage: 25 GB available space
Sound Card: DirectX 11 Compatible

Recommended PC System Specs

OS: Windows 7 64-bit | Windows 8 64-bit | Windows 10 64-bit
Processor: Intel Core i5-2500K | AMD Ryzen 5 1400
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 | AMD Radeon RX 570
DirectX: Version 11
Network: Broadband Internet connection
Storage: 25 GB available space
Sound Card: DirectX 11 Compatible

Release 

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice releases March 22 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Pre-order and support the blog* with any purchase through the links below:

Pre-order and support the blog: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice – PlayStation 4

Pre-order and support the blog: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice – Xbox One

*Any purchase through the links above will support the blog. Purchases don’t have to be what is advertised here.

Images via FromSoftware

Video via PlayStation

Opinion: BlacKkKlansman Benefits the Jewish Community During the Discussion of Prejudices in America

As a Jewish person who watches plenty of movies, I rarely see any representation of the Jewish people unless it is Holocaust-related. Other than that, Hollywood tends to steer away from anti-Semitic issues while they forgive people like Mel Gibson. 2018 had a surprising, Oscar-winning film to come out that sent its message to a broader audience, BlacKkKlansman.

Spike Lee’s latest film has a precise focus, the prejudices that the black community has faced throughout American history and how it relates to today, but there is more to it. The inclusion of Adam Driver’s character Flip Zimmerman broadens the conversation. Members of the KKK hate more than people of color, like Jews. At some point in the story, Flip reveals his Jewish background and deal with some scenes of anti-Semitism.

One of the several ways Lee pays respect to other demographics is by letting Driver take hold of scenes to develop his character. The most gripping has pain, yet remains calm throughout. Flip says this to his partner Ron Stallworth (John David Washington),

“Ron, I wasn’t raised Jewish. It wasn’t a part of my life. So I never thought much about being Jewish, was just another white kid, didn’t even have my Bar Mitzvah. No Chanukah for me. Christmas. In this job, you try to keep things at a distance. You put up a shield, so you don’t feel anything… This shit is deep. When that Fuck Felix had me in that room, and I kept having to deny my heritage… I have been passing.”

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While not much more is done throughout the length of the movie, this scene along with a few other vital moments moves the spotlight to another demographic that has been beaten down for years throughout history. Myself included with Flip, I never grew up religiously Jewish or acknowledged it, but plenty of people will hate me for it despite that information.

Uniting people when looking at racism tends the be the point of these films, but usually, the message is generalized, which is not entirely bad.  When Ron tries to get Flip to go undercover with him, he brings up that their issues are the same. Ron’s argument is on point since hatred towards a demographic vs. another should bring those groups together. While that is not always the case, this conversation does not separate prejudices into different categories but lumps them together to further the point about people who loathe others for basic reasons from skin color, religion, and more.

Using comedy on serious subjects could undermine the importance of the film’s intent, but Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott utilized humor to enhance their stance on prejudices in America. When Lee spoke to Hollywood Reporter he discussed rather than writing jokes, the focus became about the “absurdity” of the premise and various situations that are seen in the film. Making the audience laughs lightens them up to the darker moments of the narrative without overwhelming them with crazed Klan members ready to burn crosses.

Anyone sensible can laugh at scenes where Klansmen talk about how Jews killed Jesus or how the Holocaust never happened. We know the truth, so knowing people think this way is laughable while concerning. Without the right tone, the impact would be altered, for better or for worse. In this case, Lee managed to strike a necessary balance to execute his latest project.

Presenting an argument has its dos and don’ts to win over an audience. While BlacKkKlansman has its flaws in its presentation, one thing it gets right is avoiding the Hitler fallacy. If an argument makes a comparison to Hitler or the Nazi Party, then that hit the head on the nail for this mistake often made. Plenty of factors go into why this is a terrible idea, but some of it stems from overuse and timeliness. The Holocaust happened so long ago, if one wants to make an example of a tyrannical leader or a case of atrocities against a demographic, then it is more impactful to use an example that is more recent. The 70s may appear so long ago, but much closer and relevant compared to the 40s. The use of footage from Charlottesville ties together the Stallworth’s journey all those years ago with how racism acts in today’s America.

BlacKkKlansman has its issues like any other piece of entertainment, but it holds plenty of significance to the problems minorities and other demographics face. It may get preachy here and there with its agenda, but the overall message is well executed. Some may not like Lee’s latest flick, but he has done a better job for the Jewish community than most filmmakers. Hopefully, others look to what has been done well here and can improve upon it when representing people who have been pushed down by Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists.

Images and videos via Focus Features, Movieclips Soon/Fandango, and Senseitional Videos