MCU Retrospecticus: Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Original Review: Thor 2 is the Star Wars Sequel We Always Wanted (three and a half stars)

My deliberately provocative (and misleading) title aside, I stand by the main points from my original Thor 2 review: I like the mix of sci-fi and fantasy, the comedy often doesn’t work, it’s cool that Phase Two was Marvel’s attempt at experimenting with genre. Regardless of my praise, there was a palpable apathy toward the film at the time that’s grown in the years since. Thor: The Dark World has become the black sheep of the MCU, the lightning rod for a never-ending deluge of thoughtless think pieces on “super hero fatigue.” Is that reputation deserved? Or does this movie shine when given a second look?

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MCU Retrospecticus: Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Original Review: Heavy Boots of Lead (three and a half stars)

My original review of Iron Man 3 is mostly focused on how off-putting it was that an Iron Man story could endanger the president and not involve the other Avengers or SHIELD right after The Avengers. It was so obvious to me where Steve Rogers or Nick Fury or at least Black Widow would fit into a story with this big a scope. I didn’t know it at the time, but the movie I wanted was Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and now that I do have that, it’s easier to appreciate Iron Man 3 for what it is: the end of Tony Stark’s journey to become a super hero. Plus, it’s not like the movie isn’t extremely tied in with The Avengers.

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MCU Retrospecticus: Marvel’s The Avengers

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

Original Review: Avengers Assembled (four and a half stars)

In their “The Marvel Symphonic Universe” video essay, Every Frame a Painting explains how movies in the MCU tend to play it safe (and to an extent, obvious) with their scores. While this approach has plenty of upsides, it does have the major problem of making the music forgettable. I don’t totally agree with them – I would argue Captain America and The Avengers both have great themes – but I think they were right that phase one of the MCU was such a gamble in and of itself that Marvel avoided risk where they could. This issue goes deeper than the scores, and it’s the reason why seven years later I still can’t give The Avengers, probably my favorite MCU movie, the full five stars… Also star ratings are bullshit.

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R.I.P. Larry Cohen

If you haven’t heard, Larry Cohen passed away on Saturday, March 23rd at the age of 77. There’s so much to say about the maverick filmmaker. I feel bad I haven’t written more about the acclaimed cult writer/director on this blog. I have reviewed Cohen’s 1974 killer baby film (no, that’s not a typo) It’s Alive along with his 1985 satirical sci-fi dark comedy The Stuff but there’s so much more to dive into. There’s Cohen’s years as a blaxploitation pioneer with films like Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem. There’s God Told Me To, a trippy religious sci-fi flick. Q, a movie about the ancient god Quetzalcoatl taking the form of a stop-motion dragon and taking over the Chrysler building. I haven’t even got to the Maniac Cop series.

There’s a lot to admire about Cohen as a filmmaker but for me, two things come to mind. 1) Cohen was the “King of the Concept”. All his films had such bizarre yet tantalizing premises. They sound like awful B-movies from the fifties, yet they were smart and satirical pictures with great characters and even better monsters. 2) Cohen was the original guerrilla filmmaker. This is a man who would film killing sprees and cars speeding down the sidewalk in the heart of New York City. Cohen was a risk taker a “Whatever-it-takes” to get the shot kind of guy. He was passionate about his stories.

Cohen was never a household name but he had a long and fruitful career. From his early years, creating TV shows like Branded and Coronet Blue while still in his twenties, all the way to writing thrillers in the 2000s like Phone Booth for Joel Schumacher. The man was prolific and beloved among so many fans of so many sub-genres. There are so many stories about Cohen that writer/director Steve Mitchell made an excellent documentary about the man two years ago called King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen. Which is available on Shudder at the time of this review. Or better yet, check out a Cohen film. I think you’ll find he has the STUFF.

MCU Retrospecticus: Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Original Review: O Captain! My Captain! (three and a half stars)

The one thing stopping my MCU Retrospecticus from being in chronological order is Captain America: The First Avenger, which is mostly set way before the dream of the Nineties in stupid World War II. Way to ruin it for me, Cap! Actually, chronology gets super complicated later on, you’ll have to read a bunch of Wikis to find out when exactly movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange take place. And that’s without even mentioning how confusing things get thanks to the “eight years later” thing in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Nonetheless, historically, I’ve had an odd apathy for the first Captain America MCU movie.

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Retrospecticus: Mary Timony

Huh. Guess we’re in full Retrospecticus mode here. Here’s one that probably features way less things you’ve heard of…

There was something very satisfying about seeing the modest success of Ex Hex at the halfway point of this decade, seeing as it was a long time coming for the band’s frontwoman Mary Timony. Sure, she had some indie level success in the ‘90s with Helium, perhaps on about the same level as Ex Hex. But something about Rips just meant a little more, since in the wake of the ‘90s, she just kept toughing it out, making music in relative obscurity before finding a more simplified, anthemic formula to transmit her immense talent through.

As I said, it was a long time coming, and it’s pretty interesting to traverse the road that Timony took to finally get there. It’s not often you find an artist who first finds success sounding fairly unconventional, then becomes even more unconventional, and then eventually morphs into something resembling mainstream rock. Yet, that’s the path that Mary Timony forged, and without ever compromising her prowess as a guitarist and songwriter.

For this Retrospecticus, I’ll be looking at basically every album she was heavily involved with. Many of her bands released EPs, which I’m choosing to skip even if some of Timony’s projects only released EPs (like her first side project with Carrie Brownstein, The Spells), and therefore will not be featured. Also, that would’ve required more work, and I had enough on my hands, considering I’d only extensively listened to Timony’s 2010s albums prior to my research for this post. Oh, and if you hadn’t assumed already, Ex Hex has a new album coming out in a few hours… Let’s get started. Continue reading

MCU Retrospecticus: Thor

Thor (2011)

Original Review: n/a

Thor was the last MCU movie shot on film, and you can tell. I mean, yes, the jokes about how Kenneth Branagh seems to think comic books = Dutch angles are funny, but this is a great-looking film. The opening scene, in which Anthony Hopkins’ Odin recounts Midgard and Asgard’s war with Jotunheim, is basically the super hero version of the opening of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring. It is some stunning, epic stuff! Which is probably why I get the impression some folks didn’t realize that Thor is a comedy.

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