Marvel Cinematic Universe

Mid-year Film Update 2020

Last year was the first time I did a mid-year check in on my film-related goals and I thought I’d do the same again this year – mainly because I like to see how much my most watched actors change over the course of a year.

My film-related goals are pretty chill. They are:

And I have to say, I’m on the right track with both of those so far. I have watched 28 films directed women so over half way there and I’ve watched 40 films written by women which is over three quarters of the way to 52. I’ll definitely hit 52 films for both directors and screenwriters by the end of the year, the question is what will my final total be. My favourite films made by women I’ve seen so far this year are Miss Americana, Little Women and Misbehaviour. I also rewatched Mamma Mia! which was a delight as always.

Thanks to COVID-19 and lockdown, naturally I haven’t been to the cinema since March (and I’m not sure when I’ll be going back even though they being to open here in a couple of weeks), and a lot of the big films directed by women – Black Widow, Mulan, Wonder Woman 1984 – have been pushed back. So, if it hadn’t have been for COVID, I’ll have probably seen more films directed by women by now but there we go.

Thanks to the A-Z in April Challenge this year, I have knocked 20 films off my unwatched DVD/Blu-rays list so now I have 64 left to watch. I do hope to watch more of them over the next six months, especially the Hitchcock and Clint Eastwood films.

I love my Letterboxd stats. Here’s my most watched actors of 2020 so far:

I have done a lot of rewatching of some of my favourite franchises so far this year which pretty much explains everyone here. So far in 2020 I have rewatched; the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, The Lord of the Rings (normally a Christmas rewatch for me but I needed the extra comfort that those films bring me), and The Chronicles of Narnia films. Last month I decided to watch all of Anton Yelchin’s films that I hadn’t seen before that were available on Netflix/Prime so that’s how he made it on the list. I’m interested to see how many of the MCU actors especially manage to stay in my most watched actors list by the end of the year.

My most watched directors of 2020 so far:

Again, my director list isn’t that surprising based on the franchises I’ve rewatched so far this year. The Russo’s, James Gunn, Peyton Reed, Joss Whedon, Jon Watts and Jon Favreau all directed multiple films in the MCU, while Steven Soderbergh, Gore Verbinski and Peter Jackson directed the Ocean’s trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, and Lord of the Rings trilogy respectively. It’d be nice if I could have a more diverse range of filmmakers in this list by the end of the year (at least Bong Joon-ho is there!) but we’ll see how that goes. While I often at least watch 52 films directed by women each year for example, they are often from 52 different women so female directors don’t often make this list.

In the first half of 2020 I have seen 144 different films with 13 being at the cinema, and as I said while I miss spending a Saturday watching three films in the cinema back to back, I’m not sure when I’ll be doing that again.

What are some of your favourite films you’ve watched so far in 2020? Are you missing the cinema at all? Besides the ones I’ve already mentioned, some of my favourite films have been Dark Waters, Da 5 Bloods and Love, Antosha. Each month on Twitter I share my Top 5 First Views if you ever want to see my monthly film highlights.

TRAILER REACTION: Black Widow

The first trailer for the long-awaited Black Widow movie was released yesterday and I liked what I saw.

Now let’s get what will obviously be big talking points about this movie out of the way – the fact that this movie exists after certain events and that it probably should’ve happened a lot sooner. Also, that’s a spoiler warning for Avengers: Endgame.

Yes, Black Widow is a film that probably should’ve happened a long time ago, when Natasha Romanoff was the only female hero we had in the MCU and really had space to shine in amongst all the male heroes. Post-The Avengers was probably when it was the height of her popularity and would’ve made sense to have a solo movie. Nowadays it’s a bit odd we’re getting a Black Widow movie considering the fact Natasha dies during the events of Endgame but, it is a prequel. When it’s exactly set I’m not sure (because you know me, I don’t like to know too much about MCU films going into them) but it would make sense if it was post-Captain America: Civil War as that’s when the Avengers broke up, Natasha made her escape before the rest of Team Cap were arrested and we don’t really know what she was up to in the years between Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.

So in short, it kinda sucks we’ve had to wait this long for a Black Widow movie, and for a film that may not have lasting consequences for the overarching MCU and its characters as it’s a prequel, but it’s here now so let’s sit back and enjoy it.

Though Natasha’s voiceover quote is from Endgame and can obviously be applied to the whole Avengers team, I’m happy that Clint and Fury are the one’s singled out when it comes to her family. Clint was sent to kill her but made a different call and it was probably down to Fury (and maybe Coulson) that Natasha was allowed to prove herself and be a part of SHIELD. I’m a big fan of the OG SHIELD squad being a family.

Speaking of family, it looks like the family of choice trope is going to be alive and well here which I’m always happy to see. I won’t lie, I know very little about the characters who are in this movie. I know Florence Pugh plays Yelena Belova and I’m pretty sure I’ve read some Black Widow comics where she’s featured so I have a rough idea of who she is, but who Rachel Weisz and David Harbour play? I have no idea and even just seeing their characters names on IMDb doesn’t jog my memory at all but I’m OK with that. I’m liking the very brief look into what the dynamic between these four characters/actors could be like because as I said, the found family/family of choice trope is my jam.

I really liked the fight between Natasha and Yelena. I thought that was a great way to introduce this new character and set up her relationship with Natasha and show she’s just as good (if not better) as Nat. I also like the general vibe of the trailer. It feels like an espionage thriller but with added superpowers in the same way Captain America: The Winter Soldier did and as The Winter Soldier is one of my favourite MCU films, that works for me!

Black Widow is going to be the first film in Phase 4 of the MCU so even though it’s a prequel, the world is kind of its oyster. We have no idea who or what could be the overarching Big Bad for this phase of the MCU, or even if they’ll start dropping heavy-handed hints for it yet. Plus, with Florence Pugh becoming a bit of a rising star this year with Midsommar, Fighting with My Family and Little Women, the powers that be may be setting her up to return in future MCU movies as the new Black Widow or have her own new superhero name. I’m just guessing here.

Have you seen the Black Widow trailer? What did you think of it? I’m sure May 2020 is going to come around much faster than we expect.

A to Z in April Blogging Challenge 2019 Masterpost

Well this is being posted later than expected – what can I say! Time got away from me. That’s another April gone and with it another A-Z in April Challenge successfully completed. This year it was all about my favourite characters in the MCU. It was certainly hard to narrow it down for some days/letters, but I’m happy with the characters I got to talk about.

Sign Up Post
A – Ava Starr
B – James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes
C – Cassie Lang
D – Carol Danvers
E – Erik “Killmonger” Stevens
F – Frigga
G – Goose
H – Happy Hogan
I – Ivan Vanko
J – Jim Paxton
K – Harley Keener
L – Luis
M – Maria Rambeau
N – Nebula
O – Okoye
P – Pepper Potts
Q – Peter Quill
R – James “Rhodey” Rhodes
S – Shuri
T – Tony Stark
U – Ulysses Klaue
V – Valkyrie
W – Wanda Maximoff
X – X-tras (Clint Barton, Michelle “MJ” Jones, Nick Fury, Hela and Rocket Racoon)
Y – Ho Yinsen
Z – Hemlut Zemo
Reflections Post

REVIEW: Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)

Following the events of Avengers: Endgame Peter Parker (Tom Holland) just wants to put aside being Spider-Man for a bit and have fun with his friends on a school trip across Europe. But when elemental creatures appear, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) comes to Peter for help and introduces him to new superhero Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Spider-Man: Far from Home is so much fun, but it also manages to handle some emotional beats while adding a whole new dimension to the MCU. Following on from Endgame, Far from Home touches on some of the logistical issues that would come with half of the world’s population returning after five years. People’s homes have been sold to someone else, people’s younger siblings are now older than them, and naturally people have missed a good chunk of what’s happened with their friends and families while they’ve been gone.

It’s the emotional fallout though for Peter Parker that really adds to the pressure he’s feeling. He lost is father-figure and mentor and feels like he has huge shoes to fill while still wanting to live a normal life. A scene where Peter and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) reminisce about Tony Stark and how they are, or are not, coping without him is a wonderful scene that highlights how Far from Home balances the fantastic with the personal.

Far from Home, like Spider-Man: Homecoming, is a teen high school comedy with all the good and bad things that can come with that. There are some cheesy jokes that don’t land or carry on too long, but then there’s also some hilarious moments as the young cast really do feel like a bunch of friends. MJ (Zendaya) has a larger role in this film as she’s sarcastic and funny but thoughtful as she tries to learn to let people be close to her. The teacher Mr. Harrington (Martin Starr) is a standout though and just about everything out of his mouth is hilarious.

Mysterio is an enigma and a character that is very difficult to talk about without going into spoiler territory. Gyllenhaal does a great job of playing the different layers of the character though, and midway through the film there’s a scene where he goes all out with a monologue and it’s magnificent.

The special effects are great too but there’s one sequence that will be talked about as a standout in the MCU for years as all of Peter Parker’s fears come to life. That whole sequence is awe-inspiring as it is so well put together and fits into both the story of the film and Peter’s emotional journey perfectly.

Spider-Man: Far from Home is funny, thrilling and spectacular. The first act isn’t as solid as the latter two as it retreads old ground seen in the previous Spider-Man film, but when the story shifts and certain things are revealed, it becomes something completely thrilling and innovative. Both post-credit scenes are some of the most important and game-changing in the MCU. Spider-Man: Far from Home is a satisfying end to Phase Three of the MCU, and where Phase Four is heading is anyone’s guess. 4/5.

Reflections on the A-Z Challenge 2019 Edition

Slightly later than planned, but here’s my reflections on this years A-Z in April Challenge.

This was my sixth year taking part and it was my easiest A-Z in April in years. I think that was down to the topic. I love the MCU and its characters, so I found it really easy to write about them. In fact, I found it so easy that I got all my posts written and scheduled before the end of the second week of April! I haven’t been that organised during this challenge for years.

My favourite posts to write were all the ones in the Iron Man fam; Pepper Potts, Rhodey, Happy Hogan, Harley Keener and, of course, Tony Stark. I had so much fun pouring all my thoughts and feelings about Tony Stark into that post and it’s a piece of writing that I’m proud of. I wrote and scheduled all my posts before seeing Avengers: Endgame so I feel like writing about my favourite characters was almost therapeutic as I was so anxious about what would happen to them in that film.

My post popular A-Z posts were the ones for Carol Danvers, Okoye and Goose. I guess people like strong women and an awesome cat!

I replied to all comments pretty quickly (for me anyway) though unfortunately I didn’t visit that many blogs at all. While I got all my posts scheduled ahead of time, day to day life stopped me finding the time to look around other people’s blogs. I’m even more grateful for the people who stopped by my blog, liked or commented on posts, and even hit that follow button as I did little to return the favour last month.

I feel like the last few years when I’ve written these reflection posts I’ve said, “I’m not sure if I’ll take part again next year” and I feel the same way once again. It’s just that as I take part in the A-Z Challenge again and again, I feel like I’m running out of themes of things I could write about – and enjoy writing about too. I think I enjoyed this years A-Z Challenge more than the last couple because my topic was something I am so enthusiastic about and get so much joy from. If I hadn’t written about my favourite characters from the MCU, I don’t know what I would’ve chosen to write about and if I had thought of something I doubt I’d have had as much fun writing it as I did with this theme.

I hope all of you who took part in the challenge had fun and a successful A-Z in April. Thanks to those who stopped by my blog and liked or commented – it always means a lot. For more information on the A-Z in April Challenge visit the website.

SPOILER REVIEW: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Right. Here are all my spoilery thought about Avengers: Endgame, I highly recommend not reading this if you haven’t seen the film. My spoiler-free review is here.

I probably haven’t mentioned everything I noticed or wanted to say because there was so much and I see new things every time I see it. I’ve seen Endgame three times now and still think it’s an incredible end to a series of 22 films. My comments are a mixture of stuff that happened in order, and character focussed stuff. This post is probably a mess so you’ve been warned. (more…)

Z is for Helmut Zemo

It’s the last day of the A-Z in April Challenge and I’m going to end it with a villain that arguably damaged the Avengers the most. Pre-Thanos that is.

Helmut Zemo is a former soldier from Sokovia, who wanted to avenge his family’s death during the Sokovia incident. He wanted to do this by destroying the Avengers, but knowing he was just a man going up against superpowered people, he had to be smart about it.

And that’s the thing, Zemo is really very smart and a brilliant strategist and manipulator. He’s patient, knows how to put a plan together and stick to it, while using the latest developments in the world e.g. the Sokovia Accords, to his advantage.

You could say that Zemo’s plan wouldn’t have been as affective if Steve had told Tony about his parents’ death before being forced to watch the footage of it. if Tony had known there’s probably less chance of him flying off the handle. But Steve didn’t tell Tony, and Zemo’s plan to destroy the Avengers worked.

I think Zemo was a brilliant villain and he’s one that actually achieved what he set out to do. He destroyed the Avengers by turning the two main leaders of the team against one another. He broke the Avenger a part. Friendships were destroyed, some members of the Avengers were on the run and wanted by the UN, and the rest were just hurt and alone.

I think he’s a fascinating villain and I’m pleased that he’s still alive. I think he’d be a great villain to make an appearance again at some point in the future. Although, he’s played his best hand with the secrets about Tony’s parents’ death. Unless he’s managed to dig up something else on various members of the Avengers, I’m not sure he would have the same impact. Maybe it’s because I like Daniel Brühl so much so would like to see more of him in the MCU.

REVIEW: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

After the events of Avengers: Infinity War the universe is in chaos as half of all life has been wiped out. Those that are left behind struggle to move on and assemble once more to try and undo Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) actions and bring back those they’ve lost.

Avengers: Endgame is incredible. This film is so impressive in terms of plot, character and spectacle. There are so many surprises in Endgame. There’s twists and turns and what you could call fan service moments, but the way the film never manages to lose its way is admirable. It is three hours long, but you don’t notice that runtime at all. There are quieter moments in the film but that’s when it’s more character-focused and they are no less compelling than when these characters are trying to save the universe.

Compared to Infinity War which, while there were stakes it was also a lot more jovial film, Endgame is definitely more character focused. That’s not to say there isn’t action sequences or jokes or exciting moments, but after the events of Infinity War, the characters who survived are not who they once were. They have all experienced loss, they are all hurting, and they are all going through the various stages of grief – with some getting stuck on certain stages longer than others. The characters don’t just brush off what happened and that makes the catastrophic loss of life even more affecting.

The entire cast are amazing. The relationships these actors have made in real life, make the character relationships even more poignant and every character gets their moment in the spotlight. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) gets more screen time and character development compared to previous films, and Renner really gets to show not only what a great actor he is, but also what a layered character Clint Barton is. Captain America (Chris Evans) is more central to the story compared to Infinity War and Paul Rudd gets to show off his dramatic skills as Ant-Man while still never losing who that character is.

Avengers: Endgame is the finale to an eleven-year, twenty-two-movie saga. It’s the culmination of all the films that have come before it and it manages to pay homage to them while still being a satisfying conclusion – the third act really is indescribable and is unlike anything we’ve seen before in a film of this scale.

Really Avengers: Endgame does mark the end of an era. While the MCU will no doubt continue, Endgame is the finale to this story arc and what a finale it is. 5/5.

FYI I will post a probably very long spoiler-filled review of Avengers: Endgame in the next week or so. I have a lots of thoughts and feelings to get out.

Y is for Ho Yinsen

When you look back on the MCU, one minor character that really has had a lasting effect on a hero is Ho Yinsen. He is such an important character!

Yinsen was held captive with Tony Stark in Afghanistan and it was Yinsen who saved Tony’s life. He’s the one who put an electromagnet in Tony’s chest, stopping the pieces of shrapnel getting to his heart. Yes, Yinsen’s version was with a car battery and once Tony was on his feet, he figured out how to make the system better with a miniaturised arc reactor, but Yinsen came up with the way to save Tony’s life first.

Yinsen was intelligent, he was a scientist and surgeon and he could speak multiple languages, so he was more than capable to help Tony build the first Iron Man armour. He helped motivate Tony to resist their captors and do something about the terrorists having so many of Tony’s weapons. “Is this the last act of defiance of the great Tony Stark? Or are you going to do something about it?” was just the sort of no-nonsense pep talk Tony needed. Yinsen was also incredibly brave as he willingly sacrificed his life so Tony could escape.

Tony went and saved the villagers of Gulmira, Yinsen’s village, once he’d made the Iron Man suit. I’m not saying Tony wouldn’t have saved any village he heard about on the news, but there were definitely more of a personal stake there for him. Yinsen’s last words to Tony was not to waste his life and I like to think Tony took that to heart.

X is for Xtras

X is always a difficult one for the A-Z in April Challenge. In previous years I’ve written about the X-Men or Charles Xavier but as they are not a part of the MCU (yet anyway) I’ve had to cheat a bit this year. These are all the extra characters who I love that got pipped to the post by a different favourite.

Clint Barton
Now some of you who have been following my blog for a while might’ve been surprised not to see Clint featured in my A-Z of favourites this year, because Clint Barton is my ultimate favourite whether that’s in the MCU, comics or animated TV shows. But I had featured him in my Favourite Characters A-Z in April in 2016 so I thought I’d give some other favourites the time to shine. I do still love him a lot though. He’s funny and highly skilled but he’s still a very breakable human on a team of superhumans and I love that about him.

Michelle “MJ” Jones
There’s a lot of cool characters in Spider-Man: Homecoming but I did have a soft spot for Michelle even before it was revealed that she’s going to be the MCU’s version of MJ. She’s weird, smart and funny. I like how she’s a bit of a social outcast who likes her own company, but she still finds friends. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her personality come through in future films.

Nick Fury
Fury is the ultimate spy and I love that about him. Having Samuel L. Jackson in the role was one of the best decisions ever made in regard to the MCU. He brings all these layers to Fury. Fury can be funny (loved seeing more of that side of him in Captain Marvel), cutting, secretive and very smart. His secrets have secrets! One of my favourite sequences in the entire MCU is when Fury’s car is attacked in Winter Soldier, I just love seeing Fury being the action hero/spy that he is even though he’s climbed the ranks of SHIELD.

Hela
You got to love a female villain that causes death and destruction with style. I like how Hela’s back story doesn’t excuse what she is. Yes, her father used her to take over different worlds and defeat their enemies, but that death and destruction was still in her nature. She wants to rule Asgard and get what she thinks she deserves and uses her intelligence and magic to do it.

Rocket
Rocket is probably my favourite out of the original Guardians of the Galaxy crew. He’s sarcastic and mean and pushes people away because he’s not used to being cared about. But when he does get close to his friends, his family, he loves them deeply. I think the animation that brings Rocket alive is incredible as I’ve often found myself getting teary eyed over that damn raccoon.