TV Review: Loki (S1) | A Somewhat Complex Talkathon

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, out of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe Television Series that were announced Loki was the one that I was the most excited for. Not because I am a Loki or Tom Hiddleston mega stan – Hiddleston can get it I’ll admit that – but the look, the feel of the show and the time element sold me on it. The head writer Michael Waldron was not known to me but I’ve seen and enjoyed Ricky and Morty; same thing for the director Kate Herron (Daybreak, Sex Education). However, I had to admit that the rest of the cast was both known to me and surprised the heck out of me. I mean we have Owen Wilson (Marley & Me, Inherent Vice), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Come Away, Concussion, Belle, Miss Sloane), Sophia Di Martino (Yesterday, Into the Badlands), Richard E. Grant (Star Wars IX, The Nutcracker, Logan, GoT), and Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country, The End of the F***ing World, Philomena).

Premise: In Avengers: Endgame – where an alternate version of Loki created a new timeline when he stole the Tesseract – the TVA (Time Variance Authority), a bureaucratic organization that exists outside of time and space who monitors the timeline. They give that alternate Loki a choice: face being erased from existence due to being a “time variant”, or help fix the timeline to stop a greater threat. Loki ends up trapped in his own crime thriller, traveling through time and altering human history.

Review: Not sure what I expected the series to be but this ain’t it, and I’m glad about it. The show is a bit more complex and smarter than I would have guessed. It’s designed for a specific type of fan, one that knows the MCU like the back of his hand, who loves to speculate about it, and would pick up on the many implications the series has.

By putting the 2014 Avengers’ Loki in this situations, being outside of the MCU we know and protecting it from anything that might disturb it. From a character’s perspective, it gets a bit fascinating because we know the growth Loki’s capable of, he can become a somewhat nice guy. However the one in the show is still angry and bitter, just like ours was back in 2014. So the process of getting him where we know he could be starts anew and that is, when I think about it, the redundant part of the show. As great as it was to see the old Loki back in the beginning of the season, it kind of gets old because regressions aren’t very fun to watch. I think it’s why Mobius is a lifeline at the start, and when he wasn’t there, he was missed.

Since this Loki has a different experience during the series, the road to get him where we know he can be wasn’t very exciting for me. For a good chunk of it the show seemed a bit slow, not much was happening, there was a lot of talking, but it was necessary. We needed the time to redefine the 2014 Loki. The quips, the memorable lines, and the visuals in the series were a good distraction but the show wasn’t as exciting as WandaVision or Falcon and The Winter Soldier got by the second half of the season.

Despite amazing action scenes, the story is cerebral throughout, like a chess game. The main vilain being a bit abstract, a vague entity that they’re up against and that we don’t really know, the action scenes have a different impact. To me Loki is best when he has a clear concrete foe, someone we know, which is why I think season two will be even better. We’ve met that vilain, a variant at least, and by the time next season rolls out we will have learn more about that enemy.

Pacing and story aside the cast does a great job, casting is key here. They are one of the reasons why I was so engaged. When the pace was a bit slow, the story not developing fast enough, they kept me entertained. The visuals were also amazing, hands down more impressive than all the shows so far. It helped getting immerse in the story but also with the scope. It very much felt like what was happening in this show will have repercussions not only on the main characters but on the cinematic universe at large.

So season 1 of Loki is visually striking, fun, very well acted and a great primer for the following MCU films and the upcoming season 2.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Black Widow | Hints and Some Bad Visual Effects

After watching this movie and seeing that WandaVision‘s showrunner Jac Schaeffer – and Ned Benson (Eleanor Rigby) – is one of the people behind the story with Eric Pearson (Godzilla vs. Kong, Thor: Ragnarok, Agent Carter) writing the screenplay. Based on a Marvel Comics by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Don Rico this adaptation is directed by Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome) and stars Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh (Little Women), Rachel Weisz (Disobedience, My Cousin Rachel) & David Harbor (Hellboy, Extraction, Tombstones).

Premise: Following the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016), Natasha Romanoff finds herself on the run and forced to confront a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Romanoff must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

Review: I may have first watched this movie when a bit sleep deprived but I don’t think that played a role in how uninspiring this movie is to me, and the writing is a big reason for it. Schaeffer is the only writer on this team that’s known to me at this point, but I feel like they didn’t rise to the task. I didn’t have expectations going in yet I feel like this could have been better.

Giving what happens to Natasha in Infinity War and Endgame, a movie set before those event might not have seemed like a good idea. However this movie has a lot of interesting aspects to it. There’s a sleeper cell moment in the beginning of the movie that I feel was a great idea, in particular when you realize that Nat knew, while Yelena didn’t. As interesting as the idea is, they coud have done a bit more with it by contrasting the girl’s carefree family life with Alexei / Red Guardian finishing his mission before joining them thus showing Alexei with a shred of skills.

I also enjoyed the way the black widows are “selected / recruited” for lack of better non-spoilery word. There could have been a better commentary on that if that aspect lasted a bit longer with a clearer idea of what the future widows go through once “recruited.” I’d even go farther by including a scene where a new generation of widows’ first cycle would be the deciding factor for their hysterectomies. But I’m aware of how not family friendly that might be for some, and how some sick people would see that idea as titillating.

Taskmaster is another aspect of the film that could have been better, and I don’t think that a lot would have been needed to achieve that. The action scenes featuring the character are great, maybe a bit spoiled by the teasers and trailers but they are fine. The bulk of them though, doesn’t show enough of his copycat fighting style. It’s mostly hinted at and not showcased enough for me.
These are only a few examples of some of the interesting things that are introduced and only explored on a surface level. We are asked to fill in a lot of blanks, so much so that it feels lazy on the writers’ part.

The acting and the cast is one of the saving grace of the movie. Johansson and Pew do an amazing job, they feel like sisters, and have great chemistry. They work their action scenes extremely well, even if the visual effects doesn’t always back them up as it should. Harbor, O-T Fagbenle and Weisz deliver solid performances with what they’re given. The main cast breathe life to the movie despite being in an uneven story.

Black Widow needed more space maybe a second and / or third film focusing on different aspects of this film. It remains entertaining both being a great intro to Yelena and a good farewell for Natasha.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

TV Review: Loki (Pilot) | A Recap and A Mystery

Michael Waldron (Head Writer) & Kate Herron (Director)

Tom Hiddleston
Owen Wilson
Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Wunmi Mosaku

Review: I suspected as much but Loki has a different vibe than the other shows and I love it. The set and costume designs, the cinematography, it all look singular yet it fits with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Story wise most of the pilot was flashbacks, ones that served to brings us back to Loki’s past. It’s history to us but news to him since this Loki is an alternate version. The flashbacks also shine a light on his state of mind back in Avengers. We get an accelerated version of the crumbling of his armor, some of his façade is shed when his trajectory is revealed to him.

The rest of the episode pretty much sets up the mystery around the show. If you follow this kind of stuff it is not a surprise but it does set up Loki to face his own demons in a more hands on way than the flashbacks did. Like WandaVision was, Loki also seems to be some kind of a therapy session for the character, a form of active therapy to try and get him to know himself better.

The pilot does raise a few questions but there’s not much excitement so far. However, we get to revel in the beauty of the show, banter and the amazing acting performance.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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TV Review: WandaVision (Season) | A Meticulous and Therapeutic Edging Session

When the WandaVision show was announced I was thrilled because Wanda & The Vision are such great character that are very well portrayed by Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany (Code); their storylines in all the movies they’ve appeared in made them more interesting with each entry. But then the more we learned about the show, the casting of Kathryn Hahn (Mitty, Leave You), Teyonah Parris (Beale Street, Chi-Raq) as grown-up Monica Rambeau, or the return of Randall Park (Always Be My Maybe, Aquaman) and Kat Dennings (Dollface, Thor: The Dark World), the more intriguing it got. The concept art, poster and premise that followed just added to the mystery and confusion.
the return posters were brilliant and did give us an idea of what they were going for, a weird, trippy but sophisticated show. However, what they didn’t tell us was how far they’d go with it.

Premise: Set three weeks after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Wanda Maximoff and Vision are living an idyllic suburban life in the town of Westview, New Jersey, trying to conceal their true natures. As they begin to enter new decades and encounter television tropes, the couple suspects that things are not as they seem.

Review: In anticipation of the series finale, binged the whole season, and as interesting as the first two episodes premiere was I’m still glad that they were just half an hour. I go a bit deeper on why in my premiere breakdown but the first couple of episodes are the only ones where the runtime didn’t bother me. I love the artistic choice and the level of commitment to this history of American sitcoms because it really showcased the calibre of talent that Marvel has in front as well as behind the camera.

In this crew we have an array of incredible artists, like Jess Hall, the cinematographer on this show. You can say what you want about Ghost in the Shell but he did a great job on that movie and he does the same here. The director, Matt Shakman (The Boys, GoT), who I wasn’t familiar with before has directed some of the most memorable episodes on very popular shows. And the creator of the show, Jac Schaeffer crafted a series that managed to keep us on the edge, kept us guessing, and wanting more at every turn – using somewhat questionable means.

However, nothing is – technically – wasted on that show, every word, every second seems to have been well thought out and intentional, even the red herrings. Every week this show gave us possible answers to questions we had but nothing definitive, confirming some things, but leaving us with the bigger questions while adding some in the process, that’s edging. Every week, one or two of my theories were falling apart, anytime I felt like I was close ready to bust…this mystery open something pulled me back denying me the satisfaction of the answer. At some point, I gave up trying and was just present for the experience. Once I did that it was pure bliss, well sad bliss if that’s a thing because there are quite a few heavy moments that’ll give you the feels.

The cast is amazing with that, they carry the emotional weight of the show. From several styles of comedy to the intense dramatic moments peppered with fantastical action, these actors did an amazing job. Olsen showed so much range that I am dying to see her in another type of franchise. Bettany, Hahn, Dennings, Randall and Parris shown just as bright in their respective roles but Olsen made a bigger impression on me. I knew she was talented but I would still put her in a box, a certain type of role, now I can picture her in anything.

As good as this show is it’s not perfect, there’s one too many misdirects, and although I don’t mind what they did with Ralph, I understand with some people are mad. I have a theory about that, if the rumors about the Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness are true, meaning that we’ll see different versions The Avengers in that movie, played by actors who almost got these roles, I think Ralph is simply who that actor is in this MCU universe/dimension but the same face and/or actor is a hero in another universe.

WandaVision is a narrative driven whodunit that will keep on the edge of your seat brimming with excitement to figure it out but the best way to approach it is to go with it, let it happen.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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TV Review: WandaVision (Premiere) | Edging Their Sweaty Fans with Easter Eggs and a Mystery

WandaVision posters were brilliant and did give us an idea of what they were going for, a weird, trippy but sophisticated show. However, what they didn’t tell us was how far they’d go with it.

I kind of love that the sitcoms weren’t just a gimmick. They commit to it with a lot of the two episode premiere runtime dedicated to being a sitcom. For this premiere they are in black and white, their individual plots are appropriate for the era, it’s fun, charming, and different. They’re living the ideal suburban life with some supernatural elements sprinkled throughout, since they are trying to hide their powers. The show strikes a perfect balance between sitcoms and supernatural with Wanda and Vision being themselves in those sitcoms.

Either it’s my modern sensibilities or the fact that I am very eager to figure this out, but I am glad for two things with this premiere. The first is that we got two episodes and the second is that they were half-hour romps. The black and white coloring, the 50s and 60s zany sitcom cloak the show is first wrapped in is all fun and nice, but they were so little clues as to the larger picture that one per week would have dinged my excitement for the series. It would have felt like reading a page turner but only be allowed to read one or half a page, frustrating right? I know edging is a thing but it’s not always appropriate.

So far the series is a mystery, a slowly unfolding one, that gives us enough to speculate and nothing more than that. From my poster analysis I had already gathered that the black and white parts of show is the dream, the warped reality, and the color is reality. However we don’t have a clear sense of who is doing it, just more theories that we already had. Nothing is confirmed or denied. One thing is for sure, is that the children are not simply going to be a byproduct of the show, they are very much wanted. It’s subtle but they are subliminally suggested throughout the first episodes. Is it Mephisto trying to get Wanda to unknowingly shards of his soul to make them?
She might loose her mind because whoever wants her to have children will take them away to another dimension, that’s how she shreds sh*t up hence Spiderman 3 and Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness. One the consequence – for everybody, particularly Spiderman – of her ripping the fabric of reality; the other how they’ll help Wanda get her now teenage children back. We’ll see.

WandaVision is a mystery, Marvel is toying with us so far, but gave us a cozy Dick Van Dyke, Bewitched type of show to appreciate.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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TV Review: Wandavision | Poster Analysis

I love this! This WandaVision poster is brilliant. Given what we know of the series, meaning that it’s inspired by different sitcoms throughout the ages, the static wave like ripples on the image screams TV. In fact the whole thing looks like a picture of a temperamental television screen.

The demarcation between the black and white, and color seems like the result of a TV that’s not receiving the signal properly. But most notable is the red color of that demarcation, it is how Wanda’s powers manifest in every movie she’s appeared in. They’ve mixed Wanda’s powers with the static of television. We know she’s the one doing this, creating different realities. The jagged edges the demarcations in the image make it look like a portal, a tear, a rip in reality? It tracks with the reality warping powers we know Wanda to have in the comics.

The black and white part of the image is the dream, the warped reality, and the color is reality. Since what happened to the couple in Infinity War it weirdly makes sense that they’d end up in the….1950s? Where everything is perfect, not a hair out of place. I don’t know about you, but I find that the 1950s esthetic can easily look creepy. For instance, the whole image has a trippy look to it, particularly the parts of it in colors at the edges of the poster where it’s wavy and we see Wanda and Vision as we’ve seen them in the MCU.

WandaVision is gearing up to be a weird, trippy but sophisticated show and I’m here for. Even the posebthey’re in is reminiscent of a familiar image, the 1930 painting by Grant Wood, American Gothic.

My trailer reaction