TV Review: What If…? (S1) | The Multiverse Saga in All Its Glory

Review: What If was an interesting ride with each episode posing their own question with surprising results. The pilot set the tone very well even if for the fans that re-watch The Infinity Saga on the regular it might have seem a bit repetitive. Just like the saga it’s mirror after some episodes held more interest and excitement for me than others, in fact each episode ended up being like the movies with the finale acting as the first Avengers (2012) movie, making this season of the show a Multiverse Saga.

Looking at each episode as a “movie” in the Multiverse Saga I do have my favorites, ones that I’d watch again. The Captain Carter episode, the T’Challa Star-Lord one, the Killmonger episode, and of course the finale are my favorites. However what’s interesting about all of them – more than the story, than the question that episode answered – is the display of powers and abilities. Throughout the season there were amazing action sequences, some more impressive – and of course easier to do in animation – than the movies. We’ve seen characters we know using their abilities and team up in a way we have yet to see in the movies, and that alone is exciting. It opens up some many possibilities for future action sequences in live action.

Another thing that What If smoothly does this season and more so in the Finale, is setting up future threat and heroes to join the live action timeline. I know a Black Widow, a Steve Rogers, or a Killmonger to name a few that would be interesting to bring into live action. In fact, if what I heard about Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness is true that pocket dimension won’t be guarded for long.

What If is enjoyable and fun, visually exciting, sometimes emotionally rough and gives us a different look at the characters we know.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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TV Review: What If…? (Pilot) | Review

A.C. Bradley (Head writer) Bryan Andrews (Director)

CAST
Hayley Atwell
Josh Keaton
Dominic Cooper

Sebastian Stan
Jeffrey Wright

Review: When I first saw images of this show, I wasn’t impressed by the animation style at all, but enough time has passed since then for me to get used to that What If look and this first episode is so strong that it doesn’t matter. Captain America: The First Avengers (2011) is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies that I’ve only seen once in fact it’s my least favorite of the films. However, it didn’t stop me from enjoying this entire episode. I bet that if the 2011 movie was fresher in my mind, it would have enhanced the experience a bit.

The pilot episode does shift the MCU in a new direction by smoothly introducing this what if scenarios. There’s a lot of story in this 30 min episode and it’s not just about the gender bending of captain America but the creation of an alternate universe with a captain that acts and moves in its own way. Captain Carter is a total brawler and yet graceful, it makes for amazing looking fight scenes that have a

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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TV Review: The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (Season) | Nuanced and Entertaining Case on Why Wilson Makes Sense As Cap

When these Marvel Cinematic Universe streaming shows were first announced, I didn’t quite know what to think but I was interested. As a concept The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was the show that I was the most excited about. But several months ago when we got the teasers for this show, WandaVision and Loki, the later became the one that I wanted the most. So how did this show fair? From being my most anticipated to my least before it even premiered. Well the answer is easy, I always figured that a show starring The Falcon and The Winter Soldier would be more grounded than the others. And given the year I’ve had, I wanted more fantasy but it was always a show I was going to check out.
I suspected it would highlight real world issues, in a heightened way but still kind of address them. The Premiere prove me right, and I didn’t even know who the show runner was then. Malcolm Spellman worked on shows like Empire and Truth Be Told, I’ve never watched more than the pilot of the former but I’m aware of the conversations around it. As for the director, Kari Skogland, again not a name that I knew but a body of work that I’ve seen for the most part. Like many I was focused on the cast. I was happy for Anthony Mackie (Altered Carbon, Black Mirror)and Sebastian Stan (The Devil, The Martian), they have great chemistry, but I was ecstatic to see Daniel Brühl, George St-Pierre, and Emily VanCamp back. I was on the lookout for who would join them Wyatt Russell (The Good Lord Bird) was a surprise, Erin Kellyman (Solo, Les Misérables), Danny Ramirez (On My Block, The Gifted) were intriguing but interesting choices.

Premise: Six months after being handed the mantle of Captain America at the end of Avengers: Endgame (2019), Sam Wilson teams up with Bucky Barnes in a worldwide adventure that tests their abilities and their patience.

Review: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier accomplished a lot in six hours. We got a lot of character development for Sam and Bucky of course but also John Walker, Zemo, Sharon, and Isaiah. They went where I doubted they would go with the series, tackling important real word issues in a very nuanced and more in depth way that I would have imagined.

The show gave Sam Wilson his blackness, not that it wasn’t there before but I guess it was muted. It was made palatable not to offend the less tolerant in our society, who it seems are also in need entertainment and might have been distracted by the man’s skin color if he wasn’t presented in a colorblind way. Anyway they gave Sam his blackness, he wasn’t only portrayed as a happy go lucky guy with funny quips, who can help in a pinch and just happens to be black. Sam was portrayed as a well rounded black man; not just as who he is but also as how he’s seen, the positives and the negatives. In my pilot review I mentioned how he was treated in and out of uniform – to this day that scene at the bank bothers me but I like that it’s there – it showed that not everything is peachy for Sam.

They’ve also contrasted Sam’s struggles with Isaiah Bradley’s that came before him, and John Walker’s that is his contemporary. It could have been very black and white, instead it was chuck full of nuances. Because all three struggle(d), some of these struggles are somewhat similar but they all have them. This gives us three point of view from three service men, from two eras, and two races. In fact, all the main characters in this show mirror and/or contrast each other in some way, not just because most of them served or are serving their country but they’ve all had different experiences and difficult moments because of it. Whether it’s Sharon and Isaiah who have both suffered for acts that were arguably the right thing to do. Or Walker that shares similarities with Sam in some ways, Bucky in others, and even to Sharon. These characters are complex and nuanced, they have understandable motivations and they’re all doing what they think is right.

Speaking of each character’s experiences with serving their country, the series tackles an issue that a lot of people – service men and women included – have, mental health problems. Bucky and John Walker illustrate that well, with one taking care of it and the other clearly in need of some counseling but ignoring it or somewhat unaware of the problem – I’m not sure which one. There’s a quote from Bucky in the first hour that says more than you’d think:

“I didn’t have a moment to deal with everything.”

It shows how Bucky is trying to get better. He’s a veteran who’s been through some heavy things – mind controlled, used to kill a lot of people – and I love him for voicing that. It contrasts so well with Walker who has physical tells but still bottles it up.

Going back to the series giving Sam his full identity as a black man. I distinctly remember after Avengers: Endgame thinking about other fans not accepting Sam Wilson as Captain America – his skin tone being one of the main reasons – and not even considering why he is the right choice regardless of it being comic accurate. Since in the comics Bucky also becomes Captain America, seeing Sam getting that shield I knew that Bucky would be more readily accepted as Cap than Sam would be. When thinking that, I was fully aware Bucky was still at the time on the run and considered a criminal – because he was, mind controlled or not. I suspected him to be mentally unstable but I was still convinced that more people wanted him as Cap. This show showed us why a mentally stable man with good morals, experience in the work being Cap entails is preferable to tortured super soldier Bucky Barnes or a decorated soldier like John Walker – we saw how that turned out.
I commend the show for making that case, even if we already had ample reasons why Sam is the right man. It was smart to make Sam the one wary of carrying that shield but I still feel like they kept a safety net or coped out a bit in keeping Walker around AND redeeming him. I love the actor, he did an amazing job – top notch. I also understand some of the logic in redeeming him a bit but one it doesn’t feel like there were much consequences to his actions – I don’t want to spoil just in case – and the second thing is the cop out. Whether it is again comics accurate – I feel the comics is guilty of the same thing. I felt like Marvel is trying to have its cake and eat it too. By introducing and somewhat redeeming Walker, they’re giving those who still have a problem with Sam carrying the shield an alternate “Captain America” to root for. He even has the same costume – it’s in the comics I know – and to add insult to injury I think he’s probably getting paid while I’m not sure that Sam is.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier feels like a film, a modern political thriller with a superb production quality, great acting and no unnecessary drama. While at first I thought that the show was an open and shut case on Sam as captain America, I now realize that Walker is meant to be the naysayers’ saving grace.

I’m curious to know if I’m the only one who feels like that, how do you see the show now?

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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TV Review: The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (Pilot) | Fantasy World Real World Issues

CREATOR
Malcolm Spellman

DIRECTOR
Kari Skogland

CAST
Anthony Mackie
Sebastian Stan
Daniel Brühl
Emily VanCamp
Erin Kellyman
Wyatt Russell

Review: Coming off of WandaVision, I expected this show to be different and have a different feel given who the titular characters are. What I wasn’t totally expecting is the serious issues that the The Falcon and The Winter Soldier would touch on. Of course there’s the big spectacles, the movie level action sequences that is almost a must in this kind of project but the very grounded approach they took with characters’ lives outside of their hero work is just as important.

We first see Sam Wilson as a professional, at work, giving us a clear idea of what the paramilitary rescue operations he ran mentioned in Captain America: The Winter Soldier were. As competent he is, working for the military and his country; as impressive what he accomplished is and as admired he might be by the general public, at the end of the day he’s just a black soldier coming home who can’t really catch a break. That really stung because out of uniform, nobody seems to care. Maybe I’m reading too much into thing but I don’t think I am, it’s very much implied.

Bucky is a mirror to Sam, one’s active duty while the other, Barnes, is retired but they’re both depicted as soldiers. The two having different sets of problems but both have troubles that many soldiers have. Barnes has PTSD and tries to live with what he did, make amends. It’s not easy for him but he’s trying. They’ve a great job making Bucky sound and act like an older man. It gives weight to his history as the Winter Soldier.

As for Captain America’s shield, I don’t know if Marvel is avoiding what I heard went on in the comics when Sam got the shield or if they’ve updated it. I mean nowadays the government wouldn’t straight up say that America is not ready for a black Captain America like the old comics did but they would “solve” that issue in a roundabout way. We’ll see as the show unfolds. The conversation Sam has in the museum with that other avenger felt to me like a more experienced soldier trying to warn the younger one about what might happen.

The show does a good job at introducing us to the flag smashers, who seems to be the big threat of the show, however the series remains a mystery. I am curious to see how the series develop, I might not do a weekly review but I most likely will review the season.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

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The Devil All the Time | A Circle of Bad Things

The novel this movie is based on is not one that I would have picked up. One of the reasons I ended up watching the film is the producer Jake Gyllenhaal (Spider-Man: Far from Home, Brokeback Mountain), and the cast which includes Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Mudbound), Bill Skarsgard (It, Deadpool 2, Allegiant), Harry Melling (The Old Guard), Sebastian Stan (I, Tonya, The Winter Soldier), Robert Pattinson (Tenet, Cosmopolis), and Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming). My description of the cast make the movie soundsm like a sausage fest but it’s not. There are female characters, portrayed by some well known-ish actresses Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road), Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, Marley & Me), Eliza Scanlen (Little Women, Sharp Objects); but it’s really the boys’ story.

Donald Ray Pollock‘s book The Devil All The Time is adapted by Paulo Campos and director Antonio Campos (The Sinner).

Premise: Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of compelling and sinister characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. There’s Willard Russell, tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific. There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial killers, who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There’s the spider-handling preacher Roy and his crippled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard’s son, who grows up to be a young man devoted to protecting those he loves in a postwar backwoods town teeming with corruption and brutality.

Review: The story is bonkers and a little over the top, it sounds surreal but at the same time it rings true. It’s dark and f’ed but is oddly captivating, with a sublime narration that adds to the atmosphere. The neatly woven narrative unfolds slowly and violently, with relatable moments.

The cast is talented, there’s no doubt about it, but the actors themselves seem off. Not enough to put you off of this movie, however just enough to keep from totally getting lost in the story, to keep some disbelief. Because this film is a collection of bad things happening to people living in the rural American South, where religion and family have a major impact them.

The production value is very strong. The directing and the acting – narration included – does a great job with the atmosphere and context of the story. The story takes its time but it flies by. The Devil all the Time is a somewhat surreal, bleak crime thriller that could a true story.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
Get the book here

The Martian | Official Trailer & Poster

Yesterday, Fox released a teaser trailer in the form of a promotional film to introduce the crew of the Ares mission. The footage put to rest any fear I had of the movie looking or feeling like Gravity & Prometheus – I haven’t seen Interstellar so I can’t comment on that. Even though, it took place before the actual events of the film it teased at a human story, and allowed us to see the chemistry between the actors. 
Today, 20th Century Fox released a poster and the official trailer for the movie.

The Poster:

image

I like the poster, it’s simple, smart and on point. It almost looks like a missing person add, Matt Damon’s face with the reflection of the deserted planet and Bring Him Home instead of missing. It gives some basic information about the movie, it’s a guy – an astronaut – lost on a deserted planet. It sounds like cast away in space which it might as well be because let’s face it Matt Damon has the dramatic & comedic chops Tom Hanks has.

The trailer:

The voice over in the trailer is just brilliant because it really highlights what NSA & the Ares crew want to do about Watney (Matt Damon). It shows that it’s a survival movie but also an impossible rescue mission. The Martian looks intense, thrilling, and fun. It doesn’t seem to be taking itself too seriously and the ensemble cast is just a dream.

The teaser peaked my interest but the trailer hooked me in, What about you, what did you think of

The Martian trailer? For those who read the book does it seems like it has the spirit of the book?