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Captain America: Civil War

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Markus Rating:3-and-a-Half-Stars-Wht

With a first half that is little more than an overlong political drama and a second half filled with huge action, Whedon-esque quips from a multitude of super-cameos; capped off with a single (masterful) revelation sequence, the main reason “Captain America: Civil War” only garners 3 ½ stars has to do with a finale where…How do I say this without spoiling things?…“Captain America: Civil War”, a movie which contains the epic Iron Man vs. Captain America confrontation; a confrontation which has been at least four films in the making, settles on a resolution that can only be described as “civil”.

Synopsis: Do the Avengers do more harm than good?  NATO thinks so, as they petition to garner control of this super-group, after global outcry from citizens who were a part of the collateral damage seen in the last two Avengers films, request governmental restraint on the independently run team. This diplomatic plot device divides the group; with unresolved results.

Is it me or did that plot seem way too CNN for a superhero movie? Well, that’s because it was. And the deeper into the political well the extremely talkie “Civil War” fell into, the harder it became for me to wrap my mind around the fact that I potentially could be stuck watching an entire superhero film consisting of a series of repetitive moral and ethical round table discussions for 2 ½ hours.

Mid-Second Act, with the emergence of cameos from Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)and the new Spider-Man (Tom Holland) who was shockingly the best part of the film, “Civil War” becomes the action packed superhero movie I’d been promised. During these moments (and only during these moments) do directors Anthony and Joe Russo shine. It just took so long to get there, as the plot did not warrant the pacing displayed within the first hour or so.

And it all seemed to be going well. I was now entertained. During the final Act I had become immersed in a Greek tragedy plot twist which had me leaning forward in my seat (essentially in a bloodlust). And then… Bottom line, the conclusion to this film was surprisingly tame. So much so, that in the end “Civil War” comes off as a set-up 3 ½ star film for an upcoming 5 Star film, rather than the 5 Star film all of its predecessors had been leading up to.

Final Thought: Not only was “Captain America: Winter Soldier” a better movie, but so was “Batman v. Superman”.

Follow me @moviesmarkus

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My 10 favorite Twilight Zone episodes

Just finished watching the Twilight Zone marathon on the Syfy Channel and you know me, I had to make a list.

Here are my 10 favorites (in order):

 10. The Chaser:

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A man buys a love potion at a discount in order to win the heart of a woman who is out of his league. Life is good, until the woman falls in love with him too much.

9. Probe 7, Over and Out:

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An interesting take on the story of Adam and Eve.

8. The Silence:

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A very rich man makes a bet with a young and rather chatty member of the country club, that he cannot remain silent for a full year. The young man takes the bet. All I’ll say about this one is: A lot can happen in a year.

7. The Obsolete Man:

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In the future obsolete people are executed. And now it’s the librarian’s turn.

6. To Serve Man:

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An alien race comes to earth, promising peace and technological advancements. Meanwhile, A linguist and his team attempt to translate the alien’s language, using a discovered alien text, whose title roughly translates to: “To Serve Man”.

5. I Shot an Arrow into the Air:

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A crew of astronauts fear that they’ve crashed landed on an asteroid and are now running out of water. Things are getting tense. But jokes on them. They may be closer to Earth than they think.

4. The Midnight Sun:

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The sun is getting closer to Earth and the end is near. Or is the Sun moving away from the earth?

3. Time Enough at Last:

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A bifocal wearing bookworm inadvertently survives a nuclear war. On the upside, he now has time to read.

2. It’s a Good Life:

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A kid with powers, sends the members of a small town to an unseen corn field if they don’t think happy thoughts.

1. Twenty Two:

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“Room for one more, honey.” A woman recovering from exhaustion in a hospital keeps having the same dream over and over again. In the dream, every night she ventures down to the hospital morgue.

Just missed my list:
Night Call, Living Doll, What You Need

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Top 10 Movies of 2015

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Time to start my year anew; a new website for a new year. And what better way to start off the New Year than with a top ten list…a top ten list of last year’s movies, but you get what I’m trying to say.

Narrowly missing my list (in order):
16. Chappie
15. Creed
14. The Martian
13. Brooklyn
12. Predestination
11. Secret in Their Eyes

And now, for the 10 best films of 2015:

10. Jurassic World:Jurassic-World-Chris-Pratt-850x560

The first of two on my list that successfully rebooted an entire franchise in spectacular fashion. Telling this story on a new and much larger theme park, built around Jurassic Park, this much anticipated film gave audiences the “more factor” (more CGI, more dinosaurs, more actual “park”) but for a 4th installment, director Colin Trevorrow more importantly gave fans a fresh story with likeable characters (starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) all while not diluting the original product; as is the problem with many sequels.

9. The Big Short:the big short

Directed by Adam McKay (who injects some welcome levity, cutting the countless scenes of “make me feel bad” Michael Moore-esque finger wagging) and starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, who collectively attempt to make the housing bubble collapse of nearly 10 years ago somewhat understandable. “The Big Short” gets an “A” for effort, while also standing as the most important movie of the year (and undoubtedly the one the most pretentious among us will claim to fully understand in order to save face). The problem is, much like 2009’s “Up in the Air” (my favorite movie of that year) “The Big Short” will be almost entirely forgotten in a couple of years. Nevertheless, it still deserves a spot on my list because (say it with me) it is the most important movie of this year.

8. The Hateful Eight:hateful-eight-jennifer-jason-leigh

Taking an appropriate spot on my list, “The Hateful Eight” is the newest Quentin Tarantino film that only a Tarantino fan could love. Meaning, you have to look past the aggressive violence (in this case) aggressive abuse towards women and the aggressively defiant use of the “N” word (and the fact that this movie is over 2 ½ hours long) in order to see how well plotted, beautifully filmed (especially the 70mm showings) and exploding with unabashed entertainment value it is. Or, if you’re a Tarantino fan (like I am) you won’t have to look past any of that. Depicting a post Civil War Wyoming blizzard, where a collection of lively characters of feuding races are held up in a cabin for the duration of a storm. Thing is, someone isn’t who they say they are, which leads to arguments, which leads to killing. Oh yes, does it lead to killing. No, “The Hateful Eight” isn’t Tarantino’s best work. But, even an above average Tarantino whodunit is wildly entertaining and superbly unique. In short, it’s still better than watching high octane, zero-substance cinema, like “Mad Max: Fury Road”.

7. Room:room

Not perfect and quite predictable, yet pulls every heartstring in reach. “Room” tells the story of a five year old boy and his mom, who are held prisoner in a shed. The shed is a prison for the mother, but is the only “world” the little boy has ever known. What gets this film on my list is Lenny Abrahamson’s direction (which is absolutely perfect) as she tells this story mostly through the eyes of the child. I dare you to watch this movie and not cry. It’s simply impossible.

6. The Visit:the visit

The first movie on my list which I enjoyed from start to finish and also a surprise entry, as I may be the only critic in America (if not, the world) who enjoyed “The Visit” enough to give it a place on a top ten list, “The Visit” concerns two children who visit their estranged grandparents; and soon enough the grandparents begin to act strange…and violent. I understand that many were more frightened by the fact that this was a film from the much-maligned M. Night Shyamalan. But I am here to tell you, that “The Visit” is a return to Twilight Zone form for M. Night. And yes, the twist was worth it this time.

5. It Follows:it follows

As more and more people got the chance to see “It Follows”, there have been are more and more who claim “It Follows” is more so flawed and dreadfully slow than it is scary and suspenseful. But I (a critic who has championed this film since its release) still stand by my initial praise that this is one of the scariest movies of recent years, not only because the feeling of suspense is palpable throughout the entire film (without rest) not only because the admittedly blunt allegory of a woman who has sex and then is relentlessly chased by an unseen monster is quite inventive (given the rules of this world) but mostly because “It Follows” will stay with you long after your viewing has ended. It will haunt you. It will follow you. And what more could you want out of a horror flick?

4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: star wars

  Ripe with thirst quenching nostalgia; thanks to director J.J. Abrams, there may not even be a need for explanation as to why “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” gets a spot here. I mean, chances are, out of all the movies on my list, this is the one you’ve seen. But OK, allow me to play devil’s advocate for a second. Maybe this is a film that didn’t deserve a spot in a top ten list of “best films” of the year (let alone, a place so high on my list). I mean, the acting wasn’t anything spectacular, the visuals don’t rival a “space film” like “The Martian”, and the story is basically “A New Hope” warmed-over for a generation who had never seen “A New Hope”. But it’s my list. And I’m not lying when I say that watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was the most fun I had in a theater all year.

3. Sicario:sicario

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, I suspect audiences who disliked “Sicario”, disliked it because it wasn’t a shoot-em-up, U.S vs. Mexico, Robert Rodriguez romp. “Sicario” is a calculated film that stands as the most accurate cinematic depiction of a war that’s going on in our very backyard. Concerning Mexican drug cartels and corrupt FBI agents, for me this film was as much eye opening as it was brutally alarming, as I viewed “realistic” U.S./Mexico relations which shook me to my core.

2. Beasts of No Nation:beasts of no nation

Brutal, violent, heartbreaking, unflinching, grotesque, realistic, tragic, “Beasts of No Nation” (not “Beasts of the Southern Wild) a film from the great Cary Fukunaga, stands as the hardest, yet the most beautifully compelling film to watch on my list; one which deserves a second, third and fourth viewing, because of its truthful depiction of a fictional war fought using child soldiers (a savage practice that still occurs today). Wait. You haven’t heard of this movie, you say? A movie that has taken the #2 spot on my list?! Well that might be because the big chain theaters refused to show it, since it was bought by Netflix, with plans of simultaneous release on the big and small screen. I truly believe that because it was released primarily on Netflix, many don’t even know this film exists. What a travesty!

1.Inside Out:Inside-Out-keyboard-642x396

Over the years only one Pixar film has ever reached my #1 spot; “Inside Out” will be the second. I previously stated that “The Big Short” was the most important film of the year, but in that same breath (and I truly believe this) “Inside Out”, an animated film about human emotions, may be the most important children’s film not only of this generation, but ever made. Yes, the animation is high caliber, but it is truly the adult themes made palatable for children and (though fabricated) a creative look at how memories are stored, what happens to our childhood imaginary friends, how a pre-teen sees the world vs. how a child going through puberty sees the world vs. how a grown-up sees the world, which makes “Inside Out” a watershed film in children’s entertainment.

Bonus: The Worst Films of 2015:

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I didn’t see a whole lot of bad movies this year, but I did see 7! And here they are (in order):

7. The Lazarus Effect
6. The Loft
5: Taken 3
4. Sinister 2
3. The Green Inferno
2. The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death
1. The Age of Adaline: (the only one on my list that actually garners a small explanation, seeing how there were people who actually liked it) The story of a woman who gets electrocuted and now can live forever, actually sounds like (in the right hands) it could’ve lead to an interesting narrative. While this isn’t technically the most inept film I saw all year, it was the most boring and lifeless. This is one of those movies where you could leave to use the restroom, go get some popcorn, go out to your car, drive to the nearest Red Robin, have yourself a burger, eat the burger, tip big, drive back to the theater, find your seat and not have missed a damn thing. With the most annoying voice-over narration throughout as the cherry on top; a narration which rocked me into a cinematic coma, “The Age of Adaline” stands as the worst film of 2015.

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Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton

Markus Rating:

Rated R for language throughout, strong sexuality/nudity, violence, and drug use

If you’re interested, then this movie will be interesting; at least for a while (more or less the first 90 minutes of this 2 ½ hour bio-“epic”. “Straight Outta Compton” tells the story of revolutionary rap group, N.W.A. (Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, MC Ren, Dj Yella). Kicking off on the streets of Compton, California 1986 and documenting the groups rise as the pioneers of “gangsta rap”, their tumultuous break up, allegedly due to underhanded management from Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) and introducing branches of rap legends which expanded from the N.W.A. tree, e.g. Snoop Dogg, Tu-Pac, etc. Problem is (much like that last sentence) the movie is just too damn long! And once Eazy-E starts coughing, the whole thing turns into an after school special, primarily due to an overarching repetitive atmosphere which director F. Gary Gray (Friday, Set It Off) seems to choose over subtlety more often than not.

There were a few sequences that made me lean forward in my seat (The live performance of “F— the Police”, for one) and the script itself from Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff (World Trade Center) does its job; even going above and beyond at times, inserting a few “audience winks” throughout (I mean, there’s even a “bye Felicia” joke thrown into the mix). But it was the acting which was undoubtedly the stand-out aspect of this movie, highlighted by a performance from Ice Cube’s own son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., who, in his first ever acting gig, hits it out of the park playing his father.

Here’s the problem: The difference between “Straight Outta Compton” and an actual N.W.A. album is one carries a gritty, raw authenticity, and the other stars Paul Giamatti.

Not to say that there aren’t guns in this movie (or drugs or police brutality for that matter) but the fact that “Straight Outta Compton” looks so cinematic is an issue.

When comparing this to a movie like “Boyz n the Hood”, which while “fiction”, portrays an honest and personal look into the streets of Los Angeles during a similar time frame, I can safely say that I remember finding myself absolutely immersed in John Singleton’s depiction of said setting; to the point where by the end I felt as if I knew the neighborhood without even setting foot in the neighborhood. In retrospect this form of direction aided in my bond with other aspects of the film, acting as the connective tissue between me and the characters on screen.

“Straight Outta Compton” portrays true to life characters, all who actually grew up in Compton, but Gray’s glossy (and viciously repetitive) direction really gives viewers more of a distracting “XD” version of a story that deserved a grittier presentation.

Final Thought: It is obvious that Gray has a talent for music video direction and the cinematography here is technically perfect; just not for this movie, and thus curbing my viewing experience and creating a disconnect which resulted in me getting bored after the 90 minute mark.

By the way: Everyone who isn’t dead, in prison or white gets out of this film scot-free. And while I am not an expert on the breakup of N.W.A. (I was around 5 when it actually happened) the fact that this film took 10 years (as stated by Ice Cube himself) to make, leads me to believe a multitude of financial parties had to come to an agreement as to what could be shown and what past actions could do damage in the court of public opinion, and thus would need to be left on the cutting room floor. So, just a heads up: this is not a scathing expose detailing Dr. Dre’s abuse towards women, or anything like that. That said, this fact should not be held against the film itself, as it really has no bearing on ones viewing experience. Still, I believe that audiences have the right to know before entering the theater.

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Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland