REVIEW: BLACK WIDOW (2021)

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BLACK WIDOW (2021)

Not only was Black Widow a long time coming in terms of Natasha Romanoff getting her own solo feature, but it is another highly anticipated flick postponed for over a year by COVID 19 shutdowns. Now it has arrived and we finally get some of the answers we were looking for, and a bit of closure.

Film opens with a sequence from 1995 detailing Natasha’s (Ever Anderson) fleeing from America with her Russian sleeper cell family and being taken with her sister Yelena (Violet McGraw) to be part of the Black Widow training program. Film then resumes between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War with Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) on the run after helping Cap and Bucky escape. Nat is about to go off the grid, when her long lost sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) pulls her into a mission to stop the Black Widow assassins training program, still being conducted in the Red Room, by a man she thought she killed, Dreykov (Ray Winstone). Determined to stop the Red Room and Dreykov once and for all, reunites her not only with Yelena, but with her sleeper cell mother and father, Alexei “Red Guardian” Shostakov (David Harbour), a super soldier and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), a Black Widow herself.

Flick is directed by Cate Shortland from a script by Eric Pearson and story by Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson. It has some nice emotional resonance and gives us a glimpse into how Natalia came to be the hero we know her as from the previous MCU films. The first act is strong and features a lot of action, as Nat reconnects with Yelena and are on the run from a metal-clad master assassin known only as Taskmaster, who perfectly mimics the fighting styles of his enemies. The pace here is quick, though not too fast and the action can surprisingly be a bit brutal, pushing the limits of the PG-13 rating. It’s the second act where the film loses some momentum, as Nat and Yelena break Alexei out of a Russian prison and then travel to a pig farm in St. Petersburg to reconnect with Melina, who has vital information as to the Red Room’s whereabouts. It’s here the story grinds to almost a halt, as the “family” catches up, voices their issues and awkwardly tries to bond again. Despite some nicely placed humor in the first third, here a few of the attempts at laughs fall a bit flat amidst the melodrama. The film thankfully picks up again as a betrayal brings the foursome’s enemies to their door and we head into the climactic last act in the flying Red Room complex, where Natasha comes face to face with her past, Dreykov and Taskmaster. There is a lot of action and the FX are spectacular, though there are a few weak CGI fire effects that stand out a bit. As a whole, Black Widow plays more like a Daniel Craig Bond film than a superhero movie, until the more FX heavy climax. It has a nice emotional center giving the character of Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, some closure and us some answers and details, that have been left out of her story thus far.

The cast all shine here. Scarlett Johansson gives one of her best performances as Nat and imbues her with some emotional depth that she wasn’t always afforded as a second banana in the other flicks. It’s too bad her story arc is at an end, as it would be nice to see her in solo action again. That being said, if this is a passing of the torch, Florence Pugh does a great job as her “sister” Yelena Belova, who takes up the mantel in the comics. Pugh is funny, tough and handles the action quite well. She has star quality and hopefully Yelena returns in future projects. Harbour is good as Red Guardian, though the character’s dialogue tends to ramble a bit and it stands out, especially in the slow middle. Weisz is good as the matronly Melina and gets to have a few action moments herself. Winstone is efficiently villainous as Dreykov, a far more grounded villain than we are used to in these films, but the veteran actor makes him lethal. William Hurt is briefly seen as Ross, O-T Fagbenie is a Natasha ally named Mason and Olga Kurylenko appears in a role that won’t be spoiled here. A good cast and it was nice to see Johansson get to say goodbye (?) to Romanoff with a really good performance and her own flick.

Overall this was a solid entry in the MCU. It’s a more down to earth action/adventure than the previous films, at least unit the last act, and gives us some of the details we’ve been waiting for. It has a good cast, with hints at the future, as well as, finally filling us in on Nat’s past. If anything holds this flick back, it’s that the middle act slows down momentum considerably and a few of the character interactions, during these sequences, come across as more awkward than effective. It recovers for it’s last third, with an action packed finale and some nice closure for the Romanoff character. Maybe not quite living up to the large expectations set by the long wait, but far from a disappointment. Stay through the credits for an especially shocking post credits scene.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 Black Widows

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MARVEL’S BLACK WIDOW GETS NEW CHARACTER POSTERS!

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MARVEL’S BLACK WIDOW GETS NEW CHARACTER POSTERS!

On 7/9/21 we are finally getting a solo adventure for Natasha Romanoff and the latest trailer has anticipations high. Black Widow is directed by Cate Shortland from a script by Jac Schaeffer, David Hayter and Ned Benson. The flick stars Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova, Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff, David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov aka Red Guardian and William Hurt returning as Thaddeus Ross. What took you so long, Marvel!?

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…and in case you haven’t seen the first trailer…

-MonsterZero NJ

Source: Instagram/Marvel

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MARVEL’S BLACK WIDOW GETS A FINAL TRAILER and NEW POSTER!

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In less than 2 months we are finally getting a solo adventure for Natasha Romanoff and the latest trailer has anticipations high. Black Widow is set to release on 5/1/20 and was directed by Cate Shortland from a script by Jac Schaeffer, David Hayter and Ned Benson. The flick stars Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova, Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff, David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov aka Red Guardian and William Hurt returning as Thaddeus Ross. What took you so long, Marvel!?

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…and in case you haven’t seen the first trailer…

-MonsterZero NJ

Source: youtube

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MARVEL’S BLACK WIDOW GETS A TEASER TRAILER!

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Sure, a Black Widow movie should have happened a long time ago, but we are finally getting a solo adventure for Natasha Romanoff and from the new teaser, it looks like it might be fun. Black Widow is set to release on 5/1/20 and was directed by Cate Shortland from a script by Jac Schaeffer, David Hayter and Ned Benson. The flick stars Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour.

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-MonsterZero NJ

Source: youtube

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REVIEW: AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019)

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AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019)

“Whatever it takes” ―The Avengers

Fourth Avengers flick finds the surviving heroes still devastated by the mass genocide caused by Thanos and the Infinity Stones. Five years later, hope is reignited as the reappearance of one of their number thought dead, gives The Avengers one last chance to possibly set things right.

Joe and Anthony Russo, again armed with a script written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, give this ten year journey the best ending possible. It’s an emotionally draining roller coaster ride as The Avengers enact a desperate plan that will lead them to a final showdown with the Mad Titan…and we’re along with them, every step of the way. It’s the type of movie best enjoyed going in knowing as little as possible, so this will be brief. There are loads of surprises, epic battles, some wonderful cameos and a plot that cleverly wraps up the story and also manages to pay tribute to what came before. There are some truly great moments here and heartbreaking ones, too. The audience in attendance laughed hysterically, cheered thunderously and some even wept openly. It wraps up the last ten years wonderfully, while opening some doors to the future. Simply a great flick and an enormously entertaining 181 minutes.

The cast is once again, too large to discuss each individually, but all deserve kudos. Our mainstays from the series all perform these now familiar characters with the expected gusto. A great ensemble cast that has endeared us over the last decade and have grown into their roles so well. Josh Brolin again impresses as Thanos, the Mad Titan. The clever script gives us a bit of a different Thanos, one possibly more dangerous than he was in Infinity War. There are too many great character cameos to mention, which is fine, as they will not be spoiled here anyway. A spectacular cast.

There are a few flaws, but for all the spectacle and emotion you get in it’s three hour running time, they are too small to bother discussing. A clever script and story gives us everything we could hope for from epic battles, heartbreaking actions, nail-biting suspense and some truly hilarious moments, all mixed very well. It rarely slows down and only stumbles slightly here and there, but otherwise is an epic finale to a great series of movies. While there is no post credits scene, stay during the entire credits anyway for a wonderful sendoff to our beloved heroes.

…and, on a personal note, I can’t remember the last time I laughed, cheered and even teared up so much in one movie…and I’ve been watching movies for over five decades-MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) infinity gauntlets.

 

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REVIEW: AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

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AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

“In time, you will know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right, yet to fail all the same. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives.” ―Thanos

Third Avengers film finds the “Mad Titan” Thanos (Josh Brolin) deciding to restore balance to the universe by killing half of it’s population. To do this he must track down six powerful infinity stones to be placed in a gauntlet, that once completed, will give him the means to do so. To stop him, The Avengers must put aside their differences and The Guardians of the Galaxy must learn to play nice with The Avengers. Not as simple as it sounds as Thanos and his four children…The Black Order…will destroy anything in their path to get the stones…two of which are already on Earth.

Spectacularly entertaining film is directed with a wonderful mix of intensity, action and humor by Joe and Anthony Russo, who gave us the best Marvel film…until now…Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who get a whole lot of story going without the film ever feeling like it’s too busy or a mess. Our heroes are split up on various quests. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to forge a new weapon, Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to keep Thanos from getting the Time Stone and Cap (Chris Evans), Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) are trying to keep the Mind Stone in Vision’s (Paul Bettany) head out of Thanos’ mitt as well. The action scenes are far more spectacular than we have yet seen in the MCU and in this film series we’ve seen a lot. What can you say about a film that gives you Thanos vs Hulk in the first five minutes and that’s just for starters. What makes this film work so well, though, is not only some wonderful camaraderie between the many characters, but some very emotionally powerful moments, too. The Russos give this film an emotional depth that this series has rarely experienced and Joss Whedon’s first two Avengers movies rarely touched on. There are some side-split-tingly funny dialogue exchanges, too, between characters…such as Banner’s “There’s a Spider-Man AND an Ant-Man?”…and some heart skipping moments, that won’t be spoiled here. The writers pick some great character team ups, like Strange and Stark and Thor and Rocket with some great cameos that also won’t be spoiled here. None of this would work, however, with a weak villain and thankfully Thanos is one of the best MCU villains so far. He is given depth, a purpose…although, a diabolical one…and a powerful presence. It all combines for a villain who lives up to his threat factor big time and puts our heroes in more danger than they have ever been in…a danger they all face valiantly.

The cast is too large to discuss each individually. Our mainstays from the series all perform well with some stand-outs. Hemsworth is a highlight with Ragnarok’s changes to the God of Thunder carrying over here. While initially critical of Cumberbatch as Strange, he has grown into the role very well and the Russos use him wisely. Holland is turning into a great Spider-Man and the script, under the Russo Brother’s guidance, fix the awkward relationship between Peter and Tony that didn’t gel so well in Spiderman: Homecoming. Almost everyone is given their moments, there is some great dialogue for them and the whole cast are given some really intense scenes, unlike they have been afforded before, to shine in. The real force here is Josh Brolin as the Mad Titan. He does voice and motion capture for Thanos and really gives him a powerful presence and an intensity, few MCU villains have mustered in the film series’ decade history. You believe he is a threat and yet, they give him some emotional moments of his own, which give him a depth which only adds to his effectiveness. He makes this epic work. If there is any issue with characters, it’s that Thanos’ CGI children…Proxima Midnight, Corvus Glaive, Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian mostly come across as generic monsters, save for the creepy Ebony Maw…but Thanos gets most of the screen time.

There is very little to gripe about here. At 160 minutes, one or two scenes run on a bit long and a few characters, like Black Widow and Falcon get shortchanged in the whole of things. However we do get a comic book movie of epic proportions that brings spectacular action, nerve-wracking intensity, dramatic weight and some outright hilarious dialogue moments, all mixed to perfection by the Russo Brothers. Sure there is more to the story and the end leaves us wanting that more, but next summer the fourth installment arrives and it is going to have to be something else to surpass this, one of the MCU’s absolute best installments so far. Spectacular entertainment!

…and don’t forget to stay during the entire credits for a post credits scene that will knock your socks off.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 infinity gauntlets.

 

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NEW AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR TRAILER IS HERE!

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Marvel has dropped the new/final (?) trailer for Avenger: Infinity War which brings The Avengers and The Guardians of the Galaxy together for a battle against the “Mad Titan” Thanos! Avengers: Infinity War arrives on 4/27/18 and is directed by the Russo Brothers.

Sources: Youtube/Marvel

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AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR GETS A TRAILER!

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Marvel has finally dropped the first trailer for Avenger: Infinity War which brings our heroes together with the Guardians of the Galaxy for a battle against the “Mad Titan” Thanos! Avengers: Infinity War arrives on 5/4/18 and is directed by the Russo Brothers.

Sources: Youtube/Marvel

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BARE BONES: ROUGH NIGHT (2017)

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ROUGH NIGHT (2017)

Generic comedy replays scenarios seen before in flicks like Very Bad Things and Weekend at Bernie’s as a bachelorette party goes horribly wrong. Jess (Scarlett Johansson) is running for office and getting married and her friends gather to take her to Miami for a rowdy bachelorette party, including some heavy partying and a hunky male stripper (Ryan Cooper) back at the rented house. When that stripper is accidentally killed, the girls panic and now have to find a way to get rid of the body and hide the evidence of their activities. Bad girls, bad!

Cliché comedy is directed by Lucia Arielle from an uninspired script she co-wrote with Paul W. Downs…who also plays Jess’ fiancé. There are a few funny moments here and there and the cast seems to be having a fun time, but there is very little originality and we’ve simply seen it all before and funnier. The scenario is directly lifted from other movies and the ladies are given very little to work with. Johansson tries, but seems out of place in this vulgar comedy, New Yorker Kate McKinnon is playing an Australian, which adds nothing to the story and only Jillian Bell seems to really be taking the meager material and doing her best with it. A forgettable flick, but harmless in it’s own underachieving way. Also stars Zoë Kravitz and Ilana Glazer as the remaining members of the bachelorette crew.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017)

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GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017)

Based on the classic Anime of the same name, flick tells the future-set story of The Major (Scarlett Johansson), who is the first of her kind, a completely cybernetic being with a human brain. The Major is part of an anti-terrorist unit and is called to action when members of Hanka Robotics, the folks that created her, are being murdered. The Major’s journey to find those responsible takes a very personal turn which may compromise her mission and cost her, her life.

On one hand it’s amazing that Blade Runner and The Matrix are still influencing movies and film-makers today, while on the other hand it’s getting kind of tiresome to see the same neon drenched city-scapes and slow motion gunfight scenes. As for the 1989 Anime by Masamune Shirow, it was ground breaking in it’s day, but almost twenty years later, the story elements have been reused and warn out. So despite some hefty influences and classic source material, this live action version has nothing really to offer and director Rupert Sanders and his script by three writers can’t change that. It’s a dull affair with plot and visual elements that we’ve all seen countless times since the films that inspired them. Even Ms. Johansson’s charms are lost among-st all the “been there, done that” and barely make this watchable for. A cyberpunk snoozefest. At least the score by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe was 80s electronic cool.

-MonsterZero NJ

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