Captain Marvel

brie-larson-captain-marvel

Can Marvel make a successful comic book fantasy movie with a female lead? The answer is yes. Captain Marvel is a solid effort by all concerned. (Including the dozen or so digital effects companies I counted in the closing credits.)

Captain Marvel may not be the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movie ever. And Captain Marvel may not be the greatest MCU superhero ever. But the new film starring Brie Larson accomplishes much in just over two hours.

It introduces and establishes a new movie franchise player and sets up future Captain Marvel stories. It delivers a cool backstory for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). The movie is set in the 1990s and dishes a bunch of fun nostalgia for that decade. And it features a cool cat (an actual feline) named Goose.

Action/fantasy films sometimes have pacing issues and often have effects overkills but co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck keep things moving ahead at a consistent clip, with occasional respites. And the many confrontations among characters tend to resolve within reasonable periods.

The story? Well, there’s a lot going on here. Of course, it’s always about good versus evil. But it is not always clear who is a good guy (or woman) and who is a bad egg. Captain Marvel works to solve a mystery about her own background (including her life as Air Force pilot Carol Danvers) and about a scientific discovery that Wendy Larson (Annette Bening) is developing. Carol/Captain Marvel’s time among the Kree aliens on the planet Hala is a key plot point.

Brie Larson handles all the physical tasks of playing a superhero well. She has a good head of hair, which is only reined in near the end of the movie. (Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman at least had a band across the front of her hairline when she was in action.)

The cast also includes Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn and (as Carol’s Air Force friend Maria) Lashana Lynch.

Captain Marvel should garner strong ticket sales and whet appetites for Avengers: Endgame whose release is just seven weeks away. As Black Panther showed last year, a superhero movie can be released in late winter and still attract a huge audience.

Of course, you should stay until the very end of the credits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Room

Room is the kind of film some will not find appealing. The subject matter is rough. But superlative acting and a hopeful outlook are good reasons to see and appreciate Room, a movie that will certainly garner multiple award nominations.

Joy (Brie Larson) is a prisoner in a shed she calls Room. It’s in a backyard behind a home in a normal American urban neighborhood. She was captured when she was 17. Larson offers one of the bravest performances seen in some time. Extreme close-ups of her unmade-up face reveal the raw sadness of her situation. Yet, because of her son, she maintains a glimmer of optimism.

Her son is Jack (Jacob Tremblay), fathered by the man holding her captive, a man she calls Old Nick (Sean Bridgers). Jack is a bright 5-year-old with a great spirit. His knowledge of the outside world is limited to what his mother tells him and what he sees on a TV with bad reception. This child will touch your emotions.

Their existence is dispiriting. A toilet, a bathtub, a sink, a toaster oven, a space heater, a bed, a lamp or two and… that’s about it. A skylight above lets in a bit of daylight.

Jack pretends to be asleep in the wardrobe when Old Nick visits for his assignations with his captive.

Joy cooks up a bold plan to get the two of them out of Room. With Jack’s help, it works.

The grim circumstance of life in Room is unimaginable. But director Lenny Abrahamson, working from Emily Donoghue’s script, makes the minimal living space real. Life after the escape from Room is challenging to all in different ways.

The adjustment to the outside world is especially difficult for Joy. Her divorced parents Bob (William H. Macy) and Nancy (Joan Allen) are initially supportive, but dad can’t abide the situation. Mom and her boyfriend Leo (Tom McCamus) work to get Joy and Jack back on track.

Larson’s talent was revealed in 2013’s acclaimed but generally unseen Short Term 12. She was Amy Schumer’s sister in this summer’s Trainwreck. Her work in Room has already stirred up Oscar talk. And it’s not out of the question that the 8-year-old Tremblay could be up for awards season glory.

Room may be too grim for some moviegoers to check out, but it’s likely to reinforce faith in the human spirit for all who see it. To maintain hope in the face of such a terrible situation is moving and inspiring.

Trainwreck

Amy Schumer homers in her first major league at-bat. Trainwreck is funny and she is the movie’s title star. Just as importantly, she also gets the lone credit on the “written by” card.

Amy Townsend (Schumer) is not a loser. It’s her love life that’s a trainwreck. She’s a woman who men pursue. But most of her hookups are just one-night stands, a few of which are hilariously depicted in the film.

She’s a writer for a Maxim-like men’s magazine called S’Nuff. Her editor Dianna (Tilda Swinton) assigns her to write a profile of a sports medicine doctor, Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), whose patients include several big name pro jocks. Among them is LeBron James (played by, in a casting coup, LeBron James, who turns out to be an excellent performer).

Following her first visit with Aaron, he takes her to dinner. They spend the night together and begin a normal relationship, which is not Amy’s normal M.O. The inevitable bumps in the road occur leading to a happy resolution and solid laughter along the way. Along with the raunch, there’s some real sweetness.

The cast also includes Brie Larson as Amy’s sister Kim and Mike Birbiglia as Kim’s husband Tom. Colin Quinn is wonderful as Amy and Kim’s cantankerous, ailing father. Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei appear in an art house film that Amy attends with one of her less refined boyfriends (WWE wrestler John Cena). Ezra Miller and SNL vet Vanessa Bayer appear as Amy’s co-workers.

Director Judd Apatow has delivered raunchy romantic comedies with a heart before. He has nurtured talented actor/writers before. (See Seth Rogen.) Apatow’s a pro who knows where the good/bad taste line lies and dances all around both sides of it. Schumer’s script (which he acknowledges he tweaked) has some holes, but is fresh and funny.

Amy Schumer is riding high on a positive wave generated by a successful Comedy Central TV series and tons of good media publicity for Trainwreck. The horrible comments made earlier this year by internet trolls regarding her physical appearance—she’s not the traditionally glamorous babe seen in most rom-coms—have led to backlash in her favor.

Trainwreck would be a respectable effort if it came from a veteran. Coming from a rookie writer/actor, it’s damned impressive.