The Avengers: Infinity War poster
Film

Movie Monday: Avengers – Infinity War (2018)

Eighteen. Although there have been many more movies featuring Marvel comic book characters or that have been made by Marvel Studios, there have been 18 ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ movies since the studio began Phase One of its ambitious, interconnected franchise plans in 2008 with Iron Man. That’s more than an entire season of the average US TV show these days.

Getting to the end of your first season without getting cancelled is impressive enough. Getting this far with a relatively consistent continuity, despite numerous writers and directors, is even more impressive. But getting this far with at least some really good movies coming out of the endeavour is nothing short of amazing.

The key to the MCU’s longevity is that while some characters hop around and appear in other movies, each movie has had a different roster of superheroes to play with, ensuring a different tone and freshness to each one (hopefully). In addition, each main character’s franchise has stopped after three movies: it’s not Iron Man 18 we’re watching in cinemas, since we stopped at Iron Man 3, and Thor, Captain America and co have similarly bowed out after three movies or fewer in favour of new arrivals such as Black Panther and Doctor Strange.

However, one important feature of the MCUs is its periodic reunions of characters from all the franchises, both past and present, for something typically Earth-shattering that requires a combination of superheroes to defeat. These movies cement in the audience’s mind the idea that the MCU is truly interconnected and that missing out on one film is possible, but it’ll be like missing an episode of a serial TV show if they do. Iron Man might not have got a fourth movie, but he’s shown up in The Incredible HulkCaptain America: Civil Warand Spider-man: Homecoming, too. And that’s before we even get to the ensemble The Avengers movies, in which everyone turns up, whether they’re dead or not.

Which is where we get to the problem. Movies aren’t TV series. Sure, you can stretch them to three hours or so if you want, but if you’ve got literally dozens of regular characters in separate movies, when you bring them all together in one movie, how do you give them enough screen time to properly service them as characters while still having a decent plot?

Avengers: Infinity War

The Avengers: Infinity Characters

When Avengers: Age of Ultron came out, I suggested that writer-director Joss Whedon had done just about as well as anyone could be expected, given how many characters he had to squeeze into his script. In retrospect, my review was probably a bit more generous than the movie deserved, since it hasn’t held up so well on repeated viewings chez TMINE. But it’s still not bad.

One area I was also wrong about was in suggesting that Whedon was about the only person who could have pulled it off. Whedon was, of course, the king of Marvel’s Phase One, but since then, some unexpected new royalty has hit town: the Russo Brothers. Improbably picked to direct Captain America: Winter Soldier following their work on the paintball episode of Community, they immediately hit the ball out of the park with what to my mind is the best movie of the entire MCU – and a damn fine spy/action movie in its own right. No small surprise then that they got its sequel, Captain America: Civil War, to direct as well. That movie can also be considered The Avengers 2.5 in its own way, given how many MCU characters are in it, and while it wasn’t as good as Winter Soldier, it was still a really good movie.

Hopes were therefore high for their Avengers: Infinity War, the first of two movies designed to polish off the first three phases of the MCU – the season finale, if you will. By contrast, the once box-office transforming The Avengers and The Avengers 2‘s character rosters feel more like a small piece of local theatre, given there are probably twice to three times as many characters for them to juggle, both old and new. Infinity War also had to round off the massive storyline that’s been building since as far back as Thor.

No pressure, then.

Fortunately, they’ve certainly risen to meet the challenge, managing to out-Whedon Whedon himself.

Avengers Infinity War

The story so far…

For those of you who haven’t been following the linking storyline – and it does get explained in Infinity War, you’ll be glad to hear – there are six great big McGuffins known as Infinity Stones that have been popping up all over the MCU in the likes of The Avengers, Thor: Dark World, Thor, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Each of these has a different mega-power and the Big Bad of The Avengers, Thanos, wants to collect them as he’s basically an intergalactic Thomas Malthus – believing that life outstrips resources, it’s his mission to wipe out half of all life in the universe so that the survivors never have to worry about starvation, overcrowding et al ever again. If he gets all six stones, he can kill everyone with a single wave of his specially made Infinity Gauntlet (guess what that’s for).

Naturally, Earth’s mightiest heroes – as well as Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy – aren’t really inclined to let him. But even combined, can they really take on a Titan who can beat the Hulk in a fist fight, crush a god’s neck with his bare hands and hurl a moon at someone he doesn’t really like? And give that Infinity War is the first of two movies that answer that question, who’s still going to be left standing at the end of this one?

You may be surprised. Both non-spoilery and spoilery reviews after this trailer and then the jump.

Continue reading “Movie Monday: Avengers – Infinity War (2018)”

Let's Get Physical
US TV

Review: AP Bio (US: NBC) and Let’s Get Physical (US: Pop)

I don’t honestly have a huge amount to say about the following two shows, so since they’re derivative US comedies that aren’t that funny, I thought I’d stick them together and create a whole review. How’s that for innovation?

Let's Get Physical

Let’s Get Physical (US: Pop)

Short story

Basically Dodgeball with a hint of Blades of Glory but with aerobics instead of dodgeball or ice skating. Or jokes.

Longer story

Matt Jones (Breaking Bad) is a former teenage aerobics star who screwed up and ended up going to seed and becoming a Wedding Singer. Meanwhile, his ex-girlfriend (Nip/Tuck‘s AnnaLynne McCord) ended up marrying his arch-rival Chris Diamantopoulos (Silicon Valley).

His tyrannical father dies, but stipulates in his will that for Jones to inherit the $8m coming to him, he has to beat McCord and Diamantopoulos at an aerobics competition or they’ll get it instead. So Jones is forced to recruit his mother (Jane Seymour – yes, that one) and anyone else who’ll dance with him, including criminals, to take on his former rivals… and get back into shape.

Notes

Diamantopoulos is good again as a total alpha dick and it’s nice to see Seymour in a starring role again. But if you’ve seen Dodgeball, you’ll have seen all the good jokes done before and much better by Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, and honestly, jokes about Jones being a bit unfit don’t come anywhere close to being as funny as people having balls and wrenches thrown in their faces.

AP Bio

A.P. Bio (US: NBC)

Short story

Failed Harvard philosophy professor (Glenn Howerton) loses his job and ends up as a teacher at a High School. However, instead of teaching his brainy class about advanced biology, he uses them to get back at his arch-rival (PhoneShop‘s Tom Bennett).

Longer story

While CBS spends its time iterating formats until it gets them right, NBC seems to be working on ways to take good formats and make them slightly worse. However, while Great News was still a very good show, if not quite 30 Rock great, AP Bio is a pretty poor version of Community, with Howerton taking on Joel McHale’s role of the smart cynical high-flyer who doesn’t give a f*ck about anyone else and ends up slumming it in the minor educational leagues.

The first episode is all about Howerton, with minimal attempts to give anyone else anything to do –even Happy!‘s Patton Oswald just gets to walk on, act frustrated, then walk out again. Howerton’s just a bitter, narcissistic loser, though, rather than a source of wit, which means most of the few gags that work are those given to his arch-rival Bennett, although Howerton tasking his class to reverse-Catfish Bennett did earn a bit of a chuckle.

Still, despite Howerton’s insistence that they’re not going to learn anything from him and it won’t be uplifting and Breakfast Clubby for anyone, how long do you reckon it’ll be before that changes?

Here’s a trailer, and if you want to see for yourself the show’s averageness in full, you can watch the whole first episode afterwards.

Strike Back: Retribution
TV reviews

What have you been watching? Including Strike Back: Retribution and Spider-Man: Homecoming

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you each week what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching. TMINE recommends has all the reviews of all the TV shows TMINE has ever recommended, but for a complete list of TMINE’s reviews of (good, bad and insipid) TV shows and movies, there’s the definitive TV Reviews A-Z and Film Reviews A-Z

We’re now entering mid-mid-season in the US, that time when a number of shows have their November finales and a new set of somewhat lesser shows get ushered onto the scene to fill the airwaves. It beats alternating new episodes with re-runs I guess, but it does mean I had to endure S.W.A.T. (US: CBS) this week. Young Sheldon (US: CBS) has also made its return – but more on that later – and there are more to come now the likes of Will & Grace have bowed out.

Elsewhere, I reviewed Babylon Berlin (Germany: Sky 1; UK: Sky Atlantic) and the whole of Stranger Things 2 (Netflix), but there are a few new shows floating around the airwaves that I’ll be looking at later in the week. CBC in Canada has decided to staple The Murdoch Mysteries onto Miss Fisher’s Mysteries to give us (you guessed it) the ubiquitous Lauren Lee Smith in The Frankie Drake Mysteries, so I’ll be letting you know what I think of that in the next couple of days. Sperm-crimes drama Sisters (Australia: Ten) has somehow been slipping by me over the past couple of weeks, so I’ll try to play catch-up with that, assuming it’s any good.

After the jump, then, the latest episodes of the regulars: The Brave, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Great News, Marvel’s Inhumans, Mr Robot, Professor T, Star Trek: Discovery, Travelers, Will & Grace and Young Sheldon. 

I’ll also be casting my eye over one new show, Strike Back: Retribution, as well as a movie: Spider-man: Homecoming. See you in a mo.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Strike Back: Retribution and Spider-Man: Homecoming”

Blade Runner 2049
TV reviews

What have you been watching? Including The Guest Book, SMILF and Blade Runner 2049

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you each week what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching. TMINE recommends has all the reviews of all the TV shows TMINE has ever recommended, but for a complete list of TMINE’s reviews of (good, bad and insipid) TV shows and movies, there’s the definitive TV Reviews A-Z and Film Reviews A-Z

It’s been a quieter week than last week, so there haven’t been as many new shows to watch as before. Mario Van Peebles’s southern BuffySuperstition (US: Syfy; UK: Netflix), I’ve already reviewed and I’ve passed a third-episode verdict on Matt Nix’s ‘The X-Men universe without The X-Men’ show The Gifted (US: Fox; UK: Fox UK).

But that doesn’t mean this week’s WHYBW is going to be an empty affair. For starters, I forgot to review Blade Runner 2049 last week. Oops.

But there’s been one new show I haven’t yet covered, The Guest Book (US: TBS), which comes from the pen of Greg Garcia (My Name is Earl), and there’s a forthcoming show, SMILF (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic), that I’ll be previewing, too.

I’ll also be running through the latest episodes of the regulars: The Brave, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Great News, Marvel’s Inhumans, Mr Robot, My Myself and I, Professor T, SEAL Team, Star Trek: Discovery, Travelers, and Will & Grace. At least one of these is for the chop – can you guess which one?

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ABC's The Mayor
US TV

Preview: The Mayor 1×1 (US: ABC)

In the US: Tuesdays, 9.30/8.30c, ABC. Starts October 3

For much of the past year, there’s been an ongoing race to see which TV show will be the undoubted first of ‘the Trump era’. Did The Good Fight get there first with its inclusion of the Trump inauguration, alt-right characters and people being discriminated against for voting Trump? Arguably not, as it wasn’t really about Trump.

How about any of the legion of forthcoming military shows due on US screens within the month? Are they going to claim the title by arguing that they speak to conservative concerns?

If they do, they’ll be too late because we now have The Mayor. On the face of it, it’s an unlikely winner, given it’s about a small-time Californian rapper (Search Party‘s Brandon Micheal Hall) hoping to hit the big time. However, Hall decides to boost his career by entering his city’s mayoral elections. His ignorance of policy shines through at debates, much to the disgust of his opponent’s totally clued in and competent manager (Glee‘s Lea Michele).

But his appeal to ‘the common man’ nevertheless means that when election day rolls round, he actually wins the contest he had no intention of winning and has to become mayor.

“Did the Russians hack the voting machines?” asks his best friend and campaign manager.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. The Mayor is ‘Trump Show: The First’.

Continue reading “Preview: The Mayor 1×1 (US: ABC)”