Shang-Chi (2021), or How I Learned to Stop Being Blasé and Enjoy the MCU Again

How can something fit an established pattern and nonetheless feel remarkably fresh? I guess we have to ask the wizards (or is that sorcerers?) at Marvel how they managed, because it’s impossible to watch Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and not think of one or two dozen other MCU films in every second scene – yet this is the first Marvel movie I fully enjoyed since Avengers: Endgame, even if it’s unlikely to convert many people to the franchise who aren’t already on board.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: A former god, a trickster god and a lycanthrope walk into a streaming service

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Cowboys, band boys, real boys – and one really angry girl

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest installment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #22: Avengers: Endgame

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3How’s that for galactic serendipity? For our 22nd episode, we’re strapping on our Infinity Gauntlets and snapping our fingers to discuss the 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Avengers: Endgame. Is it a worthy finale to the Infinity Saga or is it a titanic misstep? Were these particular fans serviced to their satisfaction or did they leave the cinema with a frown? Did we laugh, cry and cheer as the original Avengers line-up do their victory lap? Join us and find out! Beware: major spoilers for Infinity War and Endgame (and no, we don’t mean the play by Samuel Beckett)!

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Captain Marvel has nothing to prove to you

My reaction to Captain Marvel, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was oddly split. On the one hand, I found the beginning of the film one of the dullest opening sequences of a Marvel movie in a while. The plot and overall structure was reminiscent of the earliest films in the franchise, to the point of feeling generic. The big set pieces were predictable and there was never really much of a sense of danger, even when Earth was at risk of being carpet-bombed from space. I fully understand the reviewers who consider Captain Marvel thoroughly mediocre Marvel fare.

Captain Marvel

And yet, I came to enjoy the film much more than its constituent parts would have led me to believe. In fact, I left the cinema with a big grin on my face.

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Throwing down the gauntlet of 2018

It’s saying something if the first thing I remember about the movie year 2018 is not a movie, but a character. Thanos looms large – how could he not? With one fell swoop, Marvel solved its most prominent problem and made very, very sure that we wouldn’t forget their biggest, baddest baddie. He has depth – I believe him when he says that he fulfills his mission partly against his own will, and that it cost him everything. And he – goddamn it – is successful. Of course, my experience of Avengers: Infinity War was deeply colored by my favorite daughter sitting beside me who couldn’t believe that half her favorite MCU characters went up in ashes. Maybe this was this generation’s Bambi. Continue reading

Snap judgment

Ant-Man and the Wasp was fun, an action comedy that used both its likeable cast of characters and its inventive visual jokes to good effect. It was great breezy popcorn fare, the ideal thing at the end of a day mostly spent sweating and feeling much too hot for comfort. More even than Guardians of the Galaxy, the film embraced the comedy genre, becoming a necessary palate cleanser after the grim conclusion of Infinity War.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #10: Avengers: Infinity War

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Tune in for episode 10 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture, in which we look in on the Avengers & friends and a certain titan with a temper. Is Infinity War a worthy culmination of ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? (Beware: heavy spoilers for Infinity War, including the ending.) Also, Mege’s looked into a different kind of infinity with Béla Tarr’s Sátántangó, and Matt wishes he hadn’t seen the trailer last year’s indie darling Lady Bird five times before watching the film, and we share our impressions of Jon Bernthal in Netflix’ The Punisher and Cécile McLorin Salvant in concert. Continue reading

Fear of a Black Panther

You don’t often come away from a Marvel movie thinking more about the ideas it tackles than about its snarky one-liners or its action setpieces. You don’t often read reactions to a Marvel movie that mention cultural critics, intellectuals and political thinkers. You don’t often see a Marvel movie being taken this personally by this many people, both among its supporters and its detractors. Obviously Black Panther must have done something right.

Black Panther

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All hail the God of Silliness

If you had told me a year ago that a Thor film would be one of my favourite Marvel movies in recent years, I would have looked at you like you were touched in the head, possibly by a mythical hammer. For me, the two first Thor films were firmly at the bottom of the MCU, kept company only by Iron Man 2. In fact, I would have said that the character Thor was my least favourite of all the main characters in Marvel’s cinematic universe (though I am not including the TV series in this reckoning, because, well, Danny Rand). Yes, thanks to The Avengers I could see that the big, blond lug had some potential, but mainly as a supporting character and as the butt of a bunch of jokes.

Thor: Ragnarok

After Thor: Ragnarok, though? Well, let’s put it like this: if you’re looking for story or theme in an MCU film, the latest adventure of the God of Thunder won’t make you a convert. If you’re expecting a plot that is significantly different from, oh, pretty much every single Marvel movie since Iron Man, you’re out of luck. If you want a movie that fully embraces the silliness inherent in this ever-growing comic book universe translated onto the screen, though? Then hell, yeah – Thor: Ragnarok is an embarrassment of riches.

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