Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

When I was about seven years old, my parents took my brother and I to see the first Pokémon movie, Pokémon: The First Movie (1998). This was a time before midnight showings and ‘midnight showings’ (screenings the day before the official release at a time that’s easier for people will jobs the next day), but tickets sold. out. for the Thursday showing. They had to add a showing at some theaters for Wednesday and we traveled to a theater that felt super far away at the time.

The point to that little anecdote is this: Pokémon has been a world-wide phenomena since its release in 1996. While it popularity waned for a time, it has come back with a vengeance thanks to Pokémon Go! and a new generation of kids obsessed with collecting Pokemon cards. So, the announcement of a live action movie, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, was almost inevitable, though I wasn’t anywhere near as excited until I learned that Ryan Reynolds would be voicing Pikachu. And, as the film’s release got closer and more trailers began to air, I couldn’t help but get swept up further in the excitement.

Last night, my fiancé and I finally saw Detective Pikachu. While I’m still processing, my fiancé was really pleased with it. I’m going to defer to some of his opinions, since he’s continued to play the Pokémon games as they’ve been released (except for Pokémon Go!, since he doesn’t have a smartphone). He summed* the movie up as something that was made for millennials and that children were an incidental audience– one they would already have. With children and parents guaranteed, making it entertaining for a completely different target demographic would have a positive effect on profits.

The film makes numerous references to some of the content that defined an America millennial childhood, making Pokémon: The First Movie canon, including a scene on top of Pokémon parade floats just like the stage in the Super Smash Bros. Melee* game, and, of course, the enormous number of Red and Blue starter Pokémon: Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charmander (seriously, SO MANY Charmanders!).

As is obvious in the trailer, the film follows 21-year-old Tim as he looks for his missing-but-presumed-dead father with the help of his father’s Pokémon partner, a Pikachu. He and Pikachu are able to work together because for some unknown and mysterious reason, they can understand what each other is saying (the movie establishes that Pokémon don’t understand human speech, just the feelings behind it). While the cast includes big names such as Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) as the titular Pikachu, Ken Watanabe (Inception) as a colleague of Tim’s father, and Bill Nighy (Underworld), as founder of Ryme City, where the movie takes place, the real star is Justice Smith (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) who plays Tim. Smith may be a relative unknown, but his acting is on point in this film, bringing emotional depth to the otherwise ‘straight man’ character.

Throughout the film, Tim and Pikachu unravel a plot that goes far beyond Tim’s missing father and Pikachu’s partner, and could have worldwide ramifications. The film moves quickly, continuously bringing new details and information with little room to breathe. The beginning feels rushed, and while the movie never really slows down– aside from the poignant moment here and there– the frenetic pace seems to match the gaming experience. Even after almost twenty hours to process, I’m still not quite sure what I think of this movie, which I think has to do with this rapid pacing.

The design elements are where this film truly shines. The music finds inspiration in the music found in the Pokémon games and matches this semi-futuristic, Japanime alternate reality. What most impressed me most, however, were the visuals. The digital rendering combined with expert lighting design brings Pokémon to life in a way that is so realistic that it even captures their texture. The urban setting combines the Japanese anime with more American sensibilities (and perceptions of Japan) to create something that is jarring, but feels accurate to the world of Pokémon.

Overall, the film was enjoyable, with fantastic visuals and a fun plot. Although I found the pacing jarring, I don’t know that it would’ve worked any slower. The film has a solid plot arc and creates a satisfying mystery with a pay off that doesn’t feel forced, nor does it drag out the reveals or lead to impatience. It’s not a perfect film, but my fiancé called it “the best Pokémon movie ever!” and while I’m still not sure what I feel about the movie itself, that is a statement I can agree with.

*Corrections have been made since the original post:
– I originally said that my fiancé “summed the movie up as something that was made for children, but with millennials in mind.” That has been corrected.
– I also claimed that the Pokémon parade floats were from the original Super Smash Bros., and that too has been corrected.

Happy [Belated] Mother’s Day!

So originally, I had wanted to write about Classic Film/TV Moms for Mother’s Day. Then I was going to write about why I think there are so many Mother’s Day TV specials. But ultimately, I decided to do something completely different. This Mother’s Day, my mom was kind enough to talk to me about her favorite movies. (And now I know what I’ll be doing for Father’s Day!)

So, full disclosure, I currently have 3-4 moms: my biological mother, two step-mothers, and my future mother-in-law. This year, I am just focusing on my biological mother.

When I asked what my mother’s favorite movie was, two immediately came to mind:

1. Clue (1985): Stars include Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), and Martin Mull (Sabrina the Teenage Witch). Based off the classic boardgame, this film takes place in 1954 when a group of strangers are invited to a secluded New England mansion. Once there, they learn they’ve all been brought there for a specific reason and when other people begin dying, they need to find out who-dunnit, and where, and with what.

My mom said: “This movie still makes me snort out laughing.” This is still her favorite comedy nearly 34 years after it’s initial release. Although it didn’t do well at the box office, it has since become a cult classic. At the time of its release, each movie theater received a different ending, however all three are available in the home release, and Tim Curry shines in every one of them.


2. Life of Pi (2012): Directed by Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and based on the 2001 novel of the same name by Yann Martel. In both the book and the movie, Pi survives a shipwreck on a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger in the Pacific Ocean. It is a story of survival against some really impossible odds.

My mom: “The prettiest movie I’ve ever seen. It’s also intellectual. It’s a movie that is visually pretty and makes you think.” I have not seen this movie or read the book, but my understanding is that it is a very philosophical movie. My mom said this is her favorite movie that makes her think. 


3. Recent releases: Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), A Star Is Born (2018), The Post (2017).

My mom loved Bohemian Rhapsody, but said that she felt like that had a lot to do with the music, since she loves Queen. Bohemian Rhapsody is a bio-pic starring Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) as Queen lead singer, Freddie Mercury. Since it’s release it has been nominated for 57 awards and won 21 of them, including Oscars for Best Actor, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Film Editing.

She felt that A Star is Born was great, really well-acted, and was really impressed with Lady Gaga’s performance. Star is the third remake of a 1937 film of the same name and stars Lady Gaga (American Horror Story: Hotel) and Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), who also made his directorial debut here. It too received several accolades including 218 award nominations and 65 wins. The film depicts a musician struggling with addiction who falls in love with and helps launch the career of a young woman.

The Post is a film my mother really enjoyed due in part to the fact that she actually remembers when the Pentagon Papers were released and the accompanying scandal. The film stars Meryl Streep (Kramer vs. Kramer) and Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) and directed by Steven Spielberg (Raiders of the Lost Ark). It was nominated for a number of awards, including Oscars for Best Picture and Best Actress. The film follows the first female publisher of a major American newspaper and The Washington Post‘s attempts to publish the Pentagon Papers, classified government documents regarding the Vietnam War.


4. Groundbreaking films: Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), The Wizard of Oz (1939)

She described both of these movies as films she could watch again and again. She remembers when A New Hope was first released. At the time, it was unlike anything she’d ever seen before and began what is now a major media franchise and saga that has spawned movies, books, TV shows, video games, and more. The first film depicts Luke Skywalker after he encounters a message for help from a princess inside a robot. That is the most basic summary of the first film and any Star Wars fan will tell you that if you’ve never seen any of the movies before, that’s the one you want to start with.

The Wizard of Oz was already a classic when my mom was born, but at the time it’s use of color film was unprecedented. She described it as a movie she could sit down and watch any time.


5. Old Classics: My mom also listed a series of classic movies that she still loves: Gone with the Wind (1939), old musicals such Holiday Inn (1942), The Sound of Music (1965), and Fred Astaire classics such as Shall We Dance (1937) and Top Hat (1935).

Gone with the Wind to this day remains the most successful movie in box office history (when adjusted for inflation). It is a whopping 221 minutes long or 3.7 hours long (without overture, intermission, exit music, etc.). It’s based on a 1936 novel by the same name and takes place in the south during the Civil War and subsequent Reconstruction era. 

Holiday Inn is considered a holiday classic and is best known for its original song “White Christmas”, which won an Oscar. It stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.

The Sound of Music is an adaptation of a musical by the same name, composed and written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (Rodgers & Hammerstein), which is based on the memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers written by Maria von Trapp about her family in Salzburg, Austria and their escape from Nazi-invaded Europe. It stars Christopher Plummer (The Insider) and Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins), the latter of whom was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the film.

Fred Astaire was an American singer, actor, dancer, and choreographer. From 1934-1938 he made a series films with Ginger Rogers, who was an American actress, singer, and dancer: The Gay Divorcee (1934), Roberta (1935), Top Hat (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), Swing Time (1936), Shall We Dance (1937), Carefree (1938), The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939). The films featured revolutionary choreography and were big money makers for RKO. They were also responsible for a number of classic songs including “The Way You Look Tonight”, which won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1936.


My mother described a lot of these movies as “comfort food movies, like mac & cheese”. This is an idea I think worth exploring. Everyone has that food that you eat when you want to feel good/better. There are movies (and in the age of streaming, I’d argue TV too) that do the same.


Avengers: Endgame Review

Last night I went to bed in shock after watching Avengers: Endgame, but this morning I’ve come to a place where– now that I’ve had time to process– I can say that, although it was surprising, it was a truly satisfying ending for the era.

As I said above, I found Endgame terribly surprising. While there are some things that happen that we all knew would happen, the ending was something I just was not expecting. In hindsight, however, it makes a great deal of sense and closes the arcs of a number of key characters. The film is well-crafted, and while you feel those three hours it is not because the movie isn’t enjoyable.

While Avengers: Infinity War (2018) had to balance a massive cast acting across the universe, Endgame has a much smaller group to work with following ‘the snap’. As a result, the pacing feels less crowded and much closer to other Marvel Cinematic Universe films, full of both action and banter, with some truly touching moments. The film begins with a touching cold open that sets the tone for the beginning of the film, but the end of the final battle will have you cheering. There are great callbacks to other moments in the MCU sprinkled throughout and just about every character is given at least a small moment to shine. It was also fun watching characters interact that don’t typically do so, or haven’t done so previously, and see how they affect each other and grow.

I saw one headline call Endgame “a love letter to the fans” and that’s absolutely true. While it did not end how I expected, the ending is a satisfying end to the narrative arc and makes a great deal of sense in the context of each character’s journey. The movie truly is enjoyable (and now that I’ve come to terms with it and moved past my shock, I may need to see it again) and I’m excited to see what’s next.

This film completely changes the franchise (and not just on Earth as some of the others have). Although announcements have been made regarding mini series and movies, there are still a number of open slots that have not been named yet (May/November 2020, February/May/November 2012, February/May/July 2022). This year’s San Diego Comic Con, which is known for its big reveals and announcements, will (hopefully) be enlightening. Meanwhile, knowing what is slated to come next also has me curious to see how they will make it work in light of the events of Endgame.

Basically, I left the theatre mostly in shock and eager to see what will happen next, but Endgame is absolutely an enjoyable and well-crafted film that is unlikely to disappoint.

Marvel’s Key Avengers: Part Seven

Back on Earth…

Following Avengers: Age of Ultron  (2015), new solo heroes were introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that have had a drastic effect on the universe at large. 

Ant-Man: Ant-Man (2015), which premiered only a couple months after Ultron, introduces us to Scott Lang/Ant-Man. Scott is in jail following a Robin Hood-esque stunt in which he electronically stole huge amounts of money and returned it to the people it was “legally” taken from. Upon his release he struggles to find work to pay child support and see his daughter. Hank Pym/the original Ant-Man manages to trick Scott into stealing the Ant-Man suit, which enables the wearer to become smaller/bigger. Hank had previously worked with SHIELD before founding Pym Technologies and now finds himself being ousted. Together with Hank’s daughter, Hope van Dyne (later, the Wasp), the three of them work together to steal Hank’s technology and stop Darren Cross/Yellowjacket.

Later, Scott fights for Captain America’s team in Captain America: Civil War (2016), playing an integral role in Steve Rogers/Captain America and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier’s escape. To avoid jail time, he takes a deal that has him under house arrest for two years.

While Scott does not make an appearance in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the events of his second solo outing appear to be incredibly relevant to the forthcoming Avengers: Endgame. In Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), Scott is nearing the end of his sentence while Hank and Hope are working to build a tunnel to the Quantum Realm to rescue Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother, Janet van Dyne, the original Wasp. Their experimentation leads to the realization that Scott and Janet became quantumly entangled with Janet during the climax of Ant-Man. Hank and Hope then kidnap Scott, leaving a decoy behind for the FBI as Scott nears his release day.

Hank, Hope, and Scott find opposition to their plans in the forms of Sonny Burch, a black market dealer hoping to profit off Hank’s inventions, and Ava Starr/Ghost, who seeks the Quantum Tunnel to end her own suffering caused in part by Hank Pym. In the end, Sonny and his gang are arrested, Janet is recovered and helps heal Ava, and Scott is released.

What appears to be the key element for Endgame is the Quantum Realm itself, which has the potential to enable time travel. From what we’ve seen, both from Ant-Man and the Wasp and from the Endgame trailers is that Scott loses everyone important to him in Thanos’s snap, but will find his way to the Avengers to help fix what happened in Infinity War.


Doctor Strange: Although referenced by name in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Doctor Stephen Strange doesn’t make an appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe until his solo film in 2016. In the film, after losing the use of his hands, surgeon Stephen Strange turns to mysticism to get his hands back. Instead, he finds himself in an inter-dimensional battle for Earth, in which he uses the Time Stone to defeat his enemy. He becomes a Master of the Mystic Arts and the keeper of the New York Sanctum, which helps protect the world from forces outside their dimension.

Stephen makes his next appearance in Thor: Ragnarok (2017) in which he kidnaps Loki when he realizes he’s on Earth. As Earth’s primary protector from things outside the Avengers purview, he explains to Thor that he really just wants Loki off-planet as soon as possible before he can cause any new trouble. He does help the Odinson brothers find their father, however, whom he had helped previously.

Doctor Strange plays a huge role in the events of Infinity War. As the protector of the Time Stone, he is a direct adversary for Thanos. After arriving on Titan with Tony Stark/Iron Man and Peter Parker/Spider-Man, he looks into possible futures to realize that there’s only one in which they win. Before he disintegrates he tells Tony, “We’re in the endgame now,” implying that he knew what would come next and how it would be reversed.


Spider-Man: Following his introduction in Civil War, Peter Parker/Spider-Man becomes something of a son to Tony Star/Iron Man. In Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Peter establishes himself as a “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”, realizing the he is not ready for the kind of responsibility that comes with being an Avenger (and an adult).

In Infinity War, Peter travels to Titan with Tony and Stephen. As in the comics, he (and the others) almost succeed in removing the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos. His disintegration is heartbreaking for both Tony and the audience.


Black Panther: T’Challa/Black Panther’s first movie came out only months before Infinity War, but actually only takes place a few weeks after Civil War. In Black Panther (2018), T’Challa becomes king of Wakanda and battles his long-lost cousin, N’Jadaka/Erik “Killmonger” Stevens for the title. His actions during the film unite all of Wakanda’s tribes and opens up Wakanda and her technology to the outside world.

T’Challa and the Wakandan people play a large role in protecting the Earth from Thanos. While T’Challa’s endlessly brilliant sister, Shuri, works to remove the Mind Stone from Vision so it can be destroyed, the rest of Wakanda battles Thanos’s forces. As the most technologically advanced country on the planet, they are the best equipped for such a task, however, many lose their lives during Thanos’s snap, including T’Challa himself. 

Okoye, the leader of the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s elite female warriors is featured in one of the Endgame posters, which establish who did and didn’t survive the snap. While she hasn’t been an obvious part of the trailers, it’s fair to assume that she will play a big part. There is also talk that she may play a role in the potential/rumored A-Force movie, which will have an all-female Avengers team. 


Nick Fury: Although he was the director of SHIELD for years, in 1995, Nick Fury was still someone else’s subordinate and new to the amount of weird in the world. It’s also when he meets Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. It’s after meeting her that he gets the idea for the Avengers Initiative and he is the one to initially bring them together. In the present, Fury hasn’t been seen since he came to the rescue in Ultron, providing lifeboats for the Sokovians. At the end of Infinity War, however, he manages to use his modified pager (a gift from Carol at the end of Captain Marvel (2019)), to send a message before disintegrating. We don’t know what Carol has been up to since we saw her leave Earth, but it’s clear that she will play a role in Endgame, thanks to Fury’s quick thinking.

Marvel’s Key Avengers: Part Six

The Guardians of the Galaxy

In 2014, The Guardians of the Galaxy looked like a risky choice. Not only was it the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first foray into a story with no connections to events happening on Earth, but the team and it’s stars were not big names.

Chris Pratt, who plays Peter Quill/Star Lord was known mainly for a supporting role on NBC’s Parks and Recreation (2009-2015), while Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer) was known primarily as a professional wrestler. Zoe Saldana (Gamora) had been gaining increasing fame as a female action star. Add in that perhaps the biggest stars at the time, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper would be voicing a talking tree and raccoon respectively was a jarring concept. Oh, and additional supporting roles would be filled by Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, John C. Riley, Glenn Close, and Benicio Del Toro.

What would this movie be? With an August release date it was clear that Marvel Studios had little faith in the property, perhaps just hoping to break even.

Then the first trailers aired.

Set against Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”, audiences were given a taste of a comedic action movie unlike any other superhero film at that time. To great surprise, Guardians broke records for August, and, in many ways, Guardians took the MCU to the next level, beginning a trend of increasingly ambitious films. Personally, I knew within the first five minutes (I timed it) that this would be one of my favorite movies.

While I could go into the impact the Guardians have had on the MCU, today I want to recap just who they are and what role they play. When we first meet Peter Quill, it is 1988 and he has just watched his mother die from cancer before being abducted by a group of alien bounty hunter/pirate/adventurers called Ravagers. Twenty-six years later, after making a life amongst the Ravagers, he is sent to acquire a mysterious orb. After fighting for it, he travels to a planet called Xandar where he hopes to sell the item for himself. Here is where he meets Gamora, Groot, and Rocket.

Gamora is the adopted daughter of Thanos, an intergalactic warlord (who the audience may remember as being partially responsible for the events of Marvel’s The Avengers in 2012). Like he did with Loki in The Avengers, Thanos has allied himself with Ronan the Accuser, a soldier who seeks to undo the peace that has recently come to his people. Gamora and her adopted sister, Nebula, are sent on loan to help him acquire the stone in return for Thanos’s help. Gamora wants nothing to do with either of them and wants to use the orb to get out from under her father’s thumb.

Rocket Raccoon and Groot (a sentient tree) are codependent bounty hunters, unaligned with any other group. Learning of the bounty on Peter, they don’t know anything about the orb and merely seek a quick payday. The resulting brawl between our four unlikely heroes ends with them arrested by the Nova Corps, the police force on Xandar.

In prison, they meet Drax the Destroyer, whose family was slaughtered by Thanos. Together, the five of them escape and Gamora leads them to the Collector (Benicio Del Toro), who informs them that what they have is an Infinity Stone, specifically, the Power Stone. After Ronan gets his hands on it, Peter and the others persuade the Ravagers to help protect Xandar, contacting the Nova Corps to warn them. In the end, these misfits manage to stop Ronan (in a dance battle), but it costs Groot’s life. The newly dubbed Guardians of the Galaxy (and a baby Groot growing in a pot) have their criminal records expunged. The Power Stone is safely tucked away on Xandar and the team of anti-heroes decide to see where the universe takes them.

Months later, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), the Guardians are fighting an inter-dimensional monster in exchange for Gamora’s volatile adopted sister, Nebula (Doctor Who‘s Karen Gillan). In an other excellent opening musical number, we see the Guardians are still doing what they’ve become known for, fighting the good fight (but often with a selfish ulterior motive).

In general, Guardians 2 is a much more emotionally complex film with a lot of important elements. However, the key details are: Peter meets his father, the Celestial and living planet, Ego. Ego wants to take over the universe and is destroyed by the Guardians. Being half Celestial, however, is part of how Peter survived his encounter with the Power Stone. Ego’s servant, an female empathic humanoid named Mantis, joins the Guardians, while Gamora and Nebula make amends, and Gamora and Peter begin a romantic relationship.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) takes place four years later. The Guardians play a key role as they have the most direct connection with Thanos. While Earth’s forces are gathering, The Guardians of the Galaxy (and Thor and Nebula) serve as the central group based outside of Earth’s solar system. After they rescue Thor from his destroyed refugee vessel, the group splits up, with Groot and Rocket going with Thor to get a new Thanos-killing wepaon, while Peter, Gamora, Drax, and Mantis go in search of the Reality Stone, which leads to Gamora’s capture.

In going after Gamora, Peter, Drax, and Mantis meet up with Tony Stark/Iron Man, Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and Doctor Stephen Strange and nearly succeed in getting the Infinity Gauntlet off of Thanos. This fails, however, when Peter learns that Thanos sacrificed his daughter, Gamora, the only thing he loves, to obtain the Soul Stone. In attempting to kill him, Peter disrupts Mantis’s mental control.

Once Thor acquires Stormbreaker, he, Rocket, and Groot travel to Earth, arriving just in time to help the fight in Wakanda. Groot and Rocket fit right in as they help destroy the attacking monsters. As we know, however, that isn’t enough. While Groot fades away on Earth, Peter, Drax, and Mantis do on Titan, along with Stephen Strange and Peter Parker.

In the end, all that remains of the Guardians are Rocket and Nebula, two of the characters least likely to be selfless or noble, but both seem horribly shaken by the end of Infinity War. Based on trailers for Avengers: Endgame, both characters will be joining the other Avengers on Earth. Like the rest of the characters, we know very little about what role they will play. None of the Guardians appeared in Captain Marvel‘s (2019) post credits scene, but trailers suggest that while Rocket is on Earth, Nebula is helping Tony Stark come home. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 expected to release in 2021, it’s fair to say that at least a few of them will be resurrected by Endgame‘s end.