REVIEW: The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special (2022)

(L-R): Pom Klementieff as Mantis and Dave Bautista as Drax in Marvel Studios’ The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Jessica Miglio. © 2022 MARVEL.

Directed by James Gunn — Screenplay by James Gunn.

I’ve made it no secret that the Guardians of the Galaxy films mean a great deal to me. I saw the first film in theaters with my family when we greatly needed something to smile about and we all absolutely loved it. It came around at the exact right time, and James Gunn’s spin on these C-List Marvel characters has made them family favorites (and I’m sure that isn’t just true in my family). I’ve often said that it had the potential for a Star Wars-like impact on a generation, and so I thought it was a hilarious and brilliant idea for James Gunn to add to his overarching narrative about this group of Guardians with a holiday special, as Star Wars’ infamous 1978 holiday special is still spoken about to this day. Thankfully, whereas the Star Wars special was criticized so much that it has never been officially rereleased, this Guardians of the Galaxy special feels much more appropriate to the tone of the films it has spun off from. Like how Werewolf by Night was an entertaining Halloween Marvel Studios special presentation, James Gunn’s Christmas special is exactly what I needed to reconnect with the holiday spirit just in time for December.

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REVIEW: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

Letitia Wright’s Shuri in BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER — PHOTO: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Marvel Studios.

Directed by Ryan Coogler — Screenplay by Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole.

How do you follow up on one of the most popular superhero films of the last decade, when the incredibly magnetic actor portraying the titular iconic character is no longer with us? Such was the seemingly impossible task for Ryan Coogler when he sat in the director’s chair for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. As I sat down to watch the film, this was the big question that was on my mind. Chadwick Boseman, the charismatic actor who passed away in 2020 due to a private battle with colon cancer, was such an amazing screen presence, and he was the focus of that first film, and you definitely miss him in the sequel. However, it must be said that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever actually does work quite well in spite of the big missing link. One of the reasons why it works is because the presence of a gaping hole at the center of it is an intrinsic part of the plot in more ways than one.

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REVIEW: She-Hulk: Attorney at Law – Season One (2022)

(L-R): Mark Ruffalo as Smart Hulk / Bruce Banner and Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer “Jen” Walters/She-Hulk in Marvel Studios’ She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Show Created by Jessica Gao — Directed by Kat Coiro and Anu Valia.

The first Disney+ Marvel Cinematic Universe series, WandaVision, was released in early 2021. Now, in October of 2022, Marvel Studios has fully released eight different Marvel series on the Disney streamer. While I’ve enjoyed watching all of them, I really do think that many of them would’ve been better as films, as these shows — like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — still swear by the classic Marvel template. Honestly, I think only WandaVision, Loki, What If…?, and Ms. Marvel were right to be made into series rather than films. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, however, is the kind of story that feels appropriate for the streamer as a series. It doesn’t take the overarching Marvel storylines all that seriously and, even though I’m a fan of the MCU, that feels really refreshing.

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REVIEW: Werewolf By Night (2022)

Gael García Bernal as Jack Russell in Marvel Studios’ WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Directed by Michael Giacchino — Screenplay by Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron.

Since the launch of Disney+, Marvel Studios has pumped out a plethora of straight-to-streaming series. It has, honestly, been a little bit overwhelming at times, and not all of the shows are equally good. One of the things that excited me about this streaming service, and the potential for Marvel Studios on it, was the general idea that this gave Marvel an opportunity to break from their formula and try new things. To give examples, Marvel has done that somewhat with Ms Marvel but also with She-Hulk: Attorney At Law, which is this sitcom that doesn’t take the overall universe as seriously as most of the Marvel films do. With Werewolf By Night, Marvel Studios has released their first so-called ‘special presentation.’ This is essentially a Halloween special just like how we know a Christmas special is coming down the line from James Gunn and the Guardians of the Galaxy cast. And think outside of the box they certainly have, as Marvel Studios have hired their frequent composer Michael Giacchino to direct for them on the streaming service. and this special presentation proves that if they need a director for a future feature-length theatrical project, then Michael Giacchino could very well be their guy. Werewolf by Night is surprisingly good.

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REVIEW: Ms. Marvel – Season One (2022)

(L-R): Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan and Mohan Kapur as Yusuf Khan in Marvel Studios’ MS. MARVEL, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Daniel McFadden. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Show Creator: Bisha K. Ali — Show Directors: Adil & Bilall, Meera Menon, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

It’s interesting to me that most of the Disney+ shows thus far have really been aimed at the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s mainstream die-hard audience. I sort of expected Disney+ to get into more shows that focused on family fun. I think Hawkeye felt like a family show, but no show has been as close to feeling like a Disney Channel show as Ms. Marvel did. Don’t misunderstand me. That isn’t a diss or a criticism. I think it’s refreshing to see a true young adult family-oriented MCU show. I also think that is the right way to introduce this fan-favorite character to the mainstream audience. I’m glad they gave her a Spider-Man: Homecoming-esque Disney+ show.

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REVIEW: Moon Knight – Season One (2022)

Oscar Isaac as Moon Knight in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Show Creator: Jeremy Slater — Show Directors: Mohamed Diab and Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson.

My most anticipated Marvel Studios Disney+ series thus far was, without a doubt, Moon Knight. Ever since I first started reading comic books about him on Marvel Unlimited several years ago, I have been waiting for the chance to finally see this character in live-action. When it was announced that two of my favorite actors — Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke — were going to be in it, my excitement for the show reached a fever pitch. I’ve now seen the show, so how is it? Well, overall, it’s quite good, but it still suffers from some of the early Marvel-Disney+ problems that we saw in many of last year’s Marvel Cinematic Universe shows.

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REVIEWS: MCU Series on Disney+ – Year One (2021): ‘WandaVision,’ ‘Loki,’ ‘Hawkeye,’ and More

Paul Bettany as Vision in Marvel Studios’ WANDAVISION, exclusively on Disney+. — Photo: Disney+ / Marvel Studios.

Disney’s Marvel Studios — the masterminds and architects of the global cinematic sensation, the Marvel Cinematic Universe — now also spends a lot of time on TV/Streaming shows due to the arrival of the streaming service Disney+, which Disney knows can thrive on several shows aimed at the Marvel and Star Wars fandoms. In the first year with MCU content straight-to-Disney+, Disney and Marvel Studios gave us four live-action series and one premier animated show. In this article, I’ll take a look at each of the ‘first-year’ shows in bite-sized reviews.

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REVIEW: Eternals (2021)

Marvel’s team of Eternals unveiling themselves to the people of Mesopotamia in the film’s opening sequences — PHOTO: Marvel Studios.

Directed by Chloé Zhao — Screenplay by Chloé Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo.

Although their films are immensely popular, it isn’t every day that Marvel Studios work with Academy Award-winning film directors, which makes Eternals special even on paper. Chloé Zhao, the Chinese-born acclaimed filmmaker behind Best Picture winner Nomadland, did, however, choose to have a major superhero blockbuster film be her follow-up to her poetic Oscars-favorite. In my experience, Zhao’s films (of which I think The Rider is probably her best work), which often feature non-actors, are defined by their open landscapes, contemplative themes, and an unshakable feeling that her narrative films are documentary-like. Therefore, this superhero epic is almost certainly her most accessible film, but it is also true that it feels different than most Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films. Frankly, while there is a lot that I like here, I think Eternals ended up being a little bit too ambitious for its own good.

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REVIEW: Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

MJ (played by Zendaya) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (played by Tom Holland) trying to escape the public eye in Spider-Man: No Way Home — Photo: Matt Kennedy / Sony Pictures.

Directed by Jon Watts — Screenplay by Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers.

Next year is the 20th anniversary of the first-ever live-action Spider-Man film, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, which catapulted an already immensely popular comic book and animation character into big screen superstardom. A lot has happened since then. At this point, three different actors have played Marvel’s beloved wall-crawler on the big screen, and all of them have devoted fanbases. This, Spider-Man: No Way Home, is the third solo film in Tom Holland’s tenure as Peter Parker, but it is so much more than that as trailers have revealed. Rest assured, this is a spoiler-free review that will not reveal anything you wouldn’t already know from promotional material. Promotional material — trailers and posters — have revealed that No Way Home will feature villains (and the actors that originally played those villains) from the previous two Spider-Man sagas and thus connect the different cinematic universes. It is a massive crossover event for Spider-Man fans. My one worry going into the theater was that this movie might be too big to work, but, ultimately, I don’t think that is the case. Because at its heart, this is very much a Spider-Man movie, and I think they manage to balance the various elements of the film remarkably well.

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REVIEW: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Simu Liu as Shang-Chi in SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS — Photo: Marvel Studios / Jasin Boland / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton — Screenplay by Destin Daniel Cretton, Dave Callaham (Wonder Woman 1984), and Andrew Lanham.

The future of the movie theater industry has been the source of much debate in film fan circles during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. Films have had their theatrical release delayed, some films have been released on premium-video-on-demand, such as Disney+ with Premiere Access, at the same time that they have been released in theaters, while, in the United States, most if not all Warner Bros. films from 2021 have been released in movie theaters and on HBO Max for no additional cost on the very same day, which was the case with The Suicide Squad. So, in addition to the fact that movie theaters have to accept the ongoing pandemic, movie theaters now also contend with subscriptions, streaming services, and premium-video-on-demand.

Now, it would appear that movie theaters have also begun to fight back against this trend with the one thing they can do, which is to refuse to release a studio’s film in theaters. Strangely, although it, unlike Black Widow, has not been released on Disney+ with Premiere Access, major theater chains have stuck by their Disney boycott with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. In Denmark, I think only about ten theaters are showing it currently, which is a real shame because Shang-Chi is rad and well-worth the price of admission.

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