Category: Movies

Reel Life Oscar Challenge Episode 15: 2007

2007 was a heck of a year for movies, and Michael, Kathleen, and Lars dive all the way in before making some tough choices at the end of the pod.

The films discussed are:

-Atonement (2:04)

-Juno (17:36)

-Michael Clayton (30:26)

-No Country for Old Men (43:35)

-There Will Be Blood (55:16)

Reel Life Oscar Challenge Episode 14: 2006

Michael. Lars, and Kathleen discuss bad Boston accents, the weirdness of monarchies, and beauty pageants as they dive into the Best Picture nominees of 2006. The films discussed are:

-Babel (1:20)

-The Departed (19:00)

-Letters from Iwo JIma (30:25)

-Little Miss Sunshine (41:11)

-The Queen (53:48)

Marvel’s Phase Four is Reminiscent of its Phase Two

It was an event that had been anticipated ever since Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige laid out Marvel’s Phase Three in 2014, and expectations were only heightened off the clean slate provided by Avengers: Endgame. In our post-Iron Man and Captain America world, our main champions and throughlines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are gone. This leaves Marvel with an opportunity to grow and evolve in new directions. And this weekend, at SDCC, Marvel finally revealed its plans for Phase Four — indicating it will do exactly that.

We’re currently sitting in a period of time that we haven’t really had since 2015, a point in time where there will be no Marvel movie in the next six months. But what follows promises to be an onslaught of content — to quote Doctor Strange — “on levels hitherto undreamt of.” Some of it will be in an entirely new format: series streaming on the upcoming Disney+ product that will more directly tie into or lead into the films than Marvel’s previous television endeavors like Agents of SHIELD or Daredevil. What’s interesting is that, unlike the Netflix or ABC shows Marvel has released so far, these have been officially categorized as within Phase Four, and seem to matter more consequentially to the plot of the existing universe, rather than to complement it. Feige’s announcement provided this list of content (films in bold, Disney+ series left unstyled):

Black Widow (May 1st, 2020)
Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Fall 2020)
The Eternals (November 6th, 2020)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (February 12, 2021)
WandaVision (Spring 2021)
Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (May 7th, 2021)
Loki (Spring 2021)
What If…? (Summer 2021)
Hawkeye (Fall 2021)
Thor: Love and Thunder (November 5th, 2021)

In addition to revealing this schedule, Feige also assured the audience that Marvel would begin developing a Blade movie starring Mahershala Ali, as well as Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and projects featuring the Fantastic Four and “Mutants” (read: X-Men) whose release dates have yet to be scheduled. 

That list of ten Phase Four properties should be taken with a grain of salt, since Marvel has made adjustments to their plans before – tweaking release dates, canceling Inhumans in favor of Ant-Man and the Wasp (thank goodness), and surprise revealing Captain America: Civil War with Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. taking the stage at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles and revealing Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther. But considering we’re out of Phase Three and this announcement was not made two years in advance of the upcoming phase like the last announcement was, we can expect it to be a fairly good guide for what might come (any intentional surprises aside). 

This list gives us some familiar faces: Black Widow, Doctor Strange (whose new film will include Scarlet Witch, and with WandaVision acting as a lead in), Falcon, the Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, and Thor, indicating that there will be strings of continuity, even if these largely serve to give previously underdeveloped characters a bit more time. However, we’re also getting a couple of brand new entries, like the Eternals and Shang-Chi, that initially may make you go “who?” This is what makes this start to feel a lot like Marvel’s Phase Two, where we were met with familiar faces: Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America — the headliners from the last phase — and then saw the obscure Guardians of the Galaxy and the punchline-worthy Ant-Man get tacked on. Marvel is surely hoping to replicate the success and mainstream-ization of Guardians and push the Eternals and Shang-Chi as soon-to-be household names as well. It’s a risk,1Not that they can’t afford a little risk, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made more than twice as much money as the next-closest franchise, and can also boast to have the highest-grossing film of all time (unadjusted for inflation). but much like Marvel’s success coming off the original Avengers, they can afford to bring their trusting and eager audiences along for the ride – and take a step back if things don’t pan out quite like they had hoped.

Marvel’s going to be packing some star power (Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek are set to star in The Eternals) alongside some relatively new talent (Simu Liu, who is largely known for Canadian television, will play the titular character in Shang-Chi); which is true to how Marvel got so big in the first place: signing on relatively unknown or out-of-demand actors as their leads for multi-movie contracts, while complementing them with Hollywood fame to really focus the spotlight and star power. Unlike the torrent of dread, despair, and tragedy of Marvel’s Phase Three, which handled its heroes coming to blows, half of the population going to dust, and the death of the universe’s most significant protagonist, Phase Four seems primed to begin anew and introduce audiences to those who they did not expect would quickly become their favorite. There’s not quite a lingering threat yet, as there was through Phase Three, and there’s not quite a blank slate as there was with Phase One; instead Marvel has the opportunity to build a universe off the rules of the old, and induct a new generation of audiences to the journey.

This may sound like Marvel’s just trying to repeat what they know already works – but they’re also making bold choices that will turn the tables on how film, television, and the entertainment industry operate. Including major characters and stories in series exclusive to Disney’s streaming service and billing them as critical tie ins is not without its own set of concerns. If audiences don’t partake in Disney+ despite the interconnectedness of the tv show with the films, there’s bound to be some gaps in storytelling that’ll leave audiences wondering how characters got from one place to another. It appears Marvel (and Disney) know this, and have made the importance of these Marvel series a key selling point for Disney+, using them to market the platform and set a stake in the streaming market. This is uncharted territory for both Disney and the greater entertainment world, and Marvel is in the unique position to test it. They are the only institution with so many films built up amongst such a loyal and massive fanbase, while simultaneously entering a new phase in their grand entertainment journey as the previous Infinity Saga of the last three phases has come to a close. 

Multimedia aside, Phase Four is continuing on Marvel’s commitments towards a more diverse slate of characters that can truly give each and every viewer someone to relate to. Introducing their first Asian headliner, finally giving Black Widow her own movie, and delving into their first LBGTQ hero in Thor’s next journey are but a taste of how Marvel is willing to grow and broaden its horizons. Marvel has spent eleven years cultivating and curating its style, wit, personality, and following, justifying why it matters in the great fight for audience’s attention. With Phase Four, Marvel seems determined to prove it is not just a vessel for Iron Man, but a teller of many different and diverse stories, and daring enough to tell these stories in a brand new format.

Reel Life Oscar Challenge Episode 13: 2005

Michael, Lars, and Kathleen go through a range of emotions in this episode, where they talk about possibly the worst movie they’ve seen so far, and defintely the weirdest sex scene they’ve seen, possibly ever. The films discussed are:

-Brokeback Mountain (1:16)

-Capote (12:51)

-Crash (22:12)

-Good Night, and Good Luck (34:45)

-Munich (44:51)

Reel Life Oscar Challenge Episode 12: 2004

Michael, Lars, and Kathleen talk about boxing, OCD, blind musicians, wine snobs, and childhood whimsy as they take a look at the Best Picture nominees of 2004. The films discussed are:

-The Aviator (1:53)

-Finding Neverland (17:42)

-Million Dollar Baby (29:14)

-Ray (43:30)

-Sideways (55:17)

Entertainment Weekly is Going Monthly, and That’s a Shame

(Photos: Marc Hom for EW; Matthias Clamer for EW; Finlay MacKay for EW; Juco for EW; Dan Winters for EW; Art Streiber for EW; Ruven Afandor for EW (2))


One thing the youth of today, and certainly the youth of the future, will never understand is how many random magazines used to end up in people’s homes. I don’t know much about the magazine industry, but the way it seemed to work in the early to mid-2000s was that, if you were subscribed to one magazine, the publisher would try to get you to subscribe to their other titles by offering free issues, usually encased in a plastic baggy (a packing method that, for the sake of the environment, I hope my future kids never experience, either). Sometimes, for whatever reason, you’d keep getting these magazines. That’s how Entertainment Weekly entered my life. It was sent to us as a replacement for some other magazine my mom had subscribed to, and it just kept coming.

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Which Avenger is Each 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate?

Image Credit: Marvel

There are now 23 major candidates running for the Democratic nomination for president, and one or two more that seem likely to run or have expressed interest in doing so. That’s a lot of people to keep track of. Some are big names who have been around a while, and some are small names you probably will never hear from again. But they all got me thinking: in this, the year of 2019, there is really only one other newsmaking phenomenon that has the same star power, intrigue, cultural ubiquity, and overwhelmingly-large cast of characters: the Avengers.

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Reel Life Oscar Challenge Episode 11: 2003

Michael, Lars, and Kathleen discuss the Best Picture nominees of 2003. Is it the best Oscars year since 1994? They think it might be, and at the very least it was good enough to inspire some bad Boston accents and horse jokes. The films discussed are:

-The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (1:27)

-Lost in Translation (12:14)

-Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (22:17)

-Mystic River (30:51)

-Seabiscuit (42:24)

The Odds of Every Headliner Surviving Infinity War Are Questionable

Image Credit: Marvel/The Postrider Illustration

It was all over in a chilling snap; Thanos wiped out half of all life in the universe, ending his Malthusian quest for balance, at great personal cost to our antagonist. Plenty of heroes survived and are sure to regroup and seek to avenge their fallen comrades in Avengers: Endgame in a few weeks. Marvel recently unveiled character posters for those who survived and those who fell by Thanos’ hand, which give us some insight as to who is still around and what the team-up will look like. Conveniently, Thanos’ random snap left all six of the original Avengers — Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye — standing and ready to reunite to do whatever it takes to defeat him and restore order to the universe. This serendipitous team-up reminds audiences how far these heroes have come from 2008 since the original Iron Man through the first time they assembled in 2012’s The Avengers and of the ghosts of tragedy in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. It’ll make for what is sure to be a nostalgic, tragic, and ultimate reminder of the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a behemoth of a cultural moment the likes of which the world has never seen, that has delighted audiences worldwide. So I’m going to ruin it for myself and for you, dear reader, with some math.

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Reel Life Oscar Challenge Episode 10: 2002

Michael, Lars, and Kathleen discuss merry murderesses, harried hobbits, worried women, incensed Irishmen and dance around the awkwardness of having to watch a Roman Polanski movie as they discuss the Best Picture nominees from 2002. The films discussed are:

-Chicago (1:21)

-Gangs of New York (18:21)

-The Hours (32:28)

-The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (44:15)

-The Pianist (57:09)

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