CGB Review of Wonder Woman (2017)/Two-Year Anniversary of Catholic Girl Bloggin’! :D

Two years ago today, Catholic Girl Bloggin’ was launched and boy, what a wild ride it has been!  I would like to thank my followers from WordPress and Facebook for all the support.  I don’t know where I’d be without you guys and gals.

Let us celebrate with a review of Wonder Woman!

2017-The-Wonder-Woman-Gal-Gadot-wide

Diana is (quite literally) the only child on an island of Amazonian women.  She grows up to be a skilled fighter, ready to defend her island against Ares, the god of war, a.k.a. this story’s version of Lucifer.  Then one day, a World War I plane pierces the force shield that keeps her island invisible to Ares.  Inside the plane is Captain Kirk–I mean–Steve Trevor (Chris Pine).  Like Ariel in The Little Mermaid, Diana jumps into the sea, saves Prince Eric–sorry, I mean–Steve and carries him to shore.   No, she doesn’t sing to him, but she does ask him who he is.  With the lasso of truth, the Amazonian women get Steve to reveal that he is an American spy who has discovered a terrible plot from the Germans to use chemical warfare to claim victory in this war.  Moved by his testimony, Diana sees an opportunity to enter our world, join the effort in World War I and defeat Ares, the one responsible for pitting men against each other.

The Hits
Gal Gadot is a fantastic Wonder Woman!  Ever an idealist, her black-and-white view of the world is grounded in her compassion for others and her belief in humanity’s potential for goodness.  This makes her naiveté seem less childish, coming from a place of empathy, not ignorance.  I like how she’s not totally clueless when she first steps onto the shores of WWI-era London, but she doesn’t completely get the hang of modern-day living in one fell swoop.   Her fish-out-of-water innocence is believable and her strength is unquestionable.  What really makes her shine is her compassion for others.  Her view on humanity’s goodness is a tad romantic, but it is also similar to Catholic theology of humans being born inherently good.  Her desire to save humans never comes off as condescending, as in, “Oh, these poor weak humans are so helpless and I’m the only one who can protect them.”  Rather she sees very clearly the threat of Ares and recognizes that humans don’t know what she knows about him, so the sooner she can find and kill him, the safer humans will be.
Chris Pine really shines as Steve Trevor.  Granted, Steve’s character on paper is pretty typical (good dude who finds himself in a situation he didn’t ask for), but Chris Pine makes him so likable.  Charming but never arrogant, he treats Diana as an equal.  He is protective of her without patronizing her.  Their relationship is not based on obligation just because she saved his life.  Because she helps him get off Themyscira (her Amazonian island) and he agrees to take her to the war, there was a potential danger of their relationship becoming one where they inadvertently use each other, but fortunately the script focuses more on the fish-out-of-water aspect, so they have a legitimate reason to stay together before they fall in love.
I really gotta applaud the film for NOT saturating the Amazonian women with makeup.  We are allowed to see their wrinkles and crow’s feet, which makes sense because these women are always out in the sun, training and caring for their island.
Without giving too much away, one of the strongest aspects of the script is that it is respectful to both Diana’s otherworldly beliefs and Steve’s reality.  There’s never a scene where Steve spats out, “It’s all make-believe!  Ares, Zeus, clay babies, none of it is real!”  While she does become discouraged when things don’t turn out the way she had hoped, Diana doesn’t throw in the towel with a jaded attitude.  Diana and Steve are very tactful when handling each other’s thought process, adding to their very equal relationship.  We know that Steve really does find her world hard to believe, but he has seen enough and experienced enough to know that Diana is who she is and he respects that.  As for her, Diana grows in maturity and forms a more well-rounded view of the world while holding on to her convictions.

The Misses
The movie uses slow-motion a little too much.  I’m not saying it doesn’t look cool when it is used, but it does get repetitive after a while.
Okay, so the island of Themyscira (try saying that ten times fast) is hidden by an invisible force shield that Ares, an immortal god of war, cannot find…and YET Steve’s plane pierces right through it with no issue.  In addition, the very-mortal Germans pass through the veil effortlessly.  Granted, this doesn’t ruin the movie for me at all, but it’s about as laughable as how [SPOILER for the movie “Arrival”] the climax of Arrival is solved by a phone call.  I get it, you need an inciting incident to get the plot going, but it’s still kind of funny to me.
As much as Ares is built up in this film, Ares himself is pretty generic.  Yeah, he’s basically the DCEU’s version of Lucifer, but he’s still a “gotta destroy this world and replace it with a better one because humanity sucks” kind of guy.

Praise Jesus (and director Patty Jenkins) for FINALLY giving us a solid DCEU (DC Extended Universe) movie!  Despite a few clichés and generic plot points, the greatest strength of both the titular character and the movie is its heart.  Wonder Woman is a much-needed home run for the DCEU thanks to a strong and compassionate heroine, a romance with tons of chemistry and a balanced approach to its ideas.

Side Note: I really think that Wonder Woman is going to be the best part of Justice League.  I’m callin’ it right here, right now.

Most Gracious Virgin Mary, pray for us.

CGB Mega-Collaboration Review of Suicide Squad (2016) featuring MsOWrites, Rosalie Contrite, Catholic N00b and Surrender the Brownies

You know, for a team called the “Suicide Squad”, only one person in the squad actually kicks the bucket.

This is my review of–

AMANDA WALLER: Hello, Catholic Girl Bloggin’.
ME: (looks up) What the?  How did you get in my house?!
AMANDA WALLER: Flag, get the chloroform.
ME: Hey, why is Rick Flag soaking a cloth with chloroform in my kitchen?  (Sees RICK FLAG approaching) Before I go under, this is my review of Suicide Squad!

(Cuts to black)

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Based on the fictional organization known as Task Force X in DC Comics, Suicide Squad is  basically what happens when Viola Davis–er, I mean–Amanda Waller decides it would be a good idea to assemble a taskforce of DC comic book baddies should another Superman ever walk the planet again.  Things go horribly awry when a squad member named Dr. June Moore, aka Enchantress goes off the rails and uses her dark magic brouhaha to ruin the city.  Now it’s up to Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Rick Flag, Captain Boomerang, El Diablo and Katana to save the world from being enslaved by Enchantress all while the threat of the Joker looms large.

(Wakes up in the back of a truck) W-where am I?
MsOWrites: Catholic Girl Bloggin’?
ME: Huh?  MsOWrites, is that you?  You’ve been kidnapped too?
MsOWrites: Yeah, they grabbed me while I was on vacation.  AND they took my new scapular, too!
ME: Those jerks!  Kidnapping bloggers and taking scapulars!
(Enter ROSALIE CONTRITE)
ROSALIE CONTRITE: At least you weren’t snatched up while in the middle of a podcast.
ME: Is that why yesterday’s Contrite podcast ended so abruptly?
ROSALIE CONTRITE: Apparently my latest “interview” was a set-up.
(Enter SURRENDER THE BROWNIES)
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: Better that than having your brownies spiked so that you’d end up unconscious.
(Enter CATHOLIC N00b)
CATHOLIC N00b: There are three things in life that I know to be true: There is a God, taxation is theft and Amanda Waller will kidnap you at some point in your life.
ME: It looks like Waller has her sights set on Catholic bloggers.
(The truck stops and the trailer opens up) (Enter AMANDA WALLER)
AMANDA WALLER: Good morning, ladies.  I see that you already know one another.  Let’s cut to the chase: I want to assemble a taskforce of Catholic bloggers to fight off supernatural entities.
ME: But what exactly would we do in the wake of such an event?
AMANDA WALLER: Oh, you wouldn’t do anything…but your Guardian Angels would.  If your Guardian Angel gave you, CGB, a katana in your BFG review, then imagine what he and the other Guardian Angels would do if I held you and your friends hostage.
ME: Wait, what?  You’re gonna try to get other people’s Angels to do your bidding.
MsOWrites: Your logic is not compatible with our Earth logic.
CATHOLIC N00b: That’s not how this works.  That’s not how any of this works!
ROSALIE CONTRITE: Oh, the early Church fathers would have a field day rebuking you, Ms. Waller.
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: Somebody get Bishop Robert Barron over here ASAP!
ME: (Looks in the back of the truck) Hey, you guys do realize that our weapons are in the truck, right?
AMANDA WALLER: (Looks confused) Wait, those aren’t supposed to be there.  (Gets hit in the shoulder with ROSALIE CONTRITE’s arrow)
ME: (Grabs katana) Looks like our Angels are looking out for us!
(CATHOLIC N00b uses the Force to pull her lightsaber towards her, while MsOWrites whips out her crossbow and stake) 
ME: Hey, Surrender the Brownies, what’s your weapon?
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: (Smiles as fire emanates in her hands) You’re about to find out why my brownies are the very best, like no one ever was!
ME: And now the Pokémon theme song is stuck in my head again.
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES(Raises arms) I’m gonna need everyone out of the truck in 3…
ROSALIE CONTRITE: Everybody, move!
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: …2…
(Everyone evacuates the truck)
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: …1…(Incinerates the truck with her fire powers)
ME: (Looks around at the destruction of the truck, as well as any buildings in the area)
MsOWrites: CGB, look out!  (Pushes me out of the way of a falling Little Caesar’s sign)
ME: I didn’t know there was a Little Caesar’s nearby.  (Stand up and brushes off the dirt and soot from my clothes) Well, I’ll tell you all one thing: This was an impressive showcase of our super abilities, kind of like the new Suicide Squad movie…

The Hits
The film’s bombastically comedic tone works to its advantage.  It matches the unstable nature of the characters and the aimlessness of the narrative.
This movie is definitely what I call a “character showcase,” in that the script allows the charisma of the cast of villainous characters to shine.  In particular, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Croc, Katana and El Diablo look amazing!  The costume designs don’t look too silly, which make it easier for them to be taken seriously when said characters are on screen.
I feel that Harley Quinn was handled as well as she could have been.  She has her signature sadistic charm, but Margot Robbie doesn’t make her too over-the-top or childish.  The flashbacks of her time with the Joker give us an idea of why she is the way she is.  While I am very aware of the abusive nature of her relationship with the Joker in the comics, I thought that, for the time being, it made sense (at least for this first installment) for her to have glorified flashbacks of her time with him.  She seems to me to be someone who has not yet figured out who the Joker truly is, therefore she is subconsciously allowing herself to remember only “good” times with the Joker.  Going forward, I do hope that we get to see Harley’s eyes opened and for her to begin breaking away from the Joker’s hold on her, but for now, her mentally instability is well established via the flashbacks and her own behavior.
I was somewhat invested in the romance between Rick Flag and June Moore/Enchantress’ relationship.  While their scenes together are short, the performances of both actors involved capture the difficulty of their romance.  In fact, I wish they had their own movie.  How interesting would it have been to see the story of a man coping with his semi-possessed girlfriend?
I really like the rapport between Deadshot and Rick Flag.  There’s a reluctant brotherhood to their argumentative relationship that makes it enjoyable to watch.  Speaking of which, yes, Will Smith is as charismatic as always.  Granted, his “assassin with a heart of gold” trope is pretty overdone, but you know, I actually like that archetype; it has conversion-story potential to it.
Where the last DC film I endured–er, I mean–watched, which was Batman v. Superman, was dreary and convoluted, Suicide Squad is definitely a step up in terms of having fun with its premise and being actually entertaining instead of populating the screen with bruiting men.

SURRENDER THE BROWNIES
: (Raises her arms) Come to me, my chickens!  Mwahahaha!  (An array of chickens teleport onto the scene)
CATHOLIC N00b: The Force is strong with this one.
ME:What, with her or her chickens?
CATHOLIC N00b: (Grins) Why not both?
MsOWrites: Hey, where did Amanda Waller go?
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: Buttercup, come to me!  (A chicken named BUTTERCUP approaches SURRENDER THE BROWNIES) Find Amanda Waller!
BUTTERCUP: Bawk bawk bawk bawk bawk…(scurries away to find AMANDA WALLER)
ME: Hey, instead of going on a wild goose chase for one of the cast members from “The Help”, shouldn’t we just call the rest of the Avengers?
CATHOLIC N00b: You mean the Marvel superheroes?
ME: No, I mean the Pro-Life Avengers!  I’m talking about Pink-Haired Papist, Aimee Murphy, Albany Rose, Angel Armstead, Kelsey Hazzard, Stargift Tarakasha and, of course, Bryan Kemper!
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: We’ll assemble with them during the next Planned Parenthood protest.
(Enter AMANDA WALLER)
AMANADA WALLER: (holds up BUTTERCUP the chicken by the legs) You guys thought I’d just run off without apprehending you, didn’t you?

SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: (Lights hands with fire powers) Release Buttercup now, Waller!
ROSALIE CONTRITE: I got this!  (Holds bow and arrow to AMANDA WALLER)
AMANDA WALLER: (sinister smirk) (clutches onto BUTTERCUP’s legs tighter) Go ahead, shoot the arrow and provide me with a nice chicken dinner.
ME: (raises katana) Ready your weapons, gal pals!
AMANDA WALLER: Oh, I’m not the only one you’ll be fighting…

ROSALIE CONTRITE
: Shush!  Do you hear that?
(An eerie, maniacal laugh is heard from a distance)
ME: Uh oh, looks like Trump found us…
MsOWrites: No, no, it sounds more hoarse and chain-smokerish.
ME: Oh, so it’s Hilary whose after us!
(Enter THE JOKER, who pulls up in a white van with henchmen accompanying him)
JOKER: Well, well, well, if it isn’t the League of Catholic Bloggers.
MsOWrites: I didn’t know we were an established League.
ME: (Gasps) Oh my gosh! (Pause) I think I like Heath Ledger’s Joker better.
JOKER: (Eyes narrow in my direction) Oh, talking like that’s gonna get ya hurt, baby doll.  (Whips out semi-automatic) (The henchmen start surrounding us)
MsOWrites: CGB, look out!  (whips out stake and crossbow and shoots a henchman coming towards me) Strong like an AMAZON!  (spins around and slashes enemies with her stake)
CATHOLIC N00b(Smiles as she lifts up her lightsaber) Time for my ultimate battle cry…(flips into the air) Taxation is THEFT! (Slices through henchmen as she lands)
ROSALIE CONTRITE: Hey, Surrender the Brownies…(raises bow and arrows)…think we can use some of that fire power of yours?
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: (Grins) (Hands light up with flames) I thought you’d never ask.
(SURRENDER THE BROWNIES creates a shield of fire around herself and ROSALIE CONTRITE, who shoots flaming arrows at oncoming henchmen)
ME
(Holds up katana) When in doubt…(runs into henchmen)…Offer it up!  (takes down henchmen with jumps, kicks and the katana) Whoa, what the?!
JOKER: (Charges at me) I’d like to think that I was pretty good in Suicide Squad!
ME: You want me to lie to ya or tell ya what I really think?
JOKER: Surprise me, sweetheart.
ME: Well…

The Misses
It’s PAINFULLY obvious that many of the Joker’s scenes have been cut down and as a result, he is grossly underdeveloped.  I can tell that Jared Leto did more preparation for the Joker’s character than the screenwriters did.  The thing is that I understand why Harley loves the Joker, but I don’t understand why the Joker even bothers to keep her around.  The mistake made here is that the Joker puts a lot of effort into getting Harley back even though in previous incarnations of Joker and Harley, it’s clear that he doesn’t personally care for her, that he is only using her.  The few times that he does express a desire to get her back feel really forced and out-of-place because we know that the Joker’s true nature is relentless anarchy with no hints of sentimentalism.
Yes, this movie doesn’t have much of a plot.  It does try to attempt a plot by making Enchantress the main villain, but it doesn’t hold much weight because Enchantress herself is pretty much a standard villain.  She is a little intimidating at first, but once she brings back her CGI brother–Incubus, I think is his name, but he had next to no impact on the plot, so I don’t really care–and just stands in the devastated subway station, doing something with a blue beam in the sky, she becomes nothing more than a video game villain from that point on.
I really wish this movie had a main character.  While I always appreciate a multi-character showcase, I went into this movie hoping that either Harley or Deadshot would be the main protagonist whose perspective drives the story.  It is clear that this movie went through many last-minute creative changes.  Except for Harley, Deadshot, El Diablo and (to an extent) Rick Flag, the other Suicide Squad members feel half-baked and underdeveloped.
Going back to this movie not having much of a plot, this film really does play out like a long music video.  If this were a music video, it would be awesome, but alas, there’s a difference between cinematic motion pictures and MTV music videos (yeah, I grew up watching many of those).  The wonky pacing and overabundance of non-diagetic song choices prove my point about this picture being a glorified music video.

(CATHOLIC N00b uses Force lighting on surrounding henchmen.  MsOWrites finds herself in a one-on-one confrontation with AMANDA WALLER,  who wields a pistol.  SURRENDER THE BROWNIES and ROSALIE CONTRITE continue firing flaming arrows at henchmen)
ME: (sees MsOWrites fighting AMANDA WALLER)
JOKER: Hey, CGB, look me in the eye!  (charges at me with a semi-automatic)
ME: How can I?  Your eyes are so unsettling and just freaky-looking.  It lacks the subtley of Ledger’s Joker.
JOKER: If you like Ledger’s Joker so much, why don’t I just quote him?  (Sinister grin) Let’s put a smile on that face!
ME:  Nope!  (Jumps in the air) Angelic katana, activate!  (Blade of katana glows as I land back down and slice JOKER’s semi-automatic)  Catholic N00b, think you can use a Force-push?
CATHOLIC N00b: Oh yeah, girl!  (From afar, she Force-pushes the JOKER away from me)
(MsOWrites stabs AMANDA WALLER’s shoulder with her stake, but AMANDA WALLER  is about to shoot at MsOWrites) (I swing the katana and block the bullet with the katana)
MsOWrites: Thanks!  Is that how bullets work, though?
ME: Hey, my guardian angel gave me this katana.  I didn’t exactly ask him if it abides by the laws of physics.
(SURRENDER THE BROWNIES creates a fire circle around AMANDA WALLER while CATHOLIC N00b paralyzes her with the Force)
(ROSALIE CONTRITE points an arrow at AMANDA WALLER’s forehead while MsOWrites holds up her crossbow)
ME: (Faces AMANDA WALLER)  Hey, wasn’t this whole thing about you getting our Guardian Angels to do your twisted bidding?
AMANDA WALLER: That was the plan.
ME: Well, so far, all that has been accomplished are flashy action sequences, quips and a half-hearted Joker appearance.
AMANDA WALLER: Much like the Suicide Squad film, it was an attempt at a plot.
(Enter JOKER)
JOKER: See, this is what happens when so many of my scenes are either cut down sloppily or just chopped out altogether.  (Holds up a grenade)
AMANDA WALLER: (Clutches cell phone in hand) You have two options, ladies.  Either the Joker can blast you to bits with the grenade or I make one phone call to Lucifer himself and get him up here.
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: What the fudge brownies?!
ME: No, no, you don’t wanna do that!
MsOWrites: (Holds up Miraculous Medal and Benedictine Cross) The heck you are!
CATHOLIC N00b: Triggered!
ROSALIE CONTRITE: You do know that all we would have to do to send Lucifer running is just say the Name of Jesus, right?
ME: Oh, yeah, that’s a good point.  Just say the Name of Jesus and the devil will be tripping over himself trying to get away.  Just ask Saint Gemma Galgani.
AMANDA WALLER: Can the Holy Name stop a grenade?
JOKER: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!
(Enter THE SPARTAN)
THE SPARTAN: I know I can!  (As a flash of light, THE SPARTAN rushes past the JOKER)
JOKER: What the?  Where’s the gren– (CATHOLIC N00b springs in the air and slices JOKER’s hands off with her lightsaber while MsOWrites finishes him off with her crossbow from a distance)
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: (uses her powers to close the fire circle in on AMANDA WALLER)  I prefer my villains medium-well.
ME: Has Charles Xavier contacted you yet?   You might to consider joining the X-Men.
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: I don’t think he’ll be getting in touch with me after I kinda sort of burned down the school.
CATHOLIC N00b: The Force might be too strong with that one (points at SURRENDER THE BROWNIES)
MsOWrites: Who was that guy?  The one who took the JOKER’s grenade?
CATHOLIC N00b: He calls himself The Spartan.  That’s all I know.
ME: You know this how?
CATHOLIC N00b: I’ve encountered him before, while traveling to the Dagobah system to learn from Yoda.
MsOWrites: I think I’ve come across him while slaying vampires.
ROSALIE CONTRITE: So, CGB, what are your final thoughts on Suicide Squad?
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: Compared to Batman v. Superman, which made you question your will to live, how does this DC film hold up.
ME: Well…

On one hand, Suicide Squad is miles better than BvS thanks to strong performances from Margot Robbie, Will Smith and the rest of the cast.  The rapport between the members of the Squad is fun to watch and has a whacky-dysfunctional-family feel to it.  On the other hand, the choppy pacing, clumsy editing and weak portrayal of the Joker doesn’t do this comic book adaptation any favors.  If you’re curious and/or are a fan of director David Ayers, then you’ll probably have a good time checking it out.  While I’m glad I saw it, I don’t think I’ll be seeing it again in the near future.

Saint Theodore Guerin, pray for us.

CGB Collaboration Review of Captain America: Civil War with Pro-Life Activist Clinton Wilcox of the Life Training Institute

Captain America v. Iron Man…which side shall you choose?

This is my collaboration review of Captain America: Civil War!

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After a mission in Lagos, Nigeria results in a slew of collateral damage, the Avengers find themselves facing the possibility of being controlled by a UN-appointed governing body.  When Captain America’s childhood friend Bucky Barnes (who [SPOILER] was the Winter Soldier in Cap’s last adventure) is framed as a suspect of an attack on the United Nations, Cap chooses to stand by his friend and pays the price when the Avengers is divided over his decision.

This is the third collaboration here on Catholic Girl Bloggin’!  Today I will be joined by pro-life activist Clinton Wilcox.  His Hits and Misses will be in green and mine will be in pink.

CGB Hits
Going into this movie, I was truly scared that Captain America’s noble nature would be compromised in this installment.  After watching Winter Soldier with my friends, I couldn’t gushing about Captain America’s strong sense of morality.  That is when one of my friends, who I will call “M.P.” turned to me and said, “Let’s see how you feel after Civil War.” “Aww, don’t do that to me, M.P.!”
I am delighted to say that Cap comes out of this adventure with his principles intact.  This character is such an honorable warrior!  I love how he plants his feet firmly on the side of truth and never backs down when faced with fierce opposition.  Once he makes a decision on a moral issue (such as helping Bucky instead of condemning him), there is no swaying him from his convictions.  He remains the moral voice and emotional center all while never becoming a bland archetype.  I said it in my Winter Soldier review and I will say it again: Captain America is a hero you can believe in!  🙂

I was not expecting the Black Panther to be such a show-stealer.  I will admit that his costume is kind of terrifying mainly because the headpiece covers his whole face, as well as his incredible speed.  I would not want to be caught in a fight with this guy!  This makes him an invaluable addition to the Avengers team.
Spider Man is absolutely adorable!  I like how he’s a believable kid character; awkward without being annoying, fumbling and wise-cracking while being skilled in his Spidey abilities.  Also, this Star Wars fangirl would like to award Spidey twenty CGB brownie points for his AMAZING Empire Strikes Back reference!  😀
In my first collaboration review, which was of Batman v. Superman with Patheos blogger Monique Ocampo, one of my many grievances with that flick is how they completely botched the rivalry between the Caped Crusader and the Son of Krypton.  Here the ideological differences between Captain America and Iron Man are well-conveyed.   Yes, the movie does definitely lean heavily in Cap’s camp, but there is emphasis on Iron Man’s perspective on the situation they face.

Clinton’s Hits
Civil War really feels like two movies. It’s Captain America 3, in which they have to resolve the Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier storyline. It’s also The Avengers 2, Part II, in which the Avengers now must deal with the aftermath of the battle with Ultron, as well as fallout from their earlier battles. Both parts of the movie may have benefited from being split into two films, but even given what they had to work with, the movie worked exceptionally well. The events of Captain America 3 were used as the catalyst for the events of Civil War.  Zemo is the main villain of the film (Crossbones makes an appearance in a fantastic battle scene, but is killed at the end of the scene).  His family was killed in the battle against Ultron and Zemo is out for revenge.  He is merely human, so he knows he can’t kill the Avengers because more powerful men than him have tried and failed, so he sets out to tear the Avengers apart.  He does so by framing Barnes for the murder of several delegates by bombing a UN meeting where a piece of legislation is going to be signed to keep the Avengers in check.  Zemo’s human, relatable backstory, mixed with his actually succeeding in tearing the Avengers apart makes him one of the best and most compelling villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the best villains are the ones from the shows, but the villains in the movies tend to be cookiecutter supervillains). Zemo used his intellect instead of brute strength to beat the Avengers.
Civil War, even having so much to accomplish, was a fantastic movie. Most of the fight scenes were truly mind-blowing (and I don’t use that term loosely). I thought all of the CGI used was very realistic. I was fooled the entire time, and the movie didn’t feel like it was two and a half hours long, to me. Though there are many ways in which the movie deviated from the source material in the comics. It actually bears little resemblance to the comics. One of those is that in the comics, the war was over whether or not to reveal their identities to the world, as well as being accountable to the government. But in the MCU, most or all of the heroes’ identities are known, so this doesn’t play a role in the legislation the UN wants to ratify.

Clinton’s Misses
As I stated, the Avengers are dealing with the aftermath of their many battles. As such, the UN wants to put a reign on them. They want to specifically train the Avengers, and be in charge of where the Avengers go. Essentially, the Avengers will become a government-led team.  If there’s one thing I think could have been improved, I wish there would have been more debate and deliberation before passing the legislation. There was one scene in which the Avengers were hashing it  out, but the legislation was already going to be passed. They were simply deliberating on whether or not to comply.

CGB Misses
Like Clinton, I too had an issue with how the whole “government wants to control the Avengers” dilemma is not developed enough.  Granted, I’m glad that the focus was more on the budding rivalry between Captain America and Iron Man, but would have liked the politics of the Avengers issue to have been fleshed out more.
I personally didn’t care for Zemo as the villain.  I get that his dirty work is best done in the shadows, but I never felt frightened of him.   He just wasn’t as chilling as I had hoped.  Honestly, I feel that the divide between Cap and Iron Man was enough of a conflict on its own.

Clinton’s Verdict
I’ve now seen Captain America: Civil War twice, and I have to say the movie gets better the second time you watch.  There’s so much going on in this film that you’ll undoubtedly miss some things upon first viewing.  
Despite being quite different from the source material in the comics, and having to pack so much into the movie, Civil War was an incredibly well-written, well-done movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat and will excite you by its many excellent fight scenes (especially the Avengers battle in the airport). I’ve seen it both times, and neither time did it ever feel like a two and a half hour movie. This movie has made me even more excited for the upcoming Black Panther, Thor, and Infinity War movies.

CGB Verdict
Captain America: Civil War has a lot on its plate and for the most part, it succeeds in making all of its elements work.  The action is well-choreographed and easier to see this time (Age of Ultron and, to an extent, Winter Soldier had some issue with action-scene-clarity).  The story is properly structured and has complex aspects while still being entertaining.  Iron Man has definitely grown and matured as a character, while Captain America himself is an admirable example of heroic masculinity, a trait that is desperately needed in today’s confused society.

Saint Martin of Tours, pray for us.

CGB Review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Winter is coming and so is its soldier.

This is my review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier!

 

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It has been two years since the Battle of New York (the first Avengers movie).  Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (or “Cap” for short) is living in Washington, D.C. and works for S.H.I.E.L.D with Nick Fury.  However, things are not always as they seem and Cap’s trust in S.H.I.E.L.D is tested.  When a deadly conspiracy is discovered, Cap and Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff) must team up to save the day.

The Hits
As someone with a devotion to Saint Michael the Archangel, I am pleasantly surprised by how much Captain America reminds me of Michael; brave, honorable and standing firmly on the side of truth.  I love Cap’s sense of justice and duty, how he faithfully carries out S.H.I.E.L.D’s order, yet never does so blindly and how he stands his ground in the face of opposition.  He’s not perfect by any means.  He is a good man who seeks what is right and just in all things.  Often times, characters who are essentially pure of heart tend to suffer from being written as bland and uninvesting.  Luckily, a combination of thoughtful writing and Chris Evans’grounded performance make Cap virtuous without artifice, completely human while at the same time being a cut above.   I guess what I’m trying to say is I really love Captain America! 🙂
The Winter Soldier himself is a seriously terrifying villain.  I appreciate that his dialogue is sparse and how he uses the intensity of his gaze to intimidate and strike fear into the hearts of his victims.  His few words and fierce facial expressions make him an unnerving presence when he is on screen.
I really like the idea that [SPOILER TO ANYONE WHO STILL HASN’T WATCHED WINTER SOLDIER] S.H.I.E.L.D has been compromised by Hydra.  It mimics real life in that the people or groups we think are moral and upright sometimes turn out to be the opposite.  Also kudos to the strength of the plot’s intrigue, which is important for a film like this which has many complex elements.

The Misses
Some of the action is hard to see due to rapid editing.  I could see Cap’s action just fine, though at times the shaky cam would give me a headache, but Black Widow’s action sequences in particular are difficult to make out.  Speaking of Natasha (and I apologize in advance to any and all Black Widow fans), but I’ve seen her in four movies now (Avengers, Age of Ultron, Winter Soldier and Civil War) and I still don’t care for her character.  She has a good rapport with the other characters, but by herself, she’s not very interesting to me.
Can we please talk about the first five minutes, where we see Cap jogging with a seemingly random stranger (Sam Wilson) who we later learn is Falcon?  I get that the filmmakers were setting up Falcon, but within the movie’s universe, it just comes off as abrupt that two strangers would suddenly start jogging together for a long period of time.  I kind of wish the opening scene had shown Cap and Sam meeting first and then jogging into the Washington sunrise.

I can see why Captain America: The Winter Soldier is held with high regard among Marvel fans.  Along with the exciting action, well-written intrigue and a solid plot, Captain America himself is an admirable character and a hero you can believe in, just like the mighty Archangel himself.

Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
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CGB 100th Review: Deadpool (2016)

Happy Saint Valentine’s Day!

This is my review of Deadpool!

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Deadpool is the film adaptation of the Marvel comic book antihero Wade Wilson/Deadpool.  Wade starts off as a rogue mercenary who helps downtrodden souls deal with the difficult people in their lives (Ex: Say you’re being stalked and want to get the stalker off your back.  You call Wade and he’ll get him/her to leave you alone via intimidation and other unorthodox methods).  When Wade and his girlfriend Vanessa discover that he has cancer, Wade is offered a chance to be a part of rogue experiments that will cure him.  However, the experiments leave Wade scarred with a ghastly appearance and he sets off to find Ajax, aka Francis and make him pay for the disfigurement.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Deadpool is NOT for children.
That is all.  Onward with the review!

The Hits
Ryan Reynolds has been dying to play this character and it shows.  He is having the time of his life being the crass, wise-cracking Wade/Deadpool.  While excessive swearing is not a desirable talent, Ryan Reynolds’ delivery of a plethora of expletives is convincing.  I really like his relationship with his girlfriend Vanessa; the idea of two hardened outcasts finding and committing themselves to one another is not only endearing, but also brings dimension to Deadpool’s character.
Finally a movie that knows how to correctly portray the lovable jerk character!  The humorous and foul-mouthed Wade Wilson/Deadpool doesn’t take life too seriously and always has a sarcastic response to everything, but he is dedicated to Vanessa and is considerate of her concerns after his cancer diagnosis all while masking his own panic with witty banter.  His sardonic comedy makes him extremely likable, while how much he values Vanessa makes him relatable and easy to root for.
I think it was a brilliant move to tell the story in non-chronological order.  We get Deadpool’s origin story out of the way while having plenty of time to watch him do superhero stuff.
This may a bit weird, but I found the lowlife bar that Wade hangs out at to be strangely charming.  There’s one scene towards the end of the second act where Ajax and his cohorts comes looking for Wade and when Ajax’s consort threatens the main owner, all of the bar attendants pull out guns, ready to defend the owner.  The subtle brotherhood of the bar patrons is an appreciative touch.
This movie pushes the envelope in terms of its depiction of violence.  It unapologetically earns its R-rating.  If a film achieves what it sets out to do, then it is worth commending.

The Misses
At times, the action gets a little overwhelming, especially when an action scene would go on for a long period of time.  This creates audience fatigue and can negatively impact the viewing experience.
So after undergoing Ajax’s experiments, Deadpool becomes an immortal killing machine…and this is a bit of a problem.  One of the ingredients of a great action hero is vulnerability.  If we see our hero/heroine feel pain and look afraid, we can identify with them and care for them.  We need to be concerned that they could die.  When a character cannot feel pain and has no chance of being killed by a bullet to the head, they don’t feel human and the tension of action sequences is lost.  “Why the heck are Ajax’s guys shooting at Deadpool?  He can’t die, so it’s pointless,” I said to the people I saw the film with.  An immortal antagonist is frightening and a legitimate threat; an immortal protagonist lacks vulnerability and is hard to care about.

For The Record
Is this movie a “hard R” flick?  Personally I didn’t think it was offensive to the eye, but then again, I have seen foreign language films that get far more graphic than Deadpool.  This isn’t like the Revenant where we watch Leo DiCaprio disembowel a horse, but it is definitely not PG-13 content.  If you are concerned, I would recommend going on Deadpool’s IMDB page and looking up the Parental Guide segment so that you can make an informed decision.

I have seen Deadpool twice and I loved it both times.  The crude, tongue-in-cheek humor is well-written and solid delivered by everyone involved, the action is fun and engaging, and Ryan Reynolds is captivating as the titular antihero.  This is definitely a comedic movie to go see with a bunch of friends at midnight.  If you’re looking for a good time at the movies, then this is the popcorn flick for you!

Saint Mary Magdalene, pray for us.

A Pro-Choice Argument That I Cannot Stand

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I have been pro-life ever since I was ten-years old and my stance on abortion has only gotten stronger with time.  Even as a child, I could never wrap my head around the fact that there is a medical procedure that violently ends the life of an unborn human being.  Children are by no means perfect, but there is nothing they could do to deserve being dismembered or injected with saline to induce cardiac arrest.
However, I live in the magical land of California, which is more blue than a Dodgers baseball uniform.  This means that I have a plethora of pro-choice friends.  I have gotten into civil discussions about abortion with these friends, but it never gets nasty.  If people end a friendship over opposing views, then they were never friends to begin with.
To their credit, my pro-choice friends usually give me intelligent arguments as to why they feel the way they do about abortion.  They give me valid points that I keep in mind when formulating my own arguments.
I do understand that some women are in dire financial straits and cannot afford to care for a child.  I do understand that a pregnant rape victim is already dealing with enough trauma as it is.  I do understand that health complications in pregnancy are possible.  I understand all of these realities without accepting abortion as the lord and savior of women.

All that being said, there is one pro-choice argument that I do not understand. Every time I hear someone spout this argument, it is like nails on a chalkboard to my brain.
That argument is this:

“When does life begin?  I submit the answer depends an awful lot on the feeling of the parents.  A powerful feeling – but not science.”
–Melissa Harris-Perry

So in other words, if mom and dad say it’s a baby, then it becomes a baby.  If mom and dad don’t think that it’s a baby, it’s magically not a baby anymore?  Forget prenatal science and embryology; it’s the mighty power of wishful thinking that tells us when life begins.
In what universe does this make any sense?!  Okay, maybe it would make some lick of sense in freaking Asgard (Thor and Loki’s world), but not on planet earth.
If a pregnant woman went in for an ultrasound and then tried to wish away the baby by chanting the words, “I don’t think it’s a baby, I don’t think it’s a baby, I don’t think it’s a baby…” there would still be a baby on the screen/in her womb when she opens her eyes.
What baffles me about this argument is that it’s inapplicable in any other area of life.  In an intellectual debate about a pressing real-life issue, it makes no sense to use insane, out-of-this-world talking points that could not be put into practice in real life.
If I told my boss, “I know you want me to come in a 7 am, but I think my shift doesn’t start until I decide it starts,” my name would be wiped clean off the payroll.
If someone kills an animal and then says, “Well, it’s not an animal until I say it’s an animal,” would the judge say, “You know, he/she didn’t think it was a living, breathing creature, so it’s all cool”?  No!  That person’s keister would still end up in the slammer.  Oh, and PETA would be protesting outside the courthouse.
If someone is pulled over for drinking and driving, do you think the officer is going to let them go if the person says, “Gee, officer, I don’t think I’m inebriated…” even if their blood alcohol content is above the legal limit?  No, they would still be handcuffed and charged.
I’m sure Ms. Melissa Harris-Perry is a nice woman who is loved by the people in her life.  However, why would a grown adult with years of life experience resort to such a childlish argument?
Honestly, I think that this argument is pretty insulting to women.  This argument treats women with kid gloves, painting us as immature people who resort to make-believe as a defense mechanism.  Women deserve better than to be talked down to. Adult issues need to be handled with adult discussion, not talking points that one would expect from a teenager.

So when does life begin?  When the sperm and the egg come together in the Fallopian tube.  When the sperm enters the egg, the zygote is conceived.  The zygote already contains the entire genetic DNA of both mother and father; exactly 46 chromosomes (23 from mom and 23 from dad).
New research has shown that the heartbeat is present just 16 days after conception.
It only takes three weeks after conception/five weeks of pregnancy for the heart, brain and spinal cord to form.
On the seventh week of pregnancy/fifth week after conception, the face and nostrils are already present.
By the twelfth week of pregnancy/tenth week after conception, the unborn baby has fingernails and a fully-formed face.

It takes one man and one woman to create a new human being.  Feelings have no say.

 

“I do, as a humanist, believe that the concept “unborn child” is a real one and I think the concept is underlined by all the recent findings of embryology about the early viability of a well conceived human baby, one that isn’t going to be critically deformed (or even some that are) will be able to survive outside the womb earlier and earlier, and earlier and I see that date only being pushed back. I feel the responsibility to consider the occupant of the womb as a candidate member of society in the future, and thus to say that it cannot be only the responsibility of the woman to decide upon it, that it’s a social question and an ethical and a moral one.  And I say this as someone who has no supernatural belief.”
Christopher Hitchens

Sources:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3833015/A-baby-s-heart-beats-just-16-days-conception-Heartbeat-breakthrough-lead-new-cures-congenital-disease.html?ito=social-twitter_mailonline#ixzz4Mo5NDpB3
http://umm.edu/health/medical/ency/articles/fetal-development
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-care/art-20045302
http://www.newhealthguide.org/When-Does-A-Baby-Have-A-Heartbeat.html

CGB Review of Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

I know this seems like a random CGB post.  This movie isn’t in theaters anymore and I didn’t even announce that I’d be reviewing this movie on the CGB Facebook page.  However, there is an explanation as to why I’m reviewing this today.
On Friday, I wrote my first article for The Catholic Response.  It was an op-ed about Kim Davis, the Kentucky County Clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to both homosexual and heterosexual couples.  When I posted the article on my personal FB page, it didn’t take long for a war to break out in the comments section between my conservative friends and my liberal friends.  Anywho, playing defense for two days wore me out, so I thought I’d do a more light-hearted post.

This is my review of Guardians of the Galaxy!

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Guardians of the Galaxy is the movie that had Marvel Studios bitting their nails. Based on an obscure series of comics, Guardians of the Galaxy tells the story of Peter Quill, aka Starlord, a fast-talking, brash space collector who ends up coming across three misfits; an alien named Gamora and two genetically engineered creatures, Rocket the racoon and his tree hybrid friend, Groot.  The four of them are taken into custody after a brief quarrel with one another and meet another outcast named Drax.  From there, this ragtag group must come together to save the world.

I’ve seen this movie four times and it wasn’t until my fourth viewing when I finally gave in to the film’s charms and embraced it as my favorite Marvel movie.  This is the ultimate popcorn flick!

The Hits
I have always had a soft spot for stories about a group of oddball people who have to set aside their differences and stick together.  The five leads are well-established and identifiable not just because of their unique designs, but also because of their personalities and backstories.  Peter/Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot are all fleshed-out characters and never come across as cliched tropes.
I LOVE Rocket and Groot!  Rocket is hilarious with his sardonic humor and quips. Groot is just charming with his humility and classic line, “I am Groot.”  I appreciate how his one line never becomes annoying.  It’s made clear that he has a limited vocabulary through no fault of his own, so him saying “I am Groot” all the time is understandable.
Guardians of the Galaxy does what Fant4stic Four couldn’t achieve; it establishes Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot as a family unit.  They bicker and argue without bailing on each other.  They disagree, but begrugingly come to necessary compromises.  There’s a dynamic within the group.  They have a rapport with one another.  What’s interesting is that the five characters start out using each other, but as a journey goes on, their selfish agendas are gradually replaced with sincere loyalty and a sense that sticking together is essential for their survival.  Actually, this movie depicts how everything falls apart when people come together for self-serving reasons, and that the greater good can be accomplished once those same people put aside personal gain.
C.S. Lewis once said, “How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been; how gloriously different are the saints.”  This movie is a great example of that.  The villains, Thanos, Ronan and Nebula have the same demeanor and are all self-centered.  Meanwhile, Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot all have distinct personalities and different backstories, yet come together for the same cause.
Yes, I love the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack.  I’ve listen to “Hooked on a Feeling,” “Cherry Bomb” and “Come and Get Your Love” about a dozen times. Making Peter Quill/Starlord a lover of 80’s rock music was a brilliant way to incorporate the songs into the film.

The Misses
Why did it take four viewings for me to like Guardians of the Galaxy?  Well, for one, you almost have to watch it a second time because the plot gets convoluted, especially with its space talk and technobabble.  I found myself caring more about the characters than the actual conflict.  Despite all the emphasis placed on the Inifinity Stone thingamajig, the object itself doesn’t have much presence.  I kept forgetting that the Infinity Stone was even a thing unless characters brought it up via expositional dialogue.
Am I the only one getting sick of weak villains?  I understand that no one is born evil, but come on, screenwriters, step up your game when it comes to writing villains!  Mind you, the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is handled by the same people who gave us the entertaining, yet intimidating Loki (Thor’s brother).  Loki is the best comedic villain that I’ve seen in a while, so I know that Marvel Studios is capable of bringing great villains to the big screen.  As for Guardians, Ronan the Accuser is the reason why I didn’t care for the story’s conflict.  The script tries to make him a narrow-minded traditionalist, but that arch goes nowhere.  His rivalry with Thanos is partially realized.  Two villains who don’t like each other is an interesting concept, but the movie doesn’t execute it very well. Ronan himself is just not very interesting.  His design is passable and the actor portraying him is fine, but the character never frightened me.  How am I supposed to be concerned about the safety of the protagonist(s) if the villain isn’t an intimidating threat?
Finally, there is one thing I should mention.  The movie opens with a hospital scene in which young Peter Quill says good-bye to his dying mother.  This scene might be uncomfortable for those who have lost a family member (specifically a mother or grandmother) recently.  The scene is only a few minutes long, but I thought I’d give you all a heads-up.

Honestly, I love this movie because of the five titular Guardians.  Their evolution from selfish outcasts to a family unit that would go through Hell and back for each other is executed wonderfully.  Other than the heartwrenching opening scene, the majority of the movie is an exciting action comedy with heart and humor.

Saint Ignatius of Loyala, pray for us.