Tag: civil war

Civil War: Ranking the MCU Movies

You’ve heard about them, like it or not. The Marvel film franchise. MCU. With Captain America: Civil War serving up its first teaser, I wanted to present my ranking of the Marvel flicks up to date.

With that being said, it’s time to rank the other Marvel Cinematic Universe film series. I am not talking about the Spider Man films or the old Hulk film. I am swinging via the Thor hammer at the recent batch of films that started with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man back in 2008 and most recently produced Guardians of the Galaxy last August. So let’s see which films are awesome, which are great, good, okay or as Thor himself would said, “tiny”.

12.) Thor: A Dark World

I wasn’t impressed with this second solo act with Hemsworth’s tortured demi god mission. To me, he is the weakest Avenger and this sequel proved that he needs the group to make a true impact. You basically have him and Loki teaming up(that won’t last) and going up against another powerful baddie that will get extinguished. What was so fresh about the first Thor(fish out of water hero tale on Earth) gets forgotten here and a regular action superhero mashup takes place. Thor is the least interesting Avenger and this film showed it. It wasn’t a bad film but it was kind of tiny compared to the other films.


11.) The Incredible Hulk

Sure, Norton did a lot better of a job as Banner than Eric Bana(rough get up from the start) and the movie captured a tiny more of the idea of the monster’s origin, but once Mark Ruffalo blew our minds in Avengers it’s quite silly to think of anyone else as The Hulk. It may have served more juice to the idea that this character is much better in smaller doses. While it had good action, a solid pace, a decent end fight and wrap up Stark tease at the end, this Hulk is nothing compared to the one and only Ruff-Hulk. Again, it’s hard to find a bad film in this set, but this one vanishes from my memory quick when it’s mentioned.


10.) Thor

You may see that I am not the biggest solo Thor movie fan here and I stand by it. While better than the sequel and having some good moments between Thor and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and some unexpected humor in the beginning, I don’t think on this film and remember any game changing moments. It’s just a standard character introduction piece(let’s get Hemsworth into the mix and make a movie around it). Granted, Hemsworth is great here and is a better actor than given credit for, but the story around him(compared to the other heroes here) is kind of trite. The whole “I am a god thing and can swing a very heavy hammer and look amazing doing it” gets old quick. The fish out of water parts of the film are great and it’s never a waste of time to see Natalie Portman.


9.) Iron Man 2

I was a bigger fan of the sequel than most were because I thought it was a cool old school action film and I loved Mickey Rourke’s bad guy so much that he made me forget about Sam Rockwell’s character. Yes, the reshoots and stress from director Jon Favreau does show in the film but I dug it. Having a three year old who is tearing into Marvel’s movie also helps because I’ve recently watched this movie at least ten times. I love the opening reel of Stark’s speech playing as Rourke’s Ivan makes his suit. I love the race car track showdown and the introduction of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. Don Cheadle’s entrance as Rhodes didn’t make me feel any better about Terrence Howard’s departure, but he grew on me a bit as the film proceeded. My favorite scene was Howard Stark(the classy John Slattery playing the role here) sending that private message to Tony and that made him create the element that saved him. Iron Man 2 was flawed(too many baddies and subplot) but it was a thoroughly enjoyable and rewatchable flick. Also, the interrogation scene between Downey Jr. and Rourke was a lighter faster version of The Joker and Batman. The coolness of this flick does survive on the easy going charm and rock star talents of RDJ though. The man is a genius.

8.) Avengers: Age of Ultron

The more I thought about this film, the more it rubbed the wrong way. Maybe it was James Spader’s dull and ineffective Ultron. Maybe it was the overlong action sequences or the need to duplicate or top Avengers. The story was imbalanced and weighty at the end of the running time. For all the hype it got leading up to May, the end result was tiring. It is watchable, entertaining but after a few viewings, just decent. That’s it.


7.) Guardians of the Galaxy

Everybody else went nuts on this film, but all I saw was a light cool funny Marvel film that had a great soundtrack at first viewing. After a few replays, I liked it more and more. The wise crack touch of  Chris Pratt was good and Vin Diesel did more with one line than most could do with 20. Danny Bautista’s beast Drax with his eccentric vocabulary and deadly touch worked. The whole idea of this movie being wicked great never struck me but it had a perfect tone. I didn’t finish it and feel the need to write a 3,000 word essay on it(I did that with Pacino and DeNiro’s Heat). I thought the bad guy was terrible. The whole time he can take out our heroes but doesn’t and Bautista’s character CAN’T beat him in a fight and keeps trying.  Bradley Cooper’s Rocket was hilarious and in the end, I didn’t just want to be Groot…I wanted more Groot.


6.) Captain America: First Avenger

While I wasn’t as crazy about Red Skull as a villain, I loved the way Hugo Weaving played him and Chris Evans did some truly good work here as Steve Rogers before he came magnificent. It was the scenes before he became Captain that really allowed me to love his character later. “I’m just a kid from New Jersey” never got old and by the end, when he throws himself, the cube and the jet into the ocean only to wake up decades later without the love of his life, you feel his pain because Evans created that in the first hour. Real breakthrough for Evans. The film is a little long but brilliantly realized. Rodgers is the red, white and blue hero but Evans always gives him an uncertain edge. It started here.


5.) Ant-Man

I admit. The mere mention of this film at first wasn’t exciting but Paul Rudd knocked this shit out of the park. Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Corey Stoll, and Bobby Cannvale rounded out a perfect cast. Director Peyton Reed delivered a similar dose of Marvel versatility that the first Iron Man and GOTG were. Easy going yet potent fun. Rudd’s interaction with Anthony Mackie’s Falcon couldn’t have teased Civil War better. Give me more. You’ll never look at an ant the same way again.


4.) Iron Man 3

People hated the card shark switch that director Shane Black did with the Mandarin here, but I loved the changeup. Tell me you expected that to happen when Ben Kingsley’s hapless drunk actor turned terrorist spewing bad guy came out of the bathroom. Black’s light touch mirrored Favreau’s original film method of madness, and I liked Guy Pearce and James Badge Dale’s bad guy combo and the coming out badass femme fatale party of Gwyneth Paltrow enjoyed at the end. This film carried such an effortless cool pace that I didn’t want the film to end but it wrapped up the last solo journey of Stark quite well and sets up Avengers 2 in the process. The greatest strength of Kevin Feige and Marvel is connecting all these films seamlessly and mixing in the stories without overstepping. It’s confidence. I am glad they supported Black’s idea to throw a change at the fans. Iron Man 3 was strong.


3.) Iron Man

The original stake in the sand by Marvel is still a cool ride seven years later. Favreau’s plea to bring in Downey Jr. being looked on with risky stress but now looking like a stroke of genius. All of it still plays well today, especially Stark’s transformation in the desert when he sees up close and personal the destruction his weapons can do. The way Stark became this guy who wanted to better himself by burning up his past and starting something new was so well done. Downey Jr. is at the heart of the greatness, putting exactly the right amount of cynical charm and bravado in the role that people debated for so many years. Howard’s work as Rhodes is bittersweet because he was good effortless and had great rapport with RDJ. Jeff Bridges Obadiah was well rendered, as was Paltrow’s first piece of work as Potts. There’s something nostalgic about Iron Man. It was the beginning and always will carry a certain juicy flow with its experience. Before the Avengers Assemble could happen, Tony Stark had to light the match.


2.) Captain America: Winter Soldier

Talk about combining real life world weary issues and mixing in the Marvel madness. Every time I watched Winter Soldier, it got better. The transformation of Bucky into the Winter Soldier that changes our titular hero was the key ingredient in this madness. Sebastian Stan’s work is astounding and he does it with barely any dialogue. Just looks, action and moves. Frank Grillo’s Brock Rumlow also got a much needed tease here before his deadly Crossbones heats up Civil War.  Anthony Mackie’s Falcon was also a nice light touch to the proceedings, as were Scarlett and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury(who always gets just the right amount of screen time per appearance). The scenes near the end between Stan and Evans, as two best friends facing off, is heartbreaking and thrilling. Winter Soldier may go down as the most complete Marvel film. Maybe.


1.) Avengers

That’s right. The moment where the Avengers Assemble kicked off.  Joss Whedon’s ability to take all these misfit toys, toss them together and spin them into this kickass, poignant and thrilling combo of heroic danger was such a miraculous feat. I don’t think any other director could have blended the personalities and actions of these heroes as well as he did. He got the best of Thor and brought out the Hulk we all knew was there in Ruffalo’s rendition. There isn’t one part of this movie that feels flat and it can be consumed and savored well today with the right amount of surround sound. It plays like a greatest hit and it’s only three years old. The shot towards the end during the huge NYC battle where the camera whips around to all our Avengers fighting is still a piece of art. Avengers is going to be money decades from now and that makes the expectations for this week’s Age of Ultron fly through the roof with ease.

That’s my list. What is yours. Civil War may end up being #1 in the end.

“That one guy” is Frank Grillo: Badass Purger of Kingdom

“It was never about the Shakespeare of it all or the fear of it all. It was about playing these cool characters. Oddly enough, as I have gotten older, I have gotten to do just that. I don’t know how long it is going to last, but I’m grateful that I got the opportunity to do this.”-Frank Grillo

When I think of Frank Grillo, I think of pure authenticity. Someone that I see on screen and instantly believe in and see as a character worth following down the darkest of roads. After all, the job of an actor is to convince the viewer that the person you see could be real and out there existing among the lot of real souls. It’s imitation via realization and takes skill. When I watch Grillo work, I get that. You may know him as “that one guy” but you will soon know him as Frank Grillo, the most authentic tough guy in the world of entertainment.

Grillo has stared down heavyweights on the big screen and held his own. He locked horns with Liam Neeson in Joe Carnahan’s underrated wolves/wilderness thriller The Grey. He fought British action star Jason Statham in Homefront. He coached Joel Edgerton to fight Tom Hardy in Warrior, an MMA cult classic. He stuck his boot heel into Chris Evans in Captain America: Winter Soldier and will do so again in May in the much anticipated Captain America: Civil War.

Grillo’s biggest performance to date and dream role has come on television in Direct TV’s hit show, Kingdom, playing Alvey Kulina, the ex-MMA star and owner of Navy Street, a place where his sons fight and a legion of fighters wage war within themselves. Playing an old lion still trying to stay in the game and keep the scent of blood within a sniff, Alvey finds a new life in the sport when his old friend Ryan Wheeler(Matt Lauria) gets out of prison and gets back in the fight game. When I asked Creator/Executive Producer Byron Balasco about Grillo, he said Grillo was the key to getting the show rolling. “When Frank is on set, there isn’t a false note. It doesn’t feel like work. It feels natural.”

It helps that for the past 25 years, Grillo has been a fighter. He trains like one 365 days a year with real boxing trainers. This Alvey Kulina diet is something Frank has worn on his shoulders for years and it keeps him going today. When he isn’t on set for a film, Grillo trains. He’s hitting something, talking about hitting something or planning a train. You hang a bag in the middle of an endangered war torn city, and Frank will lace up and destroy some leather. It’s in his DNA. What 95 percent of actors have to learn, Frank has running through his veins. He is always a week out of fighting shape.

“That is what I am attracted to. Damaged guys. I know what I can do and what I can’t do. Agents will ask me about a role and I will say, I don’t want to do that. I am not the actor who gets a role and has to do it different. I don’t need to stretch my muscles.”

Grillo calls on many past roles to properly put Kulina together but he pulled the most thread from Warrior, where he played Frank Campana, the trainer who turned Edgerton’s teacher into a world class fighter. That was the role that got Hollywood’s notice. He hasn’t left their door step since.

The notice went on high alert when he stood toe to toe with Evans in Winter Soldier. In 2016, Grillo returns as Marvel bad news dispenser Brock Rumlow aka Crossbones. He will cause a few storms in the lives of cinema’s precious Avengers, most notably Evans Red, White and Blue hero. When asked about fighting Grillo on set, Evans simply said Grillo punches hard. That’s what Grillo does in every role.

Take End of Watch, a superb David Ayer cop drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. Grillo gets maybe five scenes and 10-12 screen minutes. There is a scene halfway through where Grillo tells a group of Marines about a partner taking a bullet for his Sergeant years ago. With a few lines and the conviction of a semi truck plowing down an ice road, Grillo lays into the audience. When I left the theater, I couldn’t get that scene out of my head. A movie full of greatness left me wondering where that sergeant goes from there. Grillo does that a lot.

Grillo stole Warrior from Edgerton and Hardy, making one person call up Grillo anonymously for a possible training session which the actor had to respectfully turn down. He’s that good. His work onscreen inspires real fighters to give it one last shot.

“When I tell you that the only place in life where I don’t have anxiety is in the gym when I box or when I grapple, I’m not lying.  I don’t go out on the streets and start fights but I love combat. I love fighting as an art.”

You want a full order of Grillo? Watch Purge: Anarchy, a movie few critics had high hopes for but one that scored better reviews than the original film due to Grillo giving it an extra dose of testosterone hero medicine. His street Avenger, Leo Barnes, reminded me of an unofficial take on The Punisher Frank Castle. A man out on a mission to avenge his family no matter what happens. The movie was so well received that it has spawned a third film, which just wrapped up filming in Rhode Island. It is set for release in the summer of 2016. After scrapping for years as a hard working actor taking what Hollywood gave him, Grillo is starting to call the shots and will star in two sequels as a top bill in the same year.

At the same time, he headlines Kingdom, a show that was so well received that Direct TV called for two seasons after the pilot aired a year ago. I call that the Grillo effect. It’s also known as hard work paid off.

Grillo will also be showing up in Akiva Goldsman’s latest, Stephanie, as well as taking on martial arts action star and The Raid maestro Iko Uwais, a man who moves so fast cameras have a hard time catching up to him.

Off the screen, Grillo is a prince, living the good life with his wife of 15 years, Wendy Moniz Grillo and three boys. He connects with fans through Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. He tweets along with fans during Kingdom. An actor’s job may be done when the finished product hits the screen, but Grillo takes it a step further and shows his appreciation. Back in November of 2013, Grillo granted me an interview via Twitter Direct Message. Later on, we talked on the phone about where life had taken him. Instead of talking about himself nonstop, he appreciated me taking the time to write about him.

With Frank, there is zero vanity. Just toughness and determination. He cares and shows it every day through his preparation, drive and need to quench the thirst of this newfound stardom.

When I asked Frank in July of 2014 about what he would tell an aspiring young actor who may or may not soldier on with the odds against him, he didn’t hesitate.

“There are no rules when it comes to anything. What roles you are able to get. As soon as you put limitations on yourself, you are going to have those limitations. If you just listen to conventional wisdom, you are (finished). You go out there and you believe in yourself and you work hard. I am a testament to that.”

Grillo has been working hard since his first role in the movies back in 1993, a small forgettable flick called Deadly Rivals. He is a fighter in more ways than merely physical. Grillo is a fighter in the walk of life and someone worth rooting for when you see him killing it on screen. He may not win an Oscar or be mentioned beside the likes of Denzel Washington or Daniel Day Lewis, but not everyone comes to Hollywood to win shiny trophies. Some guys just want to work, enthrall and thrill the audience.

At the age of 52 years young, Frank Grillo is a force to reckon with in the world of entertainment. Whether it’s on TV coaching Nick Jonas or on the big screen telling Captain America doom follows him around, Grillo is there with his fists up ready for action. How can you not get a kick out of that? He isn’t a gimmick. Grillo is flesh, bones and grit personified.

Long may you run, Frank. I’ll be watching and so will millions of others.

Paul Rudd makes light “Ant-Man” tick

Scott-Lang-Paul-Rudd-Steals-Ant-ManCinema’s first truly family friendly superhero is super tiny, and his name is Scott. If there is one clear reason why Marvel’s latest cinematic party guest Ant-Manworks, it’s the presence of Paul Rudd, the easy to like comedy star next door.

He’s relatable. While it’s highly unlikely you’ll run into Thor or Iron Man in a grocery store, you might bump into a guy like Rudd. His ability to slip into Scott Lang’s skin makes this light as a feather summer delight go down smooth if not blow people away.

The setup is easy to get comfortable with. Lang is a thief who can’t stay out of trouble and comes into the sight of Dr. Hank Pym(Michael Douglas), a man who may know a thing or two about shrinking a man down to the size of an ant to fight crime. When Pym’s deranged protege tries to sell the science to Hydra(remember those bad dudes from Captain America: Winter Soldier), Pym calls on the ordinary Scott to help him save the day. Our hero also has a daughter he wants to see more. It’s all familiar so just roll with it. (more…)