All 21 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, ranked (Commentary)

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ho will live? Who will die? Who will be resurrected? How will our heroes defeat Thanos? Big questions are on the minds of Marvel Cinematic Universe fans heading into the 22nd outing, “Avengers: Endgame,” which will hit theaters Friday, April 26. It’s not the end of the saga by any means (trailers for July’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” are already out, so I have a good feeling about Spidey’s fortunes), but it’s definitely the end of an era as some of the original Avengers – such as Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America – might be calling it quits with this film, one way or another.

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‘Buffy’ flashback: Season 11 (2016-17) (Comic book review)

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ust as “The X-Files” returned for shorter TV seasons in recent years, the “Buffy” comics take a crack at the miniseries format in Season 11, which is only 12 issues long, compared to at least 25 in the previous three seasons. On one hand, important side stories are missing within the overall arc of the US government’s smackdown of the supernatural population. On the other hand, Buffy shines this season – partly affirming superhero traits that have always been there, but also achieving milestones that would’ve been unthinkable in past seasons.

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Mamet Monday: Stellar cast elevates urban fantasy of ‘Redbelt’ (2008), where ‘there’s always a way out’ (Movie review)

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or a long stretch, “Redbelt” (2008) employs Chiwetel Ejiofor and a stellar cast doing strong work in service to a story that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. But writer-director David Mamet is planting seeds for a stronger back half where most of it comes together in an unusual mix of Mametian con-job plot and martial-arts fight film. The finished product is still a bizarre blend that makes me question if it’s worth the 1 hour and 40 minutes, but Ejiofor – as big-city jujitsu instructor Mike Terry – ultimately shapes “Redbelt” into a fable about finding a way out of the direst circumstances through sheer training and skill.

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Jonah Hill creates beautifully ugly, sometimes harrowing time capsule of the ‘mid90s’ (Movie review)

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he brilliance of “mid90s” (2018), now available on Amazon Prime, is in the details. Writer-director Jonah Hill, known for his comedic acting roles, grew up in this time, and he has a great ear for the way teenagers talked – and the way coolness was the only currency that mattered. Watched from the perspective of 2019, the film makes us think about how the maturation of teen culture has benefited the most vulnerable kids, but also how mid-’90s teens were toughened up by the casual meanness around them.

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‘Angel’ flashback: ‘Monolith’ (2004) (Book review)

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ohn Passarella completes a solid three-for-three among Buffyverse novels with “Angel: Monolith” (June 2004). As with “Buffy: Ghoul Trouble” (2000) and “Angel: Avatar” (2001), this is a rock-solid effort with on-point characterization, accurate continuity, a decent sense of mystery and committed action writing. It doesn’t offer any plot surprises, which is why it doesn’t rise to the level of elite Buffyverse novels, but it’s completely respectable.

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‘Buffy’ flashback: ‘The High School Years’ (2017) (Comic book reviews)

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n my review of the first two installments of “Buffy: The High School Years” – “Freaks and Geeks” and “Glutton for Punishment” (both from 2016) – I noted that they seemed to be aimed at the youngest theoretical fan. The stories both center on Buffy’s school-Slaying conflict and have simple resolutions; if one wanted to be generous, they almost matched the shallowest episodes of Season 1 in depth.

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Throwback Thursday: Lawrence and Smith continue to elevate the material in funnier, stupider ‘Bad Boys II’ (2003) (Movie review)

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he most fun-to-watch (and possibly the most fun-to-make) parts of “Bad Boys” (1995) are the action sequences, and that’s again the case in the sequel. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that returning director Michael Bay and the four writers of “Bad Boys II” (2003) came up with action sequences first, then strung a loose screenplay around them.

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Marvel Cinematic Universe: All 13 episodes of ‘The Punisher’ Season 2, ranked (TV review)

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he Punisher” Season 2 (January, Netflix) might be the most violent season of TV I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t be surprised if the budget listed fake blood and wound makeup as the biggest expense. Some episodes are bleak enough to affect my overall mood for the next day. Still, while the usual Netflix Marvel Cinematic Universe problem of slow pacing is present in the middle episodes, this is overall solid serial storytelling.

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‘Glass’ is overlong, but it’s great to spend more time in the ‘Unbreakable’ universe (Movie review)

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lass,” now available for home viewing, is an excuse to spend more time in the universe of “Unbreakable” (2000) and “Split” (2017), and I like that universe, so I can’t complain too much. On the special edition DVD of “Unbreakable,” writer-director M. Night Shyamalan says he wrote a three-act story but decided to use only the first act for that film because Acts II and III didn’t engage him as much as David Dunn’s (Bruce Willis) superhero origin story.

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‘Angel & Faith’ flashback: Season 10, Issues 21-25 (2015-16) (Comic book reviews)

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ngel & Faith” wraps Season 10 with the five-part “A Tale of Two Families” (Issues 21-25, December 2015-April 2016), which affirms the themes I’ve remarked on in previous posts. A makeshift family has formed around Angel in Magic Town; they are voluntarily drawn to him based on the good example he sets. This contrasts with Archaeus, who recruits vampire minions with the promise of power.

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