Summer of Cinema: Black Widow

The Widows and their master, Dreykov (Ray Winstone) has a strong relevance to Hollywood after the MeToo Movement and the equality that women in the industry have been working towards since cinema began. Dreykov takes the free will and childhoods of these girls and turns them into killing machines. The big reveal of the film is the identity of Taskmaster. An assassin with the ability to copy any fighting style they see and beat an opponent with their own moves. When Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) is revealed as Dreykov’s daughter who Natasha thought she had killed before defecting to join S.H.I.E.L.D, it shows the lengths that Dreykov will go to for power. Changing the character from male to female for the film, gave an added element to the female power as the mysterious villain is often male.

Dear Reader,

I, like many others have been waiting for this film for over a year. Marvel fans have had some amazing TV shows to keep us entertained in 2021, but when the time came for Black Widow, I had to see the first female Avenger get her due. In some ways, it has been much longer than a year waiting for this film. The friend who organised my group outing has been anticipating since Black Widow’s debut in Iron Man 2 (2010). Natasha Romanoff has always been a mystery. We have seen a little of her back story in the Red Room, training to be an assassin but how did she really become Black Widow and how did she join S.H.I.E.L.D?

I saw this film at a Vue Extreme screening in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush, London so I definitely got the full effect. The screen was massive and the audience was packed for a Friday afternoon. I went with a group of friends and mutual friends and despite not everyone being a Marvel geek, we all enjoyed seeing Black Widow get her moment to shine.

There’s so much to dissect within the film including amazing aerial fight sequences, powerful female characters, an unexpected family drama aspect, humorous squabbling and the long awaited Budapest story.

I will start first with the characters. We have met Natasha Romanoff in several Marvel films as different versions of herself. There was Natalie Rushman in Iron Man 2 and her true name, Natalia Alianova Romanova was revealed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Despite an appearance in eight other Marvel films, Black Widow has always kept her cards close to her chest in terms of her origin story; we have only been given little bits and pieces.

In Black Widow, we find Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) on the run from the government after the events of Captain America: Civil War. She expertly evades Secretary Ross (William Hurt) and ends up in Norway. She still has her trademark red hair but we know that at some point she will dye it blonde for her appearance in Avengers: Infinity War.

We also learn of Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), a Black Widow agent on mission in Morocco. After exposure to a chemical, Yelena wakes up from mind control and goes rogue. Natasha finds her in Budapest and after trying to kill each other, the two remember their past as sisters in America.

Natasha and Yelena were raised as sisters for three years with the Red Guardian – Alexei (David Harbour) and Melina (Rachel Weisz) – a former Widow posing as their parents. The first sequence shows their life together and then suddenly having to leave sleepy Ohio for Russia to train in the Red Room.

When Natasha learns that the Red Room still exists and girls are still being trained as assassins, she agrees to help Yelena take it down. They team up with Alexei and Melina once again who help them find the Red Room. There is a big focus on aerial stunts in this film which is something Marvel loves to dabble in with its flying heroes such as Falcon, Iron Man, Vision and War Machine but we have not seen this so much with Natasha. There is the small airplane sequence where Alexei tries to fend off the police from the wing of the plane; the helicopter jailbreak in Russia with Yelena flying it and Natasha swinging from a cable and of course, the fight sequence when everything falls after the Red Room is blown up.

The Widows and their master, Dreykov (Ray Winstone) has strong relevance in Hollywood after the MeToo Movement and the equality that women in the industry have been working towards since cinema began. Dreykov takes the free will and childhoods of these girls and turns them into killing machines. The big reveal of the film is the identity of Taskmaster. An assassin with the ability to copy any fighting style they see and beat an opponent with their own moves. When Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) is revealed as Dreykov’s daughter who Natasha thought she had killed before defecting to join S.H.I.E.L.D; it shows the lengths that Dreykov will go to for power. Changing the character from male to female for the film gave an added element to the female power as the mysterious villain is often male.

When Natasha and Yelena sit down for dinner with Alexei and Melina, family dynamics that had been forgotten for 20 years come into play with Melina criticising Natasha’s posture and Alexei telling the women to listen to their ‘mother.’ The humour and banter between the four characters demonstrates the closeness they once shared. They are able to fall back into familiar roles.

An element of the film that fans have been waiting for is the story behind what happened in Budapest with Natasha and Clint Barton. It started as a throwaway line in Avengers (2012) but has become a key part of Natasha’s story. When she finds Yelena in Budapest at a safe house, she recounts meeting Clint and him helping her avoid being recalled to the Red Room. We get details such as hiding in an air duct in the Metro for two days and using the same safe house where Natasha and Yelena meet. This is evidenced by arrow holes in the wall. Natasha mentioned before that Clint was sent to kill her but instead gave her a chance to join a different side. Her accidental killing (or so she thought) of Dreykov’s daughter was her proof that she had separated herself from Dreykov and the Widows.

Overall, this film was entertaining and a welcome return for Marvel at the cinema. It was funnier than I expected whilst still maintaining a serious plot and a worthy adversary to destroy. The aerial stunt at the end was like nothing I had seen in a Marvel outing or elsewhere and was amazing to see on a big screen. If you have been waiting to return to the cinema, definitely make this film your first one back.

I give this film 5/5.

Happy Watching,


My culture fix – Inspired by The Times

My favourite author or book
Simon James Green writes great gay YA novels that I lap up.
Beauty Sleep is a recent favourite along with Red White and Royal Blue.

The book I’m reading

Any Way The Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell. The third in the trilogy and it has recently come out. My edition has a great pink flowered edge. Lovely. I am lapping up the book but it is over 500 pages. Excited for the conclusion of beloved characters.

The book I wish I had written
Solitaire by Alice Oseman. The feelings and emotions of the main character spoke to me in such a way that it could have come from my own brain. I wish I had the talents to produce something as intimate and eviscerating.

The book I couldn’t finish
Dracula. Studied at school but I never made it past chapter 1. Thank goodness for the Internet.

The book I’m ashamed I haven’t read

To Kill A Mockingbird or Normal People. Both culturally significant and talked about. I did see the show of Normal People.

My favourite film
The Day After Tomorrow
An unusual favourite but shows my love for New York City and natural disaster films. I love the way people band together under extraordinary circumstances. I get a rush when this happens so chase the feeling on film and in life. I felt a thrill every time the fire alarm went off at university in the middle of the night or waiting for a teacher to turn up to a lesson. I am forever seeking this feeling.

My favourite play
I am more of a musical gal but I did enjoy the National Theatre Live production of Fleabag. I saw at the cinema and I can see why Phoebe Waller-Bridge launched her career off this one-woman show.

The box set I’m hooked on
Elité was a recent binge. I have a new thing for foreign language Netflix shows. I am also currently watching Modern Family and The Bold Type.

My favourite TV series
I loved The Wilds on Amazon Prime. I find myself drifting back to The Office along with Lost and Brooklyn 99.

My favourite piece of music
Sour by Olivia Rodrigo has been the only music on my radar lately. In particular brutal and jealousy, jealousy convey deep emotions. Such strong lyrics for someone so young.

The last film that made me cry
Black Widow. The thrill of seeing it in the cinema in London on a massive screen with some dear friends moved me to tears. The culmination of female superheroes and the journey for equality along with the resurrection of Natasha Romanoff. Albeit in a flashback.

The lyric I’d wish I’d written
Who I am if not exploited – brutal
I lost my mind, I spent the night, crying on the floor of my bathroom. You’re so unaffected I really don’t get it. – good 4 u.

Both from Sour and both speak to me.

The instrument I play
Piano and previously violin.

The instrument I wish I’d learnt
Guitar. Always looks so cool and sexy whenever someone can rock a song on the guitar. Think John Lennon or Brian May.

If I could own one painting
Anything by Mondrian or Jack Vettriano for my mum as he is her favourite artist.

The place I feel happiest
With my parents in their apartment. Especially in summer.

The movie I’m looking forward to
Dune with Timothée Chalamet. I would watch him do anything.

I wasted an evening watching…
The Euros final with England and Italy. Only the third football match I had ever seen and I watched it in case we won. Felt like a let down after the football did not come home as was promised.

The film I walked out on
I’ve never left the cinema but I did want to when seeing The House that Jack Built at Cannes 2018. Very disturbing by Lars Von Trier.

My guiltiest cultural pleasure
Queer as Folk US. An old show from 2000 but it got me through feeling under the weather earlier this year and inspired a collection of blog posts. It does have questionable ethics and depictions of the gay community but I love the characters and the plots so much.

Love Island.

The Wilds on Amazon. How is everyone not talking about this show?

10 Years of Marvel: Infinity War Review and My Favourite Marvel Films

Hello readers,

I know Infinity War came out a while ago but as I want to do a post full of spoilers I was waiting until hopefully most people have seen it.

In this post, I’m going to talk about the last 10 years of Marvel and how I became a fan.

Infinity War

Image result for infinity war poster

This is the film that took 10 years and 18 films to make. The culmination of the Marvel story. I went to see the film on the opening night and really enjoyed it. Not only was it a great story full of twists and turns, it had shocking and funny parts as well. One minute, I was close to crying, the next laughing.

Some audiences and critics tend to dismiss comic book / superhero films but they are actually full of difficult themes: death, loss of loved ones, relationship struggles, betrayal, loss of identity, depression and of course, the villains.

Infinity War is essentially all the Marvel characters coming together to stop Thanos who is trying to collect all the Infinity Stones and destroy the universe. Sounds simple, but the interactions between The Avengers, Guardians and Doctor Strange add new dimensions to the story we haven’t seen before. Who knew Rocket and Thor would get along so well, or Shuri and Banner?

Tony Stark meeting Doctor Strange and Star Lord were some of my favourite moments along with Okoye, Black Widow and Scarlet Witch working together in the end battle.

The personal battle Banner had with the Hulk was a funny on going joke as was the conflict between Thor and Star-Lord.

The most shocking moments for me were Loki’s sudden death, Gamora being thrown off the cliff and Vision’s revival and second death by Thanos and of course when half of them disappeared.

My theory is that they are all in an alternate dimension and will all return safe and sound. I also hope that Gamora returns but I don’t have high hopes for Loki or Vision.

The cast is very long so I will just list the top 20 or so characters below:

  • Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/ Iron Man
  • Chris Hemsworth as Thor
  • Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner / Hulk
  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America / Nomad
  • Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
  • Josh Brolin as Thanos
  • Don Cheadle as James Rhodes / Rhodey / War Machine
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange / Doctor Strange
  • Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man
  • Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther
  • Chris Pratt as Peter Quill / Star-Lord
  • Zoe Saldana as Gamora
  • Paul Bettany as Vision
  • Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch
  • Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon
  • Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier
  • Tom Hiddleston as Loki
  • Karen Gillan as Nebula
  • Letitia Wright as Shuri
  • Danai Gurira as Okoye
  • Dave Bautista as Drax
  • Pom Klementieff as Mantis
  • Benedict Wong as Wong
  • Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket
  • Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot

I give Infinity War 5/5.

My Favourite Marvel Films

Here are my top Marvel films, a couple of them I have only seen a few times as they are quite new, such as Black Panther and Thor Ragnarok but the others I have seen about four or five times and I think they are all amazing films.

The first Marvel film I saw was Iron Man around age 13. I was in awe of Robert Downey Jr. and his character, Tony Stark. I immediately loved the film. The second one was even better. I then branched out into the Avengers, Captain America and the Guardians of the Galaxy. I eventually watched every Marvel film and since Captain America: Civil War I have seen every new film in the cinema. Before Marvel Studios, I had seen the original X-Men trilogy and loved those too.

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Don Cheadle, Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, and Scarlett Johansson in Iron Man 2 (2010)

This film has many great things about it: Formula 1, War Machine, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell and of course, Robert Downey Jr. I think the plot is good to follow, shows how people can become villains at the hand of heroes and why mankind deserves saving. It is also a film I watch if I need cheering up or a good laugh.

The main cast are

  • Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark / Iron Man
  • Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts
  • Don Cheadle as James Rhodes / Rhodey / War Machine
  • Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman / Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
  • Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer
  • Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
  • Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson
  • Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan
  • Paul Bettany as the voice of JARVIS

Overall I give Iron Man 2 5/5.

Captain America: Civil War

Don Cheadle, Robert Downey Jr., Paul Bettany, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman, and Sebastian Stan in Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Many people said that this film feels like an Avengers film as most of the Avengers are featured but the core focus is on Captain America trying to protect his friend Bucky Barnes so I feel that it is right to call this a Captain America film.

I think the best lines go to Hawkeye in this one such as ‘I’ve been retired five minutes’ ; ‘I was gonna take the kids water skiing’.

Paul Rudd is also a stand out as Ant-Man especially when he meets Team Cap.

This film is more about politics than the Avengers films as were the other two Captain America films. The Government gets involved with detaining Bucky and wants the Avengers to sign the Accords to only ‘avenge’ when the UN says so.

The villain of the film, Helmut Zemo whose family were killed in Sokovia (in the last Avengers film in 2015) is trying to reactivate the Winter Soldier as revenge, an emotion we can all relate to.

The scene where it is revealed that Bucky as the Winter Soldier killed Tony’s parents was heart-breaking and the subsequent fight where Steve then gives up his shield feels very much like the end of the Avengers.

Peggy Carter’s funeral, an essential plot point, also struck a chord with me as a fan of the Agent Carter series and the first Captain America film.

In this film, we first meet Black Panther and Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU for short)

I like the drama and action scenes in this film with many amazing stunts and fights and also comic timing by Robert Downey Jr., Jeremy Renner, Tom Holland, Anthony Mackie and the others.

The main cast for this film is similar to Infinity War but with a few missing:

  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America
  • Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man
  • Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
  • Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier
  • Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon
  • Don Cheadle as James Rhodes / Rhodey / War Machine
  • Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye
  • Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther
  • Paul Bettany as Vision
  • Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch
  • Paul Rudd as Scott Lang /Ant-Man
  • Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man
  • Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter / Agent 13
  • Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo

I give Captain America: Civil War 5/5.

Black Panther

Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Isaach De Bankolé, Martin Freeman, Michael B. Jordan, Andy Serkis, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong'o, Daniel Kaluuya, and Letitia Wright in Black Panther (2018)

I have already talked in depth about this film over on my Cannes blog post last week but here I will mention some of my favourite parts.

The scene and car chase sequence in South Korea was amazing and also had some great lines, especially by Okoye and Shuri.

The introduction of Erik at the art gallery was clever and shone a light on racism.

The reveal that T’Chaka killed his own brother and left Erik in Oakland was very shocking and added a new dimension to the story.

Some favourite lines are ‘What are those!’ by Shuri; ‘If you say one more word I’ll feed you to my children… I’m kidding, we’re vegetarians’ by M’Baku; ‘Is this Wakanda?, No it’s Kansas’ by Shuri; ‘Guns… So primitive!’ by Okoye; ‘Does she speak English?’ ‘When she wants to’ by Okoye; ‘Nakia… hi’ ‘You froze’ by T’Challa and Okoye.

The cast are listed below:

  • Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther
  • Michael B. Jordan as Erik Stevens / Killmonger
  • Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia
  • Danai Gurira as Okoye
  • Letita Wright as Shuri
  • Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi
  • Winston Duke as M’Baku
  • Martin Freeman as Everett Ross
  • Angela Bassett as Ramonda
  • Forest Whitaker as Zuri
  • Sterling K. Brown as N’Jobu
  • Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue

I give Black Panther 5/5.

Thor: Ragnarok

Jeff Goldblum, Anthony Hopkins, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Mark Ruffalo, Karl Urban, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, and Tessa Thompson in Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

The third in the Thor series, Thor: Ragnarok directed by Taika Waititi is one of the funniest Marvel films so far. There are so many little jokes paired with physical comedy and facial expressions from the cast that had me laughing out loud in the cinema. It is a refreshing new take on Thor and the comic book genre.

Chris Hemsworth who plays the protagonist Thor, stated that he was doubtful of doing a third Thor film until he read Waititi’s script. Thor was given a funny side, jokes were made by him and not just at his expense. The film still had a villain, Hela: Thor and Loki’s secret sister and darker themes such as betrayal, grief, depression, death but the comic timing and humour that Waititi injected into the film kept it light and entertaining for audiences.

Favourite parts of mine are Hulk and Thor’s interaction “Hulk like fire. Thor like water”; the ‘Get Help’ plan “A classic”, “I still hate it. It’s humiliating”, “Not for me, it’s not” and “This team of yours got a name?” “Yeah, it’s called the … uh… Revengers!”

Two hilarious characters that are new to the Marvel franchise in this film are the Grandmaster played brilliantly by Jeff Goldblum and Korg, a creature made out of rocks voiced by the director himself.

The surprise appearance of Doctor Strange as Thor and Loki look for Odin on Earth made a great scene.

The cast for Thor Ragnarok are:

  • Chris Hemsworth as Thor
  • Tom Hiddleston as Loki
  • Cate Blanchett as Hela
  • Mark Ruffalo as  Bruce Banner / Hulk
  • Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie
  • Idris Elba as Heimdall
  • Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster
  • Karl Urban as Skurge
  • Anthony Hopkins as Odin
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange / Doctor Strange
  • Taika Waititi as Korg (voice)
  • Rachel House as Topaz

I give Thor: Ragnarok 5/5.

The Avengers

The Avengers (2012)

The first group film, the Avengers remains one of my favourites even though the Marvel storyline has moved on significantly with Infinity War. The first outing of the six original Avengers contains key bonding moments between the six and Nick Fury. We also see the first major disaster on Earth that the Avengers fight as a team.

The actors and characters seem so young and innocent to me, the only thing they have to worry about is Loki and the Chitauri. However, Thanos is briefly introduced a plot point that won’t be answered for another six years.

This is also the introduction of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and Hulk: I think he does a great job and his character develops from a timid scientist to a fighter in Infinity War.

The Avengers don’t gel together right away, Iron Man and Thor’s fight at the beginning is one example as is Tony and Steve’s constant arguing. They do however come together to fight the enemy: the aliens.

Some of the best lines are “Have a care how you speak! Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard and he is my brother!” “He killed 80 people in two days” “He’s adopted”

“What’s the stat, Rogers?” “It seems to be powered by some sort of electricity!” “…well, you’re not wrong”

“This is just like Budapest all over again” “You and I remember Budapest very differently”

Essentially this is first film we see the Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes working together as a team and trusting each other.

The main cast are:

  • Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man
  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America
  • Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner / Hulk
  • Chris Hemsworth as Thor
  • Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
  • Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye
  • Tom Hiddleston as Loki
  • Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson
  • Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill
  • Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
  • Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts
  • Paul Bettany as Jarvis (voice)

I give the Avengers 4/5.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Sebastian Stan in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

To many people this is one of the best Marvel films to date. It has a different tone to the other films. Captain America becomes a fugitive and is on the run from SHIELD, the organisation that helped him find his feet in the 21st century. He works with fellow Avenger, Natasha Romanoff and new recruit, Sam Wilson to defeat the Winter Soldier and Hydra who have infiltrated SHIELD. The film has a strong undercover spy thriller vibe which is unique to other Marvel movies.

The introduction of Sam Wilson helps show Steve Rogers as a leader, Sam follows Steve on every command and it shows how experienced Steve and Natasha really are.

They also uncover an enemy Steve fought 70 years ago and foes who they thought were on their side. Overall a very entertaining film.

Some of the best lines include “41st floor! 41st!” “It’s not like they put the floor numbers on the outside of the building”

“It was not my first kiss since 1945. I’m 95; I’m not dead”

“Where did Captain America learn to steal a car?” “Nazi Germany. And we’re borrowing. Get your feet off the dash”

The excellent cast for this film are:

  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America
  • Scarlet Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
  • Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon
  • Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce
  • Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / the Winter Soldier
  • Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill
  • Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow
  • Maximilano Hernández as Jasper Sitwell
  • Emily VanCamp as Kate / Agent 13
  • Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter

I give Captain America: The Winter Soldier 5/5.

Thanks for reading and here’s to another 10 years of Marvel!

Happy Watching

Robyn 🙂