What do Martin Scorsese and I have in common? Beyond our success, I mean. Read on to find out.

Another clue, there was indeed a time, back in the olden days of maybe 2010 to 2012, when Marvel movies were an annual event that always tended to fall on the weekend of my birthday. That time, in the manner of Rust Cohle’s flat circle, passed.

This week’s movies are “Black Widow,” “Summer of Soul” and “Gunpowder Milkshake.” Warning: As with the vastly superior Millard at the Movies, these reviews contain minor plot spoilers.

”Black Widow,” (Pierre 123 State Theatre, Disney+)

Let’s get it out of the way. I take Scorsese’s side when it comes to Marvel movies. In my opinion, Marvel didn’t write an original screenplay — with the exception of “Black Panther” — between the releases of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Captain Marvel” and the fact that moviegoers still poured in to the tune of billions for what Marty rightly compared to mere theme park rides is something that tans my hide. I went into “Black Widow” skeptical but assured that a female-centric story would probably be best to jumpstart the Marvel writer’s room, and I was right. Despite its prequel status, “Black Widow” is packed with so much action that it makes the viewer ignore Natasha Romanoff’s ultimate fate in “Avengers: Endgame” and all but requires them to laugh along with David Harbour’s Red Guardian and Florence Pugh’s perfectly cast role as Romanoff’s sister from another mister. It is, however, still a Marvel movie, with the same Marvel third act and the same faceless steel-and-glass Marvel sets. For that, I dock points. Mike’s mark: 74/100.

”Summer of Soul,” (Hulu)

Questlove’s introspective on the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival never fails to please. “Summer of Soul” showcased classic acts as Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder and Sly and the Family Stone in rescued footage expertly assembled into a 117-minute treatise. And did it while calling into question why the Harlem Cultural Festival wasn’t seen as a watershed moment in American culture as Woodstock is viewed? As a New York Times Critic’s Pick, “Summer of Soul” asks that question on the big — okay, it’s Hulu, but still — screen and dares the viewer to muster up an answer. And as a longtime Motown fan, it is easily one of my favorite films I’ve reviewed for the Capital Journal thus far. Mike’s mark: 93/100.

”Gunpowder Milkshake,” (Netflix)

I do love a nice soak of neon in my movies. “Blade Runner” is still one of my top-five favorites of all-time to the point that I dreamt of taking to the streets of Los Angeles in November 2019 just to see how the city has and hasn’t morphed into the geography of Ridley Scott’s magnum opus. This, of course, has nothing to do with “Gunpowder Milkshake,” except for the presence of plenty of neon, which accents the film’s old-time, grindhouse feel perfectly. Karen Gillan and Lena Headey make an undeniably great team of assassins in what could have been a Tarantino wannabe gone wrong, but instead is lifted by the performances of its female stars into a unique thriller that never once gets boring. Mike’s mark: 89/100.

Michael Woodel | 605-224-7301 ext. 131

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