REVIEW: AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019)

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AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019)

“Whatever it takes” ―The Avengers

Fourth Avengers flick finds the surviving heroes still devastated by the mass genocide caused by Thanos and the Infinity Stones. Five years later, hope is reignited as the reappearance of one of their number thought dead, gives The Avengers one last chance to possibly set things right.

Joe and Anthony Russo, again armed with a script written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, give this ten year journey the best ending possible. It’s an emotionally draining roller coaster ride as The Avengers enact a desperate plan that will lead them to a final showdown with the Mad Titan…and we’re along with them, every step of the way. It’s the type of movie best enjoyed going in knowing as little as possible, so this will be brief. There are loads of surprises, epic battles, some wonderful cameos and a plot that cleverly wraps up the story and also manages to pay tribute to what came before. There are some truly great moments here and heartbreaking ones, too. The audience in attendance laughed hysterically, cheered thunderously and some even wept openly. It wraps up the last ten years wonderfully, while opening some doors to the future. Simply a great flick and an enormously entertaining 181 minutes.

The cast is once again, too large to discuss each individually, but all deserve kudos. Our mainstays from the series all perform these now familiar characters with the expected gusto. A great ensemble cast that has endeared us over the last decade and have grown into their roles so well. Josh Brolin again impresses as Thanos, the Mad Titan. The clever script gives us a bit of a different Thanos, one possibly more dangerous than he was in Infinity War. There are too many great character cameos to mention, which is fine, as they will not be spoiled here anyway. A spectacular cast.

There are a few flaws, but for all the spectacle and emotion you get in it’s three hour running time, they are too small to bother discussing. A clever script and story gives us everything we could hope for from epic battles, heartbreaking actions, nail-biting suspense and some truly hilarious moments, all mixed very well. It rarely slows down and only stumbles slightly here and there, but otherwise is an epic finale to a great series of movies. While there is no post credits scene, stay during the entire credits anyway for a wonderful sendoff to our beloved heroes.

…and, on a personal note, I can’t remember the last time I laughed, cheered and even teared up so much in one movie…and I’ve been watching movies for over five decades-MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) infinity gauntlets.

 

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REVIEW: AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

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AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

“In time, you will know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right, yet to fail all the same. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives.” ―Thanos

Third Avengers film finds the “Mad Titan” Thanos (Josh Brolin) deciding to restore balance to the universe by killing half of it’s population. To do this he must track down six powerful infinity stones to be placed in a gauntlet, that once completed, will give him the means to do so. To stop him, The Avengers must put aside their differences and The Guardians of the Galaxy must learn to play nice with The Avengers. Not as simple as it sounds as Thanos and his four children…The Black Order…will destroy anything in their path to get the stones…two of which are already on Earth.

Spectacularly entertaining film is directed with a wonderful mix of intensity, action and humor by Joe and Anthony Russo, who gave us the best Marvel film…until now…Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who get a whole lot of story going without the film ever feeling like it’s too busy or a mess. Our heroes are split up on various quests. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to forge a new weapon, Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to keep Thanos from getting the Time Stone and Cap (Chris Evans), Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) are trying to keep the Mind Stone in Vision’s (Paul Bettany) head out of Thanos’ mitt as well. The action scenes are far more spectacular than we have yet seen in the MCU and in this film series we’ve seen a lot. What can you say about a film that gives you Thanos vs Hulk in the first five minutes and that’s just for starters. What makes this film work so well, though, is not only some wonderful camaraderie between the many characters, but some very emotionally powerful moments, too. The Russos give this film an emotional depth that this series has rarely experienced and Joss Whedon’s first two Avengers movies rarely touched on. There are some side-split-tingly funny dialogue exchanges, too, between characters…such as Banner’s “There’s a Spider-Man AND an Ant-Man?”…and some heart skipping moments, that won’t be spoiled here. The writers pick some great character team ups, like Strange and Stark and Thor and Rocket with some great cameos that also won’t be spoiled here. None of this would work, however, with a weak villain and thankfully Thanos is one of the best MCU villains so far. He is given depth, a purpose…although, a diabolical one…and a powerful presence. It all combines for a villain who lives up to his threat factor big time and puts our heroes in more danger than they have ever been in…a danger they all face valiantly.

The cast is too large to discuss each individually. Our mainstays from the series all perform well with some stand-outs. Hemsworth is a highlight with Ragnarok’s changes to the God of Thunder carrying over here. While initially critical of Cumberbatch as Strange, he has grown into the role very well and the Russos use him wisely. Holland is turning into a great Spider-Man and the script, under the Russo Brother’s guidance, fix the awkward relationship between Peter and Tony that didn’t gel so well in Spiderman: Homecoming. Almost everyone is given their moments, there is some great dialogue for them and the whole cast are given some really intense scenes, unlike they have been afforded before, to shine in. The real force here is Josh Brolin as the Mad Titan. He does voice and motion capture for Thanos and really gives him a powerful presence and an intensity, few MCU villains have mustered in the film series’ decade history. You believe he is a threat and yet, they give him some emotional moments of his own, which give him a depth which only adds to his effectiveness. He makes this epic work. If there is any issue with characters, it’s that Thanos’ CGI children…Proxima Midnight, Corvus Glaive, Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian mostly come across as generic monsters, save for the creepy Ebony Maw…but Thanos gets most of the screen time.

There is very little to gripe about here. At 160 minutes, one or two scenes run on a bit long and a few characters, like Black Widow and Falcon get shortchanged in the whole of things. However we do get a comic book movie of epic proportions that brings spectacular action, nerve-wracking intensity, dramatic weight and some outright hilarious dialogue moments, all mixed to perfection by the Russo Brothers. Sure there is more to the story and the end leaves us wanting that more, but next summer the fourth installment arrives and it is going to have to be something else to surpass this, one of the MCU’s absolute best installments so far. Spectacular entertainment!

…and don’t forget to stay during the entire credits for a post credits scene that will knock your socks off.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 infinity gauntlets.

 

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BARE BONES: A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST, NEIGHBORS and HERCULES

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A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (2014)

I’m not a big fan of Seth MacFarlane’s ‘horny 13 year old’ sense of humor and I don’t watch Family Guy. I was actually pleasantly surprised by Ted, though and so, went into this, his new flick, with an open mind. But sadly, despite some nice sentimental moments here and there, this western/comedy is a constant barrage of boring sex jokes and bodily function bits that are vulgar for vulgars sake. MacFarlane ignores actually trying to tell his cliche’ story and fills this overlong movie with an endless and tiresome parade of gross-out humor that wears out it’s welcome in the first half hour or so. How he dragged Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron and Amanda Seyfried along with him in this predominately unfunny mess is a mystery.

2 star rating

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NEIGHBORS (2014)

While  I wouldn’t outright say that Neighbors is a bad film, it’s just that it is such a routine and cookie cutter, Hollywood situation comedy that is instantly forgettable once the credits role. Flick has a frat house moving in next to yuppie couple Mac and Kelly (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) and the resulting war between them and the Zac Efron led frat boys. The flick really isn’t that funny and it actually makes the couple appear far more childish and irresponsible than the ‘kids’ they start a feud with. It also was a bit disturbing that these two ‘adults’ leave their infant daughter alone in their house numerous times to party with/make war with the boys next door. A few funny bits and Efron gives his character a little depth but, it’s hard to root for Mac and Kelly when they seem like bigger jerks than the partying frat guys who the film can’t decide are the bad guys or not. Kind of a mystery as to how this was such a big hit.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HERCULES (2014)

Brett Ratner directed flick is based on a graphic novel that portrays the legendary Hercules (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) as a powerful yet, very mortal mercenary whose 12 labors and lineage of the gods is just embellished PR fables to drive fear into the hearts of his enemies. Herc and his crew are summoned to help an embattled king (John Hurt as yet another ‘old king’) free his country from invaders but, is duped into aiding a tyrant. Betrayal and vengeance ensue. This is another flick that passed the time alright but, is so by-the-numbers and forgettable that it barely justifies existing in the first place. The Rock seems like he’d rather be somewhere else with an uninspired performance as one of the world’s oldest heroes and the rest of the cast are all operating on a paycheck grab level as well. Competently made but, when all is said and done, routine, cliche’ and uninspired.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2014)

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ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Only Lovers Left Alive may not technically be a horror film, but it’s main characters are vampires, so, it does fall into the category, though it is more of a character study than a thriller. Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, who is one of the more interesting filmmakers on the indie circuit, the film does deliver a unique and refreshing spin on the tired and overused vampire genre and that alone makes it worth watching for.

The film tells the story of husband and wife Adam (Tom Hiddleston, Loki from the Thor films), a reclusive musician, and scholarly Eve (Tilda Swinton) who are both vampires who have lived for centuries. Adam lives currently in desolate Detroit while Eve lives in exotic Tangier. Both have long given up stalking humans for prey and find other more ‘civilized’ methods of getting their nourishment and have decided instead to pursue a more Bohemian lifestyle, soaking up all the cultural accomplishments of the world that the ‘zombies’…what they refer to normal humans as…take for granted. But when Adam begins to show signs of a moody depression, Eve comes to Detroit to comfort him. Their reunited bliss is short lived, as Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) joins them unexpectedly from L.A. and disrupts their happy bubble of seclusion with her uncontrolled behavior.

I really enjoyed this film and it’s portrayal of two beings who spend their eternal life immersing themselves in the accomplishments of mankind such as literature, science and music, yet avoid being the neutered fops of the Twilight series. Jarmusch creates two fascinating characters who bathe themselves in the accomplishments of a race that generally overlooks them. But these two still retain their lethality and that’s what keeps this so interesting. They are dangerous creatures that choose not to rule at the top of the food chain, but remain aloof using their extended time here to experience and savor what ‘life’ has to offer, though they are themselves the undead. Obviously their little bubble gets burst by Ava, but it is how they adjust that keeps them so interesting and the film involving. The wisdom of the ages as they simply adapt the best they know how. And the director gives it all a subtle and witty sense of humor, as well. I really liked Jarmush’s use of his locations, from the desolate streets of after-dark Detroit to the seedy alleyways of Tangier where there is a drug dealer on every street. There is some sumptuous cinematography by Yorick Le Saux who captures the bleakness of Detroit’s abandoned cityscape and, ironically, the same ‘danger at every corner’ feeling of Tangier’s labyrinthian alleyways. The two vastly different locations are given a similar look to illustrate these creatures of the night’s choice to live in the shadows even in an exotic country like Morroco. Add to that a haunting score by Jozef van Wissem and you get a film dripping with atmosphere to go along with the engrossing and endearing characters.

And what really makes this film so involving, and Jarmusch’s script sizzle, are two truly wonderful characterizations/performances from his lead cast. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are mesmerizing as the couple married for over a century and who have been in the presence of the likes of Mary Shelley and Nikola Tesla and recollect fondly of these giants as if reminiscing about an old friend or favorite school teacher. Hiddleston gives us a reclusive musician and rock star who is known for his work, but remains an enigma to the world, a musical outlaw that is part Keith Richards and part Howard Hughes. He gives his character the air of a moody genius who never really appreciates his own accomplishments and has a fetish for old guitars. Swinton is the more upbeat and livelier Eve, who unlike her brooding, sometimes distant husband, revels in the culture of what surrounds her. She still enjoys life, despite having lived so much of it and wants Adam to share in her continued enthusiasm. The love between these two seems genuine as brought to life by the actors and they have great chemistry together. Supporting cast are also very good as Wasikowska gives us the untamed, wild-child Ava, who is stuck by way of her immortality in the eternal rebelliousness of youth and there is no malice when she turns their peaceful existence upside-down with her unchecked behavior. Rounding out is a good turn by Anton Yelchin as Ian, a musician and human friend of Adam’s who gets him his guitars and whatever he needs, as the wealthy Adam pays well, and John Hurt as Eve’s mentor Marlowe.

This is not a film for everyone, especially those expecting the traditional bared fangs, spilling blood and wooden stakes. This is a really interesting character study of two fascinating, passionate individuals who happen to be vampires. There seems to be an underlying commentary about how the human race doesn’t appreciate it’s cultural, creative and scientific accomplishments and spoils everything it has, including it’s own life’s blood with sickness and disease…something our vampires must be careful to avoid. Overall, I found this an interesting, engrossing, original and sometimes ironically funny vampire film from a filmmaker that has staked out his career on being original…pun intended!

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) fangs.

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