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: DEADPOOL 2 (2018)

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DEADPOOL 2 (2018)

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Sequel finds our wise-cracking, anti-hero suffering a devastating personal loss and turning suicidal. With his powers of regeneration, that doesn’t work out so well and so Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) tries to help by recruiting him to the X-Men. That doesn’t work out so well either and Wade a.k.a. Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) finds himself sent to the Ice Box, a prison designed for mutants, along with a powerful, troubled boy named Russell (Julian Dennison). When a cyborg from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin) comes to kill Russell, Deadpool sees saving the boy as a way to prove he is capable of doing the right thing…but is he?

Deadpool 2 is this time directed by David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde) from a script by returning writers Paul Wernick, and Rhett Reese, along with star Ryan Reynolds. It doesn’t quite have the edge or energy of the first film, but is still good, naughty, bloody fun. The film is filled with the now traditional pop culture references and shots taken at other Marvel and DC properties, including The Merc with the Mouth telling Brolin’s Cable to “Pump the hate breaks Thanos at one point. The flick is a bit larger scaled with the action, no better example than an especially fun sequence with Deadpool and his team of misfits, including ‘lucky’ mercenary Domino (Zazie Beets), trying to stop Cable’s assault on an armored convoy. It’s bigger than anything seen in this series so far and gives Reynold’s co-stars a piece of the action, too. The flick has the usual humor-laced graphic violence and there are plenty of raunchy jokes with just enough wit behind them to make them work. A sequence with Wade regenerating his lost legs is especially hilarious. In fact while the flick seems to take itself a bit too seriously at times, in the first half, the second half comes alive with what we came for…including some hysterical post credit scenes. Like the first film, not everything works, but does succeed more often than not. The new characters of Cable and Domino are welcome to the Deadpool universe and we get returning familiar faces like Colossus, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), Weasel (T.J. Miller) and Wade’s ever-loving girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). It’s a fun time and while the hi-jinx aren’t exactly new, they are still fairly fresh here thanks to the creative team and the actors getting the tone of the material perfectly.

Ryan Reynolds is born to play this part and he does so like a boss. He delivers his lines with the same deadpan confidence as he did last time, while unafraid to equally poke fun at himself. Josh Brolin’s Cable may not quite be up to his Thanos from Avengers: Infinity War, but his second Marvel character this summer is still a solid villain that avoids being two dimensional, all the while having a deadpan sense of humor of his own. Zazie Beetz is a sexy delight as Domino. A mercenary who claims her superpower is luck and she’s an ass-kicker and can be quite funny herself. Julian Dennison is good as Russell. At first we feel sorry for his picked-on and abused mutant, but also start to see the power and rage which will become a problem in Cable’s future. Morena Baccarin is back as sexy, sassy Vanessa and we wish she had a bigger part. Colossus is again fun as voiced by Stefan Kapičić,  still amusingly portraying the metal encased X-Man as a big metal boy scout. T.J. Miller is still fun as Wade’s buddy Weasel. Brianna Hildebrand is back as N.T.W. and with a new look and a mutant girlfriend, Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna). Leslie Uggams is also back as Wade’s roommate Blind Al and Karan Soni returns as faithful cab driver and assassin wannabe Dopinder. There are also some great cameos that won’t be spoiled here.

In conclusion, it may not quite have the edge that the first film had, but it is still raunchy, bloody, sarcastic fun. There are some welcome new characters to add to the returning familiar faces and some bigger action set-pieces to throw those characters into. Reynolds is perfect again as the “Merc with the Mouth” and there are some fun post credits scenes to stick around for. Not exactly an equal, but an entertaining sequel that, in a way, is it’s own thing! As usual there is a soundtrack of cool songs included in the mayhem.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 unicorns…like last time.

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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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REVIEW: SICARIO (2015)

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SICARIO (2015)

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Sicario is an intense and gripping crime thriller that opens with an FBI raid on a house owned by a suspected drug lord and the gruesome discovery made within. Not only does by-the-book agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) discover bodies filling the walls of the house, but a booby trap claims the lives of two officers. Wanting to catch those responsible, Kate is asked to join a special ops team with mysterious government operative Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and even more mysterious ‘advisor’ Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). As the operation to bring down drug lord Manuel Diaz (Bernardo P. Saracino) and his boss begins and Kate is taken deep into the Mexican underworld, she starts to question who her new partners really are and what their real agenda is.

Written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by Denis Villeneuve, this is a very involving and sometimes shocking thriller about an idealistic FBI agent who may not be ready to deal with the realities of the war on drugs. We are taken inside this special ops team knowing as little about these men as she does and watch as she is drawn into a world she isn’t prepared for. Not only are the people they are pursuing capable of horrible atrocities, but her mysterious team members aren’t above breaking rules and crossing lines to accomplish their objectives as well. The line between good guys and bad guys becomes increasingly blurred and Kate is our voice of reason being drowned out in a world were reason and morality have long since been abandoned. The deeper she gets, the more she realizes she is in a world she doesn’t want to be in. As for her new team, they seem to have their own agenda and methods, that Kate is no longer sure she wants to be a part of. It’s a rude awakening for her and Villeneuve opens our eyes along with her. It can be a very intense ride and there are a few punch-in-the-gut scenes as true agenda’s and identities are revealed. This is a top notch thriller with some nail-biting action and one that takes us into world’s we don’t see on CNN or even NCIS for that matter…a world where there are no heroes or villains, just players in a brutal game. It also takes the time to give us a glimpse of what life is like for those that live closest to it. It’s an intense, suspenseful and well-crafted thriller that takes a noble woman and places her in a violent world without rules that she is not prepared to live in. It’s harrowing and skillfully told journey.

The cast are top notch and all do good work. Emily Blunt again shows she is a versatile actress who can take on tough physical roles with dramatic intensity. Her Kate is a woman with both a sense of duty and morals who is forced into a world were the book is thrown out the window along with morality and even the law she has sworn to uphold. She teams with men no better than those she vowed to bring to justice and Blunt plays the toll on Kate well. Josh Brolin is strong as the team leader shrouded in mystery. From the beginning we know there is more to this man than meets the eye and Brolin keeps pace as Sheridan’s script slowly unravels the layers of secrecy to let us know who the man really is and what his true agenda entails. Del Toro really impresses with a character that is soft spoken one minute, yet has no hesitation in torturing a suspect if it means getting what he wants. He is shrouded in mystery as is Brolin, but the man we are finally to discover is one you may not expect. The film switches focus to him a bit in the last act and it is here we discover his true identity and his real mission and it will really tear Kate apart when this strange man she starts to bond with, is unmasked. We also have a great supporting cast including Victor Garber, Marvel familiar face Maximiliano Hernández, Walking Dead‘s Jon Bernthal and Burn Notice‘s Jeffrey Donovan.

This is a strong thriller that can hit hard at times and takes you on a journey into a world of questionable morals and tactics with a character who has always played by the rules and tried to do what’s right. She is surrounded by men with their own methods and agenda’s operating in another world beneath the one she knows. There is some taunt suspense, some gripping action and some disturbing moments as Agent Kate Macer is drawn deeper into a war we only see the surface of on TV. There are some messages here, but they are not intrusive and the acting really  makes these characters work, especially when the layers are slowly peeled off and true natures are revealed. A highly recommended thriller.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 and 1/2 bullets.

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REVIEW: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

I’d never even heard of Guardians Of The Galaxy till Marvel announced a film version of the comic. So, I went into this flick blind though, I am a big fan of director James Gunn’s Slither and was familiar with his devious and sarcastic sense of humor. And while I do feel some familiarity with the comic would help a little going in, I had a blast of a good time nonetheless.

The film opens with a young boy, Peter Quill being abducted from Earth by a space ship and then fast forwards 26 years later with Quill (Chris Pratt) now a renown thief who calls himself Star Lord and runs with a group of space pirates know as the Ravagers. He steals a mysterious orb which is also on the wanted list of a vicious Kree usurper called Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) and when he tries to sell it without involving the Ravager’s leader Yondru (Michael Rooker), he also earns a price on his head. And when he collides with Ronan’s assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and bounty hunters Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) and the plant-like Groot (Vin Diesel) all four land in jail. It is there they bond over common issues and enemies and hook up with their eventual 5th member Drax (WWE Superstar Dave Bautista) and the Guardians Of The Galaxy are born! Now they must escape from prison and somehow keep the orb out of Ronan’s hands as he seeks to use it’s powerful contents to lay waste to anyone who stands in his way, including the Nova Corp home world of Xandar and even the powerful Thanos (Josh Brolin) himself.

Yea, Guardians is a little plot heavy but, makes it work in just over two hours. One of the few flaws I had with it was, that the plot is a little complex in terms of characters, which there are a lot of, and backstory, which is kinda rushed through in quick exposition sequences. The first half hour is a bit clunky as we have five main characters and two or three villains to introduce us to and the flick tries to get this origin stuff out of the way as quick as possible to get the story moving. And this first segment is a bit too fast paced for it’s own good. But, once the heroes bond inside the Nova Corp prison and form a misfit group with a mission, the flick accelerates into a incredibly fun, and hysterically funny at times, sci-fi adventure that is one of this Summer’s best movies and one of the most outright entertaining movies Marvel has put out since The Avengers. Director and co-writer, with Nicole Perlman, James Gunn has shown us his audacious, mischievous and deviously sarcastic sense of humor in his previous films and here he delivers some really funny lines and scenes that test the boundaries of Marvel’s PG-13 movie universe while not disrupting the dazzling and action packed space opera going on around it. He keeps the film moving like a rocket, though a little too fast at first as said, and there are some truly dazzling action and battle scenes throughout. And the best thing of all, is the film also has some nice emotional resonance to go along with the one-liners and space battles and the film has a huge heart to go along with all the CGI wizardry. The characters fast become very endearing and the villains are strong and help add weight to the story. There are dozens of bizarre and unique characters that populate Gunn’s vision of the Guardian universe and the production design reminded me of the classic Heavy Metal comics when it was in it’s glory with artists like Moebius. I really loved the look of the film and the FX were flawless and amazing. Top that off with another strong score by Tyler Bates supported with a great assortment of classic tunes and you have a real blast of a movie with a refreshingly mischievous and rebellious edge to add contrast to the other Marvel films in this ongoing series.

There is a large cast and all of them do good work at bringing their colorful and offbeat characters to life. Pratt makes a strong ‘bad boy’ hero and is a nice addition to Marvel’s canon and is nicely flawed reminding one of a less genius and far less polished Tony Stark. Saldana is a strong and passionate Gamora and has a nice chemistry with Pratt and the others. Bradley Cooper steals the show as the voice of Rocket Raccon and he has some of the film’s best lines and delivers them with some deft comic timing. Diesel’s Groot has only one line the tree creature can utter and gets the point across and adds a little different tone and inference to that line each time he says it. Rounding out our heroes is a surprisingly very funny Dave Bautista. The WWE Superstar gives some hilariously dry line readings as well as creates a very noble and imposing warrior in Drax. He shows much more range then some of his other roles. As for the rest, Pace makes a very threatening villain in Ronan, Karen Gillan made a strong villainess in his assassin assistant Nebula and Rooker is top notch, as always, as the out for himself Yondu. Add to that, eccentric character appearances by Benicio del Toro, John C. Reilly and Glen Close and you have a deep cast that really make the offbeat characters come vividly to life whether it is a large role or little more then a cameo… and let’s not forget Josh Brolin giving a lot of weight to Thanos, who is to play a far larger role in future Marvel films.

To finish up, I had a blast with one of the most audaciously fun and uniquely toned and designed space operas in some time. It’s a refreshingly different entry in the Marvel film series but, somehow fits right in. It starts off a little awkwardly with a lot of backstory and characters to establish but, ones it gets going it’s a roller coaster ride of sci-fi action and fun, that isn’t afraid to test the boundaries of Marvels family friendly movies. A real blast and probably the most fun I’ve had in a movie since The Avengersand not to mention a dynamite soundtrack of classic tunes that are perfectly used and placed throughout. Highly recommended!

… and, obviously stay through the credits!

3 and 1/2 Gamoras.

guardians rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: OUTLANDER and MIMIC

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OUTLANDER (2009)

A very pleasant surprise as sci-fi/action flick is not only fun and entertaining, but creates strong likable characters and a good sense of drama. Outlander tells the tale of an alien warrior, Kainan (the underrated Jim Caviezel) whose ship is downed on Earth during the time of the Vikings by the same creature that murdered his family. While in pursuit of the beast, he is captured by a village run by kindly King Hrothgar (John Hurt) and his lovely daughter, Freya (Sophia Myles). But the monster, called a Moorwen, sets it’s sites on Hrothgar’s village and has already destroyed the neighboring village run by King Gunnar (Ron Perlman) who places the blame on Hrothgar. Now Kainan must somehow convince these rival warriors and their people of what is really responsible and that there is a monster, unlike they have ever seen before, that has chosen them as it’s new food supply…and more importantly, that they must unite and fight with him or die.

Outlander is a very entertaining movie that blends genres well and is not only helped by it’s good cast, but by also presenting a cool creature that is not only dangerous, but a bit sympathetic too, once we find out the whole story behind how it came to be there. The production value is strong, the visual style makes good use of the Novia Scotia and Newfoundland locations and most of the FX are top notch, thought there are a few instances where the CGI is weak. The action sequences are well staged and there is plenty of blood and gore to go along with the mayhem. A very entertaining, suspenseful and sadly overlooked genre flick from writer/director Howard McCain.

MonsterZero Nj trivia: Originally Karl Urban was sought to play Kainan but, the role went to Caviezel.

3 and 1/2 Moorwens

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Mimic

MIMIC (1997)

I’ve always liked monster movies and am a huge fan of Guillermo Del Toro, so it’s no surprise I champion his giant bug movie set in the sewers of NYC. But I really do believe this is a good and very underrated monster movie. The story tells of a deadly disease devastating the city’s children and carried by it’s cockroaches. Entomologist Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) creates The Judas Breed, a new insect bred to destroy the infected cockroaches then die-off themselves. But the Judas Breed have other ideas and are soon lurking and growing in the city sewers and are now preying on humans. Susan, along with her husband, NY health department employee, Peter (Jeremy Northam) and a reluctant subway cop, Leonard (Charles S. Dutton) find themselves in the fight of their lives, and the lives of everyone in the city, as an expedition into the depths of the subway system gets them trapped in the monster insects’ nest.

I really enjoy this sci-fi/horror as it’s got a good story, has a top notch cast, the creature FX are really good and there is enough carnage and action to satisfy the average monster/giant bug movie fan. The attack scenes are intense and suspenseful and Del Toro gives his creatures a nice air of mystery till he’s ready to reveal them and when he does, they are menacing and have a character about them. He creates a lot of mystery and atmosphere and his visual style is gorgeous as usual. There is now available a director’s cut as Del Toro was unhappy with studio tinkering on the original release. It expands the story of Sorvino’s Entomologist and her husband, Peter as they try to have a baby, basically adding a bit more of a human element to already likable characters. But those looking for more creature stuff will be sadly disappointed. Film also stars Josh Brolin, F. Murray Abraham and in a small role, Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus.

 3 and 1/2 Judas Breed Bugs!
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