Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Avengers: Endgame review

In 1986, the Star Trek movie franchise took a diversion from the drama to situation based comedy. The film, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was funny, and smart. It was also a risk that worked as it was well received by the critics, general audience and fans. Avengers: Endgame takes a risk also. It is the sequel to last year's Avengers: Infinity War, an extremely fast and kinetic superhero movie. Endgame decides to focus much on the characters and has quite a bit of humor.

Endgame takes place after Thanos (Josh Brolin) has snapped away half of life in the universe with the Infinity Gauntlet in Infinity War. And if you're lost at this moment, I'm not going to go over all twenty one films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (MCU) Did I get all of them? I think I've seen almost all of them with the exception of The Incredible Hulk. (2008) As a kid, I was never a fan of the jolly er... angry green giant. Just accept the fact that earth's mightiest heroes have lost.

Anyway, the surviving Avengers find out which planet that Thanos has his retirement home on. They decide to go and pay him and see if they can borrow the Gauntlet and snap every one back into  existence. I mean not really "borrow." Unfortunately, Thanos has destroyed the Infinity Stones that power the gauntlet. Stop looking at me that way. I know it's geeky. Well, Avengers lose again.

 Flash five years forward. Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is living a happy life because he has a family with a daughter. Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans) is leading group therapy sessions with Bob Newhart just kidding about Bob Newart. You remember his show? Too old. Okay. Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is leading what's left of the Avengers but there ain't that much too do since half of the universe  ceases to exist. Look, let's face box office reality here. You don't think half of Marvel's heroes are going to stay dead, do you? I'm pretty sure Disney is going to fix this in the script since Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) was a gigantic box office movie. And Sony is going to want Spider-Man (Tom Holland) back, especially since he's got a movie out this summer!

Well, Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) reappears from the movie wrecking end credits scene in last year's Ant-Man and the Wasp. You see he's been in the Quantum Realm but hasn't aged. He has an idea. Go back in time and steal the Infinity Stones.. Bring them back to the future and voila. Snap everybody back into existence.

Okay, anytime you have time travel in a movie, some in the audience are going to sit there and think about the "grandfather paradox." I do.  But as the movie correctly points out in a couple of places, this ain't Back to the Future or Star Trek, the original series' episode  "The City on the Edge of Forever."   Going back into time does not change the present. It may create parallel universes or an alternate reality. But our heroes have that figured out.  They will also return the stones back to where they found them. I'll save the problems in this plot for another post. At this point, stop thinking about this, okay?

Well, if you've been watching any of the MCU films, you know the Infinity Stones are in many of them.  And Endgame takes our heroes back to visit some of the scenes. . This creates a wonderful valentine to the fans to see the Avengers visit the great movies of years past.  It also creates hilarious opportunities for the heroes as they see themselves in the past timeline.  There are also touching moments as well.

Congratulations to screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely for creating a script that takes an adventurous, original route into more character than action. It's warm and funny. And yes, you will weep along with  the laughing. But this is a superhero movie and there's going to beepic  heroic action.  It all works beautifully.

Composer Alan Silvestri sticks to classical, swing and jazz. A great choice in music not because those are some of my favorite genres. This film is meant to be classic. So use music that fits and stands the test of time.  The score is just lovely and worth listening as you watch the credits because there's no end credit scene.

As for the cast, there are no false moments with their performances.  Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Rudd, Josh Brolin, Brie Larson and Karen Gillan all are more than adequate. But let me praise everybody for their comic timing more than anything.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo are back from Infinity War.. They are actually better at directing the quiet, touching and funny scenes than action. While their action direction is too frenetic to be able to see clearly. I wish they would slow down and use more bodies in action than fast cutting. Still, they absolutely know how to stage a great moment. When Captain America says, "Avengers assemble" you'll want to join the fight. (That's Captain America's line from the comic books.)

If you've loved the MCU movies, go see Avengers: Endgame. If you love cinema, go see Avengers: Endgame. It's exciting, inspiring, touching and funny. The grade is A.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Captive State review

Captive State sounded like a good idea for a movie. It's a story about aliens invading earth and forcing their will on the population and that includes making humanity live by the aliens' rule of law. But good ideas for movies need execution.

The film starts out in flashback. Gabriel Drummond sees his mother and cop father killed as they try to escape the alien invasion. We flash forward where the aliens have conquered the planet and have placed their political syetem on Chicago. Ashton's father's partner, William Mulligan (John Goodman) works for the aliens enforcing the laws and hunting down human resistance. Gabriel is now a young man and is played by Ashton Sanders from Moonlight. He works at some factory doing something. I have no idea what he does except he seems to be a runner for the resistance. Folks, that's all you need to know about the plot as he disappears from the middle of the film The resistance has an assassination plan but because there are problems with this screenplay, I'm going to stop here in talking about the story.

So, I'm sitting in the theater when a woman in the back says, "I have no idea what is going on." I nodded in agreement. The utter lack of exposition in this movie kills it. I had no ideal what Gabriel does or why he does certain actions. And why is the resistance trying to assassinate this particular alien? How do the human tracking devices work? We, humans love our freedom but why are the people resisting? I had so many questions that I didn't care what happened towards the third act of this movie.

I also have a rule in monster movies. The film must clearly show the monster. Director and co-writer Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) has many of the scenes where the aliens are filmed at night or in dark garages. I couldn't see them. The best I can describe the main aliens as looking like a big hair brush with arms and legs. You want a top grade from me? Clearly show the monster.

This film may have been better off as a longer film or even a TV series. Of course, it would have to compete with the better resistance versus alien occupation TV series of Falling Skies. The confusing screenplay, and badly shot scenes make this movie a non-rental and wait for cable. The grade is C Plus.