Film Review: AVENGERS: ENDGAME (USA 2019) ***1/2

Avengers: Endgame Poster
After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to undo Thanos’ actions and restore order to the universe.

Directors:

Anthony RussoJoe Russo

Prior to the press screening of the new blockbuster most anticipated film so far for 2019, AVENGERS: ENDGAME the Disney official introducing the film made a request that the critics do not spoil the key scenes of the film and to respect the Marvel Universe fans.  As it turns out, there are many, may things that could be kept from the fans, even from the very start, on the slightest of details  So this critic will try to be as discreet as possible.

The film opens with Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) having a picnic with his family.  He is teaching his daughter the bow and arrow while the wife the boys baseball.  It is a beautiful idyllic setting.  Suddenly, the daughter disappears followed by the rest of the family.  It is an excellent beginning that connects the audience to humanity despite the film  being based on super heroes.  It is soon revealed that half the Universe has been destroyed by the villain Thanos (Josh Brolin), an intergalactic despot from Titan who collected the 6 infinity stones to do the job.  This explains the disappearance of Barton’s family.  In order to say the destroyed half of the universe, the Angers band together and come up with an elaborate or impossible (but always possible in movies) scheme to reverse the damage done. 

Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)  suggests travelling through time in a quantum time machine to undo the deed.  The concept involves immense risk, which means it can be done in a movie.  Directors Joe an Anthony Russo slowly but surely introduces the other Marvel super action hero Avengers.  Iron man (Robert Downy Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans looking super dashing) are the two action heroes given the most attention and they are shown at loggerheads in terms of ideas.  Iron Man, the leader and benefactor of the Avengers is a self-described genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist while Captain America is fugitive superhero and leader of a faction of Avengers.  Almost every other marvel hero seen in films in the past decade make their appearances including Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), the Hulk (ark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth who is simply hilarious as the overweight drunk), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a host of others in minor parts like Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Vision (Paul Bethany), Falcom (Anthony Mackie) and others way too many to mention.

The action sequences are more than aptly executed with the directors playing it smart to play up the human parts of the story.  There are moments that will bring audiences to shed a tear or two.  The logic of the story does to always make sense.  For example the logic of time travel is difficult to follow and the Infinity Stones also do not make much sense in the flow of things.  But these are fantasy elements that should be present in futuristic action films.  

Marvel and Disney make good again in their latest action superhero outing compared to Warner Brothers who seem to make one blunder after another.  Everyone at the press screening stayed to the end of the closing credits (lasting a full 15 minutes or so) hoping to see some surprise.   Is there one?  Sorry, no spoilers even for this point.  Stay to the very end to find out.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcMBFSGVi1c

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Movie Review: WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, 2009, Directed by Spike Jonze

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, 2009
Movie Reviews

Directed by Spike Jonze
Starring: Max Records, Catherine O’Hara, Forest Whitaker, Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Paul Dano, Chris Cooper, Lauren Ambrose
Review by Matthew Toffolo

SYNOPSIS:

Young, mischievous Max is sent to bed without his supper, but when his bedroom turns in to a magical jungle landscape filled with strange creatures, he embarks on a wild imaginary adventure.

I walked into this film knowing nothing. All I knew was Spike Jonze directed it and they were using the Arcade Fire song to promote it in the trailer. I also heard right before that this was based on a children’s book, but I never read it as a kid or adult.

So I saw this film with virgin eyes. And what I saw I was impressed with. This is a movie almost all of us can relate with because we’ve all been that kid who would rather live inside of our imagination than real life. And we’ve also been that adult too.

Where The Wild Things Are is a movie for everyone because this is a film about FEAR. We all have it and we all react differently to it. Our hero Max (played by 11 year old Max Records) is a young boy who is scared about his new surroundings. He’s alone and doesn’t really like it so he runs away inside of his own world.

What makes him alone is that his teacher is not aware that what he says carries a lot of weight with the children. And saying that the sun is dying might not be the best thing to say to a group of 10 year olds. His father is also gone and his mother is moving on with another man and Max doesn’t like it. And his sister is a teenager and is now living in that teenage girl world that most of them do.

So Max goes off into his own world. And when I was 10 years old I did the same thing. My own parents had their own issues and I had two older teenage sisters who were going through that stage. So in my basement I created my own world and I was the only member because it was just my imagination. And I’m sure there are millions of kids doing the same thing now.

Where The Wild Things Are gives us characters in the wilderness who are purely Max’s creation. And all of these characters are dealing with their own inner fears and loneliness. It’s like the 7 animals are all versions of his own personality. And every character just wants to find peace in their world.

But life isn’t always about peace and fun. The characters decide to create a fort where all their dreams can come true, they can always be together forever and their is a shield that doesn’t let in any fears. The fort seems to be working at first but then conflict occurs because everyone has a different idea of what happiness is.

And that’s the point of Where The Wilds Things Are. We all want to be happy and not alone all the time but sometimes a little conflict is needed in order for perspective to occur. And as we grow from kids to adults our version of happiness changes year to year. We can’t just live in a fort all the time even when you’re 10 years old. And for Max he needs to learn when it’s time to leave that fort and come back home to reality.

The most interesting character from Max’s imagination is Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini). He just wants things to remain the same all the time and when it doesn’t he doesn’t know how to handle it. His friend KW has found new friends and Carol is threatened by that because they are not what he’s familiar with. Just like how Max’s mother has a new boyfriend. Carol reacts in anger by damaging things he loves. Just like Max damages his sister’s Valentine’s present when she decides to hang around with her friends instead of him.

This is a highly fascinating movie that really deserves a second viewing because there is more than meets the eye. Max learns from his imaginary world just like an adult would by going to a therapist or writing a journal. And it’s all about how we deal with our FEARS. Something that isn’t taught for some reason in school.

Where The Wild Things Are crosses generations. A film a 5 year old can get something out of and also a 90 year old. And they said only Pixar is capable of that.

Movie Review: NOW YOU SEE ME 2

now_you_see_me_2NOW YOU SEE ME 2 (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Jon M. Chu

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Caplan, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman

Review by Gilbert Seah

NOW YOU SEE ME 2, the sequel to the unexpected hit NOW YOU SEE ME has the same 4 horsemen return for another round of magic trickery to astound audiences, whether they love magic or not.

Except for Lizzy Caplan taking over the female role from Isla Fisher, most of the original cast returns. Jesse Eisenberg plays the main role of Daniel “Danny” Atlas, the group leader followed by Woody Harrelson as Chase, Dave Franco as Jack Wilder, Caplan as Lula and Mark Ruffalo as the FBI mole. There are two sets of bad guys here. One is the FBI – a favourite target organization hated by (most) Americans and non-Americas alike. The other is Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) an unethical magnate that the Horsemen want to expose for unethical tactics, together with his father, Arthur Tresslr (Michael Caine).

Performances are key to a movie like this. It is not surprising for the filmmakers to assemble such an an impressive cast, all of whom inject sufficient seriousness and energy into the venture. But Radcliffe (HARRY POTTER) looks ill at ease at playing a bad guy as does Michael Caine.

The magic tricks performed in the film are especially outlandish. The are also performed really quickly with the solutions provided ever quicker. When the horsemen first appear again in public, they chose the most famous venues in London such as Trafalgar Square. The tricks include making rain disappear and people transported by plane. But the trickery is explained with the solution often so simple. The disappearing rain is accomplished through rain machines and strobe lights.

The best trick on display involves the horsemen forced to flee from their enemy. They leap off a rooftop through a chute and land up in China. If this act appears impossible, the revelation of how this occurs illustrates the power of imagination in a script that writer Ed Solomon constantly impresses. Though the film runs more than 2 hours, it is too long even though one hardly feels it.

Just as magic often uses doubles, the script cleverly adds a component of Merritt’s evil twin brother, again played by Harrelson, hamming it out the best he can in two different roles.

The business aspect of the film? NOW YOU SEE ME 2 hopes to pull in some big bucks for the flailing Lionsgate, the studio responsible for HUNGER GAMES and the TWILIGHT films, now in dire need of a big hit after the shares took a plunge last earnings session after a drop in quarterly revenue. But the bottom line is that this film provides just more of the same tricks – nothing more, nothing less. The first film was a surprise hit taking the box-office by storm. Lionsgate has lumped a larger amount of $90 million into the sequel, a sort of ‘we need a hit regardless of expense’. The film is up against stiff competition with WARCRAFT and CONJURING 2 both opening this same weekend. Looks like Lionsgate needs some magic on its own.