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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Film Review: SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (USA 2017) ***

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spiderman homecomingFollowing the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016), Peter Parker attempts to balance his life in high school with his career as the web-slinging superhero Spider-Man.

Director: Jon Watts
Writers: Jonathan Goldstein (screenplay), John Francis Daley (screenplay)
Stars: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow

Review by Gilbert Seah

The second re-boot of SPIDER-MAN arrives with all the hype and with it fear that the new look would result in a film as disastrous as the D.C. extended universe films MAN OF STEEL, BATMAN V. SUPERMAN or SUICIDE SQUAD. Thankfully, the new Marvel Cinematic Universe SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING is not so bad and promises a much better sequel in the making.

The film opens with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) arriving with all his super spider powers intact. Instead of learning to control his new found powers, Parker has to learn how to be Spider-Man. He has arrived several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, and subject to the help of his mentor Tony Stark aka IRONMAN (Robert Downey Jr.), learns to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City with fighting crime.
The villain of the piece is introduced at the start of the film as an enterprising business man, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton). Forced out of his business by the big boys, Toomes ends up taking revenge on the city by turning himself into the Vulture that eventually battles Spidey. Keaton is exceptionally cynical in his role, the only problem arising is that Toomes is so victimized that one cannot help but root for this poor victim. At one point in the film, Toomes is so convincing in naming Stark Enterprises as the villain that one cannot help but almost believe him. The Vulture’s costume looks too much like Keaton’s Birdman’s outfit, as if reminding the audience of his Best Actor Oscar nominated role.

The climatic battle between the Vulture and Spidey looks too one sided, on the side of the Vulture who seems imminent to win the battle but of course wouldn’t. When Toomes finally ends up beaten, it seems quite unbelievable.

Despite being an action film, the film’s best moments are the interrogation scenes – one where Toomes questions Parker in the car and reveals that he is aware of Parker’s secret identity. The other is Spider-Man questioning one of the crooks regarding Toomes’ activities. Both segments expertly balance humour and surprise while displaying good dialogue expected from the team of the film’s 6 writers.

HOMECOMING is the lightest and goofiest of all the SPIDER-MAN films. But one will eventually get annoyed at Spider-Man’s inability to fight his opponents properly before gaining control of his suit. Instead of learning to use his super powers, Spidey has to learn to use Stark Enterprises’ new Spider-Man suit. In one action set-up, Spider-Man is constantly bungling and falling around learning how to use his suit in extended power mode.

The film features an eclectic cast that carries it out a bit too far. Spidey’s love interest Liz is played by African American, Laura Harrier. His school principal is played by Korean Kenneth Choi and his best friend, Ned by Filipino Jacob Batalon. Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson: Peter’s rival and classmate is latino. The script invests a bit too much time in Ned’s character, his repeated remarks on Spider-Man often ending up more annoying than funny. He is at least given something to do (computer hacking) in the story. The film feels like a teen movie with the humour and high school setting. But one can notice that all the high school kids are performed by actors over 21, Holland included (at 22 playing a 15-year old). The film is not without teen dick jokes (Flash’s song as a d.j.) and the ending song with the lyrics sounding like the ‘f’ word.

It is surprising that director Watts has ended up making more an action comedy than an action hero movie. Watts made two serious films, the thriller COP CAR and the horror chiller CLOWN prior to this. But better funny than too serious. Look what happened to the James Bond and the Planet of the Apes films?

With all the goofiness and Spidey’s learning curve out of the way in this re-boot, the sequel should promise a more mature Spider-Man and hopefully a more mature action film as well – with a better balance between action and humour.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0D3AOldjMU

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Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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captain_america_civil_warCAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl, Frank Grillo

Reveiw by Gilbert Seah

Judging from the box-office successful but critically panned BATMAN V. SUPERMAN, audiences love to see their super heroes battle one another – never mind the reason, never mind who wins, and never mind anything else. In this latest Marvel superhero movie, there are lots more of the same. It is a dream come true for current action fans as there is a full 15 minute action fight scene during which two factions of super heroes battle it out with each other.

The film begins with establishing the reason for the formation of the two factions. It is a world disaster in which innocent people are killed in Nigeria following a criminal being pursued by the Avengers. As a result of the collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps, one led by Steve Rogers aka Captain America (the handsome hunk Luke Evans) and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s Ironman (played by Robert Downey Jr.) surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.

This is an AVENGERS film despite the Captain America title. Other Marvel heroes on display here include Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the Winter Soldier of the film title (Sebastian Stan), Falcon from the IRONMAN films (Anthony Mackie), Hawkeye with his arrows (Jeremy Renner), Vision (Paul Bettany), Spider-man (Tom Holland) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) the latter two providing most of the humour in the film. But the script by a multiple of writers includes many one-liners that only Marvel fans will find funny, or whoever is in the mood. But the one-liners are quite mediocre and no match compared to those found in other action films like the DIE HARD or TERMINATOR films.

So there is one faction led by Ironman with Spidey, Faclon and Spider and the other by Captain America, Winter soldier and Hawkeye. There is an extended fight scene between the two leaders as well but no one really comes out the outright victor. The heroes use their powers like Spidey his web, America his shield and Hawkeye his arrows.

The film running at almost two and a half hours is surprisingly short on both story and character development. The script contains lots of repetitions on the need to control the Avengers i.e. to substantiate the rivalry between the two groups. All this tends to be a tad boring after a while, not to mention that the matter is never resolved at the end and the film set up for a sequel.

Not much is demanded in the acting department for an action film of this nature except for the actors to look good. And they all look very bulked up or pretty as the case may be. This reviewer never liked Robert Downey Jr. as an actor (in Sherlock Holmes, IRONMAN and other films) or in person for his wise-cracking smart-ass attitude. So, the best line in the film delivered by Black Widow to him: “Are you incapable of letting go of your ego for one Goddamned second?” gave me a big smile.

CAPTAIN AMERICA is a film that would delight action Marvel fans, but those serious in their taste of cinema – might want to take all this with a pinch (or rather, heap) of salt.

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Happy Birthday: Robert Downey Jr.

robertdowneyjr.jpgHappy Birthday Robert Downey Jr.

Born: Robert John Downey Jr
April 4, 1965 in New York City, New York, USA

Read reviews of his best work:

WONDER BOYSWonder Boys
2000
dir. Curtis Hanson
Starring
Michael Douglas
Katie Holmes

Kiss Kiss Bang BangKiss Kiss Bang Bang
2005
dir. by Shane Black
starring
Downey Jr.
Val Kilmer

Good Night and Good Luck
2005
dir. George Clooney
starring
David Strathairn
Jeff Daniels

A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTSA Guide to Recognizing your Saints
2006
dir. Dino Montiel
starring
Dianne Wiest
Downey Jr.

Tropic ThunderTropic Thunder
2008
dir. Stiller
Starring
Downey Jr.
Jack Black

Iron ManIron Man
2008
Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring
Downey Jr.
Gwyneth Paltrow

THE SOLOIST Movie TrailerThe Soloist
2009
dir. Joe Wright
Starring
Downey Jr.
Jamie Foxx

SHERLOCK HOLMES Movie PosterSherlock Holmes
dir. Guy Ritchie
Stars:
Downey Jr.
Jude Law
Rachel McAdams
no Montiel
starring
Dianne Wiest
Downey Jr.

DUE DATEDUE DATE
dir. Todd Phillips
Stars:
Robert Downey Jr.
Zach Galifianakis

IRON MAN 2 Movie TrailerIron Man 2
2010
dir. Jon Favreau
Starring
Downey Jr.
Gwyneth Paltrow

MOVIEWEIRD SCIENCE
1985
dir. John Hughes
Starring:
Kelly LeBrock
Ilan Mitchell-Smith

sexyTHE AVENGERS
2012
dir. Joss Whedon
See over 100 pages of photos and videos!

MOVIE POSTER SHERLOCK HOLMES A GAME OF SHADOWS
dir. Guy Ritchie
Stars:
Robert Downey Jr.
Jude Law

MOVIE POSTERGAME 6
2005
dir. Michael Hoffman
Stars:
Michael Keaton
Robert Downey Jr.

MOVIE POSTERIRON MAN 3
2013
dir. Shane Black
Stars:
Robert Downey Jr.
Guy Pearce

MOVIE POSTERA SCANNER DARKLY
2006
dir. Richard Linklater
Stars:
Keanu Reeves
Winona Ryder

MOVIE POSTERCHEF
2014
dir. Jon Favreau
Stars:
Robert Downey Jr.
Scarlett Johansson

MOVIE POSTERTHE SHAGGY DOG
2006
dir. Brian Robbins
Stars:
Tim Allen
Kristin Davis

NEW Captain America: Civil War Trailer and Poster Revealed (Watch NOW)

Watch the NEW Trailer for CAPTAIN AMERICA 3:

The third installment of Captain America finds Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) leading the newly formed team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. But after another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.

See the next Movie Posters for Captain America: Civil War

captain_america_civil_war_poster

captain_america_civil_war_poster_2

captain_america_civil_war_poster_3