Review: “Avengers: Endgame”

This review is spoiler-free. #DontSpoilTheEndgame

After Thanos’ sinister snap in Avengers: Infinity War, our remaining heroes are left to deal with the aftermath in Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame.

This film is actually the second half of last year’s cliff-hanger Avengers: Infinity War along with being the culmination of the 21 films so far in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” (MCU) from Marvel Studios, Marvel Comics’ in-house movie studio which began 11 years ago. The 21 Marvel Studios’ films are listed below (in order of release date).

  1. Iron Man (2008; directed by Jon Favreau)
  2. The Incredible Hulk (2008; directed by Louis Leterrier)
  3. Iron Man 2 (2010; directed by Jon Favreau)
  4. Thor (2011; directed by Kenneth Branagh)
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011; directed by Joe Johnston)
  6. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012; directed by Joss Whedon)
  7. Iron Man 3 (2013; directed by Shane Black)
  8. Thor: The Dark World (2013; directed by Alan Taylor)
  9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014; directed by Joe and Anthony Russo)
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014; directed by James Gunn)
  11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015: directed by Joss Whedon)
  12. Ant-Man (2015; directed by Peyton Reed)
  13. Captain America: Civil War (2016; directed by Joe and Anthony Russo)
  14. Doctor Strange (2016; directed by Scott Derrickson)
  15. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (2017; directed by James Gunn)
  16. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017; directed by Jon Watts)
  17. Thor: Ragnarok (2017; directed by Taika Waititi)
  18. Black Panther (2018; directed by Ryan Coogler)
  19. Avengers: Infinity War (2018: directed by Joe and Anthony Russo)
  20. Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018; directed by Peyton Reed)
  21. Captain Marvel (2019; directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck)
The remaining Avengers try to figure out how to outsmart Thanos in AVENGERS: ENDGAME.

As we’ve learned throughout the 21 films, and particularly in Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos (voiced again by Josh Brolin) is one bad dude. After collecting all six “infinity stones” and placing them in his “infinity gauntlet” glove, the already powerful villain got even more power and was able to make his “inevitable” wish come true—the complete elimination of 50% of the galaxy’s population with just the snap of his finger.

The original six MCU Avengers—Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlet Johansen), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)—along with James Rhoades/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), and Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) who all survived the snap decide to join forces, find Thanos, and make the universe right again, “whatever it takes.”

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo (aka The Russo Brothers) are no strangers to the MCU, having expertly directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War along with the first part of this film, Avengers: Infinity War. Their ability to weave together multiple storylines with many characters and make it seem effortless is truly, well, a marvel. The Russo Brothers are at the top of their game in this film, which not only has to bring together so many characters, but also has to bring a 21-film storyline to a satisfying conclusion.

And satisfying it is. I had a great time watching this film. It’s exciting, emotional, and supremely entertaining. Its three-hour running time is definitely epic length, but it’s worth it. The film made me feel like a kid again reading a great comic book series that’s full of imagination, adventure, surprise, wonder, and goodness. It’s a fitting end to an incredible run for this story arc in the MCU and I can’t wait to see what Marvel Studios is going to do next.

Avengers: Endgame is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language.”

My score: 5 out of 5 stars

As an added bonus, check out all of the cool Avengers: Endgame posters from Marvel and Poster Posse. And below is the IMAX exclusive poster.

©️ IMAX

Images ©️ Marvel Studios

Review: “Penguins”

In the latest film from the nature documentarians at Disneynature, Penguins gives us an up-close look at the challenging and interesting life of the Adélie penguins in Antarctica.

As with most of these Disneynature films (not to mention the classic Disney True-Life Adventures series of the 1950s and 60s), the filmmakers have created a narrative into this particular corner of the natural world by following a penguin they named “Steve.”

Official theatrical poster (©️ Disney)

Steve the penguin has just come into adulthood and it’s time for him to find a mate and hopefully have offspring to carry on the species. Steve does indeed find a mate (her name is “Adeline”) and Steve and Adeline end up having two baby penguins that they now hope to raise into adulthood themselves.

Narrated by actor Ed Helms (Andy Bernard from the U.S. version of The Office), the filmmakers give a deft tone to the truly taxing life of these Antarctic penguins. The penguins have to deal with the extreme weather of the location, they co-parent (meaning both mother and father take turns finding food for their young ones and they both keep the eggs and the hatched baby penguins warm), they have to combat the local predators (in this case, the skua birds and the leopard seals), and have a difficult migration path.

I saw the film in IMAX and was completely wowed by the gorgeous cinematography of this icy landscape and its inhabitants. It’s so amazing what these filmmakers are able to accomplish and how close they are able to get to all of the wildlife. (Stay through the end credits to see how some of the shots were actually done—again, amazing.) This film has lots of shots above ground as well as under water and they’re all remarkable and beautiful, just like the subject matter.

I found the film to be an impressive, compelling, and entertaining look into this part of our natural world. And I applaud Disneynature and their production partner the National Science Foundation for carrying on the important work of helping us all to better understand and care for our planet.

Make sure to check out the official Penguins website for additional educational materials as well.

Penguins is rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America.

My score: 4 out of 5

As an added bonus, check out these cool posters for Penguins from the folks at Poster Posse.

(🎨: Vincent Aseo)
(🎨: Salvador Anguiano)
(🎨: Simon Delart)
(🎨: 17th and Oak)

Images ©️ Disney

April 18, 2019 Podcast

Thanks for tuning in to this week’s podcast!

New in Theatres

I didn’t get to record a podcast last week, so here some new films released last week and this week.

2019 TCM Classic Film Festival

The remainder of the podcast is devoted to the 2019 Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Classic Film Festival which I attended last week. More information about the festival can be found here. My own festival recap, including a list of all the films I saw, is here.

Listen to the podcast below or subscribe to the podcast on Apple iTunes. Have fun at the movies this week and we’ll see you next time.

2019 TCM Classic Film Festival Recap

This year’s Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Classic Film Festival just wrapped up and it was wonderful.

The festival was held April 11-14, 2019 in Hollywood, California. Headquartered at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the festival screenings and events were held in nearby theaters, including the TCL Chinese Theater and Multiplex, the Egyptian Theater, the ArcLight Cinerama Dome, and the American Legion Post 43 Theatre.

The Films

I had a Classic Pass again this year, which provided access to all festival venues during all days of the festival (with the exception of the opening night gala screening and party) and it worked great. I got in line usually about 60 minutes before each screening and was able to get in every screening that I wanted to attend. I tweeted pics and summaries of the 14 films I saw at this year’s festival (copied below) in case you’re interested.

The Presentations

I also attended two presentations: the “Meet TCM” presentation on day one of the festival with a panel discussion from the TCM management team and a cool 20th Century Fox retrospective presented by Schawn Belton, Executive Vice Present of Media and Library Services at 20th Century Fox. Both were terrific.

The 20th Century Fox presentation was in a new venue for the festival—the American Legion Post 43 Theatre. Recently restored, the building and theater are just beautiful.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Overall, this year’s festival was just fantastic. The films, the presenters, the staff, and the venues for the most part were great. It was also such a pleasure to visit with so many nice people while in line at the festival and to have the opportunity to meet in person fellow TCM fans that I follow on social media.

Just a couple of gripes:

  • The seats in the TCL Chinese Multiplex are supremely uncomfortable. Low to the ground and with seat cushions that are in dire need of replacement, I was squirming in pain and discomfort throughout the screenings there. I know it’s not TCM’s responsibility, but I hope someone will pony up some money and help save us filmgoers who are spending hours in those horrible seats.
  • Even more so than the Mos Eisley spaceport, Hollywood Boulevard continues to be a “wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Having to navigate through the sea of tourists, the endless hawkers, and deafening street performers is something that I never enjoy. The venues at the TCM Classic Film Festival are wonderful and their surroundings are the worst.
  • Someone needs to coach me on where to find a good meal within the general area of the film festival. Everything that I ate this year was expensive and mediocre. I’ll keep trying…

Is It 2020 Yet?

I’m already planning my trip for next year’s festival. Many thanks again to TCM for providing this one-of-a-kind opportunity to see such an eclectic and excellent curation of classic films on the big screen!

(Image ©️ TCM)

April 4, 2019 Podcast

Greetings and thanks for tuning in to this week’s podcast.

New in Theaters

Reviews

  • Dumbo (Here’s a link to my written review)
  • Shazam! (Here’s a link to the opening theme from the 1974-76 CBS television show; and it’s interesting how “Shazam” the super hero used to be known as “Captain Marvel”–more details about that here)

Listen to the podcast below or subscribe to the podcast on Apple iTunes. Have fun at the movies this week and we’ll see you next time.

Review: “Dumbo” (2019)

Tim Burton takes Disney’s beloved flying pachyderm on a new and somewhat dark journey in Walt Disney Studios’ latest live action+photo-realistic CGI remake Dumbo (2019).

This film merges the familiar narrative of the 1941 animated classic with a newly created circus-themed story. As in the original animated feature, the plot is set within a traveling troupe of circus and side show performers along with a menagerie of animals that travel from town to town by train (Casey Jr., of course). In this film, the year is 1919, the circus is the Medici Bros. Circus, and the ringleader is Max Medici (expertly played by Danny DeVito).

In addition to Max, we meet a slew of characters that are new to this story—most importantly the World War I veteran Holt Farrier (played by Colin Farrell) and his two children Milly (played by Nico Parker) and Joe (played by Finley Hobbins). Before the war, Holt and his wife had a successful circus act with horses. But when Holt goes away to fight in the war, he loses a lot—his wife dies, the horses get sold, and he loses one of his arms.

Colin Farrell, Nico Parker, and Finley Hobbins in DUMBO (2019)

Although the circus is one big happy family, it is in financial straits; so much so, that Max bets the farm (or circus) on an exotic new elephant named Mrs. Jumbo. It also turns out that Mrs. Jumbo is pregnant. Since the horses are gone, Max puts Holt and his kids in charge of the precious elephants.

The first act of the film is basically the original Dumbo movie but with these additional characters. Once the original story is out of the way, it takes a wild turn into a brand new direction over the next two-thirds of the film. “Dumbo” (as the baby elephant gets nicknamed) the flying elephant is an instant hit and brings a much needed financial boost to the Medici Bros. Circus. The newfound success piques the interest of circus magnate V.A. Vandevere (played by Michael Keaton) who owns a destination circus attraction and amusement park called Dreamland. Vandevere offers to purchase Medici Bros. Circus and makes Max an offer too good to pass up. But once everyone arrives at Dreamland, things just might be a bit too good to be true.

Danny DeVito in DUMBO (2019)

Tim Burton is able to put his distinctive stylistic stamp on the film, which I mostly liked. His early 20th century circus aesthetic has just the right combination of nostalgia and charm along with his trademark quirkiness.

Other than Danny DeVito (and possibly Colin Farrell), I just didn’t feel like the acting was particularly strong from much of the cast. Also as previously mentioned, the two-thirds of the film that delve into this original new story take Dumbo the character into an unexpected and rather unpleasant place for my tastes. While a newly added animal rights subplot is a timely and important theme, and Dumbo himself still has the same motivations (he just wants to be with his mom), it just didn’t come together in a harmonious and cohesive fashion.

Ultimately, the film is less of a remake and more of a new story and adventure that Dumbo gets plopped into. I kept thinking during the film that it should have had a different title (maybe “Dumbo’s Adventure in Dreamland” or, jokingly, “Free Dumbo: A Dumbo Story”). I respect Tim Burton’s talent and creativity and you all know how much I love the Disney, but this latest “remake” is definitely one that makes you want to run away from the circus rather than to join it.

Dumbo is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for “peril/action, some thematic elements, and brief mild language.”

My score: 3 out of 5 stars

As an added bonus, check out some fun Poster Posse Dumbo posters (on the blog) and this cool IMAX poster (below).

©️ Disney and IMAX

All images ©️ Disney

March 29, 2019 Podcast

Welcome to this week’s podcast!

New in Theaters

Classic Cinema Corner

Loved seeing To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) on the big screen, this month’s entry in the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Big Screen Classics series. It also was this week’s selection in my TCM Essentials quest.

The Criterion Channel launches on April 8! It’s not too late to sign up for a charter membership and enjoy their “Movie of the Week” via your browser on your computer or smartphone. Last week’s “Movie of the Week” was the classic film noir Detour (1945). This week’s film is the bonkers Czechoslovak film The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (1962).

Thanks for tuning in! Listen to the podcast below or subscribe to the podcast on Apple iTunes. Have fun at the movies this week and we’ll see you next time.

New “Avengers: Endgame” Character Posters

Check out these new character posters that dropped today for Marvel Studios’ upcoming superhero fest Avengers: Endgame. There are 32 in all! The posters in full color are the characters that survived Thanos’ sinister snap at the end of Avengers: Infinity War last year.

All images ©️ Marvel

Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.)
Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans)
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)
Thor (Chris Hemsworth)
Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffal0)
Hawkeye/Ronin? (Jeremy Renner)
Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson)
Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)
Nebula (Karen Gillan)
Okoye (Danai Gurira)
James “Rhoady” Rhoades/War Machine (Don Cheadle)
Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow)
Rocket (Bradley Cooper)
Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson)
Wong (Benedict Wong)
Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau)
T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)
Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt)
Gamora (Zoe Saldana)
Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)
Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland)
Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)
Vision (Paul Bettany)
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)
Loki (Tom Hiddleston)
Shuri (Leticia Wright)
Groot (Vin Diesel)
Hope van Dyne/The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly)
Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie)
Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier/White Wolf? (Sebastian Stan)
Mantis (Pom Klementieff)
Drax (Dave Bautista)

And these fake posters cracked me up.

Avengers: Endgame opens in theaters on April 26.