Infinity War: Mega Marvel Team-Up Should Thrill Fans, Confuse All Others

4 out of 5 stars (one of the best in its series)

Avengers Infinity War Poster
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Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of the past 10 years of superhero movies within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Fans of the franchise will laugh and cry as their favorite heroes go up against the toughest foe they’ve ever encountered, while non-fans will wonder what all the fuss is about.  Essentially, this is a movie for the devotees of this billion-dollar series.  If you are not on the Marvel train yet, either engage in a massive binge session to get caught up, or wait until The Incredibles 2 next month for your superhero fix.

The story sees several members of the Avengers team (who are too numerous to mention) battle the malevolent alien Thanos (an intimidating Josh Brolin).  Everyone will put their egos aside in order to stop Thanos from getting the magical Infinity Stones and annihilating half of Earth’s population.

Avengers: Infinity War will thrill and emotionally devastate series fans, but the uninitiated will be lost.  Despite the downbeat tone, the film contains unexpected humor from the character interactions and some of the best action in the franchise.  The performances are uniformly strong, and Brolin steals the show as one of the series’ best villains.  Lastly, the emotionally charged ending is nothing short of heartbreaking for fans, changing the rules for both this universe and superhero films as we know them.

Avengers: Infinity War is a thrilling, fun, and emotional climax to the past 10 years of Marvel’s reign over the multiplex.  May future installments continue to entertain as much as this.

Rated PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Sci-Fi Violence And Action Throughout, Language, And Some Crude References

These “Stars” Have Very Bright Futures

5 out of 5 stars (one of the best films I’ve ever seen, period)

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I am not a fan of “romantic movies.” This is because Hollywood screenwriters usually go through the motions, having the couple meet up in some quirky way, then having them form a hastily-assembled relationship so they can have sex and earn that oh-so-coveted PG-13 to sell tickets instead of crafting a real relationship with their characters.

“The Fault in Our Stars” skips that well-worn yellow brick road, and I am happy to say that it is not only one of the best films out this summer, but one of my favorite romantic movies. I was initially skeptical about this film, given that the star was Shailene Woodley (Of “Divergent” and “Secret Life”).

Since her career began on an ABC Family series, I was quick to dismiss her. After seeing “Fault,” I possess high expectations for Ms. Woodley and hope that she will continue to impress.

She plays Hazel, a teen with cancer who is trying to have as normal a life as possible. Though she thinks them dorky, Hazel appeases her mother (Laura Dern) by attending a teen cancer support group. You know-that thing where everyone sits around and says what they have and everyone claps at the end. Hazel would much rather be living her life than attending a weekly feel-good session.

That life improves when she meets Gus (Ansel Elgort of the “Carrie” remake) at a group session. He had cancer once before, but has now beat it and is living life to the fullest. Though she is hesitant about a new relationship, Hazel slowly becomes friends with Gus, changing both of their lives forever.

This film is incredible. The actors have amazing chemistry (especially given their ages) and the relationship that develops seems extremely real, a rare treat in a movie of this genre. It has come to my attention that the screenwriters are two of the most sought-after writers, and I can now understand why.

The characters didn’t seem like characters, but actual teenagers, an anomaly in a market flooded with 30 year-olds playing teens. Though Woodley is 22, she still looks and sounds like an authentic 18-year-old. Praise should also be given to Elgort, who gives an equally honest, relatable performance.

I especially loved the film’s script, which is written with humor, warmth, and honest humanity that is sinfully absent in other films of the genre. I did not expect the lead of an ABC Family series and an actor playing a minor role in a remake would be so much fun to watch onscreen together.

The other noteworthy performances come from Nat Wolff as Gus’s best guy friend and Willem Dafoe (Of 2002’s “Spider-Man”). Wolff has finally grown out of his “Naked Brothers Band” phase and possesses a surprisingly engaging likeability and screen presence, and Dafoe gives his best performance since “Spider-Man.” I am now interested to see Dafoe’s other works from the past.

The film also succeeds at being a tearjerker, something I didn’t expect. Most romantic dramas attempt to go for “tearjerker” status by turning sentimental at the end, and this one does for one scene, but it’s the writing and emotion given by the actors that earn it that status. I am not a big crier, but I was fighting back small tears near the end. Word of Advice: Bring a tissue box.

The final ingredient to this masterpiece is its use of music. Every teen drama film or TV show uses music to express the feelings of characters or to set up the tone of a scene or sequence, but this film uses it to an effect that puts most teen shows (which often use music appropriately) to shame. If a soundtrack is released for this film, I would highly recommend it.

All in all, “The Fault in Our Stars” is the most romantic film of the summer and one of the most romantic films I have ever seen, earning it a place on my “Favorite romantic films list” with “Titanic”, “Ghost”, and “Ever After”. Like the other films on this list, “The Fault in Our Stars” also serves as a perfect date movie. Guys, I know it looks like a chick flick, but your girlfriend will be crying into your shoulder for comfort.

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, Some sexuality, and brief strong language (I’m not a fan of strong language, but its use was one of the most appropriate I’ve ever seen in a movie)

“Seven Pounds”: Smith’s Drama is Decent, but Confusing

2.5 out of 5 stars (decent)

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First of all, this is one of Will Smith’s dramas, not comedies. Second, it’s more aimed at adults then kids.  Third, Will Smith is the only person that could have been picked for this role.

In Seven Pounds, Smith portrays Ben Thomas, a somewhat sympathetic IRS agent with anger issues. Ben can change the lives of seven people who are deep in debt to the government drastically. the seven people are Ezra (Woody Harrelson), a man who works at a meat factory, a child, a blind pianist named Dan (Barry Pepper) , a horrible boss of a hospital, a silent patient at that hospital, an woman named Sarah (Robinne Lee) and her children who have been treated violently by her boyfriend, and Emily (Rosario Dawson), a woman who can’t pay the government because of her congenital heart problem.

I can’t give you much more or it will spoil the movie.  But I can tell you that Ben falls in love with Emily.

I liked this movie because it moved at a steady pace and the acting was very good. Rosario Dawson is fresh off her fame from Eagle Eye, and I recognized her almost immediately.  The film is deep and complicated, and if you miss 5 minutes, the movie will be even more confusing then it already is.

But the film is long, and in the middle it slows down a little bit. Luckily, the movie speeds back up pretty quickly.

2008 has been a big year for Will Smith. There was his summer action movie Hancock, and now Seven Pounds.  I bet that Will Smith would love to just take a break from moviemaking and just relax.

Rated PG-13 for Language, Frightening Images, and a scene of Sensuality