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
image from https://www.amazon.com/

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 “Guardians” Rescue the Summer Film Season

4 out of 5 stars (one of the best of the year)

Guardians of the Galaxy poster
Image from: https://www.amazon.com/

Marvel has saved the summer once again. They had “X-Men: Days of Future Past” back in May and now, they bring us “Guardians of the Galaxy”, that now-rare superhero movie that doesn’t have a brooding, depressed main character, a grave tone, or a dark score.  Marvel became solemn in the last film in its cinematic universe with “Captain America the Winter Soldier”.  I admire a series that matures with its audience, but that film was too gritty for my liking, an issue I never thought I would have with a Marvel film.  Thankfully, “Guardians of the Galaxy” doesn’t take itself too seriously, giving us a funny, action-packed sci-fi flick that is reminiscent of the original “Star Wars”.  In all honesty, this summer has (with a few exceptions), not been all that great at the movies, but “Guardians of the Galaxy” has swooped in to save us when (nearly) all hope was lost, for me anyway, of there being one more memorable blockbuster of 2014.

The film follows a ragtag group of misfits: Starlord (Chris Pratt giving a surprisingly good performance), Gamora (Zoe Saldana giving the best performance I’ve seen of hers), and Rocket Raccoon (voiced energetically by Bradley Cooper).  Vin Diesel voices Groot with not a trace of normal wooden performances, and Drax (Dave Bautista) as they race to defeat an enemy that wishes to destroy the galaxy.  The dialogue is wickedly clever with laugh-out-loud one-liners throughout.  This is the first Marvel film that I could almost call a comedy as well as a great action film.  The comedic dialogue is much more ingenious than suggested by the previews.`

What separates “Guardians of the Galaxy” from the other Marvel superhero movies is its unique approach to the superhero origin story. While most Marvel films open with narration or a cool action scene, this one opens on possibly the saddest note I’ve ever seen for a Marvel film.  I thought it was a trailer for another movie, but it turned out to be a character setup.  To add to the uniqueness, the characters don’t technically have superpowers, they are just individuals who are gifted in one way or another.  The character relationships are extremely entertaining to watch, especially that of Rocket and Groot.  Rocket is able to translate what Groot is saying even though all we hear is “I am Groot”, similar to Lassie barking at Billy and Billy knowing that some kid is trapped in a well.  Pratt and Saldana have good chemistry, making their interactions equally as enjoyable.  That said, one of the greatest personal joys was watching Glenn Close take a small role very seriously, as if she were in a regular movie.  The same applies to John C. Reilly’s cameos; but he gets more funny lines than she does.

The music in this film is a blast, using 70’s rock tunes throughout the film to set the tone for scenes in just the right way.  I don’t think I’ve tapped my toes in an action movie this much in my entire film reviewing career.  The older crowd (those who grew up in the 70’s) will certainly enjoy this aspect, while some (my mom) might argue that younger viewers will learn what good music is.

The 3D in this movie is actually worth the money, something that surprised me.  Those who read my reviews know my opinion on the use of 3D, and I was very skeptical about it, but nearly every action scene has something pop out at you in an effective way.  For once, the cost of the ticket is worth it for the 3D version, so see it if you can.

The film is not without problems, unfortunately.  The climax scene has characters engaged in both hand-to-hand combat and in space vehicles, a common occurrence in modern sci-fi.  The problem is that the scene feels overly long when in the vehicles (an issue thankfully avoided by the other action scenes in the movie), as if writer/director James Gunn briefly ran out of interesting ideas and just went generic for a few minutes.  Thankfully, the combat is engaging to watch and well-filmed.  Honestly, had the flight sequence been shorter and better-shot, this film would have gotten a four and a half star rating.

There is one other problem, this one more personal.  Marvel has always avoided having a large amount of profanity in their films, choosing instead to get their PG-13 ratings for violence (AKA an element that is required for the film to work).  Marvel films are generally pretty clean when it comes to language, and that is something I have always admired.  Sadly, that trend did not follow in this movie.  This film unexpectedly has the most swearing I’ve heard in a PG-13 Marvel movie, instead of the company’s normally classy handling of that specific area.  I know that they’ve been endlessly advertising this movie on TV for some time now, and that kids love superhero movies, but think carefully before letting young ones see this.  The language is saltier then I felt comfortable hearing with my 9 year old buddy Colin.  I hope this is specific to this franchise (yes, a release date for the sequel has been set for July 2017) and not for future installments of their popular heroes.

Rated PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Sci-fi, Violence and Action, and Some Language

“Days of Future Past” is X-hilarating

4.5 out of 5 stars (nearly a classic)

X-Men: Days of Future Past Poster
Image from https://www.amazon.com/

X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the best films of the long-running X-Men franchise.  It combines everything I love about the franchise: Interesting characters, good humor, and engaging action sequences, once again under the direction of Bryan Singer, the man who arguably started the public’s fascination with comic book films.  If you have not seen or have a general dislike of the X-Men films, then this will only confuse you.  If you love the films, this one will entertain you.

Logan (Hugh Jackman once again proving he’s the only man for the role) has joined forces with Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and his once-foe Magneto (Ian McKellen) along with a rag-tag band of mutants who are fighting against the Sentinels, giant mutant-hunting robots created by Dr. Trask (Peter Dinklage displaying that his small stature does not hinder his ability to intimidate).

The situation has escalated to the point that the mutant’s only option is to send someone back to 1973 and stop the Sentinels from being created in the first place.  A mutant with the ability to project people’s brains back in time does so to Logan so that he can get a younger Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) to assist him with this.  Once there, he discovers that it was Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence once again displaying her amazing acting talents) who unintentionally caused the present problems.  Unfortunately, Charles is in a mental funk at this point, and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is still up to his old tricks.  Time is of the essence, however, so Logan must accomplish his mission or risk the annihilation of the mutant population.

I cannot begin to describe how much this movie surprised me.  The trailers made it look as if it would be one of two things: absolutely amazing, or just okay.  Thankfully, it was absolutely amazing.  The plot moves quickly, the characters are as engaging as ever, and all of the humor hits the mark.  The story was written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn (Vaughn directed X-Men: First Class, which breathed new life into the series), and the two of them have that rare ability to balance humor and seriousness without there being tonal whiplash.

Dinklage is the perfect man to play Trask, being so intimidating that you forget his dwarfish size.  He is one of the best villains I’ve seen in this series, the second being William Stryker in X2.  The viewer can hate and understand his goals at the same time, another rarity in an action film.  The real standout performance is Jennifer Lawrence, who commands the attention of the audience whenever she’s onscreen.  Provided she doesn’t pull any Lindsay Lohans on us, Lawrence should have a long and prosperous career.  McAvoy also succeeds at playing a broken man while not making his character depressing.  My only complaint is that some of the actors don’t get a lot to do.  Halle Berry shows up as Storm in the climax, but that’s about it.  Hopefully, she will get more to do in the next film.

All in all, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a fantastic movie, mixing the five star rating by a grain of salt.  It’s funny, action-packed, and absolutely amazing.

Rated PG-13 for Sequences of Intense Sci-Fi Violence and Action, Some Suggestive Material, Nudity (one humorous scene) and Language (not all that much)