Lisa Reviews Avengers: Infinity War (dir by Joe and Anthony Russo)


(Warning: There are spoilers in this review.  They’re not necessarily huge spoilers but they’re there.  Read at your own risk.)

Avengers: Infinity War is a lot of things.  It’s big, it’s thrilling, it’s emotional, it’s colorful, it’s loud, it’s flamboyant, and, clocking in at two and a half hours, it’s occasionally a bit exhausting.  It’s overwhelming but it’s never boring.  It’s a nearly perfect example of pure cinema, where the story is less about what happens and more how it’s told. It’s a tribute to not just the Marvel Cinematic Universe but also to the audiences who have been flocking to each movie since Iron Man was first released way back in 2008.  Avengers: Infinity War is a pop art masterpiece, one that provides the first part of a climax to a saga that’s been unfolding for ten years.

In the days leading up to the release of Avengers: Infinity War, the main selling point was the assumption that this movie would feature every single character that’s been introduced as a citizen of the MCU so far.  Though the film comes close to including everyone, there are still a few characters who are notable for their absence.  Ant-Man and the Wasp are nowhere to be seen.  None of the Marvel Television characters show up, which is a shame because I’m sure Jessica Jones would have had some choice words about the potential end of the universe.  Two familiar SHIELD agents make a brief appearance, though you have to wonder where they were when New York and Wakanda were being invaded.

That said, all of the big heroes show up.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) flies into space with Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland).  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) teams up with Rocket Racoon and Groot (voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively).  When Wakanda is attacked, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), White Wolf (Sebastian Stan), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Rhodey (Don Cheadle), and Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) are all present to defend it.  Meanwhile, Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) continue to pursue their odd relationship while Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) search for Gamora’s father, Thanos (Josh Brolin).

It’s a packed film and the fact that it works as well as it does is a testament to the power of perfect casting and movie star charisma.  At this point, we feel as if we know these characters.  We know that Tony Stark is going to be haunted by what happened the last time Thanos’s minions involved New York.  We know that Spider-Man is going to be desperate to prove that he belongs with the adults, just as we know that Dr. Strange isn’t going to be particularly impressed with anyone he meets.  Needless to say, some characters get more screen time than others.  Despite a good deal of the film taking place in Wakanda, Black Panther largely stays in the background.  I personally wish that both Natasha and Captain America had been given a bit more to do.  Considering just how talented both Anthony Mackie and Don Cheadle are, it’s a shame that neither one of them ever gets to do much in these films.  At the same time, Infinity Wars allows both Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany to come into their own and Chris Hemsworth again shows that he may be the most underrated star in the MCU.  I’ve read a lot of criticism of certain actions taken by Peter Quill towards the end of the film but actually, it’s exactly what you would expect his character to do in the situation and, up until that moment, Chris Pratt is a welcome presence.  It’s important to have someone around who appreciates good music and who can make you laugh, especially considering that Thanos is planning to wipe out 50% of the universe’s population…

Oh yes, Thanos.  After spending years lurking in the background, Thanos finally steps forward in Infinity War.  In fact, it can be argued that Avengers: Infinity War is actually much more of a Thanos film than an Avengers film.  While our heroes are continually spending the film trying to catch up to Thanos and reacting to his latest action, Thanos is always one step ahead.  Thanos is the one who steers the narrative and, for once, you really do believe that an MCU villain views the heroes as being mere distractions.  Thanos is the one on a quest and the film follows him through every step of his search.  In fact, the film’s most emotional moments belong to Thanos.  For all the death and destruction to be found in the film’s surprisingly dark narrative, Thanos is the only character to ever shed a tear.  Like all great villains, Thanos doesn’t view himself as being evil.  Instead, Thanos speaks very sincerely of his desire to bring balance to the universe.  The scary thing about Thanos isn’t that he claims that he’s being merciful when he slaughters millions of beings.  The scary thing about Thanos is that believes it.

Thanos, you see, is a bit of an intergalactic environmentalist.  As he explains it, the universe only has a finite number of resources.  By killing half of the universe’s population, he is ensuring that the other half will be able to survive in peace and harmony.  Most people would call Thanos’s actions genocidal but Thanos would probably say that he’s merely making the difficult decisions that others don’t have the courage or intelligence to make.  It may all sound rather far-fetched and melodramatic until you consider that, just last week, bureaucrats and doctors in the UK decided it would be better to starve a sick infant to death rather than allow his parents to take him to be treated in another country.  With his mix of narcissism and absolutely belief in his own moral certitude, Thanos is a far more familiar villain than a lot of viewers might want to admit.  As opposed to the forgettable villains who have appeared in so many MCU films, Thanos is a compelling and complicated figure.  It’s interesting to note that two of the best performances of the year so far were given by actors appearing as villains in MCU films, Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther and Josh Brolin in this one.

As befits the film’s subject matter, Infinity War is a sprawling film, one that skips from world to world.  The visuals are frequently spectacular, as are the many battles.  From the opening attack on New York to the final battles in Wakanda and in space, the action is non-stop and thrilling.  (It helps that, as opposed to some of the previous MCU films, it’s always clear who is fighting who and why they’re fighting.)  For me, though, the most memorable scenes are the scenes where Thanos looks and considers the worlds that he’s destroyed.  There’s a scene where an exhausted Thanos rests on a placid planet and it’s one of the strongest images in the history of the MCU.

I’ve been told that I shouldn’t worry too much about all of the characters who are killed over the course of Infinity War.  From what I’ve been told, it’s apparently something of a tradition in Marvel comics to kill off a bunch of recognizable characters and then have them come back to life an issue or two later.  And the fact that the sequel to Infinity War has already been filmed and is set to released next year leads me to suspect that nothing’s permanent.  I mean, if all of these people are really dead, there aren’t going to be many heroes left to make any more movies about.  That said, I still got far more emotional than I probably should have at some of the unexpected demises.  Especially … well, no.  I won’t say the name.  But seriously, it was upsetting.

2018 is shaping up to be the year of Marvel.  So far, Marvel has released two of the best films of the year.  To be honest, a film as huge as Infinity War shouldn’t have worked and yet, it does.  It’s a masterpiece of pop art.*

* For a totally different response to Avengers: Infinity War, check out Ryan’s review by clicking here!

Eurocomics Spotlight : Manuele Fior’s “Blackbird Days”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Italian cartoonist Manuele Fior now calls Paris home, but his publishing home is clearly Fantagraphics, who released his breakthrough graphic novels 5,000 KM Per Second and its equally stunning follow-up, The Interview, in 2016 and 2017, respectively, and are now making it three books in three years with their collection of a decade’s worth of his best short strips, Blackbird Days, which is at the very least a showcase for Fior’s incredible artistic and authorial versatility, but at its best is something altogether more.

Case in point : the volume’s longest (and titular) piece bears no direct narrative connection to The Interview, but is clearly set in the same just-slightly-askew world and uses the story of its troubled protagonist — an engineer on the precipice of getting busted for a “white-collar” crime — to set the stage for an intriguingly oblique mini-mystery, but also to lend weight…

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Here’s The Latest Trailer (and the pre-trailer teaser) for Ant-Man and The Wasp!


Hi, everyone!

So, Jeff & I just saw Avengers: Infinity War!  I’ll be working on my review tonight but while I’m writing, feel free to watch the latest trailer for this year’s third Marvel film, Ant-Man and The Wasp!  2018 is truly shaping up to be the year of Marvel so it’ll be interesting to see if people get as excited about Ant-Man and The Wasp as they have about Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War.

To be honest, the combination of Black Panther and Infinity War have set the bar very high.  Obviously, the film isn’t going to have the cultural cachet of Black Panther.  Nor does it look like it’s going to be quite as colorful as Infinity War.  Instead, this looks very much like a back-to-basics super hero film, one that will make good use of Paul Rudd’s charisma.  Hopefully, he and Evangeline Lilly will have a bit more chemistry in this film than they did in the first Ant-Man.

The video below starts with the “Where was Ant-Man during Infinity War?” teaser that was released yesterday and then it continues on to the trailer, which was released earlier today.

Moldy Horror: FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE (Warner Bros/Amicus 1973)


cracked rear viewer

I’ve discussed the Max Roseberg/Milton Subotsky Amicus horror anthologies before on this blog. All are good, if uneven, little entries in the genre, and FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE is no exception. This was the last of the Amicus tales of terror, a quartet of creepiness based on the work of British horror writer R. Chetwynd-Hayes. I’ll admit I’m not familiar with Mr. Cheywynd-Hayes’s work, so I couldn’t tell you if the movie’s faithful to it or not. I can tell you FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE is about 50/50 in the chills department.

An all-star British cast gives it a game try, though. The segments are linked by horror icon Peter Cushing , looking rather gaunter than usual as the proprietor of Temptations Ltd., an antique shop which serves to set the stories in motion. Unfortunately, the part is a waste of Cushing’s talent; I could see him in any of…

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Anime of the Day: Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing (Ace Attorney)


Today is not just Communist New Year.  It’s also Law Day!

Now, I know that Law Day sounds like a made up holiday but, believe it or not, it is very much real.  Dwight Eisenhower proclaimed the first Law Day on May 1st, 1958 and it has been observed every year since.  In fact, Congress even made it one of those official holidays that no one has ever heard of.

According to Wikipedia:

36 U.S.C. § 113 states, in part:

Law Day, U.S.A., is a special day of celebration by the people of the United States—
(1) in appreciation of their liberties and the reaffirmation of their loyalty to the United States and of their rededication to the ideals of equality and justice under law in their relations with each other and with other countries; and
(2) for the cultivation of the respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life.

So, in honor of Law Day, here’s an Ace Attorney AMV!

Anime: Ace Attorney

Song: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing by Set It Off

Creator: ChaosFanGal

Past AMVs of the Day

A Blast From The Past: Patriotism


Flag (Erin Nicole Bowman, 2010)

Today is Loyalty Day!

If you haven’t ever heard of Loyalty Day before … well, then you’re probably a subversive or something.  Loyalty Day has been a real holiday since 1955.  That was when President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed May 1st to be Loyalty Day.  (I’m going to guess that this was done largely to provide an alternative to International Workers Day or Communist New Year or whatever May Day was known as back then.)  The official statutory definition reads as follows:

(a) Designation.— May 1 is Loyalty Day.(b) Purpose.— Loyalty Day is a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom.(c) Proclamation.— The President is requested to issue a proclamation—

(1) calling on United States Government officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on Loyalty Day; and
(2) inviting the people of the United States to observe Loyalty Day with appropriate ceremonies in schools and other suitable places.

So, in honor of Loyalty Day, here’s a short film from 1972.  It’s called Patriotism and it was apparently made to teach school children what it meant to be a patriot.  Apparently, it means working as a crossing guard and wearing a vaguely fascist-looking vest while doing so.  It also means keeping an eye out for weeds and trash in your neighborhood.  My favorite part of this film is when the kid spots the turned over garbage can and gets a look of disgust on his face.  You can just tell he’s thinking, “Those goddamn hippies.”

(For the record, that’s what I always think whenever I can’t find a pen at work.)

Personally, I agree that making a good neighborhood is the first step in making a good country so I definitely applaud the kids for taking the time to clean their neighborhood up.  Still, I have to wonder: where are the adults?  How many grown ups walked past the overturned trash can and just ignored it?  Perhaps all the adults in the neighborhood were so disillusioned by George McGovern dumping Tom Eagleton as his running mate that they just gave up on life.  Who knows?  1972 was apparently a pretty traumatic year for some people.  Myself, I just find it amusing that there was a politician named McGovern.  That’s like a seminarian named McClergy.

Speaking of adults, this short film was hosted by actor Bob Crane, who would be murdered six years later and whose life would serve as the basis for a rather depressing movie called Auto Focus.

Anyway, in the immortal words of Team America: World Police, “America!  Fuck yeah!”  Let’s make this the best Loyalty Day ever!

 

 

Scenes That I Love: The Mirror Scene From Duck Soup


Since today is May Day, how about a little Marx for today’s scene of the day?

Believe it or not, when Duck Soup was initially released in 1933, it was considered to be something of a failure.  Especially when compared to previous Marx Brothers films, it was seen as being a box office disappointment.  The critics didn’t care much for it, either.  They felt that the film’s political satire was preposterous and tasteless.  Much as how today’s critics attacked the Death Wish remake for being released at a time when gun control was trending on twitter, critics in 1933 attacked Duck Soup for being a cynical, anti-government satire released during the Great Depression.

(To be honest, you would think that the Great Depression would have made people better appreciate anything that made fun of the incompetence of government but maybe people were in too bad of a mood to see the joke.  Who knows?  1933 was a strange year.)

Of course, today, Duck Soup is justifiably viewed as being a classic comedy.  It’s certainly my favorite Marx Brothers film.  In the classic scene below, Harpo pretends to be Groucho’s reflection in a shattered mirror.  It’s a marvelous piece of physical humor so enjoy it!

(And the next time you see a film bragging about their Rotten Tomatoes score, consider that if Rotten Tomatoes had existed in 1933, it would have gotten a “rotten” rating.  The truth of the matter is that most critics are as clueless as Rufus T. Firefly looking into a broken mirror.)