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!

Check Out These Avengers: Infinity War Character Posters!


With the release of Avengers: Infinity War right around the corner, Marvel has released a whole new collection of character posters!  Just in case you were wondering who, from the MCU, is going to show up in Infinity War, here’s a partial reminder!

(By the way, the answer  would appear to be just about everyone who has ever appeared in an MCU film!)

Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr)

Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)

Thor (Chris Hemsworth)

War Machine (Don Cheadle)

Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)

Captain America (Chris Evans)

White Wolf (Sebastian Stan)

Falcon (Anthony Mackie)

Star-Lord (Chris Pratt)

Rocket and Groot (Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel)

Gamora (Zoe Saldana)

Nebula (Karen Gillan)

Drax (Dave Bautista)

Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)

Vision (Paul Bettany)

Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)

Spider-Man (Tom Holland)

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)

Wong (Benedict Wong)

Mantis (Pom Klementieff)

Okoye (Danai Gurira)

Shuri (Letitia Wright)

 

 

The Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Get In With Get Out!


Today, the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics announced their picks for the best of 2017!  After picking up awards from many of the other precursors, Get Out has finally been named best picture of the year.  While it’s always debatable how much weight these various groups carry with the Academy, Get Out can use all the help it can get to become one of the few horror films to ever receive a best picture nomination.

​Best Film
Call Me by Your Name
Dunkirk
Get Out – WINNER
Lady Bird
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Director
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk – WINNER
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Dee Rees – Mudbound

Best Actor
Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
James Franco – The Disaster Artist
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour – WINNER

Best Actress
Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri – WINNER
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
Meryl Streep – The Post

Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Armie Hammer – Call Me By Your Name
Jason Mitchell – Mudbound
Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri – WINNER
Michael Stuhlbarg – Call Me By Your Name

Best Supporting Actress
Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip
Holly Hunter – The Big Sick
Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird – WINNER

Best Acting Ensemble
Dunkirk
It
Mudbound
The Post
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri – WINNER

Best Youth Performance
Dafne Keen – Logan
Sophia Lillis – It
Brooklynn Prince – The Florida Project – WINNER
Millicent Simmonds – Wonderstruck
Jacob Tremblay – Wonder

Best Voice Performance
Will Arnett – The LEGO Batman Movie
Gael García Bernal – Coco
Michael Cera – The LEGO Batman Movie
Bradley Cooper – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Anthony Gonzalez – Coco – WINNER

Best Motion Capture Performance
Andy Serkis – War for the Planet of the Apes – WINNER
Dan Stevens – Beauty and the Beast
Steve Zahn – War for the Planet of the Apes
Taika Waititi – Thor: Ragnarok

Best Original Screenplay
Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani – The Big Sick
Jordan Peele – Get Out – WINNER
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor – The Shape of Water

Best Adapted Screenplay
Hampton Fancher & Michael Green, Story by Hampton Fancher – Blade Runner 2049
James Ivory – Call Me by Your Name
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber – The Disaster Artist
Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game
Virgil Williams and Dee Rees – Mudbound – WINNER

Best Animated Feature
The Breadwinner
Coco – WINNER
Despicable Me 3
The LEGO Batman Movie
Loving Vincent

Best Documentary
City of Ghosts
Faces Places
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Jane – WINNER
Step

Best Foreign Language Film
BPM (Beats Per Minute) – WINNER
First They Killed My Father
In the Fade
The Square
Thelma

Best Production Design
Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049 – WINNER
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Wonder Woman

Best Cinematography
Roger A. Deakins – Blade Runner 2049 – WINNER
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom – Call Me by Your Name
Hoyte Van Hoytema – Dunkirk
Rachel Morrison – Mudbound
Dan Laustsen – The Shape of Water

Best Editing
Baby Driver – WINNER
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
Get Out
The Shape of Water

Best Original Score
Blade Runner 2049 – WINNER
Coco
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

The Joe Barber Award for Best Portrayal of Washington, DC:
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Last Flag Flying
Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House
Spider-Man: Homecoming
The Post – WINNER

A Movie A Day #274: The Dentist (1996, directed by Brian Yuzna)


Alan (Corbin Bernsen) may be a wealthy dentist in Malibu but he still has problems.  He has got an IRS agent (Earl Boen) breathing down his neck.  His assistant, Jessica (Molly Hagan), has no respect for him.  His demanding patients don’t take care of their teeth.  His wife (Linda Hoffman) is fucking the pool guy (Michael Stadvec).  When Alan feels up a beauty queen while she’s passed out from the nitrous oxide, her manager (Mark “yes, the Hulk” Ruffalo) punches him and then goes to the police.  Under pressure from all sides, Alan loses his mind and a crazy dentist with a drill means a lot of missing teeth.

“You’re a rabid anti-dentite!” Kramer once yelled at Jerry Seinfeld and even people who were not already uneasy about going to dentist will be after watching Corbin Bernsen stick his drill in Earl Boen’s mouth.  The scene where Alan tells a group of dental students to yank out their patients’ teeth represents everyone’s worst fear of what dentists talk about when there aren’t any innocent bystanders around.  The Dentist may be predictable but Corbin Bernsen gives the performance of his career, playing the nightmare of anyone who has ever had a toothache.

Of course, good health begins with healthy teeth and real-life dentists provide a valuable service.  Take it from Robert Wagner:

What Thor Was Doing During Civil War


Civil War Thor

For the past decade or so, Marvel Studios has had a major presence in Hall H of San Diego Comic-Con. They’ve made it a point to hype up their upcoming films. From their very first one with Iron Man all the way back in 2007 to this year’s upcoming Doctor Strange and next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. One film coming out next year that only got a sizzle reel of concept art was Thor: Ragnarok. By the time of San Diego Comic-Con the film had only been filming for a couple weeks so any usable footage wasn’t ready to be shown.

Taika Waititi, the film’s director, decided that a sizzle reel of concept art for the film wouldn’t do and ended up filming a short 3-minute mockumentary detailing the whereabouts of one Thor Odinson during this past summer’s Civil War event. People who attended the Hall H presentation were raving about this short film and now the rest of the world gets a chance to see it as Marvel Studios have released the footage for all to experience.

Playing Catch-Up: Spotlight (dir by Tom McCarthy)


Spotlight

Earlier today, I finally got to see Spotlight, the film that is currently the front-runner to win the Oscar for best picture.  Spotlight tells the story of how the Spotlight team, a group of journalists working for the Boston Globe, investigated the shameful history of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Boston.  Starting with charges against one priest, the Spotlight team eventually uncovered sexual abuse by at least 70 priests and also revealed that the revered Cardinal Law was involved in covering up the crimes.

Having now seen Spotlight, I can say it’s a good film.  It’s well-made.  It’s well-acted.  The script contains some memorable lines.  I’ve talked to a few friends of mine who have actually worked as journalists and they have all assured me that Spotlight gets the details of their profession correct and that it’s pretty much an authentic look at what it’s like to be a reporter at a major newspaper.  There’s a lot of good things that can be said about Spotlight.

And yet, I’m not particularly enthusiastic about it.  I think my main issue with the film is that it’s just such an old-fashioned and rather conventional film.  It’s a throw back of sorts, an earnest exploration of a real-life outrage.  (Even the fact that the heroes are journalists makes the film feel as if it was made a decade or two in the past.)  On the one hand, you have to respect that director Tom McCarthy had the guts to tell his story in the least flashy way possible.  But, occasionally, his by-the-book approach is not as compelling as you want or need it to be.  Spotlight is a good film but it’s not a particularly challenging film and it’s the films that challenge us that truly stay with us after the final credits conclude.

Yes, it’s a good film but some are declaring that Spotlight is the best film of the year and I’m afraid that I just don’t see it.  There are a lot of 2015 films that will probably still be fondly remembered 5 years from now: Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, Inside Out, Sicario, and others.  When compared to those films, Spotlight feels more like an admirable made-for-TV movie.  It feels more like something that should sweep the Emmys than the Oscars.

That said, Spotlight does feature some excellent performances.  In fact, the entire cast does such a good job that it’s difficult to really single anyone out.  They come together as a nearly perfect ensemble.  (That said, I’m a bit torn on whether Mark Ruffalo came across as being passionate or merely mannered.)  Michael Keaton, especially, does a good job, embodying everyone’s ideal image of a journalist with integrity.

Spotlight‘s a good film but my favorite Tom McCarthy movie remains Win Win.

The Central Ohio Film Critics Have Announced Their Nominations!


Here are the Central Ohio Film Critics Nominations!

Best Film

-The Big Short
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
-The Revenant
-Room
Sicario
-Spotlight
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Best Director

-Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
-Todd Haynes, Carol
-Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
-George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
-Ridley Scott, The Martian
-Denis Villeneuve, Sicario

Best Actor

-Matt Damon, The Martian
-Johnny Depp, Black Mass
-Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
-Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
-Jacob Tremblay, Room

Best Actress

-Cate Blanchett, Carol
-Brie Larson, Room
-Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
-Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
-Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Best Supporting Actor

-Benicio Del Toro, Sicario
-Tom Hardy, The Revenant
-Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina
-Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
-Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Best Supporting Actress

-Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
-Rooney Mara, Carol
-Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
-Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
-Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Best Ensemble

-The Big Short
Ex Machina
-The Hateful Eight
-Spotlight
Steve Jobs

Actor of the Year (for an exemplary body of work)

-Cate Blanchett (Carol, Cinderella, and Truth)
-Michael Fassbender (Macbeth, Slow West, and Steve Jobs)
-Domhnall Gleeson (Brooklyn, Ex Machina, The Revenant, and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens)
-Tom Hardy (Child 44, Legend, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Revenant)
-Alicia Vikander (Burnt, The Danish Girl, Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Seventh Son, and Testament of Youth)

Breakthrough Film Artist

-Sean Baker, Tangerine – (for producing, directing, screenwriting, film editing, cinematography, camera operation, and casting)
-Joel Edgerton, The Gift – (for producing, directing, and screenwriting)
-David Robert Mitchell, It Follows – (for producing, directing, and screenwriting)
-Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – (for acting)
-Jacob Tremblay, Room – (for acting)
-Alicia Vikander, Burnt, The Danish Girl, Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Seventh Son, and Testament of Youth – (for acting)

Best Cinematography

-Roger Deakins, Sicario
-Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant
-Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight
-John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road
-Dariusz Wolski, The Martian

Best Film Editing

-Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
-Tom McArdle, Spotlight
-Stephen Mirrione, The Revenant
-Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road
-Joe Walker, Sicario

Best Adapted Screenplay

-Emma Donoghue, Room
-Drew Goddard, The Martian
-Nick Hornby, Brooklyn
-Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, The Big Short
-Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs

Best Original Screenplay

-Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley, Inside Out
-Alex Garland, Ex Machina
-Taylor Sheridan, Sicario
-Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
-Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight

Best Score

-Carter Burwell, Carol
-Michael Giacchino, Inside Out
-Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario
-Junkie XL, Mad Max: Fury Road
-Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight

Best Documentary

-Amy
-Best of Enemies
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
-The Look of Silence
-The Wolfpack

Best Foreign Language Film

-The Assassin (Nie yin niang)
-Goodnight Mommy (Ich seh, ich sech)
-Phoenix
-The Tribe (Plemya)
-Timbuktu
-Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes)

Best Animated Film

-Anomalisa
-The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
-The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie

Best Overlooked Film

-The End of the Tour
The Gift
-Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
-Mistress America
-Slow West
-The Tribe (Plemya)