5 Stars Movies

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

All this time, we have had it wrong.

Despite the drastic ending of Infinity War, when Thanos succeeded in wiping out half the universe, we were not given a year to recover from the snap heard round the cosmos. Rather, we were given a year to prepare for Avengers: Endgame. I have not felt this feeling in a movie theater since the conclusion of the original Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Of those survivors of the snap, life has (understandably) changed drastically for our heroes. I will not say how, for they are worth finding out for yourselves (though I will say that the changes of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor put a giant smile on my face). When all seems lost, we get the return of Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), who has been trapped in the quantum realm during the snap (we learn this at the end of Ant Man & the Wasp). He proposes an idea that is so crazy it could never work: use the quantum realm for time travel and reverse the events that led to the deaths of all the heroes we have been mourning (let alone the rest). This leads to countless (and hilarious) comparisons to films like Back to the Future, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Hot Tub Time Machine. Personally, I was thinking of the description of time travel from Doctor Who, which states it is “more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey….stuff.”

What follows is akin to a collection of classic reruns, as certain teams travel to certain points in time to collect the stones, seeing many (and I mean many) familiar faces along the way. This gives more time for our heroes (specifically the ones we have known since the beginning) to grow even more as characters and as people (or Gods or raccoons or whatever). Of course, when Thanos (Josh Brolin) reenters, all is even more complex. The showdown at the end (which you know will happen) is one of the best action scenes ever put to film.

From Chris Evans’s Steve Rodgers/Captain America and Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man to Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon and Karen Gillan’s Nebula, the characters of the MCU are some of the most recognizable and memorable characters in the history of cinema (regardless of genre). Sure, we all like to imagine having made up powers to fight the bad guy (not to mention doing it as a team), but to care for these characters like family is something on a whole other level. There is a sense of closure at the end of the film that seems so palpable. The film reminds us how we as humans can relate empathically with fictional characters. Furthermore, the film inspires us to be courageous and self-sacrificial. It reminds me of a quotation from the aforementioned Lord of the Rings trilogy: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”

Parents, the film is a little bit more graphic than the other MCU films; it still has a PG-13 rating like all the other MCU movies. A good amount of swearing, too.

Next up, the MCU is bringing us Spider-Man: Far from Home, and then it will be awhile before we have any other films from Marvel. After seeing Avengers: Endgame, you can understand the time off. It will be near impossible to follow this film up.


Rating: 5 out of 5.
5 Stars Movies

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

For the past ten years, Marvel has made (for the most part) solid entertaining movies. Few movies have been any kind of a threat of dethroning Marvel’s work (Iron Man, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther). Now comes the cream of the crop, Avengers: Infinity War.

If you have seen any of the Marvel films (I know you have), you know there have been six infinity stones in the universe. They are being hunted by Thanos (Josh Brolin), in his quest to bring balance to the cosmos. This is done with the infinity gauntlet, which he can use to wipe out half of all living things, with a snap of his fingers. Standing in his way are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Captain America (Chris Evans), … ok, basically everyone in every Marvel movie except for Ant-Man and Hawkeye.

Remember Spider-Man 3, when there were too many characters and story lines? Well, Infinity War has only one real story line and one villain. Nevertheless, all the star players are not only here, but needed. After all, that is how hard it is to defeat a guy like Thanos. The first ten minutes alone prove my point because “We have a hulk” isn’t good enough for the Asgardians.

Credit also must be given to directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Each character is given not only the same amount of screen time, but the right amount of it. Kudos to the actors for remembering the old rule: no small parts, only small actors.

Speaking of which, there is even a role for Peter Dinklage. I mean that transition not as a put down joke, but from the heart. There is no doubting the man’s talent.

Perhaps the greatest difference between the films of the MCU and the (now defunct) DCU is that the former has far more layered characters. After spending a decade with most of them, we have seen a character arc in nearly every one of them, and have seen there ups and downs, fears and beliefs, strengths and weaknesses. How applicable are the words from Proverbs 18:24; “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” The heroes are not blood related (Thor and Loki are brothers, but not by blood, as is the case for Gamora and Nebula), but have gone thru so much they may as well be. How can that not be relatable?

John 15:13 tells us a deep, moral truth: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.Avengers: Infinity War recognizes this truth time and time again. One critical point in the plot is the discussion over whether to kill Vision preemptively to stop Thanos from getting the Mind stone. Vision was willing to die (and did!) for his friends.

Parents, Infinity War is darker than most other Marvel movies, but still an acceptable film for Middle Schoolers and above.

That is all I will say, because this is not a movie to read about. It is one to experience. And what an experience.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

5 Stars Movies

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Relatable characters are one of the main ingredients for any movie to work on an audience, and the more flawed they are is a plus. Some of the portrayels are so iconic that we can’t imagine anyone else playing them. There is no Taxi Driver (1976) without Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle,or (for contemporary audiences) no Pirates of the Carribean if Jack Sparrow is not played by Johnny Depp. Both of the forementioned characters (and countless others) are in totally different situations (let alone genres), but we relate to them because of their flaws. In short, they are anti-heroes.

This brings us to Cool Hand Luke Jackson, which is a role that is forever immortalized by screen legend Paul Newman. Set in the South, the film starts off in the middle of the night, with Luke (Newman) under the influence and cutting the heads off of parking meters. There is no real reason he has behind this. Sentenced to two years, he is then transferred to the local outdoor chain gang, where prisoners call all in authority “Captain”. Any rule broken (whether minor or major) is going to make you “spend a night in the box”.

Luke is one of fifty prisoners, the leader of which is Dragline (George Kennedy, who won the film its only Oscar for Best Supporting Actor). One of the key scenes of the film (among many of them) is the boxing match between Dragline and Luke. Dragline is so overpowering that Luke is not so much an underdog as he is dead meat. Yet still, he keeps getting back up, despite being knocked down. This is when we realize this is one film character we will not soon forget.

That is key to Luke’s character, as he is one who never gives in to conforming. The bible verse this reminded me of was the first part of Romans 12:2. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. In many ways, Luke is the Christ character of the film. He has a bunch of friends who look to him for guidance and encouragement (such as when they are to tar the road). He is abused (the whole sequence of digging a hole is torture for anyone). There is even an image of him lying as if on a cross after the ever popular egg eating scene (if there were ever a movie to teach you about eating eggs, it is this film). As stated before, he is far from perfect (he is in jail, after all), but there are a good amount of ideals that the fellow prisoners strive for, and we the audience join them.

Not too much is revealed of Luke’s past, despite finding out he was a war veteran. We do get a visit from his dying mother Arletta (Jo Van Fleet), the only family Luke really has. When we find out her fate, there is a scene of just two minutes of Luke’s reaction that shows some of the best acting of Newman’s long career. It is painfully electric.

There is one scene that parents should be wary of and that is the car wash scene. In it, the gang is working on the road nearby a house, where a local young woman is washing a car in very loose clothing. Nothing explicit is seen, but the scene does last five minutes or so.

The film was released during the Vietnam War, during which more people were trying to stand up to authority. It was easily a film of its time. Now, over five decades later, it still speaks to us. In a very poetic way, it can be said that Cool Hand Luke has never had “failure to communicate” with audiences of any era.

You can catch Cool Hand Luke on Netflix.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

4 Stars Movies

Shazam! (2019)

It is not much of a secret that the DC universe has not made the best of films, with the exception of Wonder Woman (and possible Man of Steel). It is true that superhero films can be better when darker and have more depth, but it is a fresh reminder that they can also be fun. Enter Shazam!, which I would wager is the best film in the DC line up to this point.

Directed by David F. Sandberg (whose recent films, Annabelle: Creation, and Lights Out, were in the horror genre), Shazam! starts off with two flashbacks: one involving a young Thad Sivana (Ethan Pugiotto) who is transported via a magic 8 ball (oh how I miss those) to the cave of a magic wizard (Djimon Hounsou, who Marvel fans may recognize as Korath). He is looking for someone to pass his magic to, provided they are pure in heart. While young Thad may look like he is pure in heart, he fails, and is transported back to his father and older brother (who are not the most loving).

Fast forward to the present day, where we meet Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a runaway orphan who has spent most of his life looking for his mother after losing her at a carnival when he was younger. He is given new foster parents, Victor and Rosa Vasquez (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans), who already have a couple of foster kids on hand. The youngest is Darla (Faithe Herman), a super loving and always talking tike. Eugene (Ian Chen) is an adorable computer geek. Pedro (Jovan Armand) is kind but very reserved. The oldest is Mary (Grace Fulton), who takes the others under her wing as she is in the process of finding out which college to attend. Finally there is Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer, most recently seen as one of the “Loser’s in 2017’s IT, and proves again here is one heck of a young talent), who, despite having a crutch, cracks one liners like a pro.

One day, Billy is summoned by the wizard, who tries again to pass his powers on. While the Wizard is still looking for one with a pure heart, Billy assures him that he is not the right choice (even going so far as to say no one really has a pure heart). It is discovered that the wizard has been holding off the seven deadly sins (gluttony, envy, lust, pride, greed, wrath, and sloth) from re entering the world and wreaking havoc. Eventually, the Wizard convinces him, and has Billy say the his name, Shazam!, turning him older and with powers (as well as into Zachary Levi, who is clearly having the time of his life in the title role).

We are then treated to half an hour or so of Billy learning of his super powers (with Freddy’s help, since he is the only one who knows about “this caped crusader stuff”). In this time, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself laughing quite a lot at the shennanigans that these two get themselves in (such as finding out what beer really tastes like). Meanwhile, the adult Thad (Mark Strong) has found his way back to the mystery cave, and has started to cause his own chaos. He becomes something that every DC film has basically lacked (unless you count Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad): a good villian.

Parents, the movie is PG-13, with some casual swearing (since the kids are mainly middle school age), and some suggestive material (the kids end up at one point in a “Gentleman’s Club”, though we never see the inside of it). There were even times I was thinking the film may even have been PG, so I would think ten and up would be okay.

The source of the power Billy possesses, of course, is in the name Shazam! (so much so that I have to always end it with an exclamation point). The same, of course, is true with God (only much more so). In Exodus 3, Moses asks God what name he should use when he reports back to the Israelites. God’s answer is one of my favorite moments of the whole bible: “I AM WHO I AM” (verse 14). The same also can be said of Jesus. If you bring the name of Jesus Christ up in a conversation, it does have quite an affect. Some people still cannot get over what to do with Jesus. If you want a quick primer on the argument for the resurrection of Jesus, click here. Speaking of authority and one’s name, the movie is also a nice reminder of how power (like the word of God) is not as effective if not shared. Romans 10:14 says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

The film does have some flaws (it does run long at times, but not terribly so), but it is a nice big leap in the right direction for DC films. Shazam! brings joy and life back to this universe with a beating pulse from its own (mostly) pure heart.


Rating: 4 out of 5.