4 Stars

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

Part of me wants to go the coward’s way, and not even review Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Easily the most anticipated movie since Avengers: Endgame, I will do all I can to be sure not to spoil anything for anyone, provided they have at least seen the two trailers for the film (and while this may be too little too late, stay away from the movies IMDB page).

3 1/2 Stars Movies

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) – Spoiler Free

Since the age of 9 or so, I have always considered myself a moderately strong member of the light side of the force. That said, I would be worse than a Sith Lord if I were to even begin to start spoiling what happens in the final saga of the nine episode epic. Though the film is far from perfect, The Rise of Skywalker is still going to offer satisfaction of some kind to anyone who is related to the force.

If you have seen the trailers (and if you haven’t you should probably stop reading), you know we are getting the return of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid, owner of one cinema’s greatest cackles). All that is left in his way of returning the Sith to power is the remains of rebels in his way. Leading the charge, of course, is Rey (Daisy Ridley), still in search of the mystery of her past, with the tutelage of Leia (the late Carrie Fisher). Also still in rebellion (so to speak) is Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac), along with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo, filling in for the late great Peter Mayhew), Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), and, of course, droids R2-D2, BB-8, and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels, the only actor to appear in all nine films). I would also be remiss if I did not mention Billy Dee Williams returning as Lando Calrissian.

As is always the standard for a Star Wars film, we get a handful of new characters. Again, I won’t try to spoil much, but two come to mind that I was a fan of. The first is a small droid called D-O (voiced by the film’s director, J.J. Abrams). The second is a character played by Richard E. Grant (last seen being nominated for an Oscar for 2018’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?). When you see him, you will see how he fits the role perfectly, and you wish the producers had gotten him earlier on in the series.

Perhaps what lacks in this film is how is does not continue the flow of episodes seven and eight. True, The Last Jedi is the one that is the oddball of the three (and I still defend it), but it seems like there are many elements where the story takes a step back instead of forward. What made the original trilogy so great (probably the best film trilogy there is) is that it not only worked as a trilogy, but as three individual films as well (The Godfather Trilogy would have if part three was up to par). For Star Wars Episodes 7-9, they work as individuals, but lack enough connection as a whole.

Parents, it is a Star Wars film, so it is likely your kids will be begging you to see this. There is mild violence and some swearing (very mild for a PG-13 movie). There is no nudity, and the only sexual content are a couple kisses (1 of them very briefly is between two female pilots and is completely unnecessary to the film; virtual signaling by Abrams).

The Rise of Skywalker indeed has a blissful conclusion, but the road there was rocky at best: Like traveling to Rome via Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway. A colleague of mine also mention how much the film has many similarities towards Avengers: Endgame (mainly in the last act).

Still, it is a satisfying conclusion to the saga that will as the tagline (and the immortal music of John Williams) informs us: No one is ever really gone.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
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.