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).
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.
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.
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.
Another great year of movies is in the books.
Toward the end of 2018, I realized I actually was able to see nearly all of the movies I wanted to in time (though there are a few I admit I am still on the look out for).
As was the case for the 2017 list, I decided to make a top 20 list , because numbers 11-20 were too good to ignore. If you really want to cut the list in half, gather all six infinity stones, put them in the infinity gauntlet, and…SNAP! (Too soon?)
As the title character in the next film would say, “Off we go!”…
The minds at Disney are no strangers to taking risks, and doing a sequel to the 1964 classic Mary Poppins is one of their biggest risks yet. Still, even 54 years later, Mary Poppins Returns is a success due to new original music, fine performances, two amazing cameos, and the practically perfect Emily Blunt.
There is no doubt that The Favourite will not appeal to everyone, as it has a very dark sense of humor. In time, you will be able to see the film for its witty script and impeccable acting.
As 2018’s highest grossing film, Black Panther was also one of the best critical successes in the history of superhero films. Cultural relevance, sublime action, and wonderful acting were sure helpful, as it may become the first superhero flick to be nominated for Best Picture.
Deep, thoughtful, and chilling are some of the best ways one can describe First Reformed. As many great movies do, it provides more questions than answers. Not to mention Ethan Hawke’s uncanny performance.
In one of the biggest surprises of the year, Crazy Rich Asians told us the story of characters that are relatable and worthy to cheer for. Based off of a book, there are more films to come, of which I am looking forward to with a big smile.
In his directorial debut, Jonah Hill’s Mid90s explores the lives of kids growing up in the search of someone to look up to. The result is one of the years most authentic films.
Lee Israel was an author who made money by forging fake letters from popular authors, and the portrayal by Melissa McCarthy of her in Can you ever forgive me? is a revelation (Richard E. Grant is great as well). She has had strikeouts in her film career, yet this is a home run that clears the stadium.
The heat is on blast in Steve Mcqueen’s Widows, with an all-star cast on the top of their game (led by the always wonderful Viola Davis). Just because it is being somewhat overlooked does not take away from its brilliance.
One of the most human love stories in the last couple years of cinema, If Beale Street could talk is one that may not have the outcomes most are wishing for. They are the outcomes that are the right ones.
Newcomer (and Golden Globe nominee) Elsie Fisher shines through all of Eighth Grade, another coming of age story that oozes with real authentic material. Gucci, indeed.
Your heart may have been rock solid if it wasn’t feeling warm after witnessing Green Book. Both Ali and Mortensen give Oscar caliber performances, giving us the ultimate bromance of 2018.
As of this writing, I have yet to meet anyone I have mentioned Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to come back to me saying it was a bad movie. Believe the hype, for this is the best Spidey cinema has produced, the best animated film of 2018, and easily a post credit scene better than anything the MCU has offered.
Sorry if the above image brings back bad memories, but that is how big of a movie Avengers: Infinity War was. Even before the “snap heard round the world”, the film was unlike any superhero film we have seen before. Endgame cannot come soon enough.
A Quiet place had a nice premise, as did the currently popular (but not entirely great) Bird Box, but no film this year left me with such dread as Hereditary did. This movie will leave a unique bitter taste in your mouth for sometime after the credits, and I mean that as a compliment.
In no way would BlacKKKlansmen have been as wonderful as it was if it weren’t directed by Spike Lee. Only he could do justice to a true story about an African America undercover cop (an awesome debut by John David Washington, son of Denzel) who joins the KKK. Yes, it gets political, but it is super intriguing.
Having a good directorial debut is one thing, but there is another level that Bradley Cooper is on in A Star is Born. He gives one of his best performances, does the fourth remake of a movie, and lets Lady Gaga show she has more than singing talent. Yeah, expect this to be mentioned more than once come Oscar night.
You can name any superhero you want, but none could hold a candle to the bravery of Fred Rogers, even if he is not completely well-known to kids today. Thankfully, the ever charming Won’t you be my Neighbor? is a chance to remind us not just of the man, but (more importantly) his ideals. A lovely day indeed.
Not since 2013’s Gravity has flying seem so realistic. Damien Chazelle’s First Man, the story of Neil Armstrong (an understated Ryan Gosling) walking on the moon, brings tension and grit to the highest of levels. Months later, the sound effects are still giving me the chills of space.
I have mentioned how Netflix’s original films are not always great, and while I have not seen all of them, I doubt many can come close to Roma. Director Alfonso Cuaron (director of the previously mentioned Gravity) delivers a passion project that is nothing short of sublime. It may be on Netflix, but the film deserves to be seen on the biggest screen you can see it on. Hands down 2018 most gorgeous film (even the cleaning of dog crap looked beautiful).
Throughout 2018, I wrestled up and down between my favorite film of the year, and then I came across a hidden treasure, Leave No Trace. The first film in eight years from director Debra Granik (her last film was the masterful 2010 film Winter’s Bone with Jennifer Lawrence), the simple story of a father (Ben Foster) and his daughter (amazing new comer Thomasin McKenzie) who try to avoid civilization is both heartbreaking and beautiful. It hit me in the feels more than any other film last year. You may not have heard of it, but it is out on DVD, and is more than worth looking for. Scratch that, it is worth buying.
For the most part, the casting choices in the DCU films have been good (even Ben Affleck as Batman was not a total loss). That is still the case for Jason Mamoa as Aquaman, which is really the only true positive thing to say about the movie. He does make a splash, but the script is down right soggy.
The film does open with an origin story (which is fair, since it is not as well-known as those of Batman or Superman). We see how Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison), a lighthouse worker, finds a wounded woman named Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) on the shores. He heals her, they fall in love, and have Arthur. Eventually, Atlanna must return to Atlantis to stop the onslaught on Tom and Arthur after having run away from her marriage to King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren).
Back in 5th grade, I was told to do a poem based off of an animal that I was like. My pre-teen, short stature self decided on an ant, who was small, but a hard worker. I thought of this poem while entering Ant-Man, hoping for a sleeper of a film to be entertaining and possibly more.