Categories
3 Stars Movies

Black Widow (2021)

Even with the COVID pandemic pushing back the release date of Black Widow (and a host of other films), the newest Marvel film indeed seems to be arriving rather late.

Perhaps those who have never seen a film from the MCU won’t feel that way, but for the rest of us, it is inevitable (pardon my Thanos plug there) to feel this film should have come out before the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), where Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johanson) dies. That fact still hovers over the second female lead film of the MCU (after 2019’s Captain Marvel), leading us to feel like those behind the scenes may have screwed up.

Categories
4 Stars Movies

JoJo Rabbit (2019)

Growing up, I had a slight impression that film comedies that were called “satirical” were always a little “smarter” than other comedies, not to mention sometimes riskier.

When Charlie Chaplin made The Great Dictator in 1940 (one year before the US entered the war), he was finally playing off the premise of how Adolf Hitler (who, it is said copied his mustache off of Chaplin) looked just like him. During the 1960s, Stanley Kubrick decided to make a satire off of nuclear war, and in the process, his Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) became one of the best of the genre (“You can’t fight in here: This is the war room!”)

All that said, it is not hard to see how some will be disturbed (to say the least) about the newest film by Director/Writer Taika Waititi (who made 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, as well as played the film’s sidekick Korg), JoJo Rabbit, which has been billed as an anti-hate satire. Set in the last year or so of the war, the film centers on its protagonist Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis, who gives quite a film debut) as a somewhat precocious ten year old. Having lost his older sister years ago and having his father fighting in the war, he is left basically alone with his loving mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson).

As is the case with every 10 year old boy (and I would assume girls as well), he needs someone to look up to. Due to the time period and the fact that he lives in Germany, there is really no one else he could idolize other than Hitler, who shows up as his imaginary friend (played by Waititi). He goes to help at the local Nazi center which is run by Captain Klenzendorf (Oscar winner Sam Rockwell) and his assistant Fraulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson). Even in this setting, Jojo is somewhat of an outcast desperately trying to fit in, with the exception of his friend Yorkie (played by a scene stealing Archie Yates). Jojo’s life is thrown a curveball when he realizes that his mother has been hiding a young Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie, who starred in 2018’s criminally under seen great film Leave No Trace).

Most of the film is indeed shown through young Jojo’s eyes, with the exception of a few scenes. The most affecting ones are those with him and Elsa (who I was friends with Jojo’s sister years before). There is some funny imagery of their first encounter, where McKenzie is showing movements like she was almost out of a horror film (she does this on purpose). The rest I won’t spoil for you, except to say that it is proof that these are two young talents worthy of future attention.

The character arc of Jojo is well executed (no small thanks to the young Davis). His mother is out during the day, so most of what he experiences and learns from Elsa (as well as from the Nazi center) is authentic and direct. There also were not as many scenes as I was anticipating with Waititi’s Hitler (though they are rather amusing). By the end of the film, it has indeed died down on the comedy, as the whole situation of the war is finally revealed to the titular character. Moral relativism does not abide in this film: there is a true understanding of what happened and why it was bad. Moral implications also arise, given the nature of hiding a Jewish person from the authorities.

Parents, the film is PG-13 mainly due to swearing (one F bomb) and some violence. Mainly, the content and premise is what to watch out for if anyone sees this movie without knowing it is a comedy.

As an aside, I feel I should point out that I am more than aware of the atrocities that the real Hitler executed during his time of rule. Millions of lives were lost, and the affects are still felt to this day. How there are people who actually believe the Holocaust did not happen is something I will never know, nor want to. Sometimes humor is a way that people deal with evil and suffering, so having a comedy set in Nazi Germany is one of the ways we can emotionally deal with the atrocities that occurred.

The issue I had with the film was how, at times, it seemed to have difficulty finding its tone . The movie really only started working for me once Elsa was introduced. Still, credit should be given to the cast and crew for attempting something not only risky, but original.

It isn’t every day you see Hitler jumping out the window.

Overall:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Categories
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.

Overall:

Rating: 5 out of 5.