Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers Infinity War

Thanos (Josh Brolin) shakes the Avengers to their core, as well as the audience.

For the past ten years, Marvel has made (for the most part) solid entertaining movies. It has also been that long since The Dark Knight, which has always been the best superhero movie. Few movies have been any kind of a threat (Iron Man, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther). Now comes the cream of the crop, Avengers: Infinity War. In my mind, The Dark Knight is still number one, but it has been shaken by a solid silver place finisher.

I will be brief, for I would fear of any form of spoilers (there will be none here). 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.

That is as far as I will go. 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 (that was easier).

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. Afterall, that is how hard it is to defeat a guy like Thanos. The first ten minutes alone prove my point.

Credit also must be given to directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Each character is given 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.

Parents, I was about to say it is like any Marvel movie, but, to be fair, there are a lot of darker moments. That is all I will say. Middle School 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: Five Stars *****

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor Ragnarok

Despite the loss of his hammer (and some hair), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still ready for battle.

Marvel is now just one or two movies away from me actually picking up a comic.

The Thor trilogy ends, as the other two trilogies Marvel has provided (Iron Man and Captain America) ended, with a blast. Thor: Ragnarok is not only the best Thor movie, but one of the top four or five best Marvel has ever given us to date.

After the events of Thor: The Dark World (which is shown to us in a play on Asgard) and a battle against evil beings set to Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song”, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his half brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) set out to find their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), only to discover that he is being pursued by a secret sister of Thor, Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett, who, as of this reading, I have yet to see give a bad performance).

The God of Thunder escapes, only to be marooned on a far away planet run by the Grandmaster (a role that could only be played by Jeff Goldblum). It is here where he reunites with his old “friend from work”, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

From his first lines, I have finally began to realize how much of a sense of humor Thor has gained since he first hit the big screen back in 2009. This third film delivers some of the best humor any Marvel film has delivered (or any comic book movie, for that matter). I won’t go spoiling anything, except to say I never saw a movie I can remember that had the term “The Devil’s Anus” before. Yeah, you heard me.

Parents, there is one part in the movie that I felt was a little bit on the queasy side. We learn that the Grandmaster’s space ship is used mainly for orgies (“Don’t touch anything,” Thor orders). Yes, it is funny, but a little awkward. Nevertheless, if your kid has seen a marvel movie, they will like this one.

Even with grand special effects and wise cracking dialogue, the most enduring thing about Thor: Ragnarok is the sense of fun. You can tell all the actors (including the very welcoming Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and director Taika Waititi as the heartfelt Korg) are having a blast. It is no wonder why so many actors in Hollywood are jumping on the Marvel express.

Overall: Four Stars ****

Dr. Strange (2016)

dr-strange

Benedict Cumberbatch casts a rather affective spell on the movie goer…

Once again, Marvel gives us a solid, all around fun origin flick with their newest Superhero to hit the big screen, Dr. Strange (though obviously not to be confused with the 1964 masterpiece Dr. Strangelove: Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb).

Once again proving he is best when playing the smartest character on-screen, Benedict Cumberbatch gives a rounded performance as neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange. Strange is both brilliant and arrogant (though neither as much as Cumberbatch’s other, better role as the title role of Sherlock). He is basically another version somewhat of Tony Stark (aka Iron Man, for those who somehow don’t know), though he becomes a little more kinder quicker than Stark did.

An accident leaves Strange with severe nerve damage mainly in his hands, leaving him unable to work again (it is a comic book movie, so it would be hardly spoiling anything if I mentioned there was an accident scene.) Despite letting all his anger out on his on again/off again girlfriend Christine (Rachel McAdams), he learns of help in Nepal. There he meets Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and later The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). It is here that Strange learns his hands are not the only thing that can be healed. They are after a former student named Kaecillius (Mads Mikkelsen).

What I personally feared most going into the movie was that I would be confused. I have stated before I never read comic books as a kid (something I regret now as an adult), so I had no real knowledge of what to expect. What were Dr. Strange’s abilities? Was he a wizard? Does he even count then as a superhero? More than anything, would the explaining of the origin of Dr. Strange be too much for me to handle?

Thankfully, the movie explains only what it needs to, and nothing more. It also dashes in enough humor (as expected now by Marvel) to make sure we are smiling still. There is a scene where Mordo gives a piece of parchment to Strange, who is confused to what it is (it says “Shambala” reminding me of that great oldies song from Three Dog Night). The answer? The WiFi password.

The action scenes are not to be missed. The CGI is nothing short of spectacular (they reminded me a lot of Inception). I never was a fan of 3D, but I would not mind if I saw the movie again with those annoying glasses on.

Parents, the PG-13 rating is very mild. There is no sex (one mention of dialogue, though nothing horrible), some swearing, and mainly a little violence (a character at the beginning does get his head cut off, though it is not filled with gore). Basically, if your kids have seen any superhero movie made in the last fifteen years, they are fine seeing this.

In the classic Disney/Pixar flick The Incredibles (2004), the character Edna mentions how she does not like costumes with capes (the examples are always smile inducing). She may change her mind when she sees Dr. Strange’s cape. It is quite the character itself.

This movie is quite the charmer.

Overall: Four Stars ****