‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ Review

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Writer: Christopher McQuarrie

Cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Sean Harris, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin and Angela Bassett

Synopsis: Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time after a mission gone wrong.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Mission: Impossible is arguably one of the best action franchises still around. The franchise has come a long way since the first film back in 1996, and since J.J. Abrams brought back the franchise in 2006, they keep getting better and better with every sequel. However, director Christopher McQuarrie has definitely put his stamp on the franchise, especially since he’s the only director to back came to direct a sequel. So where does Fallout stand in the franchise? Pretty high up there, to be honest.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout follows Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), and his team of Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames), as they track down a dangerous new organization called The Apostles, a spinoff if you will, of the criminal organization The Syndicate from Rogue Nation. The group is run by mysterious and unknown John Lark, who is after plutonium cores to set off bombs around the globe. After a botched attempt to get them before Lark, the CIA’s Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) forces Ethan and the IMF to have bring along August Walker (Henry Cavill) to insure they finally get the plutonium and Lark. Of course, all of that is easier said than done, especially when Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) and Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) reenter the picture.

I’m not going to lie, I really, really liked this movie. Fallout is thrilling from beginning to end, and doesn’t really ever let the reigns go for anything. The characters, which have all primarily been in the series before work well together. You believe that Ethan, Luther and Benji care for one another and would do anything to protect each other, while also trying to successfully complete their mission. Ferguson’s Ilsa, even though this is her second film – a rare feat for female characters in the series – also feels right at home when she shows up. These are characters we’ve seen and care about, so when certain things are set into motion, or even when they’re picking on one another, we get an emotion out of it.

I don’t want to take a jab at another long-running franchise – Fast & Furious – but Fallout knows who their characters are, and isn’t afraid to have them outshine one another every now and then. Even though Cruise’s Ethan is the lead, everybody has their moment, and it’s awesome to see them take the reins and roll with it.

When it comes to the new characters, more particularly, Henry Cavill’s Walker, he is the perfect opposite of Cruise’s Ethan. Ethan would rather take care of something as smoothly and hazard-free as possible, Walker will just straight-up walk up to the situation, get his hands dirty and deal with the consequences later. It’s also nice to see them play off with each other, and it’s even more apparent during one of the many standout sequences in the HALO jump.

Mission: Impossible is known now for their big set pieces, and Fallout is no different. While the HALO jump is cool to see – looks great in IMAX – there are two chase scenes in Paris that had me on the edge of my seat, and that’s all I’ll say that about. That said, the series has made itself proud of doing a lot of their stunts and action sequences with no to little CGI, which is maybe one reason why fans appreciate these films – as they should. That’s the case here, and while it looks like they used some CGI in little parts here and there, Fallout is probably the most daring for stunts, especially knowing that Tom Cruise broke his ankle during one of the stunts – which they actually ended up using in the film.

As much as I really liked the movie, there are some things that just kind of didn’t work for me. For one, and this is something I can’t believe I’m saying, Fallout is a just a tad bit too long. Fallout is the longest of the Mission: Impossible films and you can clearly feel it before the third act gets going. Cast wise, Angela Bassett’s Erica Sloan is kind of wasted here, even though her character doesn’t necessarily call for her to be in the film a lot, having someone like Bassett play the role, and having her disappear for most of the film was odd. Sean Harris’ Solomon Lane isn’t as compelling as he was in Rogue Nation, but he’s also now the only villain to appear in two Mission: Impossible films. Lastly, and this is something I didn’t mind, but others probably will, Fallout relies a little bit too much on small twists.

All in all, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is one of the best experiences you’ll have in theaters this summer. It’s got great action, the cast is spot on, the score is also damn great and it’s thrilling from beginning to end. I can’t say enough good things about Fallout. The fact that Mission: Impossible has had the staying power and continues to get better with every installment is amazing and hard to believe, but somehow they keep doing it, and I’m all for it.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

5 out of 5

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‘Sicario: Day of the Soldado’ Review

Director: Stefano Sollima

Writer: Taylor Sheridan

Cast: Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Elijah Rodriguez, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Catherine Keener and Matthew Modine

Synopsis: The drug war on the US-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I was fortunate enough to get to watch Sicario: Day of the Soldado – it was still called Sicario 2: Soldado at the time – all the way back in February of this year, but had to sit on my thoughts because of an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). Now, the movie’s out and I can finally release this review. The review will be a combination of my first thoughts watching the movie, and my re-watch from this weekend. So, that said, let’s get to it.

Day of the Soldado opens by letting us know that the cartels make big business by trafficking people, and have now moved to terrorists. After a horrifying scene at a department store, the government has put the drug cartels on their list of dangerous threats. They call on someone with some experience in the field in Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to run an operation on taking them down. In turn he recruits his old partner Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) to help him, especially since Alejandro still has anger toward them for killing his family.

The mission is to make it look like the cartels are attacking each other, and one of those attempts is kidnapping the daughter of a kingpin, Isabela Reyes (Isabela Moner). Of course, not everything goes as planned. Now, Matt and Alejandro have to figure out how they will survive with all sides closing in on them.

The first Sicario, which came out in 2015, was a surprisingly dark thriller that wasn’t afraid to go there and pushed our expectations on what a movie with this kind of material should be. So when a sequel was announced, many like myself, were eager to see what they would do, and how they would put us back into this world they created in the first film. Now, before we move on, obviously with the real-world issues going on at the border, it will probably be a little hard to watch this, without trying to bring it into the conversation. However, at this point, the conversation feels dated because the real-life issues are more horrifying. But, let’s just move on from that.

Unfortunately, Day of the Soldado doesn’t quite live up to the sequel expectations that the film should have had. The film at times feels rather empty, and instead of going for more character development or deeper story points like the first film did, it goes for the easy bloodshed and violence. That’s fine for the world the movie has created, but after watching Sicario, I wanted more of that great character development. Violence is expected in these movies, but I wanted more from the story itself.

On top of that, the sequel does feel like a proper sequel. By that I mean, even though the sequel has different people behind the scenes, they tried very hard – and sometimes actually pulled it off – to make you think the sequel was directed by Denis Villeneuve, and the cinematography was done by Roger Deakins. Of course, that’s not the case with the movie being directed by Stefano Sollima and the cinematography was done by Dairusz Wolski (Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, All the Money in the World). The score, which is great, was done by Hildur Guonadottir, who actually worked on the first film’s score and on films like The Revenant and Arrival. He builds off the amazing score that was done by the late Johann Johannsson, who sadly passed away between the films.

Thankfully, the cast is solid to make the missteps worth it. Brolin gets a bigger role in the sequel, and gets to play around with the character a lot more. Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro is once again great to watch, and how he engages with Isabela Moner’s Isabela and others – which aren’t many by the way – is good, but none of them are really like the Emily Blunt character from Sicario. Moner is fine as Isabela who knows what her father does, and uses it sometimes, but is still a young girl caught up in a bad situation. Everyone else like the returning Jeffrey Donovan as Graver’s other right-hand man, Steve Forsing, is a welcome sight, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo has a small but effective role, and Matthew Modine and Catherine Keener basically have cameo roles, especially Modine.

The only blemish on the cast, for me, is Elijah Rodriguez as Miguel. It’s nothing against Rodriguez and his acting, but rather the character direction or the lack thereof. The movie almost treats Miguel as someone we saw in the first movie, and that’s a problem especially considering where his character ends up at the end of the film. I wouldn’t consider this a spoiler, because it’s known – at least online – that after the success of Sicario, the plan was to make the series a trilogy. That’s made very clear with Miguel’s character, but for me, the character and the arc doesn’t feel deserved or developed enough for me to care.

All in all, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, for me, wasn’t as good as the first film. While it ups the violence you would expect from this world, it leaves behind the story and characters just a bit. That’s not to say the sequel is a bad movie, because it’s not. There are some standout scenes, and even some shocking scenes that I couldn’t believe they approved. The cast is still great, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of how they left the movie at the end, I would gladly step back into this world when/if a third movie comes out.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

3.5 out of 5

‘Incredibles 2’ Review

Director: Brad Bird

Writer: Brad Bird

Voice Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Brad Bird, Michael Bird, Sophia Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabella Rossellini and Jonathan Banks.

Synopsis: Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) is left to care for Jack-Jack while Helen (Elastigirl) is out saving the world.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

14 years, 14 years is how long we’ve waited for the sequel to The Incredibles, and arguably, one of Pixar’s more popular films. Now, as much as we love Pixar, and should never doubt them – expect Cars 2 – the long gap was something to be a tiny bit concerned about. So, was the wait worth it? For the most part, yes, yes it was.

Incredibles 2 picks up immediately where the first film left off, the Underminer attacks the city and we see the Parr family try to stop him before he wrecks the city. However, things don’t go as planned and the already ban on Supers doesn’t get any better. Enter charismatic billionaire Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), who want to bring Supers back into the spotlight. Winston’s power move is to start with Elastigirl/Helen (Holly Hunter) – as Mr. Incredible/Bob (Craig T. Nelson) is seen as a more destructive – to get Supers legalized again.

This leaves Bob to be the stay-at-home dad and watch over their kids Dash (Huck Milner), Violet (Sarah Vowell) and baby Jack-Jack, whose powers are starting to kick in. Of course, let’s add in a new supervillain going by The Screenslaver entering the picture causing havoc throughout the city.

Incredibles 2 does a lot of things that work on a story and theme level. On a story level, giving the spotlight to Elastigirl, which I’m sure most will see as part of the changing tide in the industry, is awesome. We get to see her let loose, and she is given the most exciting and thrilling action sequence with her cool motorcycle. On that end, we see the roles reversed and have Bob/Mr. Incredible staying at home having to deal with their superpowered kids and a baby in what is both funny and relateable.

Not only that, Bob now has to deal with not being a superhero, even though that’s the thing he loves. So the Incredibles 2 not only deals with role-reversals, but also teaching the younger audience about pride and sacrifice. Of course, that will go over kids’ heads but it’s nice to see Pixar trying to deliver that message.

Let’s get to the other characters. Jack-Jack easily steals the whole movie by not just being adorable, and using his newly developed powers. Violet gets a subplot with a boy and Dash, arguably, comes off as a tad annoying, but that’s the character. Frozone, voiced again by Samuel L. Jackson, doesn’t do too much, and Brad Bird once again voices Edna Mode (E) in a nice little bit part. The new characters do okay with Sophia Bush voicing a Super named Voyd, who happens to be a fan of Elastigirl, Bob Odenkirk can play charismatic characters in his sleep by now and Catherine Keener as Evelyn was a nice surprise.

All in all, Incredibles 2 was, for me and many others from the looks of it, worth the wait. The animated sequel has some great action, a great story and a hell of a lot of fun and funny. The only complaint I think I would side with, to some extent, is it picks up right after the first movie, and doesn’t do a time jump. However, that said, after seeing the movie and having time to simmer with the movie, I’m okay with it not time-jumping.

Incredibles 2

4.5 out of 5

‘Ocean’s 8’ Review

Director: Gary Ross

Writers: Gary Ross and Olivia Milch

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kailing, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Richard Armitage, James Corden and Anne Hathaway

Synopsis: Debbie Ocean gathers an all-female crew to attempt an impossible heist at New York City’s yearly Met Gala.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I’ll admit out front, I’m a huge fan of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven. Ocean’s Twelve was forgettable and Ocean’s Thirteen was a nice return to form, so when the word broke that a spinoff was in the works within the same world, I was cautiously optimistic. Then it was announced that it would be female-centric, and the cast got together I was fully on-board. So, is Ocean’s 8 a worthy companion, or is it a misfire?

Ocean’s 8 starts off with Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), the sister of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean, who is getting out of prison after serving a five year sentence. Even though she puts out the front that she wants to live the “simple life,” she immediately sets a plan in motion to steal a diamond necklace called The Toussaint at the Met Gala. She begins to enlist her team in her old partner-in-crime Lou (Cate Blanchett), jeweler Amita (Mindy Kailing), hacker Eight Ball (Rihanna), who ends up being called Nine Ball by Debbie and the team, pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina), a “fence” in Tammy (Sarah Paulson) and fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter). Why a fashion designer? Because, Debbie’s plan is to put the Toussaint on actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) while she attends the Met Gala in order to actually steal it.

Right off the bat, you know how Debbie Ocean works, and how good she really is at conning people. We also get right into it what the movie will be about. Director Gary Ross doesn’t waste too much time getting the team together and putting the plan into motion. That is both an advantage and disadvantage for the movie. On one hand, you have a fast-paced movie giving you exactly what you want to know before getting to the meaty bit. On the other, it gives you everything you need to know, and sometimes has to fill the void because you don’t want to move too fast.

That said, if you’re a fan of Ocean’s Eleven, some beats and even some of the shots, cinematography wise, will feel very familiar to you. Of course, this isn’t directed by Steven Soderbergh, but Gary Ross – although the two are close friends – but Ross is not Soderbergh. However, Ross does put his own stamp on the movie, and doesn’t try to give a movie beat-for-beat, but do his own thing. That’s to be applauded, and the fact that these are all women and not men, is brought up. It’s not preachy or trying to put forward a message, it’s a heist movie that happens to follow women who are good at conning people. That’s it.

Speaking of that, the cast is great here, and all of them have their chance to shine. Of course, Sandra Bullock gets the most screen time here, and she does a great job playing the leader here. Cate Blanchett seems to be enjoying her very loose and highly fashionable Lou and Sarah Paulson’s Tammy is a mom running cons on the side in a funny way. The standouts of the cast are Anne Hathaway, who basically plays a characterization of what real people probably think she acts like, and surprisingly, James Corden stands out as a character that comes in near the end, and brings some laughs. Unfortunately, even though the rest of the cast do get a chance to shine, not everyone is really fully developed or given a chance to shine more. Awkwafina gets lost in the shuffle, Mindy Kaling is fine but given her job, you’d think she’d have more to. Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter are good too, but I would have personally like to see more of them – it’s also nice to see Helena Bonham Carter play a normal person for a change.

All in all, Ocean’s 8 is a fun and worthwhile companion movie to Ocean’s Eleven. While the movie does have some pacing issues, and the final heist leaves something to be desired, you’ll have fun watching the cast together.

Ocean’s 8

3.5 out of 5

‘Hereditary’ Review

Director: Ari Aster

Writer: Ari Aster

Cast: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne and Ann Dowd

Synopsis: When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

A24 as a studio is killing it right now, and when it comes to their horror films, they only have – really – two of them now. The Witch turned a lot of heads and now you have Hereditary. The film also turned a lot of heads, and some are even calling it the best horror film in some time, as well, as a modern day Exorcist. Obviously, those are very big claims to make, and doesn’t help if people are willing to accept that. So, does Hereditary live up to the hype, or is just another independent horror film that is overhyped?

Hereditary follows the Graham family with mother Annie (Toni Collette), father Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and their two children Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro). After the death of Annie’s mother, Annie gets lost in her work of miniature sculptures and Charlie starts to exhibit weird behavior. Things only get worse when strange and unexplainable incidents start to occur.

That’s the bare bones of Hereditary’s story, and that’s about all you should know before walking into to watch it yourself. Hereditary truly works when you know nothing about the movie. Even if you’ve seen the trailers, believe me, it doesn’t give away anything about the movie. That being said, even though the movie is marketed as a horror movie, at the end of the day, Hereditary is a family drama through-and-through.

All credit goes to first time feature film director/writer Ari Aster, who crafted a compelling story about this family and adding horror elements that actually make sense to the history of the characters, and aren’t thrown in for the sake of having a scare or making the film creepy for audiences. There is enough of that to go around, but in this particular film, the scares are connected to the Graham family. We get a great sense of why the characters act like they do, and more important, what has led them to where they are now.

But as much credit Aster should get, Hereditary is carried by Toni Collette. She is put through the ringer here, and she carries it in stride. Her performance as Annie and the slow descent she goes through in the movie is amazing to watch, and one of the standout performances of the year by far. Alex Wolff is also given a breakout performance here as the young son, who also goes through his own mental descent, and newcomer Milly Shapiro as Charlie also breaks out in her own way as the younger Graham family member.

The main thing about Hereditary, much like a lot of independent horror films now, is that it will not be for everyone. Hereditary, like The Witch and even It Comes at Night, is an aggressive slow-burn that will test your patience, and then reward you with nightmare fuel in a grand finale. That said, the family drama keeps you invested – hopefully – but the slow burn will likely keep people from being fully invested, and once the third act kicks in, it might be too late.

All in all, Hereditary will definitely not be for everyone. It’s a slow burn family drama horror film that keeps the main scares at bay, while trying to creep you out in meantime. The film is carried by Toni Collette, who brings the right amount of range to everything that is asked of her. If you’re watching Hereditary and ask yourself at the end, “what the hell was that?” You’ve seen the right movie

Hereditary

3.5 out of 5

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ Review

Director: Ron Howard

Writers: Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Thandie Newton and Paul Bettany

Synopsis: During an adventure into a dark criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story has had a troubled production to say the least. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the duo behind the Jump Street movies and The LEGO Movie, were set to direct the movie and were almost finished with three weeks left. However, constant clashes with Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy and writer Lawrence Kasdan throughout production finally hit a tipping point and they were fired, and replaced with Ron Howard. Then more reports came out, but I’ll let you search those on your own.

All that being said, the main question everyone had – after, Do we really need a Han Solo origin movie? – is whether or not Solo was going to be any good? Well, that all depends on whether or not you want to have some fun with the movie.

Solo opens on the planet Corellia, where we see Han (Alden Ehrenreich) getting into some trouble as he and Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) try to get of the planet. Of course, they get separated, and Han swears to make it back, rescue her and live their lives far, far away. Cut years later, we see Han teaming up with a crew led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) to steal some a valuable mineral for a criminal boss named Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). The job eventually has them cross paths with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), the charming and suave Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) with his droid L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), and a rival gang.

I have mixed feelings about Solo, I did not, not like it, but I also didn’t fully like it either. Against all odds, Solo is entertaining once you get pass the slow first act where it finally gets going and the action is picked up. Of course, it’s a prequel, so the sense of danger needs to be put on the backburner for the most part, like every other prequel out there, but at least the Kasdans tried to do some things to keep you on your feet.

When you look at it though, the movie rests on the shoulders of Alden Ehrenreich as young Han Solo, and surprisingly, he does a pretty decent job. Ehrenreich is relativity new to Hollywood as he broke onto the scene with now forgotten Beautiful Creatures, and had small roles in Stoker, Blue Jasmine and finally the Coen Brothers film Hail, Caesar! which won him the role here. I really have nothing bad to say about his performance, Ehrenreich has the charm and the devil-may-care attitude you would expect from Han Solo.

Then there’s the much anticipated portray of young Lando Calrissian by Donald Glover, and yes, he’s great as Lando. Glover, to no surprise, brings a cool and confident attitude to Lando, and the clash of styles between Lando and Han is great to watch. Although, if you pay attention enough, it does at times sound like Glover is trying his best Bill Dee Williams impression. The other highlight of the cast is that of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s droid, L3-37. Droids always play a part in the Star Wars franchise, and most of the time it’s for comedy or a helping the main characters in a time of crisis. L3-37 definitely fits the bill here, but there’s something else with her character here, that I’m interested in seeing how people react to it.

The rest of the cast doesn’t leave too much of an impression sadly. Woody Harrelson’s Beckett is simply a man at the end of run as a criminal looking for that last big job. Paul Bettany’s Dryden is a lackluster villain, who is said to be vicious and deadly, and while one scene proves that and Bettany does his best with what he’s given, Dryden is rather forgettable in the pantheon of Star Wars villains.

Then there’s Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra, who for me, is an oddity. The relationship between her and Han is believable enough for the movie, but there’s more to her character that we find out near the end of the movie that kind of comes out of nowhere. Obviously, this is a spoiler-free review, but where they leave her character along with Han is both curious, and for me, a bit frustrating.

Speaking of frustrating, as much as I was surprised by the movie’s entertainment value, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a tad frustrating when it comes other things it brings to the table. Again, removing the “is this movie really necessary?” from the table, Solo brings things we’ve heard about to the big screen, like the card game between Han and Lando, but for me the famous Kessel Run leaves a lot, and for me I mean a lot, to be desired. Moreover, the movie leaves some things too open for sequels for my liking, and yeah I know, sequels were bound to happen because it’s Star Wars, but I just couldn’t get behind it. Especially with that cameo that came out of nowhere.

All in all, Solo: A Star Wars Story is an entertaining movie once it really gets going. If you had any problems with The Last Jedi, you shouldn’t for Solo. Is a perfect or great movie? Not really. Will you be happy with the final outcome? Probably.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

3.5 out of 5

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Review (Please Read the Reviewer Note)

Director: Anthony and Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Danai Gurira, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Letitia Wright, William Hurt and Josh Brolin

Synopsis: The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

 

*Reviewer Note: This review is going to work differently than others. The first half will be the usual way my reviews work aka non-spoiler. The second half, which will be labeled properly, will be filled with spoilers galore. Also, I have left things out, and probably forgot a few things too, so if something is not here, that’s the reason. I do highly recommend you watch the movie before seeing any kind of spoilers. Do yourself that favor.*

 

10 years and eight-teen movies in the making, Avengers: Infinity War is a true culmination of what Marvel has created with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Starting with Iron Man in 2008, Marvel has given us a slew of characters we’ve come to care about and all of that is put to the ultimate test here. Not only do we see almost of these characters in one movie, we finally get to see some dream combinations play off. But, more importantly, we finally to get see the big bad that’s been in the shadows since the very first Avengers movie, Thanos.

Avengers: Infinity War is a very busy movie, but the main story finds Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his henchmen, The Black Order – Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon), Crovus Glaive (Michael James Shaw) and Cull Obsidian – on a mission to collect all six Infinity Stones. The reason? To put them on the Infinity Gauntlet so he can become the strongest person in the universe, and wipe out half of the universe to create balance. This puts him on a collision course with the now disbanded Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange who must stop Thanos and The Black Order from gathering them all.

That’s the basic premise of Infinity War, but as you can tell from the trailers, the characters aren’t all together. The characters are broken into groups pretty quickly, and they’re all pretty fun to watch unfold. Tony/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) finally meet, and it is everything you thought it would be. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is mixed up with the Guardians, mostly Rocket and Groot, and is on his own mission. Then there’s Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) who end up having to protect Vision (Paul Bettany) from the Black Order, with a little help from Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Wakanda.

Surprisingly, Infinity War puts into full throttle right at the start. You know where everyone is and what part they are playing in the grand scheme of everything. Could that have been seen as an oversight and lack of character development? Sure, but at the same time, we’ve seen pretty much all of these characters already. The only difference here is that they are finally together, and for the first time, it does feel like they are facing a genuine threat that they may not be able to win. It’s also rather surprising that one particular character, who has been a prime focus in these other team-ups, is kind of just a background character, especially with all the hype surrounding the movie.

Thanos and the Black Order pull no punches whatsoever. Thanos has a twisted way of looking at balance, and even though he knows its extreme, he thinks he’s the only one able to actually see it all the way through. We also get a descent amount of Thanos too. His character is rather interesting because of his ideals. I mean, once you get passed the killing half of humanity to create balance bit, Thanos has a lot more to him in this movie that I’ll get to in the spoiler section of the podcast. Let’s just say, Thanos is the villain we’ve been waiting for, as a threat and as an actual character.

As for the Black Order, they serve the role of henchmen to a tee, with Proxima Midnight being the more physical standout, but Ebony Maw being the more in-depth standout, and helps explain to others why they are people conquered. And if that sounds evil to you, that’s the way it comes out.

The heroes are great, but they are a mixed bag – I mean look at the cast list. Cumberbatch gets to play a lot more with Doctor Strange, Chris Pratt’s Peter/Star-Lord is a little more cocky than usual, which does play a role later in the film, Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillian as Gamora and Nebula aka the daughters of Thanos do play a big role in this, although one of them has a bigger role than the other that hits hard. I’ll leave the other cast members in the spoilers section.

All that said, despite me nerding out hard throughout the movie, and believe me there is a lot to nerd out over, Infinity War does suffer from being a bit too bloated. Wakanda is a massive set-piece in the movie, but that’s it. T’Challa, Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Shuri (Letitia Wright) are glorified cameos at best, and that could be seen as a bit disappointing especially after Black Panther came out not too long ago. Some characters aren’t given enough time to breath, and one particular big character is just kind of there – again, more on that in the spoiler section.

All in all – for the spoiler-free section – Avengers: Infinity War is the movie fans have been waiting for since the Marvel Cinematic Universe started. There are important things that happen and moments that will stick with you as you drive home or talk about it with your friends or co-workers. Ten years in the making, and now, nineteen movies in, Marvel has done not just the most ambitious Marvel movie to date, but the most ambitious superhero movie of all time. You are definitely not ready for this. The humor – which is top notch – really helps, but please, PLEASE, do yourself a favor and don’t read any spoilers before watching this.

Avengers: Infinity War

4.5 out of 5

 

 

FROM THIS POINT FORWARD, I WILL BE TALKING SOME SERIOUS SPOILERS. SO STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE. SERIOUSLY, BACK AWAY….I SEE YOU TIMMY, STOP IT.

 

Okay, let’s dig in to this beast of a movie. First of all, WHAT THE HELL?! No, seriously, what the actual hell Marvel. Yes, Kevin Feige, the cast and the Russo Brothers warned us that we wouldn’t be ready for this, but damn I was not expecting that.

Let’s start at the beginning. Infinity War starts right where Thor: Ragnarok left off. Thanos and his Black Order boarded the ship and have pretty much killed all of Asgard (Valkyrie and Korg boldly missing). Ebony Maw says they are “saved,” which doesn’t really make sense, since it looks like everyone is already DEAD. Regardless, Loki hands over the Tesseract aka the Space Stone to Thanos, but not before he gives a great callback to The Avengers. This leads to pretty much our first look of how much Thanos is a threat when he, basically, beats the shit out of the Hulk. Seeing the massive threat on the way, Heimdall sends Hulk to Earth, and is promptly killed by Thanos himself.

And you would think that’s the first big death of the movie, right? NOPE, Loki has one last moment of redemption in him – calling himself Odinson was a nice touch – before trying to kill Thanos. Of course, Thanos saw it coming and literally chocked the life out of him, leaving all(?) of Asgard and Thor behind.

We then jump to several different locations, and where the teams will be set up.

Group A: Doctor Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong) are warned by Bruce (Mark Ruffalo), which leads to our first scene between Strange and Tony, which a nice Pepper Potts cameo. Tony, and us, get a breakdown of the Infinity Stones by Wong before Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian comes to Earth and get we our first big action piece with Spider-Man included. Strange does get caught by Maw, and Tony and Spider-Man, now with the Iron Spider suit which was teased in Spider-Man: Homecoming go into space toward Titan.

Group B: the very beginning of the movie, we hear a distress call being made, and guess who answers the call? The Guardians of the Galaxy. Of course, Rocket doesn’t see the point, but Peter/Star-Lord hopes to get some money out of it. Once they get there, they see what’s left and bring in Thor, who’s still alive. After some hilarity with Thor’s unconscious body, Thor is woken up and off-camera tells them what happen. Gamora then tells us what would happen if Thanos does in fact gets all the Infinity Stones. We then get some Star-Lord-y humor with Thor, which isn’t completely out of character, but I found a little too much, even for him.

Thor, then takes Rocket and Groot to Nidavellir so Thor can get a weapon powerful enough to kill Thanos. Which he does get later on in the movie, which is a battle axe called Strombreaker. Which sounds like a Game of Thrones sword, and something I find funny, since we get a great cameo by Peter Dinklage playing Eitri, the Giant Dwarf. Anyway, Star-Lord, Gamora, Mantis and Drax head to Knowhere to get the Reality Stone aka the Aether from The Collector.

Group C: Here is where things get interesting, and rough. Our third grouping is everyone else. It starts off by showing Vision and Wanda away in Scotland together. Apparently, in the two years after Captain America: Civil War, the two have been secretly meeting to see if they can start an actual relationship, and right as they think they can, they see the attack on New York, and Vision gets attacked by Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight. A fight occurs and the two are saved by the returning Captain America, Black Widow and Falcon, which put up a pretty good fight, before the two villains beam away. The heroes end up back at the Avengers compound to meet up with Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Bruce, who blows off Secretary of State Ross (William Hurt).

They run down their options to get the Mind Stone out of Vision, and that leads to them going to Wakanda. We quickly cut there to see T’Challa give Bucky, or The White Wolf, his new arm, so he can be ready for the fight.

I say rough because this almost feels like a C-storyline, which it shouldn’t because not only Captain America here, but so is Vision, who is important to this part of the story. Cap, Black Widow and Falcon just kind of show up and don’t really do too much. Which is to be expected with everyone else on the board, but still. Hell, even T’Challa, who just had his own BILLION-dollar movie come out feels like a throwaway character.

Back to Group B, Quill, Gamora, Drax and Mantis get to Knowhere where Thanos has already gotten the Reality Stone, and puts on a trick for them which involves him torturing The Collector for the stone and leaving him open for Gamora to kill him. Thanos appears and shockingly turns Drax into pieces of stone and Mantis into rubber bands – not permanently, but the imagery is still shocking to see. Thanos gets a hold of Gamora and then Quill is left with a decision.

Earlier, Gamora made Quill promise her if Thanos got a hold her to kill her. It’s a rather big scene because it puts both of them in tough position. Does Quill keep his promise, while also killing the woman he loves? Or does he let Thanos get away? Well, Quill goes to actually shoot, but Thanos turns his gun into bubbles and disappears. And since we’re on Thanos and Gamora, let’s talk about that scene.

One of the major questions coming into Infinity War was where the Soul Stone was. Of course, everyone had their speculations and all of them were wrong. Turns out Gamora knew were the Soul Stone was this entire time, and didn’t tell Thanos. When Gamora finally does tell Thanos were the Soul Stone is, they arrive and find out to get the Soul Stone, they need a soul, and that’s not all they find. No, because apparently the keeper to the Soul Stone is someone I’m not going to mention, because that is something you should experience for yourself. However, a little FYI, the StoneKeeper (as people with the Stone are called by the Black Order), is not played by the original actor, but Ross Marquand (Aaron from The Walking Dead).

This also leads to one of the best scenes in the whole movie, and one that I’m not ashamed to say, bought a tear to my eye. It’s a scene that humanizes Thanos a bit, because we hear Gamora say that Thanos has never loved anything or anyone. Of course, we can see the anguish on Thanos’ face as he throws Gamora down the cliff, and since he gets the Soul Stone, yes, he did love Gamora. Which is twisted in its own right, and makes Thanos a tragic figure in his own way, so I guess it’s up to the viewer to decide if Thanos is that or not.

We then get to Wakanda where Shuri leads the charge to get the Mind Stone out of Vision, but it will take time. Of course, the fight comes to the heroes when an alien race charges toward Wakanda with Proxima Midnight and Cull Obsidian leading the charge. Here we get, arguably, the biggest fight of the Marvel films with all the tribes of Wakanda, Cap, War Machine, Falcon, Black Widow, Bucky and Bruce in the Hulkbuster. Yes, because that epic hero shot in the trailers and TV spots ISN’T IN THE MOVIE. Which is fine, really, since Marvel is known for including scenes in their trailer that don’t make it into the movie. Also, the fact that Bruce is constantly trying to get Hulk out to fight and can’t is a nice added layer to the Hulk, which we don’t see often. That’s also probably because Hulk got his assed kicked, which doesn’t happen often or at all. It would also fit the idea that Hulk is his own being now.

So for the sake of ending his massive post, let’s take about that ending. The ending of ending, especially for a Marvel movie. After a great fight sequence between Thanos versus Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Star-Lord, Drax, Mantis and Nebula, Thanos gets the Time Stone, in what a knee-jerk reaction would be, “what the hell.” Throughout the movie, Strange constantly tells Tony that he’s not giving up the Time Stone, even saying at one point if it comes down to saving Tony, Spider-Man or the Time Stone, he’s picking the Time Stone. Then at the end of that fight, when we get blue-balled with Tony dying, but Strange ends up giving up the Time Stone…what?

Yup, Strange gives Thanos the time, presumably to save Tony’s life. However, if you remember, Strange uses the Time Stone before the fight to see over a million possible outcomes, and only ONE goes in their favor. Was that one of them? I guess we’ll find out in Avengers 4.

After that, we go back to Wakanda where Vision sees Thanos beating down the last line of defense, tells Wanda to destroy the stone so Thanos can’t get. This is the other scene that was rather touching and emotional, although it could have been more, if we saw more Wanda and Vision together. It’s also a scene that comes out of nowhere. But, the jist is that Wanda is powerful enough to destroy the Infinity Stones, which I don’t remember being discussed or even mentioned beforehand.

Either way, Thanos makes his way to Vision but Wanda is able to destroy the stone, which in turn destroys Vision as well. BUT, Thanos uses the Time Stone and revives Vision only to kill him again (poor Vision) and collect all the stones. As Thanos basks in his glory, Thor throws Stormbreaker into Thanos, but Thanos snaps his fingers! Then, the most ambitious ending to a Marvel movie yet happens: characters start to fade into ash.

Bucky, T’Challa, Falcon, and Wanda fade away in front of allies who left in confusion as to what is happening. We then go back to Nowhere and see Mantis, Drax and Star-Lord go. Doctor Strange is next, but not before telling Tony “there was no other way.” But the most heartbreaking one is Peter/Spider-Man. Peter goes over to Tony and breaks down saying he doesn’t want to go. This one got to me too, and kudos to Tom Holland for absolutely nailing that scene.

And just like that, half of the characters we’ve been following for the last ten years and the whole movie are gone. Captain America, Black Widow, Bruce Banner, Thor, Rhody and Okoye are left in Wakanda dumbfounded. Tony is stuck on Titan with Nebula distract knowing he’s lost. Then to top it off, the movie ends with Thanos is some unknown planet in the mountains sitting down to watch the sun rise – which he mentions earlier in the movie – smiling that his work is done.

It’s an ending that is both effective and has you questioning what comes next. The bad guy won, and he didn’t just win, he wiped half of humanity out. Seriously, where do we go from here? How do The Avengers bounce back and potentially beat Thanos who still has all the Infinity Stones, but what looks like a damaged Infinity Gauntlet. How does Tony get back to Earth? And how does the Captain Marvel, who was teased at the end-credits, play into everything?

These are the kind of questions and wonderment we should have after watching this. You know, after we pick ourselves up from the fetal position and stop crying. Is Avengers: Infinity War, the best Marvel movie? Well, that’s up for you to decide. Personally, I wouldn’t say it is, but you bet your ass I’d put it up there. Idea and balls wise, it is. Who else has the balls to “kill” off their characters like that? (Besides Game of Thrones, get out of here you)?