Avengers: Infinity War (Spoiler Free) Review

The word ‘Ambitious’ isn’t quite enough to describe it. Marvel Studios Producer Kevin Feige probably couldn’t have imagined that this vast cinematic universe would become as successful as it is when Iron Man first released ten years ago. Along with a host of incredible directors and acting talent, he has carved out a collection of unique films that seamlessly blend into one cohesive story. It has all led to a film that holds no punches.

Avengers_Infinity_War_posterThanos (Josh Brolin), an intimidating force who has been pulling strings behind the scenes in several films, has finally come to the forefront. Hell bent on wiping out half of the universe to create balance, he along with his minions, are out to capture the Power, Space, Reality, Soul, Time, and Mind infinity stones. Standing in their way are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Vision (Paul Bettany), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and the Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Braldey Cooper, Pom Klementieff, and Vin Diesel) along with a horde of supporting characters from the MCU (Danai Gurira, Benedict Wong, Letitia Wright, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba).

Anyone familiar with comics knows that you have to often suspend your notions of practicality to enjoy the overarching stories and their themes. Avengers: Infinity War is no different. The movie moves at a sometimes disorienting pace that will leave those who aren’t familiar with these types of films in the dust. There are so many characters, that the movie can’t help but feel complex and at times muddled. But after eighteen films of character building, Infinity War serves as a visual narrative treat to those who have been there every step of the way.

The vast collection of cast members intermingle with characters they’ve never been on screen alongside with an almost flawless chemistry. We get Thor teaming up with Rocket Raccoon and Groot, Iron Man with Dr. Strange, The Avengers with the army of Wakanda. When fan favorites arrive on the scene there’s a nostalgic sensation that is enough to make fans absolutely giddy. So even at its rare hokey moments (one character does something atypically stupid and a new character feels completely out of place), Infinity War revitalizes the same fun, awestricken feeling audiences got with the first Avengers movie.

The humor feels organic, but make no mistake, this movie raises the MCU stakes unlike any other. Thanos, off nothing more than sheer might, determination, and intimidation, manages to cement himself as one of cinema’s most daunting villains. The heart pounding climax of the film is sure to leave audiences frozen in their seats as the credits role. For a franchise whose biggest flaws have usually revolved around lack of strong antagonists and unwillingness to sacrifice major characters, the Russo Brothers (Captain America Winter Solider and Civil War) manage to create a film that serves as a middle finger to anyone who ever criticized. The result is a sometimes uneven, but overall shocking, emotional roller coaster that feels like the Empire Strikes Back of the superhero genre.

FINAL GRADE: A

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REDBOX REVIEWS

Starting something new for all my friends who enjoy that weekly trip to the good ole’ Redbox. There are a lot of movies that don’t get wide releases so you might not catch them in theaters. So here are a few reviews of some limited release films currently available to own and rent.

 

The Raid 2

The_Raid_2_Berandal_teaser_bannerBack in December, I listed this Indonesian martial arts film as one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Anyone who has seen the previous film, The Raid Redemption, completely understands why. It may be the greatest action film ever created. I was fortunately able to catch the sequel in theaters and it didn’t disappoint. Iko Uwais reprises his role as Rama, one of the few surviving officers from the police raid on mob owned slums in the first film. This time around, following the death of a loved one, Rama is forced to go deep undercover in order to infiltrate an even deadlier and more powerful crime syndicate.

Fans of the first might find this one slow at times, but when the action hits, it is as good if not better than the mind blowing sequences of its predecessor. Many of the action sequences, taking place on trains, prison yards, highways, are more vibrant than the ones in Redemption, which all took place in one location. And the new villains, specifically two named “Baseball Bat Man” and “Hammer Girl” (can you guess what they use as weapons), provide some of the most jaw dropping fight scenes you’ll ever see. Bottom line, if you are a fan of action or crime films with actual plot (sorry Expendables), then you won’t find a better watch than The Raid 2. FINAL GRADE: A

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The_Grand_Budapest_Hotel_PosterIf you’re looking for something quirky but infectiously smart and entertaining, then this movie is definitely for you. It is one of the most beautifully made films of the year from both a story telling and visual aspect. In this story, within a story, within a story, within a story (got all of that?) Ralph Fiennes stars as a Hotel concierge who is framed for murder after his elderly lover leaves her most treasured possession to him. Fiennes was magnificent as Voldermort in the Harry Potter saga and I loved him in the most recent James Bond film. But here, Fiennes is as magnetic as I’ve ever seen him, perfectly matching wit, arrogance, and genuine warmth in the role of Gustave. The brotherly relationship between the character and his new, excessively dedicated lobby boy, Moustafa (relative newcomer Tony Revolori) is what drives the story and gives it its charm.

As mentioned before, the film is shot beautifully, using miniatures to give the movie the look of a children’s book while also using techniques to give it the proper classic feel of a murder mystery. And even through its predominantly comedic tone, it manages to strike the perfect heartwarming and soulful tone at its climax. The numerous cameos (Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jude Law, Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton… just to name a few) are pretty comical too. FINAL GRADE: A

 

Under the Skin

Under_the_Skin_posterThis is without a doubt one of the top five most bizarre films I have ever witnessed. The incredibly attractive Scarlett Johannson stars as an incredibly attractive alien in human form who seduces men and leads them back to a creepy black void where their skin is harvested. Sound interesting enough? The beginning of the film, which seems more music and nat sound than dialogue, plays like a documentary which certainly adds to the eerie tone, but also makes the movie incredibly dull for the first hour.

But if you can sit through the same repeated act, the second half of the movie is far more intriguing. Although I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you couldn’t, as I nearly gave up on it. Eventually though, Johannson’s alien character defies her intended purpose and ventures out on her own. By the end of the film, the message should come across powerfully and I unexpectedly found myself appreciating the artistic nature of it all, but there’s still a strong chance you may find it boring and weird even if you persevere through it. FINAL GRADE: B-