Avengers: Infinity War

Genre: Sci-Fi/Action
Director:
  The Russo Brothers
Screenplay: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Cast: Robert Downey Jr; Chris Evans; Chris Hemsworth; Chris Pratt; Josh Brolin
Summary: Thanos finally does something, spurring the Avengers to go on a series of misadventures.

I saw a little movie the other day called Avengers: Infinity War, the movie’s doing pretty alright at the box office apparently. This is the third Avengers film, and nineteenth (NINETEENTH) installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise overall.

Thanos is finally coming to get his hands on the Infinity Stones in his big quest to wipe out half of life in the galaxy to balance out the universe. But not if our good friends The Avengers have anything to say about it.

My biggest concern going in is how much of a damn mess this movie would be. I was not a big fan of Avengers: Age of Ultron, as that just felt big and messy and at times difficult to really follow. And with more heroes added to the mix since then (Spider-Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy etc), it seemed like there’s no way this movie’s not going to be a total trainwreck. But surprisingly they managed to pull it off. The film very cleverly space everything out. Rather than jamming all of the characters together on one big plot line, they find something different for each group of characters to do and the film is interspersed with these different plot threads. It helps the film keep the pace interesting without getting too cluttered, and we also end up with some interesting team ups. Watching Doctor Strange and Tony Stark bounce off each other is fun, while Thor and Rocket Raccoon have some interesting banter.

The biggest standout of the film is Thanos. Josh Brolin does a fantastic job bringing the character to life (although the CGI on him is impressive too). He’s written cleverly too. Thanos isn’t your typical “kill everything, take over the world” style villain. He is flawed and complex. Really, Infinity War is more Thanos’ film than it is The Avengers. The best kinds of villains are the ones that have clear and concise goals and motivation. You don’t have to agree or like their motivations, but the fact that they have one is the key. Thanos isn’t really an evil villain. He’s the bad guy, for sure, but still. It’s impressive that someone who wants to kill half the universe can have sympathetic moments.

The action is great and the effects are (mostly) impressive. There were a few moments were the CG looked a bit odd and not fitting in, but most of the time the movie looked great. And it you’d expect it to. There were like half a dozen screens worth of visual effects artists in the closing credits.

I really only have two major critiques. The first is that at times I felt like the movie should have taken a moment or two for a breather. There were certain little character moments that would have been nice to have seen fleshed out but we didn’t quite get those. I was a little disappointed at the lack of resolution to Bruce Banner being back on Earth and his reunion with characters like Black Widow. I felt like we could have gotten a little more insight into Bucky and his time in Wakanda. But these critiques are more gripes. This was a packed movie at two and a half hours and at the very least, the movie didn’t get bogged down in anything unnecessary.

My second critique goes into spoiler city, so, y’know… spoilers ahead.

 

 

The ending of the movie appears ballsy. Half of the Avengers are completely wiped out. It was a shocking and sad moment seeing Spider-Man and Black Panther and almost all the Guardians of the Galaxy just get deleted from existence. But at the same time, it’s hard to take this all seriously. Comic book deaths are a joke as it is, I don’t want to see death treated the same way in the films. The idea that Black Panther and Spider-Man among others are dead is absurd. I could buy them killing of B players like Vision, Scarlet Witch and Falcon etc. but once T’Challa ate it, you knew it was all a farce. There is no way that Marvel is killing off any of its cash cows that early. I was very much expecting Iron Man or Captain America, or possibly Thor to eat it, and they still might. Part II is only a year away. It’s just the idea that the movie is trying to trick you into saying all these characters are dead, when you know they’ll be back within a year, rendering this kind of moot. But that’s the nitpicking nerd in me. I otherwise loved the fact that we got to see a film end with the villain succeeding for a change. The good guys failed. The good guys died. The good guys will still be back next year, so don’t get too flustered about it though.

Despite it’s very few shortcomings, I found Avengers: Infinity War to be an incredibly fun and entertaining movie and a mindblowing achievement. Ten years now Marvel has been churning these movies out, and for my money they haven’t really made a dud yet. Yeah, Age of Ultron was super flawed, but I don’t know if I’d go as far as calling it a “bad movie”. To top it off, I’m really excited to see what happens in the next Avengers movie, and I think that was part of the goal here. Build up hype for Avengers 4.

Recommendation

8 Infinity Stones out of 10 – Go see it. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s dramatic, it’s over the top but can still be somehow grounded at times. Josh Brolin is a treasure.

The Commuter (2018)

Genre: Action/Thriller
Director:
  Jaume Collet-Sera
Screenplay: Byron Willinger; Philip de Blasi; Ryan Engle
Cast: Liam Neeson; Vera Farmiga; Patrick Wilson; Sam Neill
Summary: Liam Neeson has to go through the plot of Taken, except it’s on a train this time.

The Commuter is this year’s Liam Neeson action movie. From the director that brought you Non-Stop, Unknown and Run All Night – all mindless Neeson action films – comes yet another one. Except this time it’s on a train. It’s like someone put Taken, Murder on the Orient Express and maybe a little bit of Speed into a blender.

Neeson plays Michael MacCauley – a recently fired insurance salesman who also happens to be a grizzled ex-cop. I think all of Neeson’s characters have to be ex-police or ex-CIA or something. On his train ride home, a mysterious woman (Farmiga) gives him an offer – figure out which person on board the train doesn’t belong there, and he’ll get $100,000. Of course, the rabbit hole gets deeper and the game becomes much more serious and violent, as is expected.

It’s… fine. There are actually elements of the film that are solid and kind of enjoyable. For a good solid bit, it actually works as a decent mystery movie that has a great combination of drama, action and intrigue all the while keeping a solid pace. But the movie eventually hits a wall once the third act arrives. All of its momentum fizzles out and the film suddenly feels like it should have ended 10-minutes ago. Everything build up to then sort of works though. And Collet-Sera is good at what he does. I was a fan of The Shallows and you can see much of the same directing style here. It seems like he’s really found a groove and his own voice when it comes to film, and it’s really easy to watch and entertaining to see how he treats what would otherwise be a normal and pedestrian scene.

Liam Neeson is good. He’s always good. That’s why he’s had this bizarre, late-life resurgence as one of Hollywood’s leading action heroes. There’s something believable and entertaining about his gruff, grizzled, aging veteran, plowing through bad guys to save the good guys. I wouldn’t say he’s doing anything particularly new or exciting here – it’s still the same shtick he’s been doing since Taken came out in 2008 – but if you like all of his other films there’s no reason why you wouldn’t get some enjoyment out of this.

The other actors are fine but I found that they didn’t have much to do. Vera Farmiga is good but I felt like we didn’t get enough out of her character, and Patrick Wilson is rock solid as usual. But this is the Liam Neeson show. Elizabeth McGovern and Dean Charles-Chapman, portraying MacCauley’s loving family, are virtually speaking extras here. They have so little to do I’m shocked they didn’t just pay some college actors $100 to read some lines.

Overall, The Commuter is perfectly acceptable. It falls in the same category as all of Neeson’s other films – switch your brain off and enjoy it. Don’t think about the convoluted story, don’t think about the silly third act and don’t think about how 65-year-old Liam Neeson is beating up terrorists half his age.

Recommendation

5 trains out of 10 – I recommend it to general fans of action movies and Liam Neeson. Did you enjoy Taken? Then see The Commuter. Did you not enjoy Taken? Then don’t see The Commuter.

The Forest (2016)

Genre: Horror
Director:
  Jason Zada
Screenplay: Ben Ketai; Sarah Cornwell; Nick Antosca
Cast: Natalie Dormer; Taylor Kinney; Eoin Macken; Yukiyoshi Ozawa
Summary: A young woman bravely ignores all common sense to venture into Japan’s “Suicide Forest” to find her identical twin sister.

I wonder if the Game of Thrones cast have this curse on them where they are unable to pick good film projects in their off seasons. Seriously, they’re all in so many bad movies yet they’re almost all genuinely great actors in the most successful TV show around. You’d think they could all get better agents who can vet the bad scripts from the good ones.

In any case, The Forest is a bad movie starring Natalie Dormer of Game of Thrones fame. She’s an American woman who travels to Japan after learning that her twin sister has gone missing and was last seen going into Aokigahara Forest. The forest is infamous in real life for being a common site for suicide victims to visit, more recently it’s been in news because of a YouTube moron going in and shooting footage of the recently deceased for that sweet YouTube moolah.

Along the way, Sara (Dormer’s character) meets a white American travel writer and they venture into the woods together with a guide. You know, because the movie set in Japan about the Japan suicide forest needed to be led by two attractive white people still.

It’s a dumb movie. It’s everything you expect it to be. Girl runs around in forest, gets lost and confused, girl hurts her ankle, girl screams a lot, girl isn’t sure who to trust, girl sees things. It is a paint by numbers, generic horror movie about a haunted forest. I don’t really know who this is supposed to appeal to though. It’s not really scary at all. There are a few attempts at jump scares that are telegraphed miles away. Some of the jump scares are actually hilarious with how bad they are. There’s not really any gore. There’s very little sense of tension. I think a lot of that stems from the fact that the main character is just so unlikeable. She’s pushy, rude, depressing, lacks any kind of personality and completely disregards any and all advice given to her. She has no thought for common sense. She is a complete dope and because of that, I had no investment in her journey or real desire to see her succeed.

To top it all off, this movie is boring. At 93 minutes, it feels like two hours. It’s slow and plodding and meanders its way to the end credits like it’s a big chore for everything. It’s a chore for the filmmakers and it’s a chore for the viewers. The best thing I can say is that it looks like Natalie Dormer is trying. Like genuinely I think she’s doing the best she can with the few scraps of a character that she’s given. But okay performances aren’t enough to maintain interest.

Recommendation

2 telegraphed jump scares out of 10 — I don’t recommend this to anyone, except perhaps diehard Natalie Dormer fans.

A Quiet Place (2018)

Genre: Horror
Director:
  Jon Krasinski
Screenplay: Bryan Woods; Scott Beck; Jon Krasinski
Cast: Jon Krasinski; Emily Blunt; Millicent Simmonds; Noah Jupe
Summary: A family struggles to stay quiet in a post apocalyptic world overrun by overly noise sensitive monsters.

I went into A Quiet Place expecting a good-ish movie. I liked the trailer and I liked the concept – be quiet or the monsters will get you. But I was figuring it would become a little gimmicky and so I was expecting more of a Lights Out type movie. Fun but sort of limited. Then, as I was looking up session times, one of the reviews from a fellow patron said in big capital letters “GREAT MOVIE. IT’S 2018’S GET OUT!!” So of course, my expectations went through the roof.

Generally I try to avoid having certain expectations – especially when it comes to a movie from a director I’m not familiar with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m familiar with Jim from The Office, just not the kind of movies he likes to make. But in this case, my expectations were higher than normal and surprisingly, A Quiet Place still exceeds this reviewer’s expectations.

The concept is simple but effective. Following a family that lives on a farm in the country, they try to live out their lives by being as quiet as possible. We don’t really see the conflict that got us to this post apocalypse or where these monsters came from, but that’s not really the point. The point is seeing what life has become now. Jon Krasinski and Emily Blunt attempt to raise their children and survive by making as little noise as possible, lest they accidentally draw the attention of vicious Demogorgon-like monsters. The movie has amazing attention to detail when it comes to the world we’re viewing. For example, when we see a store that the family is rummaging through at the beginning of the film, everything loud is left behind. Bags of chips, pairs of shoes, noisy toys, anything that would make any kind of sound is mostly left behind. The farm house is soundproofed, down to having footprints on the floorboards painted to demonstrate what areas are safe to step on to avoid creaking wood. The family talks almost entirely in sign language as well. It helps that their daughter (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf and her disability plays quite heavily into the plot.

The big spanner in the works – and I’m avoiding spoilers here so I won’t go in-depth – is that the mother of the family is expecting a baby and so of course, that’s a major concern. You see, childbirth generally tends to be a very noisy affair and babies normally tend to like making a lot of high pitched noise as their way of communicating anything. So that’s sort of the central conflict right there.

The performances are all great, especially from Millicent Simmonds. And it’s great that they actually got a genuinely deaf actor to portray the character. It added a certain level of authenticity and credibility. Blunt and Krasinski obviously have good chemistry given the fact they’re married in real life, they just work together as an on-screen married couple. There’s a nice scene earlyish in the movie where they get to spend a few short moments together between the constant fear of noise and the exhaustion of raising a family in the apocalypse. It’s those little family moments that help fill out the movie and make the relationships feel important.

Direction-wise and visual-wise, the film’s a cut above the rest. At times, the cinematography almost gets a tad artsy. And really in terms of direction, everything comes back to that attention to detail. Given the setting – a world where silence = safety – there’s very little room for extraneous exposition so everything is laid out to you in the presentation of the film and what you seen on the screen.

As far as the story goes, as I said before, it’s a pretty simple concept but it’s effective. There were a few cliche-ish moments, and there were a few of your typical jumpscares. But the movie really builds momentum to each big scare and each terrifying scene that it feels earned. There were genuinely tense moments in this movie. I hate using terms like “edge of your seat” and “white knuckle thrill ride” because those are cheeseball and cringey, but I found myself with my hand over my mouth a few times trying to stay quiet along with the characters. It’s incredibly tense and unnerving but in a great, exciting way.

Something interesting, and kind of hilarious, is that the movie takes itself completely seriously throughout the entire duration with virtually no levity or humour, except for literally the last 7-seconds or so where for a split second it becomes complete schlock. I’ve never seen anything like it before. It’s a total, completely serious film, then it becomes hilarious schlock for the final frame. I don’t even think it’s necessarily a bad thing because I found it entertaining as hell, but it was just jarring.

Really though, this is a great film. And while unlike the fellow who compared it to Get Out, I may not go quite that far, I would still go further than expected. A Quiet Place is something simple yet different, near perfectly executed and so far it’s probably my favourite film of the year.

Recommendation

8 Hearing Aids out of 10 – I recommend it to all movie-goers. You don’t have to be a fan of the genre to enjoy this movie.