Review: AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Infinity War poster

Avengers: Infinity War is at once something familiar and something new. Familiar in that it’s the 19th movie in the now 10-year old interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe, a franchise of franchises unlike anything Hollywood has ever produced. It’s the culmination of films involving probably 50 central characters and the diverse creative storytelling of dozens of different writers and directors. We’ve seen most of these characters before and we know what to expect from them. There have been other movies with these characters. There have been two previous Avengers movies. Infinity War is new in the sense that nothing like it has been attempted in the history of film on this scale: to bring together dozens of characters from more than a dozen previous films all in one story. I thought that no matter the end result, it’s incredible that something like this is actually a reality and is actually being attempted. Going into its late April release, this was easily one of my all-time most anticipated movies. I hadn’t been this excited to see a movie since probably The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 15 years ago. And now it has to all come together for this grand crescendo.

Now, having seen the film multiple times, I’m happy to say THEY FUCKING DID IT. Here’s how…

[SPOILERS AHEAD. But if you haven’t already seen the movie by now and are reading this anyway, the hell with ya.]

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The Sad Fall of Morgan Freeman

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Until recently, Morgan Freeman was my favorite actor. Had been since I was kid. I used to call him “the god of acting”. Then he went and played God in Bruce Almighty. It was almost too perfect. Back when he actually cared about acting, any performance of his, no matter how small, was worthy of going out to the theater and watching. The Shawshank Redemption, Se7en, Unforgiven, Glory, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Lean on Me are among my favorite movies of all time, many of them directly due to his performances. And I could name 20 more movies I love where he featured prominently (Kiss the Girls, Deep Impact, Nurse Betty, Under Suspicion, Amistad, Million Dollar Baby, the Nolan Batman films, Lucky Number Slevin, etc.).

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My 10 Favorite Game of Thrones Characters

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WHICH GAME OF THRONES CHARACTER ARE YOU?!?! Just kidding. You’ll have to go to Facebook to find that out. Spoiler alert, though: you are none of them.

With season 7 of HBO’s Game of Thrones ended and withdrawal setting in, I’ve decided to hop onboard the GoT thought piece/clickbait bandwagon. I’ve delved through the show’s long, long list of characters, old and new, to figure out who I like and relate to most and least. Some of my choices may surprise you, but one of the best aspects of George R.R. Martin‘s world is that its characters are far grayer than in other filmed fiction, and I find things to like about even some of the sleaziest of the bad guys. Game of Thrones has some of the richest, most complex characters you’ll come across in modern fantasy (or fiction of any genre, really), and that made putting this list together a lot of fun.

I realize this post would work much better as a 15-minute YouTube video, but I don’t have the time nor the energy nor the editing software to put that kind of video together. Sorry. You’ll just have to read instead. This post will contain spoilers for the show, but if you haven’t already seen all 67 episodes, you’re probably not reading this anyway. Enjoy!

Note: My rankings are based on the TV show only. As always, click on any photo to see the full-size version.

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The 2017 Biggie Awards (and my Top 10 & Bottom 5 of 2016)

The 28th Annual Biggie Awards

for the love of movies.

Celebrating achievements in film for the year 2016

So 2016 has come and gone. A year I had big hopes for about 15 months ago turned out to be quite a dud in the grand scheme of things. It was even worse than 2015. For the second year in a row, I rated no theatrical release a ‘9’ on IMDb. There were no masterpieces, no all-time greats. There were some really good movies, and I put almost 20 more films on my “Movies I Love” list, but in terms of quality and the ability to stand the test of time, even the second or third-best movies of most past years would have easily won my Best Picture award over this lot.

Lobster Farrell bury
Me waiting for 2016 to be over.

2016 also broke a pretty long streak of spectacular even-numbered years. It was such a mediocre year that it even gave us a Steven Spielberg movie I couldn’t bring myself to watch (The BFG). General cinematic malaise aside, there were, as always, some highlights…

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Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

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When it was announced that Tony Stark/Iron Man would be joining the third Captain America movie as a co-lead for the Civil War storyline, I was thrilled beyond words. Not because I’m a fan of the comic book version of the story (I didn’t read comics growing up, so I know nothing about how this plays out on the page), but because I knew a major conflict between two of the biggest Marvel cinematic heroes would be much more dramatically interesting than what we’ve gotten from any of the previous films, where the hero(es) face off against a string of lame, underwritten, one-note villains. The hero vs. hero scenes in The Avengers were the best parts of that movie, and to have an entire film focusing on these two A-listers in conflict could only be a good thing.

I’m a YUUUGE fan of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I think it’s tied with The Avengers as the best movie so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (referenced as ‘MCU’ for the rest of this review). As such, I was looking forward to a third Cap movie more than any other upcoming Marvel project. Even more so after I found out directing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo would be returning. Then, as news trickled down that Civil War would feature almost all of the Avengers characters & actors having to pick sides and square off against each other, my excitement grew by leaps and bounds. It would basically be a third Avengers movie (Avengers 2.5 as many called it), but grounded on Earth with serious political overtones, without any silly alien bad guy elements. Clearly, they were making this movie just for me.

If all that wasn’t enough, Disney Marvel (MCU) then made an historic deal with Sony Marvel to not only include Spider-Man in Civil War, but to basically take over creative control of a character who had been horribly misused for basically a decade (Amazing Spider-Man was good, but the last Spidey movie I really loved was Spider-Man 2 in 2004). Then they actually started making the movie, and we were eventually blessed with two jaw-dropping trailers that left little doubt this was going to be an epic, orgasmic geek experience.

And boy did it deliver. We’re now 8 years and 13 films (that’s 3 Iron Mans, 3 Captain Americas, 2 Thors, 2 Avengers, a Guardians of the Galaxy, an Ant-Man and one Incredible Hulk) into this crazy cinematic experiment, and Captain America: Civil War is without a doubt the best MCU movie yet. I’ve seen it twice as I write this review. It is a stunning accomplishment of action and storytelling. It’s the best movie I’ve seen in 2016 as of early May. No doubt that will change as we head into the fall, but I’d love for Civil War to stick around until the end of the year as one of my Best Picture contenders. It would be the first MCU movie to earn a spot at that table.

As with all my full reviews, SPOILERS AHEAD. Let’s get into the details…

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The 2016 Biggie Awards (and My Top 10 & Bottom 5 of 2015)

The 27th Annual Biggie Awards

for achievements in film for the year 2015

2015. Goddamn. “Weird” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

In my view, this was the weakest year overall for movies since 2009, where I only “loved” 14 movies. In 2015, as of this writing, I added 17 films to my Love List. For perspective, since I’ve started tracking these things in 1997, this is only the third year where I didn’t love at least 20 movies. I didn’t love anything in 2015 until early May when Avengers: Age of Ultron opened, and even that was a disappointment compared to its predecessor.

This was not a year like 2000 (Gladiator), 2003 (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) or 2012 (Lincoln) where a single film dominated the year while also facing stiff competition (Gladiator fended off The Patriot, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon AND Traffic, ROTK is the most awarded film in Biggies history, but still had to face Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World AND The Last Samurai– which would have been the Best Picture winner in most other years, while Lincoln had to battle Zero Dark Thirty). The closest comp I can come up with is 2011, when Drive snuck in out of nowhere to take Best Picture in a wide open field. Drive would’ve been crushed had it come out the same year as There Will Be Blood or Titanic, but it happened to arrive in a mediocre year and was able to edge out the victory. Fast forward to now, and I don’t even know if there was a 2015 film as good as Drive. As a result, this is probably the most winnable year in Biggies history for “great but not masterful” movies, which is simultaneously really fun and disappointing by default. As I post this, I honestly haven’t decided what I think the best movie of 2015 was.

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Review: STAR WARS: EPISODE VII- THE FORCE AWAKENS

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Vader helmet

Welcome back, friends. Please forgive my lack of productivity in this space through pretty much all of 2015, but I’ve had quite a bit going on out in the real world. On top of that, I’m much more interested in creating my own work than I am reacting to the work of others, which is what I do most of the time on this blog. That’s a result of simply wanting to get things off my chest, and over the past year I’ve become pretty good about being able to keep my mouth shut and my thoughts contained inside my head. This is my first full review since I analyzed Captain America: The Winter Soldier in April of 2014. Fuck, it has been awhile, hasn’t it?

Reviewing Star Wars movies has always been tough for me. And by “tough”, I mean “nearly impossible”. The original trilogy, collectively, occupies the #1 slot on my list of favorite movies of all time. When I watch those movies, I don’t see actors and cinematography and writing, I am watching a story unfold, nothing more. I’m not thinking at all about how it was made. That’s because I became passionate about Star Wars before I knew I was passionate about filmmaking. When it comes to the prequels, I don’t like talking about them because of how disappointing they are. I’ve never gone as far as most in saying they outright suck, but I freely admit they are a mess. I can still watch them and enjoy doing so, but they don’t feel like the original movies at all, and I’d have a very tough time watching all 6 in order, because the gap in style, both visually and in storytelling, between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope would be too big a jump to make in my mind. I’m also bitter that the way Anakin Skywalker was handled in the prequels makes original trilogy Darth Vader much less badass, which is a cinematic felony.

On to current events! Back when Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 and sent George Lucas packing, I posted my reaction to the news [HERE] and then did another piece reacting to the announcement of J.J. Abrams as Episode VII’s director [HERE]. I originally pegged Abrams’ selection at only a 2% chance of happening. In hindsight, that was foolish, but I based that doubt on the fact that I refused to believe that they’d hire the same guy who rebooted Star Trek to also revive Star Wars. I viewed that as some sort of celestial paradox. Minus the Star Trek factor, I approved of Abrams doing this, and I still approve now after we’ve all seen the finished product. Episode VII needed to be directed by a Star Wars fan, and Abrams has proven his worthiness in that regard. In many people’s views, his love for the original films is too evident in Force Awakens, but we’ll get to that.

Without further ado, let’s get straight into it. Needless to say, SPOILERS APLENTY AHEAD!

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