Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame has so much happening at such a rapid pace that it’s unavoidable to talk about its plot. I’ll try to be as vague as possible about the movie until the second paragraph. Avengers: Endgame continues the story of Avengers: Infinity War where Thanos (Josh Brolin), the movie’s super villain, gathers the Infinity Stones and kills half the universe in one snap of his fingers. With this type of cliffhanger after such an iconic movie, it’s hard to imagine not seeing Endgame. Ultimately this comes off as bittersweet as it’s hard to forget how the heroes failed to prevent such a tragedy.

Spoiler time. We start off with Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) spending time with his family. As he’s teaching his daughter how to shoot arrows, he tells her to go retrieve the arrow she shot. As he turns to speak to his wife we see dust behind him. He calls to his daughter with no response and as he’s looking we see the rest of his family turn to dust. He’s left alone in a field. Really just as the movie starts we’re reminded of the gut-wrenching circumstances of the last film.

We then go to Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) in space with Tony recording journals saying he doesn’t think he’ll make it. Just as Tony is falling asleep he sees a bright light which turns out to be Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers (Brie Larson). She brings them back to Earth. Tony is in bad shape and they quickly consult with War Machine (Don Cheadle), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth). They learn the Infinity Stones have been used again and Nebula confirms the location of Thanos. They fly off to meet him and quickly defeat him in battle. They learn Thanos used the Infinity Stones to destroy themselves and in frustration, Thor unceremoniously kills Thanos.

The movie then skips to 5 years into the future. We’re shown Steve Rogers in a support meeting for those who have lost those close to them. He explains in the meeting that this has happened to him before when he was trapped in the ice, so he’s not unfamiliar with how others feel. We cut to a warehouse where a rat is crawling around some equipment and it activates a portal to the Quantum Realm that brings Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). He looks around the world confused, unaware of what happened. He finds his daughter to see that she’s much older. We learn that time hasn’t moved for him since he entered the Quantum Realm, and that the unusual way time flows may be the key to fixing this world.

This movie provides about as climactic of an ending to the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far as well as to this story of Thanos. Going back to Iron Man, I don’t think many would expect something this grandiose at the other end. The Russo Brothers really created something that encapsulates an era of film making. While there are some flaws in the movie, they’re negligible in the broad scope of things. I recommend catching up on some of the past movies before you see this one. There are even some inside jokes with the comics. Rated PG-13.

Ryan

US

Jordan Peele was known for his comedic nature until recent years. Then in 2017 critics and box offices were taken by storm by the horror hit Get Out. Now he’s made his horror follow-up with Us, a horror movie where it’s revealed that different versions of people are out to get them. I’d also like to state that I’m not a big fan of horror as a genre. I like movies that make you think or creative concepts, but I’m not into slashers or being scared. I had to be convinced to see Get Out and that’s what convinced me to see Us.

We start off in 1986 with a girl (Madison Curry) watching a television and some odd scenes of rabbits in cages. The girl, Adelaide, and her family go to a carnival where they enjoy time together and the father gets overly enthusiastic about winning some games. The girl wanders away and into a house of mirrors. She gets progressively more scared as the power goes out and she hears a noise. She tries whistling to calm herself, someone whistles back. She starts running bumping into a mirror that she though led her to the exit. Adelaide eventually finds another girl standing still. Adelaide turns around and it looks just like the other girl, and Adelaide screams.

After the incident we see that Adelaide had to go through some therapy for the incident and she wasn’t speaking after it. Then we cut to modern day with a family traveling in a car, the mother a grown-up Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o). They share a scene bonding over the music. We see them interacting in their summer house where the father, Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke), reveals he bought a boat. They end up going to the beach the next day despite Adelaide initially objecting. The son, Jason Wilson (Evan Alex) gets lost. Adelaide starts to panic as her son is lost at the beach and she looks around and eventually finds him.

They end up going to the summer house from the beach and Adelaide expresses that she wants to go home. She feels like something is wrong and shares her childhood experience of seeing herself to her disbelieving husband. He agrees and they all get ready for bed. Soon after they see a family standing outside in the driveway. The husband is calm at first, but Adelaide immediately asks to call 911. Adelaide tells her daughter, Zora Wilson (Shahadi Wright Joseph) to get her running shoes on. Eventually the family approaches the house and it’s revealed that they all look like the family.

This movie has an interesting premise for sure. The characters all have their own struggles to overcome which make them much more interesting at the start. There’s likely a deeper meaning to the struggles of the characters, but I don’t want to spoil too much with speculation. To me, this was more frightening than Get Out but not as intriguing. It’s a movie that’s worth talking about after seeing, but it’s not as an enthusiastic recommendation to me. There are still some comedic moments in this one that help break up the dark atmosphere. Rated R.

Ryan

Captain Marvel


While I know much about certain comic book characters, I don’t know as much about Captain Marvel. I’ve only read Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel comic book run, which is similar to the movie version. Otherwise I’ve learned about her through Avenger’s stories, X-Men, Ms. Marvel, or character synopsis. So, I was curious to learn what story they’d try to tell with her. Overall, I think the advertising campaign helped keep that a mystery. Something many may not know is that this takes place mostly in 1995.

The movie starts out with Vers (one of three names for Captain Marvel in this movie), played by Brie Larson, waking up from a dream. She goes to spar with Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), where he tells her she needs to focus on controlling her emotions. She talks about how she doesn’t seem to recall her past. They talk about some of Kree society on the planet Hala, which they’re on. We learn of their enemies the alien shapeshifters, the Skrull. Soon enough they get into a conflict with them and Vers is taken captive. The Skrull begin to explore her memories. She eventually frees herself from the Skrulls and crash-lands on Earth.

Some Skrulls follow her to Earth and soon she is met by Agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). Fury and Coulson are understandably apprehensive about Vers’s story of space travel and shapeshifting aliens. They’re soon shot at with an alien weapon from the nearby roof. Vers chases after a Skrull. After the chase, it becomes clear to Fury that Ver’s story is real. So Vers and Fury end up teaming up to deal with the threat.

After seeing this movie, I compared it to other Marvel movies. I think this one feels most closely related to Thor. They’re both powerful characters from alien societies. I think they learned from Thor that having a “fish out of water” character isn’t necessarily enough to tell a compelling story, when there are now numerous origin stories. So, they added more action and supporting characters to make a relatable narrative. The story is less overwhelming than it could have been, as introducing two alien societies is a lot to explain in one movie. We could have ended up with several more societies, and that’s hard to keep track of.

There is a lot going on in the movie with three prominent species. The character of Carol Danvers really has a lot of complexity to her as well. I personally think they could have spent multiple movies introducing her prior to Avenger’s: Endgame. Doctor Strange was the last Marvel character to be fully introduced in their own movie and I think his story felt less rushed in comparison. One problem with the character is that they explain early on that she’s supposed to stifle emotion from her Kree training. So, I suspect we’ll see a different version moving forward. I do think this movie nailed the points it needed to for the bigger universe. It’s a fun addition to the great Marvel Cinematic Universe. Rated PG-13.

Ryan

Cleveland International Film Festival Re-Cap

The Cleveland International Film Festival is such an incredible experience and this year several of our staff members attending screenings. Here’s a compilation of some movies we saw.

The Chaperone

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Directed by Michael Engler, Screenplay written by Julian Fellowes, Based on the book Laura Moriarty

Starring Elizabeth McGovern and Haley lu Richardson

A young Louise Brooks has the opportunity of a lifetime to attend a dance institute in New York City in the 1920s, under the condition that she is accompanied by a chaperone.  Local housewife, Norma Carlisle, volunteers to chaperone Louise and they embark on a life-changing adventure.  Norma seizes the opportunity to find closure with her past and redefine her future.

– Beth

Princess of the Row

Winner of the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award

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Directed by Max Carlson, Written by A. Shawn Austin, Starring Ana Ortiz, Taylor Buck, Martin Sheen

A persistent young girl is determined to take care of her mentally ill father who suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq, and now lives with severe PTSD on the streets of LA’s skid row.  This movie was beautifully shot with such a powerful message.  If you get a chance watch it, be sure to have tissues on hand.

-Beth

Shorts Program 3

Lunch Break – Directed by Tyler Smith

A Monsoon Date– Directed by Tanuja Chandra

Death Metal Grandma – Directed by Leah Galant

Bertie- Directed by Garry Crystal

Digital Age– Directed by Piripinghi

I am Black and Beautiful – Directed by Hawanatu Bangura

Light Work – Directed by Scott Kawczynski

With Thelma – Directed by Ann Sirot & Raphael Balboni

-Beth

100 things

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Directed and written by Florian David Fitz, Starring Florian David Fitz,  Matthias Schweighöfer, Miriam Stein

Lifelong friends, Tony and Paul develop a software that helps big data companies precisely advertise consumer goods to users.  As they are on the brink of breaking into a huge market, their egos force them to challenge each other in a bet.  They make a bet that the other can’t live without all their stuff for 100 days.  Each day they can reclaim one of their possessions.   The movie was hysterical and a great commentary on how much time and energy we spend being consumers.

-Beth

To Kid Or Not To Kid

To Kid or Not to Kid is a documentary directed by Maxine Trump. My wife and I previously met the filmmaker and identified with the topic, so our schedule was centered around making sure we were in the audience for one of the screenings of this personal film during CIFF43. Maxine interviews several women and traces her own journey of deciding whether or not to be a mother. She explores how the medical industry makes it difficult for women to make choices about their own bodies. She examines the cultural/societal pressure that pushes women to have children and makes them feel as if something is wrong with them if they don’t either by choice or by chance.

-Byron

Storm Boy

Storm Boy is a family drama from Australia directed by Shawn Seet. Geoffrey Rush plays a retired business man. The movie is primarily his reminiscences of his childhood when he raised orphan pelicans. Like the many stories about a boy and his dog or a girl and her horse or any other kid learning about the circle of life from raising a pet this was a bit of a tearjerker. This is actually the second adaptation of a short book by the same name. The production design set in modern day and back in the ’50s is well done, and the cast does an excellent job.
-Byron

Around the Sun

Around the Sun is an indie drama directed by Oliver Krimpas. This British film consists entirely of two actors having various conversations at a French chateau. Our library was one of the sponsors of it. There are multiple chapters and parallel realities imagined through this film where the young man and woman are at the chateau for different reasons and they meet under slightly different circumstances. They discuss big ideas of science and philosophy and human relationships. It is a bit disorienting keeping the different versions of their story straight, but I liked it. It was a challenge like putting together a puzzle.
-Byron

The Kleptocrats

This film is a documentary about the scandal surrounding Malaysian wealth fund 1MDB.  Investigative reporters from The New York Times and Wall Street Journal manage to trace the money trail and unravel the scheme.  3.5 billion dollars was allegedy stolen from a Malaysian government wealth fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhard.  This fund was intended for strategic development projects in the areas of energy, real estate, tourism and agribusiness in Malaysia. To the utter dismay of the Malaysain people, this fund evolves into one of the world’s biggest white collar heists.  Portions of the allegedly stolen money was used to bankroll the 2013 Leonardo DiCaprio blockbuster Wolf of Wall Street.  This is a compelling film about greed and a financial scandal of global proportions. As a viewer, I was very engaged and on the edge of my seat. 
-Mary