Is “Infinity War” showing us “The Rapture?”

There’s an eye-opening line in “Avengers: Infinity War” in which a character is asked who his “Master” is, and he cracks something about “You expecting me to say ‘Jesus?'” or some such.

Cannot find the exact quote in my notes, but it gets a laugh.

Which makes the film’s other tidbit of Christian theology — Thor, Loki, Thanos, remember, are gods or what passes for them in comic books and comic book movies — seem like more than a coincidence.

Once you’ve seen the film and its use of this cool and apparently easily acquired effect, tell me Kirk Cameron & his “Left Behind” cohorts wouldn’t have GoFundMe approached every superchurch, from Hillsong on down the line, to pay for its use.

So, are we watching a comic book spin on The Rapture in “Infinity War”?

Advertisements
Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

Preview, The Great Tom Hardy returns to Comicbookland as “Venom”

Looks good. Casting a top flight actor can help. Not a guy known for his light touch, but “Venom” won’t require much of that. This is the first teaser to the October release, co-starring Oscar winner Michelle Williams. Ruben Fleischer of “Zombieland” directed it, so that’s promising.

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

Movie Review — “Avengers: Infinity War” just seems infinitely long

infinity1

Ordinary rules of drama don’t apply in the Marvel Universe, so expecting “Avengers: Infinity War” to build suspense, reach a climax and deliver some sort of conclusion is just…unreasonable.

There is no closure with this Neverending Story, because if Disney wasn’t going to let “Toy Story” or “Pirates of the Caribbean” slip free of the death grip the accountants have on them, what hope did Marvel’s ever-expanding comic book cast of costumed cocks of the walk have?

“Infinity War” is a mash up of “Avengers” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” where much of the fun–what little there is — is in “Name that Movie Antecedent.” A little “Lord of the Rings” here, a dollop of “Star Wars” there — self-sacrifice, romance, more self-sacrifice, more “Lord of the Rings” borrowings, etc.

Directed without a whit of style by two place-holder directors — Joe and Anthony Russo — of the “Harry Potter and We Can Save a Bundle by Just Letting This David Yates Hack Make the Trains Run on Time” variety, “Infinity” has moments of warmth, witty lines here and there, one very special effect (and one cringingly bad one), some passable performances amid several career-lows among the stellar cast.

It is, as its title promises, merely the latest set-up for the NEXT installment in this slam-bang superhero soap opera. Going on into infinity.

But I was moved by the parade of actors passing before mine eyes in the two hours and thirty-five sometimes dull and repetitive minutes, and the passage of time. Greying Robert Downey Jr., burning off the flower of youth and the comeback from unemployable drug-addicted hell to be sentenced to endless Iron Man iterations, Mark Ruffalo, making us forget how dazzled we were at the idea of an empathetic actor taking on The Incredible Hulk (this is Ruffalo’s worst performance ever), the novelty of seeing two Sherlock Holmes (Downey and Benedict Cumberbatch) slinging cutting one-liners at each other as Spoiled Arms Merchant Tony Stark and his new BFF, the mesmerizing Doctor Strange.

Downey is still delivering fair value here, but Cumberbatch is at a loss, playing a fifth banana in a movie that demands too little of him.

Then Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany have a touching moment, as Scarlet Witch and the computer entity come to life, “Vision,” and you remember why Marvel insisted on hiring very good actors for these things. Zoe Saldana takes her stab at pathos and Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow takes Downey’s Tony Stark down a notch or two.

That’s when the great Chadwick Boseman reprises his Black Panther turn, and you wish this crowd was watching his Thurgood Marshall, James Brown or Jackie Robinson. The accent, the feeble commitment to being a bit player here make this his weakest performance as well.

Am I sitting on the fence on this one, after giving “Black Panther” the formulaic benefit of the doubt and a nod to its cultural significance? Hell no.

Like far too many of these films, “Infinity'” isn’t really “about” anything — unless you think the villain’s thoughtful consideration of universal eugenics “deep.”

Thor and his people take a bloody beat-down from universal nemesis (a Greek Titan, in essence) Thanos and his minions. Thanos is a digital giant Josh Brolin with metallic gauntlet and a huge, scrotum-wrinkled chin which one and all comment on. His minions?

Hear ye and rejoice! You are about to die at the hands of Thanos!”

The Avengers, “Earth’s mightiest heroes.” — “Like Kevin Bacon?” “NO.” — have met their match.

These Titans are too much for mere Avengers to handle. “We’re gonna need help” is what the over-matched heroes in movies like this have always said. Thus, The Guardians show up. Thus, Thor needs help getting a fresh hammer.

Maybe put in a call to Wakanda. Make Captain America Great Again. Etc.

infinity2.png

The kid playing Spider-Man (Tom Holland) grows on you, the Star Lord (Pratt) is fast wearing out his welcome. Rocket the Racoon, whom Thor keeps calling “Rabbit,” has run out of things to do or say.

But everybody gets their one-liners, most get their Big Scene. Most, but not all.

As such scenes have to come in the middle of fights, that means the Ladies of Marvel (Scarlett J., Elizabeth O., Danai Gurira (Wakanda’s Finest) and Saldana get their due in mid brawl.

There’s something at stake here. Characters die.

The funny people are as funny as usual — Dave Bautista has a boy crush on Thor — “It’s like a Pirate had a baby with…an Angel!”

Pom Klementieff, the pale wide-eyed mentalist Mantis, is a delight.

You forget Brolin’s stuck in a stolid, hulking digitally-rendered giant version of himself, that’s how subtle his voice-acting is. But you forget what it was you loved about Ruffalo’s take on The Hulk as well.

I’ve taken to comparing these pictures to Bollywood movies, where excess is best and giving people what they want isn’t enough, giving them MORE of what they want is how you fill two and a half hours of screen time.

“Infinity War” is all that, and then some, from its grim open to an end that isn’t so much a  climax as a “petering out.” Call it “Marvel’s ‘Empire Strikes Back’ if you want. I don’t see it. The script spoils the big “sacrifice” moments by encoring them, the “story” is more snatches of this and that — flashbacks, set-piece brawls or what have you.

It’s “Lord of the Rings,” with crystals instead of rings, metal-working dwarves and pop culture references — “Remember that old, old movie, ‘Aliens’?” and “Rubber Band Man” — aimed at a certain audience to get a certain response — mainly high-fives from those who figure they “get” the joke.

And it’s not about anything, except setting up the next box office bonanza.

Maybe “Deadpool 2” will be better.

2stars1

(Is “Infinity War” mimicking The Rapture?”)

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references.

Cast: Josh Brolin, Robert Downey Jr., Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Dave Bautista, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbatch

Credits:Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, script by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely . A Marvel release.

Running time: 2:35

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | 10 Comments

Next Screening? “Avengers: Infinity War”

Yeah, the title is kind of nonsensical-agrammatical.

“Infinite War?” “Finite War?” No. I call “INFINITY WAR.”

The gang’s all here, and then some. The Marvels of Marvel, Avengers, Guardians, with Wakanda to the Wescue.

“Captain America” sequels directors Anthony and Joe Russo make the train run on time, two and half hours of “Give the people what they want,” the first of two Josh Brolin villain turns in Marvel movies (“Deadpool 2” anyone?).

So many characters to service, so much “help,” as in “We’re gonna need some help.” Let’s hope for a pleasant surprise, because this reeks of bloat, in the trailers, the credits, the direction this storyline has taken us into.

Fingers crossed.

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | 1 Comment

Movie Review: Chaotic “Kings” captures lives upturned or lost in the LA Riots

king4

The LA Riots burst around the principals of “Kings.” Franco-Turkish director Deniz Gamze Ergüven paints this signal event in modern American history in quick, impressionistic strokes. The camera jumps and jerks from vandalism and arson to an embattled LAPD, literally circling the wagons (sedans), trying to maintain control of his just piece of ground or that one.

The chaos is pulse-pounding and immediate, the images a combination of invented but recognizable violence with sketches of the real history mixed in around the edges. Want to know the pre-history of Black Lives Matter? It played out in South Central and on America’s TVs 26 years ago this month.

The movie she’s built around this maelstrom is melodramatic with the unmistakable stamp of reality, capturing a powder-keg of anger, resentment and racial tensions waiting to go off. “Kings” can be soppy and over-the-top, but it feels real, lived-in and self-destructively righteous — not unlike the riots themselves.

“Over-the-top” describes the anguish Oscar winner Halle Berry paints across her pained face for this film, and other recent thrillers (“Kidnap,””The Call”). Nobody does “manic” better.

She plays Millie Dunbar, a big-hearted over-committed woman who has filled her house with orphans. Millie can turn on the crazy eyes (another Berry specialty) when she needs them, intervening to save a kid she barely knows from arrest in another police “sweep” through her neighborhood, bringing him (Kalaan Walker) home to join her own and others she’s taken in — eight in all.

She scrambles through several side-hustles (baking Lemon Sprite bundt cakes) to keep home and hearth together.  It’s not enough. The kids fend for themselves, too often. There’s not enough to eat in the house and any new kids under their roof dilute her nurturing influence.

Her son Jesse (Lamar Johnson, good) has taken after her, “rescuing” cute but too-streetwise Niccole (Rachel Hilson, alternately sassy and scared stiff), a veteran shoplifter in a climate where Asian (Korean mostly) store owners have taken to brandishing firearms, and have recently killed one girl over a purloined bottle of orange juice.

Where are her parents? “They told me to get killed, but it hasn’t happened yet!”

Millie may start their days with a sweet wake-up kiss, but the house is a veritable scrum of kids, shouting and playing, bickering and not doing any of it quietly, leading to endless threats of “I’m calling Child Welfare” from the last white guy on the block (Daniel Craig), her irate neighbor.

The “white noise” in the movie comes from the omnipresent television sets, endless coverage of the city’s inequities, symbolized as the Rodney King arrest and video beat-down. When that all-white jury in suburbia acquitted the ill-tempered, brutish cops who bragged about what they’d done, all hell breaks loose.

Millie hysterically dashes in and out, trying to round up her brood, with some recruited onto the streets, younger ones watching the riots as a bit of TV unreality — “Did we miss the fun?” — and wanting to wander off and see the spectacle for themselves.

It’s loopy. It’s just nuts. And yet, that happened — a lot. You probably have to experience a hand-scrawled sign blocking this boulevard or that side street in person to believe it.

“Turn left or get shot.”

kings1

It’s not as relentless or fact-based as “Detroit,” with Craig’s hardass providing lighter touches. He may hate their noise, but push comes to shove, people will bend over backwards to shelter kids, or so we want to believe. Even the Only White Guy on the Block has some James Brown LPs to keep them amused.

“Say it loud!”

“Kings” got crucified by group-think at the Toronto Film Festival, and some of the abuse is understandable. It’s chaotic, mashed together, the sketching in can feel like surface gloss. The melodrama, like Berry, is entirely too much at times. You have to hand it to her, though. She does fraught with fear with a bracing gusto.

But the sprawl of it, the seeming disorganization, all work to its advantage and betray “Kings'”  ambition.  Ergüven wasn’t going for documentary, she was aiming for an impressionistic “feel” — terror, outrage, helplessness, a city and a system that aren’t built for you, even when you’re hurt, even when you’re in trouble.

Especially when you’re in trouble.

stars2

MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexual content/nudity, and language throughout.

Cast: Halle Berry, Daniel Craig, Lamar Johnson, Rachel Hilson

Credits: Written and directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven. An Orchard release.

Running time: 1:32

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

Next Screening? Halle Berry tries to raise orphans in the middle of riots in “Kings”

Think of it as the Original Black Lives Matter moment. It happened 26 years ago, for crying out loud.

Rodney King gets pummeled by cops, it’s caught on videotape, officers put on trial for beating the hell out of him, a Simi Valley jury lets them off. Riots.

The trailer alone makes this the most challenging picture parked in April, and one movie I have been looking forward to, one that doesn’t have monsters, ghosts or smart-alecks in tights pretending to brawl in front of blue screens.

Watch just the trailer, and have an epiphany. Maybe getting your back up over “ALL Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” will start to seem as foolish to you as it pretty much does to me. A movie that matters. Opens Friday.

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

Preview, “American Animals” could be the heist thriller frat bros have been waiting for

As in, it’s about them. And “it really happened.” A library, a stupidly valuable book, four young guys trying to plan to steal it the way they do in the “Oceans 11” movies.

Even Peters, Barry Keoghan, Jared Abrahamson, Blake Jenner, with Anne Dowd and Udo Kier. June.

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

Preview, “Crazy Rich Asians” are all about the money, honey…and love

So here’s the full trailer the upcoming movie based on the Kevin Kwan novel. Sort of a “Monster in Law” about Pacific Rim money, love and an emerging class of English speaking actors from that part of the world.

People Americans will easily recognize — Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Michelle Yeoh.

“Fresh off the Boat” veteran Constance Wu and Gemma Chan (“Fantastic Beasts”) also star, with Henry Golding and Jimmy O. Yang.

The film of Kevin Kwan’s novel — girl meets boy WAY too rich for anything casual — plainly features a few “Are you ASIAN enough,” jokes as if the cultures and people of Singapore, China, Japan, Korea, India, Thailand etc., are interchangable or monolithic, a “yellow on the outside, white on the inside” banana joke (nickname for Asian Uncle Toms). “Crazy Rich Asians” opens in the U.S. in the low-expectations zone — late August.

 

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

Movie Review: Jim Carrey goes Grim for “Dark Crimes”

crimes1

Jim Carrey as an aged Polish police detective taking one last crack at the sex club murder case no one else could solve?

We are…intrigued.

This indifferent, exploitive mystery, filmed in 2015, is a Kafkaesque nightmare painted in the grim greys and dull browns, the historic “look” of Eastern Europe, even after the Iron Curtain rusted out.

Carrey is Tardek, a loner, on-the-OCD-spectrum cop meant to “keep his head down” in his final year on the job. Some scandal robbed him of his reputation. And working in the non-digitized unsolved cases stacks of the onetime police state, he conjures up one that has haunted him.

A famous — or infamous — man was murdered. He frequented this Euro-dungeon sex club, “The Cage,” and then his body was found trussed up, dumped in a river.

The prime suspect? That would be the famous — or infamous — author Kozlow, played with all the furrowed brow, testy-talking menace that Marton Csokas can summon to his latest villainous turn.

With little to no help from his assistant (Piotr Glowacki), Tardek digs. A break comes from the novelist’s “last novel,” never published but rendered into audio book form (When has that ever happened?) so that Tardek can listen to its vivid descriptions of sex club antics that would force your “Eyes Wide Shut.” Depravity and degradation we’ve seen under the opening credits, later glimpsed in old VHS tapes of the goings on in The Cage, is related by Kozlow with a perverse, profane relish.

And damned if much of what turns up in the novel is straight out of the non-public portions of the case files of this one notorious unsolved murder.

“I think this book is your confession,” Tardek accuses.

“That’s what YOU say,” the author spits back.

“That’s what YOU say,” Tardek grins, pointing at the tape recorder with Kozlow’s own voice coming out of it.

“That’s what I WRITE.”

crimes3.jpg

Charlotte Gainsbourg is the mysterious single mom, haggard and wounded (Gainsbourg’s speciality) whom Kozlow meets, supposedly in secret. What’s she know? What does she have to do with all this?

Greek director Alexandros Avranas (“Miss Violence,” “Without”) loses himself in the glorious production design of this overcast but never-thrilling, not-that-mysterious mystery thriller. Check out the dusty bust of Lenin in this scene, the moldy odor of retarded progress, decay, hanging over every life.

Carrey paves the way for a cast that plays the barest hint of an Eastern European accent, bearded, sullen, curious, “the last honest cop in Poland” who breaks in to plant microphones, jump the gun on arrests and faces media heat from his confrontations with a writer who knows how to use words to win the PR war with accusing cops.

Jeremy Brock’s screenplay — he scripted “Mrs. Brown” and “The Last King of Scotland” — introduces Tardek’s obsession with silence and OCD approach to grooming, and the way he re-arranges the eggs and bacon on his breakfast plate, the daily trimming of his beard. But little else is done with this character “flaw.” He has a wife and child, and they barely figure in any of this.

Carrey doesn’t deliver any sizzle in this role. Csokas chews him right out of their scenes, and the always soulful Gainsbourg (“Nymphomaniac,” “Antichrist”) lets us think we’re looking right into her horrific past, even if this dull, obvious “mystery” doesn’t seem worthy of any of their talents.

It’s worth pointing out how this entire enterprise is not a good look for any actor in the #MeToo era. Especially one with Carrey’s PR situation after the suicide of his ex-girlfriend. The film’s exploitive nature with degrading crimes against women, luridly detailed on those VHS tapes, would give any sensitive actor pause. The fact that the film probably wouldn’t have been financed without Carrey in the cast is a last piece of “Not a good look.”

Gainsbourg doesn’t get off the hook, either. Whatever merits the script had, whatever role her character has in the plot, she’s never been shy at playing “exploited.” And Avranas is no Las Von Trier.

Actors can never know how well a project they dive into will turn out, and taking on a project with this screenwriter and these fellow cast members might have felt safe. But the subject matter and the way it would be played for titillation had to be obvious, fairly early on.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: R for strong and disturbing violent/sexual content including rape, graphic nudity, and language

Cast: Jim Carrey, Marton Csokas, Charlotte Gainsbourg

Credits:Directed by  Alexandros Avranas, script by Jeremy Brock. A Saban Films release.

Running time: 1:37

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

BOX OFFICE: “Quiet Place,” back on top, “I Feel Pretty” and “Troopers 2” do well, “Traffik” crashes

box1

A Sunday surge by “Rampage” could move Dwayne Johnson’s joke of a sci-fi thriller into second place this weekend.

But here’s the way things appear to be shaking out — The tense “A Quiet Place” in first with $21 million, Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty” manages $18, slightly exceeding expectations but pretty close to what her last comedy “Snatched” managed on opening weekend.

“Rampage” will fall just short of $18.

super2“Super Troopers 2” has sold $16 million in tickets, based mostly on a strong Thursday night and Friday. It was expected to not earn $10.

“Blockers,” an R-rated comedy that opened with the comedy field all by itself, will end up earning more than either of those two, maybe $60 all-in.

And the human trafficking thriller — OK, ANOTHER human trafficking thriller — this one starring Paula Patton and titled “Traffik,” didn’t earn $4. The title didn’t help. We’ve seen so many movies about this hot-button subject that I noted a huge spike in readers for my review of “Trafficked,” an indie dog of a thriller on the same subject. Yeah, people were confused.

“Isle of Dogs” enjoys one last weekend in the top ten. It’s at $24 million now, and should clear $33-35 by the time it loses most of its screens.

“Black Panther” is finally losing screens, but it’s inching towards $700 million ($681 now), a box office benchmark just out of its reach.

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment