Avengers: Endgame

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After the decimation of half the universe at the hands of Thanos, the Avengers must fight to restore order to the universe once and for all in the conclusion to an 11-year, 22-film-long journey through the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

If you’ve ever felt like all these shared universes and year-long franchises have been leading up to something, then, well, it’s here. The moment fans have been waiting for since 2008 has finally arrived, culminating an already enormous franchise in a gigantic finale that’s everything I wanted it to be and more. It’s the most shocking and emotional movie out of the entire superhero genre, but also brings all the excitement and fun Marvel knows for while having a more somber tone than most Marvel films as well. This movie brings eleven years of cinema in a cinematic event that pays off every minute dedicated to waiting for, watching, and discussing Marvel films over the years. If you think you could get away with only watching a few of the previous films before this one, then you’re wrong — in order to truly grasp the substance of Endgame like the movie wants you to, you are required to watch every film from the Iron ManCaptain America, and Thor trilogies to all the other connected adventures such as Guardians of the GalaxyDoctor StrangeAnt-Man and the Wasp, and Captain Marvel, and of course, the first three Avengers film. After all, it has been an eleven-year adventure and, to be honest, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been the center of popular culture for as long as I’ve known about it and have been following it. In case you don’t know, I’ve seen every Marvel movie in theaters since 2012 and this franchise has always had a special place in my heart. This movie is one that everyone can love, but simply going to see Endgame without any prior knowledge won’t bring you as much joy and emotional payoff as that which so many fans in my theater, including myself, experienced when watching this film. The performances are all spectacular, including Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans reprising their beloved roles as the leading names of the Avengers, which have easily become the greatest characters in modern cinema. The movie does a wonderful job continuing every character arc from the previous films but still takes characters in unexpected directions, which may be why characters like Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Thor are such highlights as well. Every actor wonderfully reminds us why they were so perfect from the role, including the previously mentioned actors, as well as Mark Ruffalo who is always so enjoyable as Bruce Banner. Not to mention Paul Rudd, who is perfect comedic relief but also delivers a terrific performance overall as his character Scott Lang, better known as Ant-Man. Another character I was very impressed by is Nebula, who originates from the Guardians of the Galaxy films and is most deeply connected to Thanos from all the characters in the film. Nebula’s arc has always intrigued me though many have overlooked it, and the script takes advantage of what makes her great very well and transforms her into a real hero, as opposed to her darker, villainous personality when her journey began in Guardians of the Galaxy. Telling you who else is in the film would already be a spoiler, but every cast member that does appear in the movie perfectly utilized and is very much welcomed every minute they’re on screen.

Remember when Avengers: Infinity War came out and everyone called it a cinematic landmark because of the incomparable scale and stakes? Well, Avengers: Endgame succeeds at topping that scale by creating something even more unimaginably enormous and climactic. Moments fans have awaited for years and buildup waiting to be payed off, it’s all rewarded here in scenes you would never think to picture in your head but finally can. Audiences will continuously clap and cheer as the past films are referenced and heroes do awesome things you’ve always wanted them to do. This movie made me react like no movie before, and I had a huge smile on my face in some scenes that I just couldn’t get rid of. Even after twenty-two films, Marvel takes unexpected directions that you wouldn’t have thought of but still remain true to the long-lasting story arcs. This results in an emotionally surreal experience where you cannot tell what will happen next, or if Hollywood can ever top such a glorious event. The way Endgame handles its story serving as a climax of eleven years of cinema and as a 3-hour movie lover’s dream, well, it convinces me that this is the peak of filmmaking history here. Every movie in history has always promised to “up the ante”, but after Endgame, it’s hard to see how the scale, stakes, and weight of this film can ever be topped. But that’s not a bad thing. Maybe it just means that we lived in the right time, to witness such a grand phenomenon unfold in front of our eyes, and that we’ll be able to tell those who come after us of the adventure we went on with these characters over the years, and the conclusion of their stories that we see here, wrapped up terrifically in one of the greatest superhero movie endings of all time, which in turn helps make up the greatest superhero movie, and one of the most astonishing action movies and blockbusters put to film in this day and age.

Avengers: Endgame is a cinematic event that must be witnessed on the big screen, marking the end of an era for Marvel but one that still exceeds expectations with fantastic writing, emotional value, nostalgia, and visuals and set pieces that will be remembered for the rest of however long superhero and action movies continue to be made. Thank you, Marvel Studios, for making such a sensational universe and making the experience of being a fan an unforgettable one. I’m sure more people can agree with me on that than Thanos can snap away. You’ve definitely already heard of Avengers: Endgame and now that you know why you should see it, what are you waiting for?

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Shazam!

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Billy Batson is a streetwise 14-year-old who encounters a wizard that lets him turn into an adult superhero by simply saying the word “Shazam”. His newfound powers soon get put to the test when he squares off against the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana.

By focusing less on world-building and more on humor and heart, Shazam! turns out to be one of the DC Extended Universe’s greatest successes yet. It immediately establishes itself as a funnier DC movie but also uses the light tone to convey some real sweetness in its themes. Zachary Levi owns his role with plenty of charisma and perfectly portrays a superhero discovering his powers and size for the first time, which makes for the most enjoyable sequences of the film. Even though you spend so much time with Levi that there isn’t enough unity felt between him and the younger actor playing Billy, both performances are skilled on their own. The movie takes themes that feel rather family-friendly, such as the importance of family and sharing, and perfectly intertwines them with the aim of a PG-13 audience of a live-action superhero film, making for a very heartwarming and cheerful experience, especially in the final half. The one major thing that will bother some viewers is the villain — sure, envy and greed are good motives, and Mark Strong is a great actor, but the execution of the character is ultimately dull and felt so inferior to everything else in the movie, where everything else says “Check me out, I’m awesome!” while the villain’s writing is basically “By the way, I’m evil and I’m doing evil things.” His execution feels really one-dimensional and we never really feel the rage or jealousy of him, and even though we see his backstory, he just feels heartless and mean later on, ignoring the layer the writers could have offered to the character. Also, some of the production design and CGI aren’t very pleasant to look at, such as a wizard’s lair that looks to obviously like a film set and has little to no realism to it. Perhaps a larger budget to make the visual appeal much less underwhelming would have helped. However, Shazam! has a way of playing on cliches, making its audience die of laughter, and humanizing seemingly unimportant side characters and making them feel like emotionally potent roles, as well as giving foster kids representation on the big screen in a superhero movie for the first time.
Shazam! is arguably DC’s greatest win since The Dark Knight, and — surprisingly — the better movie based on a character named Captain Marvel this Spring. More uplifting than Aquaman or Justice League, and definitely more interesting for tweens than Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad. It’s definitely up there  with Wonder Woman as the DCEU outings that have definitely hit their mark, and for once makes you look forward to the next wave of films starring Levi as the titular character. It isn’t perfect as some of the production could’ve used improvement and the villain and plot structure are familiar, but under it all is a message that will reach viewer’s hearts and also make for a damn good time — go see it with family and friends when it’s out on April 5!
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Mary Poppins Returns

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Decades after her original visit, the magical nanny returns to help the Banks siblings and Michael’s children through a difficult time in their lives.

Mary Poppins Returns maintains a similar formula for a new generation, but some of what it maintains from the first film works and doesn’t work for a modern film. First off, Emily Blunt is fantastic in the titular role. I wasn’t sure if any actress could maintain that same spirit and charm Julie Andrews brought to the character 50 years ago, but Blunt did it perfectly and follows large footsteps yet makes the role feel like her own. Lin-Manuel Miranda was also well-cast in a role clearly meant as an homage to that of Bert (played by Dick van Dyke, who actually cameos here in his other role from the original as the banker), and the two leads get plenty of time to show off their singing skills that we’ve already known of. Also entertaining in her minor role is Meryl Streep who cameos in a comedic and funny scene as Mary Poppins’ eccentric cousin. However, a lot of what this movie goes for just feels inferior to the first film, like traditionally animated scenes and unconvincing visual effects that don’t really fit for a 2018 movie when animation has advanced so far, even in the last couple years alone. It felt like something new and groundbreaking in the ’60s but here it does not feel realistic or refreshing. The musical numbers are also forgettable in comparison, and don’t have that sing-along quality that classics like “Chim Chim Cher-ee” or “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” have, which are probably the first things that come into your head when you think of Mary Poppins. However, I did love the musical number called “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” which was not only memorable but it also payed tribute to “Step in Time”, my favorite part from the original movie. There are also times when these songs go on for too long and forget to come back to the plot, but the musical score is definitely great and carries the film very s strongly. However, another gripe is that the child characters are at times annoying, like a character named Georgie who continuously makes frustratingly dim-witted decisions and messes everything up for the other kids. Though the climax is definitely entertaining and has some heartfelt conclusions to the character arcs and is a fun race against time, the first half especially feels painfully mediocre and feels very much like a kids/family movie, unlike other recent family films like How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World or Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which have merit that adults can connect to just as much as kids. The movie at times relies heavily on nostalgia, which sometimes works but at other times doesn’t feel necessary. The original Mary Poppins stuck with us for so long because it used the ability of imagination and the impossible to help the characters find the beauty in life — this movie does the exact same thing, in the exact same way, so if you’ve seen the first one you won’t be as impressed. The best you’ll get out of many parts is that Disney really knows who to hire to design their costumes and sets. It’s really only in the last 30 minutes that the film really redeems itself and meets its goal. Kids will definitely enjoy the concepts and musical numbers, but there isn’t too many new things for adults to discover about Mary Poppins Returns that wasn’t already established by the terrific classic that is Mary Poppins.

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Aquaman

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Arthur Curry, known to the mortal world as the Aquaman, goes to Atlantis to claim his birthright of the throne and prevent his half-brother Orm from waging war against the surface.

Visually stunning with its immense use of CGI for its gorgeous setting of Atlantis, Aquaman stands out from the rest of the DC Extended Universe because of its engaging action and splendid visuals brought very well to the screen by James Wan. His action scenes feel inventive and the style feels very ambitious. The way he immerses you into this vast underwater kingdom looks great and the VFX are very appealing to the eye, with the exception of one desert scene which did not look authentic. James Wan experiments with long takes and creates very fun set pieces including a submarine battle, a fight on the streets of Sicily, and a giant underwater battle the size of the third act of a Star Wars movie. The sets and costumes blend in with the visuals to create a lively mood that feels huge in scale and does not hold back on feeling like an epic, crafting some of the best DC fights and settings yet. Unlike Batman v Superman and Justice League, this installment actually has a thoughtful emotional arc for its characters, including its lead, even thought not all the performances hit home. Nicole Kidman is always fantastic, so it’s no surprise that she’s the highlight of the cast as Arthur’s mother, and Willem Dafoe is also great as an Atlantean who trains Arthur as a young boy and allies with him throughout the movie. Other than that, none of the performances were noteworthy enough to remember their characters as unique comic-book characters. Despite Arthur and Orm’s strong motivations, Patrick Wilson’s acting isn’t strong enough to really hate his villain and even though Jason Momoa has some humor as well as heart, he doesn’t deliver a complex character that embrace the audience as human beings, like actors such as Chadwick Boseman and Chris Hemsworth have done in the past. As for Amber Heard, she isn’t boring to watch on screen but she really is just a female sidekick/badass that helps Arthur on his journey, and there’s an unnecessary romance between them thrown in at one point too. There’s also a character named Black Manta who feels like a justifiably fueled character but ends up being unneeded to the rest of the film and only there to throw punches in a great action scene set in Sicily.

Aquaman has a lot of great things going for it, but it ultimately feels like a bit much. There’s a lot of aspects about this film that could’ve worked but don’t get the focus they need — a mature tale of Aquaman learning what being a hero means, a duel between two brothers longing for their mother’s love and the worthiness of the throne, a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style adventure across the globe in search for an ancient artifact. So much is explored that had potential but it feels like the film only needed one or two of these elements to work as it did. James Wan experiences with different shots and editing techniques, and some hit home while others do not, and some of the dialogue needed improvement. The overall writing for these conflicts is solid but ultimately this family rivalry between Arthur and Orm doesn’t feel as potent as Black Panther and Killmonger’s relationship earlier this year. Aquaman at times wants to be more than it is, and it ultimately won’t spark any conversations like a few lines try to or hit that mark where you’ll embrace all these characters as family like you would in a Marvel movie, but Aquaman ultimately does its job, which is to entertain, and thankfully feels more coherent than DC’s past failures like Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. Entertaining and stylish action let this feel like a standalone film and not just a studio exploitation, and it went above my expectations by making an immersive and exceptional world in Atlantis and building on the mythology of the DC universe. Ultimately, those with high hopes for Aquaman or average action moviegoers will find themselves cheering for the titular hero by the end.

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Avengers: Infinity War

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Six years ago, at the age of 10, I started this website, hoping to share my love of movies with the world, and my first review was for a film I had recently watched and loved — that film was The Avengers. I can’t believe it’s been so long since then, and growing up with this franchise, it’s amazing to see how it’s grown from 6 superheroes fighting an alien army to the extraordinary team-up of Infinity War. Marvel has always been my favorite film studio around, as their blockbusters always astound viewers and bring us together a few times a year. Their movies have rocked my world and are the reason I got so into action and superhero blockbusters. And after 10 years and 18 films, the buildup of the Marvel universe has finally paid off as Thanos begins his journey to find all 6 Infinity Stones in order to wipe out half the universe. If you’re not familiar with any of Marvel’s movies, don’t count on the film to help you catch up, and it doesn’t only require you to watch The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, it also brings together the events of Captain America: Civil WarGuardians of the GalaxyDoctor StrangeThor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther. The cast is exceptional, as they are in every Marvel movie — Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, and Chris Pratt all reprise their roles (among many others) as the heroes who have become among my favorite film characters through the decade. It’s plenty of fun to see these characters interact — particularly those who meet for the first time, such as Iron Man and Doctor Strange, Thor and the Guardians, and Spider-Man and Star-Lord. Like I said, many plot details involve knowledge from the previous film so I strongly recommend you watch all the previous Marvel films before watching this one. The humor is also a big part of many Marvel movies and here it once again doesn’t disappoint. Every member of the enormous cast does an excellent job bringing their characters back to the big screen, but the standout is the one we haven’t seen much of before — Josh Brolin as Thanos. Thanos is not only a threatening villain but also a complex one who is developed thoroughly and isn’t just another CGI alien trying to get control of the universe. He also shows complex emotions and sees his actions not as acts of villainy, but acts of sacrifice to save the universe.

The action is always spectacular, with gorgeous visuals and setting painting the screen in every shot. The stakes are always high for the Avengers and the fate of humanity, and the unpredictability takes the film to surprising places. Many have criticized Marvel’s villain problems or lack of risk-taking, but their villains this year — both Thanos and Killmonger — have become the best in their universe, and Infinity War may be the biggest risk ever taken for a blockbuster. Years of buildup over so many films — it could have gone wrong early on if any of their movies failed — but so much faith and effort was put into this project and it pays off perfectly. None of it feels unbalanced or crowded, and though my one complaint is that a few of my favorite characters ended up getting no development, and a few of the arcs from the previous films weren’t quite carried on, it’s forgivable because of how much action is already going on and how the main focus of the film is developing the villain. Infinity War is so much to take in not just because it’s different from any Marvel movie, but because it’s different from any movie that’s been released before in cinemas. With Infinity War, Marvel will not only have fans clapping and cheering, like I found myself doing in many of the awesome moments in the film, but they also break ground in the opportunities of high-budget filmmaking and create something truly unique for audiences to enjoy. Not to mention that incredible and shocking ending that’s one of the most brilliant cliffhangers in cinema history.

Avengers: Infinity War is not only another step up for Marvel, but also an achievement for Hollywood and action films that’s bigger than anything a studio has produced before. The gripping conflict, action, visuals, and entertaining cast and humor will satisfy all who have been waiting for so long, and assembles the world’s favorite movie characters for an epic battle you won’t forget.

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A Wrinkle in Time

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Meg Murry is a young girl whose astrophysicist father disappeared four years ago. One day she learns from three magical travelers that she can find her father if she embarks on a journey of self-discovery across the universe, accompanied by her brother and her classmate.

A Wrinkle in Time had some big names in its cast, a popular source material, and lots of ambition which was evident from the intriguing trailers — so why did Disney go ahead and make a safe children’s movie with the same plot they always use instead of something that families can love too? Ava Duvernay is not a bad filmmaker, she did a fantastic job directing Selma so I had faith that I could really enjoy this film. However, the overuse of visuals, waste of great cast members, and 100% familiarity and predictability of the plot offer nothing new that will resonate. Storm Reid is great as the young Meg who is curious, rebellious, and learns to embrace who she is. However, the rest of the actors, while great, aren’t used to the movie’s advantage. With names like Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling, we’d surely get some great leading faces, but not only are they not present for a good amount of the film, but the actors are just being the typical persona of how they usually portray their characters. Oprah is of course just there to inspire people, Witherspoon is funny but really just there to charm, and Kaling is extremely annoying as a character whose only dialogue is famous quotes from historical figures or celebrities. The cast’s (and the film’s) greatest strengths are Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who have been promising in nearly everything they’ve done. We’ve come to know Pine as Captain Kirk and more recently, Wonder Woman’s love interest, and Mbatha-Raw is a rising talent most notably in her role in Black Mirror. Here they play the most remarkable parts of the film; an ambitious scientist who loves nothing more than his family, and the wife and mother whose life is left with a void after her husband’s disappearance. They are both terrific to watch on-screen, yet so underused, and this part of the story could have been used more dominantly but in the middle of the film it’s ditched for the classic formula we see in nearly every film. Other familiar faces include Zach Galifiankis and Michael Pena, but they too are forgotten and we spend more time with the generic love interest played by Levi Miller and the irritating younger brother by the name of Charles Wallace.

A Wrinkle in Time had a lot going for it, and though lots of it feels like a missed opportunity, there are some things it gets right. We’re ultimately left with a theme about being your best and embracing your faults, because in the end, we can all do great things. Kids will love this message and be empowered by this theme, but to everyone who’s seen a movie before, it’s all the same. An ordinary kid who feels isolated from everyone else is pulled into a magical journey and learns to be a hero and a better version of themselves, and falls in love and the way. Sound familiar, right? It feels like this could’ve been something unique but instead used the same recycled formula for a new generation. Even Star Wars has a significantly similar plot to this one. The CGI and green-screen don’t feel real and intimate enough either, and at the end, it doesn’t seem like much of the story had a point either, just a bunch of names and concepts thrown at you that don’t have some sort of resonance and thrills to offer. Some may argue this movie celebrates female empowerment and diversity, but is that enough to make a good movie? That part should be the icing on the cake that can be added to something great.

Your kids may be enamored and entertained by the messages this film has to offer, but if you’re over 10 years old, A Wrinkle in Time will leave you thinking about nothing but the potential that was missed here. This should’ve been something families will talk to their kids about and recommend to friends, but in the end, we’re left with a familiar story accompanied with forgettable execution. Ava Duvernay and Disney should’ve learned, like their protagonist, to embrace their faults and improve upon what’s done before, and trust me, I’ve seen lots of great Disney movies, but this one just doesn’t add up to something I’d recommend to anyone going to the movies with friends or a date. On the bright side, there’s still Black Panther and Annihilation out there for whoever hasn’t seen those yet.

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The Shape of Water

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The Shape of Water is the latest other-worldly story written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962, where a mute janitor working at a lab falls in love with an amphibious man being held captive there and devises a plan to help him escape. Guillermo del Toro has recieved acclaim throughout his career for being a visionary director and writer, and his ability to bring fantasy stories like this one with as little CGI as possible is incredible. He’s finally getting Oscar buzz for The Shape of Water, his latest film that, while the concept of a character bonding with a creature of some sort and trying to save it from those attempting to kill it having been depicted in many films such as E.T.How to Train Your Dragon, and Beauty and the Beast, this one is far different in execution — and definitely not a film for kids. There is strong sexual content and violence, but it fits the overall tone and themes the movie is meant to deliver. Sally Hawkins is absolutely fantastic in the leading role of Eliza, and she delivers one of the greatest performance of the year — and her character has absolutely no dialogue! She is able to deliver an emotional performance with only her expressions, and she makes us care for her character deeply without having to speak a word. Another excellent performance is from Michael Shannon, who plays the main antagonist who is filled with rage and hate against the creature and anyone who gets in his way of hurting it. Octavia Spencer, who plays Eliza’s best friend at work, has some great moments of both humor and emotion, and Richard Jenkins and Michael Stuhlbarg are very good too. Not to mention Doug Jones, who plays the creature himself, with lots of costumes and makeup and no CGI for his transformation, which helps his performance feel more realistic and interactive with the other actors in the film.

Guillermo del Toro has stated that this is the movie he is most proud of, and it’s not hard to see why. He such a great eye for these stories and has a creative way of telling them, not just with his style but also with his writing. First of all, his directing of the film is marvelous, with some beautiful ways of capturing certain images and everything looks so artistic throughout the film. The production design and colors also stand out, and del Toro constantly references classic cinema throughout, there’s even a scene where Hawkins imagines herself dancing with the creature in a ’50s-style musical number. The music from Alexandre Desplat is also very nice to hear and it’s one of his best scores in recent years. Not only does the film look majestic, but the writing is very good because although the concept isn’t the most original, the themes and turns the plot takes are unexpected and different. Guillermo del Toro writes and creates this story like a fairy tale, like he does most of his stories, and though it’s not a literal fairy tale, he treats every character importantly and brings this story to life as if it’s a Pan’s Labyrinth-esque fantasy tale. The themes aren’t mostly about being kind to those who are different, about about those who feel lonely and incomplete, and how we try to fulfill ourselves. There is a lot of gore and nudity in the film, which may disturb some, so just a warning to those who don’t like explicit content. The overall plot may feel weird if you think watching a romance between a woman and a creature will disturb you, but the writing feels complex and the story is thrilling and powerful, bringing the story to life on the big screen very effectively. Although some of the scenes without Hawkins on screen felt less intriguing than the scenes with Hawkins as Eliza and Jones as the creature, and the ending, while not bad at all, felt a little bit like a missed opportunity, this joins Pan’s Labyrinth as one of del Toro’s best films, and the awards buzz for this one is quite well deserved, so I recommend you check this one out in theaters before the awards come around.

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