Friday, April 26, 2019

Avengers: Endgame [2019]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times () review (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Avengers: Endgame [2019] (directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely based on the Marvel comics by Stan Lee [wikip] [IMDb] and Jack Kirby [wikip] [IMDb] and the comic book by Jim Starlin [wikip] [IMDb]) brings to a safe and satisfying end this spectacularly successful incarnation of Marvel Comic's Avenger franchise.  At twenty plus constituent movies, call this the War and Peace of Blockbuster film series and in its own way it offers a similar level of emotional drama.  Yes, there were more than a few times that tears welled-up in my eyes.

Endgame begins where Avengers: Infinity War [2018] ended, with the Universe in tatters as a result of an extraterrestrial giant named Thanos (played by Josh Brolin) having collected all six of the Universe's "Infinity Stones" and then proceeded to use their power to ERASE (make disappear) half of all life in the Universe to "bring balance to it."

Yes, this was an insanely arrogant "project" but there have been similarly insanely arrogant projects proposed by perhaps well-meaning but certainly utterly-convinced-of-their-righteousness fanatics during the century past (when Stan Lee / Jack Kirby were inventing their Marvel characters and writing their Avenger comic).  One need only think of the Khmer Rouge who in the aftermath of the Vietnam/Indochina Wars of mid-1940s-mid-1970s set out to _kill_ every single one of their Cambodian countrymen who wore glasses (which indicated that they could read, hence had some knowledge of the past) so as to "begin the creation" of "a whole new society" from "tabula rasa" (from scratch / a clean slate).  Any number of radical ideologies of the last century have sought to accomplish similar feats making use of similar horrors.

So the near the beginning of the film, the surviving Avenger characters find the self-satisfied / "fulfilled" Thanos and yet ... even killing him did not seem to approach doing justice for his Crimes (against all Life across the Universe).  What to do?

Well it turns out that the stories surrounding "Ant-Man" (played in this incarnation of the Avenger franchise by Paul Rudd) revolved around playing with "size" (shrinking a man to the size of an ant, or sometimes blowing him up to the size of a giant).  Well, take this oscillation of size to a radical degree, one can enter into "the quantum realm" where the laws of physics become ... strange.  And so while Scott Lang aka "Ant Man" himself is not capable of doing much with the possibilities offered here -- of, in the crudest, sense "going back into time" -- two other Avenger scientists Bruce Banner/the Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr) take up Scott Lang's/Ant Man's idea and figure out a way to ... fix all this.  To be sure, they make a point of saying that it's NOT really "time travel" (events still happen sequentially, just that in the quantum realm, one could, conceivably "bounce back" to a different place in the time-space continuum, sort of "looping back" to "what once was").  And ... much then ensues.

It's a fun and, as I've already mentioned above, at times a remarkably moving story, as the various characters are able to "be brave," "meet their destinies" and yes, at times, "fix loose ends."

It's just extremely good popular story-telling that honestly will be around, certainly in the English speaking world, for generations to come.  Great, great job!

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Friday, April 12, 2019

Mary Magdalene [2018]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB () (4 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (Nick Allen) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review

Mary Magdalene [2018] (directed by Garth Davis, screenplay by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett), following long standing tradition here in the United States, is coming out in limited release as Holy Week approaches.  Last year, the film Paul: Apostle for Christ [2018] was released at approximately the same time as well. 

Like Paul of last year, Mary Magdalene here is a high quality product that will relieve many Viewers who may reluctantly come (or even decline coming at all) to see a film such as this, fearing that that the film would somehow seek to be needlessly provocative in its presentation of this extremely important Gospel figure. 

Indeed, I wish to assure Readers here that Mary Magdalene (played in the film by Rooney Mara) is portrayed in the film, not unlike the manner in which she is portrayed in the Roma Downey produced Christ centered film Son of God [2014].  That is, Mary Magdalene is portrayed as simply a good, competent, devoted disciple of Christ, JUST LIKE ANY NUMBER OF GOOD, COMPETENT, DEVOTED CHRISTIAN WOMEN IN ANY PARISH THAT I HAVE EVER SERVED.

I find Roma Downey now Rooney Mara portrayals of Mary Magdalene a welcome step forward, as I do believe that past portrayals of her have tended to overly sexualize her as either "a former prostitute" or more recently as in the Da Vinci Code as "Jesus' wife."  Did Mary Magdalene "have to be" Jesus' wife?   Of course not.  To say so would misunderstand countless women in parishes and churches across the world and across time, who like Mary Magdalene have been simply and above all faithful and thoroughly competent "Disciples of Christ."

So honestly a great job and _thoroughly intelligent_ portrayal of this key Gospel figure.

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