“Avengers: Endgame” (General Release)
In what was originally titled “Avengers: Infinity War Part 2,” we get the much-anticipated conclusion to the most recent 22 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films … specifically Phase 3. Regardless if you are a deep-rooted fan or a casual viewer, you likely know the questions heading into this finale:
Can the Avengers defeat Thanos?
What role will Captain Marvel (and her pixie haircut) play?
Will those who died in “Avengers: Infinity War” be brought back to life?
Will Tony Stark/Iron Man make it back from drifting in space?
Who will survive this final battle?
We knew this one had to be big, and in fact, it’s colossal/humongous/monumental … whatever your preferred adjective might be. And you can rest easy knowing that all of the above questions are answered quite clearly in this 3-hour epic from co-director brothers Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Marvel has excelled over the past decade by combining interesting characters, understandable story lines, visually stunning effects and clever humor. This finale offers all of that and more. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine a more perfect ending to this galactic odyssey … and I don’t offer that praise lightly.
From the use of Traffic’s classic “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and a gut-wrenching opening scene that yanks us right back into that feeling of dread provided by “Infinity War,” we know we are in for a ride that is quite a bit more somber, and even more emotional, than what we’ve come to expect.
The fallout from the Thanos snap is clear as we catch up with Black Widow, Captain America, Thor and Hulk. Each is dealing on their own terms, and while the Banner-Hulk merger is quite something to behold, trust me when I say, you’ve never imagined seeing Thor in his current state. This marks Chris Evans’ 10th film as Captain America, and he is front and center through much of the film – as is, in a bit of a surprise, Karen Gillan as Nebula. It makes sense given her tie to Thanos, and Gillan holds up quite well in the spotlight.
Since the previous speculation has been on time travel and the Quantum Realm, brace yourself for a bit of convoluted talk about how that works, but that’s the closest thing to a negative I have to offer – and even that is offset by numerous punchlines at the expense of “Back To The Future” and most every other time-travel movie ever made.
The theatre was packed with fans, and there was a significant amount of cheering, applauding and more than a few sniffles. Yes, this one will take you on an emotional journey as well as a visual one. It has a tough/emotional beginning and a tough/emotional ending. These are characters we’ve gotten to know over multiple films … and you should know just about every major or mid-major character from every Marvel film makes an appearance, as do numerous minor ones. It’s quite a remarkable reunion. And yes, the brilliance of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One more than offsets the Pepper Potts scenes.
Creator Stan Lee does get his final posthumous cameo (good for more applause), and there is a “women’s movement” moment that seems to be Marvel’s “we hear you” statement. Much of what we see is “inevitable,” but as the Avengers assemble this last time, we are there to laugh, cry and gasp. This is what happens when “over-the-top” is “just right.”
Long Shot (General Release)
Romantic comedies and political parodies are staples in the film industry, and have been for many decades. The combination of them – a political romantic comedy – is a bit rarer, though we have seen it in such films as “Dave” (1993), “The American President” and “Love Actually” (2003). This latest from director Jonathan Levine has elements of those well-known movies, while incorporating a very high level of raunchiness in a gender-reversed “Pretty Woman” (1990).
We first meet Fred Flarsky (played by Seth Rogen) at a neo-Nazi/white supremacist gathering. He’s actually a left-wing journalist for an alt-weekly publication, and he’s so intent on getting the story that he’s willing to get a swastika tattoo and leap out of a second story window. Standing firm on his idealism, Fred quits his job when informed that his magazine has been bought out by Wembley Media … a right-wing organization in the vein of Fox News. It’s an odd opening for the film, but sets the stage for Flarsky to be reunited with his one-time babysitter Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), who is now the U.S. secretary of state.
When President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk) summons Field for an Oval Office meeting, we get our first glimpse of the filmmakers’ parody of the actual current office holder. Chambers is a former TV star with a Golden-Globe nomination for acting like a president on his show, and he now wants to capitalize on his popularity by transitioning to a more prestigious career … movies. He’s willing to endorse Field for the nation’s highest office in the next election, and she’s all in.
Field’s reconnection with Flarsky leads her to hire him to “punch up” her speeches with some humor. Testing has shown that she scores high in most categories with voters – but not for her sense of humor. Despite the protests of her staff, Flarsky comes on board and quickly works his way into Field’s favor – to say the least.
Yes, on top of the political jabs and typical Rogen-stoner humor, there is an inherent comedic element placing glamorous Charlize Theron and untidy Seth Rogen in a blossoming romance … together. The idealism of their characters play a role in the story (she truly believes in her environmental initiative), and the supporting cast is terrific, but this is mostly a show for Theron and Rogen to go full-force comedy. We have seen this from him many times, but the real gem here is Oscar-winner Theron, who is likely the only actress who could pull off such diverse films as “Monster” (2003), “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015), “Tully” (2018), as well as this crowd-pleasing political raunch-fest with a political bent.
Additional supporting work is provided by Lisa Kudrow and Alexander Skarsgard (who excels as the awkwardly funny Canadian prime minister, in a direct spoof on Justin Trudeau). There also is an unrecognizable Andy Serkis as a frumpy Steve Bannon type, and O’Shea Jackson Jr, (Ice Cube’s son) is a standout as Flarsky’s best friend … one with some terrific one-liners and a secret that nearly crushes Flarsky’s idealism. The campaign travels the world (though the film barely takes advantage), and the script serves up a clever Jennifer Aniston joke, a sight gag to rival “There’s Something about Mary,” and enough lewd-sex comedy that the political satire sometimes fades (but never for long). It’s meant to be a crowd-pleaser and it seems to succeed on that; although its greatest strength may be in showcasing another side from the immensely talented Charlize Theron.