What We Learned This Week: April 28-May 4

THE 100TH EDITION OF WHAT WE LEARNED THIS WEEK

LESSON #1: SATISFACTION IS BEAUTIFUL WHEN YOU GET IT— It’s been a week and we can certainly talk about Avengers: Endgame details.  As many of the over-300 comments in our Facebook group page reaction thread will tell you, the movie delivered on its Infinity War setup, surprises of secrecy, and hype of finale performance.  Reviews big and small are overwhelmingly stellar. It’s a great feeling when a series can stick its landing.  There’s both catharsis and satisfaction to be had where a viewer will always celebrate and connect to the giving film in question.  Folks, what we have here is a rare instant classic, a movie we will be talking about and remembering for a long time from Day 1. Behind the scenes, these endearing stars, especially Robert Downey, Jr., are getting P-A-I-D.

LESSON #2: PLOT HOLES ARE PROBLEMATIC IN MULTIPLE WAYS— Some of the minority points of dissatisfaction towards Avengers: Endgame (including those from this critic) have typically cited the broad term of “plot holes.” For me, once you dive into time travel, plot holes become nearly automatic.  The question becomes at what point do plot holes matter? Which ones are worth citing and which ones are petty to complain about? Nearly a year ago, friend-of-the-page YouTuber Patrick Willems did an outstanding video testimony on plot holes and I think it’s a fitting rewatch for Avengers: Endgame.  His light side of “worry about the things that matter” is balanced by the overarching notion of “mainstreamed nerd culture” and the need to get “back to quality criticism.”

LESSON #3: PLOT HOLES BE DAMNED, ANSWERS ARE AVAILABLE— With the Endgame secrecy lifted in most places (Disney itself opens things up on Monday), the movie’s directors and screenwriters have been responding to theories and questions all over the place in exclusive sit-downs on the post-premiere press tour.   Fandango chatted with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.  So did The New York Times.  The directing Russos talked at length in China and in Entertainment Weekly.  For me, hearing directly from the sources like this beats clickbait fan theories any day.

LESSON #4: LET’S ADD SOME NEW FAN THEORIES ANYWAY— Between the scope, importance, and even the plot holes of Avengers: Endgame, there’s room for the internet masses to apply their own guess work and prognostication.  Take the time travel as one place and hidden Easter eggs as another.  There’s even some guessing going on for who the next villain will be and when we’ll see the X-Men, despite no springboarding post-credits scenes or direct clues.  Maybe some of the big dangling ideas of Avengers: Endgame can join this Collider all-time list of some of the best and most famous fan theories.

LESSON #5: KEEP AN EYE ON UNIVERSAL PICTURES— With all the success and eyes on everything Disney, there are other power plays being made out there.  Long-time Sony producer Amy Pascal is leaving Sony for Universal Pictures.  The woman who steered the old Raimi Spider-Man boom, reignited James Bond under a new studio, survived The Interview fiasco with grace, and brought a range of successes spanning The Social Network and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is quite a get for Universal.  Sony now has a big hole to fill.  

LESSON #6: WHEN FANS MAKE ENOUGH NOISE ACTION CAN SOMETIMES HAPPEN— This week, new Sonic the Hedgehog movie coming in November debuted its first full trailer and look at the titular video game speedster.  The reactions were overwhelmingly negative. When that happens for a live-action movie, reshoots can sometimes be possible or fresh tries at editing a few tonal changes.  That’s not as simple for an animated film where that end of creative work takes years to render. Amazingly, the film’s director Jeff Fowler heard the complaints and vowed to redesign the character in time for November.  I call that ballsy and brave to say out loud.  You don’t see Disney doing that publicly after the Aladdin jeers.  Let’s see how it turns out.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#100)

Episode 163: Avengers: Endgame

This week we are of course talking about the final chapter in a story 10 years and 22 films in the making. We break down our reaction to this once-in-generation event, while also taking a look back at the past and contemplating the future. This is a wonderful conversation that we both thoroughly enjoyed and think you will, too.

Avengers: Endgame Review – 0:02:55

The Connecting Point – 1:31:05


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What We Learned This Week: April 14-27

LESSON #1: THERE ARE CASES WHERE FAN SERVICE IS NECESSARY— Folks, with a universe and property as big as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we have reached a saturation point and commitment level where fan service is warranted. That’s right and here’s a paraphrase from my Avengers: Endgame review.  What some have called pandering should actually be seen as one of the many objectives in an invested and vetted blockbuster like this one. It is to a point where the course of things is thematically and tonally misaligned without those inclusions. Avengers: Endgame is unabashedly a three-hour festival of celebrating all the dream fulfillment of past and present for this deep roster of beloved characters. The wow moments come often and hit both the jaw-drop and stand-up-and-cheer levels.  Not every piece of fandom has earned that. Star Wars has and this one has too.

LESSON #2: PREPARATION IS KEY— Thanks need to go out to Feelin’ Film host Aaron White for spurring the one-movie-a-week #RoadtoEndgame.  Those rewatches since the first week of December have been outstanding for adding to the build-up and, more importantly, refreshing us to all the ins-and-outs of the MCU at it reaches its pinnacle.  If it’s too late for you to watch all 22 films before Avengers: Endgame, let our man and friend-of-the-podcast Emmanuel Noisette of E-Man’s Movie Reviews shortcut you to five must-see movies:

The movies are how you enrich your mind.  Now, you need to prepare your body. Eat a good meal before Avengers: Endgame to avoid expensive concessions and the distraction to snack.  Be mindful of your bladder power and your body will remember how it survived Titanic and six Tolkien films at the theater.  Honestly, when your mind is engaged in the movie, you won’t need a potty break.

LESSON #3: A GOOD FRANCHISE NEEDS TO CREATE A CODA— The final spoiler-free celebration note I can post about Avengers: Endgame in this column comes from the last life lesson of five from my review and it speaks to the purpose beyond the fun of fan service.  The range of the definition of “coda” can be merged into “a concluding part of a dramatic work that is formally distinct from the main structure” and “serves to round out, conclude, or summarize.” Avengers: Endgame is not a pivot point, but a grand finale eleven years in the making. True to the blueprint, it is hard to imagine a more gratifying and rewarding summit.  I wish every franchise could craft something this fitting or even have the chance to crescendo with all the energy they can muster.

LESSON #4: WHAT’S NEXT FOR MARVEL REMAINS A PLEASANT MYSTERY— Normally, thanks to the constant Disney push and bragging, we normally know every little forthcoming detail possible about their dominating calendar of coming attractions.  At this moment, a year of somewhat “radio silence” after Infinity War, you have to tip your hat to Kevin Feige and company for holds their cards close to the vest.  Sony can’t help but admit to and tout Spider-Man: Far From Home, which is regrettable, but understandable.  They have a rare blockbuster to sell. Meanwhile, Feige recently hinted at a 5-year Phase 4 MCU plan that didn’t name names, but shared the usual ambition and confidence.  Naturally, the big question remains the character acquisitions from Fox. To that question, Feige has used the vague measurement of “a very long time” as to when we’ll see the likes of the X-Men or the Fantastic Four saving the day next to the established Avengers.  Feige’s absolutely supreme planning and patience should not be questioned. He’s earned our trust that the slow play is the right play. They’ll be worth the wait.

LESSON #5: LITTLE FILMS NEED HELP— As much as we are here this weekend to celebrate the big stuff, smaller films need audience too.  When they don’t get them, a part of the industry weakens and even dies. A spotlight example of that came through the news wires this week of the cuts happening behind the scenes after Disney’s acquisition of Fox.  The Mouse House is killing off or jettisoning several unreleased Fox projects with earning potential and the bottom line in mind. It’s a creative bummer but an unfortunate reality of business. I’ve said this often in this column space: Once you start charging for tickets, this becomes a business first and an art exposition second.  Like any owner targeting profit and returns on investment, Disney is making those tough decisions. Honestly, it’s likely bad business deals that made Fox vulnerable for sale. Do better and the predicament doesn’t come.

LESSON #6: HULU’S DAYS ARE NUMBERED— As you may know, one of the components of Disney’s purchase of Fox was controlling interest in Hulu.  The remaining 30% of that stake is owned by Comcast who, according to reports this week, is in talks with Disney to broker a lucrative deal.  No matter where that bidding ends up, a dissolution in the near-future feels inevitable.  Disney, should it gain that final portion, is pushing its own brand of Disney+ as its streaming flagship.  You would think they wouldn’t push or carry two. Comcast, if they stand pat, was planning on starting their own streaming shingle to add to the marketplace since they don’t own enough of Hulu to compete.  Either way, it doesn’t look promising.

LESSON #7: THE ACADEMY IS STARTING TO WISE UP— In other distant news away from Infinity Stones and Corporate Greed Monsters, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences actually announced a few minor changes and rulings this week that didn’t immediately make them Public Enemy #1 with the social media torches and pitchforks they were met with the last two press releases between the hosting screw-ups and the Popular Film category in 2018.  First, they affirmed their eligibility rules that didn’t take an anticipated shot at streaming services like Netflix, keeping the playing field fair.  Secondly, they showed modern wisdom with a redefined International Feature Film category and expanding their last three-nominee category (Best Makeup and Hair-Styling) to a proper and full five.  It’s refreshing to see them get a few things right. Keep it up, AMPAS!

LESSON #8: FINALLY, IF BIG, DUMB SUPERHERO MOVIES AREN’T YOUR THING, WE STILL HAVE STUFF FOR YOU— For my parting viewing recommendations this week with all things super raining down on us, I think I have just the thing for those abstaining from heroics.  Here’s a list on Ranker of the “Most Pretentious Movies Ever Made,” topped by, what else, a Stanley Kubrick film.  If those are too blunt or obvious, try this nice little selection from Taste of Cinema of ten great movies meant to challenge your intelligence, topping by Richard Linklater’s Waking Life.  Finally, here are the May additions to the Criterion Channel with choices galore!  Call these three lists counter-programming.  Enjoy!


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#99)

MOVIE REVIEW: Avengers: Endgame

100% spoiler-free with no plot points even hinted at! AVENGERS: ENDGAME closes the book on one of the greatest film franchise achievements in history on a very high note. It is every bit the emotional experience you expect & a gratifying finale. Also, for the first time in 10+ years there is no post-credit scene so feel free to rush to the bathroom as required.

 


 

Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Now Available: August 14, 2018

Welcome to Now Available, where we’ll give you a quick review of a film we didn’t cover when it was released in theaters that’s releasing for home viewing this week, along with a list of everything else and where you can see our coverage on it. 

To the majority of his loved ones, Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan) is an aspiring photographer who makes a living running a small parking valet service with his buddy Derek (Carlito Olivero). What they don’t know is that Sean supplements his suspiciously abundant income by using the garage door openers of the cars that he’s supposed to be parking to break into the homes of his customers while they eat. It’s a solid scam that works because Sean and Derek only take a little from each person, leaving the bigger ticket items in favor of smaller pieces that the victims won’t miss. It works, that is, until Sean discovers a young woman chained up in the office of one of the homes he’s robbing. Does risk getting caught while he takes the time to set her free or leave her there, saving his own bacon but leaving him to live with the inner turmoil that decision would generate?

Dean Devlin’s Bad Samaritan is in the running for the 2018 most surprising movie of the year. It’s tight, it’s tense, and I had never even heard of it until I checked the DVD release schedule. While a lot of the edge of your seat action borders on cheap set-ups guaranteed to make the audience uncomfortable (even the worst thrillers can generate tension by having characters be snooping around somewhere they shouldn’t, unaware of how much time they have to escape), the film dares to go add depth by asking moral questions about what what we as humans owe to each other. Would you be willing to do the right thing when the decision to do so could cost you everything? One gets the feeling that the filmmakers are working through this question themselves in the making of this movie. The performances are solid. Robert Sheehan shines as a man dealing with intense inner conflict. David Tennant is creepy as hell as the mysterious stranger hiding a terrible secret. To say much more would be to ruin the surprises along the way, and that’s most of the fun. Suffice it to say that Sean’s decisions place him in some intriguing scenarios that will leave you guessing until the very end.

Bad Samaritan is a solid thriller that makes up for it’s times of generic, manufactured tension with good performances and its thought provoking moral quandaries. It’s the leader in the clubhouse for my most surprising movie of 2018.

Buy It, Rent It, Wait for Netflix or Skip It?

Rent It.

Also available this week:

Infinity War- We’re a movie podcast, so obviously we did an episode about the biggest movie of 2018 and maybe the millennium. Check that one out here. And don’t forget to check out Aaron’s review.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties- There are some people out there who get John Cameron Mitchell’s movies. If you’re one of them, give this one a shot. Apparently I’m not, because much like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, I just thought this was freaking weird.

Other New Releases: Furlough, Higher Power, Shock and Awe and The Yellow Birds


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 107: Avengers Infinity War

After 10 years and 18 films, Marvel’s ambitious, unique interconnected world of superhero films comes to this, a team-up movie the likes of which we have never seen before. Historic in its scope and in its box office success, Avengers: Infinity War is a special blockbuster and one that provides plenty to discuss. We’ve been chomping at the bit to talk about this one, its place in the MCU, and where Marvel goes from here.

Avengers: Infinity War Review – 0:02:33

The Connecting Point – 01:27:30


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What We Learned This Week: April 22-28

LESSON #1: STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA UNTIL YOU SEE ANY HOTLY ANTICIPATED MOVIE— The internet is not a kind place with secrets. Trust Aaron White and I in our reviews of Avengers: Infinity War that you’re going to want this one untarnished. Total social media darkness is recommended (especially over in the gladiatorial arena of unchecked internet courage known as Twitter).  The full plot is already posted on Wikipedia and the casting and trivia sections of IMDb give notes away as well.  Come back when the coast is clear.  As the teacher-preacher around here, I will testify and extend the advice that all of us should be treading lightly when it comes to social media with any big film, not just Avengers: Infinity War.  All of the noise is worth filtering all the time.

LESSON #2: SPEAKING OF SOCIAL MEDIA, THE STARDUST APP IS FUN AND YOU NEED TO GET IN ON THIS— Color this with a shade of shameless self-promotion, but if you do like social media and the quick interactions that are possible out there, give the new Stardust app a look for Apple and Android devices.  Tidier that Periscope and tagged to match movies and TV shows, their user-created personalized video takes are a lot of fun for audience engagement.  Find Aaron White’s username of “FeelinFilmAaron” and mine at “movielessons.”  We promise a good time!

LESSON #3: PUT UP OR SHUT UP OR, FOR THAT MATTER, S–T OR GET OFF THE POT— I’m sure there are classier parables with glass houses, stones, and kettle colors when it comes to James Cameron’s recent silly and incendiary comments rooting for superhero fatigue to help his own Avatar sequels.  I’ll stick with my cruder ones.  Adding more gasoline, the Titanic and Terminator director is calling The Godfather thunder of comparisons to his upcoming epics.  You know, Jim.  Read this lesson.  Your clout looks a lot more legit when you can actually deliver.  Avatar was a long nine years ago.  I get it.  An artist on your level can’t be rushed.  That’s cool, but then focus on your precious work and leave the success you’re not getting to those who worked and earned it.  Call me when the Pandora dinner is ready.  I’ll be the old graying man on the couch snacking and enjoy the heck out of the reruns of MCU films that have passed you by.

LESSON #4: SOME FILMS DO NOT NEED SEQUELS AND A QUIET PLACE IS ONE OF THEM— The news of John Krasinski’s hit thriller getting a greenlit sequel at Paramount stands as troublesome.  This is another item of industry proof that this is a business first and an art convention second.  This is a studio exec who cannot help but try and capitalize on a hit.  The real trigger for any sequel should be the story, not the earnings report.  I know A Quiet Place ends with a door-opener for more and beats Cloverfield (coincidentally from the same studio) when it comes to wider-world potential, but the remarkably successful film will last longer and be better as itself with no imitators.  Leave it be.

LESSON #5: YOU DON’T GET TO SELF-LABEL YOUR OWN WORK AS MASTERPIECES— Last but not least, it’s Avengers: Infinity War weekend and battles are center stage.  I will revisit a common battlefield of mine.  Even after seeing the MCU epic, the best fight I discovered and observed this week was this rapid war of words between two celebrated directors: William Friedkin of The Exorcist and The French Connection and Nicholas Winding-Refn of Drive and Neon Demon.  Take in this very short 90-second video of the extremely pretentious Refn calling his own film a masterpiece and watch the old school Friedkin (who has actual masterpieces on his resume) pricelessly react and retort:

As the Masterpiece Division Cop of the Feelin’ Film Tone Police, William Friedkin just became my spirit animal.  He preaches what I preach, that masterpieces take time to assign because films have linger, live, and hold up.  Audiences and historians decide that, not the filmmaker themselves.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitter, and Medium.

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Avengers: Infinity War

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

2 Hours and 29 Minutes (PG-13)

Marvel and The Russo Brothers had a very daunting task before them. Paying off the culmination of a decade of build-up and backstory, stretching over 18 films, is a challenge unlike any studio or director in Hollywood had ever faced. And to accomplish this feat, they worked with what has to be the largest cast of known stars ever assembled for a movie. The ambition of Marvel and its commitment to the cinematic universe it pioneered is worthy of praise and respect.

If there’s one thing I was looking for in Avengers: Infinity War, it was raised stakes. Much like the comic books these films are based on (in which characters rarely die and cities are destroyed without much afterthought), Marvel films have not fully dealt with loss in a way that seems realistic. Right from the start of Infinity War, though, Marvel makes it very clear that has changed. The potential consequences of a Thanos (Josh Brolin) victory are evident and the film progresses with an emotional weight and sense of urgency that it could not have attained if the studio followed its same old formula. This also creates much more investment in characters and the worlds they inhabit, and thus pays off quite a few very moving scenes in a much bigger way. If you haven’t cried in a Marvel movie before, you’re not alone, but this may be your first. I had genuine chills a few different times. But don’t worry, that trademark Marvel humor and witty one-liners are still there and won’t have you depressed for too long at a time.

Another area that Marvel outdoes previous films in their own franchise is with Thanos himself. Make no mistake, this is his film and his story. He is a fully developed villain with more screen time than any before him, and it helps to create a character with whom the audience can both despise and yet struggle with feelings of empathy for. Brolin’s talent is very obvious in this performance despite the incredible looking CGI that encompasses him. His Thanos is not just some loud, angry, destructive villain. He is intelligent and calculating. He is nuanced. He is cold, yes, but when he gives his reasons for what he wants to do with the Infinity Stones and why, in a very warped way it makes some sense. His presence as the foil to the Avengers and Guardians gives this film something unique and memorable.

With a cast this large it is inevitable that not everyone’s favorite will have the responsibility or amount of action they hope for. The Russo’s do an admirable job of balancing these heroes, however, and somehow left me feeling satisfied. Sure, a little more backstory or deeper character moments for them all would be nice, but it’s also unrealistic to expect in a single film of this length. By managing to give everyone at least one small moment in the sun, the Russo’s succeed where I believe many would have failed. Another result of keeping most character development small is that the film moves fast, pausing a few times for majorly impactful storyline beats, but mostly cutting between different groups of heroes working to accomplish different tasks. By keeping the heroes in smaller groups, we get to feel more focused when we’re with them, and enjoy the new forms of dialogue that emerge between characters who previously had not interacted.

The action in Avengers: Infinity War is, as expected, fantastic. Seeing heroes fight together with new gear and weapons, or teaming up in ways never experienced by movie goers before, was a huge treat. In one major battle that involves a host of heroes and countless alien attackers, the Silvestri score and rising stakes create a feeling similar to that in the Battle of the Pelennor Field from The Return of the King. While Avengers: Infinity War never quite reaches that level of epic, it comes much closer than many (myself included) ever thought possible.

VERDICT

If you’re thinking that this review is a but vague, please know that is by design. Fans have waited 10 years for this and going in with as little information possible is going to result in the best viewing experience. Avengers: Infinity War isn’t entirely unpredictable, but it’s got some surprises too. The historic puzzle that the Russo Brothers have put together is nothing short of amazing and will lend itself to multiple viewings. Perhaps that’s the highest praise possible for a film of this kind, that after it finished I immediately would have sat through those 2.5+ hours again. To sum it all up, Avengers: Infinity War lived up to the hype by being both entertaining and emotional. Well done, Marvel. Well done.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.