Episode 146: Avatar

We close out our James Cameron Director Month series with a conversation about a film that comes in just under 3 hours. It had a $250 million dollar budget and is still the current world box office record holder. This film has definitely made its mark on the cinematic world, enough to spawn eventual sequels, and its own bit of social controversy. We discuss!

Avatar Review – 0:02:26

The Connecting Point – 0:58:50

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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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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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MOVIE REVIEW: Avengers: Infinity War


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.


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.


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.

What We Learned This Week: April 15-21

LESSON #1: LEAVE SOME THINGS TO MYSTERY— We’ve reached the final week of hype before Avengers: Infinity War.  The anticipation is peaking, but so are the dumb think pieces and click bait articles trying to capitalize on the upcoming premiere.  If I see another article asking where the Soul Stone is or a poll prognosticating which characters are most likely to die, it will be the umpteenth one and already too soon.  They reach badly, kind of like this one talking about world domination.  As I’ve preached before, let the film come to you.  Pull off the tin-foil hats.  Take a breath and soak it in.  Have some patience.  You’ve come this far.  Don’t ruin your good feelings with swimming too far into guessing games.  Start avoiding reviews after Sunday’s night’s Hollywood premiere and Tuesday evening’s press embargo.  I promise you will enjoy the big opening more with more mystery and less overstimulation.

LESSON #2: COMIC BOOK ACTORS ARE NOT SELLOUTS— Speaking of Avengers: Infinity WarGuardians of the Galaxy star Zoe Saldana had the soapbox opportunity to clap back against the “elitists” out there that look down upon comic book films as comfort food trash and soulless acting.  Her full statements are absolutely outstanding and must-read.  She’s not the first to have this stance in the nearly two decades of this peak comic book film era.  More established and classical actors from comic book films, from Robert Redford and Kenneth Branagh to Patrick Stewart and Anthony Hopkins, have done this work for wonderful reasons like family connection, fan support, and as a door opener to more wider visibility and more opportunities.  Why would anyone frown upon someone who wants to have fun while making money or have something their children and grandchildren can see them in?  Those critical aren’t elite people anymore.  They are inflexible haters with lesser hearts.

LESSON #3: DUMB MOVIES DESERVE ROASTING AS LONG AS EVERYONE CAN KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR ABOUT IT— I got a kick out of the story this week that Netflix finally got to return a little troll favor against popular scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson.  On more than one occasion, NDT has enjoyed tweeting and pinpointing the scientific inaccuracies of films. Armageddon was one of his favorite targets and it is now on Netflix.  For overly-committed fans of cheesy movies, Tyson’s commentary has been labeled as “ruining” by whiny uneducated fanboys.  I side with Tyson, though I enjoyed (see the article) the return rub of gamesmanship from Netflix.  Movies like Armageddon are stupefying when taken seriously, so I, for one, appreciate the extra level of shared smarts.  Good science fiction movies can make solid entertainment and still keep their science cred intact.  That said, if the enjoyment level is present (and it is most of the time for the Armageddon crowd), it’s OK to close the textbooks and kick back.  It’s good to see both sides laughing.  Halle Berry did it years ago when she accepted her Razzie in person.  Others can and should too.

LESSON #4: MOVIEPASS WAS DOOMED TO FAIL— Chalk this up in the “things that are too good to be true often are” column.  Business reports are auditors revealed that MoviePass has lost money for its parent company in the nine-figure department.  The original prediction was $7.4 million only to have that number balloon to over $150 million.  Good golly, that’s quite a haircut!  The company claims it can become profitable by 2019, but it will require seeking other forms of revenue, especially with another price drop shrinking the profit margin.  Good luck with that.  Current members, skip past wait-and-see and enjoy the service while you can.  You’re getting a heck of a deal.

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: My Little Pony: The Movie

My Little Pony: The Movie (2017)

Going In

Earth ponies and unicorns and pegasi, oh my! My Little Pony: The Movie has arrived and I could not be happier. For most of a year, my pony-obsessed daughter has been looking forward to this film and no matter what I think of it, seeing her excited over a movie brings joy to my soul. This feature-length film is set in the universe of the extremely popular Hasbro-produced television series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. A dark force threatens Ponyville, and the Mane Six must journey beyond Equestria and get help from new friends to save their home. This movie should be a pretty typical fantasy adventure with lots of comedy, cuteness, and horse puns. I’ll admit that I’ve not watched anywhere near all 163 episodes of the cartoon series, nor am I a brony, but I have seen the show a few times and found it sweet and entertaining. I’m going in with an open mind and expecting to savor the experience of seeing my daughter full of glee. And this film has sea ponies. Sea ponies are cool.


Well, that was unexpected. Come to find out, My Little Pony: The Movie is actually pretty great. And not just for fans, although I can only assume they will be extremely satisfied as well, but for families unfamiliar with the ponies too. I can genuinely say that I had a wonderful time watching this film.

You wants reasons? I’ve got reasons. To start with, this movie feels like a 1990’s Disney classic. This isn’t a film that deals with current cultural issues directly, but rather focuses primarily on one thing – the power of friendship. To be fair, there’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to life lessons. Friends can accomplish more as a team, and trusting each other and utilizing individual strengths is key. But the presentation is as enjoyable as ever and the message still hits home.

Another thing that reminded me of old Disney, and elevated this film considerably, is the music. There are some great new songs and the vocal talents of performers like Sia, Emily Blunt, and Kristin Chenoweth are not wasted. Several of the songs have a strong orchestral component and feel like they could be Broadway stage productions. This was a real bright spot and we found ourselves immediately listening to the soundtrack on the car ride home. In a landscape of animated movies that usually feature over-popified tunes much like you’d find on the radio, MLP: The Movie‘s choice of music stands out as a breath of fresh air.

Another strong aspect of the film is character development. When compared with something like The LEGO Ninjago Movie, which only managed to really give its lead character an arc, MLP: The Movie does a great job of giving four of the Mane (main) Six something to do. One slight criticism is that Fluttershy and Applejack are somewhat lost in the shuffle, but there is enough attention spread out over the rest of the characters that it makes up for that. The newly introduced characters don’t have a lot of screen time, but each is well drawn and enhances the story. An additional plus is that we essentially have a multi-racial cast, all with unique qualities and all working together for the greater good. Hollywood (and Washington) take note.

I’d be lying if I said there weren’t any eye-roll moments, but luckily just a few (one in particular during a joke about cell service that made me cringe). The horse puns are indeed plentiful and hilarious. I laughed a lot and the movie transitions between its emotional beats very well, with the humor never feeling out of place. Also, I now have a favorite pony. Yes… I do.


I’ve jokingly poked fun at my daughter for years due to her love for My Little Pony, but now I get it. This colorful, goofy world has a deeper lore than I gave it credit for. It’s beautifully animated and in a different style than anything else on the big screen this year. Friendship matters and My Little Pony: The Movie manages to succeed in telling a familiar story through the use of incredible music and its great cast of characters. I wasn’t prepared to come out of the theater thinking this was fantastic, but here we are. The highest praise I can give may be that I now am anxious to check out the television series and learn more about the world of Equestria. Consider me a convert. If being a brony is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.


GUEST OPINION by Ashlyn White (Superfan)

My Little Pony: The Movie was AWESOME in every way. The songs are reminiscent of Broadway musicals, and I’ve been singing and listening to the soundtrack ever since I came out of the theater. I have watched the entire TV series and can say that this movie did a great job keeping consistent with the show. Another strong spot of the movie was the introduction of the characters. When they are all first introduced, even the people who haven’t seen the show (like my dad) were able to understand the different personalities of the Mane Six. All in all, this mane-tastic film is one I will remember for a long time to come.


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.