Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

Avengers: Endgame - No Spoilers

Avengers: Endgame -- a review by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

This 22nd entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon brings a fitting, if bittersweet end to this storyline and this group of Avengers.  Again, Anthony and Joe Russo provide stellar direction, but the real brains behind the canon are the creator Stan Lee, of course, and producer Kevin Feige, who, over the past 11 years has fine-tuned this series to a point where we truly appreciate the intricacies and attention to detail throughout Endgame.  Realistically, even at a tad over three hours, this finale could not bring every character into play to a level one might desire, but Feige and the team of writers give us an engrossing story, full of terrific twists, Easter eggs, and absolute bombshells so that we left the theater exhausted and overwhelmed, but also in animated discussion and active Googling to gather in the massive event and all of its nuances.

A caveat: those looking forward to action scene after action scene, adjust your expectations.  Don't worry, Endgame has plenty of action, and it is scintillating, but remember, this is a film about endings, the end of this story line and the last we will see of the original team of Avengers.  So, yeah, there's a lot about the relationships and family, both blood ties and those among the superheroes.  So, more than most of the other films in the series, this film moseys along at times, but for those of us who care about these characters, it is at the quiet times where we see how much they care for each other, where story lines are brought to a climax, and where loose ends are tied up.  Trust us, you won't be looking at your watch, first because Endgame is engrossing, and second because, if you are like us your eyes will be too misty to check the time.

OK, to set Avengers Endgame up for those who have forgotten the events of Avengers: Infinity War: Thanos (Josh Brolin) had been a bit player for most of the past six years of the series, in the background but menacing,  In Infinity Wars, Thanos reveals his concern about an infintely increasing population in a Universe that has finite resources.  His solution: gather all of the powerful Infinity Stones, each with a special power (specifically, Reality, Mind, Time, Space, Power, and Soul).  The Avengers mission throughout the film is the frantic efforts by all to prevent Thanos from acquiring them.  In the end, though, he did indeed obtain all six, set them in a special glove, and with a simple snap of his fingers eliminated at random half the population of the Universe.  Among those dusted are Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch.

And, as Avengers: Endgame picks up, among the living are, conveniently, the original Avengers.  It is a difficult time, a time of both remorse and guilt--questions about those things they could have done differently (personally, I blame Peter Quill, and am having a lot of trouble forgiving him).  During this time of mourning, we get to see how these superheroes have handled losing.  As we all expect, though, a kernel of an idea comes to them, the idea sprouts into hope, and the hope fleshes out into a very cool plan.  Soon our original gang--Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)--aided and abetted by several surviving newer heroes (remember that signal Nick Fury sent out at the end of Infinity War?) reunite to try and undo Thanos’s genocide.  Our Avengers assembly comes with the stirring strains of Alan Silvestri's Avengers Theme and the Russos (along with the screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) witty, engaging dialogue and our superheroes are on their way again. Of course, the Avengers wouldn't be the Avengers without squabbling and setbacks, but watching these charismatic characters work their way through their problems--both technical and interpersonal--is part of the joy.

Those steeped in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will find Avengers: Endgame immensely satisfying because of their familiarity with the characters and their interrelationships and also because the film pays homage to moments from previous films, some of which are most pleasantly surprising.  Those not familiar with the MCU may want to at least watch Avengers: Infinity War in preparation; otherwise, they are likely to find the film confusing. maybe even contrived.  Sorry about that, but Avengers: Endgame is a reward for 11 years of geekish loyalty.
9.5 out of 10

The Mustang

The Mustang -- a Review by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Director Laure De Clermont-Tonnerre spent time at the Sundance Institute to develop this story about a man and a horse.  Yes, we know it's been done before but rarely like this, enough so that Robert Redford took it on as executive producer.  Using the severe canvas of the Nevada desert, beautifully captured by cinematographer Ruben Impens, De Clermont-Tonnerre tells an equally stark story forwarding the the belief that even the most broken among us can develop empathy and thus start on the path toward redemption.  The success of this film is rooted in the performance of its star, Matthias Schoenaerts (The Drop, Red Sparrow, The Danish Girl), as Roman, a violent convict serving hard time in a high security prison, and we believe it is one of the best you will see this year.

Roman has served 12 years for a violent crime, the specifics of which we don't know.  As we meet him he has just returned from isolation. and is meeting with a no-nonsense prison psychologist (Connie Britton).  In response to her probes, he merely stares, but as she persists, she finally asks, "How does Roman feel about reentering the prison's general population?" His response is an understatement: "I'm not good with people,"  As a result, she recommends he have a solo job outdoors mucking manure.

We learn that this prison takes part in a Bureau of Land Management initiative which saves some of  the 100,000 wild mustangs who roam the West.  They are herded by helicopter and a dozen or so are brought to the prison for an equine therapy program whereby they are tamed, then trained by inmates to be sold at auction.   The foreman of the project is Myles (the aptly cast Bruce Dern), a cranky piece of hickory who knows men as well as he knows horses.  Myles notices  Roman has a strong interest in the wildest of these mustangs, and we see at once the parallels between man and beast.  Myles assigns another inmate, Henry (Jason Mitchell--Mudbound, Detroit), the self-professed best trainer, to show him the ropes.

At the same time, Roman gets a visit from his estranged 16-year old daughter Martha (Gideon Adlon), who is pregnant and only wants him to sign papers for her emancipation so she can sell her grandmother's home, which was left to them.  For the first time, we begin to touch on the details surrounding Roman's crime, as Martha's hostility and resentment and his social maladjustment make for a brief, unpleasant meeting.  Just when Roman is at his most alienated he turns his energies to the mustang.  He gets an equestrian magazine to learn more about his charge, but from academics to corral the conflict beteen two wild and headstrong creatures rains frustration down on both--Myles even banishes Roman for a time.

Just as Roman seems like a lost cause, Henry tells him, "if you wanna control the horse, first you gotta control yourself."  Only then he begns to make progress. and that progress extends to both his psychological counseling and his relationship with Martha.  In his restorative justice anger management sessions he pries himself open as he gains insight into his own impulsive behavior.  In subsequent visits from his daughter (he still hasn't signed the papers) we also see him opening up more to her, culminating in one of the most gut-wrenching scenes in the movie.  Though it is not in Roman's nature to be outgoing, as he gains insight into himself, he allows the light to shine into his soul, the greatest manifestation of this is his relationship with the mustang.

De Clermont-Tonnerre's sidling pace brings slow-burn tension and tiny revelations as the film moves toward resolution.  It should be added, though, that the film never seems slow, and at a sparse 96 minutes, it left all of us wanting more.  Although it's early, we see The Mustang as an Independent Spirit Awards player for "Film," Director," Cinematography," Supporting Actor" (Dern), and Schoenaerts should lead the way, even making a strong bid for an Oscar.
8.0 out of 10

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