Avengers: Endgame Movie Review

**There’s really no way to write a review of Avengers: Endgame without some minor spoilers. You may wish to read this post viewing…

The word “epic” can be overused by those who review movies like me, but it unquestionably applies to Avengers: Endgame. It’s epic in its running time (none of the other 21 MCU pics run three hours) and epic in the number of well-known thespians reprising their superhero and villain characters. It doesn’t seem feasible that so many characters could manage to coexist in this vast universe without seeming like a gimmick. If you happen to think predecessor Infinity War was overcrowded, you’ll get whiplash here. Truth be told, there are moments when this borders on playing like a greatest hits reel based on what’s preceded it during the last eleven years.

Yet Endgame figures out a rewarding way to stick the landing and honor the dozens of faces that we’ve spent billions of dollars visiting since 2008. At the conclusion of Infinity War, bad guy Thanos (Josh Brolin) had collected his precious Infinity Stones and decimated half the intergalactic population into dramatic looking dust particles. What’s left is mostly the core of the OG Avengers – Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). There’s others as Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) is the sole surviving Guardian of the Galaxy. And we have the two notable characters that were MIA last summer – Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd).

One might think this whole saga might be about the original band and some newer friends taking on Thanos. You would be wrong. Endgame has plenty of time bending tricks up its endless story arch sleeves. The first is an unexpected resolution that comes very early. However, that climax is just a set-up to further complications.

This is indeed a time travel movie in which the screenwriters almost sheepishly concede the contrived nature of such a device. The survivors set upon a course of multiple back in time ways to retrieve the Stones and bring back their loved ones. It doesn’t happen overnight and the lengthy nature of the plan coming together provides funny and poignant moments. Tony is off the grid with his beloved Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) and a new addition. Bruce is in full Hulk mode, but kindler and gentler. Thor is rounder and drunkenly grappling with his losses. Hawkeye is a full-blown vigilante. When the gang revs up their figurative DeLoreans, it gives us a chance to revisit lots of MCU personnel. And it’s a LOT of former players. Some are genuinely surprising. During this lengthy stretch, the film walks a fine line of not devolving into nostalgic sugar shock amidst the action sequences. By the final act, it rises above it.

We know the battle scenes will be well choreographed and well-directed (with the Russo Brothers handling duties once again). The final one is rather jaw dropping with the mixing of so many known quantities. Thanos is one of the stronger villains in MCU history and he remains so here, though there’s nothing fresh to add about his character. His daughter Nebula (Karen Gillan), on the other hand, continues her evolution as a fine addition to the roster.

The comic relief comes more from Thor as opposed to Ant-Man or Rocket and Hemsworth is up to the task. Captain America and Black Widow are given their emotional moments that we’re invested in from their backstories. To this writer, it’s Tony who’s always been the damaged beating heart of this franchise. The Marvel Cinematic Universe simply wouldn’t exist as it is without Downey Jr.’s brilliant work. That’s never changed. The quality of the movies he’s appeared in has. His performance has always been fantastic. If we’re ranking, I would put Endgame as an overall experience just under the first Avengers in 2012 and Infinity War. I can’t promise that thinking about all the shifting time plot points might raise as many questions as answers. I won’t deny that its emotional payoff is real and we have Downey and an amazing group of technicians bringing these comics to life to thank for it.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch – Avengers: Endgame

Last year, Marvel’s Black Panther became the first comic book pic to score a Best Picture nomination. While it didn’t win, it took home three gold trophies from its seven nods. This weekend, box office records are highly likely to break with the release of Avengers: Endgame. The 22nd MCU title had its review embargo lift hours ago… try to your best to avoid spoilers.

The verdict? A 98% Rotten Tomatoes score thus far. Some critics are going as far as saying it’s the best overall entry in the massive franchise. Others write ups, while positive, don’t go that far. One thing seems certain as Endgame is classified as an epic experience.

Could lightning strike two years in a row for Marvel with Academy voters? Here’s the advantage: this fourth Avengers saga is seen as the culmination of not just its three predecessors, but also the many other pictures MCU blockbusters over the past 11 years. That lifts its chances for recognition as Oscar could see this as an “atta boy” for the whole series.

That said, I’m doubtful. The first three Avengers flicks garnered a grand total of two nominations. The 2012 original and last year’s Infinity War both received Visual Effects nods. Neither won. The middle child (2015’s Age of Ultron) got no love. Last year, Disney was undoubtedly more focused on getting Black Panther recognition and they succeeded. In 2019, they could put together a more robust campaign for Endgame.

A third calling in Visual Effects is probably inevitable, but anything else from the Academy is questionable and maybe even doubtful. Yet I wouldn’t totally count out some Disney marketing campaign magic. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Avengers: Endgame Box Office Prediction

This current massively successful phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe draws to a close next weekend with the release of Avengers: Endgame. There’s an excellent chance that it achieves the largest opening weekend gross of all time with the grand finale. Endgame follows up directly with last summer’s Avengers: Infinity War, which is the current record holder with $257 million.

Anthony and Joe Russo return in the directors chairs with a core group of familiar heroes battling Josh Brolin’s Thanos. They include Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. That’s just scratching the surface, by the way. The events (spoiler alert if you’ve been in a year-long coma) of Infinity War dissolved numerous other beloved characters into dust including Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange and the majority of the Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista) save for Bradley Cooper voicing Rocket. It’s quite likely you’ll see them again. And also in the roles we’ve seen them in before… there’s Gwyneth Paltrow, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Tessa Thompson, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, and Evangeline Lilly. Oh… and Letitia Wright and Sebastian Stan and Tom Hiddleston.

Whew. Back to the numbers crunching. When early tickets went on sale a couple of weeks ago, Endgame smashed every record in sight. Its YouTube trailer views are off the charts. Audiences know this is the culmination of what we’ve paid billions of dollars for over the past decade plus. Yes, there’s a three-hour runtime which is unprecedented for the MCU.

I have a feeling that won’t matter when it comes to reaching a premiere level we’ve yet to witness. No other movie is daring to compete against it and most holdovers will be earning $10 million and less. In other words, multiplexes will clear a ton of real estate for this.

Initial estimates put Endgame around $250 million, but the buzz has this inching upwards. I believe that’s a correct assumption. While I don’t believe this will hit $300 million (as the rosiest projections suggest), a gross just north of $285 million seems feasible. If it achieves that mark, the endgame here will indeed set records.

Avengers: Endgame opening weekend prediction: $289.6 million

Oscars Spread The Love: A Recap

It was an evening in which the Academy was generous with their selections – so much so that all eight Best Picture nominees took at least one gold statue. It was also a night where many of the viewers (including me) may have pondered, “Maybe we don’t need a host after all…”

As far as the Oscars go, the ceremony moved rather briskly with a focus on the categories and minimal filler. The telecast saved the surprises for the end portion and they were fairly significant.

I went 14 for 21 in my picks. The big winner would have to be Green Book, which took Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), and Original Screenplay. Its win in the top race was a bit unexpected as Roma had front-runner status. Alfonso Cuaron did win for his direction and the Mexican drama emerged victorious as Foreign Language Film and for its Cinematography.

The acting races went as planned until the last one. Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), and Ali won. Actress was another story as Glenn Close (The Wife), after taking multiple precursors, lost to Olivia Colman’s work in The Favourite. Her speech was probably the funniest and most genuine of the evening.

It was a good night all around for Rhapsody, which also took Editing and both Sound races. Same for Black Panther, which was honored for Production Design, Costume Design, and Score.

Other winners:

Adapted Screenplay – BlacKkKlansman, marking Spike Lee’s first competitive Oscar victory

Animated Feature – SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse

Documentary Feature – Free Solo

Makeup and Hairstyling – Vice

Visual Effects – First Man

Song – “Shallow” from A Star is Born

Some other observations:

  • As mentioned, I didn’t miss having a host one bit, but Melissa McCarthy would be fine by me if she accepted next year.
  • In an awards show where musical performances can often be forgettable, the duet between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga was fantastic. The Queen opening was a pleasure to witness as well.
  • 2018 definitely proved itself to be a year where voters had no clear favorite to sweep anything. The wealth was spread.

And that’s my take! Keep an eye on this here blog for many posts to come guesstimating on the next Oscars!

2018 FINAL Oscar Winner Predictions

We’ve had months of predictions and endless speculation on this blog about the 2018 Oscars and now it’s come to this. On Sunday, the 91st edition of the Academy Awards will air with your host…

As you’ve likely read, there actually is no emcee for this year’s ceremony. I’m not here to write about that. I’m here to make my final picks for the winners! Let’s break down each race one by one, shall we? And, of course, I’ll have a piece up Sunday night with my thoughts on how it all went down.

Best Picture

Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice

Analysis: First things first. It’s extremely rare that the winner here doesn’t have its director nominated. Therefore, two films that might have served as the biggest competition to Roma could now be seen as longer shots: A Star Is Born and Green Book. You could correctly point out that Argo achieved a victory just six years ago without Ben Affleck getting an individual nod. However, it had been 23 years prior to that (Driving Miss Daisy) when it had occurred previously. BlacKkKlansman and The Favourite are upset possibilities, but the smart money is on Alfonso Cuaron’s Netflix Mexican drama and it would mark the streaming service’s first win in the big race.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Director

Nominees: Alfonso Cuaron (Roma), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), Adam McKay (Vice), Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)

Analysis: I feel even more confident that Cuaron will take the gold here, even if Roma somehow comes up short in Picture. He’s run the table on precursors, including the DGA prize. It would be his second win in five years, after winning for 2013’s Gravity.

Predicted Winner: Cuaron

Best Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)

Analysis: This is a tough one as Malek and Bale have split a number of precursors. With the SAG Awards, I deemed it a coin flip and picked Malek. I was right. At the Golden Globes, they both won due to category splits. I won’t be surprised to see either win, but my 50/50 feeling going with Malek worked before

Predicted Winner: Malek

Best Actress

Nominees: Yalitza Aparicio (Roma), Glenn Close (The Wife), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Analysis: Aparicio and McCarthy should be honored to be nominated. Colman and Gaga are threats, but Close has fared best in previous ceremonies and there’s the fact that she’s a highly respected performer who’s yet to win despite multiple nods.

Predicted Winner: Close

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliot (A Star Is Born), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Sam Rockwell (Vice)

Analysis: This category features the last two Oscar winners as Ali won in 2016 for Moonlight and Rockwell took it last year for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. They have far different chances to become two-time victors. Ali is the front-runner. Supporting Actor has seen upsets, but Ali looks strong.

Predicted Winner: Ali

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Amy Adams (Vice), Marina de Tavira (Roma), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Emma Stone (The Favourite), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Analysis: Even though King didn’t get a SAG nod, they bestowed their award to Emily Blunt for A Quiet Place and she’s not even nominated. An Adams name call is feasible since she’s never won, but King will probably be crowned Sunday evening.

Predicted Winner: King

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, BlacKkKlansman, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, If Beale Street Could Talk, A Star Is Born

Analysis: Star could perhaps shine here, but this really feels like the race where voters will recognize BlacKkKlansman. 

Predicted Winner: BlacKkKlansman

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: The Favourite, First Reformed, Green Book, Roma, Vice

Analysis: This one is legitimately difficult and I think you can make a case for all of them. Roma is a distinct possibility as the Picture favorite and Green Book could make a showing. Yet my slight favorite here is The Favourite.

Predicted Winner: The Favourite

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees: Capernaum, Cold War, Never Look Away, Roma, Shoplifters

Analysis: This could be interesting. As revealed above, Roma is my Picture pick. So it’s automatic that it wins here right? Not so fast. Cold War could get the consolation prize and I feel that’s even more possible since it nabbed a surprise nod for director Pawel Pawlikowski. I’m tempted to pick it, but I’ll say Roma manages the double win. However, if you wish to get creative in your office pool, this could be the race to do it.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Animated Feature Film

Nominees: Incredibles 2, Isle of Dogs, Mirai, Ralph Breaks the Internet, SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse

Analysis: Pixar has dominated this field for years. In most years, it would be risky to bet against them – therefore Incredibles 2. This might be the year to do it as SpiderMan arrived late in the year, swung the momentum, and swept the precursors.

Predicted Winner: SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees: Free Solo, Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Minding the Gap, Of Fathers and Sons, RBG

Analysis: One of the biggest shockers when nominations came out was the omission of Mr. Rogers doc Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. I likely would’ve picked it to win had it been nominated. Now I believe this is between Solo and RBG. Reverence for the latter could swing it that way, but I’ll give a small edge to Solo.

Predicted Winner: Free Solo

Best Film Editing

Nominees: BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Vice

Analysis: Bohemian Rhapsody won the significant precursor for its branch and The Favourite or BlacKkKlansman could factor in as well. My gut says Vice may get this one, however.

Predicted Winner: Vice

Best Cinematography

Nominees: Cold War, The Favourite, Never Look Away, Roma, A Star Is Born

Analysis: Major love for the foreign pics here and Cold War has a shot. This is probably Roma’s race to lose though.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Production Design

Nominees: Black Panther, The Favourite, First Man, Mary Poppins Returns, Roma

Analysis: This one comes down to Panther and Favourite in my view and I’ll give the latter an ever so slight edge,

Predicted Winner: The Favourite

Best Costume Design

Nominees: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Black Panther, The Favourite, Mary Poppins Returns, Mary Queen of Scots

Analysis: Like Production Design, Panther and Favourite are the favorites. The best bet could be The Favourite, but Panther has to win something right?

Predicted Winner: Black Panther

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees: Border, Mary Queen of Scots, Vice

Analysis: A Border win isn’t out of the question, but Vice is the likely recipient here.

Predicted Winner: Vice

Best Sound Editing

Nominees: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, A Quiet Place, Roma

Analysis: First Man and Panther could get this, but that Wembley Stadium sequence could cause Rhapsody to achieve gold status.

Predicted Winner: Bohemian Rhapsody

Best Sound Mixing

Nominees: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, Roma, A Star Is Born

Analysis: Even though Star didn’t get in the other Sound race, Mixing seems like where it could be picked. I wouldn’t count out First Man, but I’ll guess Star wins here.

Predicted Winner: A Star Is Born

Best Visual Effects

Nominees: Avengers: Infinity War, Christopher Robin, First Man, Ready Player One, Solo: A Star Wars Story

Analysis: It was a bit surprising that Black Panther missed the cut here. Its MCU counterpart Infinity is possible, but I’ll say this is the sole victory for First Man.

Predicted Winner: First Man

Best Original Score

Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, If Beale Street Could Talk, Isle of Dogs, Mary Poppins Returns

Analysis: Another chance for Panther lies here, but I’m going with a coin flip between BlacKkKlansman and Beale Street.

Predicted Winner: If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Original Song

Nominees: “All the Stars” from Black Panther, “I’ll Fight” from RBG, “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns, “Shallow” from A Star Is Born, “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Analysis: My last race is the easiest. “Shallow” is the massive favorite here.

Predicted Winner: “Shallowfrom A Star Is Born

And there you have it. Enjoy the show Sunday night!

2018 SAG Awards Reaction

The wealth was spread this evening at the 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards as It provided more clues to how Oscar voters may choose their winners in February. I went 4 for 5 in my predictions and I’m pretty pleased with that because some of these races were quite unpredictable.

The miss was indeed a surprise as Emily Blunt took Supporting Actress for her work in A Quiet Place. She wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar and the exclusion of Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) here was significant. Ironically, the Blunt victory over the Academy nominated Amy Adams in Vice or Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz (The Favourite) may give King a boost come Oscar time.

As for the other acting categories, it was another trophy for Mahershala Ali in Green Book for Supporting Actor as he continues to solidify his status as the front-runner. Same goes for Glenn Close in The Wife in lead actress. In lead actor, that’s a bit murkier as Rami Malek took the Actor for Bohemian Rhapsody. I still consider the Oscar race close between him and Christian Bale in Vice. Bradley Cooper’s chances for A Star is Born have dimmed even more.

It was a bad night for that picture as it went 0 for 4. The top Ensemble race went to the sprawling cast of Black Panther. What does that do for its Oscar chances? Truth be told, I think not much as the victor here often doesn’t match the Academy’s Best Picture recipient.

There’s your recap, folks! Now it’s onto more speculation for Oscar…

2018 SAG Award Predictions

The 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award air tomorrow evening and they could shed some light on which performers are looking more solid for the Oscar in a few weeks. Let’s break down the top races with my winner predictions, shall we?

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

The Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, Crazy Rich Asians, A Star is Born

Analysis: It’s important to note that the SAG ceremony honors casts and not the “Best Picture” like other shows. This is about the ensemble. A Star is Born is really concentrated on three performances (Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliot) and they’re all up for their individual races, where they all have a shot of winning. I believe it’s entirely possible, however, that the trio also all lose and this could be a considerable consolation prize. The other four films have more sprawling casts. That’s especially true for Black Panther and I’ll say the voters ultimately reward in a different category to project.

Winner Prediction: Black Panther

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

The Nominees: Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book), John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman)

Analysis: As mentioned, Cooper is a possibility. Yet he’s come up empty in other precursors. This could come down to the two Golden Globe recipients for their categories – Bale and Malek. I think it’s a coin flip to be honest. I’ll give the latter a razor-thin edge.

Winner Prediction: Malek

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

The Nominees: Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns), Glenn Close (The Wife), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Lady Gaga (A Star is Born), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Analysis: Gaga is the only actress whose picture is also nominated. Her tie with Glenn Close at the Critics Choice Awards made things even murkier. Colman is a possibility here, but I’ll say this branch of actors give it to Close after decades of memorable performances.

Winner Prediction: Close

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

The Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Timothee Chalamet (Beautiful Boy), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliot (A Star is Born), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Analysis: I wouldn’t count out Elliot, but Ali appears to be the front-runner in all these shows. I think his streak continues.

Winner Prediction: Ali

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

The Nominees: Amy Adams (Vice), Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place), Margot Robbie (Mary Queen of Scots), Emma Stone (The Favourite), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Analysis: A fascinating race as Oscar favorite Regina King’s work in If Beale Street Could Talk was surprisingly snubbed. Blunt is a double nominee, but stands little chance of emerging victorious in either spot. The Favourite ladies could split votes. Robbie didn’t land an Oscar nod and is a long shot. That leaves Adams, who could be a double winner tomorrow with her work in HBO’s Sharp Objects.

Winner Prediction: Adams

And there you have it! I’ll have a recap up after the program airs!