Review: The Pitcher and the Pin-Up

The Pitcher and the Pin-Up (2003)
Drew Johnson, Corinna Harney. Written by Drew Johnson and David A. Burr. Directed by Drew Johnson.

Twelve minutes into The Pitcher and the Pin-Up (originally released as The Road Home), I said on social media, “This may be the worst movie I’ve ever seen.”

My feelings didn’t change through the first half, but there’s some college baseball action in the middle that doesn’t suck. The acting doesn’t suck, the editing doesn’t suck, the lighting and sound don’t suck, and the music doesn’t suck. The only thing that sucks is the writing, and the writing reeeeeeeally sucks.

The story isn’t just loaded with cliché; it’s an uninterrupted string of clichés from beginning to end. I recently declared The Room the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but at least The Room is packed with stuff you’ve never seen before. I’d much rather watch The Room again. You might have to pay me to spend another evening with The Pitcher and the Pin-Up.

Danny and Melissa are childhood friends who clearly love each other but act like they don’t. They drift apart when one goes to college on a baseball scholarship while the other poses nude for a magazine, hoping it will launch a modeling career, although what she really wants to be is a poet. Someone plays in the College World Series. Someone marries a jerk. They get closer; they grow apart. Life is rather cruel to both, but in their brokenness they discover they have always loved each other.

Worst baseball movie I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen The Bad News Bears Go to Japan.

2/10
27/100

Friday 5: Opposite Day

From here.

  1. What food, normally eaten cooked, do you prefer uncooked?
    Fresh Kahuku corn.  Or really any corn grown locally.  It’s so crisp and sweet, I don’t get why people feel the need to put it on a grill or boil it in water.  Whenever I go to the north shore, I keep an eye out for vendors selling it out of the backs of pickup trucks — it’s aaaaaaalmost as exciting a part of a north shore cruise as a plate of steamed prawns.  Oh, and don’t forget the raw egg on rice, on sukiyaki, or in bibimbap (I have to ask for them not to cook it; Koreans don’t seem to have as nice a relationship with eggs as Japanese people).  Raw egg with shoyu, aji-no-moto, and kim chee is one of my favorite everyday breakfasts, ‘though I’ve mostly given it up because of the rice.
  2. What food, normally eaten uncooked, do you prefer cooked?
    I really like wilting mixed salad greens in some olive oil and then mixing them up with mashed potatoes and a little bit of wasabi oil.
  3. What food, normally eaten cold, do you prefer hot?
    This reminds me that there are places in this country where people drink hot Dr. Pepper, which at the same time fascinates me and grosses me out.  Exactly the right combination for a late-night experiment someday.  I’m going to cheat a little and say either tomato juice or vegetable juice.  I use it as an ingredient in my slow-cooker stew, and although it’s perfectly fine cold, I do prefer it after a few hours soaking up the flavors of beef, thickened slightly with some tapioca starch.
  4. What food, normally eaten hot, do you prefer cold?
    Okay, I have two great answers for this, and if they gross you out I would just implore you try them.  First, macaroni and cheese.  I’m totally serious.  Cook it however you normally cook it, then set it aside until it cools to room temp, then put it in the fridge and eat it the next day.  It’s even better with ketchup.  Second, Pizza Pockets.  It’s been years since I’ve had them, but when I taught at a school that had no food service, I had to have some quick options for days when I just didn’t have it in me to make lunch.  Pizza Pockets, baby — specifically the pizza variety of Hot Pockets.  Take ’em out of the freezer in the morning, let ’em sit out all morning, or leave them in the fridge from the night before, and eat them without zapping in the microwave oven.  It’s then basically a crusty cheese sandwich with marinara and pepperoni.  What’s not to love about that?  Thawed but cold is the way to go.  Oh, and I know I’ve written about this before, but canned pork and beans.  Always keep a can in the fridge, then eat right from the can, maybe with a drizzle of ketchup.  Just like Boy Scouts days.
  5. What are your favorite dinner meals to have for breakfast and breakfast meals to have for dinner?
    Seriously, any leftovers from dinner the night before are great breakfasts, but I’ll agree with the popular answer and say cold pizza for breakfast.  For dinner, it’s tough to beat corned beef hash, eggs sunny-side up, and rice.  One of God’s perfect foods.

Review: Fever Pitch

Fever Pitch (2005)
Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon, Ione Skye. Written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. Directed by Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly.

It’s frustrating when a movie has the right pieces, a good concept, well-imagined characters, and a lazy script. Bill Simmons, perhaps America’s most famous Red Sox fan, has famously said he hates Fever Pitch because Ben, the main character played by Jimmy Fallon, does something near the end that no Red Sox fan would ever do.

Simmons misses the point, because knowing that no Red Sox fan would ever do what Ben does is what supposedly makes his actions reflective of the change of heart he experiences, which of course results in our happily ever after. If this were a sports movie, perhaps Simmons would have a good point, but even he says that this is no baseball movie. This, he insists, is a chick flick.

I’ll see Simmons’s insistance and raise him one more: not only is this not a baseball movie, but neither is it a romantic comedy. Oh, it wants to be a romantic comedy, but Ben’s transformation is so lazily handled that it’s more magic than romance. It tries to be a romantic comedy, but it avoids the messiness of two people working through something real and complicated, leaving us instead with an eye-opening moment for Lindsey, the main character played by Drew Barrymore.

Perhaps the writers think they’re doing something clever by focusing the pit-of-despair moments on Ben, but Ben is mostly the culprit here. Yes, we should see him wallow, but what’s Lindsey going through while it’s happening? We don’t see that she’s miserable, lonely, stuck with some a-hole of a new guy, or in any way struggling with the tension central to the movie’s plot. How does a relationship work out when one person is married to her work and the other is married to a baseball team?

“You have always loved the Red Sox,” says one character to Ben, “but have the Red Sox ever loved you back?” It’s wisdom, but it’s not the kind of wisdom that should open up the clouds so sunbeams can fall only on Ben, because we’ve already seen what Ben gets out of his fandom: some really good stuff, stuff that Lindsey knows is important.

The film avoids dealing with this conflict, and while I can totally be here for two people saying, “We have a huge problem but we love each other enough to deal with it,” why not deal with it in the movie? In even a bad romantic comedy, some kind of relationship figuring-out should happen, but we get none of it. It’s a real shame, because the film does a really, really good job of setting up and executing Lindsey’s heartbreak. Yet we get nothing of her recovery: it’s all just magic, and this is why Fever Pitch is neither baseball film nor romantic comedy, but romance flick of the annoying kind.

Ben is a high-school teacher. Lindsey is an executive of some undefined, generic sort. They are adorable together. Early scenes where they get to know each other make you think you’re seeing a very good film. In the first two-thirds of the film, I love just about every scene they’re in together and dislike almost every scene where they’re with their respective groups of friends. But this is winter Ben. Summer Ben is a different creature, which he is honest about just before summer Ben awakens from hibernation.

So far so good! This could work! At first, it does. Then the level of Ben’s fanaticism really does become a problem, as it should, and the relationship believably comes crashing down until it’s rock bottom for Ben and who knows what for Lindsey?

If a movie has a bad setup but a great finish, you can split the difference and give it an average rating. If it goes the other way, with a great setup and terrible finish, you have to slide it toward the neg. There’s a reason Reggie Jackson was Mr. October, and there’s a reason George Steinbrenner called Dave Winfield Mr. May. Fever Pitch is no Reggie Jackson.

4/10
46/100

Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany.

It’s another standalone Star Wars story, and after Rogue One I have to say I was amped to see it. Alden Ehrenreich is a terrific actor, and his “Would that it were so simple” dialogue with Ralph Fiennes in Hail, Caesar! is one of the most laugh-aloud funny scenes I’ve seen in years, so nobody needed to persuade me to buy him as Solo. I was already bought.

Solo: A Star Wars Story traces Han Solo’s early life, beginning with an escape from some kind of child labor camp (or something!) and ending somewhere vaguely familiar but nonspecific in our knowledge of the Star Wars universe. As it unfolds, we see the development of Han’s story in the years before we meet him in Episode IV.

It’s a standalone movie, but of course it’s a standalone movie about a beloved character. The writers, actors, and director have to walk a delicate line between just telling a good story and being true to both canon and spirit, and they walk it well. Although some of my female friends disagree, Ehrenreich has the swagger and cunning of the Han Solo we know. If he’s not as ruggedly handsome or seductive, he shows signs of becoming that guy. We should expect him to be a bit raw and even innocent, two words we’d never use in describing the character as played by Harrison Ford. Young Han Solo has seen things, but not that many things.

The other major, less doubtful question is whether Donald Glover could pull off Lando Calrissian. I feel very confident in assessing his performance as better than anyone could have hoped. He’s not only perfect, he’s somehow better than that, so charismatic, morally ambiguous, and charming that he almost steals the movie from Ehrenreich.

Add Woody Harrelson, a new droid named L3-37, a love interest named Qi’ra, and of course Chewbacca, and you have a solid cast for what should be the first movie in a trilogy. Honestly, it’s a stronger set of actors than we thought we had after episodes IV, I, or VII, and if the story is not quite as good as some of the best in the series, it can be excused for spending more time on character development than plot.

This is not to suggest the plot is terrible. It’s decent space western stuff with unanswered questions enough to keep the audience guessing as it awaits word on a sequel. I found enough to chew on that I waited only a week before getting back to the theater to see it again. I’m fully down with this Solo, this Calrissian, and this nested series. I’ve got a good feeling about this.

8/10
81/100

Review: Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2 (2018)
Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller. Written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds. Directed by David Leitch.

The problem with an unexpectedly good movie like Deadpool is that it creates fair but lofty kinds of expectation for its sequel. The first Ice Age and Shrek films did the same thing, and their follow-ups suffered for it.

It isn’t that Deadpool 2 is bad. It’s just positioned to deliver more of the same: more cleverness, more irreverence, more vulgarity, more compassion for its main character, and more unexpectedness. Either that or it might have found new ways to be equally all these things. It’s too much to ask, and this sequel isn’t up to it.

It’s still clever, irreverent, vulgar, compassionate toward its main character. It’s just not unexpected, and it’s not enough.

Even the structure of the film is pretty much the same. This is no origin story, but the movie opens in medias res, then flashes back, works its way forward and continues to the end. I guess if a thing works, you just do it again.

Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead return, and they are joined by an interesting menagerie of mutants (including a few who’ve appeared in X-Men films) as Wade Wilson attempts to help a mutant boy manage his anger before he turns evil. It’s best not to overthink it and just go along for the ride, which is fun, funny, entertaining, and even charming. Just not as much as the first movie.

7/10
68/100

Friday 5: With a Capital T

Man, I’m having all kinds of trouble sitting still enough to write anything.  Forcing myself before I dive into the weekend to at least do one of these.  The responses by other participants have been fun to read.

From here.

  1. What kind of trouble are you getting yourself into?
    Uuuuuugggggh.  I still haven’t made those appointments I missed a few months ago.  I really, really, really need to.  Next week for sure.  I actually need to get my BP checked, my eyes checked, and probably my left knee checked.  The knee has been bugging me for about three weeks and although it feels better, I still feel it with almost every step.  Also need to ask someone about my thinning hair.  Eep.
  2. What was your most recent car trouble?
    I’ve been a bus rider for a few years now, because of my most recent car trouble.  I’ve discussed this before, I’m quite sure.  But I was distracted (I was not texting or speaking on my phone) (okay, but it might have been phone-related) and rear-ended the pickup truck driven by a famous local radio DJ from the 80s.  He and his truck were fine, but my car was totaled.  I made myself not drive for a couple of years as penance.  I mean, I really could have killed someone.  But I’m sloooooooowly getting caught up on a few things and am ready for some wheels.  Hopefully before winter rolls around.
  3. What’s a rhyming phrase (such as “work jerk” or “poo shoe”) to describe something causing you problems lately?
    How about creepy sleepy?  It’s terrible, I know.  But this is what sleep deprivation does to me.  I had a very encouraging week of sleep last week, but this past week has been freaking miserable.  Last night was about as bad as it’s been.
  4. What’s something that needs loosening or unsticking?
    I have those windows that have weights hanging within the window frames, to make opening and closing them easy, like with a garage door.  One of these windows is sticking, only when I try to shut it.  There’s a weird resistance.  I sometimes have to slam it down, which scares me because it’s a very old house and it would devastate me to slam that window shut and have it shatter.
  5. What’s your favorite board game involving rolling dice?
    I have to go with Risk, a game I love but never ever get to play.  I really love Risk, and some of my best game-playing memories are centered on that game.  I once bought my friend Ross a very old Risk set.  Not the first edition, but pretty close.  Picked it up on eBay.  The old-looking world map and wooden pieces.  Box totally intact.  It was sweet.  I don’t think we ever played with it.

I’ll do more of these later this weekend, I think.  Just to get caught up or something.

Review: The Room

The Room (2003)
Tommy Wiseau, Juliette Danielle, Greg Sestero, Phiip Haldiman, Carolyn Minnott, Robyn Paris. Written by Tommy Wiseau. Directed by Tommy Wiseau.

Apparently, sometime in the past fifteen years without anyone’s consulting me, 2003’s The Room supplanted Plan 9 from Outer Space as the worst movie ever made. I didn’t even know this film existed until I saw the hype leading up to the release of James Franco’s 2017 The Disaster Artist.

Yet descriptions could not be believed. I had to see it myself. And midway through my first viewing, all I could think was that while I was utterly fascinated at the amazingly bad movie playing before me, it was so bad that I couldn’t sit through all of it. I had to spread it out over three evenings.

When you talk about how awful Plan 9 from Outer Space is, you can point to twenty things, and your listener will get it. Bella Lugosi died midway through shooting, so they replaced him with someone who didn’t look anything like Lugosi. Director Ed Wood solved this by having Lugosi walk around with his cape covering his face for the rest of the film. In one scene set in a graveyard, the gravestones wobble and topple over, revealing them to be the cardboard stand-up props they are. One woman screams and two different-voices come out of her mouth at the same time.

The Room is so bizarrely, bafflingly bad that describing it doesn’t communicate how utterly bad it is. Take one awful, popular favorite scene. Main character Johnny (played by writer-director-producer Tommy Wiseau) walks into a flower shop, wearing sunglasses. He says, “Hi.” The woman behind the counter says, “Can I help you?” Tommy says, “Yeah, can I have a dozen red roses please?” The woman says, “Oh, hi Johnny. I didn’t know it was you. Here you go.” She hands him the roses, already wrapped in cellophane. “That’s me,” he replies in a friendly, sing-song voice, and “How much is it?” “It’ll be eighteen dollars,” she replies before he’s finished asking the question. “Here you go. Keep the change,” says Johnny before the woman finishes telling him the price, followed by “Hi doggie,” as he pats the head of a bulldog sitting on the counter. “You’re my favorite customer,” says the woman. Johnny says, “Thanks a lot,” and leaves.

See? It doesn’t sound very interesting, but neither does it sound really bad, unless you’re seeing it for maybe the second or third time, in context. You don’t realize that “Oh, hi ______” is a recurring line popping up in completely arbitrary places, or that it’s absurd for the woman at the flower shop not to recognize her favorite customer when nobody on the planet could possibly be mistaken for Johnny, except Tommy Wiseau.

And yeah. The whole movie is pretty much just like that.

For the uninitiated, a quick breakdown. Tommy Wiseau wrote, starred in, directed, and produced this film by himself, paying the six-million-dollar production costs. Wiseau doesn’t tell anyone (anyone!) where he’s from, how old he is, or where he acquired his wealth, and he has a bizarre accent that sounds vaguely eastern European, but you probably wouldn’t put money on it. To hype the film, Wiseau rented a billboard for $5000 per month, and kept it there for five years despite the film playing in only one theater for only two weeks, bringing in $1800 at the box office.

A film critic saw it during its original run and became an instant fan. Word of mouth turned it into a midnight movie hit at one theater in Los Angeles, where it played once a month at midnight for eight years, often selling out. Among the movie’s fans are Paul Rudd, David Cross, Will Arnett, Patton Oswalt, Seth Rogen, Kristen Bell, James Franco, and Dave Franco. The Francos star together in The Disaster Artist, a film about The Room directed by James.

I’ve seen the film three times. Each time it was more charming and more watchable than the previous, but seriously, I can’t just sit and watch it all the way through. I can have it on while I get some work done, while I make dinner, or while I’m goofing off online. It continues to be a horrible, terrible movie with only two things to recommend it on its own merit (and without irony).

The female lead, Juliette Danielle, puts herself fully into a role that she must have known was ridiculous. There is no self-awareness and no wink at the camera, something I have to say I admire. She’s also pretty not in a Hollywood way, but in a prettiest-barista-at-the-cafe way, the kind of pretty movies should make more of an effort to cast because it’s so much closer to real life. Supporting actress Robyn Paris comes across as the only real actor in the film, someone I would seriously think of casting if I ever made a movie.

Holy cow. I have to say this is the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but I kind of like it, and for that reason I can’t give it the lowest score.  I’d rather watch ten hours of The Room than a single minute of Event Horizon.

2/10
25/100

Review: Tully

Tully (2018)
Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass. Written by Diablo Cody. Directed by Jason Reitman.

Sometimes a movie must be reviewed for how it addresses big, important issues, and the more the reviewer knows about these issues, the more credible the review.

I’m part of the intended audience who is completely unqualified to hold the film up against these big issues, so I cannot comment on how intelligently, fairly, accurately, or radically it faces them. But I am part of the intended audience, so I am qualified to respond to it as art, bringing what I bring — namely my maleness and my no-marriage-no-kids status.

So this is how a middle-aged, never-married-never-had-kids man, knowing full well he will never relate to a huge chunk of the art’s purpose, receives Tully, a movie about a middle-aged woman dealing with post-childbirth life as a mother and wife.

When a writer, director, and actor attempt to create something that doesn’t look or feel like everything else, it can be as wonderfully original and satisfying as Juno or as uneven as Young Adult. Tully is somewhere between them, much closer to Young Adult in edginess and mood.

Charlize Theron is excellent as Marlo, a middle-aged mother of three dealing with the pressures of perceived good parenting, at times (and in retrospect) stunning. It’s too early in the year to say this, but she should be considered for a Best Actress Oscar at year’s end. She makes it easy for the other actors, although Mackenzie Davis as her “night nanny” Tully is really good too.

Tully’s job is to take care of Marlo’s newborn at night, waking Marlo for feedings but otherwise leaving her to sleep while Tully takes care of changing the baby, cleaning up after the baby, and rocking the baby to sleep. The extra rest does wonders for Marlo, who suddenly has time and energy to do many of the good-mommy things she feels she’s neglected lately, like preparing family meals that don’t come out of the freezer.

More than the extra rest, Tully provides companionship and understanding, an incredible source of sympathy Marlo has been lacking. Marlo finds a listening ear and wise counsel about taking care of herself, her family, and her husband, whose love is not questionable but whose contribution to running the household is. In one unforgettable scene, Tully asks Marlo to open up about her sex life, and Marlo is inspired to get things in the bedroom heated up again.

Marlo needs rest and time, but she also needs help, and she needs to be healthy in mind and body. Tully makes it all possible, and Marlo’s reemergence is lovely to see.

But the movie is about something else, something best left to the viewer to realize. I offer a trigger warning for anyone sensitive to issues of postpartum depression. If there’s any question, read a spoiler review, of which several can easily be found. If not, see it for yourself and watch a movie start off about one thing but then become something else.

8/10
80/100

Friday 5: How About a Knuckle Sandwich

From here.

  1. When did you last punch someone?  Alternate question: When did someone last punch you?
    I wasn’t always the pacifist I claim to be today, so I have thrown a fair number of punches, some of them finding their mark.  But it has been a very long time, since early high school, and it shames me to think about them now, so I’m answering the alternate question.  A couple of months ago, I was walking to a bus stop rather late at night in my neighborhood.  People familiar with the area (North King Street near Mokauea Street in Kalihi) will tell you the only surprising thing about this story is that things didn’t escalate, or maybe that this kind of thing doesn’t happen to me all the time.  I walked past one bus stop on my way to a safer one at which to wait in the dark (the one across Farrington High School).  A guy — thin, not very tall, slightly hunched over, early twenties — threw a punch at my face as I passed.  His aim was horrible, and his fist glanced harmlessly off my cheekbone.  I was startled.  I drew a fist back (honestly, not to take a swing, but to give him something to think about as I considered where I might run) and I looked him in the eye.  He was drunk.  “What?!” he demanded, taking an aggressive stance as though he might swing again.  I gave him an exaggeratedly puzzled look.  “What are you doing?” I asked. He repeated his question.  I said, “What the heck?” and continued walking to the next bus stop.  I kept my eyes on him as I did, awkwardly looking back over my shoulder.  He kept yelling one-word threats at me but didn’t come after me.  At least not at first.  He did make his slow, staggering way toward my bus stop and arrived just as my bus pulled up at the curb.  I got on and he didn’t follow me.
  2. How many of those frequent (whatever) stampcards/punchcards do you have, and which are you most likely to fill and redeem?
    I’m not going to count duplicates and say it’s in the area of twenty local establishments, some of which aren’t even in business anymore, such as Koi Catering and Takeout (the food truck still exists but I’ve never seen it), Ice Forest, and Ice Fru.  I need to do some cleaning up.  The card I’m most likely to complete and redeem next is from Friend Cafe, my favorite boba cafe.  I actually have a couple of completed cards but haven’t redeemed them so I could use them some day when I don’t have any money.  I tend to save my completed stamp cards for rainy days, and then the cards either expire or the businesses close permanently.
  3. When have you had a really good fruit punch?
    I used to make a really popular fruit punch from a recipe I got from my mom.  People would ask me, going back to high school days, to bring it to parties.  I made it often enough that I didn’t need to look at the recipe anymore, and over the years whenever I’ve made it, I think I’ve mutated the amounts bit by bit until the last time I tried to make it and it was terrible.  It used powdered strawberry Jell-O (cooked but not set), pineapple juice (to keep the Jell-O from setting), frozen strawberries, and ginger ale.  I’ve also been at functions at some of the really nice hotels here, and the fruit punches at those things can be crazy good.
  4. What are your thoughts on boxing?
    I love it, but I swore off it shortly after I began teaching.  I decided that watching boxing was getting in the way of my becoming the pacifist I wanted to be.  My dad taught me how to fight, taught me beginning at a young age, and although I love him and respect him, I don’t want to be him, at least not where it comes to resolving conflict.  I’m not saying watching boxing leads to violence.  I am saying that watching boxing glorifies something I don’t want to glorify, as much as I love the sporting aspect.  Amd yeah, I think it makes ME (not anyone else) more likely to seek non-peaceful ways out of stuff.  I mean, I’ll watch pro wrestling, and I’ll watch movies about boxing.  But I won’t watch real boxing.  My resolve was first put to the test when Tyson fought Holyfield the first time.  When I found out the next morning that Holyfield won, I felt a large pit open up in my stomach.  “I missed it!” I said to myself, sadly.  Then when they fought again, when Tyson bit Holyfield’s ear off, I said, “Oh thank goodness I don’t watch boxing anymore!”  After each major fight ever since, I have one or the other response when I hear the results.  I believe I’m better off — if not necessarily a better person — not watching.
  5. When do you usually punch in and punch out?
    Officially 8:30 in and 5:30 out, but I’ve gotten temporary permission to come in at 9:00 and leave at 6:00.  I’m having major sleep issues that make the later start time much, much easier on me.  My boss is wonderful and would let me make it permanent, would even let me go 9:30 to 6:30 if I asked for it, which would be even better for me, but I’m trying to work these sleep problems out, not to rely on a later start time.  ‘Though to be honest, two days out of five, I’m in from 9:30 anyway and staying until past 7:00.  I get more work done when everyone else leaves the building.

 

Review: Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Lementieff, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin.  Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.  Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo.

However you may feel about comic book adaptations, there is something admirable about the concept and execution of films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe leading to Avengers: Inifinity War, and ostensibly concluding with its sequel in 2019. This is the nineteenth film in the series, with at least three to go in this cycle. Unlike other interminable series, which (with rare exception) at most plan ahead for two sequels, simply adding to the body with movie after movie according to the market’s demand, the MCU films have been driving toward this film seemingly since the beginning.

Whether the next Avengers movie is meant to be a conclusion or not, this one certainly feels like a pulling together of all the threads toward a final something. Although of course I assume that’s just part of the pattern for most long-running comic books.

Followers of the series are already aware of the Infinity Stones, MacGuffin devices containing unearthly power. Individually, they give their bearers amazing power. Combined, their power is insurmountable.

Thanos is determined to bring them together so that he might alleviate the universe of its greatest ills. Overpopulation has led to all troubles everywhere, so Thanos hopes arbitrarily to wipe out half the living beings, a terrible solution, but a last resort where one is needed. And since it is the only cure for what ails the universe, Thanos of course must let nothing or nobody get in his way.

The Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the citizens of Wakanda, Doctor Strange, and Spiderman try to get in his way.

It’s a huge, far-flung plot involving a ridiculous number of important, charismatic characters with really only one villain, and it mostly works. It’s difficult to point to any one character and say, “That one didn’t get his or her fair share of screen time,” although at least three heroes are noticeably absent. I’m partial to Scarlet Witch and would have liked more of her, but everyone pretty much gets a nice, important part to play.

I really like the score, too.

I’ve heard criticism of the film’s pacing, but jumps in action from one set of heroes working on one part of the Infinity War to other sets of heroes working on their parts provide interesting scenery changes that pace the seemingly nonstop action rather well.  It’s a fun, engaging, cool (wait ‘til you see Thor’s weapon) movie, and much better than the first two Avengers films.

78/100
7/10