Film Review: “Avengers: Infinity War”

Starring: Josh Brolin, Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr.
Directed By: Anthony and Joe Russo
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 149 minutes
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

I can’t fathom the immense pressure the creators, directors, writers, producers and studio had going into “Infinity War.” Marvel has spent the past decade crafting content that not only stands on its own two feet, but was meticulously building towards this moment. Since Thanos first reared his ugly purple head in a post-credits scene in the first “Avengers,” fans knew that this monumental occasion was eventually going to happen. With lofty expectations, I’m happy to report that “Infinity War” delivers on nearly every level.

I usually type out a short summary or try to set-up the plot at some point early on in my reviews, but I feel like it’s a moot talking point because if you’ve kept up with the Marvel movies or have a good idea of what’s going on in them, you don’t need me to paint a picture about the Infinity Stones, the Infinity Gauntlet or the fight to save the universe. But I also know you don’t need me spoiling anything, so I’ll stay quiet on the specifics. However, I will say that it only takes the first five minutes of the film for “Infinity War” to knock viewers right in the jaw and set the tone.

Getting every character in one film, give or take a few, is an impressive feat on its own. But what’s cleverly done by Marvel’s creative crew is dividing our favorite heroes into different groups to tackle different tasks. The film pairs similar personalities that bounce or conflict well with each other. It also keeps the movie from being inordinate and having too many egos talking about the same thing or over each other, something that “Age of Ultron” ultimately suffered from. So there’s the possibility that fans of certain characters might be disappointed by the lack of screen time for their favorite hero or character.

That being said, Marvel’s gotten a lot better recently at villain building and Thanos (Brolin) may be the pinnacle. Not only is he fierce and overwhelmingly magnetic in his scenes, he’s a sadistic joy to watch stomping around the scene as he articulates his thoughts on death and the balance it creates. There’s also this shocking amount of softness to the character that we’ve rarely seen before with any other Marvel bad guy, except for maybe the one in “Black Panther.” While most of Marvel’s villains have been evil for the sake of being evil or because of their own vanity, Thanos seems genuine in his wickedness, because he’s not only a conqueror, but views himself as the universe’s scales of justice.

There’s a surprising amount of emotion and laughs mixed into the film’s bleakness and knockdown fights. “Infinity War” is never crushed under the utter weight of its own ambitions, serving up a worthy spectacle for audiences along with a captivating storyline that feels rich in content, but never bloated. This ambitious project, 10 years in the making, is not to be missed, but also raises the stakes even higher for when the Avengers assemble again in 2019.

Film Review: “War Dogs”

Starring: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller and Bradley Cooper
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour 59 mins
Warner Bros

Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

Who wants a little excitement in their lives? In 2005 the answer to that question was Efraim Deveroli (Hill) and David Packouz (Teller), former high school pals who reunite while attending a friend’s funeral. Via voiceover we learn that our government spends an average of $17,500 per soldier when outfitting them for war. War is recession proof. There are a lot of crazy gun nuts out there, but none as crazy as the U.S. Government. Someone needs to provide them…why not Efraim and David? Sounds pretty exciting, doesn’t it?

Thanks to some great performances, “War Dogs” rises above similar themed films (for some reason, I kept thinking back to 1983’s “Deal of the Century” as well as 2005’s “Lord of War”). Teller, who is best described as his generation’s John Cusack, gives David a sense of morality. Tired of giving massages to rich people on South Beach, he jumps at the chance to go into business with Efraim. And by the time he finds out HOW the business works, he’s made enough money to convince him that the chances he takes are worth it. On the other side of the spectrum is Hill, who has gone from comedy fanboy to multi-Oscar nominated actor. His performance here is strong, going from humorous to dramatic and back without seemingly breaking a sweat.

The supporting characters, including Bradley Cooper as an infamous gun runner and Ana de Armas as David’s love interest, also make the film enjoyable. Based on a true story, the action keeps the film flowing smoothly without becoming preachy. As one of the last films of the summer season, “War Dogs” is definitely one to watch before you end your summer vacation.