AVENGERS ENDGAME opens this week and the big question is whether the film will gross the $1 billion mark worldwide. THE PUBLIC and DIANE are also opening.
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AVENGERS: ENDGAME (USA 2019) ***1/2
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo
Prior to the press screening of the new blockbuster most anticipated film so far for 2019, AVENGERS: ENDGAME the Disney official introducing the film made a request that the critics do not spoil the key scenes of the film and to respect the Marvel Universe fans. As it turns out, there are many, may things that could be kept from the fans, even from the very start, on the slightest of details So this critic will try to be as discreet as possible.
The film opens with Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) having a picnic with his family. He is teaching his daughter the bow and arrow while the wife the boys baseball. It is a beautiful idyllic setting. Suddenly, the daughter disappears followed by the rest of the family. It is an excellent beginning that connects the audience to humanity despite the film being based on super heroes. It is soon revealed that half the Universe has been destroyed by the villain Thanos (Josh Brolin), an intergalactic despot from Titan who collected the 6 infinity stones to do the job. This explains the disappearance of Barton’s family. In order to say the destroyed half of the universe, the Angers band together and come up with an elaborate or impossible (but always possible in movies) scheme to reverse the damage done.
Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) suggests travelling through time in a quantum time machine to undo the deed. The concept involves immense risk, which means it can be done in a movie. Directors Joe an Anthony Russo slowly but surely introduces the other Marvel super action hero Avengers. Iron man (Robert Downy Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans looking super dashing) are the two action heroes given the most attention and they are shown at loggerheads in terms of ideas. Iron Man, the leader and benefactor of the Avengers is a self-described genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist while Captain America is fugitive superhero and leader of a faction of Avengers. Almost every other marvel hero seen in films in the past decade make their appearances including Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), the Hulk (ark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth who is simply hilarious as the overweight drunk), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a host of others in minor parts like Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Vision (Paul Bethany), Falcom (Anthony Mackie) and others way too many to mention.
The action sequences are more than aptly executed with the directors playing it smart to play up the human parts of the story. There are moments that will bring audiences to shed a tear or two. The logistics of assembling all the Marvel superhero stars together in one film is to be highly commended. The logic of the story does to always make sense. For example the logic of time travel is difficult to follow and the Infinity Stones also do not make much sense in the flow of things. But these are fantasy elements that should be present in futuristic action films.
Marvel and Disney make good again in their latest action superhero outing compared to Warner Brothers who seem to make one blunder after another. Everyone at the press screening stayed to the end of the closing credits (lasting a full 15 minutes or so) hoping to see some surprise. Is there one? Sorry, no spoilers even for this point. Stay to the very end to find out.
DIANE (USA 2018) ***
Directed by Kent Jones
DIANE is an aptly made film about a caring individual who works herself to sleep many a day for trying too hard. Diane not only helps out in the soup kitchen but aids others in bringing food and comfort. Her one burden is her son, who is an addict, and often dirty and not eating. The film is Diane’s story - as Diane is performed by Mary Kay Place, she giving on of the best performances of her career.
For a film about about sick and depressing people, the film has a sly look at things thus giving the film some humour and a cutting edge. Comedienne Andrea Martin from SCTV provides some laugh-out humour offering her two-cents worth on things while yapping all the way on-stop. She plays a good friend of Diane who always sorts her out when she is down. Diane’s son, Bryan (Jake Lacy) a man-baby still unable to function on his own, is quaint to look at. He is rather good looking but acts like a complete baby.
One of the film’s oddest scenes has Diane counselling Bryan while an odd whirling noise is heard on the soundtrack. “I think I want to give birth to something,” Bryan says. “I think you need help. We have to go through this one more time,” replies Diane.
The trouble with DIANE is that the film appears aimless as Diane moves along in her life. The ending is just sufficiently satisfactory.
Besides Place’s performance, the impressive cast includes Oscar Winner Estelle Parsons (remember her as Gene Hackman’s screaming wife in BONNEY AND CLYDE?), Glynnis O’Connor and Joyce Van Patton from the 70’s.
DIANE is helmed by Kent Jones who has made the documentaries A LETTER TO ELIA and HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT. This new feature has already won three Awards in Tribeca, including Best Narrative Feature and the oecuminal Prize at Locarno 2018.
THE PUBLIC (USA 2017) ***
Directed by Emilio Estevez
THE PUBLIC is Emilio Estevez’s ambitious little movie that tackles a few key social issues while being commercially entertaining. Estevez gives himself the title role as a thankless, sensitive but realistic librarian.
After instilling to the audience the oddness and importance of the librarian in the American society with voiceover over archive black and white footage, the film opens with head librarian of downtown Cincinnati, Stuart Goodson (Estevez) heading to work one very cold morning. He encounters people who greet him on the way and it becomes obvious he is setting himself up as the sympathetic hero of the piece. He meets an old lady who accuses Jews of meaningless deeds, while the homeless wait for the library to open so that they can wash up in the toilets. He is also realistic as he answers back rationally to a female librarian under him who accuses him of leaving his carbon footprint behind. It is obvious he likes her though she appears a bit too radical for him.. All these incidents are the prologue to a lawsuit undertaken by a public prosecutor (Christian Slater), again a too obvious villain of the piece. The prosecutor is also running for the office for mayor. It is seldom one gets to see Slater snarling and growling as a villain.
One quarter through the film, a new character, a police negotiator (Alec Baldwin) whose son is missing because of a drug addiction problem is introduced into the story.
One feels that Estevez is too manipulative in his sardonic humour and tackling of too many issues - from the homeless to mental health to the city’s opiate addiction to the environment and yes, politics. “Try not to kill any of my friends,” says the female librarian to the cops at one point.
The film opens a few insightful possibilities. Do the homeless protect and look after other homeless? The film seems to think so. Estevez takes the notion one step further when they take down the library after a cold Arctic blast hits the city resulting in -10C.
To Estevez’s credit, a few bits of his script are quite good. His film also propagates the main worthy cause of the homeless, despite looking too ambitious. The film has a twist in the story despite an Hollywood happy ending.
Estevez and Slater are both good but it is Baldwin who steals the show, showing he can play serious as well as comedy (Saturday Night Live’s Donald Trump).
The film was shot in the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. The story was inspired and a little glamourized by the moving 2007 essay “Written Off” by Chip Ward, a now-retired assistant director of the Salt Lake City Public Library System.
This is a film that presents problems with no solutions leaving it somewhat disappointing. One might argue however, that these problems can never be solved, but Estevez should provide some ray of hope. THE PUBLIC is a not half bad mix comedy/drama relevant social issues that seems too obvious in pleasing the audience.