This Avengers: Endgame review will be as spoiler-free as humanly possible. That said, the marketing department for Endgame has done a great job keeping things secret, which makes nearly anything one has to say about the film a potential spoiler. You’ve been warned.
“Part of the journey is the end.” So says Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame, the epic culmination of every Marvel Cinematic Universe entry that’s come before. Do his words ring hollow? Can there ever truly be a sense of an ending in a film series we know will continue on for eternity? Endgame provides an answer, and that answer is yes. After a seemingly endless journey, Avengers: Endgame does the impossible: brings closure. This is the end. And at the same time, it’s the beginning. The future is limitless. How refreshing and exciting is that?
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The British-born Gugu Mbatha-Raw has been working so steadily as an actor in both the UK and America that you might not realize just how many things you’ve seen her in over the years, even before her breakout, one-two punch of leading roles in the 2013 period drama Belle and 2014’s music industry love story Beyond the Lights, both of which were directed by women—something that continues to mean a great deal to the actress. In fact, throughout her years in television and film, Mbatha-Raw has always sought out films with strong female characters at the center and/or works helmed by female filmmakers and scripted by female screenwriters.
After parts in such works as Concussion, Free State of Jones and The Wachowskis’ insane Jupiter Ascending, she took on more recent substantial supporting parts in films like A Wrinkle In Time and Miss Sloane, as well as the ensemble cast of Netflix’s The Cloverfield Paradox. Her latest film, Fast Color, was an audience and critical favorite at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival and is finally making it to theaters thanks to the Lionsgate imprint Codeblack Films. Directed by Julia Hart (and co-written by Hart and Jordan Horowitz). The movie focuses on Ruth, who is constantly on the run from those who wish to examine and experiment on her because she has abilities. In order to keep her family (including a young daughter) safe, she left home years ago but finds herself coming back to the family farm when she has no where else to hide. It turns out that her mother (Lorraine Toussaint) and daughter (Saniyya Sidney) also have powers, and the three must figure out how to proceed as the world comes closing in. As it turns out, this family may be the key to helping save a world that is slowly dying around them, if the paranoid folks chasing them don’t destroy these very special women.
/Film spoke with Mbatha-Raw recently to discuss the fundamental differences between Fast Color and every other film about people with special powers, how a pair of kick-ass combat boots helped her find her character, and how working in a Jim Henson-created universe is a bit of dream job for her. Fast Color is in theaters now.
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I was five when my father dragged me to the first installment of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy: The Phantom Menace, in 1999. Five-year-old me had no understanding that Star Wars was a long-established galaxy, that other stories existed, that those stories existed chronologically ahead of this Phantom Menace movie. George Lucas’s Episode I: The Phantom Menace served as a new realm, yet five-year-old me felt that this cosmic world seemed familiar to everyone else around us in the theatre.
The Phantom Menace was a terrifying experience for me. What a bizarre visual concoction that transpired before my five-year-old eyes. My five-year-old brain did not have a conscious criteria of what made a good quality film. Five-year-old me didn’t have the visual literacy of judging the quality of the computer-generated landscapes and characters themselves. Five-year-old me could not follow the story, the mission of the Jedi, and the politics plaguing the proceedings. What five-year-old me did know was that so much moved on the screen.
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Cobra Kai became an instant hit on YouTube Premium because millions of viewers wanted to see where Johnny Lawrence and Daniel Larusso are today. But while watching 10 episodes of Cobra Kai, fans became equally invested in the new generation of high school students training in Karate, especially Miguel, played by Xolo Mariduena.
Johnny really took Miguel under his wing, even more so than his own estranged son Robbie. But training in Cobra Kai make Miguel a little too aggressive and cost him his relationship with Samantha LaRusso. Miguel beat Robbie in the All Valley Karate Tournament, but only be exploiting Robbie’s injury, sort of like the way John Kreese (Martin Kove) told Johnny to sweep the leg.
Mariduena spoke with /Film by phone before the premiere of Cobra Kai’s second season. Season two will introduce new characters, like the returning Kreese and new Cobra Kai student Tori (Peyton List). Cobra Kai season two premieres on April 24 on YouTube Premium.
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Getting a film made is one of the most challenging experiences anyone can go through. From writing the script, to securing the financing, to picking a crew, to casting the film, to finally shooting and editing it, filmmaking requires a huge diversity of technical and creative skills.
But in today’s media-saturated world, it’s arguably just as hard to convince people to care about your small indie film. If you have a tiny movie, how do you get it out there? What strategy do you use? What elements do you prioritize?
I had a chance to chat with writer/director Megan Griffiths about how she approached these problems for her latest film, Sadie, which is out now on home video (Disclosure: I consider Megan a friend, plus I did some behind-the-scenes photos for Sadie.). Check out the video of our interview read a transcript of the conversation. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
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A few weeks back, I sat down with the Joe and Anthony Russo, the brother filmmaker team behind Captain America: Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and the upcoming conclusion to the Infinity Saga, Avengers: Endgame. Unlike the usual Hollywood junket, we were not shown the movie. And the directing duo would not entertain any questions about plot, so this interview is completely spoiler-free.
In my conversation with the Russo Brothers, we discuss Stan Lee‘s final MCU cameo, the movies they watched before making Endgame, the change of tone and point of view, Captain Marvel’s changing look, the challenge to create lasting stakes and impact, the tightrope walk of being honest with the press when it comes to spoilers, and the unprecedented marketing campaign for this film, which somehow avoids revealing any of the major action scenes.
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(Welcome to Road to Endgame, where we revisit the first 22 movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and ask, “How did we get here?” In part one of our two-part look at Captain Marvel: how the movie tries, and fails, to frame memory and perspective.)
Between the two halves of its massive finale — the apocalyptic Avengers: Infinity War and the upcoming Avengers: Endgame — the Marvel Cinematic Universe feels like it’s being stripped for parts.
Ant-Man and the Wasp, a smaller, more intimate entry, did away with the trappings of the Marvel formula, though it failed to supply a working substitute. Its leads no longer provided quip-laden momentum (a task that fell to supporting players independent of the plot), but the lead characters had no internal conflict either, despite pasts that so clearly called for some. The film sidestepped the usual pre-visualized mayhem divorced from story, though its climax might as well have had no stakes at all. And rather than Marvel’s half-hearted expression of meaning — often a character arc culminating in punching harder — the film had no real theme to dramatize.
Captain Marvel, on the other hand, is a swing in the opposite direction, amping up the well-worn Marvel template to the point of inducing whiplash. It’s fun in parts, and it magnifies the series’ strong-suits; though in doing so, it exposes just how low the bar was set to begin with. The film can’t help but magnify the series’ weaknesses too, since they’re often one and the same.
Everything that was missing from Ant-Man and the Wasp comes rushing back, with the studio’s very name stamped across the title, as if to parody the common through-lines of twenty prior films without the self-awareness to do so. And while it’s filled to the brim with metaphor and ostensibly political outlook, the film is both haphazardly assembled, and shackled by the same constraints as fellow military-funded entries Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Only this time, the effects of the film’s mandated propaganda are significantly stronger.
Captain Marvel is a Marvel movie through-and-through, and that’s a problem.
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Movie fans are generally divided when it comes to 2014’s Godzilla, which favored stunning and evocative visuals over traditional action. With the follow-up, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, director Michael Dougherty is looking to please everyone with a movie that evokes the terror and majesty of giant monsters and devotes a great deal of screen time to those monsters stomping the crap out of each other. Watch the final Godzilla: King of the Monsters trailer below.
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Cobra Kai revisited Ralph Macchio’s Daniel LaRusso 35 years after his victory at the All Valley Karate Tournament. His student didn’t win this time, but season two promises to see Daniel reopen Miyagi-Do Karate in Mr. Miyagi’s honor, including training his daughter Samantha.
Cobra Kai became YouTube Premium’s biggest hit and they ordered the second season within a week, after 20 million views. Now the anticipation for season two is even higher than it was for the return of the beloved franchise. Daniel is going to have to face John Kreese (Martin Kove) again, and even relive some forgotten moments from The Karate Kid Part III.
Macchio spoke with /Film by phone out of New York before the premiere of Cobra Kai’s second season. He’d just gotten back from a warm welcome at SXSW and gave us more insights into what challenges still face the original Karate Kid. Season two of Cobra Kai premieres at on April 24 on YouTube Premium.
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Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like this week’s Cloak & Dagger episode, “Rabbit Hold,” was missing something. The problem is I that I don’t know what it could be missing, since it hit all of the same beats a usual Cloak & Dagger episode. But somehow, the heart of the episode was lost. It was as if the episode was going through the motions. Maybe this is what a Cloak & Dagger filler episode feels like.
“Rabbit Hold” did have a purpose, though—it set up a future plotpoint as well as give us a tour of the Darkforce Dimension. But the action, or lack thereof, was boring. Let’s get into why this episode felt a little lackluster.
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