Forgotten FilmCast: The Brotherhood of Satan

Brotherhood Podcasthttps://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/forgottenfilmcast

https://podomatic.com/embed/html5/podcast/3372062?autoplay=false

 

Todd invited me to be a guest on his show again, and we picked a film that let me get in another post for the Strother Martin Film Project.

Stop by and listen for an hour of Satanic horror.

 

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Solo: A Star Wars Story

So, thirty-five years ago tonight, my best friend and I sat on Hollywood Blvd. for more than sixteen hours, waiting in line to get a ticket to Return of the Jedi. A frat guy from UCLA was holding a place for his fraternity brothers and they all crashed the line a couple of hours before the midnight screening, almost starting a small riot. Our wives met us after work and joined us in line so they had been there for six hours, and they were not happy either. We got bumped from the first show and ended up near the front of the line for the 3 am show. That’s right, 3 am. After it let out, Art and Kathy wisely went home, Dee and I went around to the front of the theater, got in line again, and went to the 6 am show. We later met Art and Kathy about 2 pm for a show in West Covina. So Three times on opening day, what a bunch of geeks. The world today is soooo different. Pre-opening ticket sales, reserved seats, a screening well before midnight, where did all the stupid fun go?

Tonight we left the house after ten, there was no line up for our showing of “Solo” because we were in a theater with reserved seats, and the suburban crowd was not as raucous as the crowd at the Egyptian 35 years ago. This time I was joined by my wife and my daughter who will turn 30 next month, yikes I am old. I’m not too old however to not enjoy a “Star Wars” film, which I definitely did. “Solo” is a controversial film because of the production disruption, the casting rumors and for some fans, a fatigue around the development of films in this franchise. Forget all of that, taken on it’s own, “Solo” is a solid space action film with a central character that we already know about and some side characters that will make the story even more rewarding.

My two major criticisms of the film are easy to knock off at the start. The set up of the character Han and his relationship with Qi’ra is rushed and a bit murky. We are dropped into an action sequence before we have much opportunity to figure out the lay of the land. It is ultimately fine but I don’t think it sets up their relationship as well as it needs to be. That’s because there is a case sequence and series of action scenes that are visually strong but don’t let their characters play off of each other enough to quite pull us into the relationship as much as is needed. The connection between Han and the band of criminals he ends up running with is developed a lot more effectively later on, and the movie gets that the character and not the action should be driving the story. The second weakness I i felt concerns the music. Without the ear friendly themes of John Williams, the music simply fills in spots rather than heightening them. It’s only when a well known motif shows up that the score comes alive. I have loved scores by John Powell before, but this just misses being the ear candy that I crave in these movies.

OK, now for the good stuff. This is a caper film with two elaborate heists driving the story. There is a lot of creativity that was put into the visuals in the film, to make those stories interesting. Traditionally, you would have a planning sequence in a heist film and the audience would be let in on the agenda. That way when things go wrong, we will be reacting to the shifts and bumps with the characters. Here the first plan is just laid out quickly to give some context but we are immediately plunged into the action and that is the locomotive for the plot at this point. This is a train heist with a myriad of complications including a rival band of pirates that attempt to steal from the thieves. The action on a freight train in a hostile world in space was elaborate, visually inventive and it allowed for some character development as well. This was the kind of thing that was necessary but missing in the opening section.

The introduction of iconic characters is the strongest element in the film. Han and Chewbacca get connected in a very appropriate manner and one that sets up a relationship that we will see play out over the original films very effectively. There is some great humor in their sequence and the by play that develops between these characters is almost immediately natural. The one character that everyone will be talking about is Lando Calrissian. Donald Glover sparks the scenes he is in in just the same way that Billy Dee Williams did in the two films from the early 80s. He is debonair and clever, but not always as clever as he thinks he is. Some might call his interactions with Han “fan service” but it is exactly the kind of story seed set up almost 40 years ago that we want to see come to fruition, and it is glorious.

There are some other characters introduced into the story that that make this film a bit more unique. The aforementioned Qi’ra is both a love interest and a potential femme fatale. Dryden Vos is the Jabba like villain who is in the threatening background of the story until the climax when he is much more at the center. Paul Bettany does not get to do much more than wear some scars until the end of the film. Woody Harrelson’s Becket is a cipher. Maybe some good in him, certainly some scoundrel, but not the light hearted scoundrel that is out title character. I especially liked the vocal performance of Phobe Waller-Bridge as the droid L3. Her tone matches the quirky and combative nature of this crew member of the team. The relationship L3 has with Lando is both touching and farcical. Along with K-2SO in “Rogue One” and R2D2 with C3PO in the other stories, it seems like the richest characters in this universe may be the droids.

 

There was a lot of speculation and rumor about Alden Ehrenreich in the lead role. In some quarters it was suggested that the movie was doomed because of his performance and that maybe the two directors who left the project had not done enough to get a solid performance out of him. I don’t know what went on before Ron Howard came on the project, but Ehrenreich is great. He looks the part and he can carry off the attitude in a lot of the scenes where he is called on to be both naive and a bit too clever for his own good. That he can hold himself against the charisma of Glover’s Lando is enough to tell you he is solid in the part.

Haters are going to be disappointed because this is not the failure that was predicted. This is an entertaining picture, set in the Star Wars universe, and it meets it’s objectives. The characters we want are set up for more adventures and they have the personality to succeed. There are subplots that suggest connections to the larger story but they do not dominate the film. Finally, there is a clear atmosphere of fun that is a lot closer to the original film than we have had in any of the contemporary Star Wars movies. Box office watchers will speculate all they like, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” succeeds as a movie, whether or not it outpaces, lags behind or matches any other Star Wars films or expectations.

Deadpool 2

Two years ago, the character of Deadpool was revived from a disastrous turn as a secondary character in a largely reviled X-Men movie. The character in that film was the mercenary named Wade Wilson, and the actor playing him was Ryan Reynolds, but in the most misbegotten script tuning imaginable, the character had his mouth removed permanently. Is there any way you can imagine Deadpool from two years ago and the one in this movie without the mouth that roars: sarcasm, cynicism non-sequesters and insults? It’s enough to stage a revolt, which is apparently how Ryan Reynolds managed to wrangle the character back into his hands and become the embodiment of this non-X-men mutant.

Deadpool” (2016) had so much going for it and it was so fresh, it was inevitable that there would be a sequel.  What is not inevitable is that it would work a second time. The original director was not attached, we’ve had a series of very successful “Avengers” films filling the void for the last two years, and the surprise of the filthy language, gross visualizations and overall snarkiness is going to be gone. Well never fear my friends, the people who are responsible for this property know what they are doing and they understand the treasure they have in Reynolds. They were very careful not to blow it while at the same time not trying to repeat the whole movie as a simple cash grab. Look there is nothing very deep in the film, it is not creating a universe that we will be seriously invested in, rather it is creating an alternate Marvel Universe, one that is closer to “Thor Ragnarok” than an X-Men movie.

Let me explain how this movie won me over in the very first few minutes. Anyone who has been on this site before will have discovered that I am a James Bond fan. Hell, I’m even an apologist for some of the worst 007 films. I thought I’d seen the perfect parody of the Bond signature title sequence in the comedy film “Spy Hard“. It turns out I was wrong. Nothing against Weird Al, but the title sequence from “Deadpool 2” has taken every trope used in the Daniel Craig Bond films and turned them into a perfect visual parody. The song is an Adele knock off that lacks the silliness of Weird Al, but fits the CGI  heavy synchronized graphics of recent Bond films more accurately than the Leslie Nielson joke film. It was a joy to watch and it matched the brilliance of the titles from the first “Deadpool”.

After the opening, we settle in for a story of redemption, hardly the thing that you would expect from this film series. Deadpool 2’s time altered opening sequence, like the first film, starts us a quarter of the way into the story, then takes us back to the beginning, and climaxes with the events we saw in the opening. OK, so they copied the exact device they used in the first film, but they did make it work anyway. Along the way we are reacquainted with some of the characters from the original film, but a new timeline is introduced as well. This second set of events brings the main story  plot into focus. A futuristic soldier comes back in time to stop a series of events from his time period. Look, if you are going to rip off another story, you might as well go big and do “Terminator“. Of course the movie not only acknowledges that it is doing so, it has a lot of fun along the way mocking itself for doing so.

In my review of the first “Deadpool” I suggested that it was not outright parody. I withdraw that statement. This movie is so full of pop culture references and self aware criticisms, that it is a little difficult to take any of it seriously. So don’t. Instead, you should luxuriate in the mocking of all comic book movies, regardless of what Cinematic Universe they occupy. I was on a podcast recently where one of the guests suggested that the offensive language in “Midnight Run” might have been done for shock and laughs but that it does not have the same appeal to someone at forty, that it might have had for someone at fifteen.  That may be true, and if you hate the use of the F@#k bomb and the potty mouth antics of smart ass hipsters, then you will be less enamored of this movie. It has enough references to body parts, sex acts and other taboo topics, to fill a couple of Guy Richie films. It also has some great fight choreography that is acknowledged as being ridiculous while at the same time being entertaining. This movie is not just a parody, it is a paradox. It undermines it’s very premises while still managing to tell a story that in the end was worth telling.

As is my policy, I have not given away any spoilers, so you are safe to read on. There are several post credit moments that will take you out of the film that you just saw and put you into several other perspectives. You should enjoy them. Along with the title sequence, the end credits serve as the rye bread to the film’s sloppy Reuben sandwich. You get the spiced meat, served with sauerkraut plot points and a sweet thousand island dressing that every word from Deadpool himself represents. I don’t know if it is a great movie, but I do know it was a great meal.Just sit down and eat it, don’t worry about counting the calories. That would be like trying to keep track of all the people killed in the story, a distraction and nearly impossible.

The Assassin’s Code

David Armstrong is a director who cut his teeth on dozens of projects but is best known as the cinematographer on the “Saw” series. He has one previous feature film to his credit, the crime thriller “Pawn” which looks like it has a very impressive cast. “The Assassin’s Code” is also a low budget crime thriller and Mr. Armstrong knows how to get as much out of a budget as is possible. The production value on this film is impressive, given that the shoot was only twenty days and it all takes place in Cleveland. Without showing Jacob’s Field or The Rock and Roll Hall of fame, the director has managed to make this mid-western crime thriller feel like it really is a part of the city. There are clever uses of some b-roll of the city streets, a nice drone shot to open the film, (big surprise it is a shot swooping in over water and focusing on the down town area.), and some very nice locations that can pass for city hall offices, concert halls and local mansions.

Michael Connolly is  young detective, eager to make his own mark and overcome the disgraced reputation of his police officer father, a man killed in what looks like a drug deal he was involved in. Connolly is married to a concert cellist, who wants to help him live and earn the respect of others, but he shuts her out when he feels it is necessary, which puts a strain on their relationship. Michael gets his chance to make a good impression as a detective when the man tasked with following leads on a theft of department drug evidence, disappears. The themes of the movie concern living up to expectations and living by a code of conduct that many others will not understand. Like most cops in movies, Connolly, played by Justin Chatwin, is his own worst enemy. He rubs all the other cops the wrong way, in part because of his family legacy, but also because he is the mouthy sort of wise-ass he has probably seen in a thousand cop movies and TV shows. None of his colleagues want him working with them, and he makes it clear that he has very little regard for their abilities.

Chatwin is young, photogenic and can carry a scene when he needs to. He does sometimes over play the intensity moments but he is truly excellent when tossing off a insult under his breath or as he is walking away from a tormentor or a suspect. There are three other standout performances in the film that help balance out some inconsistency from out lead character. Rich Grosso plays a mid-level mafioso in the Cleveland Crime syndicate. Carmen Puccinaldi owns a Tropical fish store that serves as a front for various criminal activities.  Grosso as Puccinaldi has a several nice scenes in a bar, meeting with criminals who owe him money or who work at his direction. Armstrong gets the most out of the tropical fish store as a backdrop to two murders, done in the store, by the light from the tanks. The blue illumination makes the killing feel otherworldly in just about the most mundane spot you can imagine. Grosso’s smile and delivery of the line explaining the plastic sheeting on the ground is just right to carry the moment. Later he has two scenes on a park bench and some very funny lines, including the facetious question, “Why ruin this body with muscles?” He is not a comic character but he does have many of the grim punchlines in the movie.

Radio personality/actor Mark Thompson, from the Mark and Brian Show and the Mark and Lynda Podcast, gets to sink his acting teeth into a very meaty role. Armstrong was the Cinematographer on Thompson’s self penned starring project “2:13”. Armstrong cast him on the basis of the friendship they formed there and it pays off in this film. Thompson plays Chatwin’s Captain, an old friend of his fathers and part of the police legacy that Michael Connolly is trying to live up to.  Thompson is a traditional authority figure as Captain Jack O’Brien. In a scene in a bar, the young cop and the somewhat mechanical Captain, review progress of the case but also discuss the past. Thompson has a nice way of speaking in an ingratiating manner to the youngster. His best scene however is played out against the seeming mastermind of criminal activity in Cleveland, a local philanthropist with ties to politicians and other cops. Two tough guys engaging in a pissing contest is not a new element of a crime drama, but it needs to be executed well. Thompson plays off of veteran character actor Robin Thomas perfectly. He silently gets in the last word while dusting off the other mans shoulder, as if he is removing a chip there instead of a bit of dog hair.

The third excellent performance belongs to well known movie tough guy Peter Stormare. He plays a hulking menace of an enforcer for the mob. As the assassin of the title, he is cruel and efficient and does not make any mistakes. His mysterious Kurt Schlychter is a one man tornado of death. Dissipating big wigs and minions with equal calm, the character is a part that Stormare could play in his sleep, except he gets one great scene that makes the movie feel very different. In much the way Robert Shaw’s monologue in “Jaws” dominates that movie without any action or histrionics, Stormare gets a similar chance. His character crashes a solo rehearsal of Connolly’s wife in a small concert hall we’d seen earlier. At first we expect his presence to menace her or end in her death as a way of fueling the detectives fire. Instead, we get a great character moment as the assassin tells a tale about his grandfather in Germany and  Mrs. Connolly plays some Bach on her cello. Director Armstrong uses the classical music cue to switch the tone of the encounter and the circling camera work makes this moment much more cinematic than some of the flatter interactions we have seen between other characters. The killer reveals that he too has a legacy to live up to. It is not any prettier than that of the detective but it does make a cardboard character into a real human being for the remainder of the film.

Edward Lee Cornett based the script on stories he heard while growing up in his Cleveland neighborhood . Together with script supervisor turned screenwriter Valerie Grant, they create a story that contains well worn tropes of police corruption. The innocent young cop is in over his head, both with the criminals he is chasing, and the unseen police corruption that is his biggest threat. The story is repetitive at times, featuring as it does the assassination of one character after another as Connolly gets closer to the truth. Each death does seem a little different because while all but one person is shot, they are all shown differently. A shot to the face at point blank range, execution style in the back of the head in a car, and simple flashes of light in a window, each gives Armstrong a chance to make his low budget film into something a bit more special.

Video game composer Austin Wintory creates a standard thriller soundtrack, but does add several moments that turn the film into a more modern noir rather than an 80s crime show. He borrows heavily from two great post modern noir films; “Chinatown” and “L.A. Confidential”. The influence of Jerry Goldsmith (my favorite film composer) is obvious. There is just enough personality in the score to set a mood but not so many themes that the film becomes a cliche.

“The Assassin’s Code” will not be on anybody’s top ten list at the end of the year, but it could be if that list is made up of undersized movies that shake off their budgets and manage to work because of the film makers skill. “Assassin’s Code ” makes a well worn story succeed though good performances by the supporting cast, a solid score that makes the film bigger than it really is, and an excellent use of location to add production value. It is playing in a few theaters but it will be easier to catch streaming at :

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-assassins-code/id1357902739

The Experience

I saw “The Assassin’s Code” at a private screening at Harmony Gold on Sunset Blvd. last night. I have been a long time fan of Mark Thompson as a radio host and podcaster, so I sprang for tickets when they had their premier screening her in the L.A. Area.

The theater is the location of the old “Preview House”, where I went a couple of times as an audience member for advertising analysis. We were usually shown a TV episode for an unsold pilot, but the real purpose was to test ads that were run during commercial breaks. The theater no longer has the handsets that allowed the audience members to record their feelings as the film clips screened, but the configuration is still the same, I think it has been slightly refurbished.

We got to the theater when we were advised to and there was already a line up the block.

 

My wife has some mobility issues and the event organizers and staff at the Harmony Gold could not have been nicer. They let us in through the back so we could avoid having to climb a set of stairs and she was able to be seated without being in anyone’s way as people were checking in. We chose some seats off to stage left (right from the audience’s point of view) so people would not have to walk awkwardly across her every time they got out of their seats. On the way down the hallway, we walked  right by David Armstrong, who greeted us with a very friendly hello as he passed us.

There were several lighted poster marquees and they had the version of the poster that featured Mark looking over Justin Chatwin’s shoulder.

After the show there was a beer and wine reception, and everyone was getting a wristband so they could be served later. A backdrop was at one end of the lobby and people were posing for pictures and being interviewed for a video production.

It did take a while for everyone to get checked in and be seated, and there were several rows reserved for the cast and crew of the film who were in attendance last night.

The director greeted us before the movie began and he introduced Mark Thompson who thanked everyone for coming out to support the film. They reminded everyone that there would be a presentation after the film and David Armstrong introduced several cast members and key personnel from the film.

After the movie, most of the cast, and the director, co-producer and screenwriters came up on stage to share a little of their experience. Mark conducted the interviews like he must have done a thousand times in his radio days. He had a little bit of research, a couple of questions and a fun attitude with a willingness to tell his own stories along the way.

Rich Grosso, Edward Lee Cornett, Elizabeth Anweis, William Baker, Mark Thompson, David Armstrong, Justin Chatwin, Yancy Butler, Robin Thomas, and Valerie Grant

Mark made an effort to have questions for each of the guests and he told his own stories as well. If he could embarrass someone he was happy to do so. Elizabeth Anweis seemed the most reticent to share so of course she became a target for Mark’s sarcasm. Toward the end there were a few questions, but most of those who spoke up really wanted to offer their assessment of the film or to thank everybody for making the event so much fun for them. Me, I stayed quiet and thus avoided Mark’s scorn.

We are not drinkers and Mother’s Day plans were set for the morning, so we left after the Q and A, and missed getting a picture with any of the cast or Mark’s family, although his Daughter in law Eleni and I did trip over each other as I escorted my wife to the elevator. Sorry Eleni, Hope you don’t bruise easy.

Tully

I really liked the Jason Reitman directed film “Juno” from a decade ago. The main reason it was so great was the script by Diablo Cody. Well here they are together again and they have come up with something different. It has many of the same qualities of their award winning earlier collaboration, but there are some left turns in the story that make it a completely different animal. In the long run, it is the kind of animal that you watch from a distance and admire, rather than a puppy or kitten that you take up in your arms and embrace whole heartedly.

Charlize Theron is a strong performer. She has immense talent, but sometimes it seems that she only gets credit for that talent when she is willing to deny her other great attribute, her beauty. In this film, the story tellers go a long way to make the character of  Marlo seem average. She appears at first as an extremely pregnant woman, who’s distended belly can’t be contained in her clothes. Theron manages to have a weary expression on her face through most of the encounters she has. Even when giving birth,she looks more like she needs a nap than pain killers. After she has given birth, the everyday drudgery of caring for three high maintenance children and her loving but detached husband, starts to get to her.

Marlo has a brother who loves her, and has been very successful. His family is equally large but so much different as to be painful. The humor in the story comes from characters and their mannerisms more than any situation, and her brother Craig and his wife Elyse are definitely characters. It is hard enough putting up with strangers who judge you because there are traces of caffeine in your coffee when you are pregnant, but when your own family seems to engage in subtle social comparison, it has to hurt. It is Craig who introduces the idea of a “night” nanny to help out. The suggestion seems ludicrous when coming from the pretentious and self righteous brother, but it is an idea that takes hold when Marlo’s last good nerve is plucked one too many times.

Mackenzie Davis shows up as the title character and begins to have an influence on the world that Marlo inhabits. There is an on-going visual metaphor in the story that should give some expectation that something deeper is happening, but frankly I was not expecting a couple of the twists that arrive, and that is what makes this movie so interesting. The snarky humor and ironic posture of the story is enough to make it work. I though that the television show that Marlo occupies her sleepless nights with was an invention of the story. It turns out that it is a real thing, which makes the humor that comes from Marlo describing it to Tully, all the more clever. There are a couple of sequences that seem strangely voyeuristic, put turn out to be something completely different when we get the whole picture.

I liked the movie pretty well, but there are things about it that may have you scratching your head afterwards. I don’t really feel that I can discuss those without giving away spoilers, and unfortunately, those are some of the most interesting ideas in the film. Regardless of the surprises, the dialogue, and settings will be familiar to most parents and they will nod appreciatively or in embarrassment at the things they may see in themselves. “Tully” is the kind of adult film that has the potential to be embraced by critics and audiences, but the awkward humor and occasionally unpleasant reality of everyday life, may make it a little hard for general audiences to take it to heart. I hope they do, because it is thought provoking and very funny.

Avengers: Infinity War

This is over a week late and probably unnecessary. It looks like everyone will have seen this movie by the time anyone gets around to reading my comments, but for what it’s worth, I want to be part of the conversation. I spent the last few days trying to catch up on my coverage of the TCM Film Festival, which was also delayed. The reason everything is running late is that I went to a late night screening of “Infinity War” during the Festival and my old butt has been dragging ever since. The advantage of waiting however has been that I got a chance to see it a second time this weekend and there are some more insights I can add as a result.

My impression of the film originally was very positive, but I did not think it would rank near the top of my list of MCU films. The second viewing may change that because it is a better experience than I originally thought. This was a complicated story to put together. There are three or four parallel story lines at any time and each of them involve characters from different MCU films being fitted together. Connecting Iron Man  with Dr. Strange may not be that hard but getting Spider-Man in there and then layering on part of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” is quite an effort. Meanwhile, Thor is in two sequences separate from most of the other cast but he gets connected with the Guardians as well and does end up in Wakanda as part of the story.

The Avengers are split up after the events of “Civil War”, but they still have common enemies that they must face down. This is the story that brings them all together, and frankly, it is not an Avengers film per se. This is the story of Thanos, the mad Titan who has a plan to restore balance to the universe. Criticism of MCU villains extends back to the first Iron Man film. No one will be criticizing this movie for villain characterization or story. This movie does show Thanos as an enemy, but much like Kilmonger in “Black Panther”,  you can understand and even sympathize with  Thanos and his quest. From his perspective, it is not power or rule that he seeks. Those are simply by-products of the task he has set himself. His iron will is to balance the universe and preserve its’ resources and create a paradise. This is also the goal of many environmentalists here on this planet.

While he does have a tendency to lecture and monologue as he carries out his plans, it is done in the context of his story. The Dark Children who follow him and carry out the destruction of civilizations around the galaxy, also have a herald who proclaims their task and laments the sacrifice that those who are destroyed are making. Thanos is a Malthusian on a galactic order. He is Paul Erlich with infinite power. It turns out that Thanos does also have a heart. We may not have expected it, but after this film, his character will be seen less as a monster and rather a tragic force of nature who is willing to break his own heart in order to reach his goal. There are three or four times in the story where another character gives in to him in order to save someone who matters to them. Thanos does not do that when he is faced with the same choice. He makes the sacrifice and we get to see what it does to him.

Josh Brolin may be acting using motion capture and most of the visual element is computer generated, but he still injects the character with facial expressions that are powerful, rueful and ultimately very compelling. He has a great voice and it is used to full effect in this film. Thanos has several scenes with his adopted daughter Gamora, both in the present and the past. It is the success of those scenes that makes his character a tragic villain rather than merely a cartoon evil monster.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor gets the other great meaty part in the film. Having lost so much, Thor finds a way to go on, and his rationalization of how his life story is playing out hives us all a little hope. Interestingly, he is teamed with the most cynical character from the MCU for most of the film. They create an interesting balance between the two of them. When Thor appears at the end of the film, there is hope that Thanos will fail for just a moment. Let’s face it however, if you have control of all the Infinity stones, it is going to take something more clever than brute strength and rage to defeat.

As you probably have been lead to expect, there are a number of deaths of super heroes in the story. Some will come as surprises, others may be expected, but the core group of heroes will be back for part two. I suspect there are a large number of seeming deaths that can be reversed in the world of comic book story telling, but some of these deaths seem definitive. You should know that there will be more before this story is completed.

Despite the generally serious tone of the outcome of each sequence, there are moments of pleasure and humor that you will savor for months to come. Spider-man’s use of pop culture to solve a problem is great. Bucky and Rocket, battling together in Wakanda may be my favorite shot in the film. It makes me laugh just remembering it. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man trading insults and comparing egos with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Stange is also entertaining as hell. Drax and Mantis are amusing in most of their scenes and Chris Pratt continues to show why he should be a movie star. He can play light on his feet and deliver an emotional performance in back to back moments. The Hulk is a surprising source of laughs as well. Even though the tone of the film changes frequently, it still feels as balanced as the universe Thanos wants to create.

As a side note to finish this off, one of the great things about living in Southern California and going to a screening in Hollywood, is that the talent some times drops by. Our screening at the Cinerama Dome was introduced by one half of the directing team of the Russo Brothers, Joe Russo. He was joined by MCU mastermind and producer Kevin Feige. Just a bonus.