And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: Extraction

It appears quite likely that battered and bloody mercenary-with-a-conscience Tyler Rake will live to see another day, and facilitate another extraction, amidst a barrage of gunfire, RPGs, exploding helicopters and myriad villains. If you’ve already watched Extraction, fast becoming Netflix’s most-watched feature film ever, then it’s possible you weren’t quite sure if the epilogue was designed to leave the door open for Rake’s return. Ka-ching. Wonder no more. Screenwriter Joe Russo has already agreed to pen another installment of the action thriller based on the 2014 graphic novel “Ciudad” by Ande Parks. But let’s be real. I didn’t watch Extraction for Russo or director Sam Hargrave’s footprint (embossed on several Avengers movies). I watched it for Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Rush). The Aussie doesn’t disappoint, even if the film itself does come off as a John Wick wanna-be. With John Wick: Chapter Four pushed way back to a post-pandemic (hopefully) May 2022 release date, Extraction serves as a serviceable placeholder.

Review: Men In Black: International

Does Men In Black: International break new ground? No, not really. Does it need to? Would have been nice; but no, not really. It’s good enough to serve as an amusing diversion at the start of the summer movie season, and sustain the sci-fi adventure comedy franchise that kicked off with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones back in 1997. It’s a popcorn movie. Over-think it, and you may be disappointed. Embrace it for what it is, and you’ll have a good time watching a new crop of super-secret agents tasked with protecting Earth from the scum of the universe. The plot is a tad superficial and the globe-trotting a bit excessive and unnecessary (except for lending credence to the subtitle), but a solid cast helps keep it afloat.

Spoiler-Free Review: Avengers: Endgame

And so it ends… in a suitably epic and satisfying way. Avengers: Endgame is a superhero chick flick – part drama, part action, part tearjerker. It’s also part comedy, in that witty yet poignant style that has come to define the Avengers whenever they are called upon to assemble. Three hours of non-stop efforts to turn back the hands of time without sacrificing the future. Avengers: Endgame is a gift to the Marvel Cinematic Universe fanbase that has seen most if not all of the 20+ movies that began with the debut of Iron Man in 2008. If you don’t care for Marvel movies to begin with, then move along; Endgame is not for you. If you are a fan, and haven’t been able to get the image of superheroes turned to dust out of your head since the final scenes of Avengers: Infinity War in 2018, then it doesn’t matter what I write, or say, about Endgame. You have to go. Sooner rather than later to avoid any spoilers or buzzkill.

Spoiler-Free Review: Avengers: Infinity War

I don’t know what to say. Really. There’s little to say, without giving too much away. So here’s the spoiler-free gist: The Avengers – and their superhero allies from across the Marvel Cinematic Universe – engage in what may be their deadliest showdown of all time. Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Spider-man, Captain America, Black Panther, Dr. Strange, and others too, join forces with the Guardians of the Galaxy (Star-Lord, Gemora, Groot, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, etc.) to defeat a mighty alien named Thanos who aims to eliminate half the universe. Thanos’s misguided plan for population control rests on his ability to collect all six brightly-colored “Infinity Stones” that can manipulate elements of time, space, reality, power, the mind, and the soul. If Thanos (Josh Brolin) succeeds – all hell breaks loose, and a lot of people die. In other words, the stakes are higher than high for this epic action adventure sci-fi fantasy flick.

Avengers, assemble! And bring reinforcements! Victory is not guaranteed.

Review: 12 Strong

It’s Thor! As a soldier! On a horse! That got my attention. And it helped hold my attention while 12 Strong delivered some fairly standard war drama stuff. It’s a middle of the road war movie with a western vibe that draws its strength from the fact that it’s based on a wild declassified true story revealed in the 2009 book, “Horse Soldiers” by Doug Stanton.

(Spoiler-free) Review: Thor: Ragnarok

What exactly is Ragnarok? I’m not quite sure and I don’t really care. What I do know is this: Thor: Ragnarok is a very funny superhero action-adventure sci-fi fantasy movie that zips to the top of my list of ‘guilty pleasure’ popcorn movies for 2017. Is it ‘THE BEST MARVEL MOVIE EVER!’ as some have proclaimed? No. But it is one of the most entertaining, as long as you’re familiar – to some degree – with the Marvel universe (i.e. the Avengers, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Doctor Strange, etc.) and have a solid appreciation for the tongue-in-cheek tone of a Deadpool or Guardians of the Galaxy. The more Marvel movies you’ve seen, the more you’ll get out of Ragnarok. It’s packed with hidden gems, celebrity cameos, sly innuendos, inside jokes and character development that builds off relationships established in earlier films featuring the various Avengers working solo or as a team. No spoilers. Just the gist:

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters is an okay reboot of a comedy classic. It has funny moments, but falls far short of hilarious – and that would have been the case regardless of the gender of the leads. The dominance of estrogen over testosterone in this “Ghostbusters for a new generation” has everything to do with what makes the movie entertaining, and nothing to do with what makes the narrative fall flat. These talented ladies deserved better material from director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), but that said, they make the most of what they got.

In the Heart of the Sea

They should have had a bigger boat.

In the Heart of the Sea is sort of like The Perfect Storm meets Jaws – in the year 1820. It’s an epic ‘big fish’ tale with a title nearly as long as the tail of the whale that inspired Herman Melville’s literary classic, “Moby-Dick” (which I have yet to read). The best thing the movie has going for it is Chris Hemsworth (Thor). If not for him, I would likely have skipped this cinematic voyage altogether, despite its being helmed by one of my favorite directors, Ron Howard. The pair worked together on the excellent, under-appreciated 2013 movie Rush, in which Hemsworth proved that he’s got a lot more to offer than Nordic-god good looks and proficiency with a hammer. Turns out, he’s quite handy with a harpoon too!

Vacation

Judging from the trailer, and fond memories of the 1983 comedy-adventure classic National Lampoon’s Vacation, one might logically surmise that the new Vacation movie is a must-see for first-generation Griswold family followers and their offspring. But one would be very, very wrong. This movie tanks, in a horrifically comical way.

I laughed – a bit. I groaned – a lot. I checked my watch – often.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Fans of the Avengers – assemble! My guess is they’re already packing the midnight showings and putting this superhero superflick in prime position to knock those Fast and Furious folks from the top of the Box Office. And rightly so. Avengers: Age of Ultron delivers the goods. It’s not as good as the first one, but it serves the purpose of advancing the Marvel mythology and providing pure escapist entertainment by bringing together, once again, the world’s mightiest heroes, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Eye candy, sarcasm, action. What’s not to like?