Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony and Joe Russo – 2018) B+

This is a sprawling non-stop action movie that starts the conclusion of the Marvel 10-year -20-movie saga. Needless to say it would be useless to review this as a stand alone movie. It would, especially this one, absolutely make no sense to watch it without the context of the rest of the films. It starts in the middle (or maybe the end) of a battle where Thanos (Josh Brolin doing a great job under all the CGI) and his goons are destroying Thor’s ship (see Thor: Ragnarok) and people. Thanos is trying to get all 6 infinity stones so that he can snap his fingers and destroy half the universe to bring balance to it….well if you do not know what the deal is by now it does not matter. It’s amazing that Marvel got to this point with so many characters that we care about in so many movies. This one moves at a fast pace and ends with quiet a twist that I did not see coming. It was pretty shocking. In a superhero summer blockbuster flick this is a pretty amazing feat.

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The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola – 2017) C+

I saw it a while back and kind of forgot about it. What i remember is the general ambiance of the film. It’s set in a country house (or maybe school) for girls in the south during the civil war. They seem to keep to themselves and are left alone. The girls are managed by the strong Miss Martha played by Nicole Kidman. They do chores, collect mushrooms, cook, pray and generally keep safe. It’s a delicately balanced, if maybe dull, existence in that time of turmoil. The catalyst for change occurs when one of the younger ladies stumbles on an injured Yankee soldier (Colin Farrell) in the woods and brings him to the farmhouse. The film deals with the dynamic disruption to the lives of these ladies. It’s a nicely layered movie that looks great, has a subtle undercurrent of menace and tension throughout and leads to some horrific results.

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig – 2017) A

I loved this movie. It follows Lady Bird’s last year of high school and on her way to college. It’s the story of a the young lady (played so well by Saoirse Ronan) who is smart, can be a smart ass but also feels real and grounded. She is not an adult inhabiting the body of a 17 year old. It’s a rocky senior year for her. Her family is having financial trouble, they literally live on the wrong side of the tracks. Her love life is not great and she is not part of the “cool” group at school. She tries to fix all that she percieves wrong while she is trying to get into a college that is too expensive and that she might not be good enough to get in to. This is also a film about her relationship with her mom who is a hard-working nurse. She obviously loves her daughter but their relationship is not always ideal. Then again, what parent perfectly gets along with their teenager kid? Laurie Metcalf plays the mom and delivers an excellent performance of a parent who can be judgmental but loving, wants the best for her daughter but is not willing to give her some credit too. It’s a film that loves its characters and Gerwig really hits it out of the park. Beyond the characters, it is obvious how much Gerwig loves the city of Sacramento where the film is set. We get many shots of the city reminiscent of how Woody Allen films New York is many of his movies.

The Seventh Continent (Michael Haneke – 1989) B+

Over a three-year period we observe a seemingly ordinary middle-class family as they go about their daily activities, work, school, car wash, dinners with friends. We get the feeling through the many minor issues they have and interactions and long silent sequences that something is off. It is very much off.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Neal McDonagh – 2017) A-

When Mildred perceives that the local cops in the small town of Ebbing are not doing enough to find out who killed her teenage daughter she rents and puts up 3 billboards directed specifically against chief of police, Willoughby. Her actions trigger a series of events and escalations where tempers and prejudices are right under the surface. It does not matter that Willoughby is a good guy doing the best he can. It is scorched earth for Mildred and everyone in her path will pay. In typical McDonagh style the film mixes dark funny tones right before crazy scenes of horrific violence raw honest emotion.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Noah Baumbach – 2017) A-

Adam Sandler really is a very good actor when he wants to be. He usually chooses to make shit movies. In this case he does an excellent job as Danny, the oldest Meyerowitz sibling. He’s a bit down on his luck, has a bad hip and a free-spirited daughter about to go to college. He is not as successful as his brother Matthew (Ben Stiller) who lives in Los Angeles, has a good career as an architect and a good family life. Their sister, Jean (played so amazingly well by Elizabeth Marvel) is demur, soft-spoken and seems stunted somehow. Their father, Harold (Dustin Hoffman), is quiet the character. He’s an old curmudgeon, an opinionated sculptor who holds himself in very high regard. It is an excellent family drama centering around a father who everyone loves even if they don’t like everything about him. When he gets hurt shortly before the opening of a small exhibit to honor him, the siblings are forced to interact more than they had in years. It is a funny movie but it is not a comedy. It can be sad, tough and honest as well. That is a tough balance to strike but Baumbach and his excellent cast make it work.

Black Panther (Ryan Coogler – 2018) B+

Marvel surprises and delights again. This latest installment of the Marvel universe is very good. It’s almost independent of the rest of the movies and set primarily in the fictitious African country of Wakanda although a detour to South Korea is quiet a spectacular set piece. The characters are fun to watch and well-developed. With a mix of James Bond spy thriller, superhero film and fantasy it succeeds in delivering great entertainment. We also get an excellent and memorable villain who we can actually sympathize with. Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger really steals the show in every scene. The film is not short on excellent performances by the likes of Letitia Wright who plays the hero’s sister (and his Q) and Danai Gurira as the awesome warrior Okoye.