Avengers: Endgame

      After Thanos (Josh Brolin) snapped his fingers and eliminated half the universe, Earth fell into despair. With friends and family turned to dust, survivors suffer unimaginable loss. Houses are abandoned, streets desolate, garbage rising to mountains. Despite Captain America’s (Chris Evans) best efforts to keep hope alive, Earth is a dark world, with few sources of hope.

      Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) drifts through space with little hope of rescue. Former Avenger Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) has become a vigilante. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) has taken over leading the surviving Avengers. Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is playing intergalactic superhero, putting out fires all over the universe. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has not taken his failure to stop Thanos well.

     Hope comes in the unlikely form of Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), who returns from the quantum realm with an idea: If they can harness the power of that realm, they can go back in time with a better plan and defeat Thanos.

     It’s time to get the band back together. 

    To tell more would be to spoil it all. So I’ll simply say whatever you’re hoping for, this movie will likely have it.

     The culmination of the main storyline in the Marvel universe, Avengers: Endgame is going to dominate the box office — so much so that no other movie will be released this weekend.

      It’s a movie designed to be a crowd-pleaser, with something for everyone — literally. Name a Marvel character, and they’ll show up. There are so many cameos that many don’t have lines; they’re just there to remind you of all the wonderous places this franchise has been. It’s just as big in heart as in star power, with plenty of emotional reunions. Despite Earth’s dire situation, there are even laughs.

     Breadth is its big draw and greatest weakness. There are too many characters and too little time, which is saying something in a three-hour movie. Chances are that you’ll be disappointed that one or two of your favorites from the B-Team, heroes who don’t headline any of the Marvel movies, have so little to do. Meanwhile, a few of the featured characters get a little tiresome as the minutes tick by.

     This movie knows its fans and respects its history, providing a satisfying end to a multi-film story. If you’ve thrilled every time Cap throws his shield or cheered every time the Hulk smashed, you’ll have plenty to celebrate. It’s culmination and catharsis, and that’s pretty darn good for a franchise that started with Tony Stark piecing together a super suit out of scrap metal.

Good Action • PG-13 • 181 mins. 

High Life

Can hope bloom in the void of space?

      In the vast darkness of space, baby Willow sits in a large sterile room and cries for her father, Monte (Robert Pattinson), who is trying to repair their spaceship to buy them a bit more time as they hurtle through the universe.

     Monte and Willow are the ship’s last survivors. The research ship originally crewed by death-row inmates is now headed toward a black hole that will surely destroy it. 

     Can Monte raise a child in the hopeless void of space? What happened to the rest of the ship?

     French director Claire Denis’ (Let the Sunshine In) first English language film is a fascinating challenge filled with big ideas and gorgeous imagery. In the first bits of dialogue we hear, Monte explains taboos to baby Willow. It’s a prophetic monologue as Denis devotes her film to challenging taboos around sex, humanity, death and love. She explores each topic in a way that could be lurid but manages to be beautiful.

      As the contemplative traveler Monte, Pattinson gives us a wonderful combination of reticent watchfulness and sweet emotion.

      Cinematography by Yorick Le Saux (Non-Fiction) is astounding, filling each scene with haunting images. Bodies sink through space; flesh writhes in ecstasy; each cavernous, sterile area of the ship is menacing. Le Saux makes the lush green space of the ship’s garden a metaphorical Eden.

     Moviegoers be warned: Denis’ study of humanity and depravity is not for everyone. There’s explicit sex, wide-sweeping metaphoric discussions and a plot that requires you to piece things together. It’s a movie that demands attention, discussion and watching more than once

     If you’re hoping for a sci-fi thriller with lots of action and an easy-to-follow plot, choose Avengers: Endgame. 

Good Sci-Fi Drama • R • 113 mins.