Tag Archives: Sebastian Stan

Avengers: Endgame (2019) Blu Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Avengers: Endgame Review

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus (screenplay by), Stephen McFeely (screenplay by)
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Karen Gillan, Zoe Saldana, Evangeline Lilly, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Tilda Swindon, Dave Bautista, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Elizabeth Olsen, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Wong

The major downside to catching Avengers: Endgame in theatres was the risk of subjecting my bladder to irreparable damage. In my younger days, simply holding-it for three hours was no big challenge. Back in college, I even once participated in a drinking challenge where we’d see who could go the longest without relieving ourselves. I didn’t win, but did manage to make it almost four hours.

Those were different times and Endgame is a different type of epic. We’ve all sat through three-hour films before, but thanks to the Infinity War’s open-ended resolution and plethora of unanswered questions – not-to-mention a year’s worth of fan theories and speculation – taking a bathroom break would risk missing a key scene, plot twist or revelation. I’ll give the Russo Brothers credit for one thing: Every scene in Endgame feels vital at the time, making it a tough movie to walk away from, even for a moment.

At the showing my family and I attended, not a single theatregoer got up to leave once the film started. Afterwards, the continuous sound of flushing toilets echoed throughout the lobby for five straight minutes. I, for one, made the mistake of buying a soda before the movie, which I began the regret around the 90 minute mark. By the third act, my screaming bladder made it a challenge to fully immerse myself the film’s numerous emotional payoffs.

So despite being a fitting, larger-than-life capper to Marvel’s 22-film story arc, Endgame ultimately plays better at home, at least for those of us not endowed with iron bladders. In addition to reacquainting myself with the story thus-far by revisiting Infinity War beforehand, seeing Endgame a second time – able to hit pause when nature called – was far more enjoyable.

While I still loathe the practice of stretching a single story across multiple movies, Endgame justifies its existence – and length – due to the sheer number of characters, story threads and loose ends to tie in a manner that meets expectations of legions of MCU fans. A taunting task, to be sure, which Endgame manages to pull off. The film remembers its past while acknowledging the future, and is well-aware of the finality its title suggests (for the story arc and some major characters). In that respect, Endgame pushes all the right emotional buttons.

But unlike the original Star Wars trilogy’s most iconic moments, Endgame meets expectations without really ever exceeding them. As viewers, we already have a laundry list of plot points awaiting explanation, questions to be answered and characters’ odds of living or dying. All those boxes are checked-off – often magnificently, sometimes poignantly – but there aren’t any revelations as jaw-dropping as learning who Luke’s father is. And even at three hours, there are simply too many characters for everyone to get adequate screen time (some don’t even appear until the climax). Fans of certain characters will inevitably be disappointed by what amounts to a cameo.

However, those are minor quips. Endgame is ultimately a slam-bang crescendo to this massive franchise, the likes of which we won’t likely see again for a long time. While sweeping and epic in scope, it’s still filled with the smaller, character-driven moments that have always made the MCU engaging (something DC is just now figuring out). I’ve personally never met anyone disappointed by the outcome. I’m sure they’re out there, but maybe their bladders were simply too full to enjoy it the first time.

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Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Blu-Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Avengers Infinity War

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus (screenplay by), Stephen McFeely (screenplay by) 
Stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin, Pom Klementieff, Benedict Wong

The dust has settled, the hype has died down, the fanboys have scrutinised every frame and Avengers: Infinity War has already raked in $2 billion worldwide. Now it’s time to take a deep breath, look beyond the spectacle and obligatory fan-service to assess what is still essentially half a movie (though it’s still a lot better than Age of Ultron). 

I’ve always been pretty dubious over the practice of dividing a single story into two or more separate films. I understood Quentin Tarantino’s motives behind Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2 because they were stylistically different. But two Breaking Dawns, two Mockingjays and three freaking Hobbits were just greedy, cynical cash-grabs calculated to prey on fans whose commitment to their beloved franchises gave them no choice but to open their wallets one more time than necessary.

But after seeing Infinity War twice now (once in theatres with everyone else, the second time for this Blu-ray review), I have to grudgingly concede that the decision to make it two movies might be justified (I’ll reserve a final verdict until next year). As it stands, this film has an unenviable task: Include nearly every major MCU character, work them into the film without regulating anyone to a gratuitous cameo while still moving the new story forward (“new” is relative, though…longtime fans have been aware of this coming war for years). 

For the most part, the film is successful, mainly because Marvel has done a pretty masterful job of laying the groundwork during the past decade of MCU movies. So when Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) engages in verbal chest-thumping with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the story doesn’t need to spend time establishing their personalities the way a stand-alone film must. Speaking of which, the film’s best moments are when these iconic characters are meeting each other for the first time. Those involving one-or-more of the Guardians of the Galaxy are predictably the funniest, and sometimes surprisingly moving.

The downside, of course, is that anyone not fully up-to-speed with the doings in the MCU will be completely lost. Sure, they could (mostly) follow the story, maybe even a few of the subplots, but will have absolutely no emotional stake in any of these characters. And there’s no other film in the MCU that depends more on the audience’s investment in its characters than Infinity War (especially during the final act).

Even without the burden of character exposition, bringing them all together convincingly takes a considerable amount of time (which Infinity War does by presenting three concurrent subplots). Could the rising action leading to its epic climax have been trimmed-up a bit? Absolutely. Infinity War is occasionally meandering and apocalyptic battles are so standard in this franchise that simply making them longer doesn’t necessarily make them grander. However, the story doesn’t feel gratuitously padded just to squeeze-out two movies. Casual viewers may be impatiently checking their watches after ninety minutes, but it goes without saying that anyone who loves these characters won’t want it to end. 

But end it does, with whopper of a cliffhanger that’s more Empire Strikes Back than An Unexpected Journey. In other words, the story may be incomplete, but not the experience. And if all 18 of the previous entries in the MCU can be considered converging roads leading up to this moment, then perhaps two movies is justified. I guess we’ll all know for sure next year.

Until then, because of its size, scope, references to past events and plethora of Easter eggs, Infinity War makes better repeated viewing at home than the usual superhero film. Nobody but the most dedicated fanboys would be capable of catching everything the first time. On a related note, I’m sort-of surprised at how light this Blu-ray is on supplemental material. The featurettes are entertaining, but mostly promotional and pretty short compared to those included on many other Disney/Marvel releases. 

I, Tonya (2018) Movie Review By John Walsh

I, TONYA.png

Director: Craig Gillespie
Writer: Steven Rogers
Stars: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney

I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t familiar with Craig Gillespie as a director prior to this release, nor indeed was I familiar with the colourful Tonya Harding. I was born in 1989, I’m Scottish and had zero interest in ice skating. What the hell attracted me to this film then I hear you ask? Margot Robbie is the answer. She’s a supremely gifted performer and she doesn’t disappoint here again.

If like me, you weren’t aware of the controversy that was to define the titular character back in 1994 then I’ll try my best to give a short history lesson. Emphasis on short. Tonya Harding was something of a fiery, indomitable figure in the world of ice skating. She struggled to gain recognition, plaudits for her performances and was subsequently implicated in an FBI investigation after her rival Nancy Kerrigan was assaulted after a practice session.

This film is undoubtedly a character driven, biopic that tries to delve into the dysfunctional upbringing of Tonya. Gillespie utilises past and present perspectives to focus on her incredibly bizarre, at times abusive relationship with her mother, the impact that had on her as a person and how it forged her career going forward, whilst also shaping public opinion of her.

All of which proved to be quite crucial in shaping the narrative when the sensationalist press kicked into action during the customary media frenzy in 1994. In the short research I’ve done on the real Harding, it seems abundantly clear to me that she was singled out as the villain of the piece. This despite there being little to no evidence of her having any knowledge or involvement in the attack. What this film then seeks to do, is show the human side of the story and it does this rather nicely.

I have to say though, that the early flashbacks with Robbie playing a supposed teenage Harding where a little jarring. No harm to Margot, she’s a beautiful looking lady, but she’s never pulling that age range off. I did enjoy the antagonistic dynamics explored during these between her and Allison Janney’s, LaVona Fay Golden character however. Her mother was the atypical domineering pushy type, determined to see her child become a professional skater at the expense of everything else.

There was more than a hint of sadistic vindictiveness in there too. The scene with her stabbing her daughter in the back was genuinely shocking. And yet despite this, I often found myself laughing at her antics which were full of black humour. Such as paying a heckler to give her daughter abuse and entering her home in the midst of journalistic hounding, with a voice recorder hidden in her clothes. I thought Janney was great here, she went above and beyond to portray this oddity of a woman. She deserved her Oscar nomination and win.

Tonya didn’t seem to have much luck in love either. Fleeing the clutches of her abusive mother and landing into an equally abusive relationship with her Freddy Mercury wannabe, moustachioed, partner, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan).

Her struggle wasn’t contained merely to family and romance issues either. She fought tirelessly for recognition in a sport that placed equal importance on sparkly clean backgrounds, perfectly applied makeup and outfits as it did on performing truly exhilarating and perfectly choreographed routines. Tonya, as the film perfectly shows, had the natural ability, being the first to woman to perform a triple axle, but her common background, peroxide hair and disposition for abusing judges meant she would never reach the top.

And again, it proved pivotal in the witch hunt that transpired after the Nancy Kerrigan attack. She was disliked by many in the sport and was never recovering fully from that setback.

As I said before, Margot Robbie was the main attraction for me going in to see this film. Her performance is incredible. The nature of the story meant that her and Janney needed big showings, effectively they had to carry the film. And they did this. I’ve already spoken about Janney, who impressed me as the prolific smoker and sadistic mother. Robbie however did a splendid job as the voracious skater. She looked demented at times with the makeup, almost unrecognisable and played off her on screen mother, not to mention Sebastian Stan wonderfully.

Visually, the film was reasonable. It was set in the early 90s and looked accurate enough. They utilised many flashbacks which manifested themselves in grainy VHS style footage and looked fine. It reminded me of old Christmas videos of my family from back in the day. The CG was a little off in the skating scenes however, but it didn’t take me out the film or anything.

I can’t really recall the score which should speak for itself really.

If I was to have one other criticism of I, Tonya then it would probably be the slightly contradictory comments and views from different people on the events. This was deliberately done by Gillespie though, effectively letting the audience make their own mind up in regards to who they believe.

Like I said at the beginning, I’m not a fan of ice skating, I wasn’t aware of the Kerrigan/Harding rivalry or the subsequent controversy, so I was very much conflicted on whether to actually watch this film. Thankfully I did give it a shot though because it was an enjoyable and interesting insight into a unique individual with one of the most peculiar mother daughter relationships I’ve ever seen.

I’d have no hesitation in recommending this.

Rating: 4/5