‘Avengers: Endgame’ (spoiler-free) review: Marvel’s gratifying finale

‘Avengers: Endgame’ brings pride and joy to the fans who have invested in the MCU franchise, 11 years and 21 movies ago.

After the “snappening” in Infinity War, audiences, myself included, are left with our jaws on the floor as the Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) wipes half of the living creatures in the universe. It’s a superhero film where the supervillain wins at the end – it’s far from the crowd-pleasing ending expected, yet it’s something fresh that we can definitely dig. Serving as the culmination to Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 3, Avengers: Endgame assembles the surviving heroes one last time to avenge the fallen. The trailers, however, drop very minimal hints. What’s exactly going on in this solid 3-hour film? Are the ‘vanished’ really dead or are they just inside the soul stone? Will time travel through quantum realm be the means to undo their demise? I can neither confirm nor deny these fan speculations in this discussion. One thing I can guarantee for sure, this groundbreaking film exceeds the hype. It even retroactively deepens our love for the previous films. If this isn’t perfection, then I can’t even imagine how to make a more gratifying version than this.

The gang is back. (Half of them anyway). Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd and Scarlett Johansson in ‘Avengers: Endgame.’

Whereas the main attraction of Infinity War is its earned fan service spectacle, Endgame surprises as the most emotional and most contemplative MCU film to date. There’s plenty of fuel here – loss, grief and guilt are the prime ones to motivate our core six Avengers. Y’all should know them by now but since this will be their swan songs, I’d mention them anyway. There’s genius inventor Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), super-soldier Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), rage monster Bruce Banner/Hulk, god of thunder Thor (Chris Hemsworth), deadly assassin Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and a vengeful marksman Clint Barton/Hawkeye returning from his absence in Infinity War. Rounding up the troop are Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Rhodey/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Nebula (Karen Gillan), and newly-minted Avenger, Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson). Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely once again deserve high merits for successfully juggling an overwhelming amount of characters, with the OG crew getting the lion’s share of show-stopping moments.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) drifts into space.

The character and ensemble work is better than expected, with every A-lister bringing their A-games to the table. Downey’s subdued grief and reliable cocky screen presence supplies much melancholy and joy. Evans finally gets to play with Cap’s lifetime of regrets from being frozen in ice several years ago. Ruffalo sells both the neurotic scientist and the rampaging Hulk. Hemsworth feels loose and natural as a self-deprecating comic god. Johansson lends an unexpected emotional weight to the film and Renner has so much soulfulness in his eyes. What most trailers don’t show is how much time is devoted to make these characters appeal as more than a team, but rather as each other’s adopted family. By this point, most of us see them as friends. We worry for their safety. We heavily root for them. Genuine emotional connection is the magic that MCU has built all these years.

“Even if there’s a small chance we can undo this, we owe it to everyone that’s not in this room to try.” – Black Widow

Endgame also serves as a testament to the majestic directorial skills of the Russo brothers, Joe and Anthony, in tying up a decade’s worth of storytelling into a poignant and hair-raising climax. The film bears plenty of callbacks from its franchise’s earliest entries, along with a top-notch cinematography and even the frenetic quality of the comic books. It’s emotionally-overwhelming and that’s because Endgame is a layered film at its best. It’s an epic superhero spectacle, an inventive heist, a dramatic tale of courage and loss, and most of all, an exploration of what it means to be a family and a hero. The hearty takeaway is this: heroism is not defined by superhero abilities, but by what one is willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) joins the Avengers in ‘Endgame.’

It’s true that Endgame will have a much deeper impact for the diehard fans. With its sense of finality pervading throughout, the film takes its viewers to a roller-coaster of emotions: I was gasping, laughing, crying and cheering (sometimes all at the same time). Its tragic yet uplifting. To say that Marvel has outdone themselves with their carefully crafted emotional beats, thrilling action sequences and heartbreaking farewells, is an understatement. No other movie franchise has done this feat in Hollywood history.

“Let’s go get this son of a b—–.” – Steve Rogers

MCU caps off an era by being more than just 11 years of entertainment. This is the cinematic superhero journey of a generation. Part of that journey is the end but with each ending comes a new beginning. The past is golden and the future looks bright. I give my heartfelt gratitude to all the characters and to all the true and unsung heroes of Marvel.

5 out of 5 stars
Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Benedict Wong, Jon Favreau, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow and Josh Brolin. Based on ‘The Avengers’ by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. 181 minutes.

Chris Evans plays uncle to young child math prodigy in ‘Gifted’

Chris Evans’ latest movie “Gifted” where he co-stars with Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, along with a multi-talented cast that includes Jenny Slate, McKenna Grace and Lindsay Duncan is a deeply charming story of a young child math prodigy and his uncle who are unexpectedly thrown into a custody battle that neither of them approves.

“Gifted” began its journey to the big screen when producer Karen Lunder, who has produced an assortment of films including “Arrival,” remembers a conversation with producer Andy Cohen in which she asked: “‘What do you have that’s great and different? What is the thing you’re most excited about?’ He sent me Gifted that was written by Tom Flynn. When I read the script, it had this timeless quality to it.”

Tom Flynn has had a successful career in Hollywood. “He’d done really well selling big comedy scripts to the studios,” producer and Flynn’s literary manager Andy Cohen explains. Flynn left Hollywood for Florida where he started selling real estate and semi-retired. At the urging of his wife, he finally began to write the movie he really wanted to write. His inspiration for Gifted was actually his sister, whom he describes as “the most unassuming ridiculously smart person you’ve ever met. The script eventually landed on Hollywood’s Black List, a survey of film executives’ favorite screenplays yet to be produced.

Evans worked with director Marc Webb to create who they wanted Frank Adler to be. “Frank’s a tricky guy,” Evans says. “He has a lot of guilt, which is tough to play because it’s beneath the surface. You can’t exactly show your cards and he’s kind of a closed-off emotional guy anyway. He’s tough to read. I think he’s exceptional but in a different way than his sister. There’s a lot of complexity in his past and he’s someone who didn’t cope as well with it as he does now.”

The filmmakers also spoke to a lot of mathematicians and prodigies in advance of filming Gifted as it was important to get the math and Mary’s giftedness right. They met with Terrence Tao, a UCLA Mathematics Professor and Fields Medal winner who is an expert on Navier Stokes and deemed the only person to have come close to solving it. It was a colleague of Terry’s at UCLA that turned her on to Jordan Ellenberg. When Karen Lunder picked up Jordan Ellenberg’s book, How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, she knew his was a brain they wanted to pick to help them with their research for GIFTED. “We talked about Mary’s story in the movie, and how she reflected my own,” Ellenberg says. “I grew up in a mathematical household – both my parents were statisticians, and I was really interested in math from a very early age. As far back as I can remember, certainly by the age of two or three, I used to sit under the kitchen table and multiply numbers together.” Ellenberg recognizes what he calls “the push-pull” in the film as “one that a lot of kids and parents feel, because on one hand, if a child has the passion and the skill and the ability and a love for something, you want to allow that to flower, right? But at the same time, you’ve got to remember that a kid is a kid. They are not their gift. They’re a person first.”

When Evans first read the script, he was drawn to the dialogue – “the music of the words, the exchange, the repartee” — and the story. “I love character pieces that involve family drama, they’re very relatable.” That, and the attraction of very intelligent people exchanging clever banter, he says, “is just very juicy for an actor.”

“Gifted” opens May 3, 2017 in cinemas nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.

‘500 Days of Summer’ director charms anew in Chris Evans-starrer ‘Gifted’

From the director of the surprise hit “500 Days of Summer,” Marc Webb helms his latest endearing story “Gifted” – starring the world’s beloved captain Chris Evans along with the über-talented Oscar winner Octavia Spencer and rising young star Grace McKenna.

Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising his spirited young niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) in a coastal town in Florida. But Mary is a brilliant child prodigy and Frank’s intention that she lead a normal life are thwarted when the seven-year-old’s command of mathematics comes to the attention of his formidable mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan)—a wealthy Bostonian whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate Mary and Frank. As family tensions and disconnections flare, uncle and niece find support in Roberta (Octavia Spencer), their protective landlady and best friend, and Mary’s teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate), a young woman whose concern for her student soon develops into a relationship with her uncle as well.

“Gifted” began its journey to the big screen when producer Karen Lunder, who has produced an assortment of films including “Arrival,” remembers a conversation with producer Andy Cohen in which she asked: “‘What do you have that’s great and different? What is the thing you’re most excited about?’ He sent me “Gifted.” When I read the script, it had this timeless quality to it. It felt like the kind of movies I grew up watching: it was a throwback of sorts to films of the 70’s and early 80’s that weren’t afraid to make you laugh and cry – that were both escapist and real.”

Like Lunder and Cohen, director Webb responded immediately to the writing. “I kept on waiting for this script to get bad, but it just kept getting better. It was simple, warm and uncynical. The writing felt nourishing to me. Mary and Frank are something like a comedy team with a lot of heart. After spending so many years on bigger movies, I just wanted to hang out with these two.”

In his career, Chris Evans has judiciously chosen a balance of blockbuster and smaller, more interior films. He picked “Gifted” for many reasons but says: “It was more the director than the role. You can have a great role and a great script. You can have a lot of pieces in place but if you don’t have a great director, you don’t have much. So for me it was Marc Webb.”

Webb is particularly pleased that “Gifted” is a movie in which all the intellectual powerhouses are women. “It’s a movie where women are really brilliant and it’s not done as a stunt. It’s something that feels weirdly rare, I don’t know why. I love the idea of having girls who are good at math, women who are good at math. I mean, it happens in the world but we just don’t always recognize that in cinema.”

Webb also thinks that fathers will respond to the message of the film, if his own reaction is any example: “I’m a forty-year-old dude, and I got choked up. All the burly grips hid behind the duvateen (light blocking fabric) because they were crying. I think men are not encouraged to feel, which I think is one of the challenges that Frank has to face, but of course men are emotional creatures too.”

“Gifted” will open in cinemas on May 3, 2017 from 20th Century Fox as distributed by Warner Bros.

WATCH: ‘500 Days of Summer’ director helms Chris Evans-starrer ‘Gifted’

Chris Evans plays another kind of hero in the upcoming deeply touching family drama “Gifted” as a doting uncle to McKenna Grace.

“Gifted” trails the joyous journey of Frank Adler (Evans) and Mary Adler living peacefully on their own but is interrupted when Frank’s mother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), discovers that Mary is a prodigy like her mother. Fighting against his mother for the custody of Mary, Frank is determined to give the child a normal upbringing as opposed to the plans of Evelyn.

Supported with an impressive cast, “Gifted” also includes Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer and Critics’ Choice Best Actress (Comedy) Jenny Slate directed by Marc Webb who also helmed blockbuster favourites such as “500 Days of Summer,” “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”

“Gifted” opens May 3, 2017 in Philippine cinemas from 20th Century Fox and to be distributed by Warner Bros.

Team Cap fights for Avenger’s freedom in ‘Captain America: Civil War’

Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” begins and ends with its lead character Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans). After another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.

“It’s the first time Steve doesn’t really know the answer,” says Chris Evans. “It’s always pretty cut and dry for him to know which side of the coin to fall on but this one is tricky because this conflict is a little more akin to a day-to-day struggle that we all go through where there are no clear lines between what is right and what is wrong. There’s just a point of view, and I think it’s hard for him to understand what the right thing to do is and what his role is this time around.”

Steve Rogers’ Team Cap consists of Sam Wilson aka Falcon, Bucky Barnes aka the Winter Soldier, Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, Clint Barton aka Haweye and Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch.

For Sebastian Stan, getting the chance to play the fan-favorite character for the third time was a welcomed surprise. “They could’ve done anything with the character,” says Stan. “But I was really happy as an actor because I felt like I got a chance to play a lot of different colors. The Winter Soldier is a little bit in the middle in this film; you see flashes of Bucky Barnes. Things are coming back to him and he’s learning about himself. At the same time, he’s no longer that same guy. He’s always going to have that Winter Soldier shadow over him going forward.”

A fully initiated Avenger now, Anthony Mackie plays the Falcon who has become Steve’s right hand man on the team. “In this movie you see Falcon in more of an authoritative role,” reports Mackie. “It’s not so much him following Steve or Steve giving demands. He’s more of an ally and more of a companion to Steve. He has more input on the missions and what’s going on.”

Clint Barton played by Jeremy Renner returns to the mix. “For Hawkeye, it’s really like a direct link from ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ into ‘Captain America: Civil War,’” says Renner. “When we last left Hawkeye, he went back to see his family. That was where he was the entire time until the Avengers started fighting. So he comes out of retirement, if you will, when he is asked to come help out Steve.”

Elizabeth Olsen returns as Scarlet Witch, now a full-fledged member of the Avengers team. But after a messy mission in Lagos results in collateral damage, the government steps in, creating a situation where Scarlet Witch has to choose a side. “Basically it ends up being this argument politically about whether or not the Avengers follow their own rules or if they should follow the government rules and become a government-regulated union,” explains Olsen. “At that point of the film, Wanda’s more terrified of causing harm to people than choosing a political side. She ends up fighting with Cap’s team. It was more about being accepted and less about actual political beliefs.”

Another new face on the Avenger team is Scott Lang aka Ant-Man. For actor Paul Rudd, making his first crossover into another franchise was a bit surreal for the actor. “It’s been a real trippy experience so far and amazing,” says Rudd. “When we shot ‘Ant-Man,’ I thought, it’s amazing, it’s great, it’s really fun, but we were also kind of working in a bubble. When I showed up here for the first time and was doing a scene with Captain America and Falcon and all of them, I turned into a bit of a 10 year old. It was pretty strange and really cool. For the first time I thought, ‘Man, I really am part of it,’ and it’s exciting.”

Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Emily VanCamp, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd and Frank Grillo, with William Hurt and Daniel Brühl.

Anthony & Joe Russo are directing with Kevin Feige producing. Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Patricia Whitcher, Nate Moore and Stan Lee are the executive producers. The screenplay is by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely.

Get ready to pick a side and join the nonstop action playing out on two fronts when Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” opens across the Philippines on April 27, 2016.

Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” will be distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures through Columbia Pictures. Follow the official social media accounts of Marvel, namely, (FB) MarvelPhilippines, (Twitter) @marvelstudiosph and (Instagram) @marvelphilippines and use the hashtags #choosewisely, #teamcap, #teamironman.

‘Captain America: Civil War’ directors want fans to choose sides

With the box office and critical success of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” producer Kevin Feige and his team were excited to bring the brothers Joe and Anthony Russo back to direct the third movie of the franchise. With each of the first two films in the franchise having different styles and tones, the Russo Brothers explain how they approached Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War.”

(Watch Chris Evans invite Southeast Asian fans to join Team Cap below.)

“The concept of Civil War is very important,” says Joe Russo. “We felt like we needed to go in a radical direction if we were going to direct another Captain America installment. From the beginning, we strongly advocated for the Civil War storyline. Once everyone agreed to it, we immediately sat down and started carefully discussing the arcs of each character, which helped us figure out what we wanted the movie to be.”

While the Russo Brothers wanted to continue the visceral tone established in “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” they also wanted that dynamic to permeate throughout the entire cast of characters. “Every character in this film has a distinct voice,” says Anthony Russo. “After working together on ‘Winter Soldier,’ they deeply understand the tone that we like to bring to these films. It’s more grounded; it’s based in realism. There are also political undertones that reflect real world issues in the story, which gives it an immediacy for the audience.”

The director continues, “Our goal was to tell the story in such a way that both sides have really compelling cases. Both Tony Stark and Steve Rogers individually as characters have very compelling points of view. We wanted people to be conflicted and torn, which creates a sense of tension about what’s going to happen going forward after this film.”

Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” finds Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) leading the newly formed team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. But after another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.

Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Emily VanCamp, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd and Frank Grillo, with William Hurt and Daniel Brühl.

Anthony & Joe Russo are directing with Kevin Feige producing. Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Patricia Whitcher, Nate Moore and Stan Lee are the executive producers. The screenplay is by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely.

Get ready to pick a side and join the nonstop action playing out on two fronts when Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” opens across the Philippines on April 27, 2016.

Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” will be distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures through Columbia Pictures. Follow the official social media accounts of Marvel, namely, (FB) MarvelPhilippines, (Twitter) @marvelstudiosph and (Instagram) @marvelphilippines.

Heroes collide in new concept art from ‘Captain America: Civil War’

Heroes square off against hero in new art for Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War.” Check out the artwork and see “Captain America: Civil War” in Philippine cinemas on April 27, 2016.

Tensions rise as the world governments demand accountability for our heroes’ actions in “Captain America: Civil War,” pitting friend against friend.

Captain America Civil War_Conceptual_FINAL_r

Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” finds Steve Rogers leading the newly formed team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. But after another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.

Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Emily VanCamp, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd and Frank Grillo, with William Hurt and Daniel Brühl.

Anthony & Joe Russo are directing with Kevin Feige producing. Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Patricia Whitcher, Nate Moore and Stan Lee are the executive producers. The screenplay is by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely.

Get ready to pick a side and join the nonstop action playing out on two fronts when Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” opens across the Philippines on April 27, 2016.

Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” will be distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures through Columbia Pictures. Follow the official social media accounts of Marvel, namely, (FB) MarvelPhilippines, (Twitter) @marvelstudiosph and (Instagram) @marvelphilippines.