Thursday, May 3, 2018

A Bag of Marbles and Avengers: Infinity War

Atrocities Aplenty: Past Ones Resolved, Present Ones Still in Crisis

                                      Reviews by Ken Burke

                    A Bag of Marbles (Christian Duguay, 2017)
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): In France during the WW II Nazi occupation 2 young Jewish brothers are sent by their parents to the semi-free-zone under the Vichy government in Nice but after an initial family reunion the increasing German incursion into this area requires the boys to strike out on their own again, continuing to hide their heritage from these murderous invaders as well as French collaborators.  This is based on a true story written by one of the brothers so there’s little I can reveal that really counts as a spoiler, but I’ll keep the final events from you for now unless you care to consult the book this film’s based on, other historical accounts of the Joffo family, or possibly the easily-accessible-content in my more-detailed-exploration just below.  If you’d like to get an in-depth-sense of the difficulties Jews had to endure in occupied countries during this atrocious period of European history, with an emphasis on members of a family—especially the quick-thinking-boys who are the focus of this story—who make every effort to escape from this ever-present-madness (without scenes that veer into the horrific realms of such presentations as Sophie’s Choice [Alan J. Pakula, 1982] and Schindler’s List [Steven Spielberg, 1993] this may be a more accessible account of what trying to find relief from such ongoing cruelty was like, a bit in the realm of The Diary of Anne Frank [George Stevens, 1959] in building tension about what could happen rather than frequently depicting the grotesque terrors of that time).  In that sense you get a solid understanding of the constant misery facing anyone who was on the hit list of these invading murderers without having to wallow too much in watching their vile, despicable acts.

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.
What Happens: We begin in just-liberated-Paris of August, 1944 with young Joseph Joffo (Dorian Le Clech) reminiscing on the events of recent years, soon followed by a flashback to winter 1942 when this 10-year-old and his 12-year-old-brother, Maurice (Batyste Fleurial), continued to live a normally-mischievous-existence despite their portion of France being under rigid German Nazi occupation (they’re Jews; their Dad, Roman [Patrick Bruel], is a barber so one day they stand in front of the sign noting the shop’s ownership in order to trick a couple of German soldiers into stopping in for a haircut, only to be mortified by the father’s revelation after their trims).  Conditions get worse, though, including the mandatory wearing of the yellow stars by Jews, although Jo’s still so disengaged from the reality of the situation he agrees to trade his star to a classmate for a bag of marbles (his prized possession).  Fearing for the family’s safety, Roman (who had to flee vicious Russian pogroms as a boy himself) decides the family must take separate routes to somewhat-free-Nice on the Mediterranean coast (he’ll travel with wife Anna [Elsa Zylberstein], older sons Albert [Ilian Bergala] and Henri [César Domboy] have already left) so the younger boys start out by train but soon have to escape a sudden roundup (with the help of a fellow passenger claiming they’re his sons), continuing their difficult journey south on foot (one of Jo’s feet is injured; Maurice tries to carry him, but he’s too heavy so they just have to struggle on, hungry but clever in making plans to sustain themselves, even as others on the same journey are caught).  Ultimately, they reconnect with their brothers, then their parents, with life in Nice quite nice, until 1943 when Italy surrenders to the Allies,bringing Nazis aggressively into Nice so the family’s on the move again with Jo and Maurice put in a nearby boys camp where they claim to be Catholics, living there in relative peace.

 One day, though, they accompany delivery driver Ferdinand (Kev Adams) into Nice where they’re all captured by the Germans with the boys put through a harsh interrogation even as they stick to their story they’re Algerian, explaining that in such a desert climate all males are circumcised for health reasons, a story accepted by the inquisitors’ Doctor Rosen (Christian Clavier) who quietly tells Jo he’s Jewish, but the boy maintains his “Algerian” identity just to be safe (later we’re assured the doc’s for real as he’s sent away along with many of the others locally arrested by the Germans).  After being kept in detention for their suspicious circumstances, the boys are released back to the camp through the efforts of a local priest who reunites them with their mother and older brothers, but they learn Roman’s been arrested.  On the run again, Joseph and Maurice end up in Aix-les-Bains where Maurice gets a job in a bakery (and delivers messages for the Resistance), Jo sells newspapers for a local bookseller—an outspoken Nazi collaborationist—while falling for Françoise (Coline Leclère), his employer’s daughter.  When France is liberated in 1944, the local townspeople furiously turn against Jo’s boss, but the boy saves him from being lynched (still going to be tried, likely imprisoned) by claiming he harbored a Jew—Jo—which shocks the old man, even in his relief at keeping his life, yet his act was in vain as his intended-love had already left town before Jo could find her.  Back in Paris (when the film begins) the family reunites only for the younger boys to learn their father died in the grotesque Auschwitz concentration camp.  Pre-credits-titles tell us the Joffo males continued Dad’s trade in his same shop, all slowly recovering from the nightmare of the war.

So What? This French-language-film (you know, a Subtitles Alert may be even more relevant than a Spoiler Alert for any of my monolingual-and-damn-proud-of-it-faithful-readers), based on an (admittedly somewhat fictionalized) autobiographical book (1973) by Joseph Joffo, becomes my lead review for the 2nd week in a row about content inspired by history rather than the fiction-based-stories currently dominating the box-office (a bit of a reversal from the several fact-inspired-films I encountered as 2017 made its passage into 2018).  While some of them may have more presence as curiosity-value, such as I, Tonya (Craig Gillespie, 2017; review in our January 18, 2018 posting—although the cinematic values are quite high too, as is Allison Janney’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar-winning performance [Margo Robbie’s also great as Tonya Harding—the real ex-skater just survived the opening round on ABC TV’s Dancing with the Stars]) others such as The Post (Steven Spielberg, 2017; review in our January 18, 2018 posting) and Little Pink House (Courtney Balaker; review in our April 25, 2018 posting) use historical context marvelously for insight on current pressing situations such as the ongoing need for a free press to fight governmental bullying, including overreaching policy actions.  Similarly, A Bag of Marbles, despite the focus in this tale on a French Jewish family attempting to avoid the Nazis, also has current resonance as noted by Joffo: “I spent a lot of time talking to them [the lead child actors in this film].  They wanted to know if everything in the book was real.  I told them that the book was actually a lot nicer than the actual truth because I wanted the book to show that the kids had a chance to get out.  We have to leave a little hope for our readers, show them that with a lot of courage we can survive anything. […] Today, the life I lived still strongly and heavily resonates with people today.  Because of terrorism, children everywhere are forced to escape, too.  Like us 50 years ago, they’re found on the side of the roads, totally alone and left to fend for themselves.  I hope the film inspired all of us to question the destiny of these poor kids and their destroyed families and fight for them.”

 With further comment on how the adaptation from book to film, Duguay says: “The book is written in the first person, but it is written 30 years after it actually happened. Contrarily, the movie presently utilizes the young boy’s point of view.  Doing so removes the hesitation seen from the narrator in the book.  The film follows the primary, initial telling of events that are so monumental that it ends up showing the evolution of the characters.”  Many critics found that cinematic approach laudable, those surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes giving it a praiseworthy 90% positive reviews (although the normally-more-reserved-folks at Metacritic were truly reserved this time, with only a 55% average score [more details on both far below in the Related Links section]; still, theirs is based on a mere 7 responses so with the scant presence this film’s found in in domestic [U.S.-Canada] distribution it seems even those whose profession is analyzing films found few opportunities to even be aware of A Bag of Marbles, a loss for them in my opinion).  In screen activity … Marbles is mostly a rather quiet experience as the tension comes more from knowing Nazis are everywhere in France during these years with no provocation needed to round up a bunch of occupied citizens, intent of finding Jews, homosexuals, or others of these oppressors’ “degenerate” classifications to be sent off to forced labor or death. (I’m currently in the process of watching the National Geographic TV network’s miniseries Genius: Picasso, set partially during this same period of direct Nazi control of much of France [and eventual presence within the territory supposedly run by the cooperating Vichy “government”], still not clear how this famous painter’s reputation kept him from being taken away as well, given how out of sync his art was with the majority of the Third Reich command [supposedly his freedom was to keep from offending the U.S., but we were at war with Germany during most of this time so I still need to learn more somehow].) 

 The most-intense-scene for me was the boys’ viciously-grilling-interrogation in Nice, but danger continues to lurk even in supposedly safe Aix-les-Bains where Joseph’s employer is always just an attitude away from sparking an incriminating comment from his young emotional employee, despite the boy’s fervent desire not to do anything to endanger his hoped-for-romance with Françoise.  In spite of all this constant tension, though, there’s such a great sense of relief when the boys can return to Paris after the Allied liberation, ⇒even as that joy’s cruelly cut short upon learning of their beloved father’s death.⇐   As implied in Joffo’s comments above, I would hope for those whose sense of distance from the Nazi terrors of WW II prevents them from engaging fully with this filmed story due to its being long on suspense, short on actual action they would still find it’s relevance to the worldwide-crisis of immigration today (with many Europeans and U.S. citizens now ironically among the opposition to taking in the oppressed from the Mideast and Central America, fearing increased terrorism due to the regularized-reality of such attacks in the West today), that the film would strike an empathetic chord in audiences, especially given the book was a huge best-seller (even if later criticized some for its fictional enhancements), but, as we all know, it’s the rare book that can even hope to reach as large an audience as the same story actively adapted to the cinema.

Bottom Line Final Comments: As you’ll see below, my review of Avengers: Infinity War was intended to be a brief Short Takes exercise in comparison to this supposedly-longer-review of A Bag of Marbles, but as it turned out the massive “bag of Marvels” took on a life of its own; however, in that there’s no shortage of other commentary about … Infinity War (along with my extensive sideways-exploration, as it turns out)—which I wrote first, wrongly assuming I’d get the briefer one out of the way, then devote more time and energy to the feature review of this posting—I’m still of the opinion that … Marbles should at least get the primacy focus here in support of it being seen by as many as possible, even if its audience will never reach the massive pop-culture-heights of what I address below.  A pragmatic reality for me, though, on a week where a good number of singular events have taken up quite a bit of my writing and posting time (along with a few hours spent on weeding through countless written and video links about … Infinity War before just barely opening the vault with the few I’ve noted in my review), I must admit I’ve been about equal in length with what I’ve ended up saying about …Marbles, but, trust me (just don’t follow my "insights" on lottery numbers) it’s the more worthwhile investment of your time and money unless life’s burned you out so much at this point that you desperately need about 3 hours (counting trailers) of escapism rather than a serious dose of actual humans overcoming dangerous challenges, with their lives (no matter how tranquil they might seem on a given day) on the line, constantly in the crosshairs of fickle fate.  As for audiences actually seeing this finely-crafted-drama … well, the filmic-distribution-gods haven’t been as kind to … Marbles as they have to the Marvel machine as this France-Canada co-production (distributed by Gaumont—probably the oldest film company ever, in existence since 1895, so congratulations to them for still being with us) is playing in only 14 domestic (U.S.-Canada) theatres (and dropping), yielding $190,000 (according to Box Office Mojo) after 6 weeks in release (plus about $10 million from other markets, mostly France) so, as with Little Pink House in my previous posting, I encourage you to seek it out on video because except for a few metropolitan areas I doubt you’ll have much chance to find it up on the big screen.

 If you’re a regular or even casual reader of my reviews you know I like to end with a Musical Metaphor, offering one last dose of inspiration from my also-beloved-aural-arts.  Given the very serious subject matter of A Bag of Marbles I hope my choice to accompany it doesn’t come across as flippant, but my goal is to celebrate Joseph and Maurice’s long-desired-reunion with their family in Paris as the war's finally winding down (at least in their part of Europe), focusing on the joy and relief of their survival (while remaining aware of the tragedies from those intervening years) so instead of choosing something more about their struggle I’ve decided to go with a song building to triumph, Ten Years After’s “I’m Going Home” (from their 1968 Undead album) at https://www. (a soul-stirring version [although not at the volume level here that would make it more ideal] of their live performance featured in the classic documentary, Woodstock [Michael Wadleigh, 1970], cut in multi-image fashion with Alvin Lee on vocals and guitar, adding in some lyrics from “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” [best known from the 1957 hit single by Jerry Lee Lewis]).  Overall, these lyrics don’t say that much, nor are they all that direct to this film’s content, but the singer’s enthusiasm for being able to move past whatever’s holding him back from rejoining the love of his life is ultimately the feeling this film delivers, leaving us upbeat (especially with a quick contemporary shot of the 2 brothers at the final credits) after all the misery they’ve endured (encouraging me to think about another song, which I’ll use in finishing the review below).

 But, before moving on to the Avengers’ battleground I’ll offer one last inspiration from … Marbles, in compensation for writing so much about … Infinity War.  I saw A Bag of Marbles the night before driving 200 miles myself (to Sacramento, then back home) to attend a memorial for a dear friend, Jeannie Monahan (formerly a Two Guys Follower), from way back in my college days (later 1960s-early ‘70s) who recently died after many years of various illnesses, giving me reason to wistfully-reminisce about remembrances, lost or infrequent connections to the past which I find summed up so well in Simon and Garfunkel’s brief "Bookends" (from their 1968 album of the same name), the version here accompanying the famous last scene of The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967), juxtaposing the spontaneous exuberance of youth with the sober realizations that modify reality (resulting in a film that hit me hard back then, continues in impact today), joined to those melancholy lyrics about “Preserve your memories They’re all that’s left you”—just like the Joffo boys can only embrace their father through memories—unless you’re lucky enough to have something or someone to help carry you through the present even during days of concern (aging and changing health situations, worries about national and international self-interests making a mockery of the more-uplifting-possibilities of the human condition), with such a fortunate situation for me existing in the ongoing presence of my loving companion of 31 years, Nina Kindblad, to whom I dedicate another Simon and Garfunkel tune—just as Jo likely felt about his loving, war-impacted family—"Kathy's Song" (from the 1966 Sounds of Silence album; a live performance, place and date unknown to me, but just Art singing, Paul playing with no other accompaniment, like I saw them in Austin, TX in 1967) in acknowledgement both of how Nina and I serendipitously met at the 1987 Berkeley, CA Paul Simon concert and the reality that “as I watch the drops of rain Weave their weary paths and die I know that I am like the rain There but for the grace of you go I.”
(intended as) SHORT TAKES (but the content has a life of its own) 
(please note that spoilers also appear here)
          Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony and Joe Russo)
Bringing 10 years of previous Marvel superhero movies to a sense of closure (but with more to come as years go on) we find the Avengers and their allies at war with powerful Thanos whose goal is to fit his specially-endowed-gauntlet with the 6 mystical Infinity Stones, giving him ultimate power in the universe unless Iron Man, Thor, etc. can put a stop to him.

Here’s the trailer:

        Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.
 Why, you ask, would I consign the newly-crowned-largest-grossing-weekend-opening-movie-of-all-time (both domestically [$257.7 million—I'll note Black Panther’s still on the charts at #5 for last weekend, up to $688.8 domestically, $1.3 billion worldwide, but that’s after 11 weeks in release; with this start … Infinity War could easily surpass those totals if the initial interest holds up after word-of-mouth and endless social media postings reach their saturation point] and worldwide [$641 million]) to the constrained realm of my Short Takes comments?  (Even though they aren't so short after all once I got through blabbing from sunset to near-sunrise, then to the finish during the next day.)  Well, the (intended) answers are plentiful: (1) With about 30 protagonists sharing almost 2½ hours of screen time, for me to keep up with this newest Avengers tale enters into X-Men territory in my opinion which means there’s too damn much going on to attempt to comprehend, as I’ve tried diligently to do in past reviews (I’m not going to cite them all here, but if you cross-reference the Marvel Cinematic Universe [MCU] movie timeline, arranged chronologically from most recent back to Iron Man [Jon Favreau, 2008] and our Summary of Two Guys in the Dark Reviews [also chronological but within ratings-stars-clusters] you can find all of them except for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 [James Gunn, 2017], which I skipped due to MCU fatigue)*; if you wanted a detailed plot summary for … Infinity War, here's one** covering the territory quite nicely (but it does come loaded with spoilers); (2) Given how many members of the potential audience for … Infinity War have already seen it (or will have by the time I get this posted) I can’t imagine I can add much to what’s already known about it, but I'll make a few (you should be so lucky) passing observations; (3) I had to wait until Monday afternoon this week to even see it (attempted screenings during my free time on Sunday afternoon were sold out) but even then there were enough other attendees in the theater that I couldn’t use my tiny flashlight much for note taking so I couldn’t give you a personal detailed accounting anyway.  Check out the various references in the footnotes just below if you want extensive background on how these current events fit into the overall scheme of the MCU, let me know in the Comments section farther below if there are other aspects of this mammoth event you’d like to dialogue about, and allow me to share a few (or considerably more) other observations.

*But other MCU viewers aren’t suffering “superhero fatigue” like I am getting more prone to do, with Marvel/Disney’s fantasy-ensemble showing a position of incredible staying power compared to their “competition” from DC/WB (despite my long-time-connection more with Wonder Woman’s coalition), incorporating the advantage of keeping the same actors in the primary roles (unlike with the longer-running Superman and Batman movie series where the leads change frequently), although I predict that’s ultimately going to create problems when Downey Jr., Hemsworth, Ruffalo, Evans, Cumberbatch, Boseman, etc. finally decide to move on because it’ll be much harder for actor-specific-conditioned-audiences to learn to accept newcomers in these decade-long-established-roles so we’ll see if MCU fatigue finally sets in after the conclusion of the Thanos narrative unless future filmmakers of these stories can find a way to wean viewers off of these specific character-performer-connections or use a strategy to redirect us with the nostalgia ploy of stories that take us to the younger days of these gladiators (as the X-Men franchise attempted to do as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen grew too old to keep battling each other as Professor Xavier and Magneto or even the Star Wars “galaxy” [to coin a phrase] is about to do with Solo: A Star Wars Story [Ron Howard] as Alden Ehrenreich gives us the earlier incarnation of Harrison Ford's outlaw).

**One source for more MCU information is the March 16/23, 2018 issue of Entertainment Weekly (if you don’t have a print copy but are a subscriber you can get the digital edition here [an array of recent issue covers; click this one to get to the detailed page-by-page exploration; for me it works better on Chrome than Safari]) with extensive background info on what’s occurred prior, what you'll find in this latest installment: p. 53, a summary of those all-important Infinity Stones; pp. 59-63, summaries of the previous 18 MCU episodes (or you can get this info on video [8:40]); pp. 64-65, a chronological timeline of important Avengers events (or this is also available on video in one version [14:37] or another [15:13] if you’d like to compare)But, with that background firmly in hand, you might like to know what to expect (6:42) in that soon-to-be-long-awaited (May, 2019) conclusion of … Infinity War, implied in the short post-credits-scene where Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson [adding once again to his claim of being the actor in the movies with the overall-highest-all-time-grossesdefendable mathematically, but I still contend in many of those he was a relatively-minor-character within the ensemble casts whereas Harrison Ford has had more lead or highly-featured roles in his cluster of top-grossers, as if any such comparisons really matter given the current state of geopolitical-affairs in our actual world, headed for various xenophobic and/or environmental disasters]) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders)—respectively, the former Director and Deputy Director of the secret-global-protection-agency, S.H.I.E.L.D.—are among the evaporated-human-losses, with Fury just having time to send a message to an unidentified hoped-for-savior, which various YouTube postings will tell you is the magnificent Captain Marvel (here’s a list of her amazing powers [5:37]), a character who’s previously appeared in many variations (6:35) for both DC and Marvel Comics whose newest manifestation (as a woman!) will get her on-screen-origin- story (starring Brie Larson) in March, 2019 just prior to the yet-unnamed-finale of … Infinity Wars.⇐

(This is just a publicity still because in the movie Hulk won't manifest himself this far into the story.)
 Now that I’ve gotten into Spoiler territory in that last footnote, I’ll add an (intended) little (which turns out to be a lot) more with some random comments on this expensive (budget’s been rumored to be as high as $400 million; can be a bit costly for you too if you go the 3-D route which I did because of showtime convenience but I didn’t see all that much truly justifying this technology), expansive (it runs for about 150 min., so consider carefully buying that large-size-soda) experience: (1) Despite my initial concerns there would be too many characters to keep up with the narrative balance is handled well enough—along with small groups of the heroes isolated into different locations for most of the plot—so everyone gets a watchable dose of screen time but many of them have limited minutes (like basketball bench players) so don’t expect to see too much of War Machine (Don Cheadle), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) or his main Wakandan allies (oddly enough, I haven’t noticed any complaints yet about how these Black actors aren’t that crucial to this episode’s development, although T’Challa’s sister Shuri [Letitia Wright] does have one important scene attempting to extract the Mind Stone from Vision [Paul Bettany]), “Bucky” Barnes/Winter Soldier/White Wolf (Sebastian Stan), The Collector (Benicio del Toro), Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), or other minor characters carried over briefly from previous episodes*; (2) Despite the title, there’s not as much “war” here as you might anticipate with the only massive battle being the final one in Wakanda with Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) forces in combat with most of the Avengers plus T’Challa’s aligned tribes (a massive conflict reminiscent of Peter Jackson's finales of those The Lord of the Rings [2003] and The Hobbit [2014] trilogies), although there are pitted battles throughout with Thanos defeating Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) early on, then later beating Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and 3 of the Guardians of the Galaxy—Thor seems to kill Thanos at the end  with his new Stormbreaker axe (crafted with angst by Eitri, King of the Dwarves of Nidavellir [Peter Dinklage], who’s, ironically, much bigger than Thor—he also later gets an artificial right eye from Rocket raccoon [Bradley Cooper]) but now that Thanos has all 6 Infinity Stones** he can do just about anything so he simply nullifies his injury while transporting himself elsewhere.⇐

*The massive cast is constrained a bit by there being no appearance of Avengers master-archer Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) or the spritely Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), who’ll likely both show up in the final chapter next year, possibly with an explanation of the tiniest superhero’s absence from ... Infinity War given to us in Ant-Man and the Wasp (Peyton Reed) this coming summer.  We’ll likely also see Bruce Banner finding an answer as to why he was incapable of bringing forth his Hulk alter-ego in most of … Infinity War, having to do his fighting in Iron Man’s huge Hulkbuster armored suit instead.

**Here's a question gone unconsidered, though (or maybe it was rejected by the profit-driven-studios as eliminating the audience-enhancing-attraction of all this constantly-colliding-combat): If Thanos now has all the power in the universe, why doesn’t he just create more resources (even new planets) to stabilize everyone's needs instead of his odd strategy of killing off half the populations so as to “thin the herds” in order to provide proper material comfort for those he allows to survive?

(Not the best presentation I can offer of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but I've got to work with what I can find.)
 Of course, the most surprising thing about … Infinity War (for those who avoided spoilers before seeing it or—like me—had no inkling from previous comic book stories about what might happen here) is the sudden deaths of various characters at the direct hand of Thanos: Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Heimdall (Idris Elba), Vision, and (the only one tragic for this maniacal-killer) his adopted daughter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana)as well as the equally-sudden-evaporation of others in accordance with Thanos’ half-baked-ecological intentions* once he gained ultimate power so at least for the time being half of every planet’s population has dissolved into nothingness including many of the Avengers: Black Panther, Spider-Man, Winter Soldier, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon, and Guardians Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Baustista), Groot (Vin Diesel), and Mantis (Pom Kelmentieff).  Although, given we’ve seen the resurrection of Superman in Justice League (Zack Snyder [and Joss Whedon], 2017; review in our November 23, 2017 posting)—a much more manageable superhero amalgamation (especially when they work Green Lantern into any follow-ups) in a separate fictional universe—it’s highly likely (given Thanos’ power to reverse events as when he brought Vision back from oblivion only to kill him again in order to acquire the Mind Stone) at least some of the now-gone will find themselves returned to existence next year.**⇐

⇒*Reminding me of the Fearless Fosdick comic-strip-within-a-comic-strip in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner, where this skewed-thinking-police-detective (a parody of Dick Tracy) once faced a situation where a criminal announced he’s planted one can of poisoned beans somewhere in the city’s food supply so Fosdick simply shoots dead anyone he sees eating beans to “protect” them from being poisoned.

**Leading to this complaint about teasing us with seemingly-tragic-deaths of characters whose upcoming movies are already announced so we assume they’ll somehow rejoin the living, thereby undercutting some of the dramatic impact of … Infinity War (especially about Spider-Man, more or less on loan from Sony; not a very nice corporate trade-off, is it?).  However (!!), the screenwriters say these deaths are real so it's not clear yet what's to become of these dearly-departed-heroes.

 In these scenes of the one-on-one-deaths (or even the attempted ones), though, we get some quieter, tender moments such as Loki surrendering the Tesseract (containing the Space Stone) in order to save Thor from termination but then being killed himself by Thanos, Dr. Strange giving up the Time Stone in order to save Iron Man’s life, Gamora revealing the location of the Soul Stone to prevent further torture of her sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), Scarlet Witch’s final decision to destroy the Mind Stone to keep it from Thanos even as her love, Vision, would have to die in the process.⇐

 However, any complaint about how Avengers: Infinity War currently conducts itself falls on a largely-disinterested-collection of deaf ears in the overall critical community with 84% positive reviews at RT, although those normally-more-reserved-stalwarts at MC offer only a 68% average score (more details in Related Links just below) so this massive movie’s not being touted much as a masterpiece, just—for most of these reviewers—an entertaining, if a bit overstuffed, diversion, faced with the same challenge as the publishers of the comic books from which these characters arise: sales success increases with more product in the marketplace, especially given the time and extensive computer-driven-postproduction-work needed to make movies such as these, so rather than trying to pump out a proven success like Ironman every couple of years (additionally running the risk of burnout with a too-accessible-cinematic-character) it’s likely to be more prosperous to set up a series of related superheroes, then build toward a climatic gathering of them against some truly heinous antagonist; however, the danger lies with constantly increasing the casts of each separate protagonist’s adventures, forcing a too-crowded-stage when they all gather, with the filmmakers’ hopes they can satisfy multiple (possibly contrasting) segments of the audience who want to see more of their favorites on screen in the amalgamation stories, possibly with little interest in characters they haven’t followed in other separate installments.  The Russos have done an admirable enough job here in how they’ve allotted story aspects to their huge cast (as well as brought together all those previous plot strands from the MCU build-up over the past decade [I just hope that no future MCU storytellers have to somehow incorporate all those damn X-Men into the Avengers adventures also]), but this massive enterprise begins to sink under the weight of its own required complexity, setting us up for another exercise in Avengers excess in May a year from now.

 As for a Musical Metaphor that will allow me to finally bring some closure to this excessive-in-its-own-right series of “short” observations (I guess I’ll blame the Russos for encouraging me to such extensive explorations meandering around the boundaries of the actual plot, which you don’t need much detail on anyway; just consider it to be like a cinematic version of Wrestlemania where you get grudge-settling-preliminary-bouts featuring various combinations of established superstars yet it all comes down to the main event where Thor seemingly finds a solution to topple this nefarious villain, but then a plot twist [usually while the referee’s distracted in the actual WWE scenarios] allows the villain to triumph, forcing us to return to the follow-up pay-for-view in order to finally see justice served), I’m finally going to save myself some time by using the first thing that came to mind, The Beatles’ “Misery” (from their 1963 Please Please Me album) at watch?v=OfRQPECfwYw (taken from another album, On Air—Live at the BBC Volume 2, a 2013 compilation of 40 Beatles from 1963-’64 BBC broadcasts).  As long as you’re generous in your acceptance of this song in its metaphorical aspect for this review (and acknowledge, as I do, how it’s being used here as a sly ode from one pop culture phenomenon to another) then you can hopefully understand its relevance to the Avengers (along with 50% of the cosmic—rather than the Marvel Cinematic—universe) in their lament regarding how Thanos’ victory has left them now moaning “The world is treating me bad … Misery!,” and while Scarlet Witch is the specific “her” who’s “lost […] now for sure,” she’s also emblematic of all the others eradicated thanks to Thanos’ short-sighted-solution to resource-management, so even if we “remember all the little things we’ve done” in watching previous Marvel movies we’re left with the emptiness (for now at least) of a cinematic world devoid of Nick Fury, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Dr. Strange, Star-Lord, and others now “blowin’ in the wind”  (to push Mr. Dylan into all this mess)—“It’s gonna be a drag … Misery!”
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.*  Overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage If you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

*A Google software glitch causes every Two Guys posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to this Summary page; from then forward, though, this link is accurate.

Here’s more information about A Bag of Marbles: (7:37 interview with actor Patrick Bruel; the sound’s so low here that it’s barely audible, but I’ve included it for the benefit of those of you who might have additional amplification options with apologies to the rest of us for straining your ears, although there’s some useful printed information below the video screen within this link you might find interesting)

Here’s more information about Avengers: Infinity War: (11:15 exploration of the abundance of Easter Eggs in this movie)

Please note that to Post a Comment below about our reviews you need to have either a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website,, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California  knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 4,952; below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:


  1. MCU fatigue is real and apparently has no antidote. Marvel has many real "stars" in their universe, and while the producers are clearly capable of turning matter into new stars (eg Black Panther's success), this one, while technically well executed, only barely holds your interest while you are consuming it. It then turns into that familiar bloated feeling that only moderation could resolve. Clearly some of the Hollywood A listers like Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr are just phoning it in for a paycheck and top billing on the posters.

  2. Hi rj, Thanks for this well-stated lesson in cinematic cosmology (I agree). Ken