Review of “Avengers: Endgame”

Following their defeat at the hands of Thanos (Josh Brolin), the surviving Avengers are in different stages of grief. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is floating in space with Nebula (Karen Gillan) onboard the Guardians of the Galaxy’s ship. They are out of power and will soon be out of breathable air. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) are at the Avengers’ headquarters trying to figure out how to track down Thanos and mount another attack, gain control of the Infinity Stones and reverse “the Snap” that wiped out half of all life in the universe.

That’s all I can really tell you about the story of “Avengers: Endgame,” otherwise people will yell at me about spoilers. There is a great deal going on in the film and a proper synopsis would likely take a couple of pages, even if I left out the ending. It’s an expansive movie that takes advantage of a decade and 21 films in the canon of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is an achievement unlike anything in comic book movie history and movie history in general. The closest thing to what Marvel has accomplished here is the coming end of the Skywalker saga in the “Star Wars” movies. It is a feat of movie universe creation that will be difficult to repeat.

“Avengers: Endgame” is certainly about the enhanced abilities of dozens of people as they face an impossibly strong opponent with a fervent belief what he’s doing is correct. But what makes this film especially effective is the little human moments of emotion, grief, fear, remembrance and joy that highlight important turning points in the film. The first, a very, very minor spoiler, is Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton enjoying a family cookout when his wife and kids become victims of Thanos’ snap, leaving him frantically searching for them. Joe and Anthony Russo, the directors and architects of several MCU films, treat the capturing of this moment like a found-footage film. The movements of the camera are somewhat shaky, and we feel as if we are eavesdropping on a private scene that quickly becomes a catastrophe. There are several moments like this throughout the film that are to varying degrees much like this opening shot. For such a massive film, spanning across space and time and including so many heroes, the Russo’s still find ways to bring it all down to a personal level, one on one with a couple of characters chatting about how the snap destroyed their lives.

All the surviving characters are broken in some way, but Thor is the most obviously damaged. Again, no spoilers, but the God of Thunder is little more than the pop of a balloon for most of the film. He’s given up being a hero and just drinks beer and plays video games. Seeing the character turned from a grandiose blowhard to a drunken coward is something I can’t say I expected but enjoyed as Chris Hemsworth expertly molds Thor’s stately demeanor into that of a pathetic lush that has given up on saving the world and himself.

Returning to Jeremy Renner, his Clint Barton is put through the emotional wringer by the film. After losing his family, Barton becomes a murderous avenger, pardon the expression, who in the comics is known as Ronin. This leads to the reunion with Johansson’s Natasha as seen in the trailer. Renner hasn’t been given much to do in his previous appearances in the MCU other than make a life-saving archery shot and be brainwashed by Loki’s Infinity Stone-powered scepter. This time however, Renner is in the center of the action and forced to deal with more loss. He delivers a powerful performance, exposing his raw feelings and becoming a reflection of the audience’s emotional turmoil.

There are more scenes like that in “Avengers: Endgame,” but telling you about them would be a spoiler, so I won’t ruin the movie for you. I will say the film is more emotionally deep than any MCU film before it and has plenty of laughs as well. Despite its three-hour run time, the movie has no wasted space and no filler. You may have seen the articles online telling you when you can take a bathroom break and these scenes are not the most earthshattering or the most important to the plot, but they don’t feel like a waste of time either. I’ve seen far shorter films that could have used a trim, but there is almost nothing in the movie that could have been legitimately cut.

“Avengers: Endgame” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence, action and some language. There is some blood shown in the more violent scenes. An arm gets chopped off in battle, but it isn’t bloody. A head gets lopped off, but it is hidden and not graphic. A throat is slashed with a sword, and while it does bleed a great deal it doesn’t spurt blood like in an R-rated film. There are numerous fights and battles throughout the film. Foul language is scattered and mild.

I clearly loved the movie, the story, the performances, the visuals, it all worked for me completely…except for the way Steve Rogers story was wrapped up. Again, no spoilers, but there was just something too cute about how Captain America’s long tale was ended. Yes, I’m giving this fantastical story way too much thought, but there are some questions in my mind if the way things end for him is even possible and not undo everything we know about the character and his adventures in the MCU. I should ignore it, but the more time passes, the more I’m confused and want an explanation. Actually, I have an explanation…it’s a movie based on a comic book. Nothing else needs to be said.

“Avengers: Endgame” gets five stars.

Now that “Avengers: Endgame” has snatched up all the box office money, four new movies are opening this week to look for the change hiding under the cushions of your couch. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

El Chicano—

The Intruder—

Long Shot—


Listen to The Fractured Frame podcast for the latest in movies, TV and streaming, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to

Review of “Hellboy”

Back in the 5th Century, a powerful sorceress named Nimue (Milla Jovovich), also known as The Blood Queen, led an army of monsters in a battle against humanity and released a plague on the world. But, Nimue was betrayed by a witch on her council and was beheaded by King Arthur with his sword Excalibur. Arthur dismembered the still alive Nimue, placed each of her body parts in separate boxes, sealed by a priest’s blessing, and scattered across Britain so she could never release her death plague on mankind again. Summoned from Hell in a last-ditch effort by the Nazis to turn the Second World War in their favor, Hellboy (David Harbour) was meant to be killed by agents from the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD). Instead, agent Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane) raised the young demon into a man and used his unique abilities to fight the forces of evil. A couple of Hellboy’s enemies team up to find the pieces of Nimue and put her back together. They want revenge against Hellboy, but Nimue has other plans that include bringing the Apocalypse…and she needs Hellboy to make Hell on Earth a reality.

This reboot of “Hellboy” was doomed to fail. First, fans of Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 original are deeply loyal to that film and the two would inevitably be compared, with del Toro’s films always being the one preferred. Next, there’s David Harbour’s portrayal of Hellboy compared to Ron Perlman’s. Perlman is much more playful and lighthearted as the spawn from Hell, while Harbour is primarily angry and conflicted through the movie. Finally, there’s the story. According to the film’s Wikipedia page, aspects from four different Hellboy comics were used to create the story seen in the film. It’s an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach that doesn’t give the movie much of a chance to breathe, as it gallops through an enormous amount of exposition and CGI action scenes to arrive at a conclusion that is painfully obvious.

There’s so much going on in “Hellboy” I haven’t mentioned two major characters. The first is Alice Monaghan, played by Sasha Lane. She has a connection to Hellboy’s past and one of his past enemies. She’s important to the plot as she can contact and speak to and for the dead. It’s an ability the plot requires to be important at expedient times in the story. Despite how she’s used, Alice is a refreshing character. Her snark is one bright spot in an otherwise dreary movie.

The second is Major Ben Daimio, played by Daniel Dae Kim. Daimio is a member of Britain’s paranormal agency M11 and has large scars that look like claw marks across his face. Daimio doesn’t like Hellboy and puts plans into place to kill him. Daimio also has a secret that makes him a bit of a hypocrite. I feel a bit sorry for Kim. He was put in the role after Ed Skrein was originally cast then withdrew after he was informed the character in the comics is of Asian descent. I’m sure Kim is a very good actor as he’s been in a bunch of stuff I’ve seen. However, in “Hellboy,” he’s miscast as an aggressive, always angry Brit. Kim can’t hold on to the British accent for the whole movie. In one scene he ditches it altogether. While Kim can hold a fake military weapon believably, I just didn’t buy into his being a gung-ho soldier.

The tone of the film is dark and angry, a sharp contrast to the 2004 film’s lighter, more humorous take. Perhaps this is closer to the character from the comics, but it makes for an uninvolving and morose movie viewing experience.

“Hellboy” is rated R for gore throughout, strong bloody violence and language. There is blood, intestines, brains, decapitation, severed arms, legs, fingers, eyes poked out, bodies hanging from hooks, what appears to be insects causing people to disintegrate, bodies impaled on various things, etc. Foul language is common.

I don’t recall hearing anyone clamoring for a new “Hellboy” movie prior to learning about this film being in production or after. It arrived with a thud at the box office, only making $12-million in its opening weekend. That does not bode well for recouping its $50-million budget and for making any sequels. While it isn’t the horrendous mess the real critics claim it to be, “Hellboy” is a loud, overstuffed and unnecessary reboot that isn’t much fun.

“Hellboy” gets three stars out of five.

This week, I’ll be review “Breakthrough” for

Also opening this week:

Disneynature Penguins—

The Curse of La Llorona—

Listen to The Fractured Frame for the latest news in TV, streaming and movies, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to

Review of “Shazam!”

Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a 14-year-old boy in the foster care system of Philadelphia. When he was four, he got separated from his mother at a Christmas carnival. When his mother couldn’t be found, he was put in foster care. Billy’s dream is to be reunited with his real family, not the fake family in foster homes. Billy has run away from nearly two dozen of them in the search for his mother. Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) was raised by a verbally abusive father (John Glover) and an equally vile older brother. In 1974, as a child, Sivana was magically transported by a wizard to be offered great power, but he proved to have an impure heart when he was tempted by the Seven Deadly Sins and was returned to his family. He dedicated his adult life to returning to the wizard and gaining the power of evil. When Sivana figures out how to return to the wizard, he finds him weak and unable to stop him. Sivana takes the Eye of Sin and is made enormously powerful by the Seven Deadly Sins. Billy is sent to live with a new family that has four foster children. One of them, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), walks with the aid of a cane. Freddy is being picked on and beaten up by a couple of older, bigger bullies when Billy intervenes. The bullies chase Billy, but he escapes via a subway train. On the ride, everyone in the car disappears and odd symbols appear on the electronic sign. When the train stops, Billy is greeted by the same wizard who tells Billy he must be the new champion to fight against the evil Sivana is about to unleash on the world. To gain the wizard’s power, Billy must hold his staff and say the wizard’s name: Shazam!

An early complaint about DC’s superhero films was they were too dark and depressing, along with being not very good. None of those complaints can be made against “Shazam” as director David F. Sandberg and writer Henry Gayden have produced a film that shines with humor and positivity without being saccharine and preachy. They also provide character development and growth for both the hero and the villain. As an origin story of a second-tier character, this compares favorably to Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “Ant-Man.” Maybe DC has finally got their act together.

Zachary Levi is terrific as Shazam. I know his original name was Captain Marvel, but that requires a deep dive into various lawsuits and legal rulings I don’t want to get into. DC settled on naming the character Shazam during one of their recent reboots. Anyway, Levi is great. He embodies the spirit of a damaged youth suddenly given enormous power, and he behaves the way you would expect. He acts like a jerk. Using his powers to impress people and make money, Billy lives out his fantasies until he is faced with the threat posed by Dr. Sivana. He then runs away and doesn’t want to face the responsibilities of being a superhero, as you would expect an immature child to do.

Levi is a great deal of fun to watch as Shazam. He’s a playful dope and a weak-willed coward. He turns the modified Billy into an amplified version of the pre-super powered character, and he does it believably. It’s a performance that, in any other non-superhero movie, might be considered for awards season. Since he’s wearing a cape and a skin tight body suit (with fake muscles underneath and a glowing lightning bolt on his chest), Levi will have to settle for at least a couple of sequels and an appearance in a team-up movie should DC decide to try making another Justice League film.

As Billy’s new foster brother, Jack Dylan Grazer is fantastic as Freddy. The usually optimistic young man with a bum leg practically steals the movie from Angel and Levi. Grazer is a dynamo with an infectious laugh and love of life despite his problems. Freddy is Billy’s guide to the world of superheroes and he’s an enthusiastic coach and cheerleader. Grazer also is effective when the story calls on Freddy to tell Billy the truth about his obnoxious behavior while he’s also being honest about the hurt he feels regarding his lot in life. Grazer being so good in the film shouldn’t be a surprise as he was, for me, the stand-out character in 2017’s “It” as the hypochondriac Eddie. If he can avoid the pitfalls of being a talented child actor, Grazer will have a very long and productive career.

If there’s an issue with the film, it’s the hero’s learning curve for using his powers. There are abilities Shazam has he only figures out late in the movie, such as flight. That only shows up due to an attack from the villain. There are other powers he discovers early on, like shooting lightning from his fingers, that he doesn’t use when it would appear to prove useful. The inconsistencies of his using his abilities and not using them doesn’t make much sense.

That’s a minor quibble when you compare it to how good the movie is, not only from a story point of view, but also visually. The CGI used to create flight and the battles during it looks amazing. While there are shots similar to those in “Man of Steel” during the flying fights, the quality of the work in “Shazam” is vastly better. Faces look more lifelike. Movement is more natural. Considering “Man of Steel” had a budget more than double “Shazam,” it’s improved visual quality implies either major software advances or a more qualified effects team.

“Shazam” is rated PG-13 for language, intense sequences of action and suggestive material. There are several fights in the film. Some are between superpowered characters and others are just regular people. There’s only a little blood, but a character has an eye replaced by a glowing orb in a violent way. The suggestive material is a couple of visits to a “gentlemen’s club” we never see the inside of, and comments made about it. Foul language is scattered is consists mostly of variations on “s**t.”

If you want to put some thought into it, “Shazam” is a story of damaged characters and how they react to their damage. Some seek out world domination while others are looking for a family to belong to. Sex and relationship advice columnist and podcaster Dan Savage tells people they have a biological family and a logical family, and sometimes the logical one loves you more. While this movie is more about super heroics, it also says something about finding peace with your weaknesses, shortcomings and situation. We may not be able to fly and shoot lighting from our fingers, but we can find peace and help others to do the same or just not add to the pain of others. That can be heroic in a quieter way.

“Shazam” gets five stars.

Four new films are vying for your entertainment dollar. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:




Missing Link—

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Review of “Dumbo”

Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) comes home from fighting in World War I in 1919. While he was away, his wife died from influenza and he lost his left arm from a war injury. His children Milly and Joe (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins) are cared for by other people in the circus for whom Holt was once the star performer, doing tricks on horseback. The Medici Brothers Circus travels the country entertaining small-town crowds. The owner, Max Medici (Danny DeVito), has sold off Holt’s horses as the flu epidemic and the war have cut into business. Max puts Holt in charge of the elephants, including his latest acquisition, an Asian elephant named Jumbo. Jumbo is pregnant and gives birth to Jumbo, Jr. The baby elephant has enormous ears and is thought of as a freak. When crowds see Jumbo, Jr., they laugh and throw trash at him, angering his mother, who storms the tent. This leads to Jumbo, Jr.’s name being changed to Dumbo. Dumbo’s mother gets sent off to another attraction, making Dumbo sad. Milly and Joe are playing with Dumbo, blowing a feather back and forth between them when Dumbo sucks the feather into his trunk. This make Dumbo sneeze, causing his ears to flap and lifting him off the ground. None of the adults believe Milly and Joe until an accident under the big top proves Dumbo’s giant ears allow him to fly. The publicity of Dumbo flying attracts the attention of Dreamland amusement park owner V. A. Vandermere (Michael Keaton). His park has a permanent circus and wants Dumbo to be his newest act to secure more financing from billionaire banker J. Griffin Remington (Alan Arkin). He wants his girlfriend and star trapeze artist Colette Marchand (Eva Green) to ride on Dumbo’s back as he flies around the big top. However, Vandermere proves he has dark motives and will do anything to make Dumbo fly.

Disney’s live-action remake of the classic animated 1941 “Dumbo” feels like a cynical cash grab. I know all movies released are meant to make significantly more money than it cost to produce them, however, “Dumbo” feels like everyone is working on the film just to make a paycheck and the lack of caring shows.

“Dumbo” never strikes any of the emotional high notes you would expect from the story. When Dumbo’s mother is comforting him after she gets locked up and is about to be sent away, you should be turned into a blubbering mess, but you’re not. When Dumbo flies around the big top for the first time, proving what the children said to be true, it should be a moment of wonder and joy, but it isn’t. Early on, when Holt steps off the train and sees his children for the first time, there should be some kind of heightened feeling, but there isn’t.

Nothing works emotionally in the story including some of the characters. Milly Farrier is a robot for most of the film. Whether she’s presented with disappointment or triumph, her reaction is the same: Indifference. I don’t believe this is a choice made by actress Nico Parker, but director Tim Burton. Burton seems to be making a film about outsiders and trying to give every character their own weakness or foible. Holt is missing an arm and is a widower. Milly is emotionally shut down. Her brother Joe seems clueless. Medici is a short, small-time con man. Dumbo has big ears and misses his mother. I believe the story Burton is trying to tell is how these outcasts fight to triumph in a world built to keep them down, however, by the end of the film (no spoilers), the only winner is the elephant.

Colin Farrell looks uncomfortable as Holt. He has no chemistry at all with the young actors playing his children. That becomes part of the story as it is referenced over and over again that Holt’s dead wife always knew how to talk to the children, however, even by the end of the film, there’s something off about how Holt, Milly and Joe interact. Perhaps Farrell doesn’t like working the children. Maybe director Tim Burton was trying to up the discomfort between the characters since Holt had been away at war, is perhaps dealing with what we now call PTSD, and has to adjust to being a single parent. Whatever the reason, Farrell looks like he doesn’t want to be there.

Then there is the villain. Keaton’s Vandermere can’t decide if he has a foreign accent or not. He mugs and preens, strutting as if dancing whenever he’s on screen. It’s an odd performance that is hampered by some contradictory choices the script has the character make. I’m not going to spoil it, but Vandermere seems to cut off his nose to spite his face late in the film.

Eva Green’s Colette starts out as a snobbish ice queen but quickly turns into Holt’s ally and a surrogate mother to his children. This transition is far too fast and isn’t precipitated by any major event. She goes from being a diva to a warm-hearted step mom in no time flat.

About the only thing that almost works in “Dumbo” is the elephant and even that has some issues that stick out. Dumbo seems to understand a great deal of English right out of the womb. His blue eyes are weirdly large (it’s rare, but there are blue-eyed elephants in the wild). We see several shots from Dumbo’s perspective, and he appears to have mildly warped eyesight. One would think this might hamper his ability to avoid objects in his flight path, but it doesn’t. Dumbo, and most of the animals shown in the film, is computer generated. There are moments when you don’t notice it as much, but frequently the CGI is obvious and that kills any wonder the film might have had for me.

“Dumbo” is rated PG for peril/action, some thematic elements, and brief mild language. There are a couple of scenes where fire threatens various characters. A person is killed by a falling big top pole. There is some minor violence that is mostly played for laughs. A person is dragged by a horse. There are threats made to kill various animals and implying some animals were killed to make a pair of boots. Foul language is mostly suggested and mild.

Tim Burton needs to step away from big budget projects. While he has made some entertaining movies for the Disney and others, Burton’s last couple of efforts have been lackluster. I had similar feelings about another Burton film: ‘“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” isn’t a terrible movie. It just isn’t terribly memorable. It looks amazing and features some interesting ideas in regards to people with unique abilities. What it doesn’t do is really strike deep in the heart of the audience and make us care about what happens to the denizens of this peculiar world.’ I guess Burton tries too hard to make his movies about misfits and outsiders when, in this case, he should have concentrated on making a light and sweet family film. It isn’t offensive, but it isn’t entertaining either.

“Dumbo” gets two stars out of five.

A civil rights drama, a Stephen King adaptation and a superhero adventure are making their way to a screen near you. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

The Best of Enemies—

Pet Sematary—


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Stan Classics: Review of “Dead Silence”

(This was originally published March 17, 2012 on the former WIMZ website)

“Beware the stare of Mary Shaw.  She had no children, only dolls.  And if you see her, do not scream.  Or she’ll rip your tongue out at the seam.”

This is the poem used to sell the new horror film from the writer and director of “Saw.”  But it should have gone more like this:  Beware the stare of Mary Shaw.  She had no children, only dolls.  This movie is her story told.  But it’s not scary and quickly grows old.

“Dead Silence” tells the story of Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) and his effort to find out who killed his wife Lisa (Laura Regan) by ripping her tongue out.  His search takes him back to his home town of Ravens Fair where entire families have been killed over several decades in the same way.  The main suspect is the ghost of a long-dead ventriloquist, Mary Shaw (Judith Roberts) who had her tongue cut out and was killed after she was suspected in the disappearance of a young boy.  But police detective Jim Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg) thinks Jamie killed his wife and follows him to Ravens Fair to prove it.

Here’s how bad “Dead Silence” is.  The best performance in the film is by Donnie Wahlberg.  Now, Wahlberg is a good actor and has been in several TV shows and films (he was the crazy patient that shoots Bruce Willis at the beginning of “The Sixth Sense”), but here, his Detective Lipton is the most thought out, best written part in the movie and he’s a secondary player.  The rest of the films’ protagonists are stock characters from any horror/suspense/thriller of the last 10 years who make the same bad decisions made by every scary movie victim.  And the biggest sin of “Dead Silence” is that it’s not scary.  There are two types of fear a movie can create.  First there’s the sustained tension of wondering if the bad guy is around the next corner or will catch the character being chased.  The second type is what I call the “BOO” moment, when a sudden event causes you to jump in your chair.  “Dead Silence” has only one “BOO” moment early on and no sustained tension.  Despite a twist at the end that I should have seen coming, “Dead Silence” fails to live up to its pedigree.

“Dead Silence” is rated R for horror violence and images.  There isn’t that much blood, other than a woman spitting up a large quantity of it.  We see Mary Shaw’s body after the mortician has fulfilled her wishes to be turned into a life size doll and the effects of having ones tongue ripped out of ones mouth.  While somewhat gruesome, there’s nothing too extreme in the film visually.

James Wan is the man behind the “Saw” movies.  He directed the first one and produced the last two.  Those films have so far have displayed a level of imagination and creativity that is obviously lacking in “Dead Silence.”  Mr. Wan would be better served to apply the same effort to all of his projects in the future.  And scary movie fans should save their money and rent “Psycho” or “The Exorcist” or “The Sixth Sense.”

“Dead Silence” gets one star out of five.

See my review of Jordan Peele’s “Us.”

Review of “Captain Marvel”

It’s 1995 and the Earth is unaware of all the intelligent life in the galaxy. Vers (Brie Larson) is a Kree warrior in the fight against a shapeshifting race called Skrulls. Vers is part of a team led by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and is sent on a mission to retrieve a Kree spy on another world that is being invaded by Skrulls. The mission is a trap and Vers is captured. Her brain is scanned by Skrulls and several memories are retrieved. The Skrulls are looking for an engineer and inventor on Earth named Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening) they believe has invented a lightspeed engine. Vers can’t remember her life prior to arriving on the Kree home world and these recovered memories give her a glimpse into her mysterious early life. Vers breaks free and steals an escape pod, but it is damaged and disintegrates entering the atmosphere. Vers crashes through the roof of a Blockbuster video store. She manages to cobble together a communications device using parts from a Radio Shack and a pay phone to contact Yon-Rogg, letting him know she is on Earth. He tells her to stay put and a ship is on its way, but Vers tells him she needs to find Dr. Lawson and keep the Skrulls from getting her lightspeed engine. Agents Nick Fury and Phil Coulson (Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg) from SHIELD arrive and attempt to take Vers into custody, but she runs off after a disguised Skrull attacks her with an energy weapon. During the chase, Fury discovers the Coulson riding in the car with him is a disguised Skrull, leading Fury to intentionally crash his car, killing the Skrull. At SHIELD headquarters, the Skrull is autopsied in the presence of Fury and his boss Director Keller (Ben Mendelsohn). Director Keller is actually the Skrull, Talos. Doing some research at an internet café, Vers searches for a restaurant she saw in one of her memories. When she arrives, Nick Fury is waiting for her and they talk about what she is and why she’s on Earth. He trusts what she’s telling him, so he takes her to the facility where Dr. Lawson’s engine is being developed. Skrull Keller arrives with other SHIELD agents to arrest Vers and Fury. The pair escape then go on the run to find Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) to try and help Vers recover more memories of her early life when she was known as Carol Danvers and was an Air Force pilot, while also looking for the lightspeed engine to keep it away from the Skrulls.

“Captain Marvel” is Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie. There’s a great deal of pressure to make more inclusive superhero movies. The majority of these films have both male leads and men playing the villain. The only female hero prior to “Captain Marvel” has been DC’s “Wonder Woman” and a shared lead position in Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” The only female antagonists I can think of are Ghost from “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and Hela in “Thor: Ragnarok.” While Black Widow, Pepper Potts, Nakia, Okoye, Shuri and other female characters have played important supporting roles in Marvel films, none have focused on a singular woman hero with power until now. This film has faced more scrutiny than most Marvel releases. It is the first MCU film following the death of Stan Lee. It has also been the focus of many internet trolls looking to make a point from their parent’s basements. They feel any woman with power (or powers) is an attack on all men. Their actions forced Rotten Tomatoes to change their audience score reporting, but apparently had no impact on the film’s power at the box office. With so much attention on “Captain Marvel,” and taking all the social/political nonsense out of the equation, is it an entertaining film?

The cast of “Captain Marvel” is terrific. Academy Award winner Brie Larson is perfect for the powerful, proud, capable, and confident Vers/Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. Her playful banter with Jackson’s Nick Fury feels natural, not a script she learned for a job. Larson is also a natural action star, performing the complicated (granted, heavily edited) fight scenes early in the film with the grace of a dancer.

There’s a through-line in the film of Vers/Carol being stubborn and a “pain in the ass.” It’s a simple technique to show a perceived flaw as an actual strength. Larson handles all the aspects of the character’s personality as natural traits instead of showy actor flourishes. It’s a beautifully nuanced performance of a character that could have been a cliched “superhero,” hands-on-hips, wind-in-her-hair routine.

Ben Mendelsohn’s Skrull Talos is able to shapeshift into any person he sees. Mendelsohn also tailored his performance depending on how he looked. When he’s Director Keller, Mendelsohn is all business and speaks with an American accent. When he’s under all the latex appliances to become Talos, he uses his natural Australian accent and is more playful. While his speech is somewhat affected by the makeup and prosthetic teeth, Mendelsohn still manages to put a spark in Talos that implies there’s more to the character than a mindless killing machine. The Skrulls are an interesting race, with their abilities and exposed backstory later in the film. Perhaps Mendelsohn will return in a future project telling us more about the history of the Skrulls in a standalone film or Disney+ project. I’d see that because of Mendelsohn.

The Nick Fury of “Captain Marvel” is far different than the one we’ve seen in the MCU to date. This younger Fury is a bit more trusting and laughs easier. He takes Vers’ word for what her mission is after she doesn’t vaporize him with her photon blasts. She gets personal information out of Fury that we’d never get out of the one we’ve known for the last 10 years. Samuel L. Jackson looks like he’s having fun playing Fury, something I couldn’t say in his earlier appearances. Fury is also a bigger part of the story instead of a peripheral character. Jackson and Larson’s interactions are understandably tentative at first but become warmer and even familial as the story progresses.

While the performances are great, the story of “Captain Marvel” comes up a bit short. First, it’s repetitive. I’m sure an examination of all superhero movies would show similar repetition, but it really stands out in “Captain Marvel.” There’s a fight, a chase, a resolution, some chat, a fight, a chase, a resolution, some chat, etc. The series gets repeated at least five times. It would be different if something truly amazing happened in one or more of these series, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

For an origin story, there’s not much original in what happens until the last 15 minutes of the movie. Only then does the film come alive and impress us with a superpowered light show and something of a tutorial about how to manage Captain Marvel’s true abilities. All the back and forth with the Skrulls, learning about her past, being on the run with Fury, spending time in Louisiana with Maria, it all feels like filler. There is important story information in some parts of these scenes, but it’s padded and like busy work given to script writing interns. While the average superhero movie is two hours or more (sometimes much more, “Avengers: Endgame”), and this film clocks in at two hours, four minutes, it feels too long. While every film has stuff in it that could probably be trimmed, the best ones should feel like every frame is important and worth seeing. “Captain Marvel” doesn’t feel that way.

“Captain Marvel” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language. Punches are thrown, beatdowns are given (Fury comes out on the short end of one), energy beams are shot, stuff blows up. It’s standard superhero action. We get a look at a Skrull being autopsied. The suggestive language consists of a male Air Force pilot asking Danvers if she knows why it’s called a “cockpit.” Foul language is otherwise widely scattered and mild.

Returning to my original question, is the film entertaining, my answer is mostly. It feels too long and too repetitive with nothing special about the storytelling or what we learn about Carol Danvers. The film’s twist isn’t all that surprising given what we see about those involved in it. However, the performances by Larson, Jackson, Mendelsohn and the rest of the cast raise the entertainment value, along with the way Captain Marvel will be involved in the events of “Avengers: Endgame” (make sure you watch the mid-credits scene for a sneak preview), making “Captain Marvel” required viewing. It’s not the best MCU film and it isn’t the worst. It is squarely in the middle and does the job required of it.

“Captain Marvel” get three stars out of five.

Opening this week are films about oppression, teen romance during illness and the power of imagination. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Captive State—

Five Feet Apart—

Wonder Park—

For the latest in movie, TV and streaming news listen to The Fractured Frame, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to

Review of “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral”

The 40th anniversary of Vianne and Anthony (Jen Harper and Derek Morgan) is a time for celebration and all their children are coming home to help them celebrate. Oldest son A.J. and his wife Carol (Courtney Burrell and KJ Smith) are hosting the party. Youngest son Jessie (Rome Flynn) and daughter Sylvia (Ciera Peyton) are on hand as well. A.J. and Carol are having problems in their marriage and A.J. is cheating on her with Jessie’s fiancé Gia (Aeriel Miranda). While A.J. and Gia are at a nearby motel, A.J. hears a familiar voice in the room next door. Barging in the door, A.J. finds his father Anthony in bed with Renee (Quin Walters), a family friend. Also showing up to see the sorted scene are Madea, Joe, Bryan (all played by Tyler Perry), Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) and Hattie (Patrice Lovely). Anthony and Renee are having a S&M scene when Anthony has a heart attack and later dies at the hospital. The anniversary party is now a funeral being planned by Madea. With all the secrets threatening to pull the family apart, Madea and the rest of the older mourners are trying to lighten the mood and keep the emotional volcano from exploding.

“Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral” (which I’m choosing to shorten to “Family Funeral” for most future references) is my first experience with a Madea film. I thought since Perry announced this would be the final Madea movie I should check it out and I’m half glad I did. Half glad as this film is really two movies: One is the family drama of cheating and lies and love. The second is every scene Madea and all the older characters are in. One is significantly better than the other.

The melodrama that makes up the bulk of the film is awful. A bit of trivia posted on the movie’s IMDb page, and repeated on the film’s Wikipedia page, says it was shot in about a week. I couldn’t find any other sources to verify that, but the threadbare script and soap opera-style acting would imply there weren’t many takes wasted to make the movie. Most of the dialog involving the family at the center of the story consists of one of the following: “Are you alright?” “What’s wrong?” “My daddy just died!” While Tyler Perry’s movies have never been accused of being complex or subtle, it feels like he has just given up in “Family Funeral.”

Perry was busy on the film as he plays four characters, directs, produces and wrote the script. Maybe he has finally taken on too many jobs in his film as “Family Funeral” is a schizophrenic mess, jumping from dealing with loss and betrayal to ribald comedy fast enough to cause audience-wide whiplash.

Yet the audience I saw it with, comprised mainly of African-Americans, loved ever second of it. There were raucous laughs at the antics of Madea, Bam and Hattie (often covering up the next joke), disapproving comments about revelations of infidelity, and appreciative nods to the impressive gospel singers shown at the funeral. The about-half-full theater with whom I saw the film was hanging on every word, ready to laugh or cry, depending on which direction the story went.

Should you decide to see “Family Funeral,” I suggest viewing it with a sizable crowd. The experience will be heightened if you are surrounded by people willing to forgive the film’s flaws and enjoy the final ride with Madea.

The best part of the film is Madea and the rest of the incorrigible senior citizens. There’s talk of pimpin’ ho’s, smoking weed, killing husbands with anti-freeze, peeing every mile on a car trip, geriatric sexuality, expressing religious beliefs by misquoting the Bible, and jokes at the expense of a man with no legs and using a voice modulator after cancer surgery. The humor in “Family Funeral” also comes from all those that know the circumstances of Anthony’s death not being able to keep their mouth’s shut, yet none of the younger family members or his wife ever asks any follow up questions when Madea or the others say something that screams for it. It’s the kind of slapstick silliness that doesn’t get made by Hollywood movies anymore. I believe the reason for that is no one really knows how to do it anymore. Tyler Perry is a kind of throwback filmmaker. He knows his audience and plays to their tastes: Family drama and old people punching each other in the face. It’s a formula that has made Perry a very wealthy man (estimated net worth of $600-million). Few have homed in on the likes and wants of their fans the way Perry has, and it has served him, and his bank account, well.

“Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral” is rated PG-13 for crude sexual content, language, and drug references throughout. There is much discussion of the erection Anthony has that persists after death. There is also talk of him choking on a ball gag. Various characters make sexual comments throughout the film. No drugs are shown being used, but there is a great deal of discussion about cannabis and its use. Foul language is scattered, but the film does use it’s one ratings-allowed “F-bomb.”

As I write this, “Family Funeral” had a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 41 on Metacritic. I can’t argue with either score as the film as a whole is not very good. Wooden acting, a repetitive script and leaden pacing all add up to this being a bad film. However, seeing Perry in Madea drag, and all the other elderly characters, say incredibly inappropriate things at the most inappropriate times redeems the movie for me. I may have to go back into the Madea catalog and check out her other adventures while fast-forwarding through the parts that are supposed to be telling the story. Madea is what we all see these films for. The rest is just filler to reach a feature film’s run time.

“Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral” gets three stars out of five.

There’s only one new movie opening this week.

Captain Marvel—

Listen to The Fractured Frame for the latest movie, TV and streaming news, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to