Paul Rudd

Avengers: Endgame

30/04/19

It’s pointless to try and give this one a body swerve. It lumbers over the cinematic horizon like a behemoth, gobbling up viewers and crushing box office records beneath its massive feet. Resistance is futile.

As one of the few reviewers who was distinctly underwhelmed by Infinity Wars, I still need to see how the Russo Brothers are going to extricate themselves from the corner they’ve seemingly painted themselves into. Oh, right… like that. Well, I guess it was the only way possible…

By the way, those of you who like to cry ‘plot spoiler!’ every time a tiny detail is revealed may want to think twice about reading the following two paragraphs. Just saying.

Endgame opens briefly on events shortly after Thanos (Josh Brolin) has made the most calamitous finger-snap in history. It then moves on five years to show the remaining Avengers trying to come to terms with what has happened to the world. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is now a ruthless swordsmen, carving up Japanese gangsters with relish, whilst sporting a disastrous new haircut that makes him look like a disgruntled cockapoo. Captain America (Chris Evans) is attending therapy classes, but is still impossibly clean and healthy. Thor (Chris Hemsworth), on the other hand, has really let himself go and now sports hippie dreadlocks and a fearsome beer belly. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) has learned to manage his anger issues and is permanently trapped in his green, oversized alter ego, Hulk. And… well, so on.

Then, up pops Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) recently returned from imprisonment in the quantum realm. He brings along an idea that might just undo the Infinity Curse and return the world to where it was five years ago. So the Avengers assemble for one more mission.

OK, so my main beef with this is the same as it was with Infinity Wars, only even more so. There are just too many superheroes for comfort. The way things stand here, they seem to outnumber ordinary people, which can’t be right, surely? And you know, I, for one, am happier with those movies (like Shazam!, for instance) that know they are essentially kids’ film’s and feel no shame about it. Endgame, however, is for the most part so serious it hurts – it’s a great lumbering leviathan, creaking beneath the weight of its own self-importance. Happily, the po-faced stuff is leavened every so often by some much-needed humour, most of it coming from Hemsworth’s corner. (I love the fact that Thor never has to apologise for losing that gym-ready look and Hemsworth always has a cheeky glint in his eye that suggests he knows how ridiculous it all is but couldn’t care less.)

To give the Russo Brothers their due, this doesn’t really feel like a bum-numbing three-hour marathon. It’s action packed enough to allow the time to zip by and, if the script occasionally feels ridiculously over-complicated, well that’s just par for the course when you have an audience that picks so avidly over every little detail. And pick they will. Reports are that people are going back to watch the film over and over again.

Of course, as ever, we are presented with a great big climactic battle, made even more of an endurance test by the fact that the scriptwriters feel duty bound to include every single lead character from the preceding twenty-one movies in the Marvel EU. That’s an awful lot of spandex to take in. And then of course, once the punch up’s done and the dust has settled, there’s the little matter of tying up all those loose ends…

Look, the cinema going public has made its mind up on this, and who am I to say that they’re wrong? I can only speak for myself when I repeat the old mantra ‘less is more.’ Give me one superhero and one villain, and I’m a relatively happy bunny.

Endgame is undoubtedly a big movie, but maybe not in the way it thinks it is.

3.8 stars

Philip Caveney

 

 

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The Fundamentals of Caring

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01/08/16

I really enjoyed The Fundamentals of Caring. A Netflix original, written and directed by Rob Burnett, it’s a sweet, quirky story, reminiscent of Little Miss Sunshine in its worldview. Despite the sarcasm and raw pain, there’a a refreshing lack of cynicism here: most people, it seems, are essentially okay. This is a film with neither heroes nor villains, just ordinary folk, getting by with all their flaws.

Coming so soon after Me Before You, another film about the relationship between a disabled person and a carer is bound to draw comparisons. But The Fundamentals of Caring manages to avoid a lot of the traps the more mainstream film falls into, largely by making Trevor (Craig Roberts) a convincing human being, defined by more than just his disability. He can be a bit of a shit, moody and truculent, contradictory and annoying. And so can everyone else. Dot (Selena Gomez) doesn’t kiss him because she feels sorry for him, nor because she admires him. She kisses him because she fancies him, because he’s “handsome and cool.” And, yeah, Ben (Paul Rudd) does find some redemption in his caring role; yeah, Trevor helps to ‘heal’ the able-bodied bloke. But the fact that this cliche is acknowledged makes it okay, I think: “I have no interest in saving you,” Trevor tells Ben, making clear that he will not be used this way. And, in the end, no one is really saved; they all just feel a little better about the crappy cards they’ve been dealt.

This is a funny film, with a number of successful running gags. Trevor’s repeated attempts to convince Ben that he’s dying might not sound like the stuff that jokes are made of, but they’re moments of silliness and tension that help ensure we stay on-side. So it’s a comedy about pain, a road-trip movie without much road, a buddy-movie without much buddying. And you know what? It’s really good. Watch it. See what you think.

4.4 stars

Susan Singfield