Category Archives: Show Time

Vol. 11, No. 20 – July 4 – July 17, 2018 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Beautiful music and intriguing story onstage in Ojai

An exploration of Ludwig van Beethoven’s laborious journey in penning variations to an otherwise mediocre waltz by Anton Diabelli is now on stage in 33 Variations at the Ojai Theatre Center Playhouse.

The commission of variations to his work by more well-known composers was in hopes of elevating Diabelli’s own work to greatness. Things didn’t quite work out that way as Beethoven, who originally turned down the commission, became enamored by the work and ultimately devoted a great deal of his own life to it.

Ably directed by Richard Camp, the audience is guided through a fascinating trip through time, motivation and determination as well as learning how Beethoven struggled with his own muses and ultimately his loss of hearing while still composing great works.

The play by Moises Kaufman highlights the focused research by musicologist Dr. Katherine Brandt (Tracey Williams Sutton) whose life ambition is to unravel the mysteries behind the genius’ work. To delve deeply into the writings, she must spend time in Bonn, Germany pouring through archives of Beethoven’s notations.

Archivist Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger (Lynn Van Emmerik) slowly warms to Dr. Brandt, ultimately providing assistance, friendship and emotional support for the project and for the researcher. Dr. Ladenburger is at first disapproving of the “intruder” into her beloved archives, but gradually warms to a fully likeable character as their bond grows.

Adding to the Doctor’s plight is her declining health due to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) as well as a strained relationship with her daughter Clara (Andra Belknap). Clara reluctantly falls for her mother’s nurse (Devin D. Dornbos) and together they learn to cope with the many difficulties that arise.

Brandt’s journey takes place in the present, while explanatory actions are also staged in the 1800’s to show interactions between Beethoven (Cecil Sutton) and Diabelli (Sean Love Mason) that may have taken place. Beethoven’s loyal henchman Anton Schindler (R. Shayne Bourbon) provides additional insights into the creative mastermind behind the music.

Underscored throughout with Beethoven’s compositions played by highly talented pianist Aaron Embry, the result is simply mesmerizing. The evening would have been exemplary with just the concert. However, the play fills in the blanks we didn’t know were there and adds depth on many levels to make the music even more enjoyable.

Ms. Williams Sutton’s portrayal of the obsessed and brilliant Dr. Brandt is stellar. She easily brings forth the singlemindedness of Dr. Brandt as well as her inner strength in the face of myriad challenges.

As the musical genius Beethoven, felt to be the greatest composer of all time (quite a role to fill!), Cecil Sutton brings forth the eccentricities of creativity with passion.

In the role of Anton Diabelli, a composer of lesser renown, Sean Love Mason gives a glance into the type of man he may have been.

A simple yet highly effective set designed by Steve Mitchell as well as well thought out period costuming by Mary Crane and Tracey Sutton adds just the right shell for the action.

Ojai Art Center Theater, 113 S. Montgomery Street, (805) 640-8797, www.OjaiACT.org

General admission $20, Seniors &Art Center Members $18. Everyone 25 and under (must show I.D.) gets in for only $10. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m., Sundays 2:00 p.m. through July 15.

Vol. 11, No. 20 – July 4 – July 17, 2018 – Movie Review

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
3 Palm Trees out of 4

by Manuel reynoso

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a 2018 documentary film directed by Morgan Neville and edited by Jeff Malmberg and Aaron Wickenden. The film about the life of Fred Rogers and the themes of his television show.

A documentary on the life of a truly wholesome individual. Every minute of it is a bombardment of one man’s sentimentality and passion for children. I’ve haven’t seen so much hope and so much inspiration emitting from a single person. While he was fallible and with his own moments of weakness, he set his course in life to be the best person he could be for the sake of children everywhere. With this much positivity, I have to ask, where are all these tears coming from?

Now maybe I’m overly sensitive, but that can’t explain the sniffles I heard all throughout the theater. No, this documentary was something special. So much of it was spent talking about feelings, whether those of Mr. Fred Rogers or the feelings of children. It really is special to see so much respect for something that isn’t taken seriously so much of the time. It touches people, and it left both me and my girlfriend a quivering mess. That’s where the power in this documentary lies, in its ability to reach others and remind ourselves of the vulnerability of childhood.

All this wouldn’t have been possible without some really impressive technical know-how. Editing tends to be what carries a documentary, and Won’t You Be My Neighbor has some really impressive editing from beginning to end. It’s carries the familiar fast pace editing style of a documentary while also having a patient and methodical rhythm to it. While these two styles feel like they should be at odds with each other, it ends up delivering the soft and patient feel we associate with Mr. Rogers. It’s that success that makes this documentary so pleasant and easy to watch.

As for the documentary itself, it’s absolutely interesting. Whether you grew up with Mr. Rogers in your household or not, the man really leaves a colossal impression on you. All of his triumphs, his losses, and his insecurities are all laid out for you in a deeply personal story, that at times may come off a tad bit aggrandizing. It’s also very safe with the content it shares. Lots of what the film goes over has already been highlighted before. So previous fans of Mr. Rogers may see a lot of what they have already known.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor really boils down to a feel good documentary. To the point where it might even leave you in tears. It’s not groundbreaking, but it is still an exceptional piece of work. There is so much to love about Fred Rogers, and whether you already fell in love with his quirky, quiet demeanor, or you are learning about him for the first time, there is something for everyone to love in this film. Rated PG-13 1h34m

Vol. 11, No. 19 – June 20 – July 3, 2018 – Movie Review

Hereditary
Review: 3.5 Palm Trees out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

Hereditary is a 2018 horror film written and directed by Ari Aster. It stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, and Gabriel Byrne. With the death of their mysterious grandmother, a family’s sorrow quickly becomes a nightmare.

Well directed horror, is an absolute nightmare. No other genre can so seamlessly mix the psychological with the supernatural; the subtle with the overt; the grotesque with the beautiful. With such terrifying imagery so meticulously composed I was equal parts disgusted and intrigued. I may scare easily, but Hereditary did more than just scare me, it horrified me. As a package, Hereditary blew me away with its focus on theme, cinematography, and the exceptional acting on display.

From the very first moments of the film, the cinematography had me captivated with everything going on in the screen. Every scene is framed to coax out feelings of unease. Even more effective are the shots purposely composed to mimic someone staring into a doll house; the uncanny valley is in full effect during these scenes. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the camera really was its own character in Hereditary. So despite how the scene unfolds, there’s always this looming sense of dread and unease. Toni Collette and Alex Wolff also carried the film with their performance. They were captivating and really exacerbated the dread and despair in this film.

So much of what Hereditary does is to foster a sense of looming demise in the viewer, but that isn’t to say that it effectively does this the whole time. Around the middle of the second act, the overall tone of the film changes pretty drastically. Enough that I’ve found myself and several others laughing at seemingly inappropriate times. While I personally thought the film accomplished telling a horrifying story, audiences are split, especially in regards to its controversial ending. While your opinion may vary on the effectiveness of the ending, I personally found it fitting thematically with the story the film was trying to tell.

I also find it important to acknowledge that Hereditary took risks with the horror genre. Subverting viewer expectations almost becomes a game for the film. Of all the risks it takes, the ending takes the cake for the biggest I’ve seen in a while, and it’s clear that it’s reception is very mixed. Despite the mixed viewer reactions, the sheer novelty of it all makes it more than worth the watch, but for me it stands out as one of the best horror movies I’ve personally experienced. Rated R 2h7m

Vol. 11, No. 19 – June 20 – July 3, 2018 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine
Little Women plays strong in Camarillo

First performed as a musical in 2005, Little Women makes its Ventura County debut with strong performances chronicling the well known Civil War story originally published in 1934 by Louisa May Alcott.

The timeless tale of the March family comes to life on the stage of the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse in fine style. Father March has gone to war, leaving behind mother (Marmee) and four feisty daughters, Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy. The sisters are a tight group, vowing to always stay together no matter what. Of course, circumstances change slightly as they grow older, each pining for their dream existence while discovering that reality has other plans.

Set in Concord, Massachusetts and New York during 1865 and 1866, the audience is easily transported back in time via authentically styled and detailed costumes, representative period set pieces and a casual flavor of elegance. Set design by theater veteran Dean Johnson is effective in its simplicity although some scene changes of shuffling furniture seemed rather superfluous to me. Just my opinion. An unchanging set scene of the professor’s library on stage left worked well.

The play is directed with a deft hand by Janelle Phaneuf who keeps the pace spirited throughout. Often seen on the stage herself, Musical Director Erin Fagundes does an overall admirable job of blending voices. Several of the men present with more enthusiasm than vocal acumen, although they should settle into their roles as the run continues. Keeping up with the vocal talents displayed by the female cast must be challenging.

The main character of Jo, a before-her-time feminist, is played with strength and conviction by Savannah Ludwig. Her voice is a force of nature, clear and true. Meg, the traditionalist daughter, is well pictured by Genevieve Levin. The frail and timid Beth is given a mighty characterization by Hannah Marks while the youngest, Amy, is portrayed by Hannah Marks, all to fine measure.

Marmee, the March mother, is solidly played by Aileen-Marie Scott. The formidable Aunt March brought to larger than life by Sindy McKay is a highlight. Both excel in their roles in disposition, bearing and vocals.

The men are well represented through Dale Alpert as Mr. Laurence, the dour neighbor across the street, Ezra Eells as Professor Bhaer, Jonathan Markham as young Laurie Laurence and Andrew Nunez as Mr. John Brooke. Each is given an opportunity to shine. All appear to be having a great time embodying their new personas.

Musical accompaniment is recorded which keeps everyone on their toes. The cast rises to the occasion admirably, although personally I would prefer to hear the actors over the music rather than the other way around. Perhaps due to the pace and the volume, some of the diction was lost to me. This did not lessen my enjoyment of the performance however.

Little Women, the Broadway musical, is entirely family friendly (a rarity in musical theater these days, it seems) built on a fine classic story. Suitable for all ages, this performance is a recommended start to the summer.

Little Women continues through July 15 at the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse, 330 Skyway Drive near the Camarillo airport. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, students and military. Contact the box office at www.boxoffice@skywayplayhouse.org or call (805) 388-5716. Season subscriptions are available. Curtain is 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. on Sundays.

Rubicon Theatre Company kicks off sixteenth year of summer programs

Rubicon Theatre Company kicks off its 16th year of summer education programs with four family friendly production performed by kids for kids: The Grunch :Madagascar; Julius Caesar and Grease .

Rubicon’s new Education and Outreach Directors, Broadway veterans Beverly and Kirby Ward, will oversee the administration of the four productions and their respective camps: Stinky Feet, Theatre Camp, Fearless Shakespeare, and the Musical Theatre Intensive.

The Grunch – Inspired by “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” The Grunch tells the story of Rudy Grunch, a grumpy 6th-grader who always feels like an outsider. When the entire school gets excited about the annual musical, he comes up with a perfect plan to ruin it for everyone.

Show Dates: Sat Jun 30, 2018 | 12:00 p.m. & 2:00 p.m. Ticket Price: $11

Madagascar – Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture “Madascar,” the story follows Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, Gloria the Hippo, and plotting penguins.

Show Dates: Fri Jul 6, 2018 | 7:00 p.m.; Sat Jul 7, 2018 | 2:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.; Sun Jul 8, 2018 | 2:00 p.m. Ticket Price: $11/$16

Julius Caesar – In this story of loyalty and patriotism, betrayal and individual ambition, Julius Caesar returns to Rome in glory, having defeated his rival. The adoring crowds want to crown him king, but those around him worry that he has become too ambitious. On a stormy night filled with foreboding, Cassius persuades Caesar’s noble friend Brutus to join a conspiracy that changes the course of history.

Show Dates: Fri Jul 20, 2018 | 7:00 p.m.; Sat Jul 21, 2018 | 2:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.; Sun Jul 22, 2018 | 2:00 p.m. Ticket Price: $11/$16

Grease – Rubicon’s Musical Theatre students present this musical during its 40th anniversary. Head greaser Danny Zuko and new girl Sandy Dumbrowski try to re-live the romance of their “Summer Nights” as the rest of the gang sings and dances to songs that recall the music of Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley.

Show Dates: Fri Aug 3, 2018 | 7:00 p.m.; Sat Aug 4, 2018 | 2:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.; Sun Aug 5, 2018 | 2:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.; Tue Aug 7, 2018 | 7:00 p.m.; Wed Aug 8, 2018 | 2:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.; Thu Aug 9, 2018 | 7:00 p.m.; Fri Aug 10, 2018 | 7:00 p.m. Ticket Price: $11/$16

Although this is be the Wards’ first time working with the Rubicon Summer Programs, they are seasoned professionals with five Broadway shows and eight National Tours to their credit. The two met in the San Diego Junior Theatre program, which was run by Kirby’s parents, and have a deep appreciation of the skills and values learned.

In reflecting on the youth program of which they were a part, Kirby remarks that, “The focus wasn’t solely on training great actors. It was on training great people.”

Tickets may be purchased in person through the Rubicon Theatre Box Office, located at 1006 E. Main Street (Laurel entrance). To charge by phone, call (805) 667-2900. Or visit Rubicon online at www.rubicontheatre.org.

Vol. 11, No. 18 – Jun 6 – June 19, 2018 – Movie Review

Deadpool
2 2.5 Palm trees out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

Deadpool 2 is a 2018 superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Deadpool, distributed by 20th Century Fox. The film is directed by David Leitch, Written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, and Zazie Beetz.

With super soldier Cable arriving from the past to kill a young mutant, Deadpool creates the X-force, a team of mutants tasked with saving the boy.

I felt Deadpool 2 was always going to have the problem of just being more Deadpool. While this turned out to be true, It’s hard to knock it when I find Deadpool absolutely hilarious. Ryan Reynolds continues to kill it playing Deadpool and the writers continue to deliver the edgy, self-referential humor that we’ve come to love (or hate). Now that the novelty of the first Deadpool film has worn off, the cracks really begin to show. Awkward tonal changes, hit and miss jokes, and egregious amount of pop culture references can be an easy turn off for many. So if you are a fan of pop culture references, borderline offensive humor and gratuitous violence, then Deadpool 2 is a blast. Otherwise, there is little reason for you to pay the price of admission.

I’m not going to lie and say I’m above the vulgar jokes that pop off seemingly every other minute. I had some of the biggest laughs I had at the movies in a long time. However, the machine gun delivery of jokes can be a little much sometimes. While I have to give all the credit in the world to the writers for weaving in huge amount of jokes into a surprisingly heavy”ish” plot, the occasional tonal differences between the two can kinda suck the life from each other. One minute you’re laughing along to Deadpool’s shenanigans and next it’s time to be serious. It’s not so much that a balance can’t be had, but that timing between the two feels off. Even if by design, it’s not something that really clicked for me as a viewer.

Ryan Reynolds comedic timing as Deadpool continues to be the number one reason to see these films. He has so much energy and so much love for this character that Deadpool and Ryan Reynolds is really starting to become synonymous. Josh Brolin’s character as Deadpool’s foil, Cable, can come off a bit bland, but otherwise was a solid performance.

Where I found Deadpool 2 more enjoyable than the first Deadpool was through the use of more recognizable Marvel characters and villains. With Cable and Domino’s addition to the cast, we see a lot more on screen chemistry. The first Deadpool always felt like it got the short end of the stick with the lack of prominent x-men and marvel characters making an appearance. While there is still a lack of A-list heroes and villains in this film, there are a lot more interesting and recognizable faces this time around.

Deadpool 2 is absolutely not a movie for everyone. The hyper violent nature of this movie, along with incredibly crude humor means this is probably not for your middle-schooler’s eyes. It’s funny and tells a surprisingly good story about what it means to be family, and while it’s not fantastic, it’s enough of a good time where if you’re into this type of humor I recommend it. Unfortunately I can’t say there was really anything particularly memorable about the movie, it’s good for cheap laughs but sometimes that’s all you need. Rated R 1h59m

Students of Rubicon’s Education & Outreach Summer Program in need of scholarships

Husband-and-wife duo Kirby and Beverly Ward step into a new role at the Rubicon.

This summer at Rubicon, Broadway performers and husband-and-wife duo Kirby and Beverly Ward step into a new role as the Directors of Education and Outreach. Over the last decade, audiences have seen them in main stage productions of She Loves Me, King Lear and Return to the Forbidden Planet, but now they’ll be teaching performing arts to youths within the community.

The summer program was created and led by Brian McDonald 15 years ago and has enjoyed a stellar reputation for presenting high-quality productions and exceptional performances from young people. Some students have gone to work as professional actors both locally and in New York City. Kirby and Beverly Ward are thrilled to continue the summer program and have already conducted auditions for Madagascar Jr., Julius Caesar, and Grease (the musical celebrates its 40th anniversary). They have been “over the moon” at the level of talent and enthusiasm exhibited by the kids.

The Wards have seen firsthand how a youth program like the Rubicon’s can change lives. They grew up studying at San Diego Junior Theatre – a place that not only turned out some amazingly talented theatre professionals but also countless doctors, lawyers, designers, engineers and more. For them, they want to inspire confidence, and a sense of community for the kids who train at Rubicon.

Of the kids who auditioned some need some financial assistance. It is the Rubicon’s goal to see every one of these extraordinary kids get the opportunity to participate, and in so doing we need the community to lend their support. By providing scholarships, a real difference will be made in these young people’s lives. There are options at many levels. No amount is too small (or too big!) to ensure every student can experience this program and be enriched by it.

To donate to the Education scholarship fund please call the Box Office from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; Sundays from noon to 2 p.m. only on show days. 667-2900.

To donate online please visit rubicontheatre.org/donate or by mail at Rubicon Theatre, 1006 E. Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001.

2018 Summer Youth Productions:
The Grunch on June 30 performed by kids ages 5-11

Madagascar, Jr. on July 6-8 performed by kids ages 11-14

Julius Caesar on July 20-22 performed by kids ages 15-24

Grease on August 3-5 and August 8-11 performed by kids ages 15-24

Vol. 11, No. 17 – May 23 – June 5, 2018 – Movie Review

Tully
Review: 3 Palm Trees out of 4
by Manuel Reynoso

Tully is a 2018 American comedy-drama film directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody. The film stars Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass, and Ron Livingston.

Tully follows the life of Marlow, an overworked, underappreciated mother of 2, and her budding friendship with her new night nanny, Tully.

Diablo Cody has never shied away from portraying every cut and bruise that the normalcy of life so effectively leaves us with. Tully pulls back the dainty veneer placed on motherhood and really lets it all hang out for us. Plenty of films have presented radical solutions to the very real problems of postpartum depression and midlife crises. Wild solutions such as embracing some abrupt change in one’s character, or to zealously remain steadfast to one’s current track in life; Tully takes a more nuanced stance. To plant roots, embrace normalcy, but also be flexible. Change may be scary and inevitable, but it can be just what we were looking for.

Diablo Cody’s script is a bit of a slow burn hinging on some witty lines that may or may not work for you, but really shines with its portrayal of the struggling mother. Particularly visceral and carried by the performance by Charlize Theron, Marlow was a character who was both nuanced and believable. With Tully’s arrival, these two women only further develop into richer and more complete characters. It’s unfortunate that a lot of the others won’t feel nearly as fleshed out.

As our protagonists grow and develop, it’s hard not to care for these people as we learn of their desires and goals. They are deeply relatable, whether you’re a mother in a similar situation or just one sensitive to the struggles women face. On top of this, what Marlow want is just the same fulfillment and security that anyone can relate to. For me, it was how we get that security was what made this film resonate. To remain strong but not hesitate to face change head on.

Also funny enough, I was really appreciative of the short run time of Tully. 90 minutes with little padding and concise storytelling is almost refreshing at this point as movies are seemingly inflating to ever longer times. Diablo Cody gets the point across quickly, and director Jason Reitman kept a very snappy and consistent pace throughout the film.

There isn’t much else left for me to say, other than that I just really enjoyed this film. My gut reaction has me feeling like I’m longing for more somewhere in this script. To really go deeper into the world of postpartum depression and family rearing. However, by this film’s own merits, it hold up incredibly well. I try to keep away from saying what a film should or shouldn’t add, so I won’t try to. What we got was a wonderful ode to motherhood, and a poignant cautionary tale. It’s short and it’s sweet, and an all-around well told movie. Rated R 1h36m

Vol. 11, No. 16 – May 9 – May 22, 2018 – A View from House Seats

The award-winning professional cast is outstanding at the Rubicon.

Rubicon Delivers in The Baby Dance: Mixed
by Shirley Lorraine

Affordable Broadway is in our own back yard. Continuing their 20th anniversary season with yet another World Premiere production, The Rubicon Theatre Company offers The Baby Dance: Mixed by acclaimed Emmy award-winning author Jane Anderson.

Anderson and frequent Rubicon director Jenny Sullivan have been collaborators since the plays’ conception and infancy. This staging is an updated version of The Baby Dance, brainstormed and brought to the Pasadena Playhouse stage in 1990 directed by Sullivan. Since then the play has been staged in several other countries and a translated version is currently running in France.

Once again, Anderson works with Sullivan who expertly directs this adaptation to include relevant current issues including a mixed-race couple of affluence seeking to adopt an African-American child. Their attorney has engineered an adoption agreement with a less well-off couple who already have four children and may be unable to care for another. The childless couple, an African-American woman and a Jewish Caucasian man, are desperate to adopt the baby when she is born.

The play simmers with highly charged emotion and conflicts from the beginning. The universal message of hope and anguish highlights sensitive situations that are humorous across ethnic and socio-economic lines. Both couples have myriad challenges to overcome and a desire for a “perfect” outcome despite their many differences. However, life has other ideas, as it often does.

The award-winning professional cast delivers warm, strong, engaging and complex characters across the board.

The mixed-race couple is played by Tracey A. Leigh as Regina, the adoptive mother. Her husband, Richard is played by Brian Robert Burns. They become acquainted with Wanda (Krystle Simmons) and Al (Gabriel Lawrence), who have decided that adoption would be the best option for their family’s current circumstances. They are joined by Carl Palmer who plays Ron, the adoption attorney who proves his ability to adapt quickly to any situation.

The across-the-board powerful performances are framed by settings designed by Rubicon technical veteran Thomas Buderwitz. Set dressing is exquisitely detailed by T. Theresa Scarano. The interior of the trailer where Wanda and Al and family live highlights their financial status and make-do creativity.

Stick around during intermission when the entire picture is transformed into a well-appointed hospital room – by itself a production worth watching. Sound is expertly filtered into scenes by Randall Robert Tico to complete the realistic and intricate settings.

The cast was invited by the author as well as the director to offer input into this new version of the play as they rehearsed and traversed the mine field that is involved in subjects of race, status and conscience. Talk-backs with the cast after the next two Wednesday evening performances will undoubtedly be extraordinarily insightful.

The Rubicon Theatre Company consistently provides high quality theatrical experiences. Their 20th anniversary season is proving to be another winner.

The Baby Dance: Mixed plays Wednesdays to Sundays through May 20 at the Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main St. (corner of Main and Laurel Streets) in downtown Ventura. Matinees: 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Wednesday May 9 and 16 performances will be followed by a talk-back session with the cast. Tickets: $30-$55. There is 24-hour ticketing and seat selection online at www.rubicontheatre.org. (805) 667-2900.

Vol. 11, No. 16 – May 9 – May 22, 2018 – Movie Review

Avengers: Infinity War
Review: 3.5 Palm trees out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

Avengers: Infinity War is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics team the Avengers. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Avengers: Infinity War stars an ensemble cast of the previous Marvel films.

With Thanos finally making his move to gather the infinity stones, It’s up to the heroes of Earth and beyond to stop him before he unleashes the terrible might of the 6 infinity stones.

Even as someone who has always been in the periphery of the Marvel movie hype, I still can’t help but feel Infinity War had this monumental feel to it. It’s been ten years since audiences have been introduced to the movie magic that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and for it to coalesce into a single ensemble cast film really is a feat. I went in expecting a film about earth’s mightiest heroes banding together to take down the big baddie; but what I got was a film about loss, dire consequences, and the misguided journey of a single being.

With a cast this large, there was a few issues with pacing throughout the film, particularly within the first hour. As each character was introduced, it was jarring being pulled from one situation to another in just a single cut, especially with each situation being so tonally different. These issues with pacing does not do the film any favors, as the already extremely long run time feels much longer as a result. Thankfully, the problem mostly goes away as soon as the big baddie of the film, Thanos, takes center stage. It’s from here where Infinity War really hits its stride.

I don’t think it’s misleading to say this isn’t so much a story about the Avengers as it is about Thanos. I feel like it’s this change in direction that made this film so much more interesting than the previous Marvel films. The journey of this story is not about a hero this time around, but about its villain. It’s his growth that we see, his motivation, and ultimately his story playing on the screen. Thanos steals the show, and hopefully we start to see more intricate villains such as himself and Killmonger.

Infinity War also played with much heavier themes than the previous films. Loss will be the main recurring theme of this film, and it is something the film does a surprisingly good job at portraying. Every action in this film has consequences, and the emotional weight these themes carry really emphasis that. But, being a Marvel film, it wasn’t all doom and gloom the whole time. So for better or worse, there were still plenty one liners and silly quips throughout the film. While some nail it, particular Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, many others fall flat.

Fans of the previous films have been waiting a decade for Infinity War, and it accomplished being one of the best films of the series. As a stand-alone film, it has its problems. The length, pacing, and the usual cliché writing of Marvel films may dissuade some movie goers. However for me, the sheer scale of this film made it a wild and fun ride from beginning to end, and for the first time I find myself eagerly awaiting the next film in the Avengers line up. PG-13 2h29m