Disney/Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame is the last in this series and what an exit! You may remember the Avengers: Infinity War massacre – Thanos destroyed the planet, wiped out half the superheroes and its inhabitants. Endgame’s aftermath is sombre indeed. The surviving heroes are in mourning and at their weakest. And Thanos is returning to finish the job. If this sounds like a grand opera, it is. Swelling emotions, an epic scale and gobsmacking immensity of Endgame elevate the entire superhero genre in a masterfully constructed three hours and one minute that honours the stories of almost thirty Avengers, allies and friends. It’s a mind-bending task accomplished with skill and obvious deep love and respect for the Marvel universe remembering the ten year – or decades-long – history of the ongoing battle between good and evil. Faithful to its core, dense and rich, nostalgic and yet new, it reaches far and succeeds with all the elements the fans will love.
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Robert Downey Jr. delivers Shakespearean level tragedy, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is a drunken wreck who no longer cares (long story) bringing shades of meaning to the character. Chris Evans’ Captain America’s going through an existential crisis, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is trying to keep the faith. They must buck up and save the world. As cliched as it sounds, Anthony Russo and Joe Russo knit together all the required notes and bring in unexpected ones to a hard-hitting climax that may leave you in tears. On any scale, this is a superior film. Prepare for major shocks. There will be more but it’s a while off.
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Emilio Estevez wrote, directed and stars in The Public, a fact-based drama about a homeless group that occupies a Cincinnati library on a frigid winter night. It’s also a reminder of the importance of libraries as places of learning and especially timely as Ontario Premier Doug Ford slashes 50% of public library funding. It begins with an archival love letter to libraries and the ideas found in their books and veers into political crimes of book burning as in Nazi Germany. The Public based on the 2007 essay Written Off Chip Ward, a now-retired assistant director of the Salt Lake City Public Library System looks at a new challenge – and use – for libraries, as shelters in the storm. The homeless are dying during a nasty Polar Vortex so a large all-male group enters the library for shelter only to find they are not welcome. Compassionate staff defy library rules by allowing them to remain, while administrators and police weapon up. A standoff ensues as news crews gather. Christian Slater plays an election-minded politician with a hard line on the sit-in and Jeffrey Wright’s an administrator weighing his values and job. A homeless man shares his story – never jailed, served his country, married his high school sweetheart, played the game but was arrested for jaywalking and 96 times since. Sadly, the film is low key, a joyless affair, a dreary version of what must have been a galvanising experience, weighed down by unnecessary subplots. Alec Baldwin, Michael K. Williams, Jena Malone, Taylor Schilling and Gabrielle Union co-star.
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PBS did an amazing job in its “live coverage” of the arrival of autumn ’18 with a team of experts, sleepy flora and fauna and cinematographers capturing nature’s habits as it slides into glorious slumber. They’re at it again, welcoming spring Monday, April 29th at 8 p.m. through May 1st. Nature‘s most ambitious project to date American Spring Live discovers seasonal phenomena across the US in ecosystems ranging from the Rockies to the Everglades, inner-city parks to remote wilderness preserves covering spring’s inspiring habits. There are births of baby animals, the pollination of plants and earth’s gentle and not so gentle signals that life is awakening and teeming. It also examines the effects of climates change and how it increasingly disturbs long-established natural patterns.
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Pamela Aldon’s considerable talent is all over FX’s Better Things, the bittersweet series of an aspiring actor and single mother labouring in Hollywood and longing for a better life. Aldon, who writes, directs, produces and stars is Sam, whose raw sense of humour, emotional honesty and forthrightness is cool but often comes at a cost. Still, she prefers not to prevaricate. Her work life, as fraught as any aspiring LA actor/comic is often anxiety-provoking and so are her friends and their husbands. There’s no end to juicy insider gossip, backstabbing and perpetual over-striving; against this is her safe place, home, where she and her three daughters share a good life. Her mum, the magnificent English actor Celia Imrie lives across the street for better or worse with her insane hairdos and outfits. And there’s Sam’s quasi beau who happens to be her therapist. Interesting supporting cast – Holland Taylor, Matthew Broderick, Henry Thomas, Rae Dawn Chong and watch for the series signature tres chic cameos. Thursdays at ten.
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Hot Docs, Toronto’s prestigious annual celebration of documentaries is underway now till May 5th at Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema on Bloor Street West. It’s the internationally renowned annual celebration of films from everywhere, real life stories that amaze, educate, confound, anger and bring joy, making their local premieres. The fest opened Thursday with Tasha Hubbard’s Nipawistamasowin: We Will Stand Up, the Colten Boushie story and will rescreen. But instead of reading about the films, why not settle in and watch these trailers for a taste of Hot Docs’ extraordinary vibe? Let’s start with a doc on Chelsea Manning.
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The Toronto Jewish Film Festival kicks off next Thursday with the multi-award-winning Tel Aviv on Fire, directed by Sameh Zoabi, a look at a defining moment in Israeli-Palestinian relations. It’s an hysterically funny modern fable of an underemployed Kramer-esque Palestinian who somehow becomes a TV soap opera writer on the phenomenally popular Tel Aviv on Fire. It combines espionage and romance and raises big questions – should they end the season with a suicide bomb or a wedding? Or should the heroine get cancer? Salam manages to solve each crisis but meets his match with a border guard. They make a deal; the guard can contribute to the plotting and he’ll let Salam pass through to the office. The film’s astute and sometimes uncomfortably honest observations of the local zeitgeist are real zingers – politics, artistic egos, crossed wires and wars big and little offer plenty of fuel for fun. It finds infinite humour in the Jewish occupation of Palestine.
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Also on tap at TJFF are programmes The Changing Face of Israeli Cinema, Masterclass with Marc Lapadula: American Jewish Filmmakers, and The Harvey Atkin Tribute to Canadian Media Presents Beaver Power: A Celebration of Canadian Comedy from Hart & Lorne to SCTV.
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For more festival information go to tjff.com.
BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI