D.C. Comics had a line of books called Elseworlds, where one change in a superhero's life would send them on a completely different trajectory.  This idea applies to Brightburn, a superhero horror movie that follows a simple idea: What if young Superman was evil?

In the small town of Brightburn, Kansas, farmers Tori and Kyle Breyer (Elizabeth Banks, David Denman) have been trying to have a child unsuccessfully when the answer literally falls out of the sky.  Twelve years later, their son Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) is going through puberty.  But it's very different for him.
Brandon's growing up is accompanies by super powers: super strength, toughness, flight, heat vision, super speed, and more.  Unfortunately, Brandon is hearing voices from the alien ship he arrived in; he wears a creepy homemade mask; and he feels no guilt when he hurts people -- and he does a lot more than just hurt anyone who he thinks is getting in his way.  When people start vanishing and dying, Kyle becomes very suspicious of his son; but his mother insists that Brandon is a good boy and that there's got to be some other explanation.
Produced by Peter Gunn, Brightburn really doesn't do anything interesting with its premise.  Jackson A. Dunn is suitably creepy as the sociopath with the power to do pretty much whatever he wants to anyone he wants -- but we don't get beneath his surface, except for seeing him as a literal alien invader.  Banks and Denman play the doting mother and stern father, parental archetypes often seen in movies.  And there are moments of brief but extreme gore, plus an ever-growing body count.  Brightburn is a superficial approach to a radical  change in an iconic superhero.

Overall grade: C+
Reviewed by James Lynch



Politics makes strange bedfellows.  In the case of the movie Long Shot, one would wish it would have made for a movie with any sort of entertainment value.

Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) is smart, beautiful, and accomplished.  When idiot President Chambers (Bob Odenirk) tells her he wants to be a one-term president so he can transition to doing movies, she starts planning for a 2020 presidential run.  Her main platform is an environmental plan -- "trees, seas, and bees" -- and she needs to stay on Chambers' good side to get his endorsement.  She's also dodging meeting up with Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis), the movie's far-from-subtle caricature of Rupert Murdoch.
Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) is an angry reporter who quits his job when his newspaper is bought out by Parker Wembley.  Fred knew Charlotte when they were in high school, and after a meeting at a gala Charlotte hires Fred to be her speechwriter.  The two start getting to know each other better, and soon they're romantically involved.  But while Fred's buddy Lance (O'Shea Jackon Jr.) encourages him, Charlotte's associate Maggie (June Diane Raphael) says the public won't accept a beautiful woman like her being with a rough-looking guy like him.  And Fred tries to keep Charlotte honest as more and more elements of her environmental get stripped away in the name of compromise.
Long Shot is part romantic comedy, part political drama -- and it fails on both levels.  There's no romantic chemistry between the two stars, and a few comedic set-ups fall flat, as do the one-liners tossed out here and there through the movie.  The political element is hardly realistic either, and even a blackmail story element doesn't work.  There are some very talented actors in Long Shot, but the material fails them badly.

Overall grade: D
Reviewed by James Lynch



For years the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been teasing the awesome power of the Infinity Stones, the Infinity Gauntlet, and the mad titan Thanos' mission to wipe out half the life in the universe -- and seeing that happen in Avengers: Infinity War.  So what happens next?  The conclusion of this saga in the epic Avengers: Endgame.

Following the events of the last movie, the remaining Avengers quickly track down Thanos (Josh Brolin), only to discover that he's destroyed the Infinity Stones.  We then jump ahead five years.  Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is providing counseling to those who remain, while the Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is locked away trying to find a way to reverse Thanos' deed.  The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) has found a way to merge Bruce Banner's mind with his green-skinned ego, while Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has let himself go.  Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) has started a family with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), while Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) lost his whole family and takes his anger out by killing criminals.  Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) is working with just about everyone.  And Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is helping other planets deal with the same thing that happened on Earth.

Then Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) shows up.  He's been trapped in the quantum realm -- but while five years passed for the rest of the world, for him it's been five hours.  Time works differently there, so he and the Avengers make a plan: Use the realm to go back in time, get the Infinity Stones before they were destroyed, and reverse Thanos' mass genocide.  But they only have enough Pym particles for one trip to the past and back -- and tampering with time has unforseen consequences...
There's a lot Endgame tackles -- and it does it very well for the most part.  We get to see new sides of characters we've known for decades, and the time travel element allows us to go back to many of the earlier movies, from revisiting characters who've died to characters running into their past selves.  There's plenty of humor spread throughout the movie, but it doesn't diminish the high stakes of saving half the life in the universe.  And yes, there's an epic battle, final deaths, and saying goodbye to staples of the MCU.
While Avengers: Endgame isn't perfect -- there are at least two paradoxes that go unexplained -- it is a very satisfying wrap-up to the storylines of the MCU.  I can certainly understand why the audience cheered during the movie.  This movie is exciting, nostalgic, and very satisfying.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch