‘Last Christmas’ is this year’s holiday rom-com you shouldn’t miss out on

Okay, first thing’s first: Mr. Henry Golding, I never knew you could get more charming than you already are. 

“Last Christmas” doesn’t just help this actor go past the one-movie stint tag, it solidifies his status as a leading man. Here Golding plays another good guy, Tom Webster. There’s just something so real and moving about his kindness and chivalrous ways that feel so genuine. Genuine enough to lend itself to the characters he portrays and gives these personalities more clarity.

Thanks to Golding, Webster is suspiciously too perfect. He’s equal parts handsome and mysterious, showing his different perspectives on the mundane. There probably wasn’t a moment Golding’s face was flashed on the big screen that I didn’t gush over—and you can’t blame me. While Tom is disconnected from the rest of the world (he keeps his phone in the cupboard), he does show up randomly to create moments worth remembering.

While the Golding and Emilia Clarke tandem didn’t really seem to have much chemistry to get a romantic film going, these two rom-com leads make it work. In a surprisingly heartwarming portrayal of two star-crossed lovers, they fashion “Last Christmas” as no other than the season’s must-see film.

I never liked Kristen Stewart until I watched ‘Charlie’s Angels’

The Angels have gone global.

Before you head to the cinemas, let one thing be clear: 2019’s “Charlie’s Angels” isn’t an attempt to blow over the iconic film that came decades before it. This is not a reboot (at least, not strictly one). All it wants is try to kick in new life to a legacy. And it does—in the most hilarious and fun ways possible.

Perhaps the trickiest part is to assemble a trio that’s equally as charming and lovely as its 2000 cast. The movie needed girls you’d want to root for. But, more importantly, girls who aren’t just a replicate of the Diaz-Liu-Barrymore tandem.

I’m happy to report that Naomi Scott, Kristen Stewart and Ella Balinska rose to the challenge. With great chemistry, better comedic pulses and depth in characters, the three actresses are a delight to watch together on screen.

‘Doctor Sleep’ is a stressful movie experience that leaves you with a satisfying ending

Mounting a sequel to one of the most iconic films in pop culture takes courage. In fact, it almost sounds like a terrible idea. As daunting as the work he had to bring to the big screen, Mike Flanagan masterfully wields a modern thriller to succeed the events of “The Shining.”

Known for his horror flicks, Flanagan (who also edited the film) is able to brand “Doctor Sleep” as entirely his own—the movie reflects his distinct style yet dutifully pays homage to the both the works of Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King.

Although quite unfocused, the director found the middle ground of Kubrick and King’s visions. Flanagan also opens up opportunities for the audience to interpret the symbolisms (or more accurately, parallelisms) he had embedded into the narrative. What “The Shining” had in the intensity of its suspense, “Doctor Sleep” makes up for depth of story.

Deciding the heroes and villains: Joaquin Phoenix makes us rethink Jokerʼs morality

Joaquin Phoenix has made “Joker” his own masterpiece.

You probably already know that, with the movie being tagged as Octoberʼs must-see film. But be warned, director Todd Phillips wastes no time on gratifying moments.

“Joker” isnʼt the type of film that consoles you once it has doused you with such dark realities. Instead, it leaves you with questions youʼll eventually allow to rob you of sleep. Itʼs a disruptive and depressing experience that begins with such heartbreaking vulnerability and follows through with unflinching violence. 

We first meet Arthur Fleck as a kind and loving son who survives the day-to-day with his job as a clown. He
ʼs honest, hopeful. He dreams of becoming a successful stand-up comedian—heʼs got all the notes on punchlines, but his humor isnʼt quite in sync with his audience.

“I hope my death makes more cents” is one of the lines Arthurʼs got scribbled on his notebook.

‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’ isn’t quite like the Tarantino films you know (and remember)

Quentin Tarantino brings us to a facet in history where truth and fiction reside. It is a film that motions us into a recalibrated past, where the camera moves us along like a spectator right in the sidelines of its scenes. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” essentially a tale about loyalty and friendship, thrills and humors us from the get-go.
It’s got a stellar cast led by Leonardo Di Caprio and Brad Pitt, where the two play an inseparable duo of a Western leading man and his trusty stunt double, respectively. Don’t be fooled by the roles they play, these two superstars go off in equal footing. If anything, Pitt’s heroics actually outshine the brilliance of the Dicaprio’s fleeting moments of self-discovery.

Flatiron 1771 is home to flavors you won’t ever stop craving for

New York is a city where diverse cultures come together and bring with them a myriad of flavors that always tastes authentic even with a touch of a modern twist. Flatiron 1771 fuses the Big Apple’s heartiest comfort food in a single menu—it’s part American, part Intercontinental, with a dash of Asian flavors here and there.
While its name may be borrowed from a famous American landmark, its corners feel like one of your go-to traditional Italian family restaurants. It gives a familiar scene with its mismatched seats crowding each table and vibrant Spanish tiles mapping the floor. The al fresco area has a more neutral palette soaking up the warm tones of the sun and offers a relaxing spot in the middle of a bustling district.

This Uptown restaurant serves the New York experience to the table from lunch to cocktails, and you can never go wrong with an order of steak, a no-brainer staple for a good meal. Flatiron 1771’s Prime Rib Steak (P529.99 per 100 grams) is cooked with a gorgeous layer of fat for that juicy and flavorful bite. You know the meat has been dry-aged well when it remains tender long after it’s been served.

The dish comes with three sauces: The blue cheese butter, bois baudran, and chimichurri. We loved mixing the freshness of chimuchurri flavors with the savory bliss of the blue cheese butter with our hefty slab of meat—together, a medley of tastes one can’t help but relish. The steak also comes with thick potato wedges toasted to a crisp with cheese. 

Bo’s Coffee lets you skip the line to get your caffeine fix

Fellow joe heads will understand when we say there’s nothing quite like the moment when you get your first sip of coffee for the day. Whether it’s part of your morning ritual or afternoon breather, caffeine gives that extra boost we can all count on.
The biggest local coffee chain in the country introduced an advanced ordering system that is conveniently integrated into Facebook’s Messenger. That means you can try their new service without another app eating your phone’s memory. It can easily be accessed through the mobile Messenger app or the Facebook desktop. The feature will soon be available on Viber, too.
Bo’s Coffee’s BOTTY ordering procedure feels a lot like a virtual conversation with the cashier. After inputing your location, it will suggest the nearest participating branch, and then lets you select the category of drinks you wish to order from. The current menu includes their bestsellers, from hot espresso-based options to refreshing shaken iced teas. So far, there are 36 different drinks to choose from. Bo’s shared it will slowly expand its range of available products on the platform in the next few months.

I took Penshoppe’s Beauty Pop lipsticks on a 2-week road test so you won’t have to

There’s nothing like the combination of a comfy feel and a wide color range that sets a lipstick lover in a frenzy. More economical beauty options are making quite the entrance, a trend that must be keeping the bougie brands on their toes as the newcomers of the beauty scene replicate luxurious formulations that don’t cost a fortune.
Local fashion retail giant Penshoppe recently launched its own beauty line with an 18-shade lipstick collection. I know, you probably have a lot of lippies to go through in your personal collection, but with its price tag of P219, it doesn’t hurt to add a handful to your MLBB rotation. Beauty Pop’s matte component featuring this pastel gradient is definitely a big eye-catcher, bound to add some points to your flatlay gaming. But the packaging design ultimately helps set it apart—and I welcome this sort of creativity. Plus, it’s so easy to spot inside your bags.
It comes in two formulas that were developed in Japan: The Litematte and Hydramatte. Penshoppe covers the bases when it comes to preferences, so whether you want that true-matte feel or one that glides with a little sheen, you’ll find your match in this beauty collection. Here comes the tricky part: The shades actually look way different on your lips than how you see it on the bullet lipsticks. There are a ton of options that look intimidating as these seemingly lean toward bolder looks, but its buildable formula allows it to create subtle to statement lips. 
What’s more frustrating is that Penshoppe’s own digital campaigns don’t give justice to the gorgeous colors of the collection. It seems like it only has a range dominated by chocolatey nudes, but it has notable undertones of corals, wines, and pinks that aren’t highlighted. It also seems patchy on arm swatches, but I guarantee you’ll definitely appreciate the colors more once you actually swipe it on your lips. Once you crack your lippie’s powder coating, swatching and application will eventually be a breeze, too. 

I went to a ‘Stranger Things 3’ preview and here’s a list of things to be excited about (at least for the first episode)

The kids are growing up. Our favorite monster-hunting bunch from Hawkins has inevitably reached the cusp of adolescence. They’re awkward. They’re feisty. They’re in all sorts of trouble—and all we gotta do is sit back and enjoy the entertainment. The pilot episode of the third season brings us up to speed by showing tons of making out and comedic couple ticks.
But more than the teenage love affairs, there is no boring moment in “Suzie, Do You Copy?” Early on it revives the scientific fascination on the Upside Down, linking this small Indiana town to the other side of the globe once again. While its ending immediately builds up its newest otherworldly villain and doesn’t waste any time in revealing one of the greatest shockers of the show. Spoiler alert: Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) still doesn’t get a freaking break from this nightmare!
Knowing the Duffer Brothers, it’s bound to show us sci-fi tropes that we’ll surely brand as easter eggs. The new 8-episode season will reinvent notions of fear and fright, but it’ll probably underscore that the scariest thing is still change—after all, it’s still a coming-of-age story.
We’re sure we’ll end up binge-watching the season when “
Stranger Things”  finally drops on Netflix this July 4—just like the Duffer Brothers intended us to. But before that, we’re left with these few bits that we’ll obsess over until everything will all finally make sense:

‘Far From Home’ serves us a different Spidey origin story

It’s been more than two decades and we’ve gone through 23 films to complete the “Infinity Saga.” But even with the oversaturation of superhero films shown in recent years, Marvel has  never failed to stun us with the tapestry it has patiently designed. 
Its latest film in the cinemas, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” shows the ingenuity of every direction the studio has taken—every little deviation from the comics, introduction of unexpected mentorships, and significant changes in the characterization of its iconic heroes, just to bring us what we are meant to see on the big screen today.
The final chunk of Phase 3 is where we rediscover the joy of understanding the grander scheme of things. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe lost a great leader in Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), we are sent back to a world that is desperate for a new hero to step up. It is in one of the MCU’s closely intertwined stories where we find a young hero forced to emerge as a reassuring new beacon of security. It’s a role that has been passed on, decided by Stark himself. Yes, even in death, Iron Man’s the hero.

L’Oreal’s Rouge Signature line is the most underrated makeup release you should get your hands on

Having a handful of lipsticks has never stopped us from adding a few more shades to our current makeup arsenal before. But what if I told you I’ve found an essential gamechanger that’s bound to be part of your collection?
Enter L’Oreal’s newest Rouge Signature line. With the dual promise of being unbelievably lightweight while giving ultra-pigmented shades, it was only right to hold on to our reservations. But it was nothing short of a delightful experience for our skepticism to be proved wrong as I discovered that the brand’s newest lip innovation does deliver what it promises.

The Rouge Signature creations are a hybrid of the versatility of lip stains and the diversity of the liquid lipstick’s colors. It’s a long-wearing, nondrying, nonsticky, and pigmented formula. Because it is effortlessly buildable, you can go for a naturally blotted lip, trendy ombre lip, or a bold intense semi-matte one.

The truth about the Bo Gum magic

Park Bo Gum’s got range. It’s no secret that the Korean heartthrob’s biggest dream is to become a singer-songwriter, and there was nothing quite like the charisma he had shown on stage.

When he met his Filipino fans during the Good Day in Manila fanmeet, the crowd was prepared to be disarmed by his charms. What they didn’t expect, though, was a 2-hour concert. Bo Gum introduced another side to him, one that is perfectly comfortable being the center of attention—his usual timidity disappeared as he performed song after song.

We got used to Korean celebrities singing a handful of tracks when we meet them, but Bo Gum does things differently. This multihyphenate took no breaks, except for a few wardrobe changes. Every one of his numbers were adorably sensational. His notes had power. His moves were filled with energy. It certainly wasn’t like those cutesy performances on Music Bank.

Pancake House’s unlimited spaghetti is a real steal

Pancake House’s signature spaghetti is easily a hybrid of bolognese and the flavors of a children’s party staple.
It’s what I enjoyed and loved as a kid, the plate of pasta that I looked forward to during weekend family meals and province-bound road trips. It’s still a favorite dish I crave from time to time, easily dreaming of its sweet and chunky meat sauce topped generously with cheese.

Now here’s the good news: You can enjoy as many plates of your favorite spaghetti this coming June 24 to 29. It’s the first time Pancake House offered this promo which actually costs less than one large serving of spaghetti (P309) on regular days. Honestly, it’s such a steal!

You only have to pay P299 for unlimited servings of Pancake House spaghetti. You’ll be given two full hours to eat to your heart’s content. When you finish two plates of pasta, you’ve already gotten your money’s worth, as these equal to the restaurant’s large serving.
This promo isn’t made for those trying to watch their carbs intake, but it does sound like a perfectly sinful cheat day option. I suggest you skip the garlic bread and order some ala carte chicken (P89 each) to make the most out of your meal instead. It’s simply a match made in (foodie) heaven.

Each serving will take 10 to 15 minutes before it gets to your table, which conveniently gives you short breaks in between the plates of spaghetti—it’s just enough to make you crave for more. For the cheese lovers, Pancake House’s staff will happily give you a bowl of extra cheddar if you ask for it.

The bang-for-the-buck promo also comes with a glass of iced tea. I only managed to order 3 spaghetti servings each, so I’m bound to challenge that personal record once again.

One thing’s for sure: I’m already marking my calendar for its next run.

Of all things, why be a writer?

My father isn’t the number one fan of Journalism as a profession—that I’ve been certain since he dropped me off in front the CAL in Diliman on the day I took the UPCAT.

After all these years, he doesn’t make me forget about his opinion on Journalism either, with his usual comments on the newspaper’s decline in sales, relevance, and even it’s credibility.

But he’s always been keen on reminding me to keep on writing my ideals, maybe in the hopes that I may not forget them.

Why do you even write? I ask myself whenever I had the courage to confront my motivations and goals.

The answer is never because I think I have the talent—because I am certain there are still endless lessons to be learned and countless ways to tell stories, and countless even more so are the stories that are left untold.

Writing has always just been something I was comfortable doing, but the more I do it, the more I realize the complexities of its delivering.

But why do you write, and why do you choose to keep writing? I ask myself whenever I feel stuck in my comfort zone, lacking a dose of ambition that propels most people to achieve greater things, pushing for greater stories.

I still don’t have definite answers, but each time I try to face questions of relevance and worth there are moments—conversations, specifically—that immediately flash before me.

“Now I need to have this article framed so my kids can read it when they learn to,” one of the best photographers in Asia told me after he has read my article.

To this day, nothing compares to the way these words warmed my heart, fanning desires to meet new people to get to know the stories each is well capable of sharing—and making sure that these are told.

“I do not write to win, a writer should never write to impress,” a National Artist told me as I sat across the dining table in his home. “I believe if you’re good enough, you’ll get them eventually.”

And man, I’m never winning an award but all I want to do is keep telling stories.

The X-Men hit self-destruct with ‘Dark Phoenix’

Well, Marvel had to screw up at one point.
Sure, it’s easy to dismiss it as another Fox superhero film that flopped, but such great injustice have been committed against the mutants (yet again). As the credits of “Dark Phoenix” took over the emptiness of the screen, my brows were knit in a tight furrow, wondering which element of the film’s convoluted plot I can tag as the culprit of its demise.
Perhaps the high expectations for the film were rooted in the fact that Simon Kinberg was in control, the so-called X-Men architect in the realm of films. However, his directorial debut was riddled with muddled motivations for each character, that is, if they weren’t tossed in the sidelines.
Jean Grey’s transmutation into the Dark Phoenix felt flat. In the simplest words of the English language: It was boring. But it certainly didn’t feel that way in the beginning—the first moments of the film showed promise, depicting the poignance of trauma and feeling of isolation embedded in the character’s origin story.
Except they cut that narrative short. They give us another emotive and moving Charles X. Xavier speech—in which he tells Jean: “You are not broken”—to close that chapter. The film jumps immediately to the mutants donning their iconic X-Men jumpsuits, putting their lives at risk as they go on a space mission.

Honesty is the best policy: The real deal on Sunnies Face’s newest Airblush

The first time you rub the smooth and flawless surface of a newly opened Airblush (P445), you’ll be obsessed with its creamy and powdery texture. I found myself swirling my index finger on the pot of pigment as much as needed, which proved to be such a satisfying and addicting motion.

Unlike most cream blushes, the product glides like liquid. It’s a marriage between the texture of cushion makeup and the form of balm. My current favorite in this category is the Innisfree My Palette cream blushes, but unlike that one, the Airblush doesn’t clump on your fingers nor dry easily on the pot. The color is even all throughout prior to blending.

Bok Bok, Baby: Birdbox is my newest BGC constant

It’s funny how at just the other end of Lane P’s unending queue for bobba remains BGC’s newest and best-kept secret: BirdBox’s creamy Thai Milk Tea and refreshing Calamansi Wintermelon Fruit Tea—probably the most affordable tea options in the area at just P70 each.
Yes, the price is unreal for drinks that pack a punch. But that’s not all this take-out stall has to offer. In fact, BirdBox wants to be known for the Asian flavors they have on the menu. Their food’s novelty lies in the countless combinations customers can come up with—all spiced up by the familiar tastes of Korean and Japanese cuisine that we love.
“There seems to be a limited options [in our menu], but we wanted to make sure that you can try out different flavors and combinations. You can come back everyday and come out with a different kind of meal,” BirdBox brand manager Nina Capistrano said. 
With BirdBox around, BGC folks are treated to generous servings of juicy boneless chicken bites without the hefty price tag and long wait. Getting a loaded, non-fast food meal under P200 in the area used to be plain wishful thinking, but now, one can look forward to lunches that only cost as low as P149.

Hilton’s Hua Ting is redefining Chinese food as we know it

You already have a bit of expectation going into a Chinese restaurant. It is, after all, one of the earliest international cuisines Filipinos have grown familiar with. We immediately imagine circular dining booths, the classic rotating centerpiece, and white porcelain placed all around the table—the traditional Chinese dining arrangement.
That’s the first thing Hilton’s Shanghainese restaurant takes out of the picture—the monotony and predictability of the Chinese cuisine dining experience. Yes, it still has the staple of round tables—but entering Hua Ting restaurant is like being transported to Shanghai’s 1940s nightlife. Calligraphic steel sculptures by Zheng Lu welcome the diners into the space, where one could already witness the restaurant’s playfulness in details.

“The authenticity of what we bring here at Hua Ting is definitely unsung. The main difference on the way we do things is we’re bringing in a modern approach to how we present Chinese cuisine—from our tableware to the way food is served,” Hilton executive chef Dennis Leslie said.

Penshoppe’s We Bare Bears collection makes a comeback with the Denimlab 2019 line

Two favorite collections made their comebacks, and, as the cliché goes, it’s always better the second time around. Penshoppe came out with more collaborative pieces with the equally animated and adorable characters of “We Bare Bears” that fans of the cartoon series will go crazy over once again. 

The collection has a total of 76 pieces, in fact. There are still some pastels here and there, but it goes for a more neutral palette this time around. The design details aren’t as subtle like those before either—there are bigger graphics and more all-over prints to choose from. 

The hoodies of this limited edition collection are the real deal breakers. It doesn’t matter if you already have enough hoodies to last you a lifetime. You gotta have ones with We Bare Bears’ faces—it’s cool, casual, and great geeky merchandise. Oh, and so are the oversized tees!

‘Aladdin’ takes you wonder by wonder

The thing about messing with the classics is that it only allows a slim room for errors. The public is ruthless with their expectations and can be unforgiving. But Disney’s 2019 live-action adaptation of “Aladdin” need not worry about measuring up to its 1992 counterpart. 
The film entices the senses with its constant motion and endless flashing of colors, and delivers the beloved folklore in a grandiosity of scale and opulence that immediately separates it from its source material. Its respect and awe for Arabic culture is an infectious fascination. Every scene of the film manages to cast its own enamoring enchantment, transporting every viewer to a fantastic land laced with magical realism.

‘Detective Pikachu’ will make you wish for real Pokémon harder than you already are

Pikachu doesn’t just talk, he’s got some sass. This particular Pokémon sure has evolved on the screen in ways we didn’t expect it to. In the first live-action film of the Pokémon series, moviegoers are allowed inside the head of the franchise’s undoubtedly most famous character—a cuddly yellow electric mouse.

“Detective Pikachu” is essentially science fiction for kids—and, more importantly, kids at heart.  That’s what makes this movie special. It transforms the wildest of fiction into some sort of reality—a reality generations of fans have longed to be part of. As it shows a world where the fauna are different Pokémon types, it does nothing but reinforce that longtime geeky wish to have Pokemon in real life.

Sights in daylight: Tokyo in photos

Photos by Vinz Lamorena

Preparing for ‘Avengers: Endgame’

Long lines in the cinemas. Cryptic status updates about the movie. Annoying people who think spoilers would make them cool. Rotten Tomatoes rating. These are only some of the things that a Marvel fan who hasn’t seen “Endgame” yet can feel frustrated about. Don’t worry, buddy, you’ll get your turn soon, and when you do I promise it’s one of the best [Marvel] films you’ve ever watched.
Here’s how you can prepare for an awesome movie experience:

Rewatch “Infinity War”
It’s been a year since Thanos’ snap made half of the population turn into dust, and you probably need to be reminded how our favorite heroes lost the most important battle of their lives. You need to go into the theaters angry, hopeless, and impossibly optimistic that the Avengers can pull off just one more miracle for the sake of its cinematic universe.
You have to revisit the exact same moment where the story was cut off to be completely immersed in “Endgame.”

Choose your movie buddies wisely
Like I have once said before, everyone has the right to enjoy “Endgame.” There are many of us who have been following this cinematic universe for half of our lives, but that doesn’t put us on a pedestal. It does, however, make it necessary for hardcore fans to choose their movie-going crowd. Watch it with people who you know will enjoy it and will spend time digesting the film with you afterwards. “Endgame” takes on deep (and lasting) emotional tolls, that even the best fan theorists would need at least a week to process a culmination of an iconic superhero era.

Eat a heavy meal
Eating inside the cinemas is simply a distraction.

Bring a pack of tissues. Or maybe two.
    Take it from Chris Evans, who reportedly cried six times while watching the film—and he even knew what was going to happen. If you ask me, I only cried once but it lasted all throughout the film (but Thor and Ant-Man gave fleeting comic relief in between).

    There are no after-credits scenes
    Save your bladder and run your way to the restrooms. The film is extremely long (but will never be long enough for my Marvel-loving heart) and has no room for you to even blink. Every second of it is essential and there should be no one leaving the theaters for a quick visit to the loo. The Russo brothers have thought this through, believe me. While it goes against Marvel tradition, the rolling of credits straight into blackout doesn’t mess with the film’s glorious momentum.
    If you ask me, maybe you can stay until you see the six original Avengers’ names on the screen. Even that can easily make you tear up.

    Put eating a cheeseburger on your post-Endgame plans
      It’s the ultimate comfort food you’ll be needing after watching this film. Trust me. Again, an American cheeseburger—and maybe a shawarma, too?
      Save money for a second viewing
      “Endgame” is the kind of movie you’d want to see again and again, even if that means you’ll go broke.

      Photos courtesy of Marvel Studios. “Avengers: Endgame” is showing in cinemas nationwide.

      ‘Endgame’ draws an epic era to a close

      Epic. Overwhelming. Emotive. Befitting. Majestic.
      There can only be a few words that can describe the magnitude of greatness “Endgame” turned out to be. I can do a mental search of adjectives to match the intensity of praise it requires and deserves, only to find myself with the most common phrase to tell all its fans: You have to see it for yourselves.
      Now I can’t exactly say the Russo Brothers have outdone themselves, but they did hit every expectation every fan had going into the cinemas. “Endgame” is the only Avengers film where they have complete command of one’s attention and emotion with every single scene they have set on the screen. In a screwed up sense, Thanos’ snap did bring balance. “Endgame” brings forth the proper culmination a decade’s worth of films needed—finally.
      The anticipation “Endgame” drew from the world is actually one that it deserves. It wouldn’t be owing its blockbuster numbers just because it’s some monumental piece—a celebration of a cinematic universe—much like “Infinity War” did. That one felt too much like a calculated move to bring every known hero together, a jumble of frustrating scenes only meant to be a setting piece.
      Sure enough, the Avengers film that came before it gave its viewers thrilling and visceral action, and undeniably handed its fans devastating losses. But the thing is, it was meant to only give us exactly that—and did so only at the latter parts of that movie. It was made to be a cliffhanger and nothing more.

      The gravity and core the story Marvel has patiently built lies in “Endgame.” Here, fans become witnesses to every fiber of humanity our heroes have (left) in them (except, of course, for Carol Danvers).
      “I keep telling people to move on. Some do, but we don’t,” Captain America (Chris Evans) tells Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansson) after half the population of Earth vanished. Loss lingers longer than we imagined. “Endgame” does not fail to explore how Thanos’ act affected the lives of those who survived it. Time has made one Avenger a drunk, and the other, a vigilante. The mix of guilt, grief, regret, and hunger for justice aren’t just part of the story, it is the story itself. It explores our heroes’ helplessness and the tone is bleak for the most part.
      But that’s exactly why this movie thrives: It actually turns the focus on its characters. The interconnectedness of the realities to which they belong to is no longer the emphasis of the story. It dedicates itself to emotion, which covers new grounds that make us understand exactly what our heroes are made of—their insecurities, fears, and what they value.

      The very essence of this film is to wield the emotion that brings into balance the action “Infinity War” has shown. But that doesn’t mean “Endgame” doesn’t pull out one heck of a final battle. It does and it’s unlike any we’ve seen before—it’s pure heart-racing majesty on screen. Viewers are latched onto every character’s struggle to win and survive at all costs. It is a battle we’ve been groomed to be emotionally invested in all these years—it’s a movie that makes their triumph ours to claim as well.

      Each discovery is climactic. Every part of it is as momentous as its end. Marvel even attempts to blend all the genres it has experimented with, retaining the humor most moviegoers familiar with thanks to films like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Ant-Man,” and “Thor: Ragnarok.” And perhaps these slapstick moments may be the only scenes that don’t bring you into tears.
      In a way, “Endgame” is a lot like the movies we’ve already seen: Hope is taken when it is most needed, and brought back by the most likely of circumstances. But “Endgame” is everything a fan had hoped it would be: A great narrative that carves itself a place in the history of reels, and makes a home at the heart of contemporary pop culture.
      “The Avengers” have gloriously gone full circle, where the beginning is only as meaningful as the end. Yes, by that I mean Tony Stark.

         VINNY VERDICT:  5/5  

      Photos courtesy of Marvel Studios.
      “Avengers: Endgame” is showing in cinemas nationwide.

      Strange theory: Billy Hargrove’s a worse villain in the new season of the Netflix thriller series

      Yesterday’s biggest pop culture news kept me up all night: Netflix’s “Stranger Things” will be premiering globally on July 4. There will be eight episodes for this season.

      But unlike the previous seasons that had us submerged into a grotesque alternate reality where nighttime seemed to be longer than any of the days, the show’s third installment is giving us a glimpse of a warm, adventure-filled (and soon-to-be-gone-wrong) summer. It’s so much more vibrant than we remember it to be, and even lets its characters embrace the bold and eccentric neon colors of the 80s.

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