REVIEW: Avengers: Endgame

Mild spoilers alluded to in this review.

It took me a very long time to figure out how to approach this review. I was practically raised on this series— an eleven-year-old baby when the first Marvel installment, Iron Man, came out.

It is a pretty long-running joke/phrase/cultural feeling that people are tired of superhero movies. Some people bone-deep hate them— and that these pictures are difficult to ignore with how huge they are in pop culture. And I empathize. But I am, tragically, overwhelmed with a deep love for these films that it drives out my naturally cynical side. I love these movies.

It is a frustrating genre, absolutely. I don’t completely have rose-tinted glasses but it is still something I kept to my heart. Because I love legacy and expansive lore. I love adaptations. I love an idealistic base and people trying to be the best they can be— and that is what Endgame ultimately encompasses.

Avengers: Endgame is a loving dedication to the superhero world Marvel has created, capping the first arc and juggling a surprising amount of character development for each of its original six heroes. It wanted to make you smile, a big tonal departure from from Infinity War and a necessary one. I don’t mean to say that the nuance of grief is unneeded in a large production— it absolutely is. But Endgame falls back on a Golden-Age feeling, a more classic superhero feel as it says goodbye to the first, long stretch of the series. Most of all, Endgame wanted to remind you where this whole journey started, when things were a little brighter. 

After the alien-induced rapture at the end of Infinity War, our original Avengers are left on a desolate Earth that is dealing with an unbearable loss. Departed friends, children, and loved-ones has left a surprising amount mystery around the central goal of the film. There wasn’t a moment where you would doubt that T’Challa or Peter wouldn’t be back— it was the how they would be back that drives the film, with a fast-paced and snappy momentum.  

Basically, one of these solutions is a time-heist and without getting too much into what that entails, it allows the movie to go back and revisit the Cinematic Universe’s high points (or middle points). With our heroes’ backs to the wall, a desperation turns into craftiness as they debate and bicker over magical science, falling into a cast chemistry that has been the heart of these movies. And it is a surprisingly niche mission for their final hurrah.

Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark has been as natural to the actor as breathing and his love poured into the playboy billionaire with a heart holds the plan together this round. Tony finds a calm that hasn’t been granted to him in over a decade, putting him at surprising odds against the others. His growth, redemption, and new family makes Tony suddenly the most stable Avenger. 

On the flip side, Chris Evans’s Captain America continues to suffer loss and falls back into the muted depression that has been a defining, if often overlooked, characteristic of the hero since the end of his first movie. Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff strives to find a type of redemption that puts her at rest. Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk finds an equilibrium, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor falls into despair after the complete bloodshed of his people, Jeremy Renner’s gets bloodthirsty and an interesting haircut.  

There were definitely parts that falter— a lot of the arcs for the characters were shifted to make things lighter or quickly pushed aside to move on to the next thing. Because of the overstuff of content, content, content, the movie forgets to sit down and cry over the shocking thing we just saw. The first half of the film tries to remedy this old Marvel habit but drops it at the latter half for some important scenes. 

Not everyone gets their goodbye— which hurts. As a fan, I need to remember who would reasonably could get their share of screen time. But even then, a line or two more dedicated to beloved relationships would have been just fine. And I definitely have some Thoughts on the send-off for one of the flagship characters.

But I was still smiling through a lot of Endgame. 

Because I saw this movie on Thursday at 12 A.M. Three hours long and running purely on coffee, I let shocked yelps and gasps that was shared across the theater. The final battle was chock-full of these character who only ever thought would stay on the glossy pages of a four dollar single issue. While I believe it is vital that we all view industries with a critical lens, it genuinely is wild that this franchise was able to happen and sustain for for so long. Endgame was built to be the series finale and it did just that.  

Avengers: Endgame is in theaters now— head to State Theater for the closest showing.

REVIEW: A/PIA Closing Ceremony

This April, the Asian-American Pacific Islander community held a closing ceremony gala— fancy dress and all— for the first time in many years. Taking place on the ground floor of the UMMA, it was an absolutely gorgeous way to end Heritage Month’s dedicated annual work.

Faculty, staff, and students gathered around tables with a fairy light centerpiece as they honored leaders in the A/PIA community. Multiple awards were given— from lifetime achievements to who had the best Instagram aesthetic— all voted on by students.

The group performances were also lovely. rXn was one of these groups– it is a Chinese Student Association multicultural dance group that performs both hip-hop and traditional Chinese dances. With grace and enthusiasm, they were a fantastic display to see during this celebration of cultural organizations.

Seoul Juice was also present. They are a cover band that mixes pop music with acoustic instruments in a mashup of Korean and American styles. “With this, Seoul Juice strives to celebrate Korean culture and have a good time united with other musicians,” their webpage states. They are affiliated with Michigan’s Korean Student Association.

My favorite performance was their cover of “Lost in Japan”, a newer Shawn Mendes song. The singers and musicians made the piece their own— a song already filled with enough finality and longing to make the seniors in the room a little teary-eyed. (My emotional impulses were already kind of high— I’m graduating, leave me alone.)

The entire evening reminded me of the hard work that organizations on campus put into their craft and their love for community building. I cannot wait to see this tradition continue in the future and I hope that everyone in the area can find a way to support student artists.

PREVIEW: A/PIA Heritage Month Closing Ceremony’s Prism Gala

Deck out in your fanciest gear for A/PIA Heritage Month’s last event of the year. Called the Prism Gala, the ceremony will features dancers, speakers, and awards for the A/PIA community.

There will be a screening of campus organization Uncover: A/PIA’s video “In My Mind: A/PIA’s and Mental Health.” The evening will also feature Seoul Juice and rXn.

The event was possible by the efforts of MESA, United Asian American Organizations, and the A/PIA Heritage Month committee.

The event is at the UMMA on April 20th from 7-10PM. You need to RSVP but it is a free event! The dress code is an encourage black tie or cultural attire. I’ll be the girl in the black shalwar kameez.

REVIEW: Shazam

Fun fact: Shazam is technically a Christmas movie.

But it is also an incredibly sweet movie that generates a loving origin story surrounding the main character and his family, creating a narrative that refreshing, humorous, and incredibly, incredibly fun to watch.

Asher Angel pays Billy Batson, a young runaway teen on the lookout for his mother who he was accidentally separated from when he was a child. He is placed in a large— and nice— foster family but is not having any of their sweet dinner rituals and found family antics. This is derailed anyways when a dying wizard bestows Billy with the collective powers of multiple famed godly beings throughout history, turning him into the hero that we know as Shazam.

(Or Captain Marvel in the comics but Marvel Comics snagged the old name from them. Copyright is hilarious sometimes).

Anyways, whenever Billy uses these powers, he turns in Chuck’s Zachary Levi— a man in his late-30s.

Angel is an engaging actor, endearingly sympathetic as a clearly heartbroken child even when Billy is being a bit of a brat. (He is also a near duplicate of Maisie “Arya Stark” Williams.) There was a quick concern that we will loose Billy in Levi’s antics and forget the kid behind the mask (or, ah, adult-man-body). This is the case for a lot of movies— see Big or switched up in 18 Again or any film that partakes in the popular trope of “child gets zapped into something else for a day”, but the film consistently reaffirms Angel into the film during the emotional beats of the film.

Levi has always been a goofy, physical actor and it was a throwback for me to see him back as a fun-loving centerpiece again. He took the pre-teen angle and ran with it— always fun while getting Billy’s own personal hang-ups through his actions. They are definitely two sides of the same coin— while Angel getting more of the dramatic scenes and Levi getting some of the more goofy, maybe a little less cool ones. And the latter makes sense— a rough kid still is going to be kind of silly when you see his actions in a man’s body. (Cue first-taste-of-beer spit take.)

The wizard deemed Billy as “pure of heart”, but it takes a while for our protagonist to get there— he is actively selfish, impulsive, and kind of mean. But he is also fourteen and the natural growth of Billy’s character development was packed well into the high-concept of his powers. There’s something kind of surprising to see your kid-hero actually being kind of terrified by being hunted down by an grown-man-villain with zapping powers.

The supporting cast was fantastic as well— Billy’s fellow foster child Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) takes up the other third of the film as a supportive fanboy and rare “friend-in-the-know” who actually participates in the hero scene. Billy’s youngest foster sister Darla was absolutely adorable. Shazam deal with themes of found family in ways that feel jarringly realistic, while keeping an idealistic base that gives it a distinct superhero feel.

And in case you are wondering, Shazam is a little divorced for the larger narrative of the DC Cinematic Universe. (And that’s all I will say about that!)

I liked Shazam the way I liked Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse— a movie that tackles a young adult’s life as they move on to the next stage of their life. Movies that can approach mature, maybe even dark, subjects with a wide-eye type of kindness that is needed for all audiences. The final battle scene of Shazam causes a thrilled gasp throughout the theater and I believe it earned it completely with how it built its story.

If you are the type of person deeply exhausted by the slew of superhero movies (and I sure am glad I am not you, sounds rough), Shazam would probably be the movie for you. The coming-of-age feel and separation from a larger narrative allows it to be a contained story that focuses on the fun, wild growth of its cultivated characters.


Spoilers for the movie will be alluded to. The reviewer highly suggests you watch the movie without reading reviews and essays!

Cheeks stained with tears, the Wilson family is pushed onto the coach and forced to face the intruders that broke into their home.  

When asked who they ask, the leader— Adelaide’s doppelgänger— says in a voice hoarse from apparent disuse, “We are Americans.”

It feels like a bizarre thing to say in the moment, almost out of place in the rest of her story, but the Jordan Peele cultivates a heart-wrenching universe that forces the viewer to evaluate their place within the world and where their empathy (and efforts) are lent.

Us is a beautifully-made film, both in visuals and story. It is crafted with love and laced with horror (both immediately apparent and fridge, the best kind!). It follows Adelaide Wilson, played by the stunning Lupita Nyong’o, and her family during a summer vacation to their beach house. Adelaide is plagued by memories of a short, but traumatic event as a child that hangs over her during the trip. Before she can cut their time in Santa Cruz short, the family is threatened by their almost-exact clones. 

My favorite horror movies tend to make me more sad than scared— personally, this usually chalks up to whether or not the characters where given the chance to be a part of the narrative rather than just becoming the bloody punchline. Adelaide’s motivations and background center this story— Nyong’o switches from the skeptical and vulnerable Adelaide to the menacing and collected doppelgänger Red. Nyong’o adopts difference voices, facial expressions, movement to demonstrate the constrat of these two characters– both equally complex and mysterious.

The rest of the Wilsons are absolutely lovable. Winston Duke (Black Panther) plays the sweet, dorky father— he dabs in front of his daughter and spins his tiny motorboat in efforts to impress his family. Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) play Adelaide and Gabe’s children— an apathetic teenage daughter and a strange little brother that capture enough of their own personal uniqueness to keep the character types fresh and likable. The family’s interactions allow them to be the perfect supporting cast for Adelaide and her character arc, which deviates far from expectations. Peele’s natural comedic talent shines through their bickering affection for each other.

What leaves you feeling gutted is the constant question of the motive of your villain. Not the doppelgängers– it is somewhat obvious. It is Red and her seemingly omniscient sense of Adelaide and her family. The climax is raw, orchestrated act between the two players, a switch of roles that shows how the movie played with your perceptions. Your hero is only as good as your villain, etc. 

Everyone and their neighbor already dropped the analytical essays about the movies and its dozens and dozens of references/Easter eggs. I am definitely the type to sit down and read them all (The shirt! Her voice! Pluto! Chemicals in the water!), because it just makes you excited as a viewer. Peele and his cast/crew put so much thought and dedication in framing ever single aspect of this film.

Some of the criticism of the movie I heard seems to take issue with the logic of the movie– an argument I disagree with a bit. I do not think movies and their message need to fit immediately with one, and only one, perfect allegory— and I don’t think movies need to lay out their details in a step-by-step guide. Trying to nitpick the world that Us has created takes away the atmosphere it has shaped to bring Adelaide and Red face-to-face.

After all, what we see in Us feels pretty real.   

REVIEW: Yoni Ki Baat

It is unique to have a space centered around women of color and only women of color. It is a space to be vulnerable, powerful, and truthful.

Yoni Ki Baat– which loosely translates from Hindi as “Talks of the Vagina”– is a show that centers around these women, whose voices are often stifled. 

Inspired by The Vagina Monologues, YKB started off for South Asian women. At the University of Michigan branch, the organization expanded to a larger array of diverse performers.

Before the monologues kicked off, there was an art gallery for audiences to observe. Artists were able to talk about their work and explain what inspired them, which added another layer to the gallery. The artwork was presented through a slideshow in Rackham auditorium, but I found it much more effective to view it in person and actually seen the work up close.

The monologues themselves ranged from deeply heart-wrenching to thought-provoking to humorous. The topics varied: stories about first love, war, objectification of women— all specifically tailored to how it affected their lives as well as perceptions of women of color. The performers of Yoni Ki Baat approached their stories with a nuance that is demanded of the space and the topic at hand.

In return, Yoni Ki Baat demands you to be empathetic, kind, thoughtful, comfortable, uncomfortable, and reflective. I was struck by the emotion that came from the performers and the hours of love and work that clearly went into the presentation. Yoni Ki Baat is a crucial organization that fulfill a vital role on this campus and you should absolutely head out to their next production!