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By Vernor Rodgers
Find out where it's playing http://moviefone.com/

"AVENGERS: ENDGAME"

With a worldwide box-office take surpassing $1 billion, it is safe to say just about everybody who is going to see "Avengers: Endgame" has seen it, possibly more than once. It is one of those movies in which it is pointless to review it. The film has already triggered a flood of discussions, sometimes intense, on social media.

At three hours long, there is a lot to digest in this movie, as a handful of what is left of the Avengers -- Captain America (Chris Klein), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr. ), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), the hybrid Bruce Banner / Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) and Ant Man (Paul Rudd) -- go on a one-shot-or-it's-all-over mission to go back in time and try to prevent all the hell Thanos (Josh Brolin) will be breaking loose.

Credit goes to screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directors Anthony and Joe Russo in keeping this from becoming a confusing mess. Still, multiple viewings may be required to catch everything, particularly in the final battle that becomes a virtual casting call for all the Marvel characters who have been featured in any of the Marvel film series.

While this is supposed to be the finale of the Avengers series, you just never know. It appears that the curtain is going down on at least three, possibly more, of the Marvel characters. But as has been seen, a new generation, in the form of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and others, is fired up and ready to go.

"AVENGERS: ENDGAME" Official Trailer:  https://youtu.be/TcMBFSGVi1c

 

"BREAKTHROUGH"

Based upon a true story, "Breakthrough" is a movie in which faith is seriously tested and then rewarded. It is wrenching and heart-warming, yet it leaves the lingering questions. Was it is miracle or a fluke of science? And if it was a miracle, why did it happen?

John Smith (Marcell Ruiz) is a 14-year-old high schooler and star baseketball player living in the St. Louis area. As a baby, he was adopted by a devout Christian couple, Joyce (Chrissy Metz) and Brian Smith (Josh Lucas). He is at that age when some alienation makes its way inevitably into the parent-child relationship. Still bothered by abandonment issues, and a little rebelious, John is nevertheless a basically good, church-going kid.

One day while fooling around with friends on the iced-over Lake Saint Louis, John plunges through the ice. He is not rescued for nearly a half-hour, and once transported to the hospital, is declared dead. Joyce is given a chance to be alone with the body and she makes a prayerful plea for John to be revived. He does come back to life, but the prognosis still is dire; with near full organ failure and brain damage, a full recovery seems unlikely. 

One of the best specialists, Dr. Garrett (Dennis Haysbert), is brought in. He is forthright in his diagnosis that John likely will not survive and frankly it might be better if he doesn't. But Joyce is adamant that Dr. Garrett do all he can and the rest would be up to God.

There is some humorous and touching interplay between Joyce and the hip new pastor of her church, Jason Noble (Topher Grace), of whom Joyce is not fond. But their relationship grows strong as they bond together in staying strong in their faith while John fights for his life.

Although the ending is obviously going to be upbeat, there are emotional moments throughout, as well as missteps by everybody despite their shared focus of hoping and praying John will survive.

The film does leave us with the question as to why John survived when other incidents end up as tragedies. But that likely was the thought intentionally being provoked here.

"BREAKTHROUGH" Official Trailer:  https://youtu.be/52bORzIODec

 

"THE HIGHWAYMEN" Netflix

The outlaws of the 1930s in America have been lifted to mythical proportions, thanks to stories, inaccurate history and marketable portrayals via movies and television. But the likely undisputed champs of these renegades and misfits have to be Bonnie and Clyde.

Over the decades, Bonnie and Clyde were romanticized as an adventurous couple. Oh, sure, they robbed banks, but in the Depression-triggered mood of the country, they were seen as part of the little people sticking it to the establishment. Adding to what would be an indelible perception of them, their death in an overmatched shootout served to propel them to almost super-human heights: Imagine all those bullets needed to kill them.

The iconic 1967 movie "Bonnie and Clyde," with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the starring roles, also served to elevate them to more likable reputations than they deserved. That, plus little actual official information, made the movie seem like the ultimate authority on the couple and their gang.

Lost in all this was the story of the lawman credited with taking down Bonnie and Clyde, closing down the era of the Barrow gang. Frank Hamer (pronounced Hay-mer) was a retired Texas Ranger who was commissioned to track down the very mobile Clyde Barrow gang, and because he did not bask in the glory of his accomplishments, he posthumously has been mostly hailed as a hero but also very enigmatic.

In 2006, FBI files on the Bonnie and Clyde case were uncovered, and now with Hollywood heavyweights like Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson serving as executive producers, "The Highwaymen," focusing on Hamer's pursuit of the outlaws, has become reality and is available on Netflix.

Costner stars as Hamer and Harrelson teams up with Costner, playing Hamer's friend and former fellow Texas Ranger Maney Gault, as the two work to track down the Barrow gang and stop its travelogue of terror.

"The Highwaymen" opens with the Barrow gang engineering a break from the Eastham Prison Farm, a shootout that kills one guard and leads to the escape of Barrow gang member Henry Methvin. A frustrated Director of State Prisons, Lee Simmons (John Carroll Lynch), persuades Texas Gov. Miriam "Ma" Ferguson (Kathy Bates) to let him commission a special officer to track down Bonnie and Clyde. She agrees and Simmons recruits Hamer.

Not a bad choice, as Hamer is a tough sonofabitch. As a Ranger, he became adept at surveillance and undercover work. He was involved in 52 shootouts, killing at least 21 outlaws, and even was instrumental in fending off a mob of 6,000 people who wanted to lynch a black man accused of raping a white woman.

But Simmons pulled a fast one, as Ferguson was not a fan of the Rangers. When she came into office as governor, she decommissioned the Rangers as an act of revenge because many of them politicked against her during the election.I

Hamer is enjoying a semi-retirement, doing some investigative work here and there, and quietly agreeing with his wife, Gladys (Kim Dickens), that like Danny Glover's Roger Murtaugh in "Lethal Weapon," "I'm getting too old for this shit."

Although in real life, Hamer initially drafted Dallas Deputy Sheriff Bob Alcorn as a partner in the chase, in "The Highwaymen," writer John Fusco, in coordination with Harrelson, opted to make the Gault character a composite of the men Hamer traveled with on the road chasing down the Barrow gang. As a result, liberties were taken. Gault is seen as down and out, umemployed and relying on his wife to earn money, while in reality he was working for the Texas Highway Patrol at the time he joined Hamer. Also, Gault is portrayed as a drinker, not true, and reluctant to use his weapon, when in fact he fired his share of rounds at Bonnie and Clyde.

There are some senior citizen moments when it appears Hamer and Gault are in fact too out of shape. Yet their investigative moxie makes the fresh boys of the FBI look foolish.

Like the shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, the details of the actual incident will never be fully known. Seen in "Bonnie and Clyde" as the result of trigger-happy lawmen who engaged in overkill, the final fatal confrontation in "The Highwaymen" does show the massive amount of artillery fired into the car. But included earlier in the movie is the Easter Sunday 1934 incident, occuring a month before their deaths, in which Bonnie and Clyde ambushed two highway patrol officers, with Bonnie cold-bloodedly finishing off one of the injured officers with a shotgun blast to the head. That officer was engaged to be married in a couple of weeks, and his fiancee, living into her 90s, remained embittered by the romanticized portrayal of Bonnie in "Bonnie and Clyde."

So, Hamer and his group of five other men had to be on edge, knowing the couple was capable of killing anybody.

"The Highwaymen" offers what is to date the most accurate recounting of Hamer's efforts. The performance by Denver Pyle in "Bonnie and Clyde" was really a composite and sparked Gladys Hamer to file a defamation suit against Warner Bros., objecting to Pyle's portrayal.

A lot of the misinformation about the pursuit and shooting of Bonnie and Clyde can be blamed on Hamer and Gault, who both shunned publicity following the incident. In fact, when a showman gained possession of the bullet-riddled car in which Bonnie and Clyde died, and toured the country with it, while also showing graphic photos of the bodies, Hamer and Gault themselves went to shut it down.

Costner and Harrelson work well together, seen as two old goats who respect each other, but as old friends ease the stress of their mission by needling each other and engaging in serious conversations on what they are doing and how they will live with the outcome.

"THE HIGHWAYMEN" Official Trailer:  https://youtu.be/aH6vC-BBKOc

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