By Vernor Rodgers
Find out where it's playing
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
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.
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
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
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.
"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
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
So, Hamer and his group of five other men
had to be on edge, knowing the couple was capable of killing
"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.