Spiderman: Far From Home ★★★★☆

Following the dramatic conclusion of the Infinity Saga, Spidey swings back in to close Phase 3 with another MCU gem filled with laughter and drama. It probably could have waited a few more months before hitting the screens, but it wraps things up well! Onward to Phase 4…………

Directed by: Jon Watts

Starring Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Samuel L. Jackson


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Avengers Endgame ★★★★★

 

The 22nd chapter of the epic Infinity saga comes to an outstanding conclusion! Here’s our spoiler free look at Avengers Endgame.

Directed by : Anthony & Joe Russo

Starring : Too many to type!


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Infinity War:Destiny Arrives

After 10 years of anticipation and endless movies, the big one is finally here,  with so much to talk about, we’ve broken down our *(Spoiler -Free!) review into the key points, enjoy 🙂


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The Villain

The MCU has had a horrid track record for villains, barring Loki, the string of antagonists in several movies such as GotG, all 3 Ironman movies, Thor: The Dark World, all suffered from being a lousy foil. Though as of late, things have started to look far better. The Vulture (Spiderman Homecoming) and especially Killmonger (Black Panther) were great bad guys. Thanos has had very little screen time, apart from a few minutes now and again, or an end credit scene. But here, Thanos not only possesses the power to destroy pretty much any one of our heroes at will, he also has a clear plan in his head. As crazy as he may be, he believes what he is doing is for the greater good, and not just doing it for the cliche world combination etc. This is very much a Thanos movie, and Josh Brolin does an immense job bring such gravitas to a CGI villain! He also throws a moon as a weapon……..


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The Chemistry

It’s what fans have been waiting for, how awesome it would be to finally see all their favourite heroes from across all the movies finally getting together. The results, are as hilarious as you would expect, from a franchise that delivers fantastic humour. Ironman & Doctor Strange, both sarcastic, and confident of themselves, deliver excellent wit, as they constantly exchange one liners.  Thor meeting the Guardians of the Galaxy, comedy gold! Rocket & Thor have a surprisingly endearing relationship, which you would not have guessed at the start. All out heroes get their moment to shine, but Drax, Mantis & Banner offer the best when it comes to the comic relief.  There are so many memorable lines from various characters, that they will be quoted for a long time!


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The Action

Without spoiling too much, the action delivers. Considering the sheer number of participants, it could have got very shambolic. The stand out scenes include the showdown on Titan, the surprise late night train station entrance to make the save, and the obvious Wakada battle Basically, anytime the now legendary Avengers music kicks in!  As immense as the Wakada war is, it does get a bit too much at times, with the sheer number of disposable alien fodder being used to overwhelm the heroes.


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The Black Order

Or the ‘Children of Thanos’, as they are also called, are the henchmen that support the Mad Titan on his quest. They are supposed to act as some sort of viable opponents to the Avengers, as they work in the shadows to help Thanos gather all the stones.  But unfortunately, we don’t really know much of them, and barely even bother to remember all their names (Proxima Midnight sounds cool, but like, that’s about it).  Ebony Maw, out evil sorcerer is actually one of the more interesting of the clan, as worthy rival to Doctor Strange, but the rest? Thoroughly underused, and utterly forgettable.


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The Plot

Essentially we have 4 story arcs that are woven together overly this huge run time. Credit has to go to the Russo Brothers for together such an epic tale. You have the ‘Space’ team out on the home planet of Thanos, Titan.  The ‘Wakanda’ team, who hold the battle lines down on Earth. Thanos himself has an intriguing storyline as we follow his journey, and finally Thor head out into the depths of Space, for his own agenda.  It is a lot, but that’s to be expected, it’s also a great way to isolate the gigantic cast into smaller teams, rather than throwing all 40+ cast members onto the screen.  Though this also means some characters don’t have as much screen time as you would think, Captain America is no way near as prominent as you would think here. But the story does deliver, and sure packs a lot of emotional hits. As the plots slowly start to merge towards the end, it all pays off, speaking of…..

The Ending

Well……..didn’t see that coming. And I’ll leave it at just that!


Overall, Infinity War is a tribute to the legacy of the MCU, after 10 years and 18 movies. This is a film that fans will adore, the plus 2hr runtime will breeze by, as you are caught up in all the drama. But the film isn’t for everyone, casual fans may still be able to enjoy it, but it will for sure drag on.

 

 

 

 

Thor Ragna-rocks!

The Thor franchise has been a mixed bag, the original movie, back in 2011 wasn’t the most entralling film, rather just a set up to bring Loki into the fold for The Avengers. While The Dark World a few years later was an improvement,  it never really felt like a vital part of the MCU , with an utterly forgettable villain.  Ragnarok, the final part of the trilogy has been by far the most captivating Thor adventure yet, with the trailers building up to a far more essential chapter of the story, with an ever so vibrant cast and aesthetic.

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Ragnarok picks up a few years after Age of Ultron. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is on the search for the infinity stones, to prevent the apocalyptic visions in his dreams, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), after leaving the scene following AoU, has ended up on an alien planet, and Loki (Tom Hiddlestone) now resides as King of Asgard (be it under disguise!). Things are cranked up several notches with the appearance of the omnipotent Hela (Cate Blanchett) , who’s return signifies the arrival of Ragnarok,  the  prophecy that states the destruction of Asgard.

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Thor Ragnarok has received massive critical acclaim, currently standing at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s well deserved.  Taika Waititi has woven a wonderful tale filled with humour, colour, action & drama.  Ragnarok, of all things, is one of the funniest movies of the year so far. Up there with Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of laughs per minute ! Be it Thor’s bickering with Loki or Hulk, Loki’s nervous behavior around Hulk or Hela’s disdain to pretty much everything, the film knocks out jokes throughout it’s entire run time. The supporting cast all have their moments too, but the star of the under-card has to be Korg (played by Waititi himself!), the alien guardian of Thor’s gladiatorial prison, whose non-nonchalant one liners will have the audience in stitches. Jeff Golblum is also absurdly entertaining as the peculiar Grandmaster.

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The humour aside, Ragnarok still possesses a story line that has vast consequences on the rest of the MCU. The threat is very much real, a threat which is perfectly captured by the introduction of Hela.  One of the biggest criticisms of the Marvel movies are it’s lack of villains,  but here, Hela is one of the most foreboding villains introduced so far. Being able to easily handle both Thor & Loki, and making small work of the Asgardian army.  With the gradual turn of Loki towards the side of good, it was vital to replace him with a suitable antagonist. The removal of Jane Foster, who fans never really cared for, being replaced by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson),  was a good move. Matching Thor up with someone who feels more suitable to his personality.

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Visually, Ragnarok is gorgeous to look at.  It’s simply vivid. The promotional artwork has displayed this change of direction, but the film looks so energetic. Saarkar, the planet is which our hero is stranded on, makes up a fair portion of the movie. A planet with is full of buzz and activity.  It’s colour palette is one similar to the zesty displays of Guardians franchise. Compare is to the previous 2 films, and it feels like a totally different franchise!

Though Ragnarok can be criticized for leaning on the side of comedy a bit too much, at times, all the jokes do feel overwhelming. It’s fair to say the character of Thor is seen  pretty much as a skull headed joke to everyone.  Thor seems to be the butt of most of everyone jokes, even random strangers on the street has a dig at him! Thor has always been one of the more light hearted characters, but it does go a bit too far from time to time.

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Ragnarok is certainly one of the most fun films of the year so far,  with the addition of new characters like the impressive Valkyrie & Korg, combined with the stellar cast, constant gags (”What are you, the God of Hammers?”), entertaining cameos, and a mighty villain. This may be one of the best Marvel movies yet.

 

Spidey Spins A Web of Laughs

One of the surprises in Captain America: Civil War last year was the addition of Spiderman in the superhero melee, following the character being lost in the corporate purgatory between Sony and Marvel. Fans were finally treated to seeing the webslinger make his long awaited debut in the MCU, and now, we have his first solo MCU outing, Spiderman: Homecoming.

Spiderman has seen several reincarnations within the last decade or so! So comparisons will be made, will it live up to the charming Sam Raimi trilogy (well first two anyway, the less said about 3!) or will Homecoming be more like the divisive Amazing reboots of the early 2010’s?

As the title suggests, Homecoming is set during high school, and the run up to homecoming dance (spoiler alert!). There is no origin story in this film, which is great, every Spidey fan knows about that, and it would be wasted time. We really don’t need to see Uncle Ben die for a third time! The film picks up pretty much right after his antics in Civil War (with his own personal videos from his travels to Germany!), we follow Peter Parker, as he gets to grasp with his entire new found suit and his social struggles at home & school.

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Homecoming thankfully is another fine notch in the ever-growing MCU repertoire. Homecoming gives the audience a plucky young Peter to root for, supported by a mentoring Tony Stark (and Happy Hogan!), and for the first time in a long while, a villain which feels fleshed out and threatening. This makes a nice change from the villains who are bad because……….they are bad.

Tom Holland is excellent as Peter, as well as Tobey Maguire & Andrew Garfield were, they were both well into their 20s when playing the role. So it always felt a bit awkward seeing them play high schoolers. Holland is 21, so looks far more convincing as a young teen, and has the acting chops to pull it off too. The appearance of Ironman has been well publicized in this film, and Robert Downey Jr. is as always awesome in the scenes that he has. I was a bit worried beforehand that the film may have too much Ironman in it, taking away Spidey’s time to shine, but luckily it’s not overdone. The moments that he does appear, are pretty much already revealed in the trailers, which is a shame.

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The real stars of the supporting cast are Ned (Jacob Batalon), Parker’s best friend, the enthusiastic best man, who is more than happy to just be involved with Spiderman and be ‘the guy in the chair’, and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), the long standing right hand man of Tony Stark (his been there since the very start!) who has to reluctantly be the chaperone of the eager Parker. Both are always a welcoming presence to any scene they are in.

Michael Keaton as The Vulture is superb as a character, you understand his motivations for his actions, and he isn’t simply a maniacal villain. He is conflicted by his actions, but well aware he has to do it for personal reasons. He also has wonderfully intense scene with Peter in the final act, which was great to watch! It also has a nice tie in to the events following Avengers Assemble.

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The film is downright hilarious. Peter’s interactions with Ned & Happy always bring a few laughs. The fact the new Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is attractive is mentioned on numerous occasions throughout the film.  Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori), Peter’s rival at school, who was the type cast cocky jock, is now more of a smug rich kid. His smugness while annoying, works well at gaining sympathy for Parker, while also having a chuckle on both their behalves!  Michelle (Zandaya), one of Peter’s reclusive and enigmatic classmates randomly pops up every now and again, to drop a sarcastic one liner, which could have been cheesy, but actually fits in rather well. There’s also an appearance from actor/rapper/funny guy Donald Glover, fans of his work will revel in his cameo! Peter also has some witty exchanges with his suits AI, who he names Karen. One of the jokes the film makes at itself is regarding what happens when there aren’t any high rises for Spidey to swing between? Well, he just has to run on foot!

The movie has it’s fair share of action set pieces. with the highlight being the ferry scene. This does though feel like a very poor imitation of the train scene in Spiderman 2, and just doesn’t feel as momentous. The scenes in the Washington Monument may be a little less chaotic, but feels far more fresh and original.

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What did let the film down for me was the frankly generic final showdown. It becomes somewhat of a CGI mess, involving a chaotic battle outside a plane, then a flaming beach. It feels somewhat numbing and just too much is happening to really take it in properly. It doesn’t help the scenes take place at night! The main love interest Liz (Laura Harrier), is also particularly bland, her only characteristic is being one of the popular girls at school and a plot device. Another bugbear in the run up to this movie was the sheer amount of material released in the trailers and other clips in the run up. I was already aware of several key scenes. A franchise like Spiderman doesn’t need to release so much material to get the anticipation up, just a personal annoyance, but that’s more to do with the marketing and studios, and not the movie itself!

Homecoming spins a web of fun, and if you’re a fan of the hero, or just enjoy an enjoyable superhero film, will love the characters, cast and humour.  Personally, I still believe Spiderman 2 is still the most best movie out of the collection, but Homecoming does a stellar job is reintroducing the character and getting him entwined in the Avengers saga! Though I still can’t forgive Marvel for that horrendous Homecoming poster with near every character thrown onto it! :/

 

 

Guardians Vol. 2, Good, Not Great

Back in 2014, when Guardians of the Galaxy dropped into cinemas, there was little expectation and much skepticism. Compared to established heroes like Ironman, Thor and Captain America,  GOTG was a very niche franchise. With a small fan base, and Chris Pratt, who up until then, was mostly known for his comedic shenanigans in the sit-com Parks & Recs, taking the lead role in a Hollywood blockbuster. The film was a huge risk, were Marvel getting too arrogant? Well they proved the doubters wrong, GOTG proved to be a resounding success, the film brought a new level of humour and fun not seen in previous MCU entries, and it stands 5th in the list of box office takings for all Marvel releases. Can the sequel, titled GOTG :Volume 2 match the magic and charm that the original encapsulated so well?

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Avengers……Assemble!

Volume 2, takes place soon after our heroes first adventure, as we re-join the antics of Peter Quill AKA Starlord (Chris Pratt), the feisty Gamara (Zoe Saldana), the wise cracking Rocket (Bradley Cooper), deadpan Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and the adorable Baby Groot (Vin Diesel)! With their new found fame, the team are offered more high profile missions & with increasing rewards, but after being caught attempting to hustle one of their clients, the team end up on the run, only to be saved by a mysterious man, named Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be the long lost father of Quill, and help him fulfill his true potential.

Where the first movie excelled in was the chemistry between the members of our ragtag team, and it’s great to say that the same level of cohesion remains with our squad. If anything, the jokes and quips are even better than the first, and the film definitely has more laughs (Trash Panda!) than the first movie! The bickering between Quill & Rocket is constantly dropping zingers, and the writers have used the traits of Drax in order to write in several well placed jokes!

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I…AM….GROOT!!

The introduction of Baby Groot was a wonderful addiction,  not only is he an adorable member of the group, Baby Groot also has several moments where he is involved in key parts of the story, he’s not only there for selling merchandise!

In my opinion, the most enjoyable aspect of Volume 2 is the development of the bonds between certain characters; there are several relationships that are strengthened over the course of their adventure. You have the central arc of Peter reacquainting himself with his father, Ego. But there are several characters who get a lot more depth to their persona. The aggressive vendetta that Nebula (Karen Gilan)  has with her sister, Gamora is given some more time, and Nebula comes across somewhat sympathetic, with the audience having a reason to see why she is so spiteful.

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Yondu shines bright in Volume 2

Yondu (Micheal Rooker), also returns, but now is a disgraced member of the Ravagers, after he is exiled. He and Rocket share plenty of screen time together,  and create a great camaraderie with each other, in turn, they learn that they may not be so different after all. Yondu has the most development here, and his progression as a character is really padded out,  he is probably the stand out character in the flick!

Unfortunately, the movie, when compared to Volume 1, is not anywhere near as great. The story-line regarding Peter & Ego does seem to go on for a bit too long. It is pretty predictable where it will all end up, as the signs are seen pretty early on. Although the story line does wrap up Peter’s origin. It still feels pretty underwhelming to say the least. The majority of the movie takes place on Ego’s planet, where a bit of space travel would have been more interesting to see.

The secondary villain, Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) the snobby leader of the people of Sovereign, a race of beings with a huge superiority complex. First appears to be a real threat. But she disappears for most of the movie, only to show up again near the finale. It’s a shame we didn’t see more of her and her people, as their disdainful nature was good fun to watch!

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Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2..Drax (Dave Bautista)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017

Drax is also left on the sidelines , his sheer strength is never fully utilised. He is probably the best when it comes to the one liners, but regarding the action, he rarely has any scenes, apart from the opening credits. Drax is a mountain of muscle, but he spends most of the movie in conversation with Ego’s assistant, Mantis.

Volume 2 may not be as strong as Volume 1, and it does have a few flaws to contend with. But it’s another solid entry into the ever-expanding MCU. The film does go a lot more into our characters and their pasts, which give the movie an emotional attachment. It’s also just as hilarious as the original, which fans will savior! Oh, and make sure to hang back for FOUR post credit scenes! Their spoiling us now…..

 

Doctor Strange – “Marvel Meets Inception!”

Well it looks like I may have to amend the Top 5 MCU movies article from earlier in the week!! Marvel, once again, hits it out the park.

Marvel's DOCTOR STRANGE..L to R: The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)..Photo Credit: Jay Maidment..©2016 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.
Marvel’s DOCTOR STRANGE..L to R: The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)..Photo Credit: Jay Maidment..©2016 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

Doctor Strange follows the journey of Dr Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch), a supremely talented Neurosurgeon, who also happens to have a supremely large ego! Think of him as Tony Stark with a Medical degree! It’s the expensive watches & designer suits lifestyle for the Dr, but after an accident, he loses the dexterity required for the delicate surgery he preforms, this leads him down an alternate path to recovery……and magic!

The film does have a hint of Ironman, an arrogant protagonist, suffers a traumatic experience, which leads him down the road of redemption. But that does not take anything away from the film, it’s still strong enough to stand out on its own. The star of the show, is of course Benidict Cumberbatch, who channels parts of his Sherlock persona brilliantly. Marvel have nailed it with their casting, even after one film, Cumberbatch is as synonymous with this role as Robert Downey Jr or Chris Evans are with their respective alter egos!

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The rest of the cast also deserve praise. There was controversy surrounding the choice of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, but that’s all forgotten by a striking performance here. Chiwetel Ejiofor& Rachel McAdams both provide the humour and the intensity required. The interaction between Strange and Mordo (Ejiofor) give the audience some of the funniest parts of the film. Additionally, Wong (Benedict Wong) who guards the library in the sanctum, is already a fan favorite, we can’t wait to see more of his cameos in the future!

So we get to the villains, which is a perennial weak spot for the MCU releases, do they manage to shine for once? In this movie, the main antagonist is ex-student of the sanctum, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), who after learning the ways of the sorcerers, has gone to the dark side, to help bring the Dark Lord Dormammu, to Earth.  Mikkelsen is an intimidating presence, but the role of Kaecilius is rather tame, he never really threatens to defeat Strange at any point.Nor does he ever feel like a genuine threat. Dormammu, as much as is made of him, only appears briefly at the end, before he is defeated! So still, much to improve in regards to the bad guys!

doutor-estranho-012What makes this film stand out though, is the introduction of magic and inter-dimensions. It is a visual spectacle, and the scenes involving bending the landscape, are brilliant. If anyone has watched Inception and enjoyed the dream sequences, will love this! This also opens up the road for the future MCU movies, we all well aware that the fight will go into space, and this film provides hints on how that transition will be done. It’s clear to seem that Dr Strange will be a vital cog down the road.

There really isn’t much to be disappointed about, though there are a few niggles. As mentioned before,the villains are not the most dangerous, no are they memorable. Also, the plot is very lore heavy, so casual viewers may be confused at times, be ready to hear of items such as the ‘Eye of Agamotto’ and ‘Cape of Levitation’!

Doctor Strange is an absolute joy. The lead is charming,the action stunning and the humour is on point! One of the best films of the year by far.

Director : Scott Derrickson
Starring : Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen

‘Captain America : Civil War’ Review

Ever since ‘Avengers Assemble’ released back in 2012, the cracks in the relationship between Tony Stark’s Ironman & Steve Rodger’s Captain American were starting to appear. It all finally comes down to an explosive conclusion in one of Marvel’s finest films so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

A film containing so many different superheroes could have become a complicated mess. But the Russo Brothers once again served up a right treat for fans and critics alike. After their stellar work in creating the superb ‘Winter Soldier’, they have proved that they are capable of handling the upcoming Avengers movies.

Following the destruction in previous films caused by members of the Avengers across several previous films. The world has decided to reign in the action of the Avengers with the introduction of the ‘Sokovia Accords’. Which would mean the United Nations would have control of what the Avengers do. Simply put, Ironman is for it, Captain is against it.

This all eventually leads to  two sides being formed, which has been the main angle the marketing team for the film have used to stir up the crowd. What works well here is that all the players in the ‘Civil War’ get their moment to shine. Even the minor characters such as Falcon & Vision get their moment in the spotlight. The usual Marvel humour is there as always, though they know when to use it, the final act is virtually devoid of any humour. The new additions also hit the right spot. Chadwick Boseman does a great job as the fearless Black Panther, his no nonsense attitude makes a refreshing change from the usual Avengers banter and quipping. Tom Holland’s portrayal of a young Spiderman steals the show in his brief appearances, and has everyone looking forward to his solo adventure! The Russo Bros. did a fantastic job in managing to fit everyone in, and making it work so fluently.

The films centerpiece is the showdown at the airport, where the 2 sides finally get down to trading blows. In what some will say is one of the greatest action scenes ever filmed, the set piece is filled with cameos, humour and action. The build up to this does not disappoint. It’s pretty obvious the heroes are pulling their punches during the scene, as they don’t really want to hurt one another. The final showdown at the end of the film between Ironman, Captain & The Winter Soldier is the polar opposite. The showdown is dramatic, and filled with tension. Which served as a nice treat, not the usual ‘end of the world’ scenario. This film is very much about Captain America, not the Avengers. Chris Evans & Downey Jr put in probably their best performances so far in all of the MCU outings so far.

The film though isn’t perfect. On the plus side of 2 hours, the film is stretched out a lot. The first hour or so is key in setting up the showcase battle, but it feels like some scenes could have been shortened or even cut to speed up the pacing. The 3rd act is a brutal fight, but it feels a bit of a let down after the epic airport scene. The films ”antagonist” was once again one of its weak points. Not since Loki have Marvel been able to  produce an enticing villain. This is somewhat put on the side, as the feud between Tony & Steve is what really drives the film, the villain feels like somewhat of an after-thought. If he was removed entirely, it really wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

After the underwhelming critical response to Dawn of Justice, Marvel once again proved that they are the kings of the comic book big screen experience. The hype to the film has most certainly been justified, and it will interesting to see if they can top this in Infinity Wars.

5/5

 

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