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'Avengers: Endgame': What the World Needs Now

By Michael S. GoldbergeriBerkshires Film Critic
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Y'know how I'm always looking for metaphors and clues in movies that might lead the way to saving our republic from the current rash of misanthropic evildoers? Y'know, those who would replace our democracy with autocracy for their own profit and narcissistic obsession. Well, someday I'm going to just review a movie. But this isn't that someday.
Nah, "Avengers: Endgame," a surprisingly entertaining, jaunty ride to vicarious liberty is simply too rich with the stuff of the Four Freedoms to be treated as just another superhero movie. It celebrates and brims with the very idea of righteousness, replete with an utterly contemptible villain too hateful and too real to discount as mere comic book fiction.
Whether it's because I've laboriously waded through and consumed way too much Marvel lore in the films leading up to "Avengers: Endgame," or because the directors Russo wanted to reach the greatest number of viewers this go round, it seems the minutiae is kept to a minimum. While there are surely enough series details to satisfy those devotees who've practically eschewed all the conventional aspects of life in favor of total devotion to the alternate fantasy world Stan Lee created, I'd say this is the one you could recommend to your old Aunt Millie. 
Granted, it might be a bit of a lab experiment. I mean gosh, she hasn't seen a movie since "Forrest Gump" (1994). Still, attired for the occasion in wig hat and high-heeled sneakers, it may be an epiphany for her.
Truth be told, I approached the newest "Avengers" with no small smidgen of trepidation. Weighing in at 181 minutes, that's three hours and 60 seconds in human film critic's time — meaning there'd be forces to distract me from my evaluative duties. Helpful pundits on the internet offered all sorts of advice to potential viewers, including special guidance for moviegoers of a certain age understandably concerned with how nature might intervene. But the recommendation here is just go. You'll catch up, or your sidekick will be happy to give you his or her subjective and probably erroneous take. No matter. As a parking attendant recently related on a totally different matter, "It's all good."
Fact is, though the seriocomic adventure tale, a panoply of the very latest computer magic to suffuse the silver screen, is rapid-fire action most of the way, it is ultimately an exuberant kaleidoscope of technology, friendship and the separating of truth from the deceit of those who would bamboozle us. In a splash of inspiration so needed in our current state of affairs, wherein we agonize just who could smite the dragon (should it be a man, a woman, and what color of either?), the Avengers are an embarrassment of heroes.
Heck, there's nothing much more fun than saving the world for democracy with some of your best pals, and our gallant, larger-than-life surrogates are especially adept at exampling that. Oh sure, they have their tiffs, and just enough soap-opera-like complications to prove they are indeed human and/or otherworldly. However, as is demonstrated time and time again when a group dedicated to a noble cause gets its head screwed on right, where there's a will there's a way.
Gee, you have to get a load of this bad guy. He is worthy of every effort our champions are able to summon in his defeat. But the depravity of Thanos (Josh Brolin) sways curiously from the usual. This baddy goes beyond the traditional antihero you love to hate. Grotesquely conjured, he is strikingly familiar in his zeal to destroy the world and remake it in his image. And of course he has the endorsement of the bootlicking grovelers and fawners who make the villain possible.
Filmic heirs to the flying monkeys who backed the Wicked Witch of The West in "The Wizard of Oz" (1939), they are the mob, ready to do the master's bidding at any cost. But what's their game? Are they so bereft of hope so as to support a monster that they know is at a minimum full of bunk, barely able to hide his disdain for their blind fealty, and at maximum just short of being the Devil incarnate? Those metaphors were giving me the willies.
But the group of teenagers behind me who nostalgically reminded of my nights at the Park Theatre with that old gang of mine, apparently feared not. Animated like a Greek chorus in their rousing, enthusiastic certainty that the title characters would prevail so long as they didn't lose sight of the common goal that binds them, their optimism prodded me to indulge in yet one more metaphor. That they were young and cheering for morality to be victorious over corruption offered me hope that they might very well turn out to be the real-life Avengers we'll need for a virtuous future.
"Avengers: Endgame," rated PG-13, is a Walt Disney Studios release directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo and stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson. Running time: 181 minutes

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Estate Plans Can Help You Answer Questions About the Future

Submitted by Edward Jones

The word "estate" conjures images of great wealth, which may be one of the reasons so many people don't develop estate plans. After all, they're not rich, so why make the effort? In reality, though, if you have a family, you can probably benefit from estate planning, whatever your asset level. And you may well find that a comprehensive estate plan can help you answer some questions you may find unsettling – or even worrisome.

Here are a few of these questions:

* What will happen to my children?
With luck, you (and your co-parent, if you have one) will be alive and well at least until your children reach the age of majority (either 18 or 21, depending on where you live). Nonetheless, you don't want to take any chances, so, as part of your estate plans, you may want to name a guardian to take care of your children if you are not around. You also might want to name a conservator – sometimes called a "guardian of the estate" – to manage any assets your minor children might inherit.

* Will there be a fight over my assets? Without a solid estate plan in place, your assets could be subject to the time-consuming, expensive – and very public – probate process. During probate, your relatives and creditors can gain access to your records, and possibly even challenge your will. But with proper planning, you can maintain your privacy. As one possible element of an estate plan, a living trust allows your property to avoid probate and pass quickly to the beneficiaries you have named.

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