With just a few days until the release of “Avengers: Endgame,” Marvel fans everywhere are probably wondering A) Who dies?? and B) Will this actually resolve the cliffhanger ending of “Infinity War” in a satisfying way?
So, just to get it out of the way: A) I’m not telling, and B) Kind of? Mostly? It depends?
Certainly, if you’re like me and found yourself fatigued by the constant, overcrowded battles of “Infinity War,” the beginning of “Endgame” will come as an enormous relief. There’s a brief flicker of action, then we get plenty of time to deal with the fallout from “Infinity War.” (And if you don’t already know how that movie ends, why are you reading this review?)
We see that half the population of Earth, and the universe, really died after Thanos’ magical finger snap, leaving the original Avengers team and a handful of other heroes to try to rebuild and move on. There’s plenty about the aftermath that simply gets hand-waved away with a few shots of empty streets and grieving extras — but we get to spend time with characters like Iron Man, Captain America and the Hulk, to see how they’ve responded and changed in the wake of universal catastrophe.
Of course, they’re not sitting around moping for the entire three-hour (!) runtime. Eventually, a plan is hatched to undo what Thanos has done. And while I’m going to stay as vague as possible about that plan, I think it’s safe to say that the results are textbook fan service.
After all, as its name makes clear, “Endgame” is meant to serve as the culmination of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, and as a final act for some of its most famous heroes. The film’s middle stretch feels very much like a farewell tour, working overtime to remind viewers of everything they like about these characters and their stories.
Diehard Marvel fans, I suspect, will eat it up. Casual viewers may not be quite as satisfied.
Personally, I was delighted when I realized what the filmmakers were going to do. But as these sequences went on, and on, and on, my enthusiasm waned. By the time the grand finale began, virtually all the goodwill built up during the film’s opening had evaporated.
So by the simple metric of whether “Endgame” finds a way to reverse the ending of “Infinity War” in a way that doesn’t feel cheap or cynical, I’m afraid I’d say it’s a failure. And I’m not sure I can claim that the ending is any less cynical or sentimental.
For this viewer, however, that ending absolutely works — so effectively that it not only salvages the movie, not only helps me forgive the draggy bits, but even makes me think of “Infinity War” more warmly.
As the MCU has gone on, it’s become increasingly difficult to regard the whole enterprise without skepticism — to see it as something other than an excuse to create one guaranteed blockbuster after another, each one leading inexorably to the next. And although some of those blockbusters are very good indeed, Marvel’s weakest moments feel like obvious concessions to this strategy, with stories that either grind to a halt introducing new characters and subplots, or get dragged out needlessly in sequel after sequel.
But in the closing minutes of “Endgame,” I forgot all that. As our heroes arrived for a final, desperate battle, it felt like the triumphant climax that every single one of these films has been building up to.
And when the end came, it wasn’t an excuse to conveniently shuffle certain actors offstage. Instead, Marvel found a natural endpoint for the characters’ stories. And in one case — the film’s final shot — it didn’t just feel natural. It felt perfect.
There will be more Marvel movies. The Avengers will, inevitably, return — at least in some form. But I was thrilled and moved with the way some of them said goodbye.
Oculus Quest subscriptions roll out for games and apps
Oculus today announced that it’s now allowing developers to offer subscriptions to their apps. While perhaps not the best fit for gaming – which Oculus was centered around at the beginning of its life – the company says that by offering subscriptions, it can offer monetization options that make Quest a better fit for other types of apps. Obviously there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for subscription offerings, but in today’s announcement, Oculus listed several different apps that will offer them to start.
There are six different apps that are adding subscriptions today: FitXR, Rec Room, Tribe XR, TRIPP, vSpatial, and VZfit. Oculus says that content you’ve previously purchased in these apps will continue to be accessible after these subscriptions go live, so it sounds like developers won’t be allowed to remove content that’s already been paid for and stick it behind a subscription.
In FitXR, for instance, Oculus says that subscribers will get a new instructor-led class from the existing Box and Dance studios and the upcoming HIIT studio each day, along with access to multiplayer. Those who already purchased FitXR will keep the content they’ve paid for (which includes Add-On packs). While newcomers to the app will get a seven-day free trial to the FitXR subscription service, those who already own the app will get a 90-day trial.
With Rec Room, we see something entirely different. While the base app will continue to be free, a subscription called Rec Room Plus will be offered as something of a premium tier for those who want it. The monthly subscription will net users 6,000 tokens each month – which translates to $10 of real world cash – along with weekly four-star items and access to a special section of the store that’s reserved for subscribers.
Ultimately, what you get with a subscription depends on the app – some might require a subscription to access the app, while others might just offer the subscription as a bonus for those interested in getting some extra content. Oculus says that you’ll be able to cancel subscriptions at any time. To read more about the subscriptions being offered by these initial six apps, check out today’s blog post on the Oculus website.
Apple Fitness+ adds workouts for beginners plus older and pregnant users
Apple Fitness+ is gaining new workouts today, adding specific sessions for pregnancy and that target older adults and beginners. It’s part of a workout boost for the Apple Watch-centered subscription fitness system, and will also include a new Time to Walk session with Jane Fonda.
Announced last year, Fitness+ opened up its guided sessions in December 2020. It relies on exercise tracking through the Apple Watch, with tutorials and classes delivered via a variety of the company’s screens, such as Apple TV, iPad, and iPhone.
One of the challenges early-adopters have found, particularly those just getting into fitness, is trying to get up to speed. That’s something Apple is addressing today, with new workouts for beginners. Offered across the Yoga, Strength, and HIIT workout types, they consist of low-impact exercises and spend more time on how to perfect form to build good habits.
Much in the same way, the new workouts for older adults focus on the specific needs of older people trying to get – or stay – fit. They center on strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, and mobility, Apple says, with a series of eight sessions led by trainer Molly Fox, with guest appearances by Gregg Cook for Strength, Dustin Brown for Yoga, Bakari Williams for HIIT, and Jhon Gonzalez for Dance.
Each workout is 10 minutes long, and many can be completed with either bodyweight or a light dumbbell, Apple says. Alternatively, they may use a chair or involve leaning against the wall. They can also be combined with other Fitness+ workouts, carrying those modifications over.
Finally, there’s a new workouts for pregnancy series. 10 sessions – covering Strength, Core, and Mindful Cooldown – will be led by Betina Gozo alongside trainers Emily Fayette and Anja Garcia, each 10 minutes in length. They’re designed, Apple says, to suit any stage of pregnancy along with any fitness level. Again, as with the older fitness sessions, they also include suggestions on how to modify the more general Fitness+ workouts in ways to accommodate those who are pregnant.
Beyond the three specific categories, there are now two new trainers: one in the Yoga section, and the other in HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). From April 19, meanwhile, Jane Fonda’s Time to Walk session will be added. That takes the form of an audio interview with paired walking instructions.
Apple Fitness+ is currently available in the US, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK. Three months access is bundled with a new Apple Watch Series 3 or later, while existing owners can try it free for a month. After that, it’s $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year – for up to six family members to share – or bundle as part of the $29.95 Apple One Premiere plan.
Xfinity Mobile unlimited 5G plans get cheaper (but that’s not the best part)
Xfinity Mobile is trimming the cost of its unlimited 5G plans, with Comcast aiming to undercut its better-known rivals as more Americans hunt for lower prices without sacrificing speed. The new Xfinity Mobile unlimited 5G plans still start at $45 per month for one line, but bring down the price of multiple lines as it blends them with the carrier’s “By-the-Gig” per-gigabyte option.
Under that system, subscribers can purchase data in advance, based on how much they think they’re need. 1GB is $15, 3GB is $30, and 10GB is $60. If users run out midway through the month, they can switch to a higher tier at any time – or, alternatively, switch to a lower tier if their data needs are unexpectedly low.
Now, there’s also a more affordable, more flexible unlimited option. As well as $45 for a single line, Xfinity Mobile 5G plans will be $80 for two lines, $100 for three lines, or $120 for four lines. Previously, two lines would cost $90 per month, three would cost $135, and four would cost $180.
The unlimited plans are also included in the switching system, so subscribers will be able to move between them and the “By-the-Gig” options too. Importantly – and arguably best of all – that’s done via the Xfinity Mobile app, rather than having to call up and speak to a customer service agent. The unlimited plans can be applied to both phones and tablets, too, and Comcast is using Verizon’s 4G/5G network along with its own WiFi hotspot network.
There is, as always, some small print to consider. For a start, you’ll need to be a post-pay Xfinity Home Internet subscriber in order to qualify for Xfinity Mobile. Meanwhile, though the data may be unlimited, that doesn’t mean you’ll always be getting 5G speeds: Xfinity Mobile will automatically reduce the speeds after 20 GB of usage per line. That will trim the rates to 1.5 Mbps downloads and 750 kbps uploads.
Video will stream at SD 480p quality on unlimited plans when on a 4G LTE network, unlike on By-the-Gig plans where it streams at HD by default; if you’re on 5G, unlimited subscribers will get the highest possible resolution instead. For mobile hotspots, that’s limited to 600 kbps downloads when on an LTE connection. If you’re on 5G, however, mobile hotspot data is not capped: you’ll get whatever fastest rate the connection supports.
Up to ten lines can be activated, per Xfinity Mobile subscriber. It’s also possible to include smartwatches on an account – for $10 per line – Comcast says. The new plans are available now, to new and existing users.
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