Avengers Assemble (3D)

Posted on May 3, 2012. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

This has taken me a couple of days to sit down and write for two reasons: 1) revision sucks. 2) I needed to calm down a bit so that the whole review wasn’t just the word “awesome” in 72 pt font.

We all know I’m a Marvel geek. And that I’ve been looking forward to this film pretty much since the dawn of time. I first wrote about it back in 2010 when it was just a glint in a studio execs eye, but since then we’ve had a pretty much relentless build up in Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America.

Despite my undying love for Stan Lee and all that springs from his page, I did start to lose the faith a bit as the much awaited climax drew closer. Captain America suffered with a slightly ploddy script, (although it’s not a bad film and benefits from a second watch) and although I seem to anger everyone I know when I say this, I found Thor undeveloped and was a bit skeptical about the central role Loki had to play in the final film.

I needn’t have worried. Not even the 3D could put me off this film. In fact, it was a rare case of non gimmicky use that wasn’t too distracting (or maybe I’m getting tolerant in my old age).  Avengers is simply a brilliant bit of comic book fantasy that gets everything just right.  As I’d hoped, mixing the characters together allowed the shortcomings of some to be made up by others. Thor didn’t seem so two dimensional when they played his fish out of water against Captain America’s child of the wrong time.  And the budding bromance between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner was a thing of beauty.

There were so many fantastic geek out moments (I was about one “glaiven” short of a full Professor Frink).  Joss Whedon plays to his strengths and delivers just what the fans want to see. The big montage of all our heroes “suiting up” for their first proper battle scored a whole load of nerd points.  As did each new moment of our collection of demigods, suped up mortals, ginormous green rage monsters and billionaire genius playboy philanthropists meeting for the first time. The crossing over of characters, themes and even tech from the individual movies is really well handled, managing to amalgamate the work of several different writers and directors in an impressively seamless way.

Alongside the big four, we also have some important supporting characters. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) has been given ever increasing amounts of screen time with each new movie, and his dry wit and dead pan demeanour have turned him in to one of my favourite characters. Samuel L Jackson finally got to make it out of the stingers too and get some real work, making a suitably shifty Nick Fury.  In Iron Man 2, I found Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) little more than some black PVC doing an inexplicable amount of lunging, but she found some depth in Avengers and became not only an interesting character but one who could hold her own against the more developed favourites. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye also managed to fit in nicely, without falling in to the X Men pit of too many heroes. The chemistry between him and Black Widow was well cultivated and  understated enough that it set up for future inevitable plotlines without shoving it down your throat.

The story is everything you want, fast paced, full of action and equipped with witty one liners to keep things moving. It’s about as close as I think anyone has come to making a film that watches like reading a comic book feels. The final showdown is just fantastic, and I loved the way we swung through the action to focus on different characters and individual battles. It’s kind of like a cross between the sentinels fight in Matrix Revs and Pelennor fields from ROTK. Which is just as cool as it sounds. And has someone who has (shamefully) still not actually seen any of the Hulk films, it was pretty fantastic to see the big guy up on screen doing what he does best.

Even if you’re not a Marvel geek you need to see this film. You just do.  It’s definitely one of the big events of the cinematic year, and Whedon has turned out a proper Blockbuster which has just about everything you could want in a movie. And Robert Downey Jr. 😉

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Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Posted on November 7, 2011. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , |

Another quickie review for you, this time a movie which as been sitting on my to watch list for a while.  I’m going to apologise in advance for how badly written this is. I’m sort of ill, tired and hoping that you’ll have the energy to turn my words into something resembling a coherent thought.

Scott Pilgrim is in danger of falling into the Juno trap or trying to be that little bit too indie.  However, I reckon it just about gets away with it.  The script is funny and off beat with quotable lines for the cult fans, and it features a selection of “alternative” characters with ironic clothes. For me the best thing was the use of animation though.  The video game sequences are a lot of fun, with each opponent bringing a new style (my favourite being Vegan superpowers), but I also liked that the surrealist kind of world carried over into the “normal” lives of the characters as well.  The pop up bits of information about each of the characters as we’re introduced to them is a good example of little video game quirks working their way in.  The overall effect is that of watching a comic strip, with clever editing making you feel like you’re moving from panel to panel and quips from Evil Exes that definitely belong in big white bubbles.  Why exactly the Evil Exes have it in for Scott is never explained, nor do we know if this is Scott’s imagination or real, but we accept it because of the dreamlike world we have come to inhabit.

Having never read the books, I can’t compare, but I’m reliably informed that it manages to stay pretty true and the use of original artwork no doubt helps with that.  Although this is a movie for gamers, you don’t need to be  hardcore  to get the jokes. I’m sure there were references that went over my head, but at the same time there were other little gamer tropes that raised a smile.

The characters themselves are fairly two-dimensional, but the whole film is a 2D world brought to life so it actually enhances the fantasy feel. Michael Cera play s the same character he always does, managing to stay hopelessly awkward on the right side of annoying.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead is well cast as the quirky Ramona; a character who is not that original but who she manages to keep fresh.  For me the star of the show though is Kieran Culkin as Scott’s roommate Wallace.  I haven’t really seen anything with him in before (I’m told I need to see Igby Goes Down) but he was undoubtedly my favourite character.  Again, dry-witted gay roommate isn’t necessarily original, but the film relies on familiar characters in an unfamiliar setting and Wallace is a good proxy for the audience.  Chris Evans, who I have been vaguely unimpressed with in the past, surprised me with some good comedic moments, as well as making me geek out at the idea of Scott fighting both Captain America and Superman (Brandon Routh) during the movie.

Scott Pilgrim is always compared to Kick Ass and there seems to be a bit of a consensus that the latter is the better movie.  When I see it, I’ll let you know where I stand, but for now I’ll say that Scott Pilgrim is a brilliantly different movie which I can definitely recommend, whether you’re a gamer geek or are just looking for a twist on the traditional rom-com format.

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Captain America (3D)

Posted on August 3, 2011. Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , |

The First Avenger is here (even though he came after Iron Man. And Thor. And no I still haven’t seen it)

I wrote a week or so ago about a few concerns I had about the movie and since then I’ve read some fellow bloggers lukewarm reviews which had somewhat lowered my expectations, and I’m sad to say they might have been right.

There’s been a lot of chatter recently about “superhero fatigue.” It’s true that we have been treated to a cornucopia of spandex clad and super buff protagonists of late, but as far as I’m concerned if the movies continue to be good then the more the merrier.  That’s the thing though; each new hero will inevitably be compared to the last, despite more often than not having a completely different creative team behind them, so the problem becomes not just living up to your own hype, but also that of whoever the last guy was to save the world.  I think that’s where Captain America lost its shine for me, because basically, it’s just not Iron Man.

On with the review then.  Although it sounds like I wasn’t a fan of the film, I did enjoy it, and I think it’s a good popcorn movie which fits nicely into the summer blockbuster season.  I just didn’t leave with that instant need to see it again that I have with other films.  There are good action set pieces, a predictable but effective plot and all the familiar characteristics of a comic book movie.  There’s the little guy who finds out he can be more, is initially rejected by those in power, mooned over by an intelligent and beautiful muse who is equally outcast, and then finally comes good in the big showdown where he saves the world. Superhero by numbers.  There’s not exactly anything wrong with that, it just doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

As I’ve said numerous times, I like my heroes with a bit of an edge, so characters like Superman and the good ol’ Cap have never really done anything for me.  Director Joe Johnston did manage to squeeze a bit of sympathy out of me with Steve’s back story, but in the end he is just a bland character and there’s not much anyone can do about it.  I’m sure the proper comic book nerds out there will disagree with me on that, but I was hoping to be converted to the camp and unfortunately I just wasn’t.

As for the performances, despite my fears, Chris Evans did well as our leading man.  He wont be troubling the Academy any time soon, but he did what he could with a fairly one dimensional character.  Dominic Cooper pulled off a bit of swagger as Stark Snr and Hayley Atwell fitted nicely into the “woman hardened by living in a man’s world” role.  The two stand outs though were Hugo Weaving and Tommy Lee Jones. Weaving again pulls out his big baddie card with appropriate menace, although I couldn’t help adding the words “Mr Anderson” to the end of every one of his lines (it’s a fun game, you should try it some time).  The big reveal of his true face is ruined though by the fact that it’s been all over the internet for months and is also in the trailer  Surprisingly, Tommy Lee Jones’ grouchy Colonel was actually my favourite character. He got pretty much all the good lines and was missed when he wasn’t on screen.

The action sequences were good, although they lacked a wow factor, particularly in the final confrontation between Red Skull and Cap.  The plot is well paced and doesn’t drag but I was actually more interested in the film’s prologue and epilogue than the main story.  At least that bodes well for next years Avengers, (I recommend you sit through the credits and wait for the stinger,) which will also benefit from an ensemble cast.

My final assault is levied, predictably, at the 3D.  Those of you unlucky enough to follow my ramblings on twitter will know that I was struggling to find a screening in 2D near me, but in the end I caved and went for the Carl Fredrickson glasses.  For once, I didn’t find the 3D distracting, and the usual problem I have with not being able to focus when the action moves fast didn’t happen (although everything went blurry in a couple of the trailers).  Regardless, there was basically absolutely no point to the film being in 3D whatsoever.  For most of the film I’d completely forgotten it was even in 3D (which is how I know it wasn’t distracting).  The one montage scene of Cap and his team’s various conquests did have a couple of all right 3D moments, but definitely not worth it in the long run.  In this case at least, the 3D seems to have moved from being and irritation to not being anything at all. Neither added nor detracted.  If, like me, you have to pay extra for the privilege of the ugly glasses, try to find somewhere showing good old-fashioned 2D.

I hate to end on a rant.  Captain America is a fine way to spend a summer afternoon and a good set up for the coming Avengers.  I can’t help but think that they would have got away with a simple flashback next year though, as this does feel a little bit like that middle movie of a series that you have to watch so you know what’s going on, but all you really want to do is get to the big finish.

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Why I’m worried about Captain America

Posted on July 18, 2011. Filed under: Ramblings, Trailers | Tags: , , , |

On the 29th July, Captain America: The First Avenger hits cinemas.

This is the sort of thing that should send superhero junkies like me into a frenzy of excitement.  But instead, I’m just a little bit nervous about how the film is going to go down.

My main concern about Cap can be summed up in two words: Chris Evans.  I’ve been saying it for months, and I really hope he proves me wrong, but I don’t like the guy and just don’t see him working. He annoyed the hell out of me in Fantastic Four but seeing as that’s pretty much all I’m basing this on I’m hoping that he was playing an irritating character and will find another dimension when playing Steve Rogers.

The other thing that bugs me is the potential for the film to look dated even before it’s started. I know very little about the comics, because to be honest I was never interested, so correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s always seemed like a very old fashioned character with the kind of excessive patriotism that doesn’t sit as comfortably now as it may have done then.  It might get away with it in the American market but I’m not sure how British audiences will react.  I’m also struggling with the fact that as much as I want to, I’ve never liked Cap. He’s too whiter than white for me, kind of Marvel’s answer to Superman which I just find dull. As I said in the 15 Questions Meme, I’m anti-hero all the way.

And worry number three is just how much stock is tied up in this movie.  They’ve gone ahead and called in The First Avenger. They might as well have stamped the word FRANCHISE across the poster.  If Cap bombs then on the 4th May next year we have a big problem.  So far Iron Man is going strong (even though a lot of people get stressed out over the sequel) and Thor got rave reviews (seriously, someone take me to see that!).  That’s half the team sorted.  But apparently we’re getting yet another version of Bruce Banner in the form of Mark Ruffalo, which scuppers my hopes that they’d somehow get Norton back, and if Evans fails to impress then we’ve got a very precarious situation.  Even more so since he’s supposed to be the brains of the outfit.  I don’t know whether they’d try to skew the film to focus on more popular or successful characters but it all seems a bit messy to me. Especially since they’re also going to try and keep each character’s separate movies going (or at least they are with Iron Man, for now…)

All this seems like a potential disaster.  And a lot of it comes from how much money is riding on these films, which isn’t how it should work.

Having said all that, Hugo Weaving is in this film. Which can only be good. And the trailer looks OK. It didn’t get me as over-excited as some, but it wasn’t as teeth clenchingly cheesy as The Green Lantern. So let’s hope I’m just worrying over nothing.

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The Marvelous years ahead

Posted on May 8, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

It’s no secret on this blog that I am a Marvel comic book geek.   So I’m excited at the new pathway into the Marvel Universe that the Iron Man films have opened up.   When you combine that with the X Men films that are lining up behind Wolverine you’ve got a pretty full calendar over the next couple of years.  Here are some provisional dates for your diary:

Thor: 20th May 2011

We got a tiny taste of this at the end of Iron Man 2.  He’s probably the least well known of The Avengers, so I didn’t expect him to get his own movie so soon, but what do I know?  Not one of my favourite characters, but then neither was Iron Man ’till the movie came out.  Looking forward to being converted.  Kai has got one of the first released pics over at The List for you to take a look at.

X-Men First Class: 3rd June 2011

I am a huge X Men fan but to be honest I’m not that bothered by this film.  The absence of Wolverine is a major downside in my opinion, and to be honest I don’t really care about the teen dramas of Cyclops and Storm.  Having said that, I’ll probably end up seeing it, and as we don’t have any trailers or anything yet they still have a chance to completely change my mind. Hope so.

Captain America: 22nd July 2011

Alternating with the X Men, we’re back with The Avengers.  This guy is a bit of a household name whether or not you know who he is.  Although Ross McG does think he’s Captain Planet.  My only concern with this one is that Chris Evans is cast. (For Brit readers: not that one, the other one).  Which means Human Torch and Captain America are the same person.  Not only does that mess with my head, but I didn’t really like Evans in Fantastic Four. So he’s got some ground to make up.

Deadpool: 2011

If that character double up wasn’t enough to make my head spin, the defection of Ryan Reynold’s to the DC camp to play The Green Lantern as well as Deadpool is a real shocker.  However, this film is most likely going to be awesome.  We didn’t get much Deadpool in Wolverine, but we got just enough to leave us wanting more.  And this should be good.

Wolverine 2: 2011

We left him in a bar in Japan (or not depending which stinger you had).  A lot of you out there weren’t convinced by Wolverine, but personally I can’t wait for another helping.  Expect more indestructible fighting, but this time with samurai swords.

The Avengers: 4th May 2012

They might throw in another Hulk movie first, but RDJ’s cameo was probably enough set up to finally get the team together.  This is the big finish, but it could also be the beginning of a whole new series of films.  With an infinite number of cross over characters. Exciting stuff.

Iron Man 3: 2012

Will it come before or after The Avengers? Not sure. But more Tony Stark is always a good thing in my world.

And that’s the cinema sorted for the next two years. Good times. 🙂

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