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Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers_Age_of_Ultron

At the Movies

Another year another round of superhero films from Marvel with the second big team-up film Avengers. This comes in at a time when the previous successes have put Marvel and Disney firmly at the top and this has resulted in reactions ranging from plain old snobbery to petty childish tribalism about an imaginary war between the big two comic book companies and their film studios. This episode of the Avengers may not have the excitement of being the first time round but it has as much action and epic battle scenes and of course the snarky humour is there. It does seem to be a bit rushed at times and director Joss Whedon has already promised an extended Bluray release.

This film does an ideal job taking us from the events of Marvel’s phase two films and setting up the next phase of films with references that will be spotted by fans of the comics. The team work together much more fluidly and this is readily apparent in the opening big action scene as the team invade the fortress of Hydra’s Baron Von Strucker in a fictional East European country.

They are trying to recapture Loki’s staff which they know Von Strucker has being using for human experiments, two of those experiments being Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, twins who now have very different superpowers. If you saw X Men: Days of Future Past you’ll have good idea that Pietro is a speedster similar to DC’s Flash. Wanda’s power is harder to describe but she fires waves or focused blasts of destructive force which is about the best representation I can think of for describing her probability bending powers. Equally dangerous are her mental powers that can induce hallucinations.

After their successful mission the Avengers and their friends have a celebration but Tony Stark and Bruce Banner have a little private meeting to discuss using the staff’s technology for Tony’s Ultron programme, an AI for robots that Tony wants to build to defend Earth from future alien invasions. They leave the programme running after seeing its first few attempts are failures and join the party to play with Thor’s hammer. This is when Ultron is born and he gate-crashes the party and steals the staff.

That’s enough plot as any more and it will be spoilers. I’ll just mention that Vision is created in the film’s second half and he is another great character with impressive powers that allow him to go to toe-to-toe with Ultron’s main body. It’s great to see Paul Bettany promoted from a disembodied voice to playing such powerful and iconic Avengers character and I look forward to seeing more of him.

This film is bursting at the seams with characters and some scenes have hit the cutting room floor just for the sake of the running time. Fortunately Hawkeye definitely gets a little more focus almost as an apology for his limited part in the first film. There is something that seems to be developing between Bruce Banner and Black Widow. There is the same witty dialogue familiar from the first film including a running joke at Captain America’s expense and their fooling around at the party with Thor’s hammer comes back later with a nice pay-off. Even the killer robot Ultron has a sick sense of humour it’s inherited from Stark.

The film actually takes time to show that innocent people get hurt during their battles and that there are legal consequences and worse. This might be a bit of dig at previous superhero films where no-one thinks about those caught up in these battles. I think it’s really a fortunate coincidence or very good timing that this comes after the release of the Netflix TV series Daredevil about a hero living in such a community. This also ties in to the new situation caused by absence of SHIELD to give the team any sort of authority to act. The climactic action scene is just as much a rescue mission as is it a battle against Ultron which means Hawkeye and Black Widow are just as important as Thor and Iron Man.

As a fan I will not be very neutral about this film and if you don’t like comic book films this will not convert you. It does really rely on knowledge of the other films to fully grasp what is going on in this one and some scenes may only really make sense when we see future films, especially one with Thor. None of this is really a problem for me since I’m used to episodic storytelling from TV or comics and accept that this is what Marvel are doing.  This is a really good solid action adventure film and I know it does not quite have the excitement of the first Avengers film but that was inevitable. Personally I was quite buzzed by the post climax scenes but that is heavy spoiler territory so I’m saying nothing else about it here.

Rating  8.5/10

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2015 in Film

 

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Guardians of the Galaxy

At the Movies

gotgBefore seeing this film I was only vaguely aware of the Guardians of the Galaxy since I never regularly followed any space based comics so I had very few preconceptions about this film. This lack of familiarity has been taken into account and Marvel has given us a big colourful space adventure that assumes no previous knowledge and only marginally connects to the other Marvel films. The basic story is that a team of criminals are forced together by circumstances to combat the plans of a genocidal fanatic who threatens all life in the galaxy.

Right from the first appearance of Star Lord (Chris Pratt) this film sets its tone as he dances his way through the ruins of building to steal the Orb. We get a real sense of what sort of idiot this guy is when he picks up a rat creature to use as a mic as he sings along to Come and Get your Love on his battered ancient Sony Walkman. Star Lord’s real name is Peter Quill and he was born on Earth but got kidnapped by space pirates when he was about eight which is where all his dated references and taste in music come from.

Next we meet green-skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana)  who worked for the villain Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) but has had enough of working for a fanatic and wants to steal the Orb for herself. She was adopted by the Mad Titan Thanos who has manipulated and modified her into a weapon then lent her out to Ronan to assist in his plans for genocide and destruction. She has had enough crap and doesn’t take any more from Star Lord.

The next two come as a pair Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel). Rocket is a smartarse bounty hunter, thief and whatever else it takes to make a living when he’s a creature created in a lab and is only two foot high that looks like a raccoon. Groot is an intelligent tree and very necessary muscle for Rocket’s schemes and he is very strong and able to recover from serious damage. Amazing work has been done to bring these two CGI characters to life in a way that makes it believable that they are there interacting with the live actors it no surprise they are the breakout characters of this film since they manage to not only deliver plenty of laughs they manage to bring some the more emotional moments too

The last member of the five man band they meet in prison and he’s a huge lump of angry muscle called Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) who has been jailed for going on a campaign of vengeance across the galaxy after his family were killed and now he really wants to kill Ronan. No-one gets most of Star Lord’s jokes but Drax’s culture apparently doesn’t understand metaphor so we get a nice running joke of Drax taking figures of speech literally.

Star Lord convinces them that they can all get what they want if they work together. They can escape prison, sell the Orb and split the money then when Ronan comes after Gamora Drax will get his chance to kill him.

The villain side does not get much focus since the film spends the majority of time with the Guardians. Ronan the Accuser is the chief enforcer of the Kree interplanetary empire and he cannot accept the peace treaty that has been forced on the empire by their enemy the Xandarians. He needs the Orb as the price of gaining the help he needs to take vengeance on Xandar. He is a fanatic so is devoid of humour and I thought he made the perfect foil for the irreverent humour of the Guardians .

Assisting Ronan are Korath (Djimon Hounsou) and Nebula (Karen Gillan). Never really learned much about Korath but Nebula is another one of Thanos’s weaponised adopted daughters and when she fights Gamora there’s a sense of long familiar antagonism. I have mentioned Thanos a few times and though his fingers are all over this story I’ll just say he is firmly in the background and leave it there.

There is no skimping on the supporting cast. The Nova Corps are an interplanetary military style police force based on Xandar led by Nova Prime (Glenn Close). They are the ones who put the Guardians in prison and include actors such as John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz and they really become important in the film’s climax.

Another important group of characters are the space pirates called Ravagers led by Yondu Odontu (Michael Rooker) and these are the ones who snatched Peter Quill from Earth as a boy. Yondu really doesn’t liked being cut out his share of money for the Orb and with his whistle-controlled arrow and gang of cyborg enhanced pirates he’s on Star Lord’s trail.

The set designs in this film are stunning, from the squeaky clean streets of planet Xandar to the prison asteroid called the Kyln, but the most stunning is Knowhere, a lawless trading post set up in the moon-sized head of an ancient being called a Celestial. This is where the Guardians meet The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) and just a glimpse of his collection will make many comic fans happy.

Watching this film is the most fun I’ve had at the cinema this year. The story has a great sense of humour from a team of likeable characters which is a great way of introducing the scale of the greater Marvel universe with its battling empires and maniacal warlords. Every member of the cast do an amazing job bringing these strange characters to life but that’s helped by the familiarity of Star Lord character with his time capsule memories of 1988 pop culture and tapes of music that helps give us Terrans something to connect with.

There is a great deal of buzz about his film and I think that comes from just how refreshing it is to watch a film that just revels in sheer joy of the world it creates. It is such a rich world that I look forward to revisiting it and catching just how many things I missed in my first viewing.

Rating 9.0/10

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Posted by on August 3, 2014 in Entertainment, Film

 

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I Frankenstein

Bluray Pile

I Frankenstein Bluray 001This my second attempt to watch this film without falling asleep to give it a fair review then I can just forget it existed. This film is certainly not horror but is more of a fantasy action adventure film and in tone and colour palette is very similar to Underworld, which means very stagey dialogue interspersed with bloodless cartoon fight scenes and a sense that it’s up itself with its own importance.

The film starts right where the novel finished with Frankenstein dead and his creature (Aaron Eckhart) brings his body home to bury him in his family plot. That’s when he gets attacked by demons that seem to have escaped from an episode of Buffy. He kills some of them before getting knocked out and a couple of CGI gargoyles fly to his rescue, transforming into humans as they land.

Ophir (Mahesh Jadu) and Keziah (Caitlin Stasey) take him back to the cathedral to see their queen Leonore (Miranda Otto). After reading the text of the book they found with him Leonore realises what the Creature is and takes pity on him, naming him Adam. She explains to Adam the war between the gargoyles who fight for good and the demons who fight for evil and that he is being sought by the demon Lord Naberius. Leonore offers Adam shelter but he’s not interested though he accepts the offer of a free dip in their armoury and leaves with two demon killing sticks.

Forward about two hundred years to the present (I think, it is difficult to tell since the only real world event ever referenced is the publication of the original Frankenstein novel). Adam hunts down and kills demons in an alleyway but a policeman gets killed by a demon and this apparently is such terrible event that the gargoyles grab him and hold him prisoner.

We finally get to see Naberius (Bill Nighy) the lord of the demons as he supervises an experiment by a scientist called Terra (Yvonne Strahovski) who is trying to reanimate a dead rat and the experiment works. Naberius wants to know when human testing is happening and Terra claims that reviving a rat is simple! and that humans are so much more complex than a rat. That is just ignorant bullshit and I have been given no reason to be kind to the writer of this garbage.

Naberius asks Terra about what she thinks of the story of Frankenstein and Terra dismisses it as fiction but Naberius pulls her up for her close-mindedness. Naberius is funding Terra’s research for the same reason he has been looking for Adam. He needs soulless re-animated corpses to house the demon army he has waiting in hell and wants to examine Adam because clearly Frankenstein succeeded. He sends one of his demon commanders to capture Leonore to force the gargoyles to hand Adam over.

Adam escapes the cathedral and breaks into the demon base and meets Terra who is very excited to see him. Terra wants to help Adam if he can help her but she has no idea what Naberius plans to do with her work.

Visually the film is okay but the story is dull and the characters are just flat creatures of the plot. The script tries to draw on emotional relationships during death scenes that were never given the time to be established. The whole story is ridiculous but the film has no humour or joy in it.

Rating 4.0/10

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Posted by on July 11, 2014 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Machete Kills

DVD Shelf

machete_kills_ver10Machete was an over the top Mexplotation film by Robert Rodriguez that spun off the fake trailers on Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse double bill. It was gleefully violent and lots of fun as well boasting an incredible cast. This sequel ramps up the fun of the first with a generous helping of an over-the-top villainous plot. It also has number of big name stars who all seem to really enjoy themselves, not least Mel Gibson as a baddie. This feels like the product of a crazy brain storming session involving drugs, man-children and a YouTube comments section and is like the bastard offspring of the James Bond film Moonraker and the first Machete film. This film is a mashup of cool with crazy and just plain stupid. Before the film proper starts we get a trailer for a sequel with Machete in space called Machete Kills Again.

In this film Machete is called by the President of the USA (introducing Carlos Estevez as the president who looks a whole lot like Charlie Sheen) with a mission for him. This interrupts the attempt by Arizona sheriff Doakes (William Sadler) to execute Machete by hanging. There is a madman in Mexico called Carlos Mendes (Demian Bichir), part of a drugs cartel who has a missile pointed at Washington. Machete’s mission is simple, go to Mexico and kill Carlos. His secret agent contact in Texas next the Mexican border is beauty queen Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard) who tell him to contact a prostitute in Mexico who is Carlos’ favourite girl and who works in whorehouse run by Madame Desdemona (Sofía Vergara) who really doesn’t like people taking things from her without paying.

Carlos turns out to have his heart wired to the launch mechanism of the missile. So now Machete has to keep his heart beating and get Carlos to the US to get the detonator deactivated. To make things much worse Carlos has issued a reward for his own death so now they have every criminal and hitman in Mexico after them. This includes The Chameleon (Walton GogginsCuba Gooding Jr.Lady GagaAntonio Banderas), a hitman who literally changes his/her face after every job to ensure no-one knows what he/she looks like. They are also being hunted by a brothel full of killer whores and a madame with machine gun tits and a shotgun cock. Did I mention that this film is stupid? When Machete gets Carlos back into the USA he comes up against the real villain Voz (Mel Gibson) and his despicable plans for the world. Mschete enlists the help of Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) and her revolutionaries to take down Voz.

This film is definitely not for everyone and if you are looking for a serious action film look elsewhere. The violence is cartoonish and many scenes are just so ridiculous I was regularly laughing out loud at things like the main henchman who is brutally butchered by Machete several times and the over-the-top violence meted out by Voz’s experimental ray gun weapon. The cast seem to really get into excessive mood of the story and Gibson seems to be having great time as the bad guy. Despite his age Danny Trejo is convincing as the butt-kicking action hero. It has an 18 certificate which means that the teenage boys that would get most enjoyment out of it can’t see it but I’m sure it won’t stop them. The joke is wearing a starting wear bit thin but I still enjoyed it

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on April 26, 2014 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

At The Movies

Captain America WSI love what Marvel are doing with their films and even though I never got into Cap in the comics I always liked the character when he appeared in crossovers. Captain America always seemed a more political character than the others which means his adventures perfectly transfer into the political thriller genre with espionage which is just what Marvel chose to do here

The film opens with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Captain America, leading a squad of SHIELD agents on a mission to rescue a bunch of SHIELD techs from a SHIELD facility in the Indian Ocean that has been hijacked by pirates.  Fellow Avenger Black Widow, Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) is also along on the mission but she has her own orders that Steve knows nothing about and he’s not very happy about getting kept in the dark, especially as it endangers his own rescue mission. Seeing Cap in action in these scenes with his shield is just thrilling and the action is really well choreographed.

Back at the SHIELD Triskelion headquarters Steve wants a serious word with SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) about what is going on. Fury takes Steve down to the basement to show him what they have been working on: three new helicarriers bristling with weapons due to be permanently stationed in the skies linked to spy satellites and able to attack anyone on Earth deemed a threat, called Project Insight. Steve is not happy about any of it and especially Fury’s feeble excuse that they have to take world as it is not as the want it to be. It is the all too familiar conflict between freedom and security and as the name suggests SHIELD is all about security and Cap’s not sure he wants anything to do with it.

There a nice scene where Steve goes to a museum a sees an exhibition all about him and there is hint that the second half of the first film had a lengthy period of time compressed in those scenes since it mentions his adventures with the Howling Commandos and his best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) which we only got in a montage in that film.  I hope we get to see some of that history in more detail in a future film or TV series. Cap also visits the very old Peggy Carter for a bit of closure

There are a couple of new characters his film needs to introduce and the first is Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) Chairman of the World Security Council, who are those shadowy outlines we saw giving Fury orders in The Avengers. Pierce is an old friend of Fury’s and he actually persuaded Pierce to take the job. Fury wants them to halt the launch of Project Insight while he investigates the data Black Widow retrieved and Pierce agrees.

Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) gets introduced when he befriends Steve when they are out jogging and Steve laps Sam several times with the words “on the left” .  Sam is an Afghan War vet who now runs a support group for vets to help them cope with the psychological stresses of joining the real world again. It is no secret that he is also the superhero called Falcon who fights bad guys using a pair of mechanical wings and jets that seem to use repulsor technology like Tony Stark’s.

Nick Fury comes under attack by a very well organised group led by a mysterious assassin called The Winter Soldier and it is clear that not everyone in SHIELD can be trusted so it is up to Steve and Natasha to find out who is behind it. SHIELD has many enemies and it seems when they cut off one two more grow its place. Winter Soldier is someone Natasha has come across before and she knows he is deadly, skilled and relentless.

This film has a plot with many twists and turns and secrets getting uncovered so it really would be risking spoilers to talk much more about the plot but this film really has a lot of call-outs that will please fans of the comic books. It is also a story that whose events are going to have a major impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even though the film is mainly about Captain America it was nice to see a lot more attention paid to the SHIELD organisation with real questions being asked about what its role is and what is was intended to be. We see Nick Fury getting involved in the action and we get to see a lot more from Natasha Romanov and even Maria Hill gets a bit more to do

This film is just what I wanted to see with a great story that works as an entertaining political thriller while still having all the action elements expected from a comic book story. This film is really plugged into the Marvel Universe much more than the other solo films and ties the present into past with revelations that have ramifications not just for the future but the past too. I know some people are wondering about where Tony Stark and Bruce Banner were but I never got he impression that they were needed or even in the loop enough to be called in by SHIELD to sort out its internal problem.s Any fans of the Marvel film will probably love this but I’m sure it will appeal to anyone who likes action thrillers too.

Rating 9.0/10

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Posted by on April 6, 2014 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Thor – The Dark World

Cinema 

1185066_386159968178782_1116796319_nOdin (Anthony Hopkins) gives us a potted history of Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and the Dark Elves in a voiceover with the battle on the screen. Basically they existed before light came into the universe and Malkieth wants to return the universe to darkness and they have created weapon called the ether to bring it about during the conjunction of the nine realms. Odin’s father Bor destroyed the dark elf army and forced Malekith to withdraw into hiding. Bor could not destroy the ether so he hid it on the empty world of the dark elves.

Forward to the present and on Asgard they are dealing with the consequences of Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) actions. First for what he tried to pull on Earth Odin puts Loki into a cell where only Frigga (Rene Russo) his adopted mother visits him. Next Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and the Warriors Three battle long and hard to restore peace to the nine realms now that Bifrost the Rainbow Bridge has been rebuilt.

On Earth Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is hard at work dating Chris O’Dowd but the date gets interrupted by Darcy (Kat Dennings). She has actually been working and this is first time she took a break. Now Darcy is here with one Jane’s instrument that keeps beeping, indicating an anomaly just like the ones she detected before that turned out to be Bifrost.

Darcy has got herself an intern called Ian (Jonathan Howard) who has found something very strange. It’s out in some abandoned industrial zone where gravity is behaving very strangely and there seems to be wormholes around the place. They have all sorts of fun playing with the wormholes so it’s obvious something bad is going to happen. Jane falls through another wormhole and finds herself on an empty dead planet. It turns out that this is the world of the Dark elves and Jane seethe ether which enter her body.

Thor had been talking to Heimdall (Idris Elba) when Jane went into the wormhole. Heimdall saw Jane vanish from his sight so Thor heads to Earth to look for her. Jane comes back to Earth through another wormhole and is shocked to see the police there but she’s been gone for five hours so Darcy had no choice. Thor arrives just then and Jane is happy to see him but pissed off that he didn’t come to see her last time he was on Earth. When the ether energy inside Jane strikes out suddenly Thor realises that this dangerous and so he grabs Jane and whisks her off to Asgard.

Odin is not at all happy about Thor bringing Jane to Asgard and though he sounds like an arrogant old bigot he may be thinking of the problems of relationships between long-lived Asgardians and humans but he still doesn’t have to be such an old prick about it. He changes his mind when he discovers the ether inside Jane which the Asgardian doctors say is killing her.

When Jane got filled with ether Malekith and his dark elves were awakened. He launches an attack on Asgard to get to Jane and retrieve the ether. The Asgardians defend themselves and drive off the elves but at the cost of many Asgardian lives. This sends Odin into a rage and he wants vengeance so knowing that Malekith will return for Jane he imprisons her.

This time it is Thor who has the cooler head and comes up with a plan to take the battle elsewhere and lessen the potential for death. For that he needs the help of Heimdall, Sif and the Warriors Three and he also needs Loki’s specials skills. Thor frees Jane and they head off to take down Malkeith.

I think this was a better film than the first which was only really an introduction to Thor and the world of Asgard. This film we get a lot more of the characters doing things and seeing how they relate to each other. Odin is not all the harsh but wise king, he makes mistakes and is conflicted between what he wants to do as a father and what he feels bound to do as a king and I‘m really glad they have Anthony Hopkins in the role. We get to see a bit more of Jane Foster and Eric Selvig and Darcy does the comedy relief. We see the complex relationship between Loki and Thor a bit more in this film when they are reluctantly forced to work together yet there’s a sense that both want to. The only weakness in this film is the one note villains. They want to destroy the universe because that’s what they want to do. Overall I had a good time with this film but I doubt it is going to convince anyone who didn’t like the first film.

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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