Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Image rights belong to Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Image rights belong to Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Film Review 

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, James Spader

Director:  Joss Whedon

Synopsis: When Tony Stark seeks to create a peacekeeping program around the world, he mistakenly creates the villainous Ultron who then seeks to bring humanity’s destruction, forcing the Avengers to suit up once more…

Review: How do you top the biggest superhero movie ever made? This was the challenge that faced Joss Whedon when it was announced that a sequel to 2012’s The Avengers was in the works. The first film smashed box office records and became the third highest grossing film of all time. It may have looked a daunting task for the man behind such shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. As with The Avengers, Age of Ultron is the culmination of all the second phase of Marvel’s ever expanding universe, the phase that brought us a gun wielding raccoon and a talking tree let us not forget. and yet again, Marvel and Whedon have hit it right out of the park with this highly anticipated sequel that will set events in motion for Marvel’s upcoming phase three.  

As with a handful of Marvel’s Phase 2 movies, the tone of this sequel turns very dark almost right of the gate as the team are gunning for HYDRA and Loki’s sceptre from the first film, believing it may have something of significant value. Providing some sweet action scenes right out of the gate that are almost as good as anything that we saw in the first film. Super powerful shields are combined with almighty hammers that were forged in the heart of a dying star, is it little wonder that DC is struggling to compete, who needs Batman V Superman(!)

Through some discoveries, Tony Stark seeks to create a peace keeping programme ” a suit of armour around the world” as he calls it. Yet his plan goes awry as the being he creates is the villainous Ultron who seeks to obliterate the Avengers and mankind both. Thus drawing the team together once more to prevent Ultron from carrying out his evil intentions, and this time instead of one battle in New York City, the fight goes global and the ante and the stakes are upped considerably.

When the team met in the first movie, it certainly wasn’t sunshine and rainbows, they bickered and squabbled on almost anything they could, until they were forced to unite to save the world. Again the team has some internal conflict to deal, largely down to the addition of Scarlet Witch. Through her manipulative mind bending powers, she troubles each of the team with some less than pleasant visions of the future that create disharmony among the team. On top of this disharmony, the team have to take down Ultron, voiced excellently by James Spader. While Marvel has enjoyed dominance over DC for a number of years, the villains in the MCU, with the exceptions of Loki and The Winter Soldier, have on the whole been weak links. However this does not apply to Ultron. Through Spader’s excellent work, through every word he speaks he displays his utter contempt for humanity and desire to see us wiped off the map.

With a lot happening in the film, it would be very easy to get lost in the world and all of the action, because there is a lot of it on show. Yet Whedon, as the master of character, shines through once again. When a character is on the screen, they get their moment and chance to shine and through the excellent writing and performances you see certain characters share sympathies with the others. The returning team are all once again superb in their roles and the ensemble has grown this time around including new additions Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. They are initially are hostile towards the team but are eventually coerced into siding with the Avengers.

Their Eastern European accents are quite noticeable and there are times when they lapse a little bit, but they are solid additions to the great plethora of superheroes of the MCU, especially in the case of Scarlet Witch who adds another strong female lead, something that is lacking in the world of Marvel and comic book movies in general, while this addition of Quicksilver, while solid, does not quite match Evan Peters’ portrayal of the character in last summer’s Days of Future Past.

Yet again, Whedon has hit it out of the park and delivered what every single Marvel fan wanted. Flawless visual effects are combined with  a strong story, some great performances, and excellent direction. The story does lag a little in places, but overall Whedon delivers. As events in the Avengers set the wheels of phase 2 in motion, the same is almost certainly applicable here with the likes of Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 all in the Marvel pipeline. With Ant Man set to see out Phase Two, before next year’s Captain America: Civil War arrives to kick off Phase Three, this current phase of Marvel-ous domination is preceding as planned.

Bolder, darker, and just as amusing as the first Avengers outing with a terrific and growing ensemble of some truly great characters, the all powerful Marvel machine is in full throttle, and there may be no stopping it.  

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Avengers (2012)

 

avengers
Image rights belong to Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Avengers – Film Review 

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Gwyneth Paltrow

Director:  Joss Whedon

Synopsis: When Earth faces a grave threat from the banished Loki and an alien army, the planet’s last hope: the Avengers must assemble together and save mankind

Review: Cast your minds back to 2008, and the post credits scene in the very first Iron Man film where we had our first look at Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and he spoke about this mysterious “Avengers Initiative.” For a long time, a movie like this may have been a pipe dream, but with many successful films leading up to it arcing and crossing over, in what we now know as Marvel’s Phase One. Most of the characters got their own solo outing, their own chance to shine and it was definitely leading to something. It all culminated in an inevitable ensemble movie and much was riding on this. Marvel threw all of their eggs into one basket with this film, and if it had bombed, the subsequent phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe would have been left in pieces. Luckily for us all, that was not the case as Marvel triumphed with flying colours, delivering one of the coolest, funniest and best comic book movies, that arguably is the best film of the MCU and also retains its status as one of the best comic book movies of all time

With so many larger than life superheroes mashing together in one movie, it would be a difficult job for any director to contain all these egos and give each lead character their own moment and opportunity to shine, enter Joss Whedon comes in. The man who can take many characters and make them all relevant pieces in the puzzle that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and through excellent writing and remarkable performances from all the ensemble cast, every member of the team shines. With each scene, each character takes their turn, be it a scene with Black Widow or a scene in which Tony Stark and Steve Rodgers are clashing (cue massive Civil War excitement.) Each character gets their moment to shine individually and when they come together as a team, except it’s not sunshine and sweeties when they immediately meet. There’s bickering, squabbling and in fighting Of course, bringing all these larger than life characters in one room, odds are that they will not get along immediately. In fact they will bicker and squabble till the cows come home, or until a significant event draws them all together and they have to team up to save humanity.

Given the intense action that appeared in many Marvel films leading up to it, you would expect lots of action in this ensemble showdown. While there are snippets here and there, the final showdown in all its glory takes its time to come around, yet it is not irksome as you appreciate the team build up their trust (or disdain in the case of some) for each other. Every member of the team delivers top notch performances, with each well established in their previous films, bar of course the recasting of Bruce Banner. Mark Ruffalo took over green rage monster duties from Edward Norton and Ruffalo delivers a brilliant performance that cements him as the best Bruce Banner we have ever seen on the big screen. Downey Jr of course brings his effortless charisma and personality to the role of Tony Stark. Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans both carry on their excellent displays. While coming to the fore this time around is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow who delivered her best MCU performance up until that point (until 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier came along.) With all the team shining, they are of course matched by the villainous and equally terrific Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Newcomers Jeremy Renner and Cobie Smulders are also given platforms to shine, but they do not deliver as strong performances as their SHIELD co workers

The final showdown in New York City provides some of the sweetest action scenes we have seen in the MCU to this day. It’s glorious to watch the team tackle Loki and his army of the Chitauri, who are unfortunately rather forgettable and almost weedy, as the challenge they pose to the Avengers is somewhat weak. There is a lot of destruction mind you, but not quite on the same level as a Bayhem sort of destruction like we have seen in the Transformers franchise. Throughout the battle there are some glorious comedy moments that will provide the audience with some chortling moments in between some great action scenes.  It all built up to this and it did not disappoint. Paving the way for more brilliant movies of phase 2 of the MCU that will lead to sequel that has every potential to be another explosive thrill ride. The bar has been raised very high and with Whedon again in the director’s chair for the upcoming sequel, the bar could very well be hulk smashed once again.

Humorous, entertaining, with a strong script, a terrific ensemble and some stellar direction from Whedon, this ensemble meeting raised the platform of the superhero genre, and it raised it to some very high standards. The sequel has some big shoes to fill. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Theory of Everything (2014)

theory of everything
Image rights belong to Working Title Films, StudioCanal,  Focus Features and Universal Pictures

The Theory of Everything – Film Review 

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Harry Lloyd, David Thewlis, Charlie Cox

Director:  James Marsh

Synopsis: A look at the famous physicist Stephen Hawking, chartering his university years, his diagnosis, and how his illness begins to have a serious effect on his family and work

Review: The summer of 2014, the summer where we all poured a bucket of ice water on our heads donating money towards  Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Yet its arguably most well known patient is one Professor Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s finest living minds whose work has had a tremendous impact on the world of science. Through this moving biopic, with a screenplay adapted from the novel Travelling to Infinity: My life with Stephen by Jane Hawking, we see how the disease took hold of him and how his condition worsened as the years went by, but his spark of brilliance never waned despite the horrific and brutal nature of ALS that slowly withered his condition.

We see a young Stephen (Eddie Redmayne) in his university years before his illness really takes hold, and how he meets Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones) While both are studying opposite subjects, they form an immediate bond that leads to an engagement and marriage. In the initial stages, it all seems so perfect, dancing by a pond, watching some fireworks illuminate the night sky with Stephen showing off his incredible intelligence. Yet their marriage has to undergo the most horrific of challenges that could very easily tear it apart, as his illness gradually gets worse and worse. Yet through all these tests, their bond despite all these intense tribulations is a hard one to break, and through that it delivers a very heart warming movie with drama, suspense and some terrific acting.

When you do not seen an actor in a film, instead you see a character who , it is obvious you are witnessing a special performance, and that is certainly the case with Eddie Redmayne. His performance as the famous physicist was nothing short of exceptional. As the illness worsens and deteriorates his condition further, resulting in more and more impairments, it is truly a sensational performance. Every time he loses a sense or feeling in his body, he has to act that way, and as such . Towards the end, you actually felt you were watching the great man himself, and this is recognised as the great professor thought that it was himself on screen. Equally on top form is Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking. Her undying love for her husband is the emotional rock that binds this story together, and even as the illness takes a greater hold, she does not wilt, but merely grows stronger. Their love goes through the sternest of challenges and both deliver wonderful performances that landed both Oscar nominations, and Redmayne duly scooped among many other awards, the Oscar for Best Leading Actor.

As the story unfolds, the genius of Hawking is explored. The theory of black holes and gravitational singularities, which constitutes arguably some of Hawking’s most important work is brought to the fore. Rather like Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, James Marsh weaves complex science and theories with romance, chemistry and how love has a tremendous power, that even a crippling disease such as motor neurone disease cannot contend with. While the former was filled with mind boggling scientific theories in almost every frame, the theme of love and compassion is more prevalent in this story. There is mention of the science and of Hawking’s work, but it is ultimately about his life and his family. The love and desire for each other is fierce as Hawking’s initial diagnosis of no more than two years left to live leaves their relationship on the rocks. Many black holes threaten to break the marriage down, but the bond between the two stands firm, because as Hawking himself says “however bad life may seem, where there is life, there is hope.” Though a little slow at times, through Anthony McCarten’s excellent screenplay, combined with a superb score by Jóhann Jóhannsson, the film is a superb account of one of the greatest minds alive today.

Moving, inspiring, heart warming and dramatic with two incredible lead performances with the right blend of science and heart warming story telling

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