Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Men in Black International (2019)

Image is property of Sony, Columbia Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Men in Black International – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Rebecca Ferguson,

Director: F. Gary Gray

Synopsis: When Earth comes under attack from an unknown hostile alien force, rookie agent M (Thompson) gets partnered up with the brash Agent H (Hemsworth) and together they must stop the impending attack…

Review: There comes a point in a franchise’s life when after a very successful first entry, the studio then decides to seize on that success and make one or two sequels. Though since it has been seven years since the last film in this franchise, it begs the question, was anyone asking for another Men in Black film? If a decision is going to be made to reboot or spin-off a franchise, give the audience a story worth telling. Because, once again, we have another film in a franchise that barely has a reason for justifying its existence.

As this is a spin-off, Will Smith’s and Tommy Lee Jones’s Agents J and K are now consigned to legend, and in their places come Chris Hemsworth Agent H (for hothead) and Tessa Thompson’s M (for marvellous). These two are recruited by the MiB London division to investigate some mysterious extraterrestrial occurrings, and the usual shenanigans involving aliens and men (and this time) women suiting up to take down these extraterrestrial nefarious evil doers.

By far and away, the best thing about this film is Tessa Thompson’s performance as Agent M, she is the most fleshed out person in the film and she adds some much needed charisma, something that is severely lacking in many of the other characters. Hemsworth is enjoyable as H, though this is far from his best work. These two have  proven themselves to have good chemistry due to their work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the camaraderie and banter between the two is one of the few delightful elements of the film. In addition, Kumail Nanjiani has a small but brilliant part that gives the movie the majority of its laughter.

For such an exciting cast, there’s barely an ounce of charisma on anyone else, save for Emma Thompson’s Head of the New York division of the MiB, who is not given enough screen time. On a similar note, in what could have been a very intriguing role, Rebecca Ferguson, who is sporting a very interesting wig, is reduced to a glorified cameo. The script from Iron Man duo Art Marcum and Matt Holloway gives them such inadequate material to work with, it’s a frustrating waste of the talents of these two fantastic actresses. It definitely doesn’t help that for the first act or so, the film is completely bereft of a discernible plot or a sense of direction that its moving in.

Though once things start to gather some pace, there are some exciting moments but these are really few and far between, and the addition of F Gary Gray as director adds nothing new. Don’t be surprised if after coming out of the film, you feel as though you yourself have been neuralised because there is nothing in this film that remotely stands out as memorable or exciting. The attachment of some new blood and a new director offered an opportunity for this franchise to start afresh and blast off in exciting new directions, but it’s an opportunity missed. No need to get suited and booted for this one, as those suits should have been left in the wardrobe, and hopefully the sunglasses and the neuralisers will be put into the drawer and never be seen again.

Hemsworth and Thompson’s are welcome additions to the cast, but an uninspired plot, bland storytelling and completely forgettable action scenes render this a complete damp (alien) squib.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Avengers: Endgame – Film Review

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis: After half of the galaxy’s population is vanquished by the Mad Titan Thanos,  the Avengers still standing must take their final stand, and do whatever it takes to reverse the terrible damage that has been inflicted upon the universe…

This review will be 100% spoiler free…

Review: It is quite remarkable to think when a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist announced that he is Iron Man, audiences had absolutely no idea of the journey that they were about to go on. As the years went by, piece by piece, the Marvel Cinematic Universe assembled itself into this enormous cinematic juggernaut almost unlike anything we had seen in cinematic history. Now, eleven years since Tony Stark uttered those famous words, and the twenty one films that followed afterwards, this journey is now at its end.

Set directly after the events of Infinity War, The Avengers who survived Thanos’s snap are all left completely desolate and broken after failing to stop the Mad Titan succeeding in his aim to bring balance to the world by wiping out half of all life. It’s a completely bleak existence for them all, but when an opportunity to undo the catastrophic damage that Thanos has done to the Universe presents itself, the Avengers take their final stand for a mission that represents the biggest fight of their lives, with literally everything on the line.

Having pulled off a masterfully crafted piece of action cinema, full of stupendous action set pieces with Infinity War, the Russo brothers, and returning writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely go very much in the opposite direction for this sequel. The film, in all of its three hour run time, significantly dials back the action, in favour of more personal, more sombre moments of reflection. It bides its time, exploring the emotions, and the development of these characters. As we watch our heroes contemplating what might have been, whilst simultaneously licking their wounds and dealing with the enormous consequences of Thanos’s actions. It crucially allows the audience to watch these heroes that we have known and loved across this last decade of Marvel films, be in a such a traumatic place, the likes of which we haven’t really seen before in the MCU.

It is quite incredible that in this decade and almost two dozen MCU films that the cast that has been recruited for all these eclectic and colourful characters has been practically flawless across the board, with so many memorable characters that have undoubtedly charmed their way into the hearts of audiences around the world. There isn’t a false note in any of the performances, for this film and for its predecessor, but as the marketing for the film demonstrated, the MVPs here are the original gang of Avengers (Cap, Iron Man, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Thor.) It’s this group of heroes that first banded together to save the world in the first Avengers film. We as an audience owe so much to these guys for being the awesome bunch of characters that they have been across these movies, and for laying the foundations that this incredible universe has been built upon.

This isn’t to say that some of the newer crop don’t get their moment to shine, because they most certainly do. Furthermore, in these dire circumstances, the film finds its ways to be extremely humorous once again. Though the action is dialled back significantly, it wouldn’t be an Avengers film without some intense action. With that, as they have done for the last three films that were under their expert vision, the Russos continue on that trajectory to again deliver an absolutely jaw dropping sequence, one that hardcore fans of the MCU will undoubtedly enjoy every minute of it.

It is worth re-emphasising the sheer scale of what Marvel has achieved across these films. The work that all of the writers and film-makers, and all of the crews who have worked on these films have done, to make this cinematic universe so successful.  Three phases, twenty two movies, rich and well developed characters, laughter and gags aplenty, and plenty of insane and jaw dropping action sequences, it has all been a fantastic journey to have been on. While the MCU will undoubtedly carry on past this point, part of the journey is the end, and now this iteration has reached its Endgame, and that final outcome is a marvellous and unprecedented achievement that will go down in cinematic history.

A monumental cinematic achievement that delivers the conclusion the legions of MCU fans were hoping for. A triumphant conclusion to one of the most impactful franchises of modern cinema.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox

Bad Times at the El Royale – Film Review

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Chris Hemsworth

Director: Drew Goddard

Synopsis: The once famous El Royale hotel in Lake Tahoe has become a shadow of its former self. However, when a bunch of mysterious individuals all check into the hotel on the same day, it promises to be an eventful evening…

Review: If a film pitches itself as a mystery/thriller, there has got to be an almost immediate moment in the first few minutes that grabs the audience’s attention and ensure they become subsequently absorbed into the ensuing suspense of the unfolding drama. Within the opening moments of writer/director Drew Goddard’s second directorial effort, you get just a taste of the drama and intrigue of what’s to come, with more than a few dashes of neo-noir thrown in for good measure.

It is 1960s America, and the titular El Royale hotel has, shall we say, seen better days. However things begin to take a turn for the interesting when an unusual collection of folks all rock up looking for some lodgings. It doesn’t however take long before things begin to unravel and our guests may not be who they appear to be. These guests consist of a Priest (Bridges) , a singer trying to catch her break (Erivo) , a smarmy salesman (Hamm) and a woman (Johnson), whose identity is initially withheld. There’s something immediately suspicious about each member of this cast, as to who they really are, and what secrets they’re hiding.

Every member of this cast is on their best form, and there is not one performance that feels out of place. However somewhat unsurprisingly, Jeff Bridges is leading the way, being his usual charismatic self in a role that (probably) was exclusively written with him in mind. A relative newcomer, Cynthia Erivo shines very brightly as a singer who really hits those notes both in terms of her incredible singing ability and her performance. Yet the scene stealer in all of this is Chris Hemsworth, once again not shy in showing the world his muscles. He gives an astonishing performance, the likes of which we haven’t really seen from him before, certainly a world away from his work in the realm of Norse mythology.

Welcome to the El Royale ab show….

A quick glance at Goddard’s resume shows some impressive projects, such as the scribe of The Martian, the show-runner of season 1 of Netflix’s Daredevil, and his directorial debut The Cabin in the Woods. It is a resume not to be sneezed at. For the remarkable array of acting talent he has assembled here, his screenplay is ambitious to say the least in the way it chooses to present itself to the audience. It seems apparent that Goddard was inspired by Quentin Tarantino, and the ways that the latter has used to tell some of his stories, to great effect.

It is smart and ambitious story-telling on Goddard’s part, but there are instances where the momentum that is being built in a certain scene is lost, as the perspective of the story changes. This can, and does have an extremely negative impact on the film’s pacing, which is just a tad problematic for a film that centres on a mystery. Nevertheless, despite that problematic pacing, the film really starts to click once we reach that all important third act and everything that these interwoven stories have been building towards comes to an exciting, and nerve-shredding climax.

When such original pieces of work like this come along, something that is increasingly rare these days, they must not be overlooked. However, for all of its originality with its premise, its eclectic array of characters and very colourful and stylish production design, that potential is never fully realised. Hence, those who check-in to the El Royale, may just check out with not as much satisfaction as they almost certainly would want to.

Goddard turns on the style with some lavish production design and a unique bunch of characters, but the screenplay just feels too ambitious for its own good, and is at certain points a case of style over substance.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Avengers: Infinity War – Film Review

Cast: Spoilers!!

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis: Thanos, the Mad Titan, is seeking possession of the Infinity Stones that would give him unrivalled power, and it’s up to the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop him as the fate of the Universe hangs in the balance…

This review will have no spoilers…

Review: Ten years in the making, with eighteen previous entries in this incredible cinematic universe that we have watched grow over the past ten years. It has been quite the fun and enjoyable ride, but this is what it has all been building towards. After all the work that was put in to establish this world and its characters in the previous decade of Marvel goodness, it would be fair to say the weight of expectation on this film was enormous. Therefore, one must give kudos to the Russo brothers, who return to the directors chairs of the MCU for the third time, and complete their hat-trick in spectacular style.

The plot, without straying into spoiler territory, focuses on the maniacal Thanos and his quest to obtain the infinity stones with the help of some underling servants known as the Black Order, to wreak unprecedented destruction on the universe, which understandably captures the attention of just about every MCU hero we have met thus far. Given the sheer number of heroes we have met thus far, there was understandable concern from certain quarters as to would they be able to balance the story with so many larger than life heroes? Well as they proved with Civil War, the Russos and returning screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, do just that.

Each hero that we meet is given their chance to shine and there’s no one that feels out of place. They are all relevant pieces in this battle, and as such , everyone has ample screen time in this battle that simply put, has unprecedented stakes for all of our heroes. Yet despite these threatening stakes, as Marvel so often does, the film is peppered with plenty of humorous moments. But these never negate the moments of drama or danger that these heroes find themselves up against, as you feel that no one, no matter how big or how long they have been a part of the MCU, is in very serious peril.

Speaking of, it has been no secret that the MCU has had some trouble with crafting compelling villains. With a few exceptions, many of them have been very bland and forgettable. Thankfully, that is not applicable with Thanos. It is hard to humanise a villain who wants to kill at will, but he is given the crucial depth that a good villain needs to get in order to make them memorable. Furthermore, they need to be given a presence that our heroes feel, and they certainly feel Thanos’s presence alright, the much needed villain to truly break the villain curse that has plagued so many MCU movies.

As they demonstrated with both of their previous MCU entries, the Russos are once again right on the top of their game when it comes to delivering the compelling action scenes that were used so effectively in their previous MCU films. There are plenty of these throw-downs scattered throughout the film, you really feel the scale of the events that are taking place within this world that we as an audience have grown with over these past ten years. It is some heavy stuff and with this latest entry, again without straying into spoiler territory, it is a film that will have a major impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we have known it.

With only a handful of films left in what has been the third phase of their cinematic universe, it is hard to not feel that all of this is all coming to a close. In a film like this, you need to just give the audience a complete and emotional sucker punch that leaves them reeling, and by the end of this movie, said sucker punch will have been delivered. Though there is still a second part in this story, and a few other films in Phase 3 to come, there is no escaping the fact that with this film, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been shaken to its core.

It has all been building towards this, and it brought home the goods. So many heroes could have been problematic, but it is all weaved together tremendously well, and a truly memorable villain in Thanos sets things up perfectly for Avengers 4.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Thor: Ragnarok – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson, Jeff Goldblum, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba

Director: Taika Waititi

Synopsis: Having come out of hiding to claim the throne of Asgard, Hela the Goddess of Death seeks to rule Asgard. Having been cast aside on a distant planet, Thor must use his strength and an old friend to help him reclaim Asgard’s throne, and prevent Ragnarok, the end of all things, from occurring.

Review: Of all the directors Marvel could have hired to take on a film that studio head honcho Kevin Feige described as “very important movie in our timeline”, one of the most out of the blue choices you could suggest would be New Zealand native Taika Waititi. Having made his name with the very quirky comedies such as What We Do in The Shadows, and last year’s hilarious Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Yet, having seen humour become an important aspect of their films, Waititi seems to be the perfect match for Marvel, and as it turns out, it is absolutely a match made in Valhalla.

For a film subtitled Ragnarok, meaning the end of everything, to be pitched as a quirky comedy masquerading as a big budget superhero blockbuster, could have been a spectacular misfire, but in the hands of Waititi it is all just blends together beautifully. On a quest to find out some information is where we meet the God of Thunder, and he quickly learns that The Goddess of Death Hela has come back to Asgard to take her place on the throne, setting off a chain of events that sees Thor trying to unseat the Usurper whilst preventing Ragnarok from occurring. Though not written by him, the script has that Waititi stamp written all over it. There are gags aplenty, and they’re almost always hilarious. It’s a bold claim, but this might just be the funniest Marvel film to date.

Old friends reunited…

Hemsworth and Hiddleston are once again just delightful to watch in these roles that they have made their own, with it also being great to see Mark Ruffalo and the Hulk in all of his green, raging glory back in the MCU once more. There are quite a few new faces here, the absolute standouts being Tessa Thompson’s badass Valkyrie and an absolutely uproarious star turn from Waititi himself in a role that will have you almost crying tears of laughter. It is absolute comic gold and a character one would hope gets his own movie somewhere down the line. Meanwhile, Jeff Goldblum is inevitably always a pleasure to watch, and as the Grandmaster, it feels like a role that was just written for the Goldblum and he like the Odinson brothers, he bosses it.

A real consistent Achilles Heel for the MCU has been their villains, as the last Thor film testified. Thankfully, Cate Blanchett as Hela is able to avoid falling into the realm of bland and generic villains that have troubled MCU films gone by. She is well fleshed out as a character and it makes her story so much more compelling to watch. The same unfortunately cannot be said for Karl Urban’s character who does sadly fall into that category of villains that are just kind of forgettable.

Whilst also perhaps boasting the most vivid colour palette that the MCU has seen to date, when the action goes down Waititi’s direction is confident and assured.  The battle between Hulk and Thor that we saw a glimpse of in the trailer is just spectacular stuff, you cannot beat a bit of intergalactic gladiatorial duelling can you? With the help of some Led Zepplin, the final showdown is also breathless to watch. The whole thing might seem absolutely bonkers and absurd, but it all blends together into some delightfully, colourful and exhilarating entertainment.

With complaints of superhero fatigue coming from some audiences, this is the shot in the arm that the genre needed to help keep things fresh. It’s so different in terms of style and everything that it is certainly a most welcome breath of fresh air for the genre. With them now a staggering 17 films deep into their universe, Marvel are showing no signs of slowing down, and when they’re continuing to produce such glorious excitement, who in their right mind would want them to stop?

Fusing a deeply personal story with some absolutely first class humour that will have your sides hurting, Waititi brings his vibrant style of quirky comedy to the MCU, and it pays off big time. The best MCU film of the year.

 

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Thor: The Dark World – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Jaime Alexander Christopher Eccleston

Director: Alan Taylor

Synopsis: As Thor works to restore the peace to the Nine Realms in the wake of the events of The Avengersa new threat emerges in the form of the Dark Elves who are after something called the Aether…

Review: Life certainly isn’t easy for a God, especially not for the ones of the red cape wearing variety. In the same year that saw one red caped wearing God struggle to find his place in the world, and fight a battle that saw an entire city suffer some horrific destruction. We had another one trying to clean up the catastrophic damage that was made by his pesky little brother. But for the latter, namely the God of Thunder, there’s an even bigger problem on the horizon that needs his attention, and above all else, his hammer.

As the climax of Phase One of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe drew to a close, the Avengers had banded together when all seemed lost to help stop Loki and his extra-terrestrial army from subjugating Earth.  Following on from all that wanton mayhem and destruction, and the aftermath of it all is where we find Thor who is now seeking to restore order and peace to the Nine Realms. Yet a new threat is emerging in the form of the Dark Elves led by Malekith who is seeking possession of a powerful artefact known only as the Aether.

Having capped off their first Phase in tremendous style, there was an obvious need to do things a little bit differently to keep interest in the universe alive and to prevent it from becoming stale. By consequence, with the the loss of his powers and how me must learn what it means to be worthy to wield Mjolnir or “Miew Miew” as one character so eloquently puts it, being central to the story. As such the studio clearly decided to change that up a bit and this time there’s no big life lesson Thor has to learn while not being as mighty as he used to be.

thor tdw
The man with the mighty mallet…

He’s the all powerful God of Thunder throughout and well it’s a good thing he is since Asgard comes under attack from the Dark Elves who have a history with the Asgardians, none more so than their leader Malekith, who has a very personal score to settle. The story while it is interesting and fun to watch, it doesn’t really break any new ground in terms of what the MCU had seen up to this point. there’s nothing here that feels fresh. It all feels a bit by the numbers in terms of the direction. No disrespect to director Alan Taylor, who up to this point had overseen some terrific Game of Thrones episodes.  For instance the Avengers just had Joss Whedon’s stamp all over it. Here, while the action is well handled, it does feel like there’s nothing that feels truly special in terms of giving audiences something that they had not seen before.

Given that these films are centered on the titular God of Thunder, the right man was needed for the job, and once again Chris Hemsworth showed he was absolutely the right man to wear the cape and wield the hammer. Equally important to the equation, and another excellent casting choice is of course Tom Hiddleston as Loki who despite committing those terrible atrocities in New York is a character whom you just can’t help but like, even though he’s perhaps the most untrustworthy character in the entire MCU, but you know that as a character he’s someone you almost find yourself rooting for due to his roguish personality.

However, as with the first film, the villain here is a real let down and perhaps maybe the poorest MCU villain to date. Christopher Eccleston is certainly a very fine actor, but as Malekith the script really doesn’t flesh him out to the point where you understand where he’s coming from and he comes across as just extremely generic and not in the least bit memorable. Ultimately, despite for the most part being enjoyable to watch, even at this point in the MCU, it slots in nicely as a sequel to both the first Thor film and The Avengers, but certainly doesn’t stand out from the crowd in the ever expanding world of comic book movies, which is something that even an object as powerful as Thor’s magic hammer cannot fix.

There’s more than enough here to enjoy, but a pretty by the numbers story and direction mean that The Dark World is not mighty enough to ensure it lands a place among the plethora of truly memorable superhero flicks.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Thor (2011)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Thor – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Jaime Alexander

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Synopsis: When the God of Thunder Thor, the next in line to the throne of Asgard, is exiled on Earth, he must learn the error of his ways and prove himself worthy to retain his power…

Review: Norse Mythology is something that has certainly made an impression on pop culture. As J.R.R Tolkien himself has admitted, his works such as Lord of the Rings had their influences from the Nordic myths and legends. Indeed, Marvel Comics certainly decided to utilise said mythology in some of their comics, and thus the character of Thor came into being, first debuting in 1962. Back when Marvel was establishing the foundations of their cinematic Universe, Thor and the realm in which he dwells became a part of that all encompassing world, and what must have been quite the challenge to adapt for the big screen was pulled off quite spectacularly.

Thanks to some narration style backstory from the King of Asgard Odin (Hopkins) we learn that Thor is due to succeed his father as King, but a sinister threat approaches in the form of the Frost Giants, who threaten to turn Asgard and indeed everywhere into a cold dark place. When Thor decides to take matters into his own hands, his actions have dire consequences and at Odin’s behest, Thor is banished to Earth as a mere mortal and must learn from his mistakes if he is ever to take his place at Asgard again. Despite the grandiose setting, the themes of this film are at their core very Shakespearean, which means Kenneth Branagh is right at home having done a great many Shakespearean plays. Sibling rivalry, squabbling, betrayal and all that, mixed in with of course Norse Gods and magic of course (or is that science we just don’t know yet?) It might sound mad, it all blends brilliantly.

thor
This man definitely didn’t skip leg day…

Being one of the key players of the Avengers, casting the right man to play Thor was essential and Chris Hemsworth was certainly the right man. He carries the brash arrogance and swagger that one might expect from a man who wields a mighty hammer, Mjolnir as his weapon. Yet when he’s banished to Earth, he also shows his humility and compassion particularly for his love interest Jane (Portman). The chemistry between a demi-god and a mere mortal human shouldn’t really work but it does. The casting all round genuinely is flawless, Sir Anthony Hopkins certainly has the imposing presence required to play one of the most powerful beings in all the realms. Tom Hiddleston as Loki is also perfect, whilst he appears initially to be innocent, it doesn’t take long for his mischievous streak to emerge. You really feel the family dynamic between these characters and the  family disagreements  intense to say the least, one scene with Loki and Odin in particular stands out among the rest.

Family feuding aside, Branagh also helms the action scenes tremendously well and they are a visual treat to watch. When Thor is laying it down, he is one badass hero that would be pretty hard to stop. Which again when he’s stripped of his powers, makes him so much more vulnerable. When you have a hero as powerful as Thor is, to see him be stripped of his power and go on an important and significant journey to discover what it really means to have the power he possesses. Like a great many Marvel movies, the film weaves humour so effortlessly, despite all the family drama that’s occurring, there’s plenty of moments to laugh out load. That being said, the story is not perfect as there are some moments that do feel a bit rushed. In addition the Frost Giants, and in particular their leader, whilst menacing, do not stand out as very memorable villains, as that dastardly Loki is the one you want to keep your eye on.

At this point, the MCU was very much in its infancy, and so getting this aspect of its universe right was paramount for its future success. Thankfully the nine realms converged perfectly , everything was weaved together perfectly. the God of Thunder took flight and landed in the MCU, with an almighty crash.

Incorporating this aspect of the universe was undoubtedly a challenge, but Branagh steers this ship so skilfully that Thor’s MCU debut was as mighty as the God of Thunder himself.

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)

 

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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

Rush (2013)

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Image is property of Exclusive Media, Universal Pictures, StudioCanal, Pathé Productions, Working Title Films, Imagine Entertainment, Relativity Media, Cross Creek Pictures

Rush – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Brühl, Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, Stephen Mangan, and Christian McKay

Director: Ron Howard

Synopsis: An account of the rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, as they rise to the top of Formula 1 and the pulsating and horrifying race to win the 1976 Grand Prix title

Review: An enthralling and fast paced adrenaline ride. Ron Howard does a magnificent job in giving the audience a thrilling account of the fierce rivalry between these two very skilled and determined drivers. From the moment the two rivals met at a Formula 3 event, you immediately see the stark contrast between the two drivers and the immediate mutual dislike that they have of the other.  On the one hand James Hunt, lives his life to the maximum with a lot of partying, drinking and women. This outgoing nature does not impress his wife, Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde) While Lauda is far more calm and collected, and who uses great intelligence and precision to give him the edge over his rival. While both are very different people in terms of personality, you do find yourself rooting for both of them to succeed in their aim to triumph.

The racing scenes are brilliantly recreated. You really feel your heart beat as the races are played out on screen. You really get the sense that these two are both taking death head on with a burning desire and drive to succeed in their quest to win the Formula 1 title. Their burning desire to win and defeat the other is very strong in spite of the very real dangers that a sport such as Formula 1 had at that time, as it mentions in the film, there were at least a couple of deaths in every Formula One season.

Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl both give superb performances as James Hunt and Niki Lauda respectively. Hemsworth does an outstanding job portraying both Hunt’s charismatic and party-going nature, while at the same time demonstrates the competitive, but very reckless driver that Hunt was. Brühl also gives a strong performance as Lauda as we see his great intelligence and knowledge when it comes to Formula 1 racing and equally his determination to recover and compete for the title only weeks after an a Formula 1 accident that almost killed him. Alexandra Maria Lara provides a strong performance as Lauda’s other half Marlene Lauda. She is supportive of Lauda and really comes into her own especially after the accident that almost killed Lauda, as she is the figure of support that Lauda needed. Olivia Wilde does a great job in portraying Suzy Miller, the other half of Hunt, who soon becomes alienated with Hunt’s brash and outgoing lifestyle.

All in all, Rush was a thrilling spectacle. The film is well directed and the racing scenes are brilliantly shot and the film is accompanied with a fantastic score. The races really get your heart racing. You are rooting for both of the lead actors to achieve their goals, but at the same time, you fear that there could be an accident at any given moment in the film. The two lead actors both deliver Oscar worthy performances. It is an exciting adventure that will keep your heart racing for a long time after you leave the cinema.

Gritty, suspenseful with terrific racing scenes that will ensure even if you’re not into Formula 1, you’re still going to enjoy the adrenaline fuelled ride of this movie.

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