Avengers: Age of Ultron

Hey there viewers! We’re back today with the much anticipated Avengers: Age of Ultron. Directed by Joss Whedon and starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth, the film is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments.

Avengers: Age of Ultron follows the creation of artificial intelligence by Tony Stark in hopes to keep the peace. However, when things go awry with the robot, named Ultron (James Spader), Earth’s Mightiest Heroes must stand up to the task of taking him down and keeping the world safe.

7.0 out of 10

Both Screenwars and Joss Whedon’s highly anticipated blockbuster release, Avengers: Age of Ultron, are back and ready for action after a productive siesta – albeit the robot-crushing crew are better prepared for earth-threatening battle…

But regardless of Screenwars’ aptitude in fighting the Marvel supervillain, the Avengers are still subject to our critique; instead Zach and I suit up with word processors, thinking caps, and a family sized bag of Doritos to battle our nefarious nemesis – a film review.

avengers 1

Age of Ultron certainly lived up to the visual expectations of its prequel, and again the film crew put on a fabulously flashy show of special effects that depicted everything from the glistening and idyllic Stark Tower to the wasted war zones of Eastern Europe. Hundreds of metal clad (yet surprisingly fragile) robots were brought to life on top of a flying city where a hulking green giant and magically gifted twins, among other incredulous beings, energetically battle as the entire setting crumbles to pieces. In all, Avengers is again a successfully exciting example of special effects that won over the audience’s fixated gaze for a lengthy two hours and twenty-one minutes – which is however, quite the movie marathon.

The plot of the film certainly lent itself towards the movie’s entertaining qualities as well. The very beginning of the film dropped you right into the action, picking up again where Captain America: The Winter Soldier left off with the Avengers attempting to finish off the resurgent forces of Hydra. Without giving away much… the movie progresses and leaves few opportunities for viewers to become bored or be prompted with questions, and in between the fighting scenes sit well delivered jokes and jibes, including the amusing gaffe were the other Avengers, try as they might, are unable to pick up Thor’s hammer. The plotline is nuanced enough to yank the audience into the story, yet it does not require any quantum mechanics-esq thinking to understand the events. Not long after the avengers assemble, Ultron makes his grand and violent first appearance.

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As Marvel villains have come and gone from their big screen spotlights, they adhere to a rough character template where they exact frightening but obviously fictional harm against humanity; rarely do these costumed villains establish real fear in the hearts of movie-goers with their predictable evil-doer monologues. However Ultron became the first villain to cause a stir in my gut, and a quiver in my popcorn clenched hands. James Spader’s metallic and penetrating voice struck the audience; the modulation of his tones created a character devoid of compassion or feeling. The performance was ice-cold, and the spooky, partially burned iron-man mask of his first iteration paired up with the voice acting created a truly haunting character. The evil plan, although typically merciless and far fetched, was helmed by a daunting, truly scary Ultron, whose later robot forms are progressively crueler looking and wield glowing red eyes that channel the lava-like contempt and hatred from within this villain.

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Although I found the enemy to be actually frightening for a change, this chilling nature of his also made the struggle between the heroes and Ultron more compelling. Never before was the righteous path of the beloved Marvel heroes so important and so necessary; the heartlessness and fear-inducing persona of their opponent demanded victory for humanity. The makers of the Avengers did not disappoint, and their efforts created a thrilling and entertaining spectacle out of an often ordinary and only moderately eventful Friday evening. Of course, Age of Ultron is no fine art; instead it is the graphic graffiti to the Mona Lisa, or the skateboard routine to the ballet dance concert. You won’t depart the theater with great wisdom or any novel realizations… but you will be windswept from one hell of a ride.
~Simon

7.5 out of 10

Disney has some great high-class problems going this week: it failed to live up to it’s two hundred and ten million dollar opening by only coughing up a measly two hundred million dollar opening, an issue which we all can relate to I’m sure. Sucks right?

Alas, Age of Ultron (The long-awaited sequel to the first Avenger’s installment) is still a thumper of a film when it comes to the stats: it’s maintained its number one slot on the box office mast for two weeks now and, if the overseas numbers are any indicator, it won’t be leaving there in the next century.

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So, while Disney’s CEOs decide whether they’ll buy yachts or 747s, let us determine how well Mr. Joss Whedon has fared in his latest comic adaption. In my humble opinion, pretty well.

By pretty well, I mean it wasn’t exactly earth shattering. It wasn’t the universe-quaking sequel portrayed by those dark teaser trailers nor was it quite the “Empire Strikes Back”-esque darker chapter Whedon claims he was going for; it was more of the same thing and it was fun. By the end of the movie, we’re pretty much exactly where we were at the end of the last Avengers.

AOSTA, ITALY - MARCH 24: Jeremy Renner is seen filming on location for "Avengers: Age of Ultron" on March 24, 2014 in Aosta, Italy.  (Photo by Photopix/Getty Images)

This was pretty much a carbon copy of every Marvel film. I won’t bother to detour from spoilers because, if you know Marvel’s well-played formula, you know exactly how this will end. There’s a goofy yet intimidating villain, a romantic tease with Black Widow, some cool Iron Man technology, Hulk smashing his teammates, Cap. being folksy, Thor being epic, and Tony Stark (Who has basically become a one-liner machine) giving up the suit it. Of course, there’s table setting. Oh, yes, buster, there’s more table setting than ever. You better get used to it.

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But absolutely nothing’s wrong with the list above, especially if your expectations are properly calibrated. If anything, it’s all done even better than in the first go-around. This time, it feels like a story and not just a shopping list of plot points. There are great scenes of our characters just hanging around and interacting (Whedon has such an excellent grip on these guys, by the way) and said heroes fall neatly into their natural roles in the team. Whereas the first felt somewhat fragmented, this felt like a multipart comic book with just a little chop in some of the action sequences but nothing that detracts too much.

There’s still some odd stuff in there however. It feels a few rewrites away from ascending to an excellent level status definitely. There’s a bit of a shoehorned romance between two of our heroes and some weird little detours in the story and tone that don’t get much resolution. The new characters are a little hit and miss with Vision being the ace in the hole and the “enhanced” (Fox owns the word ‘mutant”. Sorry, Disney.) twins, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, being just okay. The former doesn’t quite measure up to the Fox’s X-Men version’s enjoyability but thatt’s a bit of an unfair comparison.

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I find myself saying this with more and more Marvel movies but, if you don’t care for the usual Marvel formula, sit this one out. Otherwise, you’re in for some more terrific Avengers antics and more than enough sequel-teasing.

Still waiting on Guardians of the Galaxy 2 though.
~Zach

What did you think of the newest fixture in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe? Feel free to let us know in the comment section below.

Thor: The Dark World

Both of us are gigantic Marvel Cinematic Universe fans. We don’t love each movie individually per say (cough *Iron Man 3* cough), but as a whole, we love the series and what is being done with it. Even though the most recent release, the aforementioned Iron Man 3, was pretty disappointing to the two of us, we are excited to watch and review the newly released sequel  to Thor. Directed by Alan Taylor, and starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Natalie Portman, it is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and some suggestive content.

Thor: The Dark World is the next sequence in The Avengers saga, following Iron Man 3. In the film, Thor (Hemsworth), the hot headed Norse god of thunder, is faced with his most difficult challenge yet, battling an ancient villain unknown to his homeland of Asgard. A very powerful villain who no one can take down, not even Thor’s father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins)

Thor eventually embarks on a journey that will reunite him with his love from Earth, Jane Foster (Portman), and require him to cooperate with his worst of enemies– his brother Loki (Hiddleston)– in order to save himself and his people from a terrible fate.

8 out of 10

I remember my extreme disappointment after seeing Iron Man 3. My jaw literally dropped after seeing the Mandarin destroyed by Shane Black, ask Zach. The movie was just stupid. And coming off The Avengers, my expectations were sky high, unfortunately. And seeing the trailers… I cry just thinking about it. Trailers literally kill a movie, but that’s a story for another day. So my expectations were not too high going  into the Thor movie, so when I saw it, I was pleasantly surprised.

It didn’t go without flaws. Natalie Portman was horrific, for one thing. All her choices and dialogue seem forced and ingenuine. She makes the Jane Foster-Thor relationship seem uninteresting… and it is, but not because of Chris Hemsworth. She is a great actress, don’t get me wrong, but she doesn’t have a place in sci-fi. It’s unfortunate she was such a huge art of the film. Stick to drama, Natalie. Some of the humor with Darcy (Kat Dennings) also seemed a bit forced, but for the most part she was very funny.

The film also seemed somewhat unoriginal to me. I saw everything coming (except the very, very last scene). It seemed like a completely mix of Star Trek and Lord of the Rings, and while it did turn out fine, it would have been nice to see something new. This movie is really the only movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that explores space and other dimensions, and I would have liked to see something completely different.

Despite the criticism I have for it, it really is just a fun ride. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston have phenomenal chemistry, and I love their relationship. Loki has became as prominent as Thor in terms of familiarity with the audience, partially because Hiddleston is so good. He plays it with the cockiness and the slick attitude that Loki has, while still providing him with a sense of humanity. The two of them together are always fantastic, and this film proves no different.

The film is also very funny– the gag with Loki transforming in Captain America was hilarious– and the dialogue, with a few exceptions, was pretty good. Darcy was very funny, even though it could be a bit much at times. And though there was seemingly a lot of comedic dialogue, they still found a way to balance it with fantastic action, which looked great to watch, as always. That’s something you can always rely on Marvel for: a movie that looks good to watch.

And speaking about Captain America, the most important thing about this movie is the role it plays in the universe as a whole. It was able to reference it, keep its continuity going, and also add to it. In a universe such as huge as this, it’s crucial that every single film contributes to the series as a whole, while also being its own. Thor: The Dark World accomplished both of these.

When people ask me if I like this film, I say sure, why not. It has it’s flaws but it’s not meant to be an Oscar Award winning picture. It’s meant to be a two hour action-filled adrenaline rush, and it is.

However, if you’re a Natalie Portman fan… Hold off on this one.

~Vig

7 out of 10

(I love going off topic so forgive me if I get little positive words in here but, believe me, I liked this movie)

Everybody loves an anti-hero.

Yeah, The Dark Knight pretty much cemented that five years ago. We, the public, love us some flawed, morally ambiguous characters who are wild cards in their given situations. Why? Because they’re unpredictable.

Thor

Thor

Which brings us to the Thor movies’ (Maybe even the Marvel world’s) greatest asset: Loki. I remember being thoroughly impressed with the Loki plotline in the original Thor, mostly because of how much Tom Hiddleston has to play out about the character. Almost every viewer can sympathize with him. He’s a safe villain with just the right amount of distorted heroics in him to keep us all engaged even when our lead actors fail us.

When Phase One finished up, my main worry is the Marvel movies would start spinning their wheels. The Avengers was just such a colossal, earth-shattering movie for the genre that it seemed like a perfect way to end the whole thing. That there was no more to be said. So was I right?

I was. Kind of. The past two films (The other being Iron Man 3) have a lot of repetitive moments and go through the same cycles as before. Thor and Jane go through more of the same here and one can tell that the writers tried extremely hard to encapsulate everything that made Avengers so great; humor being the most apparent. At times, things feel forced and we pretty much just want to get to Avengers 2 here if this is all going to be inconsequential.

But, above all odds, the Marvel Universe has failed to collapse under its own weight. Its still got a hell of a lot pulling for it. And one of those forces is our aforementioned favorite Loki. While he is ridiculously underused in this, the scenes he is in pretty much saved the movie for me. While every other character is caught in the motions, he seriously develops. I think that the writers really underestimated how interesting Hiddleston could play out the convenience alliance angle.

Hemsworth is also very good. But both of these actors are best when they are playing off eachother. They can (And should) really open up the old wounds in their relationship that actually move the plot forward. When they argue, it’s far more entertaining than anything an SFX producer could conjure up.

My advice to Marvel would be to acknowledge the past events, have characters face them, then move on from them and keep letting the world turn. Until then, Thor; The Dark World was a pretty dang good start.
~Zach

IMDB: 7.2
Metacritic: 54
Rotten Tomatoes: 65%

Rush

This week, we’ll be examining the newly released Rush, directed by Ron Howard. The film stars Daniel Bruhl, Chris Hemsworth and Olivia Wilde. Rated R for language, nudity, some disturbing images and brief drug use.

Rush follows two European race cars drivers, James Hunt (Hemsworth), a brash, handsome womanizer, and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), a witty and intelligent, yet cocky genius, in the midst of their heated race to become the greatest. Throughout the next six years, both of the drivers rise to the top: Formula 1.

Though they are each completely different in terms of style and personality, they become fierce competitors, and by 1976, they are pitted against each other in a battle of wits, bravery, and speed. In ’76, with Lauda dominating Hunt during the early stages of the season, Lauda suffers a tragic accident at the German Grand Prix after crashing his Ferrari in the rain because Hunt had insisted the race go on. Lauda leaves the accident with life-threatening third degree burns to his heads and his lungs, with seemingly no chance to become World Champion. The rivalry had just begun.

8.0 out of 10 

I am a huge sports fan. Basketball, baseball, football; you name it. The one thing that doesn’t draws my interest is NASCAR. So obviously, I wasn’t necessarily excited to watch this film. Nevertheless, it was Ron Howard and looked good, so I decided to see it regardless.

The film certainly has its pros and cons. For starters, the acting was very good. Despite the lack of any huge names besides Thor, I mean Chris Hemsworth, (and Olivia Wilde was in like, a scene and a half) the actors do a very good job, especially the two leads. Daniel Bruhl and Hemsworth were both fantastic as clashing racers. The way they developed themselves and their rivalry was very strong, and the chemistry between the two was phenomenal. The ending, in which Hunt is seen talking with Bruhl after winning the championship, is a perfect display of this connection: How these two racers learned from each other, and were motivated by each other. How they saw each other as friends, even. Without this emotional connection, the film would have fallen apart. On the flip side, the love interests seemed forced and irrelevant. I never believed that any of it was genuine romance. Really, all it did was consume screentime.

Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt

Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt

I also found the film a bit inconsistent. We saw fives minutes of James Hunt, then thirty minutes of Niki Lauda, so on and so forth. It evened itself out eventually, but this discrepancy in narration still led to an awkward, unsteady pacing. Additionally, I was slightly bored with the first half, excluding the first 10 minutes. Right out of the gate, we saw the beginning of this fantastic rivalry and wanted more. What we actually got was was build up. Build up is never bad, but in this case, it threw off the pace that had been set after their Formula 3 race. However, Rush hit its stride once it entered 1976. The film got much more intense once the race for World Champion started. It generally became more fast paced and exciting, something that I enjoyed.

While Rush had an excellent soundtrack and gritty cinematography that allowed it to become both visually and audibly appealing, what really makes this film is its direction. Ron Howard is a very good director, How the Grinch Stole Christmas put aside. He understands the concept of originality and is able to apply it to true stories such as A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13. The movie was about a real life rivalry, and what’s important to understand is that both of these characters are the protagonists. They were enemies to each other, but to an audience, there is no hero or villain. Howard directs the film in such a way that we find ourselves supporting both of them at one point. The fact that we can’t pick sides contributes to the realism of the rivalry and makes the film fun to watch. It isn’t one sided at all. We can empathize with both of the characters, and that is really what viewers want; to form a connection with a character.

To those of you who don’t like racing, check out this movie. Really, it’s a stretch to consider this movie a racing film. It’s not about the race on the track, it’s about the race of life between two men who appear to hate each other but actually rely on and respect the other. This face paced, exciting film is definitely worth a watch. ~Vig

8.0 out of 10

Ron Howard’s a mixed bag. His producing credits range from Frost/Nixon to Katy Perry: Part of Me. And his production company has about the same of a record as his own. So, naturally, when I heard he was making a film called “Rush” about James Hunt, I was….indifferent. I didn’t really know what exactly to expect from a racing film directed by him.

Ron Howard

Ron Howard

But, you can’t ignore such a diverse portfolio as Ron Howard’s, so (Vignesh and) I decided to dive into this movie. And I can say one thing, I wasn’t disappointed whatsoever…

I’ll get the negative out of the way first, it’s like any other racing film. Competitor wins. Competitor keeps besting our protagonist but suddenly (GASP) our hero rises to the finish and beats his challenger.

But damn, does Rush do it well. The races are so grand and epic you can’t help but get invested it in it. Great soundwork as the cars roared right past the screen. They managed to milk every bit of reality and engagement they could out of every race and it never really lost its touch. If anything, it got progressively better.

Hemsworth and Bruhl, if they can play out one emotion, its want. Its that insatiable thirst to beat ones rival. They may occasionally have to work with okay dialogue but, boy, do they make it work. The most reliable source ever, Wikipedia tells me Niki Lauda really enjoyed this movie even if it may have been a not so flattering portrayal but who can blame him? You could have me be a murderer in my biopic and, if it were played this well, I’d be in the front row for twenty showings straight. Really, hope I can see these guys a lot more.

Sometimes, however, it gets to be too grand for its own good (And I mean that in the best way possible). Seeing your investment in the vents of a film escalate then deteriorate as we move between races and so/so stabs at personalizing the characters more can put a dent in it at times. Nonetheless, Hemsworth and Bruhl really step out of themselves and into their characters to give it their all which makes all the difference with (What can be) problematic pacing).

In that, Rush teaches a valuable lesson. Occasionally, especially in this genre, It’s OK to be “cliche”. You can certainly rectify it so long as you have a great mix of acting, visuals, a wonderful grip on the action, and, the icing on the cake, Hans Zimmer in the background. Seriously, I can’t think of a time when Zimmer has dissatisfied my ears yet.

Call me unprofessional (This is only a blog after all), but I am a huge sucker for a healthy mix of well-made action with some satisfactory emotions behind it. That basically makes me a fan of 90% of sports films from the past 30 years but I stand by it. I’m not particularly giving an A for effort, I’m just saying I totally got what I expected in an unexpected fashion.

Ron Howard, nobody can predict what the next project to be added to your eclectic portfolio will be but if its as good as this, I just might be comfortable with calling myself a “Ron Howard” fan. However, I won’t forgive you for your Katy Perry exploits.

~Zach

IMDB: 8.2
Metacritic: 75
Rotten Tomates: 89%