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.

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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.

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American Hustle

We hope everyone enjoyed their New Year. So long to 2013, a fantastic year for movies. We will soon be releasing our favorite/least favorite movies of the year, but this week we take a look at Oscar contender American Hustle, directed by David O. Russell, starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Jeremy Renner. It is rated R for language, sexual content, and brief violence.

American Hustle tells the story of two con artists, Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and his partner, and lover, Sydney Prosser (Adams). Sydney poses as a British women, “Lady Edith Greensley” in order to attract investors, and to fuel their con. They are very successfully, despite the insecurity presented by Rosenfeld’s crazy wife Rosalyn (Lawrence), who Irving refuses to divorce due to the presence of their son.

Once the two are caught by the FBI, they are forced to work with federal agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper) in order to catch corrupt politicians and mafia members, including prominent New Jersey politician Carmine Polito (Renner). Between his romantic struggles with two women, disdain for DiMaso, and a budding fondness for Polito, Irving struggles to survive with these new challenges he must face.

6 out of 10

I was pretty hyped for American Hustle, and why shouldn’t I have been? Bale, Adams, Cooper, Lawrence, and Renner all in a move directed by the fantastic David O. Russell. The trailer dazzled me as well. Then critics praised it. I was excited. But after seeing the movie, I honestly couldn’t tell whether I was impressed or not.

Let me start off by saying this: the acting is fantastic, the direction is fantastic, and the cinematography, fantastic. Each of the 4 lead actors could easily get nominated for an Oscar, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lawrence or Adams win. The chemistry between the group is really good, and each of them is able to display the growth and development this movie aimed for.

In addition, the direction and the cinematography are beautiful. Russell does a great job of telling the story in a way that the audience is able to create their own perspective and their own point of view on what’s going on, in addition to understanding Christian Bale’s character’s, the narrator, point of view. The cinematography is dazzling as well. It really allows you to get a glimpse of what the time period is like but also doesn’t focus on that too much, and is still able to help with the characters and their emotions.

That being said, there are plenty of plot things about this movie that really concerned me. Being completely honest, I did not like the first hour and a half of this movie even though the characters are so good. The plot made no sense, I was so confused and I did not know where the movie was going. It had no point. I did not know what this movie was going to be about, even though the main conflict had been introduced. I was unable to stay captivated. I almost dozed off in the middle of it, it really dragged. The beginning couldn’t get me into it, in the middle still couldn’t get me into it.

They did manage to salvage the ending. I remember audibly gasping at what happened in the end – and I was laughing too, that’s something else about this movie that was really good. It featured really well written comedic moments that weren’t excessive. Anyhow, the ending finally provided the movie with the point. It wasn’t about the hustle, it wasn’t about the love triangle, it wasn’t about the plot. It was about the characters. Those characters had developed so much, and the emotions were so relevant, especially in Christian Bale’s character. By the end, I felt sympathy for Bale’s character. *Spoilers ahead* Even though he won the girl and he won the scam, he lost a friend and that’s what mattered to him. Those emotions were so prevalent, so raw, and it really helped punctuate the ending this movie. Did he win, or did he lose?

Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld

Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld

This is where I get confused. I liked a lot of aspects of the film… But i was bored for almost the entirety of the film. And this isn’t like Lincoln where I can expect to be bored. I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the movie because of it’s (very) poor story, something that was prevalent for a majority of the movie. The movie ended up being about the characters’ growth, which isn’t a problem in the slightest. Regardless, this still doesn’t take away from the disappointment of the plot, especially seeing how that was a focal point, whereas other movies clearly prioritize characters, and the plot isn’t as important. A 7 may seem kinda low after all the good things I said, but with all the hype, I was kind of let down. The mundane plot was just too much for me.

I guess I was the one hustled in the end.
~Vig

9 out of 10

If you think that the genre of criminal dramas must inherently involve dark situations, downward spirals, and seriously sociopathic characters then I highly suggest you check out American Hustle.

For Hustle is indisputable evidence that realism and emotional interaction with the audience do not necessarily warrant a barrage of dramatic moments and dark, dark, dark issues. Hustle tackles an array of the usual commentaries on greed and criminal power while some how being wildly funny, taking every advantage of its very talented cast (Of which Bradley Cooper stood out to me).

Adams (left), Cooper, Renner, Bale, Lawrence (right)

Adams (left), Cooper, Renner, Bale, Lawrence (right)

We’ll start with Cooper, in fact. Its universally agreeable that Bradley Cooper has grown immensely as an actor. Within three years, he effortlessly made the leap from passable films like Yes Man (You remember that? Good. Neither do I.) to remarkable showcases like Silver Linings Playbook. If his range was at all in question, then get ready for delivery after delivery to give an answer. Here, we see him play Richie, an FBI agent plagued with an insatiable desire to get himself in the headlines. Cooper, without spoiling too much, breathlessly bounces between a somewhat likable man to an utter (Entertaining to say the least) psycho. He blurs the lines between FBI agents and the people they chase all the while.

In fact, empathy for every character plays a huge part in what makes this movie the masterwork it is. Christian Bale, Jeremey Renner, Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams all evoke feelings that their character is trapped. The criminals may use humor (It’s their strongest tool after all!) as a coping mechanism but they’re ultimately stuck in the complex situations they’ve managed to drag themselves into. That’s not to contradict what I mentioned in the beginning of this review, as the film still manages to believably and appropriately

Yet what really ties the film together, even as it plods through some of its muddier scenes, is the beautifully done scenery and the somewhat kinetic directing. Scenery choice is one of the most underrated parts of filmmaking and boy does this film exemplify why it definitely shouldn’t be put on the back burner. The color palette and set pieces really wrap the viewer into the decade and give a sense of excess mixed with the unsettling anxiety a lot of the characters feel in their own tense situations.

Then there’s the camera movement. If you were to count, I don’t believe the camera will hold on any shot longer than three seconds without tightening, widening or switching perspectives all together. Usually, this wouldn’t give any leeway to absorb the scenery (Especially in a rich film like this) but it keeps the film moving even if there’s a sense that it is table setting for the plot or seemingly taking a break from its complex story. Even if does move fast, it does certainly give enough time for the average audience member to observe just not a terribly long amount.

Now, shall we address the impending Hollywood showdowns? American Hustle, in my view may sweep plenty of award shows with enough momentum but there is a certain bias against comedy and drawn-out plot payoffs as people are generally more impressed with something that can get them in suspense faster, even if it does feel somewhat cheap (We’ll delve into that if another movie that uses this comes up).

Overall, this is absolutely worth it. It can’t really be placed into one genre so just see it and attempt the impossible challenge of categorizing it yourself. It’ll most likely land in the “memorable” category no matter what.

By the way, was that Louis C.K.?
~Zach

IMDB: 7.3
Metacritic: 90
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%