Monthly Archives: April 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Age of Awesome

I went to see Avengers twice last weekend and there are 2 reasons for that. Firstly; all Marvel Studio films have become a sink hole that just sucks in everyone’s money away from other films so there were no other films of interest being released. Secondly Age of Ultron is probably the best superhero film ever made.

Now before you tell me I’m wrong let me just clarify that this isn’t the best film about superheros but it is the best superhero-y-ness displayed on film. Each of the Avengers really does feel like a superhero Thor fires electricity, Cap throws a motorbike, Hulk runs through a building, Black widow goes to town with some shock sticks, Iron Man is Iron Man and Hawkeye is… well he’s still not done quite right. 😦

On top of the fact that each of the Avengers is a bad-ass there is a real camaraderie between the actors that really shines through. The team really do feel like a team and this is achieved by the characters double/triple teaming enemies in fight scenes whether it be other people using or throwing Caps shield or Thor and Iron man firing lightning/repulsar beams at the same enemy.

This clique is also achieved by the – in places laugh out loud – banter between the cast. Nowhere is this more apparent than in a beautiful scene where Thor (Chris Hemsworth) challenges the team to lift his hammer. To those who don’t know; only the worthy can lift the hammer. Everyone tries to lift the hammer and fails but it’s the sublime look of fear in Chris Hemsworth’s face as Chris Evans (Captain America) tries to lift it thinking that Cap might be able to lift his Hammer and then the nervous laugh as he fails to lift it that is a joy to watch.

I’ve mentioned that the film is about a superhero-y as it gets so obviously the action is in the film is awesome but this becomes one of it’s greatest downfalls as there is often so much going on all the time that it’s kind of hard to keep up. If you try and keep up it starts to wear you out. Seeing it a second time had the benefit of being able to take more of it in and I have to say I found it as enjoyable the second time round as the first.

It’s not all action though. The writers have actually done something rather genius to still keep the storyline feeling fresh. Obviously we have had 3 Iron Man films some of which feature Black Widow, 2 Cap films which also feature Black widow, 2 Hulk films and 2 Thor films so we know all the main characters and their origins except for Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). This is exactly where the film lands it’s focus. So if, like me, are a Hawkeye fan you’ll certainly like where the story goes.

Even if you aren’t a fan of Hawkeye it keeps the film’s plot feeling fresh and entertaining which is always the worry with so many Marvel films over the last few years. Furthermore we see a few extra steps towards the ultimate goal that has been intricately and fantastically woven since the first Iron Man film. I’m pretty sure I mentioned it in a previous review but you really have to give Marvel Studios credit for such a well structured plan for their films which just go from strength to strength.

In Age of Ultron we have a few new characters which I have mixed feelings on. Firstly we have Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and the Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) who are twins. They weren’t given enough lines and or back story to really make a huge impact but they are a good addition to the film as their powers are so different to what we have seen before that it gives the action some additional breadth.

Then we have Ultron who is best described as a confused sentient robot who thinks that wiping out most of humanity is the best way to achieve peace. I started not liking the character but he grew on me as the film went on. His sociopathic tendencies interlaced with a strange naievity and innocence to the world is strangely fascinating. The biggest problem with Ultron is that he never feels threatening. You never think he could beat all of the Avengers or even any of them and that’s what the best superhero films have: a great villain.

Finally we have Vision who is part human tissue and part machine created by Ultron. I personally think Vision is fantastic they have once again nailed the casting, look and personality of the character. Vision is probably my favourite character in the film.

What has been assembled is another cracking Marvel film that not only plays to the strengths of a team movie complete with a fresh batch of heroes but a film that manages to avoid the pitfalls of a franchise incumbent with sequels. It’s not perfect but if you are looking for a live action version of an Avengers Comic this films lays it down with an iron fist.

Go See

  • Plot still feels fresh
  • Best depiction of superhero abilities in any film
  • Vision

Avoid

  • If for some bizarre reason you have no soul and don’t enjoy superhero films?!
  • There is a lot to take in – almost too much in some scenes
  • Ultron never feels like a real threat

Overall

4-5-stars

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Child 44

Send This One to the Gulag

Child 44 is based on a book which, amazingly, is called Child 44 and this is where it’s downfalls stem from.

The film actually reminds me of Cloud Atlas in this respect. The film tries to capture all the key points of the story but obviously can’t depict some of the minor details that actually pull the story together into a coherent piece of work. In short, I had little idea what was going on in the film.

Perhaps if you understand a lot about the political and social climate of 1950’s Russia as well as the geographical locations of many Russian cities but I guess I fell asleep in that class at school.

The film starts off stating something about the Ukraine and then cuts to a young Tom Hardy running away from an orphanage. So was he from the Ukraine? Never found that out. He then joins the army and the next thing we know is he is working for the ‘police’ where he just rounds up people that Stalin doesn’t like. Unfortunately for them they are always guilty. How and why he gets to this point is again left in a medium sized void which renders the first 20 mins virtually irrelevant.

That said, it’s at this point that the film starts to pick up as one of the supposed spies that Hardy has to investigate is his own wife played by Noomi Rapace. When Hardy defends is wife they are exiled and not killed, thanks to his reputation, to a remote part of Russia where the relationship starts to fray.

Oh wait, Hardy’s friend’s son is also murdered and his old colleague has taken Hardy’s place… you know what, fuck this, I’m even bored of describing such a disjointed plot so you must be bored reading.

On the note of murder; murder doesn’t exist in Stalin’s utopia. Of course, it does, but suggesting it does means a date night with a blindfold, a high powered rifle and a cleanup squad so everyone is scared to speak out and this is actually where the film excels. It does a great job of creating a really oppressive atmosphere dripping with paranoia. This helps to cast a question of who, if anyone, is trustworthy but even so it cannot save the misgivings of a plot that is simply better suited to being an episodic TV show.

Another aspect of the film that, if you are like me, will start to annoy you is the inconsistent accents. Hardy is actually very good but Rapace in particular seems to flit between British, French and Russian accents, which left me just wanting her to be like a child: seen and not heard.

The chemistry between Hardy and Repace is ok but really isn’t helped by the storyline that does little to build on the idea that Repace is unhappy with Hardy and spends too little time to develop where this goes.

So I’ve thrown a lot of words on e-paper but I still haven’t even got to the main plot line of the film. There is a child killer on the loose and Hardy wants to catch him – his friend’s son being one of the victims. The most victims were found halfway between Moscow and Volsk which is probably where I lost you, Volsk?  What is a Volsk and how many is halfway? The film spends so long on all other plot points that again the killer and murders become underdeveloped and hollow. In fact the main point of the film really only get’s going about an hour into the film leaving very little time to develop what could have been an excellent thriller.

Near the end of the film we find out that apparently the killer knows who Hardy is but good luck finding out. We can only assume that he was in the same orphange? Is this why the killer has psychotic episodes and self abasement? We can only assume.

I love films that leave questions; Inception being a stellar example of this, but this film left too many questions. Although atmospheric and well shot the sporadic nature of the plot is a such a hindrance that unless you have read the book it’s probably best to spend your money on some Russian geopgraphy lessons… or Vodka.

Go See

  • Atmospherically great
  • Tom Hardy is good as ever
  • Good visual aesthetic

Avoid

  • Factured plot lines makes it hard to get invested in the film
  • Questionable accents
  • Does a poor job of world building

Overall

1-5-stars

Fast & Furious 7

Ka-Booms and Zooms

After a three month hiatus, whilst I popped over to southeast Asia, I’m back. A new Cineworld Unlimited card has been bought and I’m ready for more time with my second lover: the cinema.

As is the way with this series; Fast & Furious 7 tries to take the previous installment and slap a huge turbocharger on it. The film has a self awareness of this fact as well with Roman (Tyrese Gibson) stating that he had taken down a tank and a plane and now he’s fighting spaceships!

It’s safe to say this is yet another big dumb action movie with no real surprises but is of course peppered with thrills and spills. The biggest of these is naturally at the end of the film where the crew is being hunted by a fighter drone – not a spaceship. Obviously car vs plane chases are the norm here… oh yeah, and explosions. There are other notable thrills as well. My personal favourite was Toretto (Vin Diesel) and O’Connor (Paul Walker) jumping a car between buildings in Dubai. It is delightfully bonkers.

The scene is almost as bonkers as the films plot but unfortunately the plot isn’t quite so delightful. In short Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is hunting the crew and being ex special forces he, himself, is difficult to find. In order to track down Deckard Shaw the crew need the help of a big brother type surveillance programme called the ‘God’s eye’ written by a hacker known as Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel). So find Ramsey, get God’s eye, find Shaw, stop shaw.

It’s a piss poor plot especially seeing as the programme can instantly access any networked camera or listening device and magically just find any person but let’s face it you aren’t watching FF7 for the believable and gripping plot. Thankfully you aren’t watching it for the acting either as our newcomer Ramsey is possibly the least believable hacker ever depicted on screen but I would assume the criteria for the role was simply ‘she must be a hot chick’. The plot is also highly reliant on people/actions of the previous films and if, like me, you have watched all the fast and furions films but not really paid too much attention to each then you may have questions rattling around your head? Who is he again? Do they know each other? When did this happen?

Shaw, the other newcomer to the series, is a bit of a let down too. Don’t get me wrong, Statham makes for a good villain but his initial fight with the rock is not the high level of dynamic fighting you expect from Statham in something like the transporter and that’s a shame because he looks good throwing a punch. Don’t get too disappointed though because the fighting is still quite good. More importantly though Tony Jaa makes an appearance in FF7 and well… Tony Jaa. TONY JAA!!!

Shaw also turns up everywhere like a creepy stalker – although i’m not really sure that the word stalker needs to be qualified with the word creepy but I digress – I mean being ex special CI5 Marine beret forces or whatever he was I’m sure he has his methods of tracking the crew down. The problem comes when this is linked to the rest of the plot which focuses on the crew desperately trying to get a method of finding Shaw but why bother when he is literally everywhere all the time. Simply having Statham appear on screen for less time would have made for a better film and a better villain.

Still, we’ve established that the action scenes are rockin’. Speaking of rocks; Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson is amazing in this film taking cues from Arnold Schwarzneggar, only with more vocal range, but how can you not love this cartoon of a character? No?! Breaking off and arm cast by simply flexing or delivering lines like ‘woman, I am the cavalry’ is worth the ticket price alone.

The last point to touch upon is that this is obviously Paul Walker’s last film before his untimely death. The film still feels complete so the writing/directing teams have either done a good job to fit the film around what scenes weren’t filmed or they managed to get all the scenes done before Paul passed away. There is an obligatory montage scene of Paul throughout the Fast & Furious films which is meant to be a touching tribute but half of the montage is Vin Diesel saying inspiriational lines to the crew so the tribute looses some of it’s impact in my opinion which is a shame.

Still, all in all it’s a good fun film to watch. It’s certainly better than the previous film which had the rubbish plane take off chase scene that took over 10 minutes and would need something like 30 miles of runway. It is rife with car porn, bikini clad ladies, explosions, gear shifting, Tony Jaa and mini-guns so yes you should absolutely see this but don’t expect anything particularly high brow, memorable or unfortunately in the case of Paul Walkers tribute: touching.

Go See

  • Car porn, bikinis and mini-guns
  • Paul Walker’s last film
  • The Dubai car jump scene

Avoid

  • If you are looking for Oscar fodder
  • If you haven’t seen the previous films
  • The plot is terrifyingly bad

Overall

3-5-stars