Avengers Age of Ultron

Well I’ve been lucky enough to see Avengers: Age of Ultron twice now (3D in the double feature and a 2D 9:15 am showing with my wonderful wife) so I suppose I should write about it.

Avengers Age of Ultron

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – Rated PG-13

When Tony Stark and Bruce Banner try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron, things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans.”

Avengers: Age of Ultron is magnificent. I’ve seen it twice in the theaters and am likely to watch it again. I also look forward to buying it on Blu-Ray. I will say that 3D did not add anything to the movie for me so I’d recommend against the extra charge. I saw a preview for Jurassic World in 3D and that looks like the 3D may be worthwhile.

That said, Age of Ultron is way too much. The CGI is seriously overwhelming. Whedon wanted a lot of the action to be freeflowing but I prefer setpieces properly designed where you can always tell what is happening (think Raiders of the Lost Ark). The CGI setpieces do showcase all of the team’s abilities and appearances but there is a serious case of information overload and in 3D, it is so much worse.

As a comic book fan, I love getting to see all the characters I grew up with appear on the big screen. Unfortunately the screenplay packs in so many, there is no room to breathe. We get The Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye, Thor, and Black Widow all returning from Avengers. We also get Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Ultron, Baron Strucker, and Vision new to the movie series. Also appearing are War Machine from Iron Man, Heimdall and Erik Selvig from Thor, Nick Fury and Maria Hill from S.H.I.E.L.D., and Peggy Carter and The Falcon from Captain America.

Since Vibranium figures prominently in the plot, Ulysses Klaue is introduced, played by Andy Serkis in a rare non-CGI appearance. I expect this is supposed to set up the future Black Panther movie. There was even a scene with Loki that got cut and of course a character not mentioned in the end credits scene.

Another nitpick, and it is a nitpick, is that the dream sequences seem poorly handled, especially the ones involving Thor. Several things are given hasty or even no explanation. One would think that that wouldn’t happen in a two hour and twenty minute movie but Whedon just stuffs and stuffs and stuffs until the movie is bursting.

Now back to the original verdict. Age of Ultron is marvelous. All the characters are given good character beats. Hawkeye who had the worst storyline in Avengers gets the best one here. We had a great Hulk vs. Thor battle last time so here we get a great Hulk vs. Iron Man (in Hulkbuster armor!) battle.

The battles are frantic and packed with state of the art CGI. They are a lot of fun if a little hard to follow. The humor in the script is great, including a nice running gag at Captain America’s expense. This is definitely a Joss Whedon film and I look forward to what he does next (sadly he’s done with this series).

If you like Marvel’s cinematic universe, you’ll like this film. Go see it and you only need to stay for the first post-credit sequence. There isn’t a second one as in the first movie. Joss felt that he could not top the shawarma scene.

The Silent House of the Damned Venom

Just some quick notes on a few horror movies on Netflix. Venom, Silent House, and The Damned are currently available on instant Netflix. If you only watch one, choose The Damned.

Venom

 

Venom (2005) – Rated R

Exploring the murky swamps outside New Orleans, a group of young people meet Mr. Jangles, a madman possessed by 13 souls killed by a voodoo priestess.”

Not much to say here. Venom is very typical slasher fare except for a very nice, involved backstory that is unfortunately not fleshed out enough. If you are aching for a slasher, this will fit the bill. Otherwise, don’t bother.

The Damned

 

The Damned (2013) – Rated R

Stranded during a flash flood, a family finds shelter at a guest house. But when they disobey the owner’s orders, they get a terrifying surprise.”

I don’t mind horror movies that hinge on a character making a stupid mistake. I mind when the characters are drawn in an unbelievable fashion and just continue to blindly ignore their own possibility for survival, or worse have a character that makes repeated omnisciently smart moves.

Yes, the initial decision that strands our travelers is rather stupid though believable but the rest of the movie unfolds in a rather intelligent fashion. The initial family quibbling is a little annoying but sets our dynamic in motion. The movie is in English with occasional subtitles and is quite an effective, little chiller. I’ll leave you to discover its charms.

Silent House

 

Silent House (2011) – Rated R

After getting trapped in her family’s moldering summer home, a young woman finds herself being stalked by a dark figure — and a secret from her past.

Silent House is a remake of a Uruguayan horror movie, La Casa Muda (2010). Both films primarily feature a rather nifty gimmick. They are constructed as if the movie was filmed in a single long take. It isn’t but that doesn’t detract from the novelty.

In that fashion, Silent House is sort of the opposite of found footage films. In general, found footage films use that gimmick out of laziness and/or a lack of funds. Silent House’s gimmick requires a lot of extra work.

On top of the clever gimmick (which keeps you watching), Silent House also has another big asset. This was the first released film of Elizabeth Olsen and she is quite good and really relatable. She had previously made Martha Marcy May Marlene but it had yet to receive a release.

Unfortunately, besides the gimmick, Elizabeth Olsen, and a fairly nice third act reveal, there isn’t much else to recommend Silent House. A lot of hoary horror tropes are trotted out and abused and a few eye-rolling moments are included. The pluses do outweigh the minuses and Silent House is worth a look.

Oldboy is Almost Human

Almost Human, Oldboy (2013), Oldboy (2003), Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, and Lady Vengeance are all currently available on instant Netflix

Oldboy

 

Oldboy (2013) – Rated R

After being unaccountably held captive for years, Joe Doucett is suddenly released. Now, his only mission is to hunt down and punish his captors.”

One Line Review: Watch the original, not this lame remake

Wow, what a misfire. What went wrong?

Oldboy stars Josh Brolin. Brolin was nominated for an Oscar for his role as the angry Dan White in Milk. He was great playing an everyman in over his head in No Country for Old Men, albeit overshadowed by Javier Bardem. He did an uncanny impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black 3. Obviously, Brolin is an actor with a lot of talent and able to handle a variety of characters. Why is he so terrible in the first twenty minutes of this film?

Oldboy is directed by twice Oscar-nominated Spike Lee. Clearly, he can direct but in Oldboy, the direction is very by-the-numbers. There is plenty of graphic violence as well as a rape and a threatened rape. Some of this violence is quite comical though I am not sure that it was meant to be. The ending would have been great had the film built in power. Instead the ending is botched.

The original Oldboy is much better. If you don’t mind subtitles then you should go watch that. It is the middle part of Chan-wook Park’s Vengeance Trilogy though only the themes are related. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) is the starter and Lady Vengeance (2005) finishes up the trilogy. All are currently available on instant Netflix.

It is not that Lee’s Oldboy is bad, merely pointless. It says nothing new and everywhere it deviates from the original is a misstep. Elizabeth Olsen is just fine but Samuel L. Jackson is clearly collecting a paycheck (the golfing in the area must have been good) and Sharlto Copley overacts terribly.

Almost Human

Almost Human (2013) – Not rated

Two years after disappearing in a blinding flash of blue light, a young lumberjack returns to rural Maine and embarks on a murderous rampage.”

Almost Human borrows liberally from a large number of science fiction movies but boils down to “what if we filmed x as if it were an 80s slasher movie”. The x I will leave as a bit of a surprise though it is quickly obvious.

There is plenty wrong with Almost Human but for a low-budget film (with a larger advertising budget), it is entertaining. All of the many gore effects are practical, resulting in several nice setpieces. The acting ranges from okay to not so okay but if you want a low-budget horror movie, Almost Human is worth a look.

 

Godzilla WYSIWYG

I took my wife to go see Godzilla this past weekend and then went again with my daughter on Monday.

Godzilla

 

Godzilla (2014) – Rated PG-13

The world’s most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.

You’re not fooling anybody when you say that what happened was a “natural disaster,”. You’re lying! It was not an earthquake, it wasn’t a typhoon! Because what’s really happening is that you’re hiding something out there! And it is going to send us back to the Stone Age! God help us all…

Clearly an executive saw Gareth Edwards’ 2010 film, Monsters. He wanted that film, only he wanted Godzilla in it. Lo and behold, Godzilla 2014 was born. WYSIWYG – what you see is what you get. This Godzilla film is pretty much exactly what you would expect from a melding of Monsters with the Godzilla franchise.

Unfortunately that is not always a good thing. As with Monsters, the humans are the focus of the picture. While this is good from an audience sympathy perspective, it is terrible from a desire to see monsters smashing scenery point-of-view.

Instead of a normal three act structure, Godzilla consists of two parts. The first half deals with humans and no monsters at all are seen. Yes, opening credits aside, Godzilla neither appears nor is even discussed for almost the first half of the movie.

This is a shame because the trailer basically lies. It not only gives you the impression that there is plenty of monster violence but also that Bryan Cranston is the star. Bryan Cranston is easily the best actor in the film but his screen time is very limited. I think he is just an excuse to tide you over until monsters show up.

Unfortunately our lead actor is Aaron Taylor-Johnson. While I didn’t think he was bad in Kick Ass, he is absolutely terrible here. You know you have a problem when not one but two (not especially good) child actors are better than you. Ken Watanabe looks pained at every ridiculous line he has to utter.

The script is an utter mess, jumping through various logistical hoops to get Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) into every scene, from Japan to Hawaii to California. When his son is not with him to be placed in peril, another child is separated from his parents just so Ford can rescue him.

The second half features plenty of wonderful CGI and rock ’em, sock ’em monsters. This assumes you have managed to stay awake through the first part. Gareth Edwards has a lot of wonderful visuals. He also loves reflections in water, glass, mirrors, and visors. The monster action is seen up close (though not as close as Pacific Rim), in fog and smoke, via telecast, from overhead, etc.and is very inventive.

While the movie is a mess, has terrible acting, and is downright dull for the first half, I still really enjoyed the second half. Just concentrate on enjoying your snacks during the first half.