Ant-Man (Movie Review)

“They’ve done studies, you know. 60% of the time, it shrinks… every time!

When this movie inevitably dominates the box office, we all need to learn to stop doubting the film potential of the bottom of Marvel’s barrel. Really, Guardians of the Galaxy should’ve been the first hint that we should stop being so damn cynical about unknown IP’s anyways.

 Ant-Man

Directed by: Peyton Reed

Produced by: Kevin Feige

Screenplay by: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, Paul Rudd

Story by: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish

Genres: Superhero, Heist comedy

Based on: Ant-Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby

Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Pena, T.I.

Music by: Christophe Beck

Plot: After serving several years of a jail sentence for breaking into his corrupt ex-employer’s home and wrecking his car, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) just wants to go straight and spend time with his estranged daughter, who loves him to death. Unfortunately, Lang’s ex-wife (Judy Greer) and her new husband (Bobby Cannavale) won’t let him see her until he proves that he can lead a stable life, which is tough to do when you’re a convicted felon who nobody will hire after spending three years in San Quentin. Who knew, right?

Down on his luck, Lang meets a retired, genius scientist named Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) who wants him to to utilize his excellent burglary skills (As well as a suit that allows him to shrink to the size of a motherfucking ant) in order to break into Pym’s old company and stop the new owner, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), from weaponizing a similar technology to the Ant-Man suit and selling it to less-than savoury criminal elements.

It would be an understatement to say that the announcement of a film based on a Marvel D-lister like Ant-Man caught some people off guard.

He’s not even one of the cool D-listers.

Even more bizarre was the announcement of the director: Edgar Wright, the near-genius behind the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy an Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which are both must-see comedies, in my correct opinion.

I fucking adore this scene.

Fanboys the world over were were intrigued by this tantalizing possibility for a potentially totally different superhero movie in a genre that is prone to serious repetition over time.

And then, Wright got shit-canned over creative differences and was replaced by the director of Yes Man.

The tremendous success of Guardians of the Galaxy restored some faith in Marvel’s ability to sell its second (Or third, or fourth, or fifth…) string character, but what if that was just lightning in a bottle? What if the production problems behind the screen were too much for Paul Rudd and the Wright-penned script to overcome?

Well, as Box Office Mojo and Rotten Tomatoes can testify, superhero fans probably aren’t giving the Marvel Machine enough credit.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that the fact that this movie essentially had two directors and two sets of writers (Wright/Cornish and Rudd/McKay) doesn’t affect the movie, because it does. During the first act of Ant-Man, it feels either disoriented or slow. It was very entertaining, sure, but I couldn’t help feeling like it was taking too much time to get to the cool action and humour, while it was focusing too long on Paul /rudd’s relationship with his daughter (Who, I swear, was genetically engineered in a lab somewhere in order to create the most adorable kid ever). It’s not bad, per se, it just gets to the point where the obligatory establishment of Scott’s flawed family dynamic kind of wears out its welcome.

That isn’t to say that it’s poorly written, though. I mean, the story’s predictable as hell, but the character dialogue is very, very entertaining. Marvel movies have always been funny, but the humour has always taken a backseat to the superheroing. Ant-Man is a straight-up heist comedy. Think Ocean’s Eleven meets Iron Man. Now, think of a movie that’s exactly as awesome as that sounds.

Ant-Man is consistently funny, as well as downright hilarious on several occasions, without stepping on the more dramatic or action-oriented moments.

Of course, a script as sharp as this one is really only as effective as its cast and, thankfully, they all brought their A-game (With one exception that we’ll get to later). Much like Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy, Paul Rudd brings plenty of energy, humour and charisma , which, y’know, is to be expected from the Sex Panther himself, but he also establishes himself as a convincing superhero. Admittedly, the fact that this movie makes use of a lot of CGI helps (Albeit, not nearly as much as the other MCU productions), but the point is, I definitely bought him as Ant-Man. There, I said it. I buy Paul Rudd as the goddamn Ant-Man.

There’s another thing to add to the list of things most people never expect to say in their lifetime.

Evangeline Lilly (Kate from Lost) does a fine job as Hope Van Dyne, Hank Pym’s daughter, though I can’t help but feel that she could’ve been utilized a bit more. She’s a good, solid actress and it’s nice that she’s getting a fairly prominent role in this enormous franchise. Michael Pena (Anybody know how to put the Spanish accent on the N? I’m too lazy to look it up) is downright hilarious, especially in one scene that seems very Edgar-Wright-esque to me (I won’t spoil it). He gets some good chemistry going with Rudd and his criminal buddies, David Dastmalchian and T.I., who are both great, and get some good lines in, never mind the fact that one is unknown and the other is, you know, a rapper.

With all due respect to 50 Cent.

Actually, fuck 50 Cent. That guy’s a skeeve.

It would’ve been easy for Michael Douglas to phone this one in, but he also brings it to this one, serving as the emotional lightning rod of the movie, and he even gets a few badass moments of his own.

Wow, I’m just realizing now that this is the first Marvel movie in a while whose main characters are mostly normal, non-powered people.

One of the reasons Ant-Man is so obscure is that his power set isn’t exactly the sexiest. Sure, he’s a founding Avenger (In the comics), but compared to, say, Hulk or Thor, the power to shrink to the size of a dime isn’t the most appealing, so this movie really had to sell me on that skill set. Specifically, by not simply copying/pasting the effects from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Whatever happened to Rick Moranis, anyways?

I had no reason to fear, though, because the visual effects are excellent. At only one or two points did I feel like the CGI was a bit more noticeable than it should’ve been, and believability is extremely important when the entire premise of the movie is Paul Rudd shrinking to the size of an M&M and interacting with CG insects. Thankfully, the shrinking mechanism (Heh) works absolutely seamlessly, and makes for some extremely creative action scenes that prove that even a hero with as “boring” a skill set as Ant-Man’s can be a total badass.

On an unrelated note, is Judy Greer just shooting for forgettable ancillary characters now?

I didn’t say that, I’m just saying your career choices have been- Ah, fuck it. Moving on.

Unfortunately, my biggest problem with the film (And it is a pretty big one) is the villain, Yellowjacket.

Okay, this is completely unrelated, and you can skip this section of bold text if you really want, but the geek in me can’t resist talking about this. 

So, Scott Lang is this movie’s Ant-Man, but the original Ant-Man (In both the comics and the movie) is Hank Pym, and, in the comics, he’s a founding Avenger, being about the same age as, say, Tony Stark. While his original moniker was Ant-Man, he eventually learned to grow to enormous sizes, and adopted the name Giant-Man, and then Goliath. When he was going through some issues (His guilt over creating Ultron, both his bipolar disorder and heart problems due to prolonged exposure to the particles that give him his power) he adopted the name Yellowjacket (Darren Cross is an entirely different character from Yellowjacket in the comics). It was during this period that he left his most notable mark on comic book hist- OH MY GOD!!!

Who says DC has all the dark, disturbed heroes?

And now you see why they maybe didn’t use Hank Pym as the protagonist. Moving right along!!!

Corey Stoll’s performance is over-the-top, which is fine, but i’d rather that energy be spent on an entertaining villain. This character. Just. Does. Not. Do it for me. After Ultron, Marvel appears to be receding back into Generic Boring Villain Syndrome again. All that I said before about this movie being well-written doesn’t really apply to Yellowjacket. I guess, if you’re not tired of the “Unstable genius wants to be evil for some unspecified reason) trope, then Darren Cross might do it for you. If not, then, well, he’s probably not what you came to see, anyways.

Cool character design, though.

Overall; A refreshing take on the genre amidst the aliens, robots and explosions, Ant-Man is perfect for those who may be going through a dreaded case of superhero fatigue.

Rating: 8.0/10

Next from Marvel: Squirrel Girl- The Movie!!!

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Movie Review)

This movie is 141 minutes long. And they had to cut an hour. Think about that for a sec, will ya?

Before Age of Ultron, I had to do four major exams and a French oral presentation. That made May 1st one of those days that was simultaneously the best and worst day ever.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Directed by: Joss Whedon

Produced by: Kevin Feige

Written by: Joss Whedon

Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Genre: Superhero

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany

Music by: Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman

Plot: The Avengers; Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, have been at their superheroing ways for a while now, fighting evil wherever it may rear its ugly head. However, after a somewhat traumatic mission in the fictional Eastern European nation of Sokovia or whatever (Where the official language is apparently heavily accented English),Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) decides that what the world needs is not the Avengers, but a super-powerful artificial intelligence whose goal is to achieve world peace by any means necessary. This is a wholly original concept that has never been attempted before in fiction, right?

Right!

Stark and Dr. Banner (Mark Ruffalo) accidentally create an A.I. named Ultron (James Spader) who, as anybody with half a brain could predict, is overwhelmed with a god complex, concluding that, since humans are the ones screwing up the world, the only way to ensure world peace is to destroy all humans, particularly the Avengers. Not exactly taking his kindly, the Avengers set out to defeat Ultron, but find themselves contending with divisions within the team, two mysterious twins working with Ultron, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) and the mysterious android named the Vision (Paul Bettany).

If that sounds like a lot of stuff going on, it’s because it kind of is. It’s become a growing trend among superhero movies lately to really up the amount of complicated subplots. I guess it makes sense that an extended universe would have more complicated storylines. You can’t merely have Superman saving Lois Lane anymore, you must have Captain America destroying HYDRA, have that tie in with a damn TV show, and have THAT tie into a movie that stars Vin Diesel as a fucking talking tree.

While I wouldn’t go so far as saying that you needed to have watched the other Marvel movies in order to understand this one, there are still some issues to be found in Age of Ultron. Joss Whedon has said that there is one hour of footage that had to be cut in order to get the movie down to a manageable length, and I commend him for that, because who wants to see a three and a half hour long superhero movie?

Besides me, I mean.

That said, during the second act, the movie starts feeling a bit rushed, trying to squeeze in development  and plot points that kind of come out of nowhere. There’s an entire sequence involving Thor that tries to serve as both an advancement of the plot and a setup for Thor: Ragnarok (Get hyped for that November 3, 2017 release date!!!) and… It doesn’t work. There’s just not enough explained. I understand part of the conclusion that Thor comes to during the subplot, but I’ll be damned if I know what happened up until that point. Something about Asgard, Stellan Skarsgard, Chris Hemsworth shirtless in a pool of water, whatever. Until the extended edition comes our on Blu-Ray (Please???), I can’t really give this movie points for flawlessly cohesive storytelling.

Also, while I’ll get into Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch a little later, their accents didn’t do it for me at all. Who knows though, maybe the official language of Sokovia is English spoken with a cartoonish Russian accent? Fuck if I know.

I’m done dicking around, though. What did I think of Age of Ultron as a whole?

I fucking love it.

I know, I know, I’m predictable, but this movie…. It’s just so cool, you guys.

Yes, in terms of story, it’s not the most narratively well done, and the “Evil A.I” has been done to death, but if you’re really bothered by that when watching… You were probably too far gone to enjoy the movie in the first place.

While the action is great, as one would expect from most summer blockbusters nowadays, and the CGI is on point (… Save for some moments in the opening action sequence), this movie, even more than the first Avengers, lives and dies on its larger than-life characters and personalities.

Some people assumed from the trailers that Age of Ultron was going to be yet another goddamn “dark and gritty” superhero movie, and while it does have some heavy moments, its not a dark movie. Like, at all. It has more or less the same tone and atmosphere as the first one, just with, you know, a threatening villain.

Again, thanks to the trailer, many people assumed that Ultron would be the most threatening villain in the MCU to date, based on his menacing appearance and penchant for monologuing. Once again, that’s kind of misleading. While Ultron is really cool, and James Spader is downright fantastic, he was also, completely unexpectedly, really damn funny in an appropriately twisted, dark way, which makes sense, when you consider that he was created by Tony Stark. In addition to that, he’s not entirely a creature of logic, he could be seen as a child with a very black-and-white view of morality. That’s a pretty good way to distinguish him from the humorless “Evil A.I.” archetype that fiction has beaten to death at this point.

“Dave…. Pull my finger…”

What I’m most impressed with, though, is what they did with the main characters. Actually, scratch that, Captain America, Thor and Iron Man are just as awesome and well-written as they were before, but the secondary Avengers, for lack of a better term, get a whole hell of a lot more interesting. Hulk and Black Widow have a relationship that some people are calling forced, but I think it helps develop their character arcs a little more. especially since we haven’t had a solo Hulk movie for a while, and fans are still holding out for the Black Widow solo movie that is growing more and more unlikely by the minute.

IT’S SCARLETT JOHANSSON AS A SEXY RUSSIAN SPY!!! HOW DOES THIS NOT WRITE ITSELF!!!!????

There was definitely a more PC way to phrase that caption, but my point still stands.

The surprising one for me (And a whole lot of other people) was Hawkeye, who was pretty much nondescript in the first movie, was my favourite character in this movie. Without getting spoiler-y… He’s a scene stealer. Hawkeye is a scene stealer. God, this movie is bizarre.

Lastly, the new characters are, big surprise, pretty damn great. The Vision, without spoiling any details, is fucking awesome, and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are also good. While I wouldn’t say that this Quicksilver is as entertaining as the one in Days of Future Past, but this one has a pretty enjoyable personality that Aaron Taylor-Johnson has a lot of fun with. (Fun fact: Taylor-Johnson was the star of Kick-Ass, while Evan Peters, who played Quicksilver in Days of Future Past, played Taylor-Johnson’s friend in Kick-Ass. Full circle, or whatever.

Also, I have a crush on Elizabeth Olsen. I didn’t know that before today.

Her performance makes this movie the best project an Olsen sister has ever been associated with.

Overall: Age of Ultron delivers as a summer blockbuster on every sustainable level, being almost as good as the first movie. Shame the mid-credits scene sucks balls.

Rating: 9/10

“Wait’ll they get a load of me…”

Guardians of the Galaxy (Movie Review)

 

Am I alone in thinking that Ronan’s face paint makes him look kind of adorable?

Sooo……Better late than never!?!?

 

Guardians of the Galaxy

Directed by: James Gunn

Produced by: Kevin Feige

Screenplay by: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman

Based on: Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Franchise: Marvel Cinematic Universe (Tenth installment)

Genres: Superhero, Science fiction

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael  Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro

Music by: Tyler Bates

 

 

Plot: Twenty-six years after he was abducted and adopted by a group of intergalactic space pirates led by Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), now a fully-fledged outlaw, has gone rogue, trying to steal a mystical orb of sorts and hopefully make some money off of it. However, his plan hits a snag when he is sent to…Uh, space prison, I guess, by the famed Nova Corps of Planet Xandar. While in the clink, he meets several interesting characters, namely a notorious assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a hyper-violent, vengeful badass named Drax (Dave Bautista), a tough-talking, trigger-happy genetically altered racoon bounty hunter named Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and finally, Rocket’s sweet-natured sidekick, a giant talking tree named Groot (Vin Diesel).

Yes, Marvel greenlit this movie instead of, say, a Black Panther or Captain Marvel movie. Two years ago, that line of reasoning was kind of confusing to everybody, wasn’t it?

Anyways, this motley group of intergalactic rejects discovers that this orb has a little bit more to it than being a shiny thing they can sell for cash, and they must travel across the galaxy in order to keep it from falling into the hands of a genocidal maniac and terrorist, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) and his henchmen, Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Korath (Djimon Hounsou).

This month, Marvel and Disney proved that not only can they adapt pretty much any D-list product from the annals of Marvel’s archive into a movie, they will also make a shit-ton of money off of it, and get every critic to cream themselves over it. The movie is a soli 92% over on Rotten Tomatoes and is on pace to become the highest grossing movie of the year in the U.S. and Canada, although it’s still expected to fall short of the billion dollars that Transformers: Age of Extinction made internationally.

Thanks for that, China. Fucking assholes.

So, once again, the question must be asked: Do I think that this movie as good as the critics say? Or is it just a overrated, overblown corporate CGI turd that somehow brainwashed critics into liking it?

Of course I loved it. I’m not made of stone. There are a couple big flaws though, so let’s get them out of the way first.

The first time I saw this film, I was kinda thrown off in the first act or so, as the pacing is kinda, well, sloppy. I just felt that there was too much crap being thrown at the audience to the point where the first thirty minutes or so feel busy or cluttered. It’s pretty much smooth sailing from then on, though. I guess the key is to just watch the movie multiple times until you get to the point where it doesn’t bother you any more.

One recurring fault that seems to, unfortunately, be becoming a trend in Marvel movies, is a lack of a really compelling villain (Loki, Winter Soldier and Red Skull notwithstanding). Unfortunately, Guardians doesn’t really do much to distinguish itself from the herd in this sense. It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with Ronan, per se. Lee Pace’s performance is great, and he feels threatening enough (If you discount the emo makeup, I mean), but his backstory doesn’t extend much beyond him being a crazy extremist. He’s good for some fine scenery chewing, but not much else. Especially when us Marvel nerds know that Ultron and Thanos are just around the corner. However, for all my carrying on about the villain, I honestly think it’s a minor problem at best. Why? Because it’s incredibly obvious that he was never ever meant to be the focus of this movie. He’s only ever onscreen when the audience is in need of some exposition, or when he’s interacting with one or more of the Guardians.

Which brings me to the main characters. As much as the special effects are fantastic, the score is phenomenal and the movie, in general, is hilarious when it wants to be and pretty heavy when it wanted to be, the best part of the entire movie is anything to do with the Guardians of the Galaxy themselves. I already kinda liked the characters, thanks to my prior knowledge of the comic book series (Albeit, not the classic ’08 series. Just the recent series.), but I downright fell in love with them in this movie. Hell, I’m already planning my Star-Lord costume for Halloween! I haven’t gotten this excited about that silly holiday since I was, like, eight and dressed up like Harry Potter!

Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord is great, and while I admit that I had my doubts about him, those opening credits absolutely killed, and extinguished any worries I may have had about him. Think Han Solo crossed with Peter Venkman, and you’ll probably end up with a good idea of this character. Also, there’s a pretty cool backstory connecting him to the awesome, 80’s infused soundtrack of this movie, so listen up for that.

I liked Zoe Saldana as Gamora, in her millionth role as an alien, and her thousandth role as somebody with an unusual skin pigment, and her character had some pretty great backstory, although when listening to her dialogue, I kind of got the impression that they weren’t sure whether to make her a more modern, witty heroine (Like Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender, for example) or a more stoic, eloquent badass, like her teammate, Drax. Ah well, that’s just me nitpicking, I suppose. It worked fine, and I guess I’ll leave it at that.

Speaking of Drax, I was kind of worried that Dave Bautista would be the only weak link among the fantastic cast, considering that he doesn’t come from an acting background, and is better known as the wrestler and MMA fighter Batista, and wrestlers don’t exactly have a long and storied connection with non-wrestling visual media.

Case in point.

However, Bautista blew away my expectations. It’s not like he’s Oscar-worthy or anything, but he was irreplaceable in the part of a character who, surprislingly, isn’t merely there to kick ass and take names (Although don’t worry, there’s plenty of that too). He has some of the best lines in the movie, in terms of both comedy and drama, and he displays some pretty impressive comic timing.

And I’m not just saying that because he could mangle my puny ass, although it does play a part.

My two favourite characters though, are the consensus picks, though, being Rocket and Groot. Oscar-nominated Bradley Cooper was an odd choice to voice a tough talking CGI raccoon bounty hunter and, I’ve gotta admit, it kinda smelt liked casting a celebrity for the sake of casting a celebrity. However, not once during the movie did his voice ever take me out of the movie (As even he best celebrity voices are wont to do), and he really disappears into this character.

I really love Vin Diesel as adorable Groot too. Weirdly enough, a lot of the criticism of the movie has to do with Vin Diesel voicing a character who only says a handful of different words. Could another actor have voiced Groot? Eh, maybe, but I think that Riddick did a fantastic job conveying emotion and conversation in such limited dialogue.

And besides, who doesn’t love Vin Diesel?

Overall: I don’t think it’s quite as good as The Avengers, but Guardians of the Galaxy is a fantastic sci-fi adventure that, while not faultless, is still probably the best movie of the summer.

Face it, you could do worse.

Rating: 9/10

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Movie Review)

Pictured: A scene in Captain America in which fake Robert Redford plays a character whom real Robert Redford would fight valiantly to defeat. Or at least donate a shit-ton of movie to help defeat.

And to think that if you were to come up to me after I watched those god-awful Fantastic Four movies and try to convince me that the guy who played the Human Torch would ever star in a superhero movie again, I would have laughed, and laughed and laughed…

 Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo

Produced by: Kevin Feige

Screenplay by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Based on: Captain America by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Sequel to: Captain America: The First Avenger

Series: Marvel Cinematic Universe (9th installment)

Genres: Superhero, Action Thriller

Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson,Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily  VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson

 

Plot: Two years after the battle of New York in The Avengers, the cryogenically preserved title character, World War II superhero Steve Roger, code-name: Captain America (Chris Evans) is keeping himself busy trying to catch up with 65-ish years of pop culture and news, and carrying out missions for S.H.I.E.L.D., the shadowy spy agency led by one-eyed badass Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), accompanied by deadly super-spy Natasha Romanoff, code-name: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a lethal S.T.R.I.K.E. team led by Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo). During a mission to rescue hostages being held by Algerian mercenary Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre! Seriously!!!), Cap discovers that Fury tasked Romanoff not with saving the hostages, but with extracting data from the ship’s computers for Fury.

When Cap confronts Fury about this, he is briefed by his boss on the brand new Project Insight, which consists of three enormous helicarriers linked to spy satellites, designed to eliminate terrorist threats before they get serious. In other words, it’s Dick Cheney’s wet dream. Fury tries to sell Rogers on the project, but Steve, still an advocate of fun little things like “freedom” and “fair trials”, is disturbed. However, when Fury tries to decrypt the files that Black Widow stole, he is not only denied access, but, on his way to a rendezvous with fellow agent Maria Hill, he is assaulted by a hardass Soviet assassin known only as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). After the attack, Rogers is unable to reveal any information about the attack to senior S.H.I.E.L.D. director Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), who declares him a fugitive. Rogers, accompanied by Black Widow and his friend, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) embark on a journey to uncover the truth about the Winter Soldier… And some bad apples who have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D.

Anybody who’s going into this movie thinking that it’s gonna be your typical Saturday morning cartoon-turned superhero movie (Avengers, Thor, Amazing Spider-Man the first Captain America) should know that they will be not disappointed, but kind of jarred by the tone of this movie. Right off the bat almost, the audience is shown that this will not be a light-hearted almost-comedy like Marvel movies tend to be, as Captain America, Black Widow and the Winter Soldier often get into prolonged, somewhat brutal fight sequences with terrorists and S.H.I.E.L.D., which often end in graphic death, not exactly something you’re used to seeing in superhero movies.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Tarantino film, and the movie has its’ lighthearted moments. Especially the comedic scenes between Cap and Natasha, but this is in no way, shape or form a movie that I would be comfortable taking my hypothetical  children to see. When I saw it, there were parents in the theater who were clearly regretting taking their very young kids to see it.

This isn’t meant to be a discredit to the movie though. I love me some graphic violence, and it makes sense to me that the different superheroes of the MCU should each have their different film genres (Iron man gets sci-fi action comedies, Thor gets fantasies, Hulk gets tragic dramas and Captain America gets gritty semi-political action thrillers).

Sure, the plot does suffer from a little bit of the Thor: The Dark World malaise of making the plot a little bit more complicated than it really needs to be (And, in fact, the two screenwriters for this movie also co-wrote the second Thor movie), but it’s really not so bad in this case. The plot is mostly airtight, with the often risky political overtones actually feeling important to the story and not shoehorned in for a phony sense of urgency. I, personally think that they should’ve  played up the whole “spying on innocents” angle, but that’s probably just my pesky left-wing liberal bias.

And maximum kudos to the Russo brothers, who had previously been known for directing episodes of Happy Endings, Community and the good seasons of Arrested Development, for crafting a movie that is way out of their comfort zones, with some kickass fight scenes that may be some of the best I’ve ever seen, even including an awesome fight scene at the beginning between Cap an UFC fighter Georges St. Pierre. You aren’t gonna see any of that shit in Arrested Development.

As for actors, There isn’t a weak link among the cast. Chris Evans is everything you’d want in a charismatic superhero lead, and has grown a lot as an actor since his nauseating performance as Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four. Scarlett Johansson is great as Black Widow and Anthony Mackie makes a great impression as a Marvel newcomer. Robert Redford is wonderful as the somewhat shady Alexander Pierce, and Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier is probably the best Marvel villain so  far apart, of course, from Loki.

Conclusion: Dark and violent while also funny and entertaining, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the best MCU movies released so far (I’d put it just behind Iron Man in second and The Avengers in first) and the best movie in Marvel’s second phase.

9/10

Thor: The Dark World (Movie Review)

I was going to review Wes Anderson’s new movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, for you guys, but apparently, the good people of Edmonton Alberta decided that today, of all days, was the perfect day, two weeks after the movies’ opening day, to wander over to Cineplex Odeon and fill up the goddamn theater to partake in the whimsical delight that is Wes Anderson (I assume. I’ve never actually seen a Wes Anderson movie before).

Which means I’m missing out on way more Bill Murray than is acceptable.

Anyways, since iTunes and credit cards are things that exist, I decided to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the next Captain America movie and Guardians of the Galaxy coming up. Time to bring the hammer down on Thor: The Dark World!

Get  it? ‘Cause he uses a hammer?

Ah, fuck it.

 Thor: The Dark World

  Directed by: Alan Taylor

  Produced by: Kevin Feige

  Written by: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus,  Stephen      McFeely (Story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat)

  Based on: Thor by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber

Genres: Superhero, Fantasy

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo

Plot: Taking place two years after the events of Thor, and the title character (Hemsworth), accompanied by the Warriors Three (Stevenson, Levi and Asano) and Sif (Alexander) have just completed a campaign to pacify the nine realms of Asgard after they were destabilized following the destruction of Bifrost and the attempted alien invasion of New York, led by Thor’s step-brother, Loki (Hiddleston) in The Avengers. Loki has since been imprisoned by his adoptive father (And Thor’s biological father) Odin (Hopkins), the Allfather.

Meanwhile, on Earth, Dr. Jane Foster (Portman), Thor’s ex-flame, and her intern/best friend/effective comic relief, Darcy Lewis (Dennings) are in London, looking for their colleague, Dr. Erik Selvig (Skarsgård), who has been driven crazy by the experience of being possessed by Loki during The Avengers. While adventuring around London, they find an abandoned warehouse that houses several inter-dimensional portals. One such portal transports Jane to another world, where she is infected by the Aether, which is essentially a weapon of mass destruction in creepy liquid form. Her infection attracts the attention of Malekith the Accursed (Eccleston), a dark elf and ancient enemy of the Asgardians who aims to plunge the universe into darkness.

The plot sounds simple enough, but the reality is that it’s told in a way that had me kind of lost midway through. When the whole selling point of your movie is “Chris Hemsworth dresses up like a viking and beats the shit out of mythical creatures”, you don’t need to add a bunch of convoluted crap about the alignment of the realms, and then explain it in a way that bores and confuses me, to get me to watch your movie. But, as I just mentioned, this is not the case, and as a result, some parts (Cough cough, the climax) feel muddled and anti-climactic. It doesn’t help that a large part of the plot is built around a rather uninteresting villain in Malekith the Accursed.

Another plot problem is that the movie, at the beginning, tries to establish sort of a love triangle between Thor, Jane and Sif. The filmmakers went to the trouble of foreshadowing some sort of sexual tension, but we never hear about it again. What the hell was that all about?

While the cast does a great job, the one weak link among the whole bunch is Christopher Eccleston as Malekith. I’ve never seen an episode of Doctor Who in my life, but he didn’t exactly make a compelling case for my dropping Sword Art Online anytime soon.

Aside from Fullmetal Alchemist and Pokemon, it’s the only anime I’ve ever seen that doesn’t give off a rape-y vibe. Mostly.

Of course, it doesn’t help that his makeup looked like total shit.

Thankfully, the rest of the special effects are beyond phenomenal, especially the visuals of the city of Asgard. How this movie was excluded from the Oscar ballot in lieu of the Lone fucking Ranger  blows my goddamn mind.

Acting: Aside from Eccleston, the cast does a great job. Tom Hiddleston steals the show as Loki, who may be the best-written super-villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker. Chris Hemsworth is charismatic and fits the role of Thor like a giant, blond, muscular glove, and Natalie Portman has come another step closer towards erasing the memory of her role in the Star Wars prequels.

As much as one can try to forget, anyways.

What really made the characters shine is the dialogue, though. While the writers may have ignored minor details, such as a halfway understandable plot, but they nail the interactions between all the characters (Though, again, it helps that the actors did great jobs). the movie never really had a problem with tone, and managed to be sad, funny or tense whenever it needed to be, even avoiding the typical amounts of superhero cheese that comes with the territory of a movie like this.

Conclusion: I’d need to watch the first one again to decide whether I liked this one better or not, but what it lacks in terms of a coherent plot, it makes up for with its’ cast, dialogue, action scenes and especially the visual effects, and it all adds up to a very entertaining superhero flick.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10