Tag Archive: The Avengers


It’s time for fun in the sun!  And not just in the sun, but also in the cavernous over-air-conditioned confines of local theaters. The “Season of Blockbusters” has begun. I hope you all have seen my list of most-anticipated films on Cinefessions. I will try to see as many as I can, and I will review them here. Without further ado, here are my initial entries.

oblivion-posterOblivion

Another post-apocalyptic adventure, which become so popular whenever the public is afraid of what’s going on in real life. And like the atomic bomb scare and all the alien-attack films that were produced then, or the epidemic and zombie films that proliferate as we find new strains of diseases, now is a really scary time in the world.

The production value, effects, and pacing of Oblivion are spot-on. Overall it’s a fun movie to watch. The acting is decent, though a bit stilted at times. But I’ll bet it’s most entertaining for people who have never seen another movie like this in their lives. For those of us who have, it’s a kind of a hotchpotch of every other sci-fi/dystopia/conspiracy story ever made. I didn’t read the graphic novel on which the story is based (maybe because it was never published), so I can’t speak for the original plot and how it “borrows” from existing stories.  But the film certainly does.

I saw scenes and vignettes in this film from many iconic and obscure movies alike. If you haven’t seen this film but plan to, you might want to avoid the following possible spoilers.

li-oblivion-freeman-waldau-cp-04293048Apparent to movie and/or TV mavens are events and themes from Silent Running (1972 – rarity of plant life); the Matrix series (1999-2003 – secret underground survivors who know “the truth”); Independence Day (1996) and V (1984-85 – alien overlords); Gattaca (1986) and Code 46 (2003 – cloning); Moon (2009 – an isolated space-traveler’s struggle); Logan’s Run (1976) and many others (forbidden zones); Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), and others (implanted memories and identity in general) … the list goes on and on. There is just nothing, and I mean nothing, original about this film.

So, let’s be nice and call this movie an homage to all the sci-fi we know and love. Yeah, that’s it.

C

 

Iron Man 3

As a big fan of Marvel movie adaptations, I enjoy all of these films about our favorite heroes and villains. MV5BMjIzMzAzMjQyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzM2NjcyOQ@@._V1_SX214_Admittedly, though, some are not the gems that the majority turn out to be (I’ll bet The Hulk popped into many minds just now). Most of the time, sequels run that risk more than original projects, so I think we all view them a bit more cautiously.

After an auspiciously marvelous beginning with the first Iron Man (2008), which invigorated the strained career of Robert Downey Jr., this franchise had a tiny blip with its sequel, Iron Man 2 (2010). It was a terrific film – successful at the box office and pretty well critically received – but it didn’t quite have the spark of the first film. It was a bit jolting that Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as Tony Stark’s friend and eventual sidekick, and with Stark “near death” and considering stepping away from his life throughout the movie, it wasn’t quite as much fun. To be fair, that is the case with the vast majority of sequels that follow fantastically powerful debuts, which Iron Man certainly had been.

That fun and power are back in Iron Man 3. The film features Stark back on top of his game (with the exception of some PTSD, thanks to his adventure with the Avengers) and facing a mercurial and deadly villain.  Performances by all involved are excellent, the action is exciting and well paced, and the interplay with the storyline of The Avengers (2012) is well done.

iron_man_3_tyOn top of that, there is a relationship and subplot in this movie that was the highpoint for me: Tony Stark meeting Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins). The boy is adorable and fresh and wise-assed beyond his years. They say that cute kids and cuddly animals can upstage anyone, but in this case it brings out the best and worst (in a very good way) in Stark and, well, produces magic.

Iron Man 3 is sure to remain one of the highlights of this summer movie season.

A

 

leonardo dicaprio the great gatsbyThe Great Gatsby

This was one of my most-anticipated films of summer, so I hoped it would indeed be great. I am a fan of both Leonardo DiCaprio and director Baz Luhrmann, but I knew from Luhrmann’s body of work (Romeo + Juliet, 1996; Moulin Rouge!, 2001; Australia, 2008) that he plays fast and loose with material he’s adapting and favors lavish spectacle. I wondered just how far his vision of Gatsby would veer from the classic novel.

I was pleasantly surprised by the loving care taken to tell the story of Nick, Jay, Daisy, and all of their companions. Yet there was not much sacrifice of the Luhrmann over-the-top style and panache. However, it seems to take a backseat and defer to the storytelling with careful control.

The narration by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) moved more slowly than did Christian’s relating of his woeful tale in Moulin Rouge!, but it fits and sets a more melancholy tone. The atmosphere of the movie is absolutely stunning: It conveys the opulent decadence of the era which thinly veils the precarious despair under the surface.

Upon first hearing about this project, I thought from the beginning that DiCaprio was a brilliant choice to play Gatsby; his performance supports that judgment. The-Great-Gatsby_06He flawlessly captures the self-deluded air of our antihero from determination through devastation. Daisy (Carey Mulligan) also is perfectly cast, and all of the performances are superb. At first, Maguire’s half-goofy, half-stiff portrayal of Carraway threw me a bit, but it worked in the end, since he was unobtrusive within the drama playing itself out, as the narrator of this story should be.

Finally, I will be quite surprised if this film doesn’t win Oscars in such categories as costuming and art direction. It is truly a treat for all the senses.

A

Summer Movie Fun

It’s been a quite a pleasant summer so far. We’ve had some of the typical heat and humidity for which Georgia is known – even before the official first day of summer – but we’ve also had some downright pleasant days (lord knows, I like having a fire in the fireplace, and I’m grateful for some cool evenings in May that provided the opportunity to use some well-seasoned firewood).

Another aspect that has made this summer most pleasant is the fun movies coming out. Everyone already knows I loved The Avengers.  Well, a few days ago, I loved it a second time.  This coming weekend, I’ll love it a third time when I go with my roommate who has not seen it yet.

Tim Burton Almost Redeems Himself

Tim Burton has been one of my favorite creative minds in filmmaking for many years. But some of his recent projects struck me as self-indulgent and just plain trying too hard, like they were caricatures of what used to make Burton films so eerie and magical. I truly disliked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and wondered why in the world an iconic film like Willie Wonka and Chocolate Factory would ever need to be remade. I also wasn’t blown away by Alice in Wonderland, which was more sterile and staged than enchantingly nightmarish, as the book really is. It should have been a perfect fit for Burton; alas, it was not.  Of course, both of these films are in my “everything-he-ever-made Johnny Depp library.” Obviously, I don’t stand on principal enough to prevent THAT.

But Dark Shadows marks a step back in the right direction Burton-esque direction (at least, I am hoping with all my will and might), though he’s not quite there yet. It has more of a Big Fish tale-like feel to it, and less of the bizarreness for the sake of being strange that mark what I consider to be Burton’s failed features. It manages in part to return to the whimsy and era-specific jibes that Burton worked so well into films like Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. It’s great to see that step back, with no small thanks to a terrific cast led by Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer, but it still lacked that earlier Burton spark. The worst part of the movie is the character of Carolyn Stoddard, played by the talented (but wasted here) Chloe Grace Moretz. Most of the way through, she is a sullen, tripped-out, unintelligible creature for whom there seems to be no purpose. At the end, when she turned into a werewolf, I actually groaned. Dark Shadows is worth seeing, but it’s not yet the awesomeness-of-old that Tim Burton films used to be. And – big caution sign here –  it is NOT like the original series that some of us may recall. If you were a fan of the show, put those memories on the shelf as you go to see this interpretation of the Barnabas Collins story.

B-

Men in Black Wear It So Well … Again!

Men in Black is officially one of my favorite franchises of all time.  I adored the first movie, really liked the second, and am crazy about the third. These movies are hilarious, well-acted and pun-filled, with plenty of special effects eye candy. The team of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith its one of the trilogy’s strongest aspects, naturally, along with the tongue-in-cheek portrayal of aliens assimilating on earth (watch for some new “which celeb’s an alien” reveals).  In MIB III, the crowning achievement belongs Josh Brolin and his portrayal of young Agent K, and he does an absolutely unbelievable job of inhabiting the skin of a younger Tommy Lee Jones!  At times, I forgot who I was watching on the screen.

In addition to the usual save-the-world-from-hostile-aliens scenario, this installment of the MIB adventure wonderfully brings the story full circle and provides a brief tearful moment as we find out how our two favorite black-suited agents are really connected. If you want a summer movie that’s satisfying, exhilarating, and truly entertaining, go see Men in Black III.

A

 

Everybody and his mother is writing about this movie right now, so this will be short and sweet.  Like a delicious dessert at the end of a scrumptious meal.  Which is how I felt seeing The Avengers — satisfied, sated, delighted, compliments to the chef.  Thank you, Joss Whedon and everyone, cast and crew, who created a fun, exciting, well-paced, and exceptionally written summer blockbuster.

There are no dull moments in this movie, but it is not just incessant battles and noisy explosions. It builds meaningfully and offers further glimpses into the pasts and psyches of some of the characters, though not all. The heroes finally come together, and not in a smooth way. They are like competitive siblings, and sometimes it’s not pretty. It can be painful to watch, but also hilarious. Best of all, this film has some awesome lines (Captain America: “I understood that reference.”) and sight gags (the Hulk taking one last swipe at Thor) of any of the superhero flicks. Especially surprising is how loveable the thus-far-beleaguered character of the Hulk ends up being!

Yes, Captain America (Chris Evans) remains my favorite in this new incarnation of the Marvel universe, though he’s a bit serious for my taste in this film. His able foil, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), more than makes up for this with a plethora of snipes. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) redeems himself quietly and resolutely, and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) round out the team in a balanced way.

Of course, the good guys win.  But the “coming attractions” scene inserted in the credits tells us in no uncertain terms that this fight is not over. And I am so thrilled about THAT!  (And the final scene, at the very end of the credits, almost made me pee in my pants laughing. It’s this “we don’t take ourselves too seriously” attitude that I love about the creators of this franchise. That’s entertainment.)

Ahh!  Satisfaction.

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