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If you wondered what a Pee-Wee movie would be like 30 years after his
heyday, the answer is pretty much exactly the same, which is perfect.
Pee-Wee still exists in this surreal 1950s alternate reality that feels
as fresh today as it did in the 80s.
Pee-Wee Herman has never left the small town of Fairville, but after meeting actor Joe Manganiello (playing himself in a hilarious self aware performance), he's convinced to head East on a journey to New York for Joe's birthday party. Along the way he meets an assortment of colorful characters that help break him out of his sheltered existence.
The makeup department deserves an Emmy or Oscar (or whatever awards Netflix movies qualify for) for the job they did to Paul Reubens. The man is 63, and in real life, looks about his age. But in this film he only looks slightly older than he did back in the 80s. His voice has gotten a little bit raspier, but that's to be expected. Reubens himself is back in character, fully committed (surprisingly he hasn't been yet), and giving it his all.
The supporting cast is also consistently wonderful. Similar to any other Pee-Wee Herman project, almost all the characters, whether they're harboring deep secrets or not, smile and wave, giving off that 50s Leave it to Beaver "everything is great" attitude. Every performance is over the top, but they're all perfect. Diane Salinger from Big Adventure returns, this time playing a kooky pilot, and she gives it her all in a manic and memorable cameo. Character actor Hal Landon Jr. is similarly insane as a farmer that is simultaneously sheltering his nine daughters and trying to marry them off to strangers.
The biggest fault in the film is that it feels somewhat disconnected. The locations Pee-Wee ends up in are all amusing, but at times it just seems like a series of scenes not really leading to Pee-Wee's final goal. On the plus side, at times when the plot seems to really be getting lost, Pee-Wee mentions again where he's going, and how far he has to go bringing it back on track. In general, the journey to Joe's party and to find himself, is not as compelling as Pee- Wee's journey to find his bike. It would be much easier not to compare Big Adventure and Big Holiday, if they hadn't clearly modeled the latter on the former.
Kids will enjoy it for it's over the top cartoonish qualities, and the adult Pee-Wee fans will enjoy the exact same thing, in addition to all the ironic winks at the audience that the kids don't notice. If you're a fan of Pee-Wee Herman at all, then this will be a treat for you. It looks to the first feature film for guidance, but Holiday is it's own unique movie, full of the typical quirky charms you would expect from Paul Reubens. The best moments here don't equal the fun climax of Big Adventure, but it's still consistently amusing, never boring, and at times laugh out loud funny. And it's a heck of a lot more charming than Big Top Pee-Wee.
My rating: *** out of ****. Contains mild language and some mild sexual innuendos.
Derek Zoolander and Hansel becomes involved in an international mystery
after several slain pop stars display what appears to be Derek's "Blue
Steel" face before they die. Both Derek and Hansel have been out of the
public's eye do to a freak accident from years before, but are now back
to show the world what a real model is and to show what a fit parent
Derek is, to try to get his estranged son back.
There are four credited writers for the film, and that definitely makes sense. It feels like it was conceived in a writer's room on late nights in bouts of hysteria. Elements from the first film are cranked up to levels of silliness only seen on the Adult Swim block on Cartoon Network. Remember the orgy scene from the first film? Well in this one Hansel is married to an orgy led by Keifer Sutherland and an 150 year old elf, and they're all pregnant. Remember Billy Zane's cameo at the walk off? Now Billy Zane is some sort of all terrain traveling paladin parcel deliverer. Nothing makes sense, and it doesn't have to. This is written like a particularly silly cartoon.
The performances are fun. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson play off each other well. Penelope Cruz plays the least exaggerated character as a special agent with the fashion division of Interpol. When Will Ferrell shows up things get really wacky, in part due to his even more insane than normal performance.
On the negative end, this movie will not be for everyone. It's very in your face for it's entire duration. The first film was set in an only somewhat exaggerated reality, so the bizarre character behaviors contrasted with the more sane one's. The two gas station attendant shaking their heads in disbelief during the gasoline fight from the first film are nowhere to be found here. Everyone and everything in this movie is nuts. There's no reality to contrast the goofiness with. The whole movie is this big surreal, nonsensical adventure. And it is definitely off-putting to many fans of the original film, as the reviews and lackluster box office returns have shown.
In humor, set design and characters, this movie is a nonstop barrage to the senses. It's hard to get bored mainly because there's just so much going on and to look at, in spite of an extremely convoluted plot. The entire film is nothing but nonsense, and it's not always laugh out loud funny, but it's never boring, and it has a weird ambition to be as over the top and ridiculous as possible. "Zoolander 2" might be forgotten immediately out of the theater, but during the movie you may find yourself smirking and saying "What?!!!" to yourself in the most endearing way.
My rating: *** out of ****. 102 mins. PG-13 (language, violence, sexual humor)
What looked like yet another (terrible) found footage/faux-documentary
turns out to be M. Night Shyamalan's best movie in over 10 years. "The
Visit" manages to build dread throughout while also being thematically
Becca and Tyler are visiting their estranged grandparents whom they have never met for week, while their mother (who hasn't spoken to her parents in years after an unidentified incident) goes on a cruise with a man she's dating. Becca is a 15-year old wannabe auteur filmmaker who documents the entire week long trip trying to make a film about the reconciliation of her grandparents and her mother, while Tyler is a 13-year old rapper who is skeptical from the get-go about his grandparents. Both children have insecurities brought on from their father leaving their mother five years prior. As the week goes on, their "Nana" and "Pop Pop" begin acting stranger and stranger, from attacking strangers to projectile vomiting, and the kids switch from making a heartwarming documentary to figuring out what's wrong with their insane, and often violent grandparents.
The performances are all top notch. Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould play Becca and Tyler, respectively, and both are distinct, well performed and well written characters. Often adults don't know how to write for children, but the writing here is smart, and feels natural. There weren't moments of "kiddy" dialogue that induced groaning or eye-rolling. Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) also give excellent performances that progress from normalcy to sheer insanity as the film moves on.
Thematically there is more to the movie than just scary grandparents. The characters have depth. We learn about their insecurities, and why they have them, and there are actual resolutions and payoffs to the plot points. In comparison, the "Paranormal Activity" films are mostly just boring nonsense waiting for a few jump scares. Here, there is no boring nonsense. There might be occasional nonsense, but it's not boring, and it's mostly for comedic effect. Similar to many of Shyamalan's films of yesteryear, this does have some sort of twist to it, but it's one that feels natural and makes your heart sink into your stomach.
This is also M. Night Shyamalan's first film that could be labeled as a comedy. His previous films were often so serious that they bordered on over-self importance. Purposely or not, the pretentious filmmaker attitude of Becca actually seems to mirror the audience perception of how Shyamalan approaches his craft. Assuming it is purposeful, there are several laughs at the expense of the auteur filmmaker, and lots of laughs in general in this picture. But the humor and over the top horror are grounded by a nice level of drama that makes the picture rewarding.
Overall, this is a welcome treat for fans of Shyamalan's best films, and people who aren't yet tired of the faux-documentary approach that horror films have been taking recently. Great performances, surprisingly good comedy, and often edge of your seat, this is one of the better, if not the best of this genre which started with "Blair Witch" 16-years ago and sadly has only become more prevalent. Hopefully it's the start of an upturn for the career of M. Night Shyamalan who shows here that he still has the ability to effectively tap into our emotions.
My rating: *** 1/2 out of ****. PG-13 (contains violence, terror, rear nudity and language). 94 mins.
If anyone knows how to cut corners in a film, it's Roger Corman. He
reuses musical scores, special effects and establishing shots all in
the sake of saving money. If one were to watch a movie of his with
reused elements, unless they knew the other film elements being
sampled, the recycling wouldn't be noticeable. Here is a movie that
blatantly reuses scenes from older Roger Corman produced films, and is
very noticeably almost completely made out of older (and sadly better)
movies. When making a very low budget film, oftentimes creativity
blossoms if not to just figure out how to cut corners and still make
something believable. There is no creativity here. This movie is lazy,
boring, poorly acted and written, and the special effects look like
something you could make in Microsoft paint. Even for a Roger Corman
produced film, this is extremely lazy.
Andy Colby, has to babysit his younger sister, Bonnie. Things go wrong when Andy rents a videotape that sucks his sister into the TV, where she is kidnapped by Lord Chroma and taken to his spinning animated Umbrella castle. Andy meanwhile is stuck jumping from movie to movie, and meets "The Glitch" along the way, a giant furry monster thing that hangs out in the TV static, and in turn, has no point to anything that happens. It's up to Andy to eventually find out which channel his sister is stuck in and go save her.
The film starts off fine enough, with Andy being told to go to the video store, and then riding his bike off. The bicycle riding scene and music is clearly inspired by Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. The music is very similar to Danny Elfman's score from a few years back, and even the title of the film sounds like it was formulated to somehow capitalize on the completely unrelated Pee-Wee. The opening ten minutes is the best part of the film, in that it's the only part that feels like a real movie. It's poorly written and acted, but at least it feels like a movie.
Once Andy gets stuck in the TV, everything goes horribly wrong. A good 60% of the material here is old footage from movies, with nothing new in it. Occasional reaction shots of Andy on an obvious green screen are thrown in every minute or so, so we don't forget what it is we're watching. The scenes from the movies aren't bad, per se, but the fact that so much of the movie is just aimless scenes from movies makes this movie utterly pointless. Andy gets put in the TV, then the film meanders for 50 minutes before Andy heads to fight Lord Chroma and get back his sister.
The only thing worse than the old footage here are the special effects. I can't think of less convincing effects in any movie. Instead of using practical sets for the villain's lair, they create a wonderland of poorly rendered 2-D computer graphics on top of green screens. Using a four-year old's finger painting as a set would look more believable and visually appealing. Shooting in the director's basement would have looked less cheap and more interesting than the green screen that we get.
It's actually very strange how this movie devolves as it goes. It starts off looking like a real movie, then slowly turns into awful made for video schlock, and then the amateur looking end credits roll, which look like something made by a high school student. It's a movie that tries to trick the viewer. All the effort is put in the first few minutes, as a way to trick the viewer into thinking this is just another mediocre kiddie picture before showing it's true awful face. At least James Horner's recycled score here might lull you into a numb state before being shaken back into the reality that you are wasting your precious, precious time.
My rating: BOMB out of ****. 75 mins. PG for recycled violence from older films.
Paul Thomas Anderson has made quite a few offbeat critical darlings
that succeeded because of their performances, visual look and dialogue,
but also because of their unwillingness to stick to formula. "Magnolia"
features a twist that no one could see coming, and some would consider
it an unexplained "deus ex machina", others saw it is extremely
original. Anderson's other films, like "Punch Drunk Love" and "There
Will Be Blood" have endings that don't conform to the typical Hollywood
style, and some dislike how unresolved, or under resolved some elements
of his films are. But "The Master" is it's own beast in Anderson's
filmography. Here's a film that has to be interpreted by the viewer,
because the film does not interpret itself. If the audience member is
not actively creating thematic arches in their head, this film will
feel utterly pointless.
Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is an impulsively violent WWII veteran that will find anyway to get drunk. After drunkenly coming onboard a boat one night, Freddie meets Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a man who has started a new religious movement called "The Cause". Freddie, who's life prior to this, had been meaningless, now has someone to follow, but what are Dodd's motives, and is Freddie actually buying into what is being said?
A lot of movies people can say "Oh, pay attention!", so that people don't miss any important plot points. This film has such a loosely formed plot, that paying very close attention to everything that is happening won't really matter. What's most important, it seems, is the thematic content. As an active viewer, you have to piece together the meaning of the film from what has been shown, and how the characters act. Paul Thomas Anderson has put the meaning completely in the spectator's hands, and as a result, made a film that will resonate differently among different people. Those watching intently, may have found some kind of wonderful meaning in the film, or maybe they found it to be lazily written and underdeveloped.
I personally didn't care about the characters. Freddie is insane, and his insanity starts off interestingly enough, but ends up kind of baffling. Same with Lancaster Dodd. The guy is nuts. Both of these characters make decisions that have you questioning why they did what they did. Freddie will randomly start attacking someone...but why? Is it because he is hugely attracted to "The Cause"? Is he just a violent sociopath? Does he even have a reason? With this film, it's like you're a complete outsider to everything. The characters aren't relatable, and their actions are never rationalized, and their inner thoughts never stated. It's all a guessing game, which can be both exciting and annoying. The film starts off marvelously, but because there's nothing to latch onto except a couple of great performances and some unlikable characters doing weird things, by the end, I felt I had become kind of numb to what was happening, and at times, kind of irritated.
Bad films often has unresolved plot points, and an unclear purpose, and characters that are hard to relate to. This movie has all three of these things, but Paul Thomas Anderson has proved before that he knows what he's doing, so these all must be intentional, right? I would imagine so. Nonetheless, the line between a terrible film and an original and great film is very thin. We have faith that Anderson didn't throw us into a story for no reason, just like we would have no faith if a director like Uwe Boll did the same thing. This film is completely about interpretation and finding your own themes, and everything I disliked about the movie was probably intentional. The characters are distant, the point unclear, and the ending so vague and inconsequential, it makes "No Country For Old Men"'s ending seem like an average Hollywood ending. Basically, the movie is frustrating. It's got a lot of stuff to like, including a very strange score from Radiohead member Johnny Greenwood, but as a whole, it adds up to nothing, or potentially a lot of things depending on what you personally drew from it. It's neat when writers and directors deviate from the norm, but in this case, it just makes the two hours plus invested in it feel somewhat wasted.
My rating: ** 1/2 out of ****. 142 mins. R for sexuality, language, alcohol abuse and some violence.
It's doesn't seem like the highest praise to say the best part of a
movie is the music or the look over anything else, but here it works
quite well. This is a great looking movie with good music, and a drive
to all the scenes that make it exhilarating. The plot is what moves the
film along, and a sub-plot about an attempted assassination of M (Judi
Dench) adds what some consider an emotional depth to the film, but what
this movie is really about is James Bond fighting villains and going
through beautiful locations, and that's works perfectly fine here!
James Bond (Daniel Craig) is seemingly back from the dead after a misstep on M's part, and now has to stop a computer hacking madman (and former agent), Silva (Javier Bardem), from using his skills to wreak havoc and enact revenge on M.
There is a sweetness to the scenes between M and Bond, almost playing like a subdued mother/son relationship at times. It's nice that Bond is on a mission here that is somewhat personal to him, so that it feels like it's not just another job. But the character development and interplay isn't what this is about...it's about the action.
The action here is great. The fight scenes are well filmed, and cinematographer Roger Deakin takes full advantage of all the locations and awesome sets. The movie from beginning to end looks great! Turn off the sound, ignore the plot, and still this would entertain and thrill on a purely visual level. Add the music, and it's even better. Thomas Newman provides a fun score, using the typical Bond motifs and themes, while also adding it's own unique character. The ladies are sexy (especially Berenice Marlohe), and James Bond is cool. The guy has very few lines relative to how much screen time he has, but instead opts out in huge amounts of dialogue in favor of walking around like he's the coolest guy on Earth. And this is what works best about the film. Bond is awesome, and the places he goes are awesome, and of course, he also has a nice strong villain here in Mr. Bardem. The guy just has a menacing look!
The cinematography, locations, music, action scenes and overall look of the film make this a very solid Bond film. It has a plot about a computer hacker, and M being threatened, and the plot is pretty good for a Bond film, but it's the whole visual experience that make this one to watch. There's never a dull moment, and even if there was, your eyes would be popping out of their head looking at the well filmed sets. It's thoroughly entertaining, and has enough pathos to make us care how the story turns out.
My rating: *** 1/2 out of ****. 145 mins. PG-13 for violence and brief sexuality.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After the special effects extravaganza that was "Star Trek: The Motion
Picture", Paramount decided to make a smaller, less costly sequel, and
this definitely works to the film's advantage. Unlike the first film,
this one is not about the special effects. There's no five minute
scenes of cool looking model ships moving through layer of matte
paintings, but instead is some wonderful character scenes, and an
ending that is surprisingly emotional.
The USS Enterprise has to rebound when formerly exiled villain Khan (Ricardo Montalban) attempts to get hold of a device that creates life, belonging to the Genesis Project. It's up to a depressed and aging Captain Kirk, and his crew to save the day.
First and foremost, this is an entertaining film. It still has all the nerdy, faux-scientific Trekkie talk, but it also has an easy to follow plot, and a good amount of action. At the same time, the film is told on a relatively small scale, focused mainly on the USS Enterprise, and on Khan's ship, showing that the giant scale and huge models aren't needed to make a film entertaining. Here, more than anything else, it's the little character moments that makes this such a fun watch. The interplay between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy shows why Star Trek became a popular series to begin with.
Get rid of the last twenty minutes or so, and this is still a good film. With the addition of Spock sacrificing himself to save everyone else, this becomes a near-great film. The ending is handled perfectly. William Shatner, who is known for hamming it up on screen, gives a subdued performance, and Spock's funeral scene is really quite beautiful. James Horner's score hits the right notes perfectly, and accentuates the bittersweet hopefulness that ends the film.
"Wrath of Khan" is an improvement over the first film, mainly because of the character work. While the spectacle may not be as grandiose, the entertainment level is higher, and the end of the film is wonderfully realized and executed. Despite being a space adventure film, it's the human elements that make this movie what it is.
My rating: *** 1/2 out of ****. 113 mins. PG for sci fi violence.
Tim Burton detractors and fans alike seem to agree that his recent
offerings have not been up to par with his best, or even his middle
works. One criticism is that he is just repeating himself visually,
without anything to say or show. This film definitely is a repeat,
being a remake of an earlier Burton short, and an homage to monster
movies in general, but it's got a great heart, and unlike "Alice in
Wonderland", this one is a Burton pet project (no pun intended). As a
result, you can just feel that he wanted to make this, and for a black
and white movie about death, this is really a lovely tale.
Young Victor's dog Sparky is run over by a car one day, leaving poor Victor depressed. After a lesson from his new science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau doing a cross between Vincent Price and Bela Lugosi), Victor realizes he can bring Sparky back from the dead. Soon, other students at the local elementary school bring their pets and various animals back from the dead also, to try and win the upcoming science fair. Things don't go quite as planned, when the animals turn into monstrous creatures and chaos ensues.
What drives this movie is it's heart. Victor's love towards Sparky is very apparent, and Sparky is such an innocent little thing, that it's hard not to like him. The characterization for Sparky is perfect, having him easily excitable and sweet, but not obnoxious, as dogs can be. This movie should especially hit home for those who've previously or currently have/had a dog. The scene where Sparky is hit by a car is heart breaking, and the ending (which I won't give away) will also stir a lot of emotions in you. Sparky is such a loyal, caring and innocent dog, where anything that happens to him, you immediately begin to empathize.
The visual style is what you'd expect from Mr. Burton. Either characters look emaciated with long bony arms and stretched out faces, or they're morbidly obese with fat sprouting from their back. It works well, and sometimes for comedic effect, like that of Weird Girl's cat Mr. Whiskers, which brings laughs to every scene it's in. Burton rides the line on character designs often between unique and slightly grotesque, but the line is never crossed here. These characters are unique, and they inhabit a visually appealing world. To give the characters life, are the voice actors, all of whom are superb. Especially good are Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short who provide three voices, all of them unique to their characters.
If there's something wrong with the picture, it might be that Victor and his family are the least interesting characters here. Victor is a fine lead, because he has these bizarre classmates and his dog to support him, but by himself, he would be a fairly flat character. Perhaps this is to make him and his family more of the typical townsfolk type (some alliteration there), while most of the other major characters are strange looking homages to movie monsters, and have a lot more personality in general. But, if Victor was more bubbly and bouncy, he wouldn't be the kind of quiet introvert that he is here, so it's a double edged sword. This is a small complaint really, and it's not something that will bother most people.
"Frankenweenie" has the ability to draw on the audience's own personal nostalgia for their own furry lost loved one's, but even those that aren't dog people should feel something here. This is a very sweet film, beneath it's monster movie exterior, and at the heart of the picture is a boy who loves his dog and doesn't want to lose him. Any fans of old monster movies should love the references, and any fan of Burton's past work should find some pleasure in the visual look here. Even Burton detractors may find this one hits pretty close to home for them.
My rating: *** 1/2 out of ****. 87 mins. PG for some violence and thematic elements.
Where the last two films in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy played
more or less like fairly intimate stories in the Batman universe, this
one feels like it's going for the biggest scale it possibly could, with
as much destruction and as many thugs as you can fit on screen. The
problem here is the unrelentingness of everything that settles in at
about the halfway mark. It grows tiring long before the climax kicks in
because it's just too much of everything.
Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse and "Batman" has gone into hiding for the past 8 years since Harvey Dent's death. After an encounter with a cat burglar, Selena Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and an inspiring speech from his butler Alfred (Michael Caine), Bruce decides he needs to go back out to social events, and begin fighting crime as Batman again. Meanwhile, masked terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy), and a large group of followers take over Gotham city, destroying all ways of leaving or coming in, with the threat of setting off a nuclear bomb located on the island. Meanwhile (yet again), Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is severely injured by Bane and stuck in the hospital, a new hot head cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is trying to stop Bane through detective work, and Wayne board member Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) is given control of Wayne Enterprises. Bane massacres Bruce Wayne and throws him into a prison located elsewhere, and it's up to Bruce to summon his strength to try and escape. Meanwhile the criminals take over Gotham and anarchy ensues.
There are a lot of characters here, but they are balanced in their sub-plots quite well. Anne Hathaway gives a really good performance as "Catwoman", both hamming it up at times, and also remaining quite subtle when appropriate. Levitt is also a good addition to the cast, as we have a character to care about that is fighting crime, but through detective work and not through being placed in the action like ol' Batman. Having so many main characters was nice to try and avoid repetition, though from the last hour plus, it doesn't work well enough.
The film grows somewhat boring by about the halfway mark. The pace becomes unrelenting, and it's just somewhat of a sensory overload. The editing is quick, the shots are quick, and while stuff is happening and Gotham is about to become a smoldering pit, too much is happening too quickly. And when the villains take over Gotham, you begin thinking of scenarios that would happen with the people of Gotham, and how they would react, but nothing does. They pretty much just go into hiding. Unrealistically, no vigilantes even try to take some of the villains out, but whatever, that's not what the movie is about.
This movie is not above running on many action movie clichés that feel like they belong in lesser pictures. People saving others at the last minute after seemingly coming out of nowhere, and the old everybody else gets killed but the main characters (for no real reason), and then of course many coincidences that happen to effect the outcome of the picture. The same clichés you'd see in a movie like "Sahara" from a few years back are prominently used here. Character motives also seem to be slightly off. Why does Batman turn to Catwoman for help exactly? No real logical reason except to pair the two up.
Hans Zimmer's score is effective in driving the action, in that his music here mainly consists of low strings acting almost as drums to move everything along. It drives the action, but at the same time is extremely generic and not very interesting, but it does keep a rhythm going in the action. And unlike Inception, the generic weepy Zimmer music doesn't intrude on scenes that are trying to be emotional. It's a step up from Inception's score in that regard, but is still quite mediocre.
The climax of the film is nice. After all the twists and turns are introduced, it gets down to the heart of the story, and the last ten minutes or so, minus some coincidental and corny moments, are really good and satisfying. For the most part, the conclusion to the film is satisfying and works on an emotional level.
This film concludes the Dark Knight trilogy quite well. It's an imperfect film, with a lot of drag time in the middle of the picture, and just a few too many clichés thrown in, but the ending is mostly very nice, and as a whole, the picture is entertaining, full of action, and enough happens to justify it's nearly three hour length.
My rating: *** out of ****. 165 mins. PG-13 for nonstop action violence.
These Marvel comics obviously have a lot of fans, and apparently
whatever it was that fans (and many non-fans) were looking for in a
Marvel film was fulfilled here, explaining the huge internet buzz, the
vast amounts of money this has made, and it's current spot in the top
50 films of all time on the Internet Movie Database. This movie does
have expensive looking action, and some comedic bits with lots of
superheroes, but what it's missing is...pretty much everything else.
The plot is uninteresting and quite honestly stupid, and nothing really
is driving this story along. At times, to me, it grew boring, because
there was nothing to get excited about besides action, big stars and
After Norse god Loki steals the powerful potential super weapon "Tesseract" from the peace keeping S.H.I.E.L.D. agency, and mind controls a few people, Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) puts together a team of superheroes known as the Avengers, made up of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and eventually Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Loki is in cahoots with a group of aliens called the Chitauri, and plans to help them take over Earth. The Avengers must stop fighting with each other in order to protect the Earth...can they do it, or will the Earth be destroyed? (Take a guess).
Director Joss Wheddon, known for his work on television series, does a fine job with the direction when it comes to action. The big action scenes are appropriately frenetic, and they look big and shiny. I appreciated that the action scenes were spaced apart from each other also, as to not overkill the action like the Transformers films. The fighting scenes between the Avengers was a bit overkill however. Half the movie is them disagreeing with each other, or Tony Stark being snarky with everyone. These scenes don't really have anything to them either. They aren't exciting. They are meant to be funny, but oftentimes comes off as more infantile in the humor department than anything else. They further the plot along, only in that the plot cannot proceed until these guys stop fighting. These scenes are supposed to work as character development, but it's almost unbelievable how stupid these guys are, and how unwilling they are to put their differences aside.
The middle of the movie takes place on a ship, with the Avengers angry at each other, and this whole section of the movie just meanders. You could say that this part of the movie gives us the character conflicts and whatnot, which it does, but the Avengers' dislike of each other could have been introduced in something more important to the plot, instead of practically stopping the plot to have these guys get angry at each other. And that's really the movie's biggest problem is the plot. There's never really a feeling of dread, or that something bad could happen, and it's hard to care about anything that's happening. That's not to say watching Tony Stark bantering isn't amusing, or watching Bruce Banner go insane as the Hulk isn't interesting, but nothing ever truly feels at stake. When the film decides to kill off a character to add some level of emotion, and serve as a reason for these heroes to stop their childishness, it doesn't work on an emotional level. It comes off as a cheap way to further along the plot.
The Avengers has some good elements to it. It's got a lot of charisma in the cast, and each character is given enough screen time I suppose. The action scenes are satisfying mostly, and some of the comedy isn't bad (while some does come off as a bit corny and pandering to the audience). The problem is the plot, where the villains never really come off as menacing, despite possessing a super weapon, and a main villain is Loki who is about as threatening as a teddy bear. There's nothing to the film, and nothing to really love about it, unless you are a big fan of these actors, the comics, or explosions. There's very little below the surface of the film, and without a good plot to move this along, we've essentially got one long Avengers origin story. Apparently many have fallen in love with this though, so if you like your movies big, dumb and full of buff dudes, you'll probably like this one quite a bit.
My rating: ** 1/2 out of ****. 140 mins. PG-13 for action violence.
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