Avengers (2012)

Avengers (2012)

Film: I started my horror and comic journey at about the same time.

As a kid, my dad, every Saturday, would take me to the local newsagency in Thirroul, NSW and when he grabbed his Sunday paper, he’d buy me either a comic, or an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland. We moved away from that town, and the new place’s local newsagency only had comic, so for several years my monster love was reduced to either Godzilla films on Saturday afternoons, or the various horror comics from Marvel or DC (or their local reprinters like Newton Comics would do), or if I was lucky, a Vampirella.

Comics became my big bag until video stores emerged a few years later, and I loved them dearly. As a kid I was all about Aquaman or Captain Marvel (now known as Shazam!) with an occasional Hulk or Spiderman comic, and maybe an Archie or two, but in the 80s I became a full-tilt, no holds barred Marvel zombie, and the Fantastic Four, the X-men and the Avengers became everything I needed. I even entertained dreams of become a comic writer or artist one day.

I still have a gigantic comic ‘universe’ in my head that I’d like to do one day.

Anyway, the Avengers comics of that period were amazing, and I never believed we would ever see a movie based on them.

… and then the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off!

The MCU, as you should all know, is a juggernaut of a movies series starring all the Marvel heroes… well most of them except for the ones licensed to other companies(well except for Spiderman, but that’s another story), is what seems to be a bunch of individual movies, but in actual fact is the greatest, biggest budget soap operas in the history of entertainment.

This film, The Avengers, takes placed directly after 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, and was written and directed by Josh Whedon, from a story developed by himself and Zak Penn.

The Avengers is the culmination of the previous films and here, the heroes, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo and a HUGE team of CGI effects people) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) join together to fight against Thor’s brother, the charismatic and deceitful Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who has stolen a powerful, seemingly mystical item known as the Tesseract, from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his agents of SHIELD, including Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Agent Hill (Cobie Smulders).

SO the battle to retrieve the item begins, but what the Avengers and SHIELD don’t realise is, is that Loki has an ally in the alien race known as the Chitauri, who wait in another dimension to create Hell on earth if they aren’t stopped…

That comic collecting kid in me loves this movie, even though it does, like most of the films, take a few liberties from the source material, like the absence of Ant Man and the Wasp (who were founding members), and the early joining of Captain America (who didn’t become an Avenger until issue 4 of the comic). They do however do some fun stuff that pays homage to the comics, like Hawkeye’s turn as a bad guy (he was originally an Iron Man villain of sorts) and dodgy and adversarial combination of characters, which the early Avengers comics played upon to be a contrast to the ‘family’ vibe of Marvel’s first group comic, the Fantastic Four.

I also liked Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/ The Hulk, so Ruffalo’s replacement of him came as a surprise, but Ruffalo’s a charismatic actor, so it was easily overlooked. What wasn’t easily overlooked was the continued employment of the terrible, B-movie soap actor made good, Chris Hemsworth, who doesn’t seem able to rise to the occasion when dealing with far greater actors and comes across as a pantomime version of the character he is supposed to be portraying. At least Downey Jr and Jackson are playing themselves as they basically always have, and they are such cinematic legends, they can get away with it.

My only other criticism is a criticism I have of most modern day superheroes, and that is that it’s apparently just fine to be a killer with no regard for human life, but that’s not a criticism of this film, just of comic films, and comics in general.

The film clicks along at a brilliant pace and is a visual spectacle, and the story is pure comic book, which is exactly what it requires to be successful. Whedon clearly loves his comics books and the respect he has for the characters is clear. His strength is also team dynamics, which is apparent from his previous experience with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.

This first Avengers movie is a fun rollicking adventure, which only relies on a couple of films worth of back story rather than the gigantic amount the later films suffer from, which become almost unwatchable by themselves as individual movies anymore.

Score: *****

Format: This release has the film in three formats: in 3D, a normal bluray and a digital copy. The film was reviewed on the regular bluray and was presented in a flawless 1.78:1 image with an epic Dolby Digital 7.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc starts with an ad for an app called Marvel Avenger’s Alliance.

There are a bunch of cool extras on this disc:

Marvel One Shot: Item 47 is a short that Marvel used to do on their home video releases but unfortunately stopped. This is a cool one about a couple of thieves who have ended up with a Chitauri weapon and decide to use it for their own benefit… but don’t think SHIELD will be quite down with that. Much like one of the others focuses on Agent Coulson, this one gives Jasper Sitwell a go at being a hero… well before we find out the horrible truth about him in a later movie.

Gag Reel is just that, but back before they became contrived an unfunny, like they did on the later releases of other Marvel films.

Deleted Scenes has 8 deleted scenes, none of which are missed, but are interesting to see, particularly the Maria Hill interrogation stuff.

A Visual Journey is clearly the making of the film and only runs for 6 minutes. Shame, as I reckon a film this big deserves a little more than just a few minutes.

Score: ****

WISIA: It makes me cry with joy pretty much well every time I watch it, which is frequently.

Black Panther (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Black Panther (2018)

Film: Now even though this is technically a rewatched film, I’m going to label it a To Watch Piler… why? Well I received a free ticket to see this at the cinema, and unfortunately it was a Mum’s and Bubs session, which means the house lights were on the whole time, so any scene that takes place at night is almost unseeable, especially when the lead cast member is wearing all black!

Black Panther is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, which all join together in a story ten years in the making which will all be resolved in 2019’s sequel to Avengers: Infinity War. Black Panther has been an important character in the Marvel comics universe since his first appearance in Fantastic Four comics in 1966, and has been an important member of not just that team, but also the Avengers as well as having several impressive comics series’ himself.

The film was directed by Creed director Ryan Coogler from a script that he co-wrote with Amber Lake’s Joe Robert Cole, and what they created caused a massive bag of excitement for its positive role models.

Black Panther tells of the country of Wakanda’s new King T’challa (Chadwick Boseman), who has ascended to the throne after the death of his father (in the film Captain America: Civil War) but the road to his regency isn’t smooth.

First, whilst being watched by his people, including his mother Ramona (Angela Bassett), potential wife Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and sister Shuri (Letitia Wright – the real revelation of this film), he must prove his worth as a leader in battle, but all the while, machinations are happening outside of Wakanda that may still threaten his rule.

A man calling himself Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) has teamed up with arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) but what is there nefarious plan, and how does it effect the rule of the Black Panther.

This film initially reminds me of a superheroic version of a James Bond film, much like Captain America: The Winter Soldier did. It has exotic locations, improbable inventions and a wry sense of humour as Boseman performs his African James Bond alongside Wright’s ‘Q’ and Forrest Whitaker’s ‘M’ as they face off against an eccentric bad guy with a sidekick with a bizarre weapon, not to mention a bevy of women, all of whom are defined by their skill, brains and asskickery rather than their looks.

The design of the film is magnificent: quite possibly the best a Marvel film to date has to offer, and the colours jump from the screen and are a nice tribute to the beauty of many African cultures, but occasionally the CGI effects fail. Ok, they don’t actually fail, but there is a standard of effects that some blockbuster films seem to think is ok which occasionally don’t sit right, due to the physics of gravity or the extension limits the human body has. I get it’s a movie based on a comic, but if you are selling it as real, it shouldn’t look like a comic. Also, there is some CGI animals that just don’t look quite right.

Ultimately, the one thing I find about this film that doesn’t work is it’s just an introduction. The Black Panther storyline is reminiscent of the first Iron Man’s story of the rights of ascension in a technological world, and serves really as just frosting on the cake that is actually film that could be called Wakanda: A Prelude to Infinity War, as it sets up one of the battlefields for the next Avengers movie, just as the first Thor and Captain America films were really just a way of getting the punter ready for a more complete film experience with the first Avengers film.

In saying that though, I don’t want to discount the amazing work it did with having a sympathetic bad guy and a great set of role models for various groups that in pop culture don’t get as many as the white male population.

This film, even though it is a fun film, in 100% sticking to the Marvel formula so if you are expecting TOO much different from the stations that the hype train stopped at whilst this film was at the cinemas, you will be disappointed.

Score: ***

Format: This film is presented in an impeccable 16:9 image with a matching DTS-HDMA 7.1 audio which is absolutely amazing.

Score: *****

Extras: As one expects with Marvel films, they have a pack of extras ready to role, some about this film, and others to advertise other product, but why wouldn’t you do that with a captured audience?

There is a Featurettes section which contains 4 parts: Crowning a New King which looks at the character of Black Panther and his world, The Hidden Kingdom Revealed is an introduction to the fictional African nation of Wakanda and making it a ‘real’ place, The Warriors Within looks at the actors who play the various Wakandans throughout the film and finally, Wakanda Tevealed: Exploring the Technology looks at the cool toys in the film.

The usual Marvel Gag Reel is present which seem to get less and less funny each time, as the actors seem to almost be acting the gags.

There is four Deleted Scenes which, like the rest of the film, are quite charming, and honestly, whilst I normally think most deleted scenes are better off deleted, there are a couple of bits here that have some heart that would not have hurt the film at all.

From Page to Screen: A Roundtable Discussion is a really cool look at all the writers of the character, including not just the movie creators, but also comic writers like Don McGregor, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Christopher Priest.

Marvel Studios:The First Ten Years – Connecting The Universe is the first of the Marvel sales pitches on this disc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is no doubt it is extraordinarily clever and it is pretty cool when any series of films have a linking world, like Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse and more importantly, Universal’s monster movies of the 40s that had multiple crossovers in the form of House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein. This is a fine albeit short celebration and for a moment, you look at all these separate movies as one big story, rather than a series of films with a, to date, continually unresolved plot device as it’s connective tissue.

Exclusive Sneak Peek at Antman and the Wasp is another one of those aforementioned self-promotional pieces that shows off the next attraction coming to the ci emas, in this case, Antman and the Wasp. The first movie was so charming that I actually am really looking more forward to this that either the sequel to Infinity War or my beloved Captain Marvel movie (in which I believe the main character has been miscast, but prove me wrong, Marvel).

There is also an Audio Commentary by writer/ director Coogler and production designer Hannah Beachler is fascinating as it doesn’t talk about the usual writer/ director stuff, it also explores the design of the entire world of Black Panther and Wakanda.

Score: *****

WISIA: As it is a part of the greater world of the Marvel movies, I will watch it again, but it’s not a top tier Marvel movie for me.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Review

One from the re-watch pile…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

The cover of the Steelbook edition of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Film: I did not like this film at all when I first saw it. I didn’t understand the decisions that had been made, and I didn’t like some of the story choices. I wanted Star Wars to be like MY Star Wars!

After seeing it for the second time though I realised something greater than that though: it ISN’T my Star Wars anymore, and now that it is controlled by Disney, it doesn’t fall into the mistakes of what is the issue with the prequels were, and even The Force Awakens. Many complained that TFA just felt like a remake of Star Wars… well, this does NOT feel like a remake of The Empire Strikes Back.

It would seem that Disney are taking a similar step with the SW universe as it is with the Marvel Universe movies: find different directors to make the films so they have a different take on what we believe to be the status quo. Sometimes, like with the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, it works spectacularly and sometimes, like with Thor Ragnarok, it fails miserably.

Daisy Ridley as Rey

The Last Jedi is a continuation of the Skywalker family legacy and picks up after the events of The Force Awakens. Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in hope to learn the art of the Jedi, only to find him a reclusive who clearly has NO intention of ever teaching her, and with that emotional abandonment, she is somehow psychically linking to the First Order’s evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who is offering her something different…

Meanwhile, the Resistance, led by General Organa (Carrie Fisher), is under constant attack by the First Order, and are trying to find ways to save themselves. Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) travel to the casino planet Canto Bight in the hope of finding assistance, whereas Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaacs) prefers a more direct approach and will even commit acts of mutiny to get what he believes is right.

All in the background is the threat of the First Order’s Snoke (Andy Serkis), but will the good guys prevail, or will this middle part of a trilogy leave us with more questions than answers?

This first time I saw this film, I hated it. There is no other way around it, I thought it was a travesty, but upon watching it again, and listening to director Rian Johnson’s musings on the story, I have an appreciation of it I didn’t have previously. I still think there are a few story ideas that didn’t work, and the economy of cinema is not present, specifically with the Canto Bight scene which could be excised from the film without making any different to the outcome of the film.

It’s 30 odd minutes of wasting time for no reason other than to have a ‘cantina’ or ‘Jabba’s palace’ styled sequence.

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker

Tragically some of the casting is off too. As much as I dig Benicio Del Toro, he and the entire sequence he is in is a worthless waste of time, and Rose just seems like a Star Wars nerd has snuck onto the set, killed an actor and hid her body, and then replaced the real thing. Other than that, the cast is as good as they ever were.

There were some frustrating decisions made too. A fan-favourite from the original films is killed off quite early in the film only to be replaced with a character who was previously in the novels, which means if you haven’t read those she’ll mean NOTHING to you and you’ll wonder why you are supposed to care. Watchers of the films shouldn’t need external devices to make them care about a character.

What I do have to really say about this film is how beautiful it is. Even though on the surface we see some elements reminiscent of previous films, we also get to see some really different and inventive character, vehicle and even environment designs.

The important thing is though that the story moves in a different direction to what anyone thought, and maybe the criticisms come from those of us, me included, who think we KNOW what is good for Star Wars.

I couldn’t quite explain to people how I felt about this film until I listened to someone talk about their sportsball team. People who passionately love their team follow them through thick and thin, and usually no matter how bad they go in their respective league. The Last Jedi is my team not doing very well, but I’ll continue to support ‘my team’ as I really do love them. Star Wars is an intrinsic part of my DNA and I can’t imagine ever HATING it because one or two films haven’t lived up to my expectations.

I now do enjoy this film, but I think if a film has to explain itself with it’s supplementary Bluray/ DVD stuff, or if characters are introduced in other mediums like books or comics and that means I’m supposed to care about them in the films, it’s still not a great film.

Score: **

The menu screen of the Bluray of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Format: This film was reviewed using the Australian multi-region Bluray, an immaculate presentation, perfect in every way. It’s presented in a 2.39:1 image with a 7.1 DTS-HDMA audio.

Score: *****

Extras: As one would expect, this edition (and I say “this edition” as no doubt there will countless other releases) has a great bunch of extras on it, and honestly I felt it was a strange and interesting bunch of extras.

Disc One

The only extra feature on disc one is an audio commentary by Rian Johnson, and he clearly loves the fact he got to direct a Star Wars film, and he expertly explain decisions he made through the film, whether they were successful or not is up to we, the viewers.

Disc Two

The first is a feature length documentary called The Director and the Jedi which is a fascinating insight into the decisions that Johnson made with this film. It looks at all the aspects of the film and even bravely looks at Hamill’s disagreement with the things that happened in the script. I admit that I hated The Last Jedi at first, but after watching this I have a greater appreciation of the decisions made, and no longer detest it like I did.

Balance of the Force is a ten minute addendum to the previous extra, but I think watches more like someone justifying their decisions that have been judged as bad by the fan base. It’s weird actually, both these extras are like Disney’s trying to justify their employment of Disney.

Scene Breakdowns looks at a few scenes and their creation, from the story idea to the execution. This is divided into three extras: Lighting the Spark: Creating the Space Battle, Snoke and Mirrors and Showdown on Crait. I love special effects features so these were all of great value to me.

Andy Serkis Live (One Night Only!) shows all of Serkis’ performance as Snoke, but without the ILM effects posted on his mo-cap suit.

There’s a bunch of deleted scenes of various lengths that can be watched either with or without a commentary by the director, which I always find interesting as to why some choices were made to throw out a section. It’s interesting that some of these scenes would be placed far better in the film than the entire Canto Bight sequence.

Score: *****

WISIA: It being a Star Wars film, yeah, I’m gonna watch it again, but I’m still not going to think of it like The Empire Strikes Back or Rogue One which I think are absolutely perfect.

Carrie Fisher as General Organa

Celebrate ALIENS with Fright Rags

On the 22nd June, horror and sci-fi T shirt specialists Fright Rags are delivering us some fantastic ALIENS 30th anniversary product to celebrate our collective love for those chest-bursting bastards.

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6 different T shirt designs will be produced, including this limited to 500 box set above which comes with the version 1 T shirt, a ‘Bug-Stomper’ sticker and a set of 4 8×10 lobby cards.

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Also, there will be a baseball T available, and what I’m most excited about is ALIENS socks!!!

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I’ll finally be able to retire my current favorite socks from Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.

I haven’t shown all the designs here because you should go to Fright Rags and check it out for yourself before it’s game over, man… GAME OVER!!!!

 

(all images Copyright (c) Fright Rags)