Film | Review: The Avengers | This Is Entertainment

picture courtesy showmescifi.comWhen making a cake, experience tells us that throwing every tasty thing you can think of into the mix doesn’t necessarily give you the tastiest spongy-based confection of all time. What are we to think of The Avengers then? Aside from a clarifying or baffling name change in the UK (depending on your generation) to Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, the film represents the film equivalent of putting all of your eggs, sugar and everything else in one mixing bowl and baking it for two hours.

The build up to the film has been epic, and anyone who hasn’t seen the films which introduce our misfit band of heroes would do well to familiarise themselves beforehand. The characters are all likeable enough for a first impression though, and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk manages to fit in effortlessly despite not playing the character in his hero (or monster) origin story.

The threat which brings the Avengers together is orchestrated by demi-god Loki, brother of the thunder-happy Thor. Loki intends to rule the world (yep, that old chestnut), with help from an outer-space army of grisly evil creatures called the Chitauri., who will send an army to conquer and leave Loki to be in charge of what is left of humanity.

With all of the big guns in play, it’s a fast-paced film, leaving little time for character arcs or deep and moving moments, but director Joss Weedon knows how to work an ensemble cast (not least from his work on sci-fi cult classic Firefly) and makes sure no one seems left out.

The comedy element of the film is distinctly more pronounced than its predecessors, with almost every character getting a zinging one-liner at some point or other – even the Hulk had the audience laughing out loud on occasion. Love-to-hate villain Loki (played to perfection by Tom Hiddleston) takes the crown in an exchange between him and brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Thor is understandably unhappy with his younger brother’s behaviour, and the pair proceed to have a verbal sparring match in a murky wood, culminating in Thor brandishing his iconic hammer with fire and brimstone and howling at Loki to listen well. Immediately Thor is bowled over by an airborn Captain America (Chris Evans) and flings out of sight, leaving Loki to remark: “Erm…I’m listening.”

picture courtesy geek-grotto.comNewcomer Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) has a hard time of it, spending most of the time on the wrong team, but manages the most memorable emotional scene in the film and some equally impressive action with his signature bow.

Despite the obvious dangers, things are kept in the balance so the film expertly avoids becoming ‘Iron Man and friends’. The effortlessly charismatic Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark manages to fit in with the team in exactly the right way, still up to his usual cheeky and reckless ways, but not to the extent that the audience becomes irritated and impatient, a fact which makes the climax’s emotional weight.

Supporting players from SHIELD like Nick Fury (helpfully pointed out as Samuel L. Jackson in the opening credits, just in case we missed it) and Agent Coulson, who is finally blessed with a first name, continue to impress. Particularly striking is the Avengers’ home base the SHIELD Helicarrier, which serves as one of the most diverse and action-packed sets in the film.

The film succeeds in being more than the sum of its parts. It might not be the most remarkable story in the world, but the balance, pacing, drama and action are all just right, making the film the defining superhero flick of the decade…at least until Spidey and The Bat return.

Rating: 5/5

James Michael Parry

Music | Review: Feeder – Generation Freakshow | This Is Entertainment

courtesy: now from return to the mainstream with a vengeance in new album Generation Freakshow. Following the Renegades ‘experiment’, which ended with the Feeder album of the same name, fans were yearning for a return of the pop rock anthems of ‘Just the Way I’m Feeling’ and ‘Buck Rogers’. The three-piece have delivered that 100% with twelve infectious slices of pop mastery.

While the days of pop chart domination may be behind them, Feeder have always remained consistent, while still keeping room to try something different. This latest effort is no exception, with a trumpet making an appearance in ‘In All Honesty’, which throws in an incredibly subtle slant to the mix in what is one of the most upbeat songs on the record.

Leading man Grant’s singing-with-himself style is in abundance here, but it never seems unwelcome. On a song like ‘Tiny Minds’ it even adds something in itself by suggesting multiple smaller Grants to be the minds suggested by the title.

Singles ‘Borders’ and ‘Children of the Sun’ are prime examples of what Feeder does best. The first is a punchy anthem complete with all of Feeder’s trademarks. There is delayed vocals and ‘woo’-ing from Grant, as well as a fringe of keyboard and soft distortion on guitars in the verse. The song tells a story of Jessie, a girl who wants to get away and escape from a life, something which everyone can relate to at one time or another. The ideas are simple, but effective, with the inherent catchy-ness we have come to expect from the band over the past 20 years.

The second is a sombre closing number which could well be about the band itself, holding on through the years and through the changes and challenges they have all faced together – especially in the face of the freakshow obsessed generation which the album’s title alludes to.

The album hangs together beautifully, with each song returning to its central themes of feeling like an outcast, or an outsider, and not understanding the whims of modern society. The titular track ‘Generation Freakshow’ epitomises this, continuing Feeder tradition of the album title track being one of the strongest on the album. The song is gritty and less produced than the other songs, coming off as more of a pop/punk tune, rebellious and full of attitude, but still fitting in effortlessly with the rest of the album.

This record sums up everything Feeder are as a band in 2012. A group with a wealth of experience, but still outsiders in the charts compared to the likes of Muse and Coldplay. Crucially though, the band don’t mind that.

They are making music for the love, and after seven varyingly successful studio albums, their eighth is still up there as one of the best of their career. It might not be the height of innovation, but is a clear example of a band playing to its strengths.

Grant said that those who enjoyed Yesterday Went Too Soon and Comfort in Sound would enjoy this album, and it pitches between the two of them perfectly. While it might not propel them into the top ten, it deserves to keep them around for years to come.

Rating: 5/5

James Michael Parry

Pictures courtesy:

Entertainment | Five reasons we love Nathan Fillion | This Is Entertainment

courtesy gdefon.comSome actors stick with you. Whether they start off in bits and pieces before landing a lead role and suddenly have you thinking “Where on EARTH have I seen them before?!”, or they just pop up out of the blue and instantly impress.

Canadian heart-throb Nathan Fillion is such a person. Now a veteran star, Fillion made his first notable (yet fleeting) appearance in Saving Private Ryan – unfortunately he wasn’t the Private Ryan Tom Hanks was looking for.

Fillion has gone from strength to strength ever since, so we decided to celebrate his modest achievements by celebrating the five very best things about him.

  1. He always looks the part

courtesy ecleader.orgMuch credit should go to the costume designers, but there’s no doubt Fillion’s costumes suit him down to the ground. The ruffian Mal Reynolds (Firefly) avoids the obvious Han Solo parrallels not only with Fillion’s well-worn and loose costume, but also the way he carries himself in it – naturally, far from the 70’s swagger of Harrison Ford. Likewise Fillion’s turn as the charismatic writer Richard Castle (Castle) is accompanied by an attire to reflect the character – smart but playful. It’s touches like this which give his performances such effortless-ness.

  1. His voice suits every occasion

courtesy Halo.wikia.comDespite the danger of geographical stereotyping from his upbringing, Fillion’s voice is diverse and effective in all situations. Whether it’s making a emotional stand on Haven in Serenity as it is accompanied by the panicked look of backwater cop Bill Pardy (Slither) as he runs from alien slugs, Fillion commits, and as a bonus he has a particularly good handle on sarcasm. Of particular note is his role as squad leader Buck in Xbox 360 game Halo 3: ODST, which re-united him with some of his fellow cast members from Firefly.

  1. His has a rebellious attitude

courtesy allenpinney.blogspot.comSome could argue it’s Mal rather than Fillion who has the lions share of attitude, but enough can be seen through Fillions repertoire for it to be more than just coincidence. Fillion is a joker and a rebel in real life as much as he is on screen. He once played April fools jokes on his fans through Twitter (@NathanFillion) by saying his cat Spartacus has been killed by coyotes. In one interview Fillion admits to ordering a kit from Amazon to deal with a stray bit of skin on one of the Castle crew’s arm just because he felt like it – talk about devil may care.

  1. He’s always the underdog

courtesy entertainmentmentally.comDespite his obvious talent, Fillion hasn’t had enduring success until he began Castle in 2009 – reaching a landmark fourth series with the mystery-solving writer. Fillion might have had to fight and be patient, but that didn’t stop people noticing him along the way. Firefly was famously cancelled after one season, and it was so popular on DVD that it returned on the big screen in the form of Serenity. Luckily, the whole cast returned, but it’s difficult to imagine the film flying without Fillion in particular. Fillion seems happy enough flying below the radar though, even poking fun at himself by dressing up as Mal for halloween in Castle.

  1. He’s just a genuine, funny guy

courtesy legendsofgotham.blogspot.comAll of which leads us to an inevitable conclusion – Fillion is just as fun and interesting a person as the characters he plays. He manages to make a strong first impression on his first appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel Live (see below), quickly building rapport and coming across honestly, with quips abound. Some of his strongest comedic work is also his latest, since the cheeky personality of Richard Castle, which at times seems little more than a thin veil for his own trickster sensibilities, allows him to have plenty of fun with co-star Stana Katic (Detective Kate Beckett).

For those who haven’t had the fun of watching Fillion on screen, there is plenty to discover, but for the rest of us, we look forward earnestly to his next adventure. Keep up the good work Nathan.

Nathan Fillion on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

Nathan Fillion PSA:


Film | Review: The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! | This Is Entertainment

Pirates never get old, making them a perfect subject for the latest feature-length jaunt from Aardman Animation (the creators of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run).

With so much experience behind the project, not to mention to success of the studio in the past, expectations were understandably high – luckily the team have played to their strengths and come out with something brilliant.

The film may not have Aardman top man Nick Park in the picture, but his co-founder Peter Lord was executive producer and co-director on the project, ensuring that the studios style shows through in every scene.

The film is an adaptation of the 2004 book of the same name and its follow up, both by Gideon Defoe, and at points the thin-ness of the plot shows through, but in all it holds together well enough to keep both old and young audiences entertained.

The real strength of the film is the throwaway lines or little touches, such as the Pirate Captain, in despair after a failed plundering attempt, announces he is retiring from pirating to make…baby clothes. Out-of-the-blue lines like these come up frequently, and are easily strong enough to induce guffaws of laughter.

 It’s no secret that animation takes time, and in a recent piece in Empire Magazine, the team revealed that the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film was pitched, written, shot, produced and released in the time that filming took for the epic stop-motion masterpiece that we have come to expect from this studio.

Every endless hour spent is worth it though, with every scene packed with detail and character, from the sea of booty to the luxurious-ness of the Pirate Captain’s beard.

The cast put on a stellar performance, particularly Hugh Grant, who is almost unrecognisable as the charismatic but baffonish Pirate Captain. Every pirate on the crew is known by their appearance rather than a name, making the characters that much more endearing.

Former Doctor David Tennant puts on his best English accent as the adorably pathetic Charles Darwin, and Martin Freeman, no stranger to number two status after playing second fiddle in Sherlock, is the voice of reason as Pirate with Scarf.

The story sees the crew jet-setting across the seas, as you might expect, as well as visiting Victorian London and taking flight in an airship as the film builds to its gripping finale.

While the film is clearly aimed at children, there’s plenty for adults to enjoy here as well, and the British-ness of the humour guarantees a smile before the credits roll.

Though this might not win hearts as much as Wallace and Gromit‘s big-screen outing, the film is a shining example of what passion and attention to detail can achieve in traditional animation, and despite falling short of ‘instant-classic’ status, this is undoubtedly one not to miss – particularly if you can get the full 3D experience.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry


Music | Album Review: Lostprophets – Weapons | This Is Entertainment

I'd rather die on my feet than ever live on my kneesWith American bands outnumbering British by at least 10 to one, to find a band going strong is a rarity. Lostprophets stand on the brink of British-ness – fiercely Welsh in everything they do – but the consistency shown in latest effort, Weapons, deserves praise worthy of Her Majesty.

The spirit of the album is one of rebellion, and builds on the seeds sewn by songs like ‘Everyday Combat’ in previous work Liberation Transmission to reach a climax of defiance.

The message of opener ‘Bring it Down’ is clear, a call to arms to keep fighting despite the odds, and this could well be the motto of the band itself. Things haven’t come easy for Lostprohets, they’ve had to work hard to stay close to the top for the past decade – since winning Best British Newcomer back in 2001. Despite an impressive number of stand-out tracks to their name, the band have never really taken off in the same way that heavyweights like Muse or The Strokes have, nor have they seen any chart success.

You get the impression that the band don’t really care though. They aren’t interested in fame and fortune, but the fun and games of being on the road and making music.

What has changed though, is the band’s attitude to their home town – Pontypridd in Wales – which was once “a town called hypocrisy” but now leading man Ian Watkins concedes that it “still feels like home” in ‘A Song for Where I’m From’.

The album takes the best aspects of the band’s sound and builds on them. Stand-out ‘Jesus Walks’ – surely a shoo-in for the next single – riffs on the underrated ‘Where We Belong’ from 2010’s The Betrayed, while the band’s catchiness this time around is played out in a more gang-vocal style in the anthemic ‘We Bring an Arsenal’.

Those who may have heard advance single ‘Better of Dead’ shouldn’t be put off by its bizarre rap-inspired verse. Despite being seemingly out of character for the band it fits in well with the context of the album, and is more of an experiment than a new direction. In all the musical direction is doing what the band do best rather than trying to re-invent themselves.

The energy and passion doesn’t let up from start to finish, making it an album ideal for live shows, and with no screamo-esque tracks in residence it means the entire album feels less rough around the edges. The sombre side is shown through reflective, semi-acoustic number ‘Somedays’, hinting at the depth the band can reach when they take a moment to catch their breath.

There is plenty of inspiration drawn in from American post-hardcore rockers Rise Against on this album, particularly the line taken as the theme for the album: “I’d rather die on my feet than ever live on my knees.” In fact the line appears in Rise Against’s last album Endgame in the song ‘Survivor Guilt’, which talks about the destruction of great empires. Not quite over the line of anarchism though, Lostprophets are happy to make a stand for themselves rather than ‘getting political’ about proceedings.

Weapons then is Lostprophets battle cry, stating load and clear they aren’t going away quietly without a fight, and even with so much quality through their back catalogue, this album manages to be their most consistently high quality offering yet. Long may the ‘prophets prosper.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry