Tag Archives: The Avengers

Ant-Man | Review | Film

Ant-ManAnt-Man PosterA small film and an even smaller hero in the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Ant-Man may be, but there’s no denying he knows how to make an entrance.

With a premise which stretches audience’s limits of what they are willing to believe (oddly more so than a virtually invincible god with a magic hammer) Ant-Man had its work cut out from the off. On top of that add the pressure of following up the tremendously popular Guardians of the Galaxy from the ‘oddball’ side of the Marvel camp and the excitement of The Avengers: Age of Ultron only a few months before.

Star Paul Rudd and director Payton Reed remain unphased and sensible focus their film around the character of Scott Lang, a crook fresh out of jail for burglary (not robbery) who has a daughter he cares about – a lot.

Being an ex-con is never easy, and immediately it’s easy to warm to Scott, who combines Rudd’s natural charm with some of the DNA of Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and Chris Pratt’s Starlord to come up with something which somehow manages to feel fresh in a world filled with snarky heroes.

Watching him hopefully from the shadows is Hank Pym, played (frankly, quite suprisingly) to perfection by Michael Douglas, in many ways the polar opposite to the brash, showy scientist which Howard Stark was. Pym is under pressure as his own company is on the brink of not only being taken in a worrying new direction, but it’s thanks to some of his long-buried research – The Pym Particle.

Ant-ManIt’s this which brings us our titular hero, a moniker originally worn by Pym back in the day, and now passed on to Lang, along with a chance to make amends for his past mistakes.

Squaring off against our hero is the slightly disappointing Corey Stoll as Darren Cross. Stoll put on a fantastic turn on Netflix crown jewel House of Cards but here isn’t given too much to play with other than the broad strokes of Loki’s motivations, and sadly doesn’t stand up to them.

While Cross might fall short, he is more than compensated by the other supporting characters, such as Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne and even more so Michael Peña as Luis, definitely the comedy stand-out of the film.

The story doesn’t take a massive leap from what we’ve seen before in the MCU and, one imagines, has been toned down from Edgar Wright’s original vision, after he left the project (though proudly maintains Executive Producer and Story credits). It seems like a missed opportunity to have tiptoed outside the box a little further than we’ve seen before, but given the scale of what Marvel are building, it’s no surprise they are taking a few safe choices.

Reed and the cast deliver a film filled with a nice blend of comedy and action, differentiated from the likes of Guardians by feeling more grounded and relatable and more intimate than The Avengers from its narrower scope.

Visually the film plays very well with 3D, so much so that it actually enhances the experience as advertised, and both the action and maintain the sense of fun which is threaded through the film.

The heist vibe is also nicely played in, particularly with the theme and score which build a feeling similar to the intricate-yet-relatable plans from the likes of Ocean’s Eleven.

The fun to be had here is massive and Marvel has handled a difficult property with precision, excitement and heart which is all-too-often lost in some of the more ambitious franchise films.

A great time for kids and adults alike, we’re looking forward to seeing Ant-Man play with the Avengers in the films still to come.

James Michael Parry

Guardians of the Galaxy | Review | Film

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The one thing most people seem to know about Guardians of the Galaxy is that it has a talking raccoon in it. After two hours of interstellar fun and games I can officially confirm that yes, there is indeed a talking raccoon in it. If you needed more than a semi live-action, feature length version of 1980s cartoon The Raccoons then you’ll be happy to hear that Guardians has a lot more to offer.

Guardians of the Galaxy poster

First of all the style of the film is definitely lighthearted, a clear and obvious departure from some of the superhero flicks of late – more similar to the likes of Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim vs The World – which makes for a refreshing watch without worrying about which character is going to turn out to be evil later on. In fact the plot is remarkably simple, almost to a fault, but serves as a device to bring this band of misfits together. Any film which begins with the main character dancing under a huge, glowing version of its logo knows exactly what it is.

All fun and games

You can't help but have fun with Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)
You can’t help but have fun with Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)

Self awareness is, in fact, one of the film’s strongest points, often throwing in 1980s pop culture references which remain just as well-known today almost to make a point. Our hero Peter Quill (The Lego Movie’s Chris Pratt), known as Starlord…by only himself, is a notable thief who gets caught up in something bigger – imagine a more childish Han Solo and you’re almost there. His inevitable incarceration calls him to join forces with his former enemies and so the games begin.

You could call the guardians the ‘B squad’ Avengers, but that would be selling them short as in fact they are very far removed from the power, might and glory of superhero status, rather doing the right thing even though no one expects anything of them in the first place – just the opposite in fact. Groot, notable for being a giant humanoid tree, has a delightfully sweet demeanour and this plays well against Rocket the Raccoons wise-cracking (courtesy Bradley Cooper).

Zoe Saldana, who plays token female character Gamora, is perhaps the most disappointing of the quintet, not showing the sort of variety we have seen from her as Uhura but retaining the childish female stereotype aspects in places, admittedly used to great effect at one point in particular.

The final character of the group is Drax, played by former wrestler Dave Bautista, who at first comes across as a one-note brute, but is soon gifted with some excellent one-liners in his own right.

More than just a pretty (furry) face

The space battles in the film almost take you by surprise
The space battles in the film almost take you by surprise

The visual effects are stunning in the sense that you barely notice them. There are few moments where you feel your eyes adjusting into ‘visual effects mode’, instead they are slipped in to the story and action sequences naturally. Particularly the look and feel of CGI characters Groot and Rocket, of which the latter really gets top marks for fur effects.

There is a certain beauty to the use of music in the film, all of which comes from a mix tape given to Starlord when he began his journey across the stars, and as such has not only an 80s vibe (something which follows through the whole film) but a consistency, keeping the film grounded and relatable while out-of-this-world madness and excitement happen on screen.

Small but perfectly formed

The ties to the existing Marvel films are passing at the most
The ties to the existing Marvel films are passing at the most

As a Marvel film, certain expectations have been built up over the past few years as its film universe has grown, but this film proudly stands alone with only a passing connection to the events of other films. In a way that’s the most refreshing thing about watching it – being able to enjoy the experience without thinking about the impact it will have on something else.

So, it might not be a perfect film, but it is the most entertaining and fulfilling cinema experience of the year so far, and suitable for all ages…for the most part anyway. Guardians is exciting, funny and just easy to watch, something has been lost in the convoluted cross-pollination of Marvel films and this title reminds us why we liked them in the first place – they are damn good fun.

Rating: 5/5

James Michael Parry

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

Believing the Hype – Part 1: Most Antipated Films of 2012 | This Is Entertainment

With the excitement of New Year over and done with and the daily grind of work and school already kicking in, it’s time to think about what’s worth getting excited about in 2012. Sure there’s some sort of Olympics and a European football tournament, and even the end of the world (perhaps), but the really interesting stuff comes in the form of our daily distractions of film, music and computer games.

So, in order to kick the hype machine into gear, This Is Entertainment presents a series of articles highlighting the top five most anticipated from the world of film, music and Xbox games, beginning with the silverscreen:

made by Ryan LuckooThe Dark Knight Rises 20 July

Christian Bale returns (slightly higher than before) for the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. This time around it’s a very Inception-inspired affair with Tom Hardy taking the role of big bad terrorist Bane and Joseph Gordon-Levitt joining the team as Batman’s new helper beat cop John Blake. The exciting thing about the premise is that the film is set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, when the Caped Crusader took the fall for Harvey Dent’s killing spree. With Nolan at the helm, and several blockbusters under his belt, there’s little chance of the team dropping the ball, and with promise of antics from Catwoman, courtesy of Anne Hathaway, this is a serious contender for big hit of the summer.

The Avengers27 April

Another entry in the ‘Year of the superhero’, and this is certainly the big one in terms of numbers of heroes involved. Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow and of course the top man Captain America all thrown together in one action-packed adrenaline ride – sound appealing? The balance of personalities will be key, especially with Robert Downey Jr. threatening to steal the show as king of swagger Tony Stark. Writing duties come from Zak Penn (X-men 2, X-men 3 and The Incredible Hulk) and Joss Whedon (Firefly, Serenity and Buffy the Vampire Slayer), undoubtedly an impressive pedigree, and with Whedon taking directing duties as well he’ll be sure their story gets realised with all the style and humour it deserves.

made by RNK Fan ArtSkyfall26 October

Bond is finally back. After a four year absence Daniel Craig picks up the Walther PPK again to protect the people of Britain, and this time it’s in a story with the least links to the Fleming-verse, since Skyfall is a the first film not to be in any way based on one of the Bond creator’s stories. Judy Dench is back as M, and Naomi Harris is on Bond girl duty, in a story which delves into M’s past as it “comes back to haunt her”. With long-running relationships to be tested, it could prove to be the most personal story since 1994’s Goldeneye. As ever the story is being kept fairly under wraps, but don’t expect to see a return of the ‘Quantum’ organisation, although the style is unlikely to stray far from the ‘new’ Bond formula.

The Hobbit14 December

Before the story told in arguably the most successful trilogy of the 00s, there was Bilbo Baggins, dwarves and a very large dragon. In print a more child-friendly tale than The Lord of the Rings, but on screen Peter Jackson is creating a story on his usual epic scale. Martin Freeman is Bilbo Baggins, and was so wanted by Jackson that he scheduled in a break in shooting for Freeman to reprise his role as Watson in the Stephen Moffat’s sublime Sherlock. Sir Ian McKellen leads the band of dwarves, filled with well-known names in its own right, on their quest, as they are re-united with plenty of other familiar faces from the proceeding films (which are actually set afterwards, just to be confusing). For those with a thirst for fantasy will have no better journey than this in 2012.

The Amazing Spider-Man4 July

In the other side of the big superhero face-off, the return of Spider-Man sees us going back to the beginning (again) with The Social Network star Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker. This reboot, now a groan-inducingly familiar term, focuses on Peter Parker’s high school years, so no Daily Bugle or sideline in pizza delivery. Marc Webb is the aptly named director of the flick, known previously for (500) Days of Summer, has a background in music videos. Webb put together numerous micro-films in the past decade for the likes of Green Day, Good Charlotte, AFI, My Chemical Romance, 3 Doors Down, Maroon 5 and Yellowcard, which might result in a particularly poignant use of music for Spidey. The supporting cast includes Emma Stone, as love interest Gwen Stacy, and Rhys Ifans as Doctor Curt Connors, the unfortunate scientist who, after an inevitable accident, becomes Spider-Man’s nemesis The Lizard. It may be a story we’ve seen before in Sam Raimi’s 2002 film, and certainly there is a lot to live up to for Garfield in Tobey McGuire’s performance, but Webb has everything to prove with what is only his second feature length picture – plus there isn’t a goblin in sight.

Plus: Under the Radar – Keep an eye on Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s sort-of Alien prequel set in the same universe, expect the same chill-factor as you get from watching the original alone in the dark and a massively ambitious project all round.

Check back soon for the next instalment looking at the most anticipated albums of the year.

James Michael Parry