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The Avengers: Believe the Hype
Fling a bunch of superheroes together and you either get the New Year’s Eve of superhero films or you get a slice of unbridled awesomeness. Thankfully, The Avengers, which crams Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow and Hulk into one film without short-changing any one character, falls squarely into the latter camp. In fact, it’s mayor of that camp.
Exhibit one of its awesomeness: Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow gets an introductory scene that is more badass than her entire Iron Man 2 arc and in fact, she’s one of the most awesome characters in the film. Exhibit Two: Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts, with her entire three minutes of screen time, manages to come across as smart, hilarious and generally super cool; three things that can’t be said about her roles in both Iron Man films put together. Exhibit Three: Hulk, who was previously so mistreated by Hollywood that he needed a reboot instead of a sequel, is the most badass superhero in the line-up. Although Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, in all his power hungry, revenge seeking insanity, is a joy to watch.
The film’s plot is rather simple. Loki (Hiddleston), Thor’s (Hemsworth) brother, is out to take over the world and has assembled an alien army to do so. All he has to do is get his hands on the Tesseract - a super powerful energy source - and use it to open a portal through which his army can join him. Nick Fury (Jackson), director of S.H.I.E.L.D. decides to reactivate The Avengers initiative and calls on the world’s superheroes - Iron Man (Downey Jr), Captain America (Evans), Black Widow (Johansson), Hulk (Ruffalo), Thor and Hawkeye (Renner) - to counter this extraterrestrial threat. Despite the fact that they can barely stand each other, they’re forced to put their planet-sized egos aside to save the world from Loki’s dominion.
We could go on and on about everything that makes this film far superior than all the other superhero films that came before it, but it can really all be summed up in two points: the dialogue, and the visuals. The dialogue here has Joss Whedon written all over it. Seriously, anyone who’s watched one episode of Buffy, Angel, or Firefly will recognise his voice from the very first one liner. The relentless onslaught that follows only solidifies his status as the king of quips. This film is so hilarious, that you’ll frequently miss jokes because you’re laughing too hard at the one before. And no, they don’t all come from Iron Man. It also has to be said that the actors really prove their comedic skills here whether with outright jokes or more wry material.
As for the visuals, they’re Transformers good. It rivals anything Michael Bay has put out in sheer thrill factor alone. The main difference though, is that there’s space to breathe. In between all the mayhem and destruction, the characters get time to take a moment, get back on their feet, trot out an epic one liner then throw themselves back into the fray. It’s awesome! The combination of The Avengers’ skill sets makes for really interesting fight scenes where the characters’ personal fighting styles and weapons of choice come together in really exciting ways.
You don’t need to have seen each character’s films before seeing The Avengers but a basic knowledge of the superheroes is actually recommended - Thor and Loki in particular as it’s their relationship that drives the story. While not technically a sequel, it does tie all of the characters’ previous story arcs together and relies to an extent on the fact that the characters have all been established already.
Engaging but not particularly remarkable, Genndy Tartakovsky’s Hotel Transylvania 2 is, unfortunately, not much of an improvement from its equally mediocre 2012 predecessor. Light on intelligent humour, heavy on the slapstick, the result is once again a mixed bag; an animated effort which will please the young viewers, but not anyone older than maybe 10.
Taking place in and around the titular hotel, the story is once again centered on Dracula (voiced by Sandler); the human-hating owner of the hotel who - in the previous film - has tried so hard to destroy the romance between his daughter, Mavis (Gomes) and her goofy human-backpacker beau, Jonathan (Samberg) but ultimately, failed to get very far with his plan.
Now, five years later after his daughter’s wedding, Dracula has to deal with yet another troubling obstacle; his half-human, half-vampire grandson, Dennis (Blinkoff) who is refusing to give in to his vampire side. Desperate for an heir, grandpa Dracula – who has opened his doors to the ‘normal’ people ever since his daughter’s wedding – decides to send the happy couple to California so that Mavis can meet her in-laws whilst, he can hang back and show his grandson the ropes of being a monster.
Working from the script written by Robert Smigel and Adam Sandler, Hotel Transylvania 2 is not a total miss. Told through a series of colorful and highly-spirited dynamics, the story is designed to appeal to a much younger audience and for those kids who found the first movie likeable and engaging, won’t have a problem connecting it to it the second time around. However, it is once again having problems in reaching out to the older crowd and even though, the writers have decided on a slightly different approach to the humor – fewer fart and bathroom jokes this time – the overall effect is still pretty underwhelming.
Sandler - in his first-ever animated sequel - is surprisingly pleasing as the desperate father and grandfather who will do anything to pass on his wisdom – and vampire customs – to his grandson. Meanwhile, as his one-hundred-and-eighteen year-old daughter, who too is being thrown into her own world of anxieties, Gomes has once again managed to come across as a relatively likable young woman, while Samberg’s over-enthusiastic ways tend to be a little infuriating.
On the whole, Hotel Transylvania is an entertaining animated diversion and a passable effort from the folks over at Sony; colorful, dynamic but a tad chaotic towards the end, it definitely has its flaws but, still plenty of fun for the under-ten-year-olds in the crowd.
Based on the real-life events of an infamous 1996 Mount Everest expedition, Everest - directed by the 2 Guns director, Baltasar Kormakur - is a beautifully captured tale of bravery, human spirit and a battle for survival set against a gorgeous yet a merciless backdrop of the tallest mountain in the world.
The story begins with Rob Hall (Clarke); the guide and the owner of a New Zealand-based company called Adventure Consultants who have become famous for their tours of Mount Everest. Leaving his pregnant wife, Jan (Knightley), behind, Rob is preparing for a new expedition and soon sets out to meet his new group of climbers including guide and a friend, Guy Cotter (Worthington), journalist Jon Krakauer (Kelly), postman-turned-explorer Doug Hansen (Hawkes), rowdy Texan pathologist, Beck Weathers (Brolin) and Yasuko Namba (Mori); a renowned Japanese climber looking to complete all Seven Summits.
After helping his climbers with the basics of mountaineering, Rob and his team soon arrive at Everest where the rising popularity and commercialisation of guided climbs has led to crowding on the mountain. Trying to maintain a steady pace, the group – who were first forced to acclimatise to their new surroundings – begin their ascent. Fighting the harsh weather conditions – and a few moments of sheer terror - the unit is determined to make it to the top, however, disaster soon strikes and the climbers are forced to make life-or-death decisions and give it their all in their fight against Mother Nature herself.
Scripted by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy, Everest is told with a great deal of freshness and even if viewers are already familiar with the outcome of the story, it still manages to keep you thoroughly involved. The swooping and sometimes vertigo-inducing shots of the beautiful but deadly rocky terrain are mesmerizing and Kormakur’s recreation of the infamous mountain is truly an accomplishment. The sheer intensity of the situations that befell this particularly unlucky group of climbers is almost palpable and there are a few truly intense and terrorising moments that will leave viewers at the edge of their seats.
However, the film’s major flaw comes in the form of character-detachment – not to mention a particularly chaotic third-act – and apart from Jason Clark, whose character and overall performance is truly compelling throughout, most of the other characters, although all genuinely invested in their respective roles, are never fully explored, leaving us a little apathetic to their fates.
Overall, Everest is an immersing tale of heroism and it celebrates the human spirit when faced with the kind of gruelling challenges that only Mother Nature can. Beautifully shot, it’s a visual stunner, though at times its technical achievements aren’t matched by its less involving dramatic peaks.