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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.
Loosely based on Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of the same name – a book that was approved but never actually read by the man himself - the life and work of the late Steve Jobs is once again brought to life on the big screen, this time, in Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle’s engaging, but niche biopic, Steve Jobs.
The story begins with Steve Jobs (Fassbender) getting ready to launch and share the Macintosh home-computer with the world. As he awaits, rather impatiently, backstage for the auditorium to fill, marketing manager, Joanna Hoffman (Winslet sporting a sporadic and an uneven American-Polish accent) is working hard on containing the pandemonium involving a possible failure-to-launch scenario.
Jobs is soon approached and confronted by ex-lover, Chrisann Brennen (Waterston), and his five-year-old daughter, Lisa (Ross) – whom he refuses to accept as his own – who wants to discuss paternity issues, while Apple co-founder and old-time friend, Steve Wozniak (Rogen), is eager to argue the possibility of Steve actually sharing the credit for their success. Meanwhile, Apple CEO, John Sculley (Daniels) has his own bone to pick with Steve, who, by this point has demonstrated that his blinding ambition and drive to succeed will not be hindered by anyone.
Much like its titular character, Steve Jobs is not an easy film to love; those expecting a more straightforward approach to the story – and an in-depth account of the company’s history and a deeper insight into the man who brought it success - might well be disappointed with its minimal setup. However, those who find time to appreciate Danny Boyle’s unique storytelling, which covers three very distinct Apple product launches - debut of Macintosh, NEXT and the iMac which transpired in 1984, 1988 and 1998 respectively – will see that most of the movie’s strengths lie with its somewhat claustrophobic – albeit intimate – and theatrical setup. Padded with a few flashbacks, Steve Jobs is not interested in portraying the ‘early’ years; instead, it attempts to highlight Jobs’ personality and the interactions that occurred between him and his closest associates during a time which was deemed most critical for the company and, of course, for Jobs himself.
Capturing the often sociopathic and ruthless behavior when dealing with colleagues – friends and family not excluded - and his obsessive attention to detail, Fassbender offers a subtle but deeply-layered performance, completely devoid of any mimicry or impressionism. Meanwhile, Rogen manages to strip off his funnyman suit and deliver a poignant portrayal of the Apple I designer, while Winslet is surprisingly unnoticed as a loyal assistant.
It’s a decent biopic that offers a compelling glimpse inside the head of a man who is often referred to as a pioneer and a visionary of the digital age. The film doesn't exactly portray Jobs a nice man, that’s for sure, but stresses on his importance as one of the most famous figures of our time.
The fourth and final instalment in The Hunger Games film series is upon us and director Francis Lawrence has injected the closing chapter of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling dystopian adventure with a bit more heart and oomph than from what was witnessed in the first and rather dreary half of this two-part tale. However, although Mockingjay Part 2 is definitely a better and more exciting offering, it’s still not completely free of fault.
Mockingjay Part 2 picks up where Part 1 left off, with Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) trying to recover after almost being choked to death by her former ‘lover’ and ally, Peeta (Hutcherson), who by the looks of things, seems to have been brainwashed and poisoned with thoughts of killing Katniss. Driven by the anger and her pure hatred for President Snow (Sutherland), Katniss soon escapes District 13 to join an assault on The Capitol under rebel leader, President Coin (Moore), only to discover that there is one last version of the Hunger Games still to play.
One thing’s for sure; Part 2 is a definite improvement over Part 1, which spent most of its time shifting about and setting things up for the big payoff. It’s a problem that we’ve seen before in the waves of adult-fiction novel adaptations – the first half spends so much energy in setting up the second that it fails to convince a stand-alone film. Although the pace picks up, there’s no sense of grandness to what is meant to be a huge finale and, actually, some may even feel underwhelmed by how the plot plays out.
On the plus side, the action is engaging and some of the battle scenes are staged with great attention to detail. In addition, Lawrence is, as always, her fantastic self and she’s once again the anchor on what has been a shaky ship.
As a story which has always attempted to frame the horrors of war through the eyes of a fiercely brave young heroine, so much more could have been done – much like the whole series, there’s something engaging about the finale, but it all feels like a chance missed.