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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.
Scary Movie 5 – aka Scary MoVie – marks the latest and slightly belated entry to one of the laziest spoof series in the history of cinema. The franchise, which continues down a shameless road of riff-raff, turns its attention to recent box office hits such as Mama, Black Swan, Sinister, The Cabin in the Woods, Evil Dead and of course, Paranormal Activity.
The premise hasn't changed one bit, but the outlandish formula that may have once incited a few laughs – or at least some guilty chuckles – has finally reached a point of no return: rock bottom.
Scary Movie 5's so-called plot focuses on Jody (Tisdale) and Dan (Rex); a young married couple who have come to care for three young girls who, after the tragic disappearance of their father – Dan's older brother – spend most of their time living in 'the cabin in the woods'. They are feral and wild, and continue to creep everyone out with constant references to someone called 'Mama'.
Keen to rid the house of any unwanted demons, Jody and Dan wire up their house with multiple cameras – à la Paranormal Activity. Meanwhile, the couple struggle to tend to their careers; Dan keeps himself busy researching apes at a scientific facility run by scary boss, Martin (Crews), while Jody tries to resurrect her career as a ballerina – à la, yes you've guess it, Black Swan – and auditions for the lead in a production of 'Swan Lake', working opposite pole-dancing ballerina, Kendra (Ash).
This is the first film in the series that has not been moulded by the hands of original creators, the Wayans Brothers, who declined the invitation to return, and the franchise's charmingly nutty lead, Anna Faris, who is currently pregnant. Needless to say, the film suffers from both omissions and doesn't have the foolish charm that made the franchise so popular, showing little-to-no intelligence in its humour.
The plot is incredibly inconsistent and plays out as a series of unconnected set-pieces, each telling their own story, just for the sake of it. Seriously, how many more Paranormal Activity spoofs do we have to sit through?
Tisdale, who has some pretty big shoes to fill after Farris' departure, is appalling and she still hasn't shaken off her Disney roots. Rex is just as horrendous and although the film has several talented actors at its disposable – Morgan Freeman narrates – none of them are given the right material to work with. Even cameos by Snoop Dogg, Mike Tyson, Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan all feel like missed opportunities.
Sitting in the wrong side of ridiculous, Scary Movie 5 is unfunny and too on-the-nose – wasting anymore column inches writing about it is infuriating.
Every now and then, a film comes along and leaves one completely spellbound and utterly speechless long after the end-credits roll. The Place Beyond the Pines is one such example.
Told in chapters, the story opens with the introduction of Luke Glanton (Gosling); a young motorcycle stunt driver working for a travelling carnival. During one of their stops in New York, he bumps into Ramona (Mendes); a girl with whom he’d had a one-night stand with during a previous rendezvous. He soon learns that he is the father of Ramona’s son, and despite the fact that she is now sharing a life with a boyfriend, Luke is determined to do his part and find a way to provide and care for them. He quits the carnival and befriends low-end mechanic, Robin (Mendelsohn), who convinces Luke that his stunt-riding skills might come in handy in pulling bank robberies.
The decision to venture into the world of crime ultimately puts Luke on the radar of Avery Cross (Cooper); a young police officer, and new father, whose story is focused on in the second chapter.
As the two men cross paths, their split-second decisions result in a life-altering moment that will not only have an impact on them, but on generations to come.
Director Derek Cianfrance – who had previously worked with Gosling in heavy 2010 indie drama, Blue Valentine – steps up to a much bigger canvas this time and still manages to delivering another incredibly stirring work of art. His carefully drawn world is compelling and unpredictable, and the unnerving and deeply moving score from composer, Mike Patton, only adds to the sense of dread that runs underneath the story's surface the whole way through. The consequences of one's decisions is the primary theme in this grand narrative and Cianfrance – with the penning support of Ben Coccio and Darius Marder – tells it in a way that feels natural and organic.
The Place Beyond the Pines has already been tipped for Oscar success, partly due to the fact that Cianfrance has managed to draw out some of the best performances of the year. Gosling – whose previous collaboration with the director proved to be some of his best work to date – is once again effortless, charismatic and utterly captivating. As a man who desperately wants to do the right thing, Gosling evokes an incredible amount of sympathy to his character while Cooper – who is slowly making his way to Hollywood elite status – delivers another magnetic performance. Even Mendes, in the role of a torn and distraught single mother, is confident, poised and manages to hold her own throughout.
Transfixing and poeti,c The Place Beyond the Pines is truly one of a kind. Viewers shouldn't be detered by its two-hour-plus running time; great stories like these take time to develop into epics and this is worth every minute.
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Captain America, Thor, Iron Man
Stick around till the very end of the film because, as with every single other Marvel film, there’s a short post credits sequence.