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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.
As far as buddy-comedies go, you can do a lot worse than Etan Cohen’s – not to be confused with the other Ethan of ‘Ethan & Joel Coen’ – partially entertaining and exceptionally raunchy Get Hard. Written by the director himself – along with the help of Jay Martel and Ian Roberts – the latest Ferrell & Hart coalition is promising of a few laughs, but, it’s definitely not for everyone.
The story is centered on a cheerfully unconcerned multimillionaire trader, James King (Ferrell) who is unexpectedly arrested for the suspicion of fraud and embezzlement. Outraged and willing to fight for his innocence, James soon finds out that his ‘type of people’ – you know the white-collar ones – are no longer protected by the judicial system and he is soon sentenced to ten years in a maximum security prison.
Scared and worried at what awaits him, James – who has been given thirty days to get his affairs in order - soon comes across Darnell Lewis (Hart); a straight and hard-working African-American who runs the car-cleaning service in the garage of James’ firm. Determined to get as much help as he can get, James turns to the only man he believes knows a thing or two about prison. However, what he doesn’t know is that Darnell – who is more than happy to accept the thirty-thousand-dollars payment – is just as naïve about life in prison as he is.
Get Hard is not original nor is it exceptionally funny. Its lack of creativity shows and its love for conventionality is at times a little hard to bear. However, in the midst of all the vulgarity it so shamelessly finds itself in – the prison-rape jokes as well as sexual assault humor is a little on the excessive side but plenty funny if you allow it to be - there is still enough room for laughter. The jokes – which involve a lot of ‘back-door’ talk and other seemingly offensive behavior which some viewers might find a little hard to sit-through – don’t always land where they’re supposed to but, when they do, the results are rewarding.
The one thing that keeps the movie from falling completely flat on its face is the genuine chemistry between the two leads who have managed to pour in some of their best work into the mix. Ferrell is well, Ferrell and his oblivious and not-as-annoying-as-you-may-think man-child works well against Hart’s snappiness and fast-moving energy and the duo, although, not the most easy-to-love characters, succeed in delivering the laughs.
It’s stupid, funny and rude. It works, almost.
Aimed primarily at young teens – or anyone else who thinks that watching Mean Girls is the next best thing since sliced bread - Kyle Newman’s latest entry comes in the form of an inexpertly created and awkwardly told teen-spy-high-school-comedy-drama, who’s painfully characterless and senseless ways are probably better off left unviewed.
Working from a script written by John D’Arco - previous writing experience includes a relatively successful romantic short story titled, A Grocery Story – Barely Lethal is centred on Megan Walsh (Steinfeld); a talented teenage special ops agent who was raised and trained in a special spy school for orphans called PRESCOTT. Taught and brought up by the devoted and no-nonsense trainer, Hardman (Jackson), Megan – along with her fellow orphans - including Heather (played by the Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner), never really knew life outside the agency so, she spends most of her days dreaming of what it would be like to leave her current life behind and be a normal sixteen-year old American girl.
Luckily, she soon gets the chance to do just that and when a mission goes wrong and she is marked as MIA; seizing the opportunity, she quickly fakes her own death and enrols herself in high school as an exchange student. However, it turns out that life as a spy-assassin is a lot less complicated than a high-school kid, especially when a viral video exposes Megan to her arch-enemy - ruthless assassin Victoria Knox (Alba) - who is determined to wipe her out for good.
With a cast that includes the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Jaime King, Jessica Alba and least but not least, Hailee Steinfeld – the talented actress who was nominated for an Oscar for her biting performance in 2010’s True Grit – it would only be natural for one to expect more from the proceedings. Unfortunately, Newman’s inexperience shows as Barely Lethal – a movie that tries to combine the teenage-spy genre with the appeal of a superficial high-school comedy– doesn’t seem to know how to get the best of both worlds, resulting in one disjointed, clichéd and forced piece of entertainment that lacks flavour and character.
The action – excluding Ms. Steinfeld’s superb physicality, combat skills and manoeuvres – is riddled with a cheap and shallow T.V quality-like special effects and not even the presence of someone like Mr. Sammy J – who to be fair has had some questionable roles in the past – can help keep it grounded. Everyone seems to be game, including Alba as the pitiless killer however, the story just isn’t strong, smart or witty enough to handle the pressure.
This is yet another movie that should have gone straight-to-DVD; it says its Barely Lethal, we say it’s barely watchable.