The Avengers Age of Ultron – More Than Action

My wife and I always look forward to a Marvel movie and catch up with our friends who also play the online game Marvel Heroes. This time round, Dave and Zep showed up. I booked the tickets way before the show, when the duo were still holidaying in Australia.

Avenger Age of Ultron

I must admit, since I am not actually a comic book reader, having played a Marvel game helps a lot in my understanding or rather a glimpse of what Marvel universe is all about. In that sense, this movie makes perfect sense to me. For those who may not have any background on Marvel, I would imagine that the storyline could be slightly confusing at times.

Here is a screenshot taken from the game’s login screen. Those who have watched the movie would immediately be able to relate this to the opening scene. This shows the effort Marvel has put in to promote their movies from all possible channels, including video games.

Age of Ultron login screen from Marvel Heroes

Back to the movie, it is a great follow-up to the first Avenger. Captain America, Ironman, Thor, and Hulk together with Black Widow and Hawkeye forms the Team Avengers. Ultron, the artificial intelligence is the villain. Then, enter the mutant twins Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. I like the black humor Ultron has. What I like most though is the side of vulnerability from all these heroes. Some sort of depth to the movie, and not just action and special effects.

This movie is long. 141 minutes. Each hero has given enough airtime to shine. Never a dull moment. I enjoy watching this thoroughly.

Rush – What An Experience Back To 1976 Formula One

Rush, a F1 movie

As a Formula One enthusiast, this movie Rush is a real treat. Unlike Senna (2010) – also another great film on F1 but in a documentary style – Rush is a movie based on a true story between the two rivalry drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.  All the elements of the sport are there.  Classic tracks, ear-bleeding engine noise, the flamboyancy of a F1 driver, how the technical knowledge a driver can bring an advantage to the team, the politics within the sport, the need to fight for a seat, the danger involved, and the sacrifices that the drivers and their families have made for that podium, and to be crowned the world champion.  Most of us would only see the sport as fast cars going round and round in circle.  Rush is a rare glimpse into what this sport is truly about.  While Formula One of today is a lot safer than in the earlier days, much of what is seen in this movie is still relevant.

The drama of the 1976 season is intense and part of it can be so gruesome that my wife has to turn away from the screen in the midst of the show.  The determination of winning a season above all sacrifices and this constant satisfaction of cheating death – something it is hard to relate but to a F1 driver of that era, that was all that mattered.  This movie is moving for me seeing how the two drivers fought against each other against all odds.  In the end, one may wonder what all of this are for.  To go down in history as one of the legendary drivers I suppose.  Some do live and die for the sport.

Both actors – Chris Hemsworth (of Thor!) and Daniel Brühl – act equally well.  Even to those who are not familiar with the sport (like my wife and my buddy), Rush is entertaining to watch.  If you wish to read more about Niki Lauda (ranked 9th as F1’s greatest driver by BBC), check out the link here.

Snow White & The Huntsman – This Is Not Twilight, Is It?

I am happy that Cynthia has picked Snow White & the Huntsman for our Movie Review Squad outing.  TK did not object.  Hooray!  As a huge fan of Kristen Stewart, I would say, this film does not disappoint.  Plus, I heart Twilight Saga.  There are at least two scenes in this movie I would ask myself: Am I watching Twilight?

I have repeated this story many times to my friends.  Since it is relevant to what I am trying to say, so bear with me.  Since young, my mother disallowed me from watching TV.  Reading novel was my only entertainment as a kid.  Therefore, I have not heard of Snow White or Jack and the Beanstalk.  Hard to believe, I know.  But I just do not know of any of these stories.  Halfway through the movie, I was puzzled about the plot.  So, I whispered to Cynthia: Isn’t this Sleeping Beauty?  She giggled, trying very hard not to laugh out loud in the cinema, and she replied: NO!

I really thought that Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are the same story.  I mean, the girl has fallen asleep.  And there is an evil queen somewhere.  A prince too.  I was genuinely confused because, well, Snow White & The Huntsman is nothing like what I have expected.  Kids, this is not a fairy tale.  There is bloodshed in this movie.  And plenty more.

Snow White & The Huntsman is a contemporary interpretation of the Walt Disney classic.  My little niece and nephew in Indonesia adore Snow White.   They can recite word-by-word even before the lines come out.  In that classic cartoon, Snow White the character has black hair, fair skin, red lips, and she moves with grace.  In this movie, Kristen Stewart too has black hair, fair skin, red lips, and a would-be-vampire look.  Grace, I don’t think she has.  She hunches a bit (like in her Twilight movies) with this hesitant, vulnerable look.  I have no idea why a Hollywood star does not have a good posture (compare her with Charlize Theron).  Cynthia defended her by highlighting the fact that Kristen has to act with a lack of confidence.  Hence the hunch.  I suppose she has a point.  Kristen Stewart’s version of Snow White has been locked inside a prison for a very long time after all.

Charlize Theron, the once upon a time sexiest woman on earth, is scary in this movie.  Truly scary.  She screams at the camera as though she is screaming at me.  Charlize is totally into this evil queen character.  Cynthia thought that she acts really well.  As for me, I thought she has over-dramatized her part.  Is she beautiful?  Without a doubt.  When she is not aged by the CGI technology that is.

Then we have Chris Hemsworth from Thor.  He is the huntsman.  I still don’t think he can act.  But he does have his emotional moment that moves me, slightly.  He has plenty of action too, which he does it well.

There are awkward moments in Snow White & The Huntsman.  Moments that do not make sense.  Corpse kissing is one.  Reciting Our Father prayer in a fantasy world filled with fairies, dwarfs, and a troll is another.  Cynthia was quite mad that the scriptwriter has incorporated a Christian prayer into a fantasy movie.  I was pretty cool about it.  Isn’t God omnipresence?  She rolled her eyes thinking that I have played too much video games.

TK thinks that this film is average.  In fact, I am surprised that he has stayed awake throughout the movie because he couldn’t even stand Twilight.  I have enjoyed watching Snow White & The Huntsman, mainly because I am a fan of Kristen Stewart since her days in Panic Room.  Is this movie entertaining?  Yes.  Will I watch it again?  Probably no.  The good thing is, unlike Twilight, you don’t have to wait for 5 years in order to see the ending.

The Avengers – Is It Really That Good?

My life could be in danger if I meet Jason Johnson in person.  Mr. Johnson is a professional movie critic working with one of our local papers called The New Paper.  He said on air in The Backseat With Maddy & Cheryl that anyone who does not like The Avengers shall be thrown at by the stones or drown in the sea.  You either like the movie, or you shall die.  I am unsure if it is OK to make death threat on air in Singapore, even as a joke.  But I am scared.

Anticipation is a double edged sword.  Now, if I am to tell you that I am not that crazy over The Avengers, would you think that I am nuts?  One billion dollars, the film has made worldwide.  One user in Google+ wrote an article: Just how does piracy kill the film industry when The Avengers made a billion?  I do not know.  Since the beginning of time, men steal or cheat, especially when we know that there is no consequence to our action.  But, we are also willing to pay for an experience that worth the dough, especially when we cannot wait.  Complex creature men are.  Maybe the answer to privacy is advertisement.  And it may lead to this eventually.

The Avengers is a true feast to the fans of the superheroes.  It is like an all-star movie.  Some female viewers may drool on Thor the God of Thunder, who is played by Chris Hemsworth.  Can he really act?  It is hard to tell.  In a sci-fi setting whereby I presume actors are working with the blue screen most of the time, what is good acting when we are so overwhelmed by the mind boggling CGI?  Then we have the talented Robert Downey, Jr. who plays the Iron Man.  So much emphasis is on him and that is understandable.  His script is lively and humorous.  He is quite possibly the only true actor in The Avengers besides Samuel L. Jackson whose airtime is rather limited.  50 million is likely to be Downey’s salary with bonus when the rest of the actors get a single-digit million dollar check.  Contrast to Tony Stark’s carefree personality is Captain America who prefers discipline and has the general awareness of public safety.  Chris Evans is charming in his solo movie.  He is charming in The Avengers too.  I find Loki creepy so not much to say about the only villain in this movie.  Hulk has a new face, again.  For some strange reasons, I do prefer the new Hulk played by Mark Ruffalo.  All of a suddenly, we have a loveable, still scary Hulk.  I am still not convinced how those pants can fit the big green Hulk.  Our movie buddy TK said that those are stretchable pants.  Yet Dr. Bruce Banner was totally naked after waking up from a bad fall.

There are a bunch of noteworthy side kicks in The Avengers.  Canadian actress of How I Met Your Mother – Cobie Smulders – is Nick Fury’s assistant.  Maybe in my mind, Robin is a funny character in that TV series.  It is hard to reconcile how she can be part of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Nevertheless, Cynthia seems cool with that.  Hawkeye’s performance is a surprise to me.  Little did I know that Jeremy Renner has also acted in The Hurt Locker.  To be honest, I watch The Avengers because of Black Widow.  This character should have her independent movie title.  Why do we so seldom see female superhero films?  I don’t know.  Maybe it is a Western thing.  Are the heroines in The Fifth Element, Resident Evil, or Ultraviolet count as superheroes?  Is it just a Marvel thing?  Scarlett Johansson is attractive and she plays a deadly and intelligent agent.  I do not know what she means by too much blood in her ledger as I am not a comic book reader.  I could only imagine.

The Avengers lacks the pace and intensity of The Hunger Games.  And it is not as emotionally driven as, say, Daredevil.  Some bits of the story do not seem to make sense.  But, it is a hugely entertaining movie, a feast to the eyes – both in terms of CSG as well as star power.  Each superhero has his chance to shine and be useful to the plot, in their capacity.  The story is incredibly simple.  Part one is about superheroes facing off with one and another, which to me is silly.  Part two is about superheroes working together to fight off that one villain, which is exciting.  I don’t see any clever strategy in place.  The overarching story seems to be a continuation of Thor.  Like many superhero movies, I would probably forget this one before the month turns June.  There are some memorable moments though.  And the award goes to Hulk.

Thor – You’ve Been Expecting It, Haven’t You?

Frankly speaking, the best 3D viewing experience thus far.  I was about to give up on 3D technology wondering why I would want to spend extra dollars to watch a show with color less than vivid, edges at times blurry.  Thor has restored my faith on 3D movies.  They have done right this time.

I vaguely remember some of the audiences upon watching the promotional clip at the end of Iron Man 2 screamed “Thor!”  It was a hammer discovered on a dessert.  Now that I have watched Thor, the hammer is called Mjolnir.  And my geek-o-meter in the universe of Marvel has just shot up by one knot.  At the end of this movie, there too was another promotional clip.  This time, the audiences screamed “Avenger!”  I have been watching Avenger’s promotional clips for what seems like ages.  I wonder when Avenger will be out.

Thor is the god of thunder (played by Hemsworth), cast down from his celestial realm to our world due to some classic family politics.  The fantasy realm is a beauty to look at, especially with those 3D glasses.  And to help us to connect to to these celestial beings, we have Natalie Portman and her two science team members who witness Thor falling from the sky.  The encounters between them are lighthearted and hilarious.  And it was fun to see Natalie and her girl friend swooning towards Chris Hemsorth’s look and body.  Gosh, I so want to have a body like that!

Girlfriends (or love subjects?) of the superheroes are usually quite useless or powerless in the stories.  Thor is no exception.  I really wish that something could have happened between Thor and that warrior princess lookalike character.  If I was the story writer, I would find a way, one way or another, to let the girl wields some massive power towards the end, to save the dude who saves the world or to save the world herself.  Better still, sacrifice herself in the process.

I like it that in Thor, the story flips between the celestial realm and our present realm.  I am unsure if there will be a sequel.  Judging at the positive reception, I reckon there should be one.