REVIEW: Avengers: Age of Ultron

28 08 2015

At this point, I am unsure how much good it does me to review “Avengers: Age of Ultron” as I would a movie.  I feel like it would be more useful to write up the experience of the film as a writer for Consumer Reports would describe a car – with matter-of-fact bullet-points and statistics.  What is the point of trying to capture the artistry of a film in the intricacies of prose when that film is little more than a top-of-the-line product?

The latest item off the “Avengers” conveyer belt amounts to little more than an 150 minute billboard for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Perhaps the one notable difference between “Age of Ultron” and its predecessor is that the events tend to sow discord that cleaves a wedge between the heroes as opposed to uniting them.  (I can only assume that was a decision that arose organically from the material and not as some kind of tie-in to the impending “Civil War.”)

Maestro Joss Whedon ensures that the film matches all the tech specs any fan looks for in a comic book movie.  It has action sequences the way cars have cupholders.  To top it all off, he assembles a climax that feels like it could (and maybe should) just exist as its own movie and is probably fetishized in the same way automotive aficionados value a powerful engine.  Maybe some of this would be exciting if it were not so painfully predictable.  Rather than inspiring me to marvel at the screen, it just made me feel numb.

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REVIEW: Much Ado About Nothing

2 08 2013

Much Ado About NothingI’m not the biggest Shakespeare fan, especially not on screen.  (Perhaps my upcoming semester in the United Kingdom will help reverse that.)  I have learned to admire his intricate plots in various English classes by studying his plays “Julius Caesar” and “Othello.”  Moreover, I can appreciate how they remain thematically relevant centuries later.

But when you stick that Elizabethan dialogue in a modern day context, it’s just too much of a stretch for me.  Unless, of course, we’re talking about Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet,” which sledgehammers Shakespeare’s meaning into your skull.  Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” on the other hand, is seeking to bring all the nuance that was missing from his last feature (a low-budget indie called “The Avengers“).  The effort is commendable, yet it never results in anything really gripping on the big screen.

Perhaps Whedon’s take on Shakespearean comedy would have played better on a stage.  I have no doubt that Whedon and his pals, such as fixtures Clark Gregg and Nathan Fillion, enjoyed delving into the Bard of Avon.  They delight in their Santa Monica setting, and the exquisite lensing at least allows us a sort of Nancy Meyers/”It’s Complicated” vicarious enjoyment of beautiful homes.

But beyond the cinematography, I took little pleasure in “Much Ado About Nothing.”  Aside from a few of the film’s clever screwball gags, the humor didn’t really connect with me.  The romance was flat and uninteresting, save Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof’s well-played Beatrice and Benedick.  Most of all, I just didn’t feel Whedon effectively updated Shakespeare to our time, making for a rather uneven viewing experience.  C+2stars





REVIEW: The Cabin in the Woods

29 11 2012

Shhh … don’t ruin Joss Whedon’s big year, but have you heard of this movie called “Scream?”  It’s a little vintage, I know.  In 1996, Wes Craven unleashed his film on audiences to massive acclaim and success.  He deftly sent up horror movie tropes with humor and a sharply philosophical slant – at the same time delivering a chilling horror movie!

Now Whedon, the fanboy favorite, has given us “The Cabin in the Woods,” a film he wrote along with director Drew Goddard.  The film took three years from shooting to release, although the satire feels relevant still as the climate of the horror genre remains roughly unchanged (with the exception of the found-footage epidemic that struck with “Paranormal Activity“).

And indeed, I really did enjoy some of the things it had to say and the clever way it presents them.  The deconstruction of the horror genre, particularly the onslaught of torture flicks, is done deftly and swiftly.  While “Scream” was Craven talking merely about the archetypes and trademarks, “The Cabin in the Woods” expands to include the audience.

What does it say about us that in our heads we are rooting for the directors, played to droll hilarity by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, to inflict the strangest and most unimaginable pain on people we don’t even know?

If we think it’s sick that there’s a betting pool on how long these characters will survive and how they will die, isn’t that essentially what we do when we gossip with the person in the seat next to us in the theater?

These questions were fun to ponder for a while, yet I found that “The Cabin in the Woods” quickly got on my nerves.  It reminded me of the feeling I get when a Hermione Granger-like student thinks they are the smartest person in the room and wants everyone to know it.  Whedon and Godard act like their film is the most ingenious thing to be dropped into cinema in ages.  Granted, anything that deviates from convention in this depraved artistic moment feels original.  Yet I couldn’t escape a sense of arrogance being radiated from the film.

And my only response was that I wanted to get on Amazon, order the Blu-Ray of “Scream,” and mail it to Whedon’s house.  The message: it’s been done before, and it’s been done better.  That doesn’t mean you can’t try, but you can’t gallivant around as if you are God’s gift to the genre.  You’ve made your contribution to the parodic state of horror, and you should be content with that.  B





REVIEW: The Avengers

15 10 2012

There are two kinds of people in this world: those that prefer “The Dark Knight” and Christopher Nolan, and those that “The Avengers” and Joss Whedon. I count myself absolutely and unapologetically in the first camp.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to like both; indeed, I did enjoy “The Avengers.” That point might be lost in this review since I will be attacking the ideology of filmmaking that produces movies like it, but Whedon recaptures the fun spirit that has been lost in Marvel films since Jon Favreau’s original “Iron Man” in 2008.

He doesn’t provide nearly enough justification for the wasting of four hours of my life on “Thor” and “Captain America,” but then again, I’m not the target audience. Just the sight of those figures will undoubtedly bring joy to many fans; I need a little bit more of a reason to care. I need to know why a purely expository story for “The Avengers” with little drama of its own is worth my time and money.

Whedon definitely embraces the inherent childishness of the comic books and places that as the center of the film; Nolan merely uses the familiar characters of renowned series as a facade to explore important social and cultural issues. There’s no discussion of serious issues in “The Avengers,” unless you count how New York would recover from the $160 billion of damage done to the city in the movie’s bloated climax.

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Shameless Advertisement #26 – April 2012

1 04 2012

Boy, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these.

But anyways, back by popular demand (and by that, I mean I feel compelled to resurrect this), the Shameless Advertisement highlights the upcoming month’s most anticipated new release.  While I advocated for “The Five-Year Engagement,” and still anxiously await it, the readers are fanboyishly most excited in April for “The Cabin in the Woods.”  I don’t get it, but then again, I haven’t really tried.  We’ll see if I make it out for this one.

I’ve never been a Joss Whedon fanboy, but I understand that there’s a significant portion of the Internet that is.  So they can rejoice at their appetizer for May’s “The Avengers,” his horror-comedy “The Cabin in the Woods.”  I, on the other hand, will still try to figure out what it is that has the Web so enamored with this man’s work.

Enjoy a month of moviegoing, folks – summer’s almost here!

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