Friday, 24 April 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

We've already had the magic and amazement of seeing our comic book heroes team up in 2012's incredible The Avengers, and now, three years later, they're back and bigger than ever. But does their second outing hold up to the first? Read on to find out in my SPOILER FREE review of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The main Avengers are back and this time they fight off against, Ultron, an A.I set on saving the world by destroying the human race, mo-capped and voiced by James Spader. It's your usual A.I philosophical tale but this time done on huge budget with superheroes. New to the cast of the film is Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, Aaron Taylor Johnson as Quicksilver and Paul Bettany as The Vision. The less you know about The Vision the better, just know that he is awesome in every way, steals the show and leaves you wanting more!

Seeing the main characters on screen in the first film truly was an experience, one that is hard to replicate in Age of Ultron. Instead, director Joss Whedon decides to just go full out and show you these characters working as a team from the offset with loads of incredible action and geeky visuals. In fact the who film is made up of insane action scenes, probably the most we have seen in a Marvel film so far. There is never a dull moment and the whole film is well structured and interwoven into a fast paced two hours and twenty minutes thrill ride. This however, is sometimes its flaw, one of the great things about this film is that you get to see these cool characters interact and engage with each other, and although we get this, for me there weren't enough moments where they slowed down and interacted in other ways rather than just fighting. I mean, we do get these scenes, but personally I just wanted more. The film basically goes from one set piece to another, and although these set pieces are incredible, I just needed some more down time every now and then to catch my breath.
There are pretty much ten main characters to deal with here and they all get their time to shine, even if it's for a small amount of said time, I felt Captain America and Thor could have been given more to do, but apart from that it works, every now and then you realise a character hasn't been seen recently but with the amount of cool stuff going on in the mean time, you can let that slide.

Like the first film, there is a lot of comedy, something I think worked better throughout this film than its predecessor. It's really funny and pretty much all the jokes land and I was laughing out loud throughout. There are a few running gags which really do work, especially one which involves most of the team winding Captain America up about a comment he makes early on in the film, it's hilarious. That's not to say that this film doesn't get dark, it's not all fun and games, but it gets the tone right and the jokes never feel out of place like they do in Iron Man 3. There are a few moments that definitely hit me right in the feels. I still think Captain America: The Winter Soldier got the tone perfect and more so than here, but this still walks the line between seriousness and comedy well, but never really packs too much of a punch.

Ultron is very cool, he looks great and is a good match for The Avengers, however I was a little disappointed at the fact that for me, he wasn't as scary or intimidating a character as the trailers made him out to be. I truly thought this would be Marvel's best villain but he didn't blow me away like I thought he would. He's still menacing but at times he just sounds like a robot Joss Whedon. The two new characters Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch however, did surprise me. I wasn't sure what they would be like but I was pleasantly surprised to see how well they fit into the story and their character arcs as a whole, even their Eastern European accents worked. Scarlet Witch turned out to be one of my favourite characters in the film and her powers truly looked awesome on screen, especially her mind manipulation which creates some very cool sequences for the Avengers to deal with. Talking of favourite characters, Black Widow really stood out for me in this film. I found her annoying in the first Avengers film and a little bit better in The Winter Soldier, but in this film I truly enjoyed watching her on screen and her development as a character throughout. Another character who might surprise audiences is Hawkeye, in fact he gets more character development than most and you will enjoy his character as part of the roster a lot more than previously.

There is an emphasis on saving people in this film and it was refreshing to see this within the superhero genre, which has not shown much of this recently. I definitely think the genre has learnt a lesson from the backlash to Man of Steel and I really enjoyed seeing the heroes putting civilian life first before then going to stop the villain. There are still some 9/11 looking destruction that may upset some, but the emphasis on saving civillians was something I really enjoyed about their second outing.

My last little niggle with the film was the music, there wasn't as powerful a score here and the main Avengers theme is only heard a couple of times and didn't really give me the same feeling it did when I first saw The Avengers. This film as whole didn't have that same kind of feeling you got when you first saw the characters assemble on the big screen, but it gives you enough nerdy comic book moments to forget this and just enjoy what was going on.

The film is a comic book come to life, and although it doesn't pack as big a political punch as The Winter Soldier did, it still is one heck of an enjoyable watch. Joss Whedon knows how to make a fun film and although it does lay the seeds for the next instalments, its still its own thing and not just a trailer for Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It will be a shame to see Whedon leave the franchise, but with The Russo Brothers helming the next instalment means we should still be in for another great ride.

It's not the best Marvel film but it sure is good still and is definitely a worthy sequel to the first Avengers. I feel it deserves a second viewing (like I did with the first film) to fully solidify my views, but for now this how I feel and I am rating Avengers: Age of Ultron a 3/5.

What did you think of the film? Do you think it was better or worse than than the first? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Daredevil TV Show Review

I don't usually review TV shows here, but after binge watching Daredevil this week, I thought I would make an exception. From the first trailer I knew Daredevil would be good, but I didn't know it would be this good! Here are my SPOILER FREE thoughts.

For those who haven't read the comics or were fortunate enough not to see the 2003 adaptation (it had its moments, but not many although Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin was one of them.), Daredevil is about Matt Murdock, a lawyer who was involved in car accident when he was younger, where toxic waste blinded him but also heightened his other senses. He uses these heightened senses to fight crime as a masked vigilante. All of this takes place within the same Universe as The Avengers films, but apart from the odd remark here and there, this show has very different in tone. This ain't for kids, this is a violent and brutal story, like nothing we have seen in the Avengers Universe before.

The show gives you the basics of the origin within the first scene, but then skips ahead to an already semi-established crime fighting blind man. You get to see bits and pieces of the origin throughout, but for the most part it skips over the boring stuff and starts where the fun begins.

Charlie Cox, from Stardust and Boardwalk Empire fame, plays Matt Murdock. He is absolutely brilliant and is very likeable as the blind lawyer and masked vigilante. He brings a new level to the over used 'tortured hero' trope. He plays Daredevil in such a way that makes you feel like he enjoys what he's doing, as well as being very passionate about his reasons for beating up the scum of Hell's Kitchen. Sign him up for Captain America: Civil War ASAP Marvel! The character of Daredevil is awesome and Cox really does him justice and looks awesome in the early black costume, flipping around and kicking ass!

Equally as great (if not slightly better) is Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin. He is hands down the best villain Marvel has made in this Universe. Not only is he incredibly violent, scary and intimidating but sympathetic as well. D'Onofrio plays him with a slight child like quality and you really do feel for him and empathise with him at times. Apart from the fact he isn't the size of a sumo wrestler, D'Onofrio looks almost identical to the comic book version, just watching him made me nerd out. I'm so happy to see him in this Universe and done so well at the same time.

There is not one bad casting in this show and other highlights include Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson, Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, Vondie Curtis-Hall as Ben Urich, Ayelet Zurer as Vanessa Marianna, Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple and Toby Leonard Moore as Fisk's right hand man Wesley. In fact, Karen, Vanessa and Claire may be some of the best female characters the Marvel Universe has come up with so far!

The writing in the show is something to be applauded, there is some really great lines and brilliantly interwoven storylines played out over the thirteen episodes. Being able to tell this story over many episodes means it isn't rushed and you get some smaller, quieter more personal moments which you won't always necessarily get on film. It begs you to keep on watching and you can, because it's all on Netflix right now! It took me less than a week to finish...

You can go a whole episode without having to see Daredevil and you will not care because the character of Matt Murdock, and those around him, are so engrossing and engaging by themselves. However one of the coolest things about show is the fight choreography. Not only are they some of the best fights we've seen in the superhero genre, but they're also so well written into the script as well. You know the motives behind every punch thrown by hero or villain and the fights can be emotionally powerful. And for once there are real stakes involved, Daredevil isn't invincible, he's just a man and a lot of the sequences are very tense and thrilling. And yes, the fight sequence done in seemingly one take is as cool as everyone is raving about!

It does dark and gritty better than most films who have attempted to do so with the superhero genre but also has the right amount of comedy to counteract this. It may take influence from Nolan's Batman triliogy with its tone ,but I would argue that it pulls it off even better. It sticks very close to the comics in term of what the characters are like, especially Frank Millar's run in the 90's on the series. The minimal lighting in the show enforces this tone, although it does go a bit overboard on the reds and yellows during the first few episodes!

I hope this show gets a second season because it truly has blown me away. I'm worried because Marvel has got Jessica Jone, Luke Cage and Iron Fist shows in the works for release over the next couple years, that we won't get a second season in 2016, but I really hope they decide to do it! I want more Daredevil in my life now! If this is the kind of quality we will be looking at for the rest of their shows, then colour me extremely excited, especially for when they all come together as a team for The Defenders. 

If this was a film I would rate it 5/5. If you haven't seen it, go watch it now. It may be too fresh in my mind still, but this may be the best thing Marvel has produced, it's easily the best show of the year so far. Avengers: Age of Ultron has a lot to live up to. This isn't like any other superhero TV show, you don't need to be a fan of the genre or read comic books to enjoy how good this is, though there are loads of easter eggs planted throughout for those who do. I don't know how I'm going to watch ArrowThe Flash or even the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D TV shows after this...

What did you think of the show? Do you agree with my rave review? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 13 April 2015

While We're Young

I'm very sorry it's been a while! I'm studying my final year of University at the moment and the work is starting to pile up, as are the episodes of Marvel's awesome new show, Daredevil! I did get chance to go to the cinema the other day though and catch Noah Baumbach's new film, While We're Young. Here are my thoughts.

While We're Young follows the middle aged couple of Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, who's marrige and careers are overturned when they meet the young hipster couple of Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried.

I am a big fan of Adam Driver and his work on HBO's Girls and love watching him on screen, he was yet again great in Noah Baumbach's latest, which marks his second film with the director after 2012's brilliant Frances Ha. He may not be as loveable as he is in Girls but he is great to watch against main character Ben Stiller, who is really great to watch in this film. I love how Stiller can go from over the top comedies and then come to more natural ones like this and still be very funny and believeble. Naomi Watts impressed me as well, I haven't liked her in much recently but found she was a likeable character in this. Amanda Seyfried is also good but unfortunately her character sometimes fades into the background and gets forgotten about.

I liked this film, it was funny and the characters are likeable and interesting, revealing more about themselves as the story goes along. It's a film about films, documentary films to be specific. It also offers a funny critique on the difference bewteen younger and older generations without being over the top, poking fun at both out of touch adults and the young hipster culture in New York.

It's all great until the thrid act of the film where things get a bit muddled. I felt as if the film was unsure as to what it was trying to say or acheive. What started as a film about a middle aged couple trying to find youth through a new younger couple, turns into film about documentary film ethics that doesn't really go anywhere. Characters do sudden and unexpected things and the film leaves you wondering why it's doing what it's doing.

Overall I liked this film, it's really nice but juts gets confused in the thrid act. It's not as good as Noah Baumbach's previous work but it is more accessible to a wider audience. Check it out if you get the chance. I am giving While We're Young a rating of 3.5/5.

What did you think of While We're Young? Let me know in the comments below.

Big things lie ahead this month. Keep an eye out later this month for my review of Avengers: Age of Ultron!

Thanks for reading!