Ep. 113 – Avengers: Infinity War (SPOILERS start at 10:02)

April 28, 2018 by  
Filed under Podcast

The CineSnob Podcast RETURNS to discuss the biggest superhero movie ever, “Avengers: Infinity War!”

WARNING: Cody and Jerrod talk spoilers starting a 10:02, so tread carefully, true believers!

Click here to download the episode!

Avengers: Infinity War

April 26, 2018 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, lots more
Directed by: Joe and Anthony Russo (“Captain America: Civil War”)
Written by: Cristopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”)

The rumors are true—it’s all been building toward this. The entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starting with “Iron Man” in 2008 and running through 17 movies in the past 10 years, culminates in the latest film, “Avengers: Infinity War.” Well, I guess really I should say it all BEGINS to culminate in “Infinity War” because—somewhat frustratingly, and despite reports to the contrary—the movie ends up being very much only the first part of a larger story, with a shocking ending that can’t help but call into question what exactly was at stake in the two hours and 40 minutes if this isn’t the end of the story.

Here’s the lowdown: cosmic bad guy Thanos (Josh Brolin), who we first saw in a post-credit’s stinger in 2012’s “The Avengers,” is hunting down the six Infinity Stones that have been scattered across the universe—and turned up as MacGuffins in many a Marvel movie—in order to achieve his goal of ultimate power, which he’ll use to wipe out half of the life forms in existence in order to save resources. Out to stop him is an all-star lineup of just about every superhero introduced in the MCU so far. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) stow away on one of Thanos’ spaceships, which leads them to bump into Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff).

Meanwhile Thor (Chris Hemsworth) takes off across the galaxy with Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and surly teenaged Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) to go forge a new weapon to take on Thanos. Back on earth, Captain America (Chris Evans) travels to Black Panther’s (Chadwick Boseman) Wakanda with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and back-from-space Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to reunite with no-longer-brainwashed Bucky (Sebastian Stan). If you’re looking for Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye or Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, sorry—they stayed home on house arrest, even though the fate of the universe is on the line.

While I won’t go into spoilers, know first and foremost, this is very much a Thanos movie. The Russo Brothers have made an interesting choice in focusing the story on their giant purple villain, with their equally-giant roster of superheroes coming in and out of his orbit. Unfortunately, that means some all-stars (like Cap and Black Panther) and solid bench players (like Scarlett Witch and Bucky) are left with little screen time to make an impact. Conversely, the Iron Man-Spider-Man-Doctor Strange trio is a real winner, as is pairing Thor up with the Guardians of the Galaxy. But as the movie nears its ending, there’s a jaw-dropping event that finds no resolution—at least not until the next Avengers movie is released. And, since nothing takes place in a vacuum, the stakes that the move lays out are somewhat cheapened, because Marvel certainly isn’t going to stop making movies anytime soon. While there are awesome thrills and amazing battles that fans have been waiting years to see, my real wish was that this were a complete story—and it isn’t.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

July 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr.
Directed by: Jon Watts (“Cop Car”)
Written by: Jonathan Goldstein (“Horrbile Bosses”) & John Francis Daley (“Vacation”) and Jon Watts (“Cop Car”) & Christopher Ford (“Cop Car”) and Chris McKenna (“The LEGO Batman Movie”) & Erik Sommers (“The LEGO Batman Movie”)

No one wanted this, the third different Spider-Man film franchise from Sony in 15 years. Most of us liked the first two films starring Tobey Maguire from director Sam Raimi. I guess someone liked enough of Marc Webb’s first film in the 2012 reboot starring Andrew Garfield and a pre-Oscar Emma Stone to warrant the sequel that killed that franchise.

Spider-Man’s origin story, like Batman’s, should be etched in stone somewhere on a list called “Things We Never Need to See Depicted On Screen Again.”

But of course, in this golden age of comic book films, the most popular, kid-friendly hero can’t stay benched. Marvel came a-calling, offering Sony a deal they couldn’t refuse: let Spider-Man (which the studio has the film rights to) join Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe and we’ll let you borrow elements for the MCU for stand-alone Spider-Man films, which sputtered out after “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” just as Marvel was kicking things into overdrive. This marriage begat the latest film featuring the wise-cracking web slinger, “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

Picking up just after the events of 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” which is recounted by Peter Parker (Tom Holland) via social media videos, “Homecoming” focuses on Peter’s high school life while he awaits another call from Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) to join up once again with the Avengers. Meanwhile, Peter dons his Stark-made Spidey suit—filled with tech, natch—to stop petty crime around New York. When Peter runs across some criminals using salvaged Chitauri tech, he inadvertently stumbles into the path of arms dealer Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a once-honest man driven to the underworld when the government and Stark muscle him out of the salvage business. All this while he’s trying to win the affection of cute older girl Liz (Laura Harrier).

I don’t know  that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the best Spider-Man movie—a distinction that still belongs to Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2”—but it’s certainly the most fun. The movie is a genuine laugh riot at times, shamelessly aping the ‘80s output of John Hughes to mine hilarity from teenage awkwardness. Holland’s Peter feels like the first real “teenaged” Spider-Man we’ve ever gotten, and his clumsy pining over Liz and his nerdy goings on with best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) are fun enough even without the web swinging. Alas, this is Marvel movie, though, and previous viewing of damn near everything that came before it, though not absolutely required, is highly advised. Though not as hefty a presence as marketing may have implied, Tony Stark hangs heavy over the film, especially in the suit, which at times makes Spider-Man seem more like a kid version of Iron Man that swings from webs instead of flying than the webhead everyone loves (also, where’s the spider sense, or the super strength?)

Still, “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” almost improbably, delivers an essential, delightful version of a movie no one wanted in the first place.

Ep. 79 – Captain America: Civil War, Space Jam 2 is coming whether we like it or not, and the young Han Solo has been found!

May 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Podcast

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The CineSnob Podcast returns to choose sides in “€œCaptain America: Civil War.” The guys also talk about the announced “Space Jam 2″€ set to star LeBron James and how much the original sucks (according to Jerrod and Kiko), and the fellows give their take on Alden Ehrenreich being cast as the lead in Lord and Miller’€™s upcoming Han Solo movie.

[00:00-02:04] Intro/salutations

[2:04-13:45] Space Jam 2

[13:45-22:26] Alden Ehrenreich is the new Han Solo

[22:26-40:27] Review – Captain America: Civil War

[40:27-41:10] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

Captain America: Civil War

May 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”)
Written by: Christopher Markus (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) and Stephen McFeely (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”)

When the cast list was announced for “Captain America: Civil War,” it was hard to not be afraid that it would be an overcrowded mess. After all, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” tried to replicate the success of the first “Avengers” with limited amounts of success. But leave it to brother directorial duo Joe and Anthony Russo to pull off something truly “Whedon-esque.” They take something that, on paper, should not work at all, and turning it into a rousing, action-packed, spirited film.

For being a Captain America film, “Civil War” goes a long way in its development of other characters. In a huge anticipatory move, Tom Holland is introduced as Peter Parker (Spider-Man). While the initial introduction is a bit clunky, fans may be surprised by how much Spidey they get. It is also the first appearance of Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. It’s impressive how streamlined his introduction becomes, quickly establishing his place in the franchise while not seeming rushed. Of course, at the heart of “Civil War” is the battle between Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) as well as the friendship with Rogers and Bucky, also known as The Winter Soldier. To that extent, it is a Captain America movie. To every other extent, this is basically a third installment of “The Avengers.”

For featuring nearly every Marvel character other than The Hulk, Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Russo Brothers did an astonishing job of not letting the film feel overstuffed. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was a complete mess that had no discernible structure. On the other side of things, “Civil War” has nary a wasted frame, feeling lean and mean considering its two and a half-hour run time.

A major problem throughout most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the inability to develop a good villain. Sure, Loki was fun, but the threat in all of these movies is always a vaguely evil and impending world domination by an under-developed and uninteresting big bad. One of the biggest reasons that “The Avengers” was so successful as a film was that it pitted these characters against each other. Strife within the group proved to be the most interesting conflict the team has had to face throughout the course of these movies. “Civil War” follows suit, literally dividing The Avengers into teams. It is, once again, the most interesting aspect of the film. It’s much more satisfying and exciting to see Iron Man and Captain America violently beating each other up than it is to see entire city blocks be destroyed by fighting some random otherworldly species.

This all culminates in a scene that has been dubbed as the “airport scene.” In what is one of the most memorable scenes of the Marvel franchise, the teams have a battle royale in a giant setpiece. Not only is this scene immense, break-neck speed fun, but nearly every character gets at least one moment of sheer awesomeness and humor. It’s where Marvel gets to show off that they know what to do with Spider-Man, really Holland being a true motor mouth. It’s also where Paul Rudd actually gets to be himself, stealing every second of screentime and being the version of Ant-Man that should have been in his own previous film.

Something that sets “Civil War” apart from most comic book films in recent memory is that it actually addresses the issue of superheroes destroying cities and killing random folks without consequence. It’s an idea that is somewhat meta, considering that being an actual criticism of the genre, but also an idea that was terribly flubbed by something like “Batman v Superman.” To this degree, “Civil War” actually gives our heroes a real reason to be against one another. While the stakes may never feel quite high enough, the disputes are earned.

The end of the film is a bit of a let-down, but “Captain America: Civil War” is solidly exhilarating, engaging, and entertaining. It’s a truly astonishing feat that the Russo Brothers were able to introduce new characters, stuff nearly every Avenger into a single scene, and somehow make this film feel like a stand-alone rather than a table setter, one of the biggest criticisms of the Marvel franchise. Without question, “Civil War” is easily among the top three films Marvel has produced, and the franchise seems to be in capable hands with the Russo’s.

Ep. 45 – Avengers: Age of Ultron, Clouds of Sils Maria, Tales of the Grim Sleeper, Josh Trank dropped from Star Wars, Robert Downey Jr. disses indie filmmakers, and the guys commiserate over the San Antonio Spurs being eliminated from the NBA playoffs

May 4, 2015 by  
Filed under Podcast

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Click here to download the episode!

In this week’s episode of The CineSnob Podcast, the guys from CineSnob.net review “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Clouds of Sils Maria,” and “Tales of the Grim Sleeper.” They also discuss Josh Trank being removed from his Star Wars standalone film, Robert Downey Jr. making negative comments about the indpendent film industry, and the guys talk a little sports.

[0:00-24:37] Intro, Spurs talk, Mayweather vs. Pacquaio fight talk, & Dazed and Confused screening tease
[24:37-36:08] Josh Trank dropped from Star Wars anthology film
[36:08-48:07] Robert Downey Jr. disses indie filmmakers
[48:07-1:17:55] Avengers: Age of Ultron
[1:17:55-1:28:11] Clouds of Sils Maria
[1:28:11-1:43:18] Tales of the Grim Sleeper
[1:43:18-1:53:19] Teases for next week and close

Subscribe to The CineSnob Podcast via RSSiTunes or Stitcher.

To give your feedback, e-mail us at podcast [at] cinesnob [dot] net, or leave a voicemail at 920-FILM-210.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

May 1, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth
Directed by: Joss Whedon (“The Avengers”)
Written by: Joss Whedon (“The Avengers”)

This far into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as it’s called, we’ve seemed to settle on a formula as far as movies with the word “Avengers” in the title and all of the other movies shake out: the other movies are ultimately there to lead us to the next Avengers movie—2014’s excellent “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and the good-time jam “Guardians of the Galaxy” notwithstanding—providing some entertaining spectacle engineered to kick up hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office while trying their best to cover up the fact that it’s all nothing but wheel-spinning until the next Avengers team up. And yet, here we are, after a banner year for Marvel movies both critically and financially, with “Avengers: Age of UItron,” a movie that feels less like the culmination of things and more like a set up for the next damn Avengers movie.

After the events of “Thor: The Dark World” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” the powerful staff of villain Loki has ended up in the hands of Baron Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) who is using its power to experiment on humans, namely twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) in order to give them enhanced abilities. The Avengers, including Iron Man (Downey), Captain America (Evans), Thor (Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), lead an attack on Strucker’s Eastern European hideout to gain possession of the powerful artifact. Victorious, the team celebrates back in New York City, but not before Tony Stark and Bruce Banner put Stark’s computer butler Jarvis (voice of Paul Bettany) to work using the staff to create the Ultron project, an artificial intelligence charged with protecting the Earth from another alien attack. Only something goes wrong, and the Ultron that emerges is a humanity-hating android (voiced by James Spader) bent on wiping out the human race, and, of course, only the Avengers can stop him.

Writer/director/nerd messiah Joss Whedon returns to script and call the shots here after turning the first “Avengers” film into a global juggernaut and cementing Marvel Studios as a bona fide blockbuster machine. His trademark witty banter and obvious affinity for stories of ragtag teams made the initial outing something special, a fun mega-budget adventure with a real beating heart, a style used once again to great success in last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.”  With “Age of Ultron,” though, Whedon’s style seems lost in the excess – there is a LOT of movie to this movie – with no place to put things he likes to, so we’re left with weirdness like a Spader-voiced murderbot who cracks wise like a cast member of “Firefly.” As for the main Avengers, moments of growth and evolution from their last on screen appearances seem forgotten as well: Captain America exhibits no real fallout from the knowledge that the people he thought he was fighting for were the enemy all along, Tony Stark still has dozens of Iron Man suits even after destroying them and walking away in “Iron Man 3,” and Bruce Banner regresses to a self-doubting neurotic about his transformation into the Hulk, despite seeming to have it under control the last time the Avengers assembled.

With most of the main characters already penciled in to Marvel’s movie schedule through 2020, “Age of Ultron” feels inconsequential at best, like a place-holder at worst. When the now-obligatory mid-credits stinger is finished, you’ll be left wondering why THAT wasn’t the storyline of this adventure all along.

Chef

May 23, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Sofia Vergara
Directed by: Jon Favreau (“Made”)
Written by: Jon Favreau (“Swingers”)

If the effectiveness of a food-based film is based on how much said movie makes your mouth water for the dishes cooked on screen, rank director/actor/writer/produer John Favreau’s new comedy among the finest dining experiences at the theater in recent years. It may not make you have a food orgasm like in “Like Water for Chocolate,” but Favreau definitely teases the tastebuds.

It all starts with Favreau’s spirited and realistic script that allows his actors to play their roles without any artifice. In the film, Favreau takes on the lead role of Carl Casper, a chef of an upscale restaurant in Los Angeles where he has built a solid following cooking really good food. But Carl wants to do more than play it safe in the kitchen. He wants to experiment and take risks. Restaurant owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman), however, wants him to stick to the menu and cook the dishes he’s been making for the last five years. After a nasty war of words on social media with high-profile food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), who lambasts Carl’s latest effort in the kitchen, Carl sees no other choice but to pack his knives and find a new start in the culinary world. Taking advice from his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), he heads east with her and their son Percy (Emjay Anthony) for the summer to Miami where Carl starts a food truck business.

While the film isn’t breaking any new ground thematically, Favreau seems dead set on making “Chef” seem as true to life as possible. Much of this comes through the dialogue and interaction between characters, specifically Carl and Percy whose father/son relationship is sweet, but never cloying. Favreau also finds a natural give-and-take rapport with actors Bobby Cannavale and John Leguizamo, who play support staff in his kitchen. The latter finds his way to Miami later in the film to lend Carl a hand with his new endeavor. Also joining the cast for bit parts are Black Widow and Iron Man themselves, Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr., both of whom give the film a little more star power for those moviegoers who will more than likely overlook an indie gem like this and settle for superhero fare this summer.

After mixed results with the blockbuster projects he’s directed in the last few years (“Iron Man” good, “Cowboys & Aliens,” not so much), it’s refreshing to see Favreau find his way back to a more intimate story where character development and smart dialogue trump everything else. There is a lot of cooking going on in “Chef,” but it’s easy to see the main course in this film is about Carl’s shortcomings as a father. Favreau is able to balance this narrative well, especially with the effortless performance he gets from his costar Anthony. It’s a great pairing that’ll make both your stomach and your heart expand.

“Chef” was seen at SXSW 2014. For more SXSW 2014 coverage, click here.

Iron Man 3

May 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley
Directed by: Shane Black (“Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang”)
Written by: Shane Black (“Lethal Weapon”) and Drew Pearce (debut)

After the roaring success of “The Avengers,” the biggest question facing the Marvel cinematic universe was “What’s next?” Since 2008, with the release of the original “Iron Man” film, everything that came afterward—vehicles for Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk—was a build-up (for better or worse) to the epic team-up adventure of last summer. And boy, did it deliver, wowing critics and audiences on its way to becoming the third-highest grossing movie of all time. But after all of that (Marvel calls it Phase 1), what could they possible have in store for fans?

Marvel’s answer: go back to square one and kick off Phase 2 with “Iron Man 3.”

While the film does reference the events that took place in New York City that involved gods battling aliens, “Iron Man 3” plants its feet as a stand-alone adventure. A rattled, sleepless Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has spent every waking moment since “The Avengers” tinkering with different designs for his Iron Man suit, which are at number 42 at this point. As a result of his erratic tinkering, though, Tony’s domestic life with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) has begun to suffer. Enter handsome Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a scientist with connections to both Tony and Pepper. He’s come peddling his highly unstable treatment for regrowing lost limbs—a treatment that may be tied to murderous terrorist the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).

For having the unenviable task of following one of the biggest films ever, “Iron Man 3” does pretty solid work. Director/co-screenwriter Shane Black (“Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang”), stepping in for Jon Favreau, gets to stretch his legs in an adventure that’s refreshingly free of table-setting for whatever next year’s Marvel movie will be. Somewhat surprising is how little time Downey spends in the Iron Man armor, though the film’s climax more than makes up for it.

Not everything works, however, and the legacy of what came before it weighs a little too heavily on the film. Don Cheadle, returning as James Rhodes, again doesn’t get much to do. He flies around in his War Machine armor (now re-christened and repainted as the red, white, and blue Iron Patriot) for a little while busting up potential terrorist safe houses until he gets kidnapped and has the armor stolen from him like a punk. And the movie never really answers the nagging fanboy question: “Why not just call in the rest of The Avengers?” when Stark’s days get darkest. I appreciate that Tony Stark is a badass genius with incredible technology at his fingertips, but couldn’t the Hulk or Captain America or even that chump Hawkeye have chipped in to take out a goon or two?

The Avengers

May 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo
Directed by: Joss Whedon (“Serenity”)
Written by: Joss Whedon (“The Cabin in the Woods”)

It happens in the second half of the highly-anticipated Marvel comic-book movie “The Avengers,” a precisely planned superhero assemblage that has been culminating since 2008’s release of both “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” reboot (most über-nerds unfairly ignore director Ang Lee’s fascinating “Hulk” of 2003 as art-house nonsense). As “The Avengers” ensemble cast, including Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Chris Hemsworth as Thor, contemplate how to stop the supervillain Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from destroying the earth with his barrage of alien soldiers and machines, Captain America (Chris Evans) takes it upon himself to assign his comrades to do what each one of them does best.

“Hulk … smash,” he says, directing his bulging, green, gamma ray-infused super teammate who swiftly carries out his instructions by ripping apart serpent-like battleships running amok in NYC. It’s a phrase fanboys will be pleased to hear, especially since Marvel seemed to agree with their assessment of Lee’s aforementioned attempt, which prompted the studio to hit the reset button by plugging Edward Norton into Eric Bana’s transforming role as Bruce Banner (the role now belongs to Mark Ruffalo after creative differences arose between Marvel and Norton). From that point on, the comic-book conglomerate knew exactly what they needed their Universe to become.

“The Avengers” isn’t trying to reinvent the comic-book movie like Lee or Christopher Nolan with his “Dark Knight” trilogy. It’s evident that the studio’s main objective is mass commercial appeal and not to clutter things up with complex ideas and themes. That’s exactly what they’ve been doing over the last four years. With releases like “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” they wanted to give fans already invested in these characters concrete evidence no one was going to wax philosophical. They wanted big, blaring scenes capable of melting eyeballs in 3D. In the simplest of terms, they wanted to see Hulk, well, smash.

And smash he does in “The Avengers” alongside the mightiest of heroes, which first appeared together in comic books written by industry savant Stan Lee in the early ’60s. Back then, the squad was created to compete with the ever-growing popularity of DC Comics’ Justice League. While the roster has changed over the years, the modern film adaptations have chosen to follow the characters best able to sidestep their natural comic-book kitsch (sorry Ant-Man, your protruding shoulder pads are just too silly to overcome). With approximately $1.8 billion in box-office revenue worldwide, geekdom has spoken. Despite its flaws, “The Avengers” is solid entertainment.

What better way to appease the geeks than with one of their own? Directed by cult favorite Joss Whedon (TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”), “The Avengers” is pumped with exciting action sequences and razor-sharp special effects that can compete with anything Marvel has ever put out. Known for his clever writing ability (screw Buffy, the dude wrote Darlene’s “To Whom it Concerns” poem during a Season 2 episode of “Roseanne!”), Whedon’s dialogue is perfect for more charismatic characters like industrialist playboy Tony Stark — though far less so for characters like Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and the always doltish Thor, who unfortunately doesn’t provide much oomph to the already ordinary storyline. It starts with Thor’s evil brother Loki, a flimsily written antagonist who is able to get his hands on a powerful cube known as the Tesseract, which holds the key to unlimited sustainable energy. With the planet on the brink of destruction, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) rallies his all-star team together to (trumpet fanfare) save the human race. Before they can do that, however, the Avengers must experience some growing pains as a diverse superhero unit and quibble like kids on the playground. It’s during these fight scenes that fanboy fantasies come true. Watching Thor’s hammer slam down onto Captain America’s shield is the stuff of epic wonder. Other amazing feats of action bliss include the Hulk intercepting a fighter pilot as he ejects from a damaged jet, and Stark changing into his Iron Man suit in midair.

While the narrative itself leaves much to be desired, Whedon, who also has the overrated meta horror movie “The Cabin in the Woods” out at theaters, does have a knack for hilarious pop-culture references, snappy one-liners that get every character involved, and some physical comedy. It all keeps the story from falling into too many past superhero pitfalls. “The Avengers” may not divert much from the typical superhero blueprint, but what hardcore Marvel enthusiast would really want that anyway?

Due Date

November 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan
Directed by: Todd Phillips (“The Hangover”)
Written by: Alan R. Cohen (TV’s “King of the Hill”), Alan Freedland (TV’s “King of the Hill”), Adam Sztykiel (“Made of Honor”), Todd Phillips (“Old School”)

We’ll give overrated director Todd Phillips (“The Hangover,” “School for Scoundrels”) the benefit of the doubt and say his new comedy “Due Date” is a homage to 1987’s John Hughes classic “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” and not just a raunchy rip-off. With that said, “Due Date” isn’t a lot of other things as well, primarily funny.

Yes, there are amusing moments in “Due Date.” It would be impossible to go through an entire feature film without laughing at something “Hangover” scene-stealer Zach Galifianakis does or without enjoying the darker comic situations conveyed through yet another of Robert Downey Jr.’s cynical characters.

But overall, the odd pairing of Downey Jr. and Galifianakis is far from enough. “Due Date” is nothing more than a barrel-full of cheap and obvious jokes that will hit with mainstream audiences who think the bearded one can do no wrong.

In “Due Date,” Peter Highman (Downey Jr.) is forced to travel cross country with aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) when the two are somehow put on the no-fly list after a ridiculous scenario at the airport with Homeland Security.

Although he is worried he won’t make it from Atlanta to L.A. to witness the birth of his first child, high-strung Peter takes his chances with Ethan, a slouchy guy with “90 friends on Facebook…12 of them are pending” and a dream to star on a sitcom as beloved as “Two and a Half Men.”

What follows is a dim-witted road trip fastened together by scenes of Galifianakis acting as quirky as he can without the slightest bit of common sense. This might work in a movie like “Dumb and Dumber,” but not in a comedy that wants to be both stupid and sincere all in the same breath.

Downey Jr. and Galifianakis have some chemistry that keeps “Due Date” from ending up a lost cause, but without a script that really drives the story forward all that’ s left are gags featuring masturbating mammals and a joke where Galifianakis’ character mistakes a sign that says “Mexico” with “Texaco.” Could the screenwriter really not get any clever than that?

Iron Man 2

May 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell
Directed by: Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”)
Written by: Justin Theroux (“Tropic Thunder”)

If personality makes up the majority of a superhero’s likability, Iron Man should be considered the Marvel comic book character you’d love to hate.

That’s not to say two-time Academy Award-nominated actor Robert Downey Jr. has lost all the charisma that made the 2008 original blockbuster film so downright entertaining and original. Even when Downey Jr. isn’t donning the maroon and gold mechanical suit that transforms him into a weapon of mass destruction, he has another captivating persona he can fall back on.

Meet Tony Stark. While you might know him from the first “Iron Man,” the sequel, aptly called “Iron Man 2,” allows us to meet the man inside the machine on a more personal level. In the film, Tony seems to be running on fumes. As Iron Man, he can still hold his own against anyone that comes his way, but as a mortal, the genius billionaire industrialist has a serious problem.

The power source embedded in his chest, which is keeping him alive, is also slowly poisoning him. Along with his health issues, Tony is butting heads with the U.S. Senate, who wants him to turn over his Iron Man machinery. The Senate says his invention is a threat to national security especially if a country decides to copy the technology and use it against the U.S.

Tony refuses to relinquish his work stating that it would take years for someone to duplicate what he has done. He is oblivious to the fact that Russian physicist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) has already engineered his own version of the suit and fastened it to himself to transform into the electromagnetic super villain known as Whiplash. When he teams up with Tony’s major weapons competitor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), the two set out to develop an army of drones that would take the arms race by storm.

Replacing Terrance Howard from the original, Don Cheadle plays Lt. Col. James Rhodes, who later attempts to put a stop to Tony’s destructive ways caused by his alcohol problem. Although he manages to spiral downward fairly quickly, love interest Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) doesn’t give up on him that easy. Neither does S.H.I.E.L.D. front man Nick Fury (Samuel L.  Jackson) who makes sure Tony’s talents aren’t wasted. His stubbornness to join the secret agency known as the Avengers will be short-lived since all these Marvel movies are linking together for one giant superhero reunion in the next few years.

No matter what is being planned for the future, “Iron Man 2” is able to stand on its own. It works well with enough action sequences, fight scenes and some interesting characters, none of which match the humor and charm of Downey Jr. who again makes the movie his own personal and egotistical show.

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