Avengers: Age of Ultron is Worthy

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Avengers: Age of Ultron is the sequel to the wildly successful original Avengers movie. Returning to the franchise is director/writer Joss Whedon, and the big 6: Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Helmsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) and Scarlet Johanson (Black Widow).

The film opens with The Avengers taking down one of the last remaining Hydra bases (remember them from Captain America:Winter Soldier?). The objective is twofold, search for rumored alien tech that fell into Hydra’s hands after the Battle of New York and specifically retrieve the Scepter of Loki.

This opening battle sequence is a great set piece to start the film and helps establish how our heroes have meshed together as a team since the first film. It is revealed that Hydra is using their discoveries to try to create their own soldiers with super powers. We get to meet the cinematic versions of Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Quicksilver is capable of running at unbelievable speeds and gives a serious challenge to the team. However, a bigger threat is created by the Scarlet Witch. At this point in the film she uses her powers to reveal each characters greatest fears. These fears drive the rest of the film and provide the basis for the seeds that will culminate in Captain America: Civil War.

Tony Stark (Iron Man) has just discovered Loki’s scepter when the Scarlet Witch uses her power on him. Turns out that Tony’s biggest fear is that he will be responsible for the destruction of the world and the deaths of his teammates because he will be unable to stop the next alien invasion. I won’t go into everyone else’s fears here. Just know that they will tie in nicely to the dissension that begins to eat away at Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and will continue to propel this franchise.

Tony convinces Bruce Banner (Hulk) to help him use the power of the Scepter to help construct a artificial intelligence peacekeeping program he has been working on called Ultron. As luck would have it, the duo is successful. TOO Successful, because Ultron has achieved sentience and has decided that there will never be peace as long as humanity exists. Therefore, he must exterminate the human race. Ultron is played in all his CGI glory by James Spader. Mr Spader does a wonderful job of voicing this iconic Marvel villain (my personal favorite villain) and balances the role between psychotic and humorous with ease.

The rest of the film follows the machinations as the Avengers attempt to shut Ultron down but discover that he can download his consciousness into another body as easily or even more so than you can log on to various computers.

There are some incredibly complicated action sequences and I can’t begin to imagine the number of hours it took to choreograph, film and integrate with all the CGI. The battle between Hulk and Iron Man in his Hulkbuster armor (lovingly called “Veronica”) is tons of fun and an epic battle to witness. There are several other smaller battles and everyone gets a moment to shine

Eventually, The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver realize how they have been misled by Hydra’s propaganda and Ultron’s lies. They decide to help the Avengers and begin to turn the tide.

The final battle is exactly what you would expect. It is grand, Wagnerian in nature and not without consequences. The stakes are the existence of the very planet and you have got to give the crew that put it together credit for putting such a thing on film. It looks fantastic!

Of course the Avengers save the day (they ARE heroes, after all) But its a victory that comes with a cost. The fears that they have are still working their ways into the decisions that are made and give rise to a new team. For those of you that are interested, you get a great Stan Lee cameo, the trademark Joss Whedon banter and humor is abundantly present and there is a nifty Mid Credit tag ending that reminds you of who and what these films are ultimately leading up to (Infinity War!!!). However, there is NOT a final tag ending after the credits are completed.

I think this is a great film. Enjoyable, layered and tons of Marvel easter eggs for the hardcore fan. Marvel fans will definitely squeal with delight as Ultron’s “Vision” is revealed!

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

GRADE A-

 

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Guardians of the Galaxy Delivers the Goods

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Guardians of The Galaxy is another hit out of the ballpark for Marvel Studios. It is on track to have close to a 100 million dollar opening weekend in the US. This is even more amazing when you consider that this particular version of the Guardians (Yes, there have been more than one) has not been the subject of any significant story lines for Marvel in years. It is essentially a group of C and D list characters that Marvel rolled the dice on and won big time.

The story centers around 5 characters that are brought together through a strange series of events (are there any other kind?) and places the fate of the galaxy on their shoulders.

Chris Pratt is a surprisingly perfect choice as Peter Quill (Star-Lord). His charisma and delivery of smart ass remarks is spot on and endearing.

Zoe Saldana does a great job with the role of Gamora. Gamora is the deadliest woman in the universe and her fight scenes show that she did the training to get it right. (In fact she injured Chris Pratt when filming their encounter.

Bradley Cooper voices the character of Rocket. Rocket is a raccoon looking creature that has a lot of pent up anger coupled with a love of guns and explosives.

Vin Diesel gives voice to the character of Groot. Groot is a walking sentient tree like creature. His verbal communication is achieved through the inflection of the way he delivers the words “I am Groot.” Vin does a great job with what might seem to be an blow off part. He carries it off with grace, humor and lots of emotion.

Dave Bautista is a pleasant surprise. The former WWF champion is fantastic as Drax the Destroyer. Drax is an individual whose only purpose in life is to kill those responsible for the death of his family; namely, Ronan the Accuser and Thanos the mad Titan.

This film provides another puzzle piece to the long range plans of Marvel Studios. It is the third film to feature one of the Infinity Stones as the McGuffin of the film. Since it also features Thanos in a supporting role, I’m betting that Avengers 3 will deal with the famous Infinity Gauntlet storyline. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry; you’ve got plenty of time to catch up.).

Director James Gunn has created a fully fleshed out universe with a great balance of drama, humor, sci fi action and suspense. There are lots of Easter Eggs in the film for the true Marvel Fan. (You get 1000 points if you know the backstory of Cosmo, the space dog and can point out the Celestial in the film).

As always, stay through the very end of the credits to get a tag ending. It will mean nothing to the casual observer but will be a pleasant surprise for Marvel Zombies.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun, summer film that serves as a terrific first chapter to a classic space opera trilogy.

Grade: A-

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Marvel’s The Avengers Official Movie Trailer!

Thor Movie Trailer just released!!!

Iron Man 2. Better than the first movie?

The sequel becomes the first topic of conversation after a movie, especially a super hero film, has great reviews and even greater box office. Such was the case for the first Iron Man movie. Most people weren’t expecting such a perfect origin story, incredible acting, outstanding special effects and (most shocking of all) that Robert Downey Jr. became Tony Stark. After such a spectacular beginning, talk started immediately about the second film and when it would appear in the grand scheme of Marvel’s plans for an Avenger film. Would it come before all of the other Marvel film or after the Thor and Captain America films were released? Well, that question has been answered after Iron Man 2 was released this past weekend and sets us up perfectly for Iron Man’s participation in the Avenger initiative.

At the end of the first Iron Man film, we witnessed Tony Stark telling the world that he was in fact Iron Man. This sort of thing is unheard of. No super hero reveals his secret identity to the world for fear that their enemies will come after their loved ones and family. So, now that Tony Stark and Iron Man are proven to be the same person, what will that do to Tony’s life and the people in it? This is the main question faced in this movie and it is a brilliant question indeed. How will this affect his business? Will he attract more enemies purely because he is Iron Man? Will he be able to keep his friends safe? Can he do it alone? Each of these complex issues is brought up in this second Iron Man film.

At the beginning of the film we are introduced to Ivan Vanko as he sits with his father Anton on his deathbed. The father Anton worked with Tony’s father Howard to produce the Arc reactor that was introduced in the first film and is the technology in Tony’s chest. Ivan’s father was never given due credit for helping to create this technology and it left the Vanko family poor and wanting revenge for this betrayal. After Anton dies, Ivan sees that Tony is Iron Man and he decides to use his dad’s technology to create a suit for himself to take his revenge on the Stark family. Once he builds his suit, that has whips made out of electricity, he is known as Whiplash.

Meanwhile, Tony is dealing with his own issues. The government, after finding out that he is Iron Man, has stated that he needs to release his suit to them for government purposes. Stark industries won government contracts for defense weapons and they feel that the suit is now property of the government. Stark is not letting go of his suit stating that he and Iron Man are one and the same and it is his technology no matter his ties to the government contracts. All of this builds up to battles against both the government and their need for his technology and Whiplash who is strictly seeking revenge.

All in all, this is a terrific sequel that takes the best parts of the first film and expands on them. I wouldn’t say that this film is any better than the first, but it is certainly equal to it in my opinion. This has also helped to raise my hopes for the upcoming movies by leaps and bounds. You can really see that they are trying to create continuity between all of their films. Also, be sure to stay in the theater through the end of the credit and you’ll be treated to a nice surprise!

J.Chandler A-