Marvel’s The Avengers – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Joss Whedon

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom, Hiddlestone, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Lou Ferrigno

Synopsis: Really?   I need to give a synopsis for one of the two most anticipated comic book films of the year??   What rock could people be living under?   Okay, okay, I’ll be serious.   When a major super-powered being and his army threaten Earth, no one hero alone can face it.   So Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., assembles a team of super powered good guys, along with some highly skilled assassins, to defend Earth.   In short, he assembles THE AVENGERS!

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What’s Your Number? – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Mark Mylod

Cast: Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Ari Graynor, Blythe Danner, Ed Begley Jr, Martin Freeman, Andy Samberg, Zachary Quinto

Synopsis: After discovering that women whom have slept with more than 20 men never find a life-time partner, Ally Darling (Faris) sets out on a mission to see if any of her exes have improved with time, as she has already reached that magical number.   She enlists the help of her neighbour Colin (Evans) to track them down, in return for letting him hide out in her apartment when he wishes to escape the previous night’s exploit.

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Captain America: The First Avenger – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Joe Johnston

Cast: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Neal McDonough

Synopsis: Steve Rogers is determined to make his contribution to the war effort, but is deemed unfit for service.   That is until the research scientist behind a top-secret development recruits him to test his Super Soldier Serum.   Steve Rogers is reborn with enhanced strength and abilities as Captain America.

With this film the final piece in the puzzle is finally here in Marvel Studios lead up to its superhero team movie, The Avengers, due for release next year.   Cinema audiences have now all been introduced to The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor, as well as meeting other significant characters for the Avengers throughout this film.   Like all the above films, adapting the title character would not have been easy, as over-reliance on the source material could have tipped these films into something of a farce.   As a Marvel fan myself, I am glad that this danger has once again been averted.

Chris Evans was a great choice for Steve Rogers.   He has made a career to date as a brilliant character actor and with this film he makes the jump to leading man.   His CGI to a bullied weakling is quite convincing, with a performance to back it up.   He plays Rogers as a determined man whom is dedicated to doing his part to help his countrymen.   He also successfully performs some more emotional scenes that really elucidate the motivations for his character, and as such manages to avoid making this a two-dimensional performance.   Hugo Weaving plays Johann Schmidt, later revealed as Red Skull.   He is an actor of great skill, and few actors could have made the make-up job he has gone through translate into a convincing performance.   The rest of the cast all perform admirably, but it is perhaps Stanley Tucci’s Dr. Erskine that remains in mind long after the end credits have rolled.   He is a lynch-pin character that helps determine the man who Rogers is going to be, and provides some real heart to the film.

As for plot, it establishes all the necessary elements that are required to let the film flow on smoothly to the Avengers.   Many of these elements are nods towards the established fans, giving them something more to get excited about, however a lack of familiarity with the character will not be a hinderance to an audience.   This is Steve Rogers’ story, from birth to the incident which will lead him being resurrected into a modern-day story.   The opening act establishes character, the second act establishes Cap’s reputation, and the final act is action sequences that are expertly executed.   In the end though, the story is intentionally incomplete.   Some elements seem to be waiting resolution in The Avengers.

This is an entertaining action film that manages to convey some good comic and character moments along the way.   To unfamiliar audiences it would probably rate around three stars, but for established fans like myself that this film is largely targeted for, an extra star must be given.

4 stars out of 5.

 

Captain America: The First Avenger on IMDB

Captain America: The First Avenger on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JerVrbLldXw]

Upcoming Genre Films for 2011 Part Deux – A Preview by Film Nerd

First of all thanks to Urban Fantasist for that awesome post.   Consider my appetite whetted.   As you referred to yourself though, there are certain tastes of mine that were not catered to, so here is a preview of 2011 from the perspective of someone who collected comics in high school.

I will be using the same list as Urban Fantasist from io9, but I will extend from there a little bit from a post by blastr featuring the top 55 trailers for films coming out in 2011.   I will of course avoid overlap between these lists.

The Green Hornet (io9, blastr)     January 14

A remake of the series that first captured hearts on radio serials then on television, featuring a rich guy turned vigilante.   The character was created by the guy who brought us The Lone Ranger, and at one point in the radio series it was indicated that the Hornet is descendant of the Ranger.   Directed by Michael Gondry of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame, it could prove interesting.

I Am Number Four (io9, blastr)     February 18

A group of nine aliens hiding out as teenagers on Earth are hunted down for extermination by the government.   With three down, this film follows the story of the fourth to be targeted.    Based on a novel of the same name.

The Adjustment Bureau (io9, blastr)     March 4

Matt Damon plays a congressman destined for big things, before he meets and falls for Emily Blunt’s ballerina.   He was supposed to never meet her again, but somehow does, and falls in love with her.   The mysterious agency of the title steps in to prevent the relationship, and put our heroes life back on the set path.   Escaping, running, and hiding ensues….

Battle: Los Angeles (io9, blastr)     March 11

Gritty war film with hand-held camera work with visceral closeups, etc.   Oh yeah, and humans are fighting aliens.   Sounds like a great big B-movie, but with a cast headlined by Aaron Eckhart, may prove a hidden gem.

Red Riding Hood (io9, blastr)     March 11

Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman star in this retelling of the classic tale, with the wolf recast as a werewolf connected the past of she with the hood.   Don’t know how Urban Fantasist missed that one, sounds like her cup of tea!!

Paul (io9, blastr)     March 18

Comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as two mates on an American road trip that meet foul mouth alien Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen.   Some of the gags on the trailer are foul, but delightfully so!!

Sucker Punch (io9, blastr)     March 25

A film by Zack Snyder, who previously brought us 300 and Watchmen.   He does have a talent for absolute visual splendour on-screen, and the trailers indicate this will be no different.   It is hard to get a grasp on what it is about, but seems to be the story of five girls attempting to escape the clutches of evil authority in a mental asylum…or is it a war zone???   Or a bordello??

Super (io9, blastr)     April 1

Okay, so the concept of this sounds very similar to Kick-Ass… average bloke dons a costume to fight crime.   So lacking in originality on that count perhaps.   Just watch the clip posted on blastr though and I dare you not to show some interest!!

Hanna (blastr only) April 8

Eric Bana’s ex-CIA agent trains daughter Saoirse Ronin to be the perfect assassin, with the goal to target Cate Blanchett.    A lot of talent there in that sentence, and a pretty cool concept to boot.    The trailer also kicks butt!!

Your Highness (io9, blastr) April 8

Danny McBride and James Franco reteam with the director of Pineapple Express to star as royal brothers on a rescue mission… a comedy that drags Natalie Portman and my favourite Zooey Deschanel along for the ride.   I am still giggling at the trailer… “What a coincidence, I was just about to finish thinking of you!!”   Hehe.

Thor (io9, blastr)     May 6

The Norse god is exiled to Earth, as reimagined by Marvel Comics.   Mjolnir was spotted after the credits to Iron Man 2, resulting in my second Nerdgasm for that film.   Those that don’t know that this is part of building towards Joss Whedon’s The Avengers should be stripped of their geek badge immediately!!

X-Men: First Class (io9 only)     June 3

The second Marvel movie for 2011.   With James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and January Jones on board, and Kick-Ass’ Michael Vaughn directing, can we put the travesty of X-Men: The Last Stand behind us???

Green Lantern (io9, bkastr)     June 17

A film based on a DC universe second tier hero.   Ryan Reynolds is good casting, but the CGI costume is still a little off-putting for me.   However, has the potential to be the next Iron Man, whom was one of Marvel’s second tier heroes.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two (io9, blastr)     July 15

You really want a synopsis for this one?

Captain America: The First Avenger (io9 only)     July 22

The source of my first Nerdgasm in Iron Man 2 was spotting Captain America’s shield partially constructed in Tony Stark’s work room.   Like Thor, this is building to Whedon’s The Avengers, and has Chris Evans donning the tights in what can only be called great casting!

Cowboys and Aliens (io9, blastr)     July 29

James Bond and Indiana Jones!!   The old west!!   Aliens!!    Daniel Craig waits from unconsciousness with a strange device on his arm.   Harrison Ford plays the villain of the piece, that teams with Craig when the bigger threat arrives.   Why didn’t they think of this earlier???

The Thing (io9 only)     October 14

Prequel to John Carpenter’s iconic original.   Stars Joel Edgerton, and personal favourite Mary Elizabeth Winstead, last seen in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Sherlock Holmes 2 (io9, blastr)     December 16

Downey Jr. and Law return to 221B Baker Street, this time to face the infamous Professor Moriarty.   Be warned, blastr screwed up, the trailer from the first film, not the first trailer for the second!!

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (io9 only) December 23

Steven Spielberg directs his first fully motion capture film.   Peter Jackson produces.   They will be swapping roles for the sequel!!   Stars Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.   Some writing was even done by Doctor Who‘s Steven Moffatt!! Add that element of retro charm and I am sold!

Man, that is a lot of movies…. I hope Bride of Film Nerd doesn’t kill me when we need a second mortgage!!

 

Push (2009) – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Paul McGuigan

Cast: Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Camilla Belle, Djimon Hounsou, Cliff Curtis, Ming-Na

Synopsis: Psychic powers are a known phenomenon in this future landscape, with the government tracking down every gifted individual to train as soldiers for the state.   Experiments are also performed on these individuals, with a drug being developed that boosts their abilities, yet subsequently kills the subject.   When the first patient to survive the treatment escapes, the hunt is on from the government and from some of the free psychics to get to her first.

A review by Film Nerd.

The concept for this film is very clever.   Further from the above synopsis, the psychic abilities on display differ from individual to individual.   You have “watchers”, who have the ability to see the future, however this future is not set, and may even be altered by them telling others what they have seen.   This is the ability of young Cassie (Fanning, in a role that she is clearly trying to shed her child star image, in addition to her presence with the Twilight saga and The Runaways).   You have “movers”, that have telekinesis, as played by the always amazing Chris Evans.   There are also “pushers”, that are able to implant an idea in someone’s head, as represented by Camilla Belle, or “patient zero” who survived being injected with the ability boosting drug, and also represented by Hounsou, the government thug on their tail.

So the concept is well worth investing time in, and the script itself is also quite intriguing.   The plot moves along, and the challenges our heroes have to face are quite reasonable, and even quite thrilling, well within context of the world that has been established.   In this way it is very possible to sit down and enjoy the film in a suspense of disbelief, as the film does have its own internal logic.   Despite this, on first viewing I considered the film just okay, and not brilliant.   Perhaps this is due to the fact that there was one too many twists and turns, a few too many misdirections, to help keep all the threads together.   Also, despite powerful acting turns from Evans and Hounsou, a very honest performance from Fanning, and great supporting turns from both Curtis and Ming-Na, Belle does let the side down somewhat.   This is disappointing, as some of the most pivotal plot advancements rest on her shoulders, and these I found subsequently left a bit flat.

I am also glad however that I did not sit down and finish this review immediately after my first viewing.   I have always found that films that have an intelligent and intriguing story do stick with me for days after the viewing, as I try to unravel more of how the tapestry all fits together.   Push has certainly left me in this position, and I am appreciating the film a lot more in hindsight then I did initially on my living room couch.   I maintain the film is not flawless, but I also think it is very ambitious, and well worth a look for anyone who enjoys films that need a bit of unravelling, give this a look.   You will enjoy it, just as long as you don’t expect another Inception (which admittedly would be a much less interesting film if there had been a few “pushers” running around!!).

3.5 stars out of 5

 

Push on IMDB

Push on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afT1fAwSr-Q]

 

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Edgar Wright

Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Hader

Synopsis: Isn’t it always the way??   Boy meets girls, gets up the courage to talk to her, they go on a date… and he learns that he must now defeat her seven evil exes before he can truly start the relationship.   Wait, what the???   Based on the series of graphic novels written by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

A review by Film Nerd.

The scuttlebutt on this film had me face adversity (very minor burgeoning cold symptoms) and the blistering cold weather (actually, it was kinda warm, now i think of it), and drag a less than willing (actually, very willing) Bride of Film Nerd to see Scott Pilgrim vs. the World after a visit to the bank this morning.  Okay, so the only real problem was that we didn’t go to our regular cinema so we paid through the nose for parking, but I digress.

I had high expectations walking into this film, and started to worry perhaps I should tame them for fear of disappointment.   I needn’t have worried.   From the moment a very pixellated Universal logo came on-screen with the regular audio being replaced with music that would not be out of place on a Commodore 64, I was hooked.   This remained a very kinetic and visually spectacular film throughout, so much so that the severest case of ADHD could easily be soothed in its 112 minute running time.   On top of this, it was as funny as all hell.

That said, I consider myself squarely in the target audience for this film, having grown up in the era of Mario, Sonic, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.   Each of these defining console games was affectionately references, often with humourous results.   Despite being rated M here, this is also a hero film you can take your kids too, as all the violence was very cartoon like, and with villains being dispatched in a cloud of coins.  In fact, it is more evidence that the Australian classification system is a joke, as this got a PG rating in the states, and a G rating in Canada.   I have the most accurate violence barometer sitting next to me in the cinema, and the only flinching she made on this occasion was struggling to breathe at times from laughter.

It is a fittingly quirky film from the director who brought us both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.   This is his first big budget American film, and I am delighted to say the budget only gave extra scope for his imagination rather than proving an odious burden, as it has so often done for lesser director’s in the past.   He is supported by a brilliant cast.   Cera’s Scott Pilgrim starts the film in the classic nerd role we know this actor so well for, but he actually kick’s arse when he gets to the battle scenes.   This is refreshing to see from him, and hopefully it is the start of him expanding out from the persona he has developed since Arrested Development.   Winstead plays love interest and source of everyone’s affection, Ramona Flowers.   I think we can expect a lot from this young actress, who has now impressed me for the third time, the first two times being John McClane’s daughter in Die Hard 4.0, and in Tarantino’s half of the under-rated Grind House, Death Proof.   Despite her loud and often changing hair, her performance is one of subtle nuance, perfect for the girl of mystery.   Pilgrim’s friends are a real treat, and given enough screen time each to exhibit their own eccentricities.  Leaving room for the seven evil exes to smirk and chew their way through scenery, from Evan’s movie actor Lucas Lee with numerous stunt doubles, and swooning opportunities for my partner in crime, to Schwartzman’s big bad, Record Label producer Gideon.

Which brings me to the other star of the film… the music.   Pilgrim is the bassist of band Sex Bob-Omb.   Artists such as Beck, and Canadian bands Metric and Broken Social Scene have each individually contributed music for the various competing bands, resulting in an incredibly cool soundtrack.   In fact, Australian Empire informs me that the soundtrack is “such an embarrassment of riches that it’s being released on two CDs”.   I was keen to buy said soundtrack after the ending credits finished rolling, but I am informed I will have to wait until it is released on September 7.

I highly recommend this film first to those that grew up with any gaming console 16-bit or less, second to great music fans, and third to fans of comedy in general.   It is hands down the funniest comedy released so far this year, taking the crown previously held by Date Night, wearing it to obtain increased strength and dexterity, then blowing all other competition away in a flurry of high kicks and sword play.   Now if that doesn’t get you excited, or if you are prone to epilepsy, stay away.   Everyone else, enjoy the ride.   Game on!

4 stars (out of a possible 5)


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World on IMDB

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NUBVcit5VM]