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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Great Treasures at Gametraders – 20th April 2012

There has been a load of new stock arriving this week at Gametraders Blacktown.   Whether your preference is plush, figures, games or anime, you are all catered for.   Here is a selection of some of the new items available in store.

Witcher 2

This game has been popular for months on the PC and has now made the transition to consoles with this version for the 360.   Will it be the next Skyrim?   Early reports do look promising.

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Great Treasures at Gametraders – 9th March 2012

New and recently discounted games

Mass Effect 3

Easily the biggest release this week was Mass Effect 3.   The trailers for this game have been absolutely awe-inducing, not that they were really needed for those whom were already fans of the franchise.   I have not yet picked up my copy, as some of you may have realised that my review of Mass Effect 2 is not yet up, indicating I haven’t finished it.   After all, I need to import my saved character!!   For those that do not already have a model of the Normandy as well, Gametraders Blacktown is doing a bundle where you can get the game and the model for a total of $119.95!

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The First Avengers trailer is live…

In the past with this site, I have largely focussed on reviews of new and old films, with rarely a focus on what is happening in the future.   I am going to break trend today, and review a trailer.   Why?   Well, this trailer happens to be for the film that I have anticipated the most ever since the Lord of the Rings trilogy concluded.

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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]

Thor – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddlestone, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, Jaimie Alexander, Clark Gregg, Jeremy Renner, Stan Lee

Synopsis: This film continues the run of Marvel Comics films that are building to the release of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers next year.   Loosely based on Norse mythology, Thor, son of Odin, is banished from Asgard to Midgard (Earth), following his brash actions that threaten the realm now with war.   He is stranded here until such time as he can be worthy to once again wield the power of his mighty hammer, Mjolnir.

A review by Film Nerd.

Anyone who may follow this blog would be well aware of the level of fandom I have for Marvel comics and the films adapted from them.   As such, you may be prepared for an entirely biased review of this particular film, and you would be absolutely right.   For me, this film was a nerdgasm waiting to happen, ever since the first sight of Mjolnir following the closing credits of Iron Man 2.

Thor as the headline character of his own film was always a prospect I approached with trepidation.   When I was an avid comic reader, I only really followed him as a member of the Avengers, if anything.   It is a very difficult character to get a grasp of, always speaking in Ye Olde English, and having an almost antiquated sense of nobility.   The fact he is a god made him pretty cool, but I was never sure of his film potential.   As such, Kenneth Branagh could not have been a better choice to bring him to the big screen.   Being himself familiar with more antiquated drama such as Shakespeare, he was able to put together a film that provides entertainment without necessarily drifting into the area of farce.   A wise choice was to discard the Old English, yet keeping the flavour with an English accent for the realm of Asgard.   I had also read in interviews that Branagh recognised themes common between this story and Shakespeare, such as the corruption that comes with power and relationships between parent and child.   It is when these themes are focussed on in the film that it is at its strongest.

The film is not without flaws.   Despite Portman’s talent, the love story developed between her Jane and Hemsworth’s Thor does feel somewhat forced, as well as a little rushed.   Okay, so the point is he learns maturity and compassion through his dealings with humans, but I feel this could have been achieved by introducing some mutual interest that would be allowed to simmer.   The simple fact is with everything else going on, the romance itself does not need acting on.   However, if this is my only quibble with the film, I admit it is a minor one, and something needs to be there to please that half of the crowd that is more interested in Hemsworth’s abs than they are the development of the Marvel Universe on film.

The performances are uniformly brilliant.   Hemsworth does have real charisma, in addition to the bulk he gained to look the part.   Following his breakthrough role on the international market with Star Trek, he is building a very strong CV.   Portman as always is lovely,and errors in scripting cannot take away from her on-screen allure.   Hopkins as Odin brings a gravitas to proceedings, and introduces a depth to the father-son relationship that may have been lacking in a lesser actor.   Hiddlestone’s Loki also successfully walked the very fine line as the double-dealing half-brother,showing how the character could take so many in without appearing immediately slimy and self-interested.   The remaining cast introduces some more fun and humour.   Also keep eyes open for a few cameo appearances, the big hint being to stay after the credits once again.

As far as comic adaptations go, this is one of the better ones, and I was more than once stupidly grinning in the big action scenes.   The romance detracts somewhat from the rest of the story, but otherwise this is a brilliant popcorn flick that should entertain most audiences.

4 stars out of 5


Thor on IMDB

Thor on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOddp-nlNvQ]

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!!

 

Iron Man 2

Director: Jon Fareau

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell

Synopsis: Tony Stark’s popularity has sky rocketed since revealing to the world he is Iron Man.   However, the government desires the suits tech to be handed over, not trusting such power in the hands.   Pressure to relinquish the suit only increases when mysterious Ivan Vanko produces his own miniature Arc reactor, the same device that powers Iron Man’s suit, and poses a threat to national security.   Meanwhile, Stark is losing control as a result of battling his own demons.

A review by Film Nerd

There is no question that the original Iron Man was a surprise hit, unless you were already a dedicated fan of Marvel comics before the release of the film.   For many, it not only marked another successful comic book adaptation, but a sparkling return to form for Robert Downey Jr., whose presence and charisma defined the film and fitted the character of playboy billionaire Tony Stark like a glove.   Sequels to films such as these are a very tricky prospect, needing to capture what made the original so entertaining, while adding new elements to avoid a feeling of dull repetition.

Iron Man 2 is a very solid, entertaining sequel.   Once again, it is truly Downey Jr.’s film, his character defining the tone, and maintaining a sense of fun to the proceedings.   However, Stark is battling personal demons this time whereas in the last film it was battling the demons of his company’s legacy.   It is revealed early on that the element Palladium, which acts as the core of the Arc reactor and powers the Iron Man suit, as well as keeping his heart running, is slowly poisoning him.   Indeed, the very thing keeping him alive is also killing him.

This is bad enough, without external pressures mounting.   The government is seeking access to the suit technology in the interest of national defence, the (not unreasonable) fear being that other countries may indeed develop this technology to use against the United States.   Stark’s defence that this technology being developed elsewhere is not likely for another five to ten years is destroyed on the appearance of Rourke’s Ivan Vanko, who develops his own Ark reactor to power his own suit.  He adopts the identity of Whiplash to take revenge on the Stark family for stealing the Ark technology from his father in the first place.    Roarke continues his career resurrection here, playing the role with an effective, quiet menace.

The external characters all get a chance to shine.   Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard as Stark’s best friend Lt. Col. Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes, and frankly does a much better job.   Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts maintains that mix of spice and vulnerability that worked so well in the first film, and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is thankfully an entertaining performance in a way many of hers have not been of late.   Special mention has to go to the always brilliant Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, a business rival of Stark’s.   It is a role that could have been dull when playing against top form RDJ and Rourke, but in Rockwell’s hands it is a true stand out.

Overall, the film equal’s but does not quite better the original outing.   That said, it does have a true “middle chapter” feel.   Though Iron Man 3 is not yet slated, Marvel’s Avengers is due out next year, uniting Iron Man and Hulk with Thor and Captain America, both characters due for their own films prior to the release of the Avengers.   That said, it is here that the true Marvel Fanboy can get extra out of this film.    I noticed at least two Easter eggs in the film hinting to these later films, one of which had me nerd-gasm enough to give my fiancée a significant fright in our car at the drive-in!   Note, stick around after the end credits, as one of these Easter eggs is dropped then.   All I can say is that I can’t wait!

A entertaining sequel that, despite not feeling an improvement of the original film, at least equals that previous effort.   An extra half star was given for the fanboy references.

4 stars (out of a possible 5)

Iron Man 2 on IMDB

Iron Man 2 on Rotten Tomatoes

Iron Man 2 trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siQgD9qOhRs]