REVIEW: AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

bars

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

“In time, you will know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right, yet to fail all the same. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives.” ―Thanos

Third Avengers film finds the “Mad Titan” Thanos (Josh Brolin) deciding to restore balance to the universe by killing half of it’s population. To do this he must track down six powerful infinity stones to be placed in a gauntlet, that once completed, will give him the means to do so. To stop him, The Avengers must put aside their differences and The Guardians of the Galaxy must learn to play nice with The Avengers. Not as simple as it sounds as Thanos and his four children…The Black Order…will destroy anything in their path to get the stones…two of which are already on Earth.

Spectacularly entertaining film is directed with a wonderful mix of intensity, action and humor by Joe and Anthony Russo, who gave us the best Marvel film…until now…Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who get a whole lot of story going without the film ever feeling like it’s too busy or a mess. Our heroes are split up on various quests. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to forge a new weapon, Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to keep Thanos from getting the Time Stone and Cap (Chris Evans), Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) are trying to keep the Mind Stone in Vision’s (Paul Bettany) head out of Thanos’ mitt as well. The action scenes are far more spectacular than we have yet seen in the MCU and in this film series we’ve seen a lot. What can you say about a film that gives you Thanos vs Hulk in the first five minutes and that’s just for starters. What makes this film work so well, though, is not only some wonderful camaraderie between the many characters, but some very emotionally powerful moments, too. The Russos give this film an emotional depth that this series has rarely experienced and Joss Whedon’s first two Avengers movies rarely touched on. There are some side-split-tingly funny dialogue exchanges, too, between characters…such as Banner’s “There’s a Spider-Man AND an Ant-Man?”…and some heart skipping moments, that won’t be spoiled here. The writers pick some great character team ups, like Strange and Stark and Thor and Rocket with some great cameos that also won’t be spoiled here. None of this would work, however, with a weak villain and thankfully Thanos is one of the best MCU villains so far. He is given depth, a purpose…although, a diabolical one…and a powerful presence. It all combines for a villain who lives up to his threat factor big time and puts our heroes in more danger than they have ever been in…a danger they all face valiantly.

The cast is too large to discuss each individually. Our mainstays from the series all perform well with some stand-outs. Hemsworth is a highlight with Ragnarok’s changes to the God of Thunder carrying over here. While initially critical of Cumberbatch as Strange, he has grown into the role very well and the Russos use him wisely. Holland is turning into a great Spider-Man and the script, under the Russo Brother’s guidance, fix the awkward relationship between Peter and Tony that didn’t gel so well in Spiderman: Homecoming. Almost everyone is given their moments, there is some great dialogue for them and the whole cast are given some really intense scenes, unlike they have been afforded before, to shine in. The real force here is Josh Brolin as the Mad Titan. He does voice and motion capture for Thanos and really gives him a powerful presence and an intensity, few MCU villains have mustered in the film series’ decade history. You believe he is a threat and yet, they give him some emotional moments of his own, which give him a depth which only adds to his effectiveness. He makes this epic work. If there is any issue with characters, it’s that Thanos’ CGI children…Proxima Midnight, Corvus Glaive, Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian mostly come across as generic monsters, save for the creepy Ebony Maw…but Thanos gets most of the screen time.

There is very little to gripe about here. At 160 minutes, one or two scenes run on a bit long and a few characters, like Black Widow and Falcon get shortchanged in the whole of things. However we do get a comic book movie of epic proportions that brings spectacular action, nerve-wracking intensity, dramatic weight and some outright hilarious dialogue moments, all mixed to perfection by the Russo Brothers. Sure there is more to the story and the end leaves us wanting that more, but next summer the fourth installment arrives and it is going to have to be something else to surpass this, one of the MCU’s absolute best installments so far. Spectacular entertainment!

…and don’t forget to stay during the entire credits for a post credits scene that will knock your socks off.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 infinity gauntlets.

 

bars

Advertisements

NEW AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR TRAILER IS HERE!

MZNJ_NEW_news

Marvel has dropped the new/final (?) trailer for Avenger: Infinity War which brings The Avengers and The Guardians of the Galaxy together for a battle against the “Mad Titan” Thanos! Avengers: Infinity War arrives on 4/27/18 and is directed by the Russo Brothers.

Sources: Youtube/Marvel

bars

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR GETS A TRAILER!

MZNJ_NEW_news

Marvel has finally dropped the first trailer for Avenger: Infinity War which brings our heroes together with the Guardians of the Galaxy for a battle against the “Mad Titan” Thanos! Avengers: Infinity War arrives on 5/4/18 and is directed by the Russo Brothers.

Sources: Youtube/Marvel

bars

REVIEW: THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

bars

THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)

Third solo flick for the God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) has his sister, Hela The God of Death (Cate Blanchett) returning from exile and claiming the throne of Asgard. She destroys Thor’s hammer and casts he and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) into space, where they land on the anarchic planet of Sakaar. While Hela lays waste to Asgard’s armies, Thor is taken prisoner and forced into a gladiatorial arena where he finds his old ally Hulk is the reigning champion. Ever determined to save his world, Thor plots to escape with Hulk, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and a Asgardian Valkyrie warrior (Tessa Thompson) in hiding, who has faced Hela before.

Marvel took a chance with an out of left-field choice by hiring New Zealand comedy director Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows) for this third entry. Armed with a script and story by Christopher Yost, Eric Pearson and Chris Kyle, Waititi delivers an audacious action/adventure that evokes The Fifth Element with it’s mix of over-the top, sci-fi action and a delightfully eccentric sense of humor. It’s tone also echos the Guardians of the Galaxy flicks, but while their humor was sarcastic and biting, here it’s very offbeat and sometimes downright weird. It makes for one of the more daring and fun entries in Marvel’s long running film series and it works far more than it doesn’t…and not all the humor hits the mark. The design of the film and it’s action sequences is stunning and it doesn’t quite look like anything we’ve seen from these movies so far, though not too different to alienate itself from the other films of the MCU. The SPFX are as good as it gets and there is a wonderfully 80s-esque electronic score from Mark Mothersbaugh. At 130 minutes it might be a tad too long, but it is never boring and when it’s not thrilling us with some spectacular action, it’s providing some solid laughs and gives us one of the stronger Marvel villain’s to boo with Blanchett’s Hela.

The cast all do wonderfully here. Chris Hemsworth shows he has a gift for comedy with a more jovial Thor. He’s still haughty and noble and a bit self-centered, but the actor also handles the comic scenes very well without weakening the God of Thunder’s heroic veneer. Hiddleston is also fun as Loki, who seems more reluctantly along for the ride this time than his usual in control, scheming self. Tessa Thompson is fiery and sexy as the Valkyrie warrior who once faced Hela and it frightened her so much she went into self-imposed exile on Sakaar’s nowhere land. There is still a noble quality hidden under the booze and bravado and it will draw her to Thor’s side despite her reluctance. Mark Ruffalo is again a delight as Banner/Hulk. The good doctor seems to have taken a backseat to his green alter ego and it’s fun to watch him deal with the fact that he’s been Hulk-ed out for over two years. Cate Blanchett is smoothly sinister as the God of Death, Hela. She is a great actress and makes her fierce and powerful, but not without a very dry and twisted sense of humor. She’s fun to watch as she chews the scenery, but she never let’s the character get too over-the-top, avoiding camp. In support we have Karl Urban as Skurge, a traitorous Asgardian who becomes Hela’s henchman, Idris Elba returning as Heimdall and Jeff Goldblum as the eccentric and flamboyant Grandmaster, who runs Sakaar’s gladiator matches. A great cast who deftly handle the offbeat tone and material.

This flick may not be for everyone, but for those who enjoy movies like The Fifth Element, or even the recent Guardians movies, this is definitely up your alley. It’s got some spectacular action, some visually sumptuous settings and FX and a healthy, but very offbeat and eccentric sense of humor. Director Waititi delivers one of the more audacious entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and he and lead Hemsworth keep Thor’s effective qualities sharp, while making him far funnier than we’ve ever seen him…and it works. There is a top notch cast of eclectic characters to back the God of Thunder up, including Waititi’s own hilarious vocalization of alien gladiator Korg and an appearance by another Marvel superhero, that won’t be spoiled here. A really fun and in many ways daring, entry in Marvel’s on-going movie series.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 hammers.

 

 

bars

BARE BONES: THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR (2016)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

huntsman-winters-war

THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR (2016)

Follow-up to Snow White and the Huntsman, is both prequel and sequel. It starts out telling the origin of The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and takes a page out of Frozen’s playbook by also introducing The Ice Queen, Freya (Emily Blunt), who is sister to evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron). We then jump seven years later, now after the events of the last film, where The Huntsman is sent to find the whereabouts of the magic mirror. He not only finds it, but that his wife/lover, Sara (Jessica Chastain) is still alive and that The Ice Queen has not forgotten him. Worse still, she needs the mirror to revive her sister and take over the land.

Mundane attempt to cash in on Snow White and the Huntsman‘s unexpected success, is directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan from a messy script by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin and without star Kristin Stewart. Nicolas-Troyan has a decent enough visual eye, but fails to bring any energy or excitement to the proceedings. Chris Hemsworth does return and gives it his all and is surrounded by a trio of lovely co-stars in Blunt, Theron and Chastain. The added babe power doesn’t hide the fact that this is an incredibly routine fantasy that tries to add interest by luring in the Frozen crowd with Blunt’s icy Ice Queen. It’s not a bad film and is technically well made, it’s just that nothing stands out or makes it in anyway involving or unique. It’s a typical fantasy quest plot with the usual sword and axe play and offers nothing to make it stand out or memorable. At least Theron dialed it down a bit this time. Poor Chris Hemsworth can’t seem to find any success outside of playing Thor and it’s too bad, he is a charming and very likable leading man. Obviously, his three beautiful co-stars have all done better work too and probably did this for the paycheck. A passible evening on the couch, but nothing you’ll remember the next morning. Also stars a returning Nick Frost and narration by the incomparable Liam Neeson.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

REVIEW: GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

ghostbusters 2016

bars

GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

The 1984 Ghostbusters is a true classic and as this is the day and age of reboots and remakes, it was only a matter of time before this property got the rehash treatment as a sequel was stalled in development hell for years. This reworking is brought to us by Bridesmaids director Paul Feig and the only thing different about this new version is that the team are now all female. The story is very similar with scientist Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) being fired from her university job due to the resurfacing of her past as a paranormal investigator. She reluctantly re-teams with her old associate Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and her current partner Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon) who are still in the ghost hunting business. Their timing is perfect, as NYC is suffering from an increase in paranormal activity and someone is trying to turn the Big Apple into spook central. Joining forces with street-smart MTA worker, Patty (a hilarious Leslie Jones) and their hot but dumb-as-nails secretary, Kevin (Chris “Thor” Hemsworth) they form the Ghostbusters and set out to save the city from this spectral epidemic and the villainous individual (Neil Casey) responsible.

The new Ghostbusters is nowhere near as bad as early speculation had it pegged to be, but is still a bland retread that isn’t as entertaining as it should be considering the talent involved. The problem here is that Feig’s script, that he co-wrote with Katie Dippold, just isn’t that funny and the story is thin and un-involving. The rambunctious fun of the original film is sorely lacking and the laughs and thrills are few and far between. The new team do have a chemistry with each other and that helps, as does Leslie Jones getting all the best lines and moments and running with them. Hemsworth is also having a visibly good time playing a dolt and the updated SPFX are all very impressive. The film is weighed down, though, with simply having a weak story, including a weak villain, namely a revenge minded janitor named Rowan who wants to unleash an apocalypse to get back at the world for being mistreated. Boo Hoo. Add in that a lot of the gags fall flat and the film’s climax lacks any real sense of urgency and we get a rather bland reboot with a few moments scattered here and there. The film also overdoes it with the 1984 Ghostbusters cameos with practically every major actor or character turning up at some point and only Slimer and Ernie Hudson’s bits actually feel like part of the film and not a “Hey, stop the movie…it’s so and so!” like most of them. The key to a good cameo is to have it feel like an organic part of the movie, Feig fails to give all but a few that feeling. I appreciate trying to honor the 1984 flick, but here they try too hard. The film also plays it too safe and never really does it’s own thing and thus never truly reboots the series but instead just recycles it. It really doesn’t justify it’s existence when all is said and done, even if it does have some entertaining moments.

We have a talented cast here and it’s a shame Feig doesn’t give them better material. McCarthy is showing some nice restraint like she did in St. Vincent and that is when she is most effective…if she has good material. Here she really doesn’t have much to work with. Same can be said of the brilliant Kristen Wiig who plays the straight women here and rarely gets to show her comic gifts and certainly isn’t required to give her Erin the dramatic depth she’s capable of. Kate McKinnon on the other hand, gives such a weird and off-putting performance as the apparently demented Holztman that she just makes one uncomfortable with her mannerisms and line delivery. She would have made a far more effective villain than the bland Casey, she’s that unsettling at times. Leslie Jones is fortunate to get most of the best lines and moments in the flick and the hardest laughs where given to her antics and her fiery line delivery. She really makes her sassy MTA worker come alive and the rest of the cast needed her spark and energy. Hemsworth’s part is the thinnest as the incredibly stupid Kevin that the girls hire only for his looks. His character may be annoyingly clueless, but the actor seems to be having a blast playing him and it does become infectious, especially when he figures more prominently in the climactic confrontation. Rounding out is Neil Casey who is sadly underwhelming in a part that is underwritten to begin with. He makes a lame villain and not even a funny one such as the original film’s possessed Rick Moranis.

Overall, the film is not a total disaster but not a success either. Despite a talented cast and director, the film is simply not all that funny nor does it have the audacious fun of the film it’s rebooting. It gives it talented leads little to do with their proven skills and thankfully, at least Leslie Jones was able to make the most of the best moments of a weak script. The SPFX are impressive, but the action scenes lacked any real energy or urgency and the bad guy was all sorts of dull. The film never really dares to be it’s own thing and as an imitation of the original classic, forgot to emulate the most important part…it’s heart. Do stay through the credits, as there is some funny stuff and a post credit sequence which may imply where a sequel would head if there is one. The fact that the film was dedicated to the late Harold Ramis and he does get an amusing cameo (sort of) was a nice touch and earned a few extra points.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 spooks.

paranormal activity 5 rating

 

 

 

bars

REVIEW: AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-Poster

bars

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)

The highly anticipated sequel to the super-fun Avengers is admittedly a bit of a mixed bag but, it is an entertaining mixed bag and the good far outweighs any of it’s shortcomings, including a blast of a last act that makes up for most of them.

Joss Whedon once again writes and helms and picks up a few years after the last flick. The team has been scouring the world cleaning up Hydra’s strongholds. On the latest mission, they encounter two enhanced individuals, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) Maximoff who bare a grudge and some heavy tech that Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) decides to mess with. Stark intends on creating an automated security system for the rest of the world but, accidentally creates a monster in the A.I. Ultron (James Spader). Ultron feels the only path to world peace is to eliminate the main source of the problems…mankind. Now the Avengers must face their greatest threat as Ultron, aided by the Maximoff Twins, begins to initiate his master plan of world peace through global annihilation.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way, so, we can get to the good stuff. The 141 minute running time seems both excessive and not enough, as some plot elements…such as the introduction of one new team member, The Vision (Paul Bettany), seems rushed…while other situations…such as a furlough at a team member’s remote farm…seem to go on too long and not accomplish much. The film has a bit darker tone and thus isn’t quite as outright fun as the original and the plot is a bit more convoluted. I did like James Spader’s Ultron, though I though he could have used more ferocity and menace to really put him over. Overall, this keeps this from reaching the same heights as the last one or the recent Winter Soldier but, there is plenty to like, too!

The good stuff is certainly abundant. There is some truly spectacular action and Whedon gives the film a far more cinematic scope and shoots this one in widescreen to enhance that. The characters are all given some nice depth and each have their own moments to add to this and it works. The camaraderie between members, now that they are a team, also works well and it gives it impact when Wanda…The Scarlet Witch…starts to mess with their heads. Speaking of Miss Maximoff, it’s no secret to Marvel fans that she and her brother Quicksilver will see the error of their ways and be Avengers by the final battle…which is a doozy. I liked not only these new characters, but, how they were portrayed and Scarlet Witch and The Vision especially make quite an impression. Quicksilver’s debut, though, is somewhat muted by the character’s more amusing appearance in X-Men Days Of Future Past last Summer. Again, while Ultron could have been a stronger villain, the showdown between the team and the mechanical megalomaniac and his minions is a spectacle to behold and bares a resemblance more to the finale of Man Of Steel than the last Avengers flick. It made up for some of the more disappointing elements with some riveting action and some truly great visual moments. There is also plenty of Whedon’s trademark snappy dialogue and a few magical moments, too, such as one involving Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and The Vision that brought the house down…and let’s not forget a mid-credits scene that had equal impact on the audience I saw the film with.

As for the cast, I am not going to go through all of them, suffice to say the regulars and cameos from familiar faces are all performed well and those cameos were fun. Though, I will say the Banner/Romanoff relationship needed a bit more time to really have weight. There is some character overload here and some of the little things get ignored. As for the new blood, Elizabeth Olsen makes the best impact with her Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch. She gives her a sense of tremendous power without overacting and while her transformation from vengeful bad girl to Avenger is another element that seemed rushed, she fit in very well with the team including a really nice scene with Renner’s Hawkeye…who has some good lines here. Johnson is fine as her slightly arrogant twin brother Pietro/Quicksilver and it’s not his fault that X-Men beat his character to the punch and his character also gets short-changed a bit time-wise. Bettany makes a truly impressive Vision and that he also voices Jarvis is no accident. Finally there is Spader. I have always liked James Spader and he is a good choice for the snarky, homicidal artificial intelligence but, he never really is given opportunity to emanate true menace. Ultron disappears for long periods of time and his matter-of-fact approach to his evil plot robs the character of being a real intense threat. Even in physical combat I never got the impression The Avengers were in any real danger of getting defeated. Our mid-credits cameo has more threat in the 30 seconds he is onscreen than Ultron musters in the whole movie.

So, to simplify it, on one hand the film’s running time works both for and against it. It’s not as much pure fun as the first adventure and there is a bit of a character/plot overload. Add to that a villain who is never really allowed to reach his diabolical potential and it falls somewhat short of Loki’s attempt to rule earth last time. On the plus, there are some great character moments and interaction. The new characters worked really well and I am certainly looking forward to more of the new Avengers members. There were some great cameos from familiar faces and some really good lines too and the last act was an amazing thrill ride that ups the ante for future Marvel epics. So, I do highly recommend Avengers: Age Of Ultron, just downshift the expectations a little bit and you should have a blast.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Black Widows. avengers age of ultron rating

bars

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON GETS A 3rd AWESOME TRAILER!

 

MZNJ_NEW_news

 

black widow_AOU

Marvel has treated us to yet a third Avengers: Age Of Ultron trailer and it’s the best yet! Avengers: Age Of Ultron opens in the U.S. on 5/1/15!

source: Marvel/Youtube

bars

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON GETS AN ALL NEW 2nd TRAILER!

 

MZNJ_NEW_news

 

hr_Avengers-_Age_of_Ultron_assembled

Marvel has treated us to a second Avengers: Age Of Ultron trailer featuring more awesome action!

source: Marvel/Youtube

bars

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON GETS AN EXTENDED TRAILER!

 

MZNJ_NEW_news

 

hr_Avengers-_Age_of_Ultron_assembled

I am a little late with this but, Samsung recently treated us to an extended version of the recent Avengers: Age Of Ultron trailer!

source: Marvel/Samsung/Youtube

bars