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“Whatever it takes” ―The Avengers

Fourth Avengers flick finds the surviving heroes still devastated by the mass genocide caused by Thanos and the Infinity Stones. Five years later, hope is reignited as the reappearance of one of their number thought dead, gives The Avengers one last chance to possibly set things right.

Joe and Anthony Russo, again armed with a script written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, give this ten year journey the best ending possible. It’s an emotionally draining roller coaster ride as The Avengers enact a desperate plan that will lead them to a final showdown with the Mad Titan…and we’re along with them, every step of the way. It’s the type of movie best enjoyed going in knowing as little as possible, so this will be brief. There are loads of surprises, epic battles, some wonderful cameos and a plot that cleverly wraps up the story and also manages to pay tribute to what came before. There are some truly great moments here and heartbreaking ones, too. The audience in attendance laughed hysterically, cheered thunderously and some even wept openly. It wraps up the last ten years wonderfully, while opening some doors to the future. Simply a great flick and an enormously entertaining 181 minutes.

The cast is once again, too large to discuss each individually, but all deserve kudos. Our mainstays from the series all perform these now familiar characters with the expected gusto. A great ensemble cast that has endeared us over the last decade and have grown into their roles so well. Josh Brolin again impresses as Thanos, the Mad Titan. The clever script gives us a bit of a different Thanos, one possibly more dangerous than he was in Infinity War. There are too many great character cameos to mention, which is fine, as they will not be spoiled here anyway. A spectacular cast.

There are a few flaws, but for all the spectacle and emotion you get in it’s three hour running time, they are too small to bother discussing. A clever script and story gives us everything we could hope for from epic battles, heartbreaking actions, nail-biting suspense and some truly hilarious moments, all mixed very well. It rarely slows down and only stumbles slightly here and there, but otherwise is an epic finale to a great series of movies. While there is no post credits scene, stay during the entire credits anyway for a wonderful sendoff to our beloved heroes.

…and, on a personal note, I can’t remember the last time I laughed, cheered and even teared up so much in one movie…and I’ve been watching movies for over five decades-MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) infinity gauntlets.





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“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.





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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




A  slow movie news day but, what little news there is, happens to be good news for fans of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark/ Iron Man and the Avengers as Marvel and RDJ have reached an agreement for the actor to return for not only Avengers 2 but, a third Avengers adventure as well. The actor has implied his days of solo Iron Man adventures are done… at least for now… and the absence of a fourth Iron Man flick in the deal would seem to indicate this as so. Still, we can expect to see Mr. Downey in his armor at least twice more and that is good news indeed!

Source: CBM




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IRON MAN 3 (2013)



As a fan of the first two Iron Man films and all the Marvel phase 1 films so far, this second sequel to Iron Man was highly anticipated…and therefor that much more disappointing. Iron Man 3 picks up after The Avengers with Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) suffering anxiety attacks and trying to escape his sleepless nights by constantly evolving his suits. Enter a terrorist known only as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and the sudden re-emergence of two scientists (Guy Pearce and Rebecca Hall) Tony met in 1999 and soon Tony’s troubles become far more difficult than sleepless nights.

Despite an interesting start, this is when the film’s plot gets completely convoluted as Tony provokes this vile terrorist and gets his home blown to smithereens and Tony becomes stranded in Tennessee, with nothing but a garage full of tools to try to get back in action again. Now add in some glowing and literally explosive super soldiers, product of some genetic hanky-panky by said scientists and Iron Man 3 becomes something resembling a Pierce Brosnan era James Bond flick and not one of the better ones. Seeing Tony out of the suit for most of the film is fine, but the film jumps from one scene to another with a very choppy narrative flow and some of the stuff just gets plain ludicrous and silly, with glowing assassin soldiers, mustache tweaking villains and Tony somehow buying lots of goodies to make gadgets out of, yet somehow keeping up the facade that he is dead. Does he carry that much cash in the event his home is blasted to pieces and he can’t use his credit cards? Tony becomes an anxiety filled Bond trying to take down this silly conspiracy involving war vets turned human bombs and rescue a kidnapped Pepper. Don’t get me started on the ridiculous plot twist involving The Mandarin. They took Tony’s arch enemy from the comics and simply ruin him for what basically appears to be laughs…although Kingsley was good in Mandarin’s various incarnations, but that is a testament of his acting, more than the script or direction. And while on the subject, writer/director Shane Black does give us some spectacular action and he also gives Robert Downey Jr. some really great dialog to chew on and some very funny scenes, but it’s just the story is all over the place and his attempts to turn this into some sci-fi/conspiracy thriller just didn’t work. The villains never really make their motivations clear, nor do we really get a decent idea of what exactly it is they are up to. What is the point of all this? Since we never really get a clear picture, we never really get involved. Instead we watch Tony go from one scene to another trying to get the bad guys without any real emotional investment, other then our amusement at seeing Downey take down bad guys without his suit…which he rarely ever puts on. And then there’s the spectacular yet unsatisfying climactic confrontation. Unsatisfying because we never really get to know Aldrich Killain (Pearce) well enough to truly make him effective as a villain and have no real emotional investment to want to see him taken down. At the climax, Tony is practically a bystander as his automated suits do all the work. And, that takes the soul out of the suit and then it just becomes random CGI robots battling random glowing super soldiers, who have even less personality than the suits. After all we have seen and all the characters have gone through, Black wraps it all up in a far too neat little bow. Everything fixed, all better now.

At least the cast are all good in their roles with Downey having a blast as an even more eccentric Tony, thought Cheadle and Paltrow really don’t have much to do till the last act and Rebecca Hall’s character could have been easily written out without much harm to the story. All in all, Shane Black does deliver some big action and gives Downey a lot of situations to do what he does best, but for an Iron Man film, it’s just too messy a plot and Iron Man himself has very little to do and in the end it doesn’t really feel much like an Iron Man movie. Not a complete loss, but when compared to all that’s come before it, it’s a borderline mess and a big disappointment. Stay after the credits for the most pointless Marvel flick post credits scene yet.

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) Iron Men, mostly for RDJ and some nice action.