Monday, May 4, 2015

Age of Ultron and Horns.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

And the 2015 Summer Blockbuster season has officially begun with the big Marvel superhero mash-up and the big booms and the flashy-dashy-bang-bang-boom-a-bang WOOOO WOOOO(!!!) of the latest Avengers film from director Joss Whedon. It’s got thrills and chills and spills- let’s just face it, the movie is everything that you want out of a big  blockbuster action epic. They throw everything into this one folks- it’s got monsters, it’s got a global threat, an exciting villain, romance, drama, secrets, and an introduction to the teams newest members. It’s got everything!!!

James Spader uses his voice to bring Ultron to life- to be honest, never been one of my favorite Marvel villains. Always felt a little ambivalent whenever he showed up as a villain because he always just sort of seemed way “too” powerful- multiple copies, able to go from one device to another, able to counter every super power known- he’s on my list of “Villains I don’t care to see in a film”- but Spader, despite not visually appearing in the movie, manages to make him one of the more interesting cinematic villains with real honest character flaws I don’t’ remember reading about in the comics.

If this is Stark’s swan song, he goes out on a much better note than we saw in Iron Man 3. The primary focus of the films play on interpersonal relationships continually returns to Stark and Rogers, Iron Man and Captain America. Where they both want to be, where they both want to go, how they both want to get there, and so on, so forth. Captain America is the team leader, a role Stark is eager to avoid and which Rogers seems best suited for- but as the lone wolf, Iron Man continues to act outside the mandates of the “Team” and there are consequences to those actions… the creation of Ultron most immediately becoming a concern and at other times where the consequences can be just as beneficial as Ultron is destructive. Truth be told (and I may be over thinking this), their relationship is a fantastic allegory regarding the nature of a political division we see running rampant in this country, the division between acting only with the advice and consent of the larger whole and the willingness to take risks for personal achievement. I’m not trying to spoil anything, but the creation of Ultron does NOT answer that question or settle any sort of debate on the matter.

Okay, so how much of everything actually matters? Let me be honest- I loved this movie, but not nearly as much as I enjoyed the first film. And I loved so much of this film, but the problem with throwing everything into a movie is that you don’t always really NEED everything. The villain was interesting, the social dynamics between most of the characters really drive the plot, and the introduction of the new team members pushed the envelope- but then the film sort of jumped the rail a bit by shoehorning a romance and playing with obvious tropes for a few emotional stingers. The film would work without some of these sub-plots and these are moments that literally stretch the overly long run-time to a barely tolerable level for my nine-year old son.

No child of mine should ever turn to me after a huge superhero bang-up and say “That was really long.” And, more importantly, I shouldn’t agree with him. But there we have it- EVERYTHING just sort of gets in the way of what is essentially a really good story otherwise.

4 out of 5.


I missed this one in the theaters. Actually, I missed a lot of movies in the theater during the past 2014 to the point where I didn’t even bother writing a top ten list of films that I saw in the theater. This would have probably made that list, however. But not for the reasons you might expect- and to be honest, this film was nothing like what I would have expected it to be. Even after reading the synopsis and understanding that the film was probably going to be a little strange, it was not what I expected it to be. To be clear, I expected a horror film with a few comedic elements and what would ultimately be a big monster out for vengeance. This was not what I received- this was not what was promised, but I felt certain that the film would head in this direction when I read the synopsis.

(Daniel Radcliffe) is the town pariah after everyone believes he’s gotten away with the murder of his High School sweetheart. Only he’s entirely innocent but has no way to prove it- he’s guilty in the eyes of nearly everyone he knows and there’s still a murderer out there. He wishes he could find the murderer, of course. And he wakes up one morning to discover he’s sprouting horns from his head. And everyone he comes into contact with are unable to see them or remember their contact with him afterward, during which they reveal their deepest darkest secrets. Can he use his new powers to find the murderer?

The movie is based on a story by Joe Hill, son of the famed horror novelist Stephen King. It’s directed by “Haute Tension” director, Alexander Aja. It has amazing special effects, a gory climax, and is brilliantly acted by the films leads. And it is not at all what you would expect…

This film isn’t a horror film. It’s no more a horror film than Pan’s Labyrinth and seems to fall much more securely in that category- a sort of “Dark Fantasy” realm that touches on a few horror tropes but manages to avoid the category altogether. This is a love story- there is a lot of symbolism alluding to religion, faith, the place of God in one’s life, the purpose of the devil, the purpose of sin, and so on so forth through the range. This is a movie with a lot of questions and few answers and it’s beautifully shot and acted. If you’re reading this and you love those genre films that defy easy classification, do yourself a favor and throw this one on your nearest device and give it a spin. You won’t be sorry.

4 out of 5.

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