Creed Review: Gonna Fly Again


Adonis Creed: Last seen hitting head against wall mumbling the lyrics to Adele’s “Hello”.

No, Creed is not the long-awaited biopic of the 00s Christian rock band who did “With Arms Wide Open.” It is the seventh film in the Rocky series and is genuinely the most fun movie experience this year since Jurassic World.
This film focuses on Adonis Creed, son of Rocky’s deceased opponent turned BFF Apollo Creed. Who knew he even had a kid?! Well, turns out our eyes weren’t deceiving us in the previous movies. Apparently Creed had an affair outside of his marriage and the result was Adonis. After the boy’s birth mother dies, Creed’s widow (Phylicia Rashad) is nice enough to take the troubled child in. It probably didn’t help that he was named after a Greek God. No pressure.
Adonis grows into Michael B. Jordan and with the eye of the tiger roaring in him, he moves to Philadelphia to find his late father’s buddy Rocky to train him in the ways of boxing. The fragile, reluctant Balboa is eventually convinced to get back in the ring for his “nephew” and in the funny ways of luck these movies’ plots hinge on, Adonis is promptly signed to a high profile fight as the underdog against a vicious, more seasoned champion. With everything stacked against him, how can he possibly win? And how do the press conferences in these flicks get so wildly out of control?

You better stop playing that Adele song.

It feels like familiar territory, especially since Stallone used the nostalgia trip motifs previously in Rocky Balboa (the sixth Rocky movie). He basically acts out the same screenplay here: Balboa runs a restaurant, mourns his deceased loved ones and just seems to be biding his remaining days, but still, he’s hungry. Somehow this all feels fresh, mostly thanks to the curious case of Michael B. Jordan.
Fantastic Four was not his fault. Yes, he was an uninteresting Human Touch, but no one in that movie had a chance of being interesting. Here though, he commands screen presence, fulfilling everything that pulled us into his orbit in Fruitvale Station. He’s emotionally raw, muscularly shouldered, and seems to have all the right dangerous moves in the ring. He doesn’t exactly jog up those famous museum steps but he does run hard along his own street version of the scene, and by the time he raises his arms in training victory, we’re cheering along with him. Maybe he’ll have another chance to be a superhero someday.
And speaking of Fruitvale Station, director Ryan Coogler does a riveting job here. The material isn’t as socially significant as his aforementioned debut feature but he manages to put his own stamp on such a marked franchise, much like what Sam Mendes did with the 007 movies in Skyfall. There are long, intimate tracking shots (one that lasts two entire boxing rounds), and fight cards that flash onto the screen like a video game whenever an opponent materializes. Coupled with his provocative scenes of quiet drama, Coogler is going to have an amazing career. No wonder he’s on the list for Marvel’s Black Panther.

Someone play that Adele song again? Aim low.

Stallone doesn’t grandstand here. He falls into his beaten down, wizened supporting role with an irresistible sense of grace and self-deprecation as he mumbles out nuggets of his warrior’s code. “This guy here, that’s the toughest opponent you’re gonna hafta face.” Of course, Stallone is pointing into a mirror.
Tessa Thompson plays Adonis’s musically inclined love interest with a smooth dignity and she’s a dead ringer for Lisa Bonet. Also Cosby related is Phylicia Rashad, who makes the most out of her too-brief scenes in the film that mostly require her to look very worried. As for the main bad guy… Actually I don’t really remember the guy Creed finally fights, but then maybe that’s not entirely bad. During Stallone’s Decadent Era, Rocky’s opponents basically became colorful superhuman villains.
If anything, the music leaves a bit to be desired. The score is heavy on the hip-hop and although we finally get to hear a few scant strains of “Gonna Fly Now,” the bars of Bill Conti’s iconic theme song is sorely missed.

Yo Rock, I can still hear that Adele song.

Even without the themes, Creed is unexpectedly exciting and inspiring enough to rouse applause by the jabs of the final round. It’s duly-abled manipulation with visceral physical human combat, but it does the job good, especially in these antiseptic, inhuman, CGI-bludgeoned times. Unlike the dourness of The Hunger Games, after this movie you leave the theater with a… Well… A burning heart and the unmistakable fire.
Creed is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2


Breaking up the final book in a series into two movies instead of one seems all the rage these days. It started with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows being broken up into two 2+ hour films and then continued with the Twilight series becoming two sub 2 hour Breaking Dawn films. From what I’ve been told by book readers; for Harry Potter it was okay for the final book to be broken up over two films due to its content–not so much for Breaking Dawn. Is breaking up a book into two films more of an artistic decision to tell better tell the story that’s in the book? Or is it just another way for studios to grab money

These two questions aside, I’m always for more movie if it’s going to end up telling a better story. Which brings us to one of the top blockbusters of 2015; the final movie in The Hunger Games series: Mockingjay Part 2. Unlike Star Wars’s episodes or films in a trilogy or series, movies broken up into parts have the distinct disadvantage of being one really long movie with a really long intermission. They’re not two separate self-contained movies. They’re both parts of one movie. Which is why judging one-half without the context of the other half is difficult to do.

When we last saw Katniss, she had just been nearly strangled by her former District 12 Tribute turned Capitol propaganda speaker Peeta at the end of Mockingjay Part 1. Part 2 dives right in where we left off and hits the ground running with both Katniss and Peeta continuing to be used as tools of the war machine. Katniss, still the reluctant leader, is anxious to be fighting out on the front lines with the people that she is supposed to be rallying rather than just posing for more political propaganda pieces.


Mockingjay Part 2 continues the theme of war and propaganda that was started in Part 1 with the machinations of District 13 President Alma Coin and gamesmaker turned rebel war consultant Plutarch Heavensbee; but also puts a different spin on it in Part 2 with the inclusion of questions about war and who the enemy really is. Katniss questions whether or not Capitol loyalists from the Districts are the enemy of the rebels when they are in fact District citizens. She also questions whether it’s right to kill people who may in fact not be their enemy. And in a move that nearly kills her, she questions the rebel cause when she defends their enemy when it appears as if they are surrendering.

While I’m glad to see that some of the bigger themes from the book made it into the film, things don’t really pick up until we get to the action in the Capitol; where defying direct orders from President Coin, Katniss tries to go on a rogue mission to kill President Snow. If you’ve seen the trailers this is the part in the film where a majority of the city is laid with Hunger Games like traps for the rebels to wade through. As expected, the traps that are set are grand, over the top, and especially deadly.

As Katniss and her squad progress through the Capitol, their numbers are slowly diminished as they encounter trap after trap. Fellow comrades are mourned, more propaganda is spread, and the burden of being some big savior of the rebellion continues to build on Katniss’s shoulders even when they are mere steps from achieving their objective. Without giving the ending away, let’s just say people live and people die and that where Katniss eventually ends up is sort of befitting of what she’s been put through throughout the entire series.


All the actors that you know and love from the first three films are back. Obviously JLaw is front and center as Katniss with Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark and Baby Thor Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthrone–the other two sides of the angsty love triangle. Lawrence is solid as always, though she doesn’t have as much heavy lifting (acting-wise) that she did in the first two films in the series. She does have a moment here or there where she is required to emote, but it’s nothing really overly dramatic. A bad day for her would still be better acting than what we see in a majority of other films. Hutcherson on the other hand had me convinced that he was damaged goods as the tortured and brainwashed Peeta. So much so that I never fully believed that he was actually getting better. I was just waiting for him to go all Manchurian Candidate on Katniss at some point when she or I was least expecting it. The two heavy Oscar hitters Julianne Moore as Coin and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch don’t have a lot of screen time and don’t really get a chance to spread their dramatic wings.

On the whole, Mockingjay Part 2 was not the conclusion to a great series that we needed or the one we deserved. From book readers I’ve talked to, Mockingjay was the weakest book in the entire trilogy and I think it definitely shows. We went from two really great films that focused on characters, the effects of war, and great action set pieces to a set of films that tried to tell a somewhat different story than what the first two films were.


Here in the Mockingjays, it’s more about the politics and maneuvering that the action in the films (which in the first two films supported the story) seemed to not support it. It’s almost as if you’re traveling in one direction and then turn dramatically in another direction. Instead of signaling and slowly making a turn, the Mockingjays seemed to have dramatically changed the pace of the overarching story in the final two films. While I get where things were going (big themes and questions about war, propaganda, and fighting); it just seemed a little out of place in Mockingjay considering where we as an audience came from in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.

I’m not going to say ‘don’t see it’, cause it’s definitely one of the biggest films of the year and if you’ve seen the other three then you have to see how it all ends.  There is some spectacle in this film that is worth watching and the final third of the film does provide some dramatic moments for those that haven’t read the books. I will say just go into it wanting to be entertained. Like other cinematic bookends that have come before it (Return of the Jedi, The Dark Knight Rises, and even Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), Mockingjay Part 2 is more of something you have to just see–not something you should be really excited to see.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is now playing in theaters everywhere.

3 of 5 stars // rated PG-13 // 2h 16m


Review: San Andreas – The Fault is Not in Our Stars


After seeing him flex his broken arm to break off his cast in Furious 7, I’m really no longer sure what to make of Dwayne Johnson whenever I see him in a movie. It’s a bit like seeing a cartoon character like the Tasmanian Devil take the lead in The Day After Tomorrow.

Case in point, Johnson’s latest summer tentpole, San Andreas. Even the trailers were hard to take seriously. (And adding worse to wear, how the hell did Roland Emmerich NOT direct this movie?!) With special effects that look straight out of Adobe Photoshop, it’s difficult not to surmise that we were in some sort of strange holding pattern earlier this summer, just waiting for Jurassic World and Terminator Genisys. And Ant-Man. And in a car crash-kinda way, Fantastic Four.

The Big One hits California and everything falls apart. (Isn’t it odd how this summer movie season was pre-occupied with humanity’s extinction? Avengers? Mad Max? Tomorrowland? Not to mention that Terminator flick. The kids are gonna have nightmares about their mortality. Perhaps that’s the point? Make the world a better place while there’s still time? Man in the mirror?)


Dwayne Johnson plays a fire and rescue worker with one mission: to save his wife (Carla Gugino) and then his daughter (Alexandra Daddario). They all act properly panicked and anxiety ridden. Paul Giamatti is a scientist who predicts the giant earthquake and when he realizes how bad the devastation will be, someone asks him who they should call. The camera zooms in and with a straight face he says, “EVERYBODY!”

Yeah, it’s that kind of disaster flick. But the fault really isn’t in our stars for once. (Get it? San Andreas? Fault? Oh never mind.) Speaking of the fault itself, armchair scientists are going to have a field day spotting all the logistical inconsistencies and have the most fun doing it since Gravity. “Oh that couldn’t happen. Oh that couldn’t happen either!” Colton Haynes from Arrow, who was only in the first five minutes of this movie, showed up to the premiere in a completely pink suit. That happened. So really, who is to question what madness lies deep in the crevices of this production?

Surprisingly, for the mainland, there’s very little looting going on. Just one scene in a hick-ish town outside the urban proper. What’s really troubling is when an elderly couple on the side of the road with a broken axle yells at Johnson and Gugino to stop and pull over. They keep going and almost drive over a chasm. Only then do they turn back and offer their gratitude. But it works out for them because that elderly couple happens to own an aviation yard with one working plane.


Later the couple motor boat through the tsunami-ed waters of San Francisco. (I gave up counting when Johnson stole his third undamaged vehicle.) They see people drifting around in random boats and debris, but they keep going. In fact, the only time Johnson the professional rescue workers actually offers help is to yell a whole bunch of people to the safety of AT&T Park. But he probably only did that because wifey was gonna get smooshed by a falling building as well.

But one isn’t here to debate the morals of San Andreas. At least I hope not. That would result in a web article longer than what Chris Hemsworth is packing in the red band Vacation trailer.

Oddly, for once the 3-D here is surprisingly effective and present. Most often in simple scenes where actors are in both the foreground and the background, and especially during a canyon helicopter rescue that opens the movie. Oddly not so much when skyscrapers crumble, cable bridges twist and come undone, and helpless people get splatted by huge chunks of rubble. After Avengers (both of them), if you’ve seen one building crumble, you’ve seen them all crumble.

San Andreas made over $150 million dollars at the domestic box office. I feel like Paul Giamatti. Perhaps you will listen to my warnings and make the proper preparations to see Mad Max: Fury Road again. And who should you take with you? EVERYBODY!

San Andreas is now available to own on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital download.


Mililani Native Lands Moana Role


When Disney announced the Hawaii set animated feature Moana two years ago the state let out a collective sound of joy (and in some instances a collective sigh) at a new high profile Hollywood production that shine the spotlight at the Hawaiian culture. Slowly over the course of the two years since, more details have emerged about the film most notably that Dwayne Johnson would have a major role in the film as the voice of the Hawaiian demi-god Maui.

Today Disney unveiled that 14-year old Mililani native Auli‘i Cravalho has landed the title role of Moana, and in true local fashion, she sounds just right for the role. In speaking with People magazine on landing the role and playing Moana:

“From baby time to now, I wanted to be a Disney princess and then I wanted to be a singer or an actress . . .”

“Moana is such an amazing character . . . She’s brave, she is so empowered, she knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to get it, and I think that’s something that I can relate to as well. I just love watching how she goes along in this wonderful movie and grows as a person and helps her culture along the way.”

Even her co-star The Rock was quick to congratulate his co-star:

IT'S OFFICIAL: After months and months of worldwide casting calls, we've finally found our next DISNEY Princess… #MOANA. I'm pumped to welcome 14yr old @AuliiCravalho of Mililani, Hawaii to our project. What's amazing about this story is that she didn't think she was good enough so she never auditioned. Fortunately, one of our Oahu casting agents discovered her singing at a charity competition and the rest is history. * An awesome lesson to all young kids out there… work hard, have confidence in yourselves and never think you're not good enough because you never know what the future holds. Congratulations Auli'i! Can't wait to work with you and watch you bring this new Disney Princess to life. #YesThatsMeOnTheRight #HisNameIsMaui #HesADemiGod #AndHePutsMoanaInHerPlace #SoHeThinks #DisneyAnimation #MOANA #TimeToSing

A photo posted by therock (@therock) on

There’s also a nice featurette which shows Auli‘i’s casting and when the film’s producers told her that she had gotten the role:

From this short video, it sounds like the film’s creators have made the right choice. I love Auli‘i’s energy and I’m sure that will translate into her voice work that will give Disney animators a lot to work with. Because the synopsis of the film doesn’t state that Moana is a princess, I’m going to stop short of calling her a “Disney Princess” (besides, Hawaiians didn’t even have princesses). Even so, I’m sure that like myself, the rest of the state is proud to have Auli‘i represent Hawaii and Hawaiians on the big screen.

I think we’ve come quite aways from “Ohana means family. And family means no one gets left behind.”

Moana is due out in theaters in November 2016.


Review: Tomorrow! You’re Only a $10 Pin Away!


After the CGI douche-theatrics of Furious 7, the pop spectacle of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the riveting post-apocalyptic reality-based pyrokinetics of Mad Max: Fury Road, the arrival of Tomorrowland seems at its best, quaint. But at its worst, underwhelming and obvious.

Perhaps the lack of surprise and/or the intensity of its sense of adventure is because, bottom line, Disney has made a film for kids. (Vaccinated) kids who will pester their parents to take them to see the real Tomorrowland. The marketing genius even shows in what is likely to be the most easily attainable movie tie-in toy—a lapel pin that gives our heroine a glimpse of Tomorrowland, emblazoned with the letter “T”, approximately $10 on Amazon and perfect for sticking on the outside of a school backpack.

In the film itself, we get flying jetpacks, cute but effectively deadly robots, a gloriously tech-booby-trapped house, and a new use for the Eiffel Tower, but it’s all so blah since there’s no infinity stones involved. Nothing in the conflict quite feels truly at stake. Tomorrowland itself, white and shiny, kinda looks like an Apple store without the employees in t-shirts. This magical realm is actually a parallel universe/dimension/thing where all humanity’s best and brightest gather to nurture great ideas and create and imagine unimaginable feats of technology. A lot of marijuana smoking probably goes on behind closed doors.

“Throw me the fast pass, I throw you the pin!”

Hugh Laurie is on hand as the villain who wants to destroy the “real” Earth since it’s basically destroying itself anyway. That kind of megalomania seems a bit excessive since he’s in charge of the most perfect place in existence anyway but whatever. A plot to revive Walt Disney’s cryogenically frozen body would have been cooler.

Sadly, this may be Brad Bird’s most uninspired movie yet. After his live-action debut with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and especially his animated efforts, The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, somehow, we just expect more from him. The action scenes aren’t particularly exciting or witty; nothing seems to stay in the memory and the biggest let-down, we catch a glimpse of Space Mountain in the skyline but we don’t get to experience it. (Instead we get It’s a Small World. Don’t ask.) Wouldn’t it have been great if our heroes were trapped in a vehicle chase inside Space Mountain and then everything shuts down and the lights go on and you’re just looking at steel girders? Sorry. I’m still bitter how a certain incident during a childhood vacation ruined the illusion.

This pin? Ten bucks?

This pin? Ten bucks?

And we expect more from George Clooney too, and here, as a genius who was exiled from Tomorrowland a long time ago, he just seems to be going through the rumply, crankily charming motions. Feminists and Black Widow-Gate/Supergirl-Gate conspirators should be thrilled “the chosen one” for the planet’s future is a plucky teen girl, played by Britt Robertson, who is probably fielding offers for a young adult film adaptation at this very moment. The real casting find though is Raffey Cassidy as a young Tomorrowland android that protects the heroic humans and has a genuinely poignant backstory with Clooney’s character. She’s like the Terminator, but little.

At Tomorrowland’s gleaming, wanna-be vintage heart, there is an old-fashioned (too) strong message about going green, saving the environment and how the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. With $10 pins. Barf.

Tomorrowland is now playing in theaters everywhere.


Review: Mad Max: Fury Road


I’ve lamented it many times on the blog, but it seems like the studios keep putting out remake, after reboot, after reset. That said, when it was first announced that we’d be getting another Mad Max movie I was pretty indifferent to the news. Another remake? Meh, nothing to get excited for. When the first trailer came out it definitely looked cool, but yet even then I still wasn’t intrigued. Now that Mad Max: Fury Road is finally here all I have to say is that I thought no film this summer could top Avengers: Age of Ultron in the sheer amount of action in a movie . . . I was wrong.

Mad Max: Fury Road stars Tom Hardy as Max, a lone wolf of a man who wanders the post- apocalyptic wasteland just trying to survive; the role made famous by Mel Gibson who starred in the first trio of films back in the early 80s. Max gets caught up with Charlize Theron’s Furiosa when she initiates her plan to steal baddie Immortan Joe’s most precious cargo, The Wives. What starts out as a basic escape plan turns into a battle for survival against warring post-apocalyptic tribes with a chance at rebuilding civilization hanging in the balance.

Immortan Joe's wives. Who wouldn't want to get them back?

Immortan Joe’s wives. Who wouldn’t want to get them back?

Back to that action though, it’s the first thing that grabs when you once the film begins and never lets up till the end. And it doesn’t get tiring either. Well, okay, some might find it tiring, but I was entertained the entire time. The scenes are so masterfully put together that never at one point did it feel like cars just crashing together. There is real thought and coordination that went into producing some of these sequences and the stunt work is simply amazing. There are guys literally jumping around from car to car or falling of chase vehicles and when they hit the ground, you definitely feel it. The way the action is shot and how they handle the camera really put you in the middle of the action. When you have guys swinging back and forth on poles jumping from one car to another, you never really know what to expect next.

The world building is great as well. While the film is itself visually stunning, everything about the details–from the cars and trucks that are driven, to the costuming, to props, and to the way the characters talk to each other give you a good sense of how far humans have fallen in the years after a catastrophe struck. You definitely feel that everything in this world is just cobbled together piece by piece. All the vehicles are mutant versions of the vehicles they once were: dual Cadillac Coupe De Villes welded together on top of each other on top huge wheels; the War Rig (the main vehicle in the film) being a marriage between a semi truck and a hot rod. Things just feel as if they were Macgyver’d together as best they could by those that are still standing.

Immortan Joe and his band of "half-life" humans.

Immortan Joe and his band of “half-life” humans.

Even each of the characters in the film all really distinct and unique, which only adds to the crazy world that they all are from. First from a visual standpoint you can tell who each character is, even though you may not know their name, you know exactly who they are by the way they look. How these people speak and interact with one another also adds to each of their characters. While the film is more action-heavy than dialogue heavy, from the short lines or moments that people are given to speak, you can pick up on elements of their personality and sometimes even fills us in on why they look the way that they do.

And none of the characters are more unique than Max. Tom Hardy is not doing a Mel Gibson impression, and he doesn’t have to. We get everything we need to know about Max from from what we see of him in the film. In the first sequence of events, we get a good sense of who he is. We know he’s a tough guy from the way he puts up a fight as he is about to be captured and even after he is captured. We know he can think on his feet (which is a good survival trait) from the way he makes decisions in a mere second or two. The decision may not work out, but he commits to it as soon as he does make it. You get a sense that he is a loner and is fine working that way from the way he talks to people and how little he does talk when he’s around people. Whether this was the way that director George Miller envisioned this character or the way Tom Hardy wanted to play him, you get who Max is by the way he’s portrayed on the screen. It’s the same reason why I guess that Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception director Christopher Nolan tapped Hardy to play Bane:

Tom is somebody who really knows how to put character into every gesture, every aspect of his physicality in the way that great actors can. He’s a very, very physical actor. He transforms himself and it’s there in every movement.

Hero Complex, LA Times (2011)

Lethal Weapon this ain't.

Lethal Weapon this ain’t.

While you don’t need to have seen the previous Mad Max films to inform you as to what’s happening in this film, if you do have that knowledge, I think you are a little better off. At the very least you know what to expect from director George Miller as he’s back in the saddle directing Fury Road. Yes, the man that directed the first set of Max films (and who also directed Babe: Pig in the City and Happy Feet) is back for Fury Road. If you’ve ever seen scenes or stills from the first set of films, you definitely see that this Miller back in the world he created over thirty plus years ago. Visually, things look very similar. Mostly everything is shot in the same Australian desert that the previous films were shot in. And like I mentioned previously; all the characters, cars, and gonzo-ness of it all are nearly the same as in The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Though it’s not meant to look modern, Fury Road really is a Mad Max that was made today. While there are some visual effects at play here, I feel a lot of the practical work is on a different level from the first films and wouldn’t have been achievable years ago. Credit Miller for being able to bring his vision of Max to 2015 filmmaking.

Probably my only knock against the film is that there really isn’t too much to the story itself; which is a small nitpick and also totally fine. Even with the characters, outside of Max, what you see of these characters on screen is what you get. There’s some filling in of backstory for some of these characters, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because the driving force here is either that characters want to stay alive and survive or are following orders and are chasing people down. Having said that though, the way the story is told through the action, through the bits and pieces of dialog that we do get fills in enough details for you to understand what everyone’s motivation is.

Furiosa (Theron, right), Nux (Nicholas Hoult, left), and The Wives . . . the ultimate road trip. Are we there yet?

Furiosa (Theron, right), Nux (Nicholas Hoult, left), and The Wives . . . the ultimate road trip. Are we there yet?

In a summer where you have Avengers: Age of Ultron kicking things off, you wouldn’t think that you could get any higher than that. Mad Max: Fury Road proves that it can. You need to be a fan of action to be sure, but Fury Road is more than just action. It also showcases great storytelling and a distinct and unique visual style as well. Though this is a reboot/remake/reset or whatever you want to call it; it’s probably one of the better efforts Hollywood has put forth in the past few years. I’m not saying I’d like to see more remakes or that this proves the point. But I do think Mad Max: Fury Road is more the exception than it is the rule. And because it’s exceptional, it’s a remake that I won’t mind seeing again.

Mad Max: Fury Road is now playing in theaters worldwide.

4.5 / 5 stars // rated R // 2h



Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron


Seven summers ago there was an idea . . . the idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people to see if they could become something more. To see if they could work together when we needed them to, to make the movies that that no one else could.

From his first foray into what we now refer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with 2008’s Iron Man, president of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige collected talent and creatives and guided them on a path to create the largest “universe” of films anyone has seen. Forget the characters on screen. Names like Joss Whedon, Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans, and Scarlett Johansson are now real life Avengers. And Feige, he’s the real world equivalent of Nick Fury; ever so astutely manipulating storylines and stars as deftly as Fury could manipulate secrets and spies.Flash forward to 2015 and that Marvel machine shows no signs of stopping. Avengers: Age of Ultron is the second film in the MCU that brings together the “group of remarkable people” we know as the Avengers. With the Battle of New York now three years past, we join right in as the team is in the heat of battle; still cleaning up Hydra agents from the events that took place in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.


Flash forward to 2015 and the Marvel machine shows no signs of stopping. Avengers: Age of Ultron is the second film in the MCU that brings together the “group of remarkable people” we know as the Avengers. With the Battle of New York now three years past, we jump right in as the team is in the heat of battle; still cleaning up Hydra agents from the events that took place in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

In an effort to close the book on Hydra, the Avengers are tracking down Loki’s scepter (which we last saw in Hydra’s possession in The Winter Soldier and which Phil Coulson discovered intel on its whereabouts in this week’s Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD). Having neutralized the Hydra threat, the Avengers discover that Hydra has a focus on collecting Inhumans–a sub-race of humans who possess special abilities. Hydra’s Inhumans, aka The Twins, aka Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (also seen at the end of The Winter Soldier), manipulate Tony Stark and turn his fears from the Battle of New York against him which leads him to create Ultron–initially a protocol of automated Iron Man suits to fight large threats and protect the human race; but morphs into an evil artificial intelligence bent on “protecting” humanity by destroying it.


Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson join the cast as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. They’re more Inhuman than human.

 Avengers: Age of Ultron has all the action that you’d expect from an Avenger movie. While we’ve gotten some cool action sequences in the stand alone Avenger films, it’s totally amped up in Age of Ultron since in nearly every scene you’ve got at least two Avengers working together. A lot of action scenes in the film are fun because the Avengers are fighting together, working as a team, and riffing off of each other’s weaponry and special talents. When you see Captain America whipping his shield around, Black Widow catching it, throwing it back to him–but knocking bad guys into the air, with Iron Man flying in and repulsor blasting said bad guys in mid air and then finishing off with Thor slamming his hammer down on Cap’s shield creating a shockwave that knocks everyone out . . . you can’t help but crack a smile on your face because yes, this is what superhero team-up movies are supposed to be.

Whedon’s comedic stamp is still all over the film as well. From the quick one-liners during battle (Cap’s chastising of Iron Man’s “language”), to our heroes being self-deprecating with one another, to fun scenes of comradery (like say when you’re hanging out after a party and everyone tries to lift Thor’s hammer); all the little touches and flourishes of humor that made the first Avengers so fun is still here as well.

Great action and fun laughs aren’t the only things that Age of Ultron gives us. It also does some table setting for Phase III and also subtly explain other goings on in the MCU. Things like “well where was Hawkeye when all that stuff with SHIELD going down” are in fact addressed and answered (no, he wasn’t just appearing on Fallon). Then there’s the role call of cameos from supporting characters from many of the other stand alone films. Not only do we get to see War Machine and Falcon, but we also get the inclusion of two new Avengers as well (spoiler alert–it’s The Twins). We all know that Marvel can’t keep this train with the core group of Avengers going forever. They literally can’t afford to as the actor’s salaries will keep getting higher with each passing movie. The next logical step is to bring in new blood and set things up for a changing of the guard. I mean, in the comic books the Avengers are a big team of superheroes so it only makes sense that new Avengers are introduced in Age of Ultron.

Where did you come from where did you go? Where did you come from cotten eye Hawkeye?

Hawkeye’s still super as they are.

In a similar vein, Age of Ultron also moves us ever so closer to the next Avengers film three years from now: Infinity War. From the discovery of the tesseract in Captain America: The First Avenger to the outright explanation of the Infinity Stones in last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, you can’t help but notice that these items seem to be the most power artifacts in the universe if everyone is out to get them. While I won’t give too much away from Age of Ultron, the Infinity Stones are referenced several times in the film. If one by itself commands so much power, just imagine an enemy who possesses all of them.

If there was one thing that felt a little out of place in Age of Ultron, it would have to be the developing relationship between Bruce and Natasha. We saw a few hints at this in the first Avengers film. In Age of Ultron, it is in full bloom. What I found out of place about it was that I thought it was completely unnecessary. Did they want to keep the female audience interested by introducing a romance element to the story? Who knows. What I do know is this . . . you have a strong female character in your comic book movie (something in short supply and high demand at the moment) and you give her character weepy eyes throughout the film? Sure they gave us some backstory and point of view moments for her, but I think the end result was not worth adding that in. Talk about sidelining your character–it just makes her character look that much more vulnerable on a team packed with powers.



While Avengers: Age of Ultron does deliver the fun, I couldn’t help feeling that something was missing after the movie was done. I laughed and I cheered throughout the movie and yet I didn’t feel as good as I did when I got out of seeing The Avengers. The best way to equate this is probably to The Dark Knight and The Dark Night Rises. With The Dark Knight being as good as it was, expectations for it’s follow up were sky high. When The Dark Knight Rises came out, due to those high expectations, many people felt that Rises was a bit of a letdown. And that what we’ve got going on here.

Pound dog!

Pound dog!

Though Ultron is a diabolical foe, the entire movie feels a bit like more of what we wanted from the first Avengers movie but just didn’t have time to have in there. There wasn’t anything that special that blew me away. This time around we don’t have the novelty of seeing these guys come together for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great scenes and I did enjoy myself throughout the film, but at the end of the day I thought Ultron was just another bad guy in the long list of Marvel bad guys that got left in the dust. What he did was the typical things that we’d expect any one-note bad guy to do: he came up with a plan to destroy the world, he got the Avengers to fight each other, and he had the whole multiple versions of himself going for him. With all of that, none of it left a lasting impression on me.


To be sure, I’ll see this movie a couple more times in theaters. And like I mentioned at the top, Marvel has nothing to fear in regards to their universe slowing down anytime soon. Feige, Whedon, and the entire cast have put together something that is special. What I’m hoping we get next time is a movie that “becomes something more” and is not just more of the same.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is now playing in theaters worldwide.

4 / 5 stars // rated PG-13 // 2h 21min


Red Band Feed

Contact Red Band Project


We’re on Facebook


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers