Marvel’s Avengers: The Age of Ultron Review

Age of Ultron

Age of Ultron

The Avengers: Age of Ultron Review
By Rob Jefchak 

A few years ago, Joss Whedon delivered a cinematic crossover of epic fan/film proportions by collecting Marvel’s finest superhero stars and making a spectacular experience that many directors and fans would have originally thought to be impossible: that experience was “The Avengers.” Now, Whedon returns to helm the heroes one last time in a sequel that’s bigger, longer, and more stuffed with special effects and super stars then you can possibly imagine in “Age of Ultron.” Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) resurrects an old program he created years ago: an artificially intelligent armor/android that was capable of serving as a 24/7 super hero force so he and fellow avengers: Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) could retire from being Earth’s mightiest heroes.

Unfortunately, Ultron (James Spader) views “saving the world” in a different light and plans to annihilate humanity and the Avengers with the help of 2 super powered allies: Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). When it comes to making a sequel to any kind of franchise, escalation is usually the most common way to make the second outing more memorable (or in this case intense). Superhero films tend to self-destruct as they escalate by overcrowding their sequels with too many villains, too many plots or too much romance (I’m glaring at YOU “Amazing Spider-man 2.”) “Age of Ultron” however, doesn’t feel to suffer from those same flaws even though they are utilizing the same large quantity of new characters and sub-plots etc.

There’s so much epic talent and tremendously powerful performances and visuals that you won’t even realize 141 minutes has passed since you started watching. Once I started I never wanted it to stop, I was completely engrossed from start to finish and THAT is the sign of a good movie if you ask me. Admittedly, it is noticeably difficult to introduce new characters like the Maximoff twins with still trying to make sure Thor, Widow and every other big name hero/actor is getting their fair share. However, whenever we got knee deep into the emotional nitty gritty of the characters; no matter how brief, you always felt satisfied and truly connected to these characters and their increasing number of problems (ranging from renegade robots to psychic nightmare fuel.)

If there’s one new “face” that simply cannot be avoided discussing, it’s Ultron. Spader’s take on the psychotic rogue robot perfectly mixes his dark gravitas with his snarky sense of humor. He’s a villain’s villain; a powerhouse threat that even puts “Avengers” first film foe, fan favorite Loki (Tom Hiddleston); to shame. I loved seeing Hawkeye finally get some screen time outside of being mentally side lined like in the first film. In a way, Hawkeye’s connection with his family and concerns about missing out on them due to his mission obligations; have made the heroes more human. The pairing of Widow and Hulk/Banner was not a relationship I saw coming but once it was acknowledged; it was warmly welcomed and a great improvement on two already great characters.

I know I’m biased being a super hero lover and a super hero movie lover, but unless you genuinely dislike these characters or have no interest in high quality action, acting and film making; I’m going to be hard pressed to see any mud being slung at this blockbuster. “Age of Ultron” is supremely impressive and satisfying on every level established by the original “Avengers” and created new levels of excellence that will be near impossible to be topped. But if anyone can do it, Marvel can. “Batman vs. Superman” has NOTHING on this one.

I give “Age of Ultron” 4 stars out of 4 stars.

Monsters, Dark Continent Movie Review

Monsters Dark Continent

Monsters Dark Continent Banner

 

Monsters: Dark Continent Movie Review

Directed by: Tom Green

Release Date: April 17, 2015

Rating: 4.00 stars out of 10

Review by: George Beremov

Scheduled for release on April 17 in the US, and May 1 in the UK, Monsters: Dark Continent is a follow-up to Gareth Edwards’ surprisingly well-crafted indie debut feature Monsters form 2010, that proved low-budget sci-fiers can be successful, too. While the latter was definitely a stepping stone for Edwards, who in 2011 was offered to direct last year’s Godzilla remake (and he did a great job with it), this sequel will hardly do its creator Tom Green the same favor, for the fact that the film simply fails to live up to its predecessor, let alone surpass it.

The plot takes place ten years after the events of  the first movie, where ‘Infected Zones’ have now spread worldwide, and revolves around a group of young American soldiers, sent abroad to contain the monsters, as well as to deal with the insurgency that has begun in the area.

The inevitable comparison between Monsters and its sequel shows that they have two things in common – they’re both character-driven, and they’re both, well, lacking in monsters, which kind of contradicts with their titles and premises. But while that happened to be a winning formula for the original flick, it certainly doesn’t work for Dark Continent, due to the many shortcomings of its under-conceived script, and Green’s unfocused, heavy-handed direction.

Monsters: Dark Continent spends quite some time to introduce its protagonists to the viewers, which is supposed to help the latter build a connection and care for them later on in the film. Sadly, none of these characters turns out to be particularly memorable or sympathetic enough for that to happen, despite the director’s forced attempt to involve us in all of their personal drama during the first thirty minutes or so.

Probably the only thing the original was missing was more monsters. Instead of fixing that mistake in the sequel and make those the focal point of the film, the director decides to neglect them (again), and go with a more ‘human’, but not necessarily more engaging story. Therefore, Monsters 2 feels more like a war movie, rather than a proper sci-fi creature feature and that is likely disappoint everyone expecting to see some exciting, monstrous action, especially considering the movie’s 119-minute running time. Unfortunately, Dark Continent feels a lot longer than it already is, as it has more than a few either pointless or overextended sequences that add no value to the story whatsoever. What really makes the whole experience even more underwhelming is the unnecessary and often distracting voiceover, and the countless pacing issues, which kill the little amount of energy the film possesses.

At least on a technical level, Monsters: Dark Continent succeeds to a certain extent. Set in the Middle East for a change, the movie has that gritty feel in the vein of Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, and Paul Greengrass’ Green Zone. Director Tom Green’s visual style is obviously inspired by those two, but that’s hardly a fault, since it works for the most part. Cinematographer Christopher Ross uses a pale, washed out color palette in order to add a further rawness to the visuals, and he definitely achieves that. The humongous monsters themselves are impeccably-designed, and the CGI work on them is polished enough to make them look as realistic as possible. Too bad those creatures are vastly underused, and also too lazy to cause any real interest at all.

Bottom line: Overlong, wildly uneven, and often tedious, Monsters: The Dark Continent fails miserably to improve upon the original, hence, to raise the bar its predecessor set higher, being on par with it only in terms of looks, but never in terms on plotting, characters, entertainment value, or overall impact.

Blackhat Movie Review

Blackhat

 

Blackhat Main image for Ninja site

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Rob Jefchak

When I think of Chris Helmsworth, I think of “Thor” and everything related to “Thor”: muscles, power, strength and all that other good superhero stuff. What I DO NOT think of when I think of Helmsworth is computer hackers and dealing with warring Governments and cyber terrorism that brings about “supposed” high octane chases and action like “Live Free or Die Hard” for example. Still, “Blackhat” had advertisement blasted onto every commercial imaginable and one can only hope it was out of pure desperation…one can hope. Nick Hathaway (Chris Helmsworth) has spent the last 15 years of his life behind bars. However, that all changes when a computer virus code he wrote years ago for a fellow hacker gets utilized and ignites a cyber-terrorism war between America and China. Now Nick is on the move to find the hacker responsible for this chaotic chain of events and secure a more freedom filled future.

The reason I mentioned the whole “Thor” thing is sometimes with actors; once they are put into a certain role it becomes difficult to picture them doing anything else. Now to Helmsworth’s credit, his acting in this film is easily one of its best features; I never once felt that his skills were the reason he couldn’t pull off the “hacker look”. The problem is this movie tries way too hard to be some sort of compelling, conspiracy, action/crime film and it either barely succeeds at one aspect or fails completely at another. The action in this film is practically non-existent, there’s barely any trace of anything even remotely action related and when you do get action; it’s barely on screen or visible on screen since shaky camera angles are used to the point of total overkill.

Shaky cam destroys the minds and eye sights of movie viewers everywhere, practically everyone who used to use it no longer does because of this very same reason. So I ask myself: why does an already accomplished and well established director like Michael Mann churn out such a jarring point of view throughout 90% of the movie? It might help if the rest of the movie was actually interesting to watch. The use of cyber terrorism seems to spark far grander dangers and threats than are actually true. Sure, we’ve seen how “The Interview” had its cinematic wheels stalled because of North Korea hacking our computers (and our sense of security) to pieces; but this movie just feels like it’s really reaching to make this seem like it’s a big deal.

There’s signs they are trying to make this a big deal but I don’t feel they are succeeding. Nothing feels or flows naturally, everything feels like it’s forcefully inserted or hyped up to give the illusion that you actually give a crap about what these people are doing and are talking about…and at no point did I care about either. Helmsworth is a great actor and it shows here; even while he struggles against a role that clearly doesn’t fit him in any way, shape or form. Helmsworth feels like he was only chosen for this role to make some kind of sexual tension or romantic interest spark between him and a female hacker seem plausible, except nothing in this film at all seems plausible.

Mann has a reputation of quality films with excellent storytelling, camerawork and ideally chosen actors. “Blackhat” has none of those qualities; this is like “Green Lantern” being directed by Martin Campbell: a director with recognizable talent somehow crapping out this god awful movie and making everyone wonder how his name got attached to it. 2015 just started and this is REAL early estimations here but I have a feeling “Blackhat” will be one of the year’s worst films without a doubt.
I give “Blackhat” 1 star out of 4.

Taken 3 Movie Review

taken 3 review

taken 3 liam neeson

 

While it seemed like a one shot deal at the time, “Taken” introduced the concept of Liam Neeson as an unstoppable, action bad ass super star. The film was simple enough: a man with a “particular set of skills” sets out on a blood filled rampage to return his kidnapped daughter from the scum of the Earth. Then his family was kidnapped…again in “Taken 2” and while that one lacked the luster the first one packed so effectively, it gained enough interest and finances to (for the time being) conclude the story of Brian Mills and his ass kicking antics with “Taken 3.” Does Neeson recapture the explosive taste of the first one, or is it a bitter taste reminiscent of its sour filled sequel? Well were about to find out.

Brian Mills (Liam Neeson) is finally enjoying retirement from his dangerous line of work to maintain an increasingly positive relationship with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and his estranged ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). However, Brian discovers Lenore’s body while visiting her and is accused of killing her by the police and the FBI. Mills escapes captivity, desperate to elude the manhunt lead by Agent Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) and discover the true identity of his wife’s killer and deliver to them his unique brand of “justice.” Like everyone else, I never thought Neeson could turn this Brian Mills character into the next John McClane after seeing the first “Taken” movie. I was worried each film was just going to have more and more people kidnapped; basically turning the aspect of being kidnapped into a running gag of sorts.

While still nowhere near on par with the power of the first film, “Taken 3” serves as another sufficient action vehicle for Neeson and focuses more on his character’s “skills” than continually rescuing someone. In a way, the action here is toned down to make room for a more mystery-esque plot. Similar to Neeson’s last film “A walk among the tombstones” or Harrison Ford’s “The Fugitive”, the action takes a slight back seat to the plot of the film. Though it took a while to get its stride going, the story slowly became more interesting and complicated; far more than I expected though don’t mistake that as me saying this is “Inception” level plot twists here.

This is a straight up action film; even with the little added intrigue of a more complicated plot, one should not treat or expect this movie as anything but a typical action flick (something I never thought Neeson would be known for). However, like all his roles prior; Neeson never kets his performance suffer or sag simply because the focus is ass kicking and blowing up cars. Neeson gives his character a gritty edge that never falters; even if the film itself in question is faulty. He always gives 110% and this is no exception, you can really feel his intensity and gravitas as he barrels through thugs, cops and obstacles with the same grizzly strength Neeson has recently become known for.

With the exception of Whitaker, everyone else in the film doesn’t really stick around long enough to warrant any worthy performance discussions. These movies have always been about Neeson and its Neeson alone that reminds us why he is the star of the show. If there is one unavoidable flaw in “Taken 3” it’s sadly with the very thing this franchise has been known for: action. The camerawork with the action scenes is atrocious, it’s so jittery and shaky that you feel like you’re on a tilt-a-whirl and it’s putting a strain on both your eyes and your head. Overall, “Taken 3” is no grand finale to a noteworthy trilogy but it is still an adequate action thrill ride. The camera angles make you want to vomit with confusion and the story is still more of the same from the past 2 films. But Neeson always makes it worth it, the story gets creative at times and I didn’t leave the theater unsatisfied so I’d call that a win.

I give “Taken 3” 2 and a ½ stars out of 4.

By Rob Jefchak