Avengers: Age of Ultron Review (NO SPOILERS)

Avengers: Age of Ultron Review (NO SPOILERS)

Synopsis:
The much anticipated sequel to 2012’s The Avengers has finally arrived in theaters. This time, our heroes of the anointed Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are facing an artificial intelligence created by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) with good intentions, however this plan backfires and instead of saving the world as Tony is hoping for, Ultron (James Spader) is on a quest to destroy it.

The Good:
I give Joss Whedon and the team at Marvel a ton of credit for continuing their quest to achieve a fully realized cinematic universe with no foreseeable end, although I do believe that eventually this franchise will transition into something else, but let’s talk about the present…

This movie has had a lot of expectations as it should. This is a sequel to not only one of the highest grossing movies of all time, but a sequel to a very good movie, in fact I would say that Avengers 1 is perhaps in the top five greatest comic book movies of all time (a review for a later day). So, a lot of expectations usually lead to a fumbling of the ball in a sequel as we’ve seen in Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and several other films. Let me end the suspense by saying that this is a good movie!

I loved how Whedon continues to write the complexity and humanity of these characters, in fact it’s his defining trait as a writer. Kudos to him and Jeremy Renner for enabling Hawkeye to really shine, a character from the first film who was reduced to, “A flying monkey,” as Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury so eloquently put it in the first film. Here, Hawkeye is the heart of the film in many ways and reminds the viewer that going in with a low expectation can lead you to be pleasantly surprised.

James Spader nails it as Ultron, creating perhaps the second most memorable villain in the MCU cannon next to Loki. I loved the portrayal and his dialogue was superbly written. I feel like it’s becoming increasingly rare to harness a really good villain plot in films like these where the stakes feel high and insurmountable, which is really what you want in a villain and it’s delivered in spades (pun intended). I loved Ultron! I also really loved The Vision (Paul Pettany), a somewhat spiritual figure that adds some depth to the film.

As for other positives, the action was amazing and there were a few times I was lifted out of my seat with that slight cringe of “Oh man, how is he going to get out of that one!?” The visual effects were some of the best I’ve ever seen with 3000 special effects shots, increased from Guardians of the Galaxy’s 2750 effects shots. Let’s just say the last 30 minutes is where the bulk of those are, but there was enough of an illusion of practicality and tasteful CGI that I was never taken out of the movie. The Hulk looks perfect!

The ensemble remains the highlight of the franchise. There is something about these particular actors alone that makes all of the non action scenes just as much fun to watch as any other and that is a testament to the witty one liners and the chemistry between the actors. Chris Evans and Robert Downey really bounce off of each other well as their dynamic becomes more tense in this film, which I liked (an allusion to the Civil War plot line, which we’ll touch upon later) and Scarlet Johannson and Mark Ruffalo are the other notable duo in this film. I found their chemistry and plot thread reminiscent of Han and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, which is one of my favorite on screen romances.

The Bad:
It’s hard to say that anything in this movie was flat out bad, more so not what I expected, but there are a few spots in the film where I was asking myself, “What happened here?” While the movie starts off with a true bang, which is highly appreciated I was surprised at how quickly Ultron was introduced. I thought a few extra minutes of explanation could have been helpful.

I didn’t care for a lot of the Russian accents most notably the Maximoff twins portrayed by Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. Both the performers were well utilized as Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch respectfully, but those accents, I mean yeesh! Haven’t we learned anything from Halle Berry’s Storm? I also will state that I prefer the X-Men’s portrayal of Quicksilver, but it wasn’t bad in Age of Ultron.

The film overall has this slightly uneven feeling to it, almost like it was unsure of what kind of movie it wanted to be. I can understand that with the expectations and duty to provide connective tissue with 10 other films can be a great source of pressure, but it is felt here.

The film could have used a few more homages to things to come, but it didn’t really bother me, in fact it allowed for more investment in the movie we are in right now, which is something the other films have a problem with at times. Act 2 of the film felt a bit sluggish, and I was asking myself a few times, “Where’s Ulron?” Act 2 does however have two of my favorite moments and let’s just say that they involve Hawkeye, Widow and Hulk’s characters…

The Bottom Line:
This movie is one of the best of the MCU films! It definitely deserves to be in the leagues of the Iron Man 1, Avengers 1, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m super happy that it didn’t turn into a shoehorning in of every character possible and that The Avengers franchise remains a character driven saga about super humans.

I personally hold sequels up to the standard of The Empire Strikes Back, at least the summer action, sci-fi, fantasy fare in having the responsibility to further the journey of our characters to a point where the stakes are so high that the future looks pretty grim for them, until the third film where this are resolved, but not without the team taking a big hit in the second film. I think that this expectation is sprinkled throughout Age of Ultron, but they could have taken it a little further.

Overall, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a solid movie, not better than the lightning in a bottle that was the first film and I still think the afore mentioned hits are better than this one, but it’s still very good. Chalk it up to this being the necessary bleaker step toward what I’m truly hoping will knock my geeky socks off: Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 and 2, which will not be directed by Joss Whedon. If you haven’t read this arc from the comics, it’s on the horizon and I believe that this film will actually serve as that somber note on the piano that needs to be hit soon, if these Marvel films are going to start taking more risks.

Rating: 7.9/10

***What did you think of the film? Leave a comment and let me know!
Also… If you like this review, hit like or share. My goal is to get a YouTube channel going for video reviews… Thanks for the support!***

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Daredevil Review (for the Sweaty Nerds out there watching last night!)

Netflix’s Daredevil Review
by Jordan Haynes

I really enjoyed the first 3 episodes! I think they set a gritty, grounded and violent tone, which feels refreshing in the MCU scheme of things, it’s unique among the films with tone. As a person who bought into the heavy, yet brilliant marketing and promo art work, I will say that I am highly intrigued as to how the season will conclude and the trajectory of the next phases for Marvel’s properties, Netflix shows and all.

The Good
The story was interesting and is off to a good start. They’re doing a good job in laying track for multiple story threads and their introductions were ominous and cool.

Charlie Cox is amazing as DD! He’s like so good! Those first scenes of him in the first episode really showcase his acting ability and he is fantastic with the fight choreography, which for me thus far is the highlight of the show. It’s very reminiscent of what they pulled off in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (if you haven’t seen that, see it!) My guess is Cox is doing as much as he can physically and the fights are believable.

***SPOILER WARNING***
I like the allusions to the grander scheme of the MCU. I think they could go even stronger with that. I mean, why not show a clearer shot of Avengers Tower in the skyline shots? Is it there or not? I also love how the criminals are using the aftermath of the Battle of New York from A1 as a source of exploitation, the city is rebuilding and criminals are taking advantage…smart!

The Bad
My main weak point is the portrayal of Foggy Nelson. I think that character could have used an update similar to Tommy Merlyn from Arrow. Perhaps a bit more of a slick character that can keep up with Matt and is on to his secret. i just wasn’t feeling his acting and delivery of the lines, he bored me as did the antics of him and Karen Page.

Other problems I had were the pacing of certain moment, story beats and some lackluster cinematography. The camera work is not entirely unique or impressive, but don’t get me wrong it doesn’t look bad. They could have taken some inspiration from the aesthetic of something like John Wick. No shaky cam (which I’m happy for), but cooler coloration and angles.

To Sum Up
I’m hoping that Karen and Foggy grow on me and I’m digging Rosario’s Claire/Night Nurse. He needs a confidant and Rosario seems committed to the part. I am very intrigued by Vincent Dinofrio’s portrayal of Wilson Fisk! Without spoiling much, I love how he portrays Fisk as a HUMAN BEING! He’s sensitive, lonely, odd characteristics for a villain, right?

All in all, this series is off to a good start and I applaud Netflix/Marvel/Disney for branching out into this very unique platform. In a way they could take even more advantage from not shying away from taking risks, but this is just the first three episodes we’re talking about, so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt that they will find their groove.

Rating for Pilot alone: 7.8/10

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Ben Affleck to be Dark Knighted!

A few words about the alarming, shocking and in some ways inspiring entertainment news that transpired a few days ago. If you haven’t heard by now what’s been going on in casting for the DC/WB cinematic universe, well then you live under a rock and you need to get out more. I’m talking about Ben Affleck, the Bostonian actor known for films such as Good Will Hunting, The Sum of All Fears, Daredevil, Gigli (a disaster of a film, not a disaster film) and Chasing Amy (one of my favorites) has been cast to play the pinnacle of all superheroes, the crown jewel of comic books…my favorite fictional character, BATMAN. Yes, The Batman!

Now I just quickly want to say that I haven’t written on my blog in a while and there have been other stories in entertainment and the real world that I’ve wanted to share some thoughts about with readers, i.e. Star Wars Episode 7 being a thing that’s really happening, or even just the news that Batman/Superman or Superman Vs Batman, or World’s Finest, or whatever the hell they’re going to call it, I mean Man of Steel 2 is most fair really, but yeah, its a thing too and its worth commenting about, because well, I love cinema, comics, acting, art and just dope and cool things that happen in our world. So here we go.

SSDC 2013 was a romper this year with announcements being made and panels being held to market and push projects for us fan boys out there. Among the inspired appearances and announcements made such as Andrew Garfield appearing in the Spider-Man suit and in character, there was an announcement made that the next Superman film, Man of Steel 2 will incorporate none other than The Dark Knight Detective himself. Weeks of speculation on who would be cast in the coveted role transpired with names like Josh Brolin, Matthew Goode, Ryan Gosling and Karl Urban tossed around. As I was on set for an independent short film (a great shoot really, the project’s called Genius, look for it) I get a text from my roommate, “Ben Affleck is gonna be Batman!” My initial reaction was a smile, I was like Ben Affleck, Batman, cool words are written on my phone right now.

Although the announcement was made that the actor will appear in the film a month or so after SDCC, apparently he has been involved with the project since convention and possibly before that. WB also confirmed that Batman will be older, more weathered by his several year commitment to fighting crime. This seems to fit Affleck’s recent career choices like the Town and Agro, both amazing and darker films.

Ultimately, I think that the public should give him a chance and judge the film and the choices when we see a trailer and footage of the film. Although he isn’t my first choice, I think with a good script, good cinematography, a cool Batsuit and some interesting choices made by the filmmakers, I think it could be good. I’d like to see how Henry Cavill and Affleck work off of each other and explore the physicality of these characters because lets face it, this movie will tank if there’s no fight between the two of them. I’d like to see them handle that in a similar fashion to that of the avengers, first they fight, then they team up.

Now if Zack Snyder and David Goyer can just make the film a bit more relatable and down to Earth than the first film, then I think we have a potentially epic clash of the titans. So for now, I’m going to mute my skepticism and give it a chance. There are going to be some heavy hitting titles coming out in 2015, Batman/Superman just being one of them. Let’s see how it compares to Star Wars 7, Avengers:Age of Ultron and Jurassic World. Posts on those soon to come.

J. Haynes.

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Weeds

Final Post

Weeds

            It’s very sad to see this assignment come to an end.  I really enjoyed getting to know these characters.  When you see a good movie, read a good book or watch a television show that you enjoy, it’s always a strange experience because you do grow attached to the characters and their world and their problems in some sense.  I really grew to care out Nancy and her world even as convoluted and strange as it is.  That however is the aspect of this show that I loved the most is that even though none of these characters have any idea of what they want in life, well isn’t that somewhat realistic?

            My hat really goes off to the cast and to the writers, particularly creator Benji Kohan who assembled an awesome team of creative people to assemble probably one of the most controversial television shows in history.  Mary Louise Parker (my future wife) deserves all of the credit and awards that she gets.  She’s an extremely talented actor and I would also like to note that I attended Terry Schreiber Studio for acting briefly, a school where she too received training. 

            The kids are also great performers and I can see big things happening for Shane, Silas and Isabel in the future.  I think Liz Perkins is also quite good and I can’t really remember too many of her previous roles, but she really stands out in this role.  Her character is so complex and she shows great depth, vulnerability and a very fun personality.  Romany Malco is also a fine actor.  His work on this show is integral to the story and of course to Nancy’s operation.  I hope to see him more in the movie and Judd Apatow should consider having him play a lead role in one of his films instead of just a supporting man.  As a supporting man, he does an excellent job.  

            Overall, this show tapped into many interesting subjects and facets of life including; drugs, sex, race, politics, family relationships, loss and redemption.  All of these are good ingredients for a though provoking show.  I definitely intend to continue watching the show when I have the time for I most definitely feel too involved now to give up on the Botwin’s.  This assignment was a pleasure and I had a great time working on this.  Peace and love.

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Weeds

Weeds

Season 2 – Episode 12

Pittsburg

            Wow.  That is all I can say, wow.  Just when you thought that they couldn’t push it any further, well they do.  What an ending!  It blew me away.  This episode felt like a tremendous release and still managed to leave things hanging for season three.  Helia makes a deal with the head Armenian drug dealer (who is in jail).  It’s slightly unclear exactly what the parameters are and I will come back to this thread in a moment.  U-Turn is vying for Nancy’s stash so she sets up a deal with him.  Silas is still up to something and its becoming clear that he is trying to help his mom even though she doesn’t want him involved in her business.  Celia has put up anti drug dealing signs as well as security cameras that Silas has clearly been taking down and stashing in his room. 

            Nancy finds herself in a position where the Armenians and U-Turn want her pot, all of it.  Here’s what I found confusing, the Armenian’s kill Peter.  They take him into a car, park it in Nancy’s garage and shoot him.  I do believe that Helia set him up, but was it to save Nancy and Conrad.  Peter also wanted to take Helia in, but found no evidence of drug dealing because she hasn’t been.  Celia also kisses Andy, but I saw that coming from a mile away.

The last few moments were very exciting.  Nancy and Conrad are both under the gun as U-Turn and the Armenians attempt to steal Nancy’s entire stash of weed.  Nancy opens the safe and of course there is nothing in there.  Where’s the weed?  Nancy, intuitively make one phone call and Silas picks up.  This confirms that Silas is not dumb because he was smart enough to break into her heavy duty security with ease.  Silas had taken it in his car and as we see him cover the weed with a blanket, Celia roles up in a squad car to arrest the perpetrator who has been stealing her property… and that’s it.  That’s where they leave us.  So much is unresolved and who knows where things will go in season three.  This was a prime example of a great finale.  It outdid the finale of the first season with ease.

My Rating: 5/5!  Great show!

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Weeds

Weeds

Season 2 – Episode 11

Yeah.  Like Tomatoes

            So here we are at the second to last episode of the season and the tension is extremely high in this one.  The writers have pushed these people to a breaking point where certain truths will be revealed.  First of all, Peter is at the end of his rope with Nancy.  His desperation is palpable.  I think his performance is to be noted.  His name is Martin Donovan, and he is a very familiar face.  I can’t quite remember all of the sequence of events because this episode was so hard hitting that it just hit me like a lightning bolt.  Nancy and Conrad finally make out.  I was very happy to see that moment.  I said it in the first few posts that they have chemistry and they need to get together because they match each other.  It was a great moment where they literally fall into each other. 

            In their communiqués, they continually use the term “Agent Wonder bread” in reference to Peter.  Peter, being a cop has a link to overhear their conversations and he’s not very happy about hearing Nancy say that their marriage is a fraud and she does not love him.  Of course this breaks his heart and he attacks Conrad.  He calls him a nigger, perhaps the most offensive word in the English language.  Peter makes a demand for their money in order to keep quiet otherwise he will kill Conrad.  This episode is Murphy’s Law at its most pure. 

            This may be my favorite episode so far.  It really put loads of good stuff in this one and it re-solidified the general theme of family and the different shapes and sizes.  These characters seem to form friendships, alliances and gangs in order to deal with their internal struggles. 

My Rating:  This was my favorite episode of the season.  There was tons of pay off and Nancy is running out of options.  She is really being tested.  Conrad’s character once again sows a great deal of integrity and the Peter storyline is going to pack a punch.  5/5.

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Weeds

Weeds

Season 2 – Episode 10

Mile Deep and a Foot Wide

            This was a pretty good episode.  It wasn’t quite as strong as the last few, but I love the title.  It gives a sense of what you might have in one area, you may be sorely lacking in another.  Helia is a huge threat to Nancy and they’re friendship, well I don’t know if you could call their relationship that at this point.  Now they’re rivals, competitors and there is a vast amount of uncertainty here.  I would classify Helia as a wild card.  She is a very intelligent woman, experience in the drug world and also responsible for teaching Nancy everything she knows.  Nancy is playing everyone.  Who does she care about, really?  She tells Conrad that sometimes she imagines what life would be like without her kids and only having to take care of herself.  I don’t know, but I think she would have as difficult a time because she’s such an attention starved nut.  Maybe that’s harsh, but her character is beginning to lose her humility. 

            There is a great dinner scene in this episode, which is to be noted.  Nancy invites Peter over to have some family time and the cataclysm begins with Shane’s utterance on the quality of the food.  This leads to Silas’ opinions, then Andy’s and then Nancy trying to moderate.  Silas, the protective belligerent son (I can relate) is being disobedient.  His mom asks him to move his elbows off of the table.  Failure to comply leads to Peter putting his hands on him.  Creepy!  Now I officially don’t like this guy.  Who does he think he is coming into their family and treating Silas that way?

            Doug and Celia are getting closer, but we know how that ends.  My apologies, sometimes I write the full ark of a thread of the story in the post for the episode where it begins.  Doug and Celia having a good time and it’s kind of nice seeing them both happy.

My rating: I give this episode a 3.5/5.  I thought that the dinner scene was the most worthwhile scene in this piece and Helia holds a lot of power.

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