Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Olsen’

Thanos’s Deadly Compromise

Avengers: Infinity War

Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Peter Dinklage, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, William Hurt, Letitia Wright, Pom Klementieff, Carrie Coon, Winston Duke

Following the phenomenal success of Thor: Ragnorak and Black Panther, Marvel has capitalized on its extended cinematic universe with the new Avengers: Infinity War featuring a plethora of superheroes from Spiderman to Ironman, from Captain America to The Hulk not to mention bringing in the Guardians of the Galaxy gang for additional support.

If Avengers: Infinity War feels a bit excessive, that’s because it probably is combining the Avengers franchise with that of the more quirky Guardians of the Galaxy. Some fantastic moments occur when Spiderman played by Tom Holland meets Peter Quill aka StarLord played by Chris Pratt or when Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr disagrees with the wizard Doctor Strange played by Benedict Cumberbatch. The snappy dialogue is sometimes lost amidst the greater quest to fight the evil universe destroyer Thanos played by Josh Brolin.

Thanos is equally conflicted about having to gather all the infinity stones including the one for Souls in which he has to make a choice between himself and his adopted daughter Gamora played by Zoe Saldana. In the meantime, his evil minions are wreaking havoc on earth in New York and in the magical technologically advanced African kingdom of Wakanda where Vision played by Paul Bettany along with Captain America  and Scarlett Witch played by Elizabeth Olsen seek the assistance of Black Panther played by Chadwick Boseman.

Audiences have to suspend their disbelief but judging by how packed the cinemas are for Avengers Infinity War, they are quite happy to do so. This film is pure sci-fi fantasy with little of the action taking place on earth. Most of the fight sequences occur on outer galactic planets like Titan.

Thor needs his hammer back and seeks the help of Eitri played by Peter Dinklage who forges a brilliant new weapon out of a powerful star, the celestial capability of which was last seen on the forgotten kingdom of Asgard.

Whilst directing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo compile an absolute Geekfest with Avengers: Infinity War with enough alien creatures and superheroes to stockpile Comicon for the next decade, it’s a clear sign that the Marvel Universe has ambitious plans to expand even further.

That said Avengers: Infinity War has a convoluted story line weighed down by too many subplots but if viewers see it as a precursor to a second film then they will not find the surprise ending so disruptive….

Avengers: Infinity War gets a film rating 7.5 out of 10 and is strictly for Marvel comic book fans who have followed all the films from the original Iron Man 10 years ago.

The visual effects are fantastic as will be the box office receipts. See it to believe it.

 

 

Clash of the Superheroes

Captain America: Civil War

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Director: Anthony and Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Daniel Bruhl, Anthony Mackie, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, William Hurt, Paul Bettany, Martin Freeman, Tom Holland, Alfre Woodard, Frank Grillo, Don Cheadle, Sebastian Stan, Paul Rudd, Emily Van Camp, John Kani, Marisa Tomei

I was never a fan of superhero comics as a kid, but as an adult, the superhero films have captured my imagination. Who can forget The Dark Knight Trilogy by Christopher Nolan who reinvented Batman? Or the recent Batman v Superman blockbuster by Zack Snyder, a sure precursor to the Justice League films set for release in 2017 and 2018?

Moving away from DC comics, their direct rival Marvel has expanded their superhero universe exponentially and in the third installment of Captain America: Civil War, a more iconic superhero pops up, Spiderman curtesy of a Marvel and Sony sharing agreement to reinvent Spiderman within The Avengers universe. Smart move on the part of Marvel and especially Sony whose two previous Spiderman reincarnations were faltering: The Amazing Spiderman and its psychedelic sequel.

Captain America: Civil War features a plethora of superheroes, so many in fact that the inevitable showdown which the title refers to is quite spectacular to behold.

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Captain America leads the one camp as he defends his friend Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier, played by Sebastian Stan along with the help of Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon played by Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Antman), Antman played by the hilarious Paul Rudd, Hawkeye returning from retirement played by the roguish Jeremy Renner.

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The other camp is headed up by opinionated tech billionaire Iron Man, wonderfully played again by Robert Downey Jnr, joined by the War Machine played by Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2) and Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson. Tony Stark aka Iron Man also enlists the help of a young and precocious Peter Parker, wonderfully played by young British actor Tom Holland (The Impossible) as he reinvents Spiderman promising an energetic reinvention when Holland will appear in his stand alone film called Spiderman: Homecoming.

Adding some much needed diversity to The Avengers universe, Black Panther played by Chadwick Boseman (Gods of Egypt), who is also starring in his own origin Black Panther film coming in 2018 also joins team Iron Man as he aggressively fights Bucky Barnes who he believes is responsible for the death of his father, a suitable cameo by South African acting legend John Kani (Coriolanus, The Ghost and the Darkness).

While the Clash of the Superheroes is spectacular and at times appears like a spandex orgy it is really Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Woman in Gold) as the master villain Zemo who has instigated the division between the Avengers as revenge for what occurred in The Avengers: The Age of Ultron, in which his whole family was killed in a supernatural skirmish in some fictional East European country.

Captain America: Civil War is a superb superhero film as the Russo brothers who direct this third instalment of the Captain America trilogy dexterously managing to combine all these diverse superheroes in a brilliant duel whilst also introducing some new and iconic characters. Fans of Iron Man, Ant Man and all The Avengers films will relish this caper standoff sure to capture the imaginations of many Comic con fans and paving the way for Marvel’s relentless cinematic expansion of all their gang of masked crusaders, a sure rival to DC Comics Justice League, although both superhero franchises will definitely benefit financially at the box office.

Captain America: Civil War is highly recommended viewing especially for some superb cameos by seasoned character actors including William Hurt, Alfre Woodard, Martin Freeman and Marisa Tomei.

 

 

Comic Book Pastiche

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Director: Joss Whedon

Cast: Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett, Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, James Spader, Cobie Smulders, Hayley Atwell, Stellan Skarsgard, Thomas Kretschmann, Julie Delpy, Andy Serkis, Anthony Mackie.

The Avengers are back in director and writer Joss Whedon’s much anticipated sequel The Avengers: Age of Ultron featuring all the Marvel superheroes and some new ones in a CGI laden special effects extravaganza, which is at times confusing and other times absolutely fascinating. At a running time of two hours and twenty minutes, director Whedon has sufficient screen time to flesh out all the characters individually as well as give nuance to some of their more complicated relationships.

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Like the relationship between The Hulk, aka Bruce Banner wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) and the Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson who seems to be the only avenger that can calm the Hulk’s penchant for destructive anger.

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The relationship between goodie two shoes Steve Rogers aka Captain America, played by Chris Evans and Nordic God Thor played by the hunky Chris Hemsworth is also subtly explored considering that the former is a World War two hero and the latter from another dimension.

Robert Downey Jr reprises his role as egotistical Billionaire Tony Stark, aka Iron Man and his irrepressible desire to mould any technological discovery, in this case the power artificial intelligence to his own advantage.

The Age of Ultron refers to the ubiquitous Altron a powerful A.I. force which is hell bent on human destruction and vain enough to realize that he can survive the aftermath, beautifully voiced with an underlying menace by James Spader (Bad Influence, more recently in the hit TV show The Black List).

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The sexy Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton aka Hawkeye ‘s character is fleshed out as a devoting family man which is entirely incongruous with his status as a member of the Avengers, but hey who cares?

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Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson play evil orphaned Eastern European twins Pietro and Maximoff who soon turn on Ultron when they realize his megalomaniac tendencies. Even Lord of the Rings’ Andy Serkis makes an appearance as a South African mercenary Ulysses Klaue and the Johannesburg downtown sequence is truly phenomenal to watch as is the action scene in Seoul, South Korea.

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If audiences get confused with who all the avengers are, there are ample filmic references to each of their own background stories from Thor: The Dark World, including a brief appearance by Idris Elba and also Captain America’s Agent Carter, played by Hayley Atwell. Marvel is indeed expanding their universe exponentially and if The Avengers: Age of Ultron’s audience figures are anything to go by, this will prove to be another superhero box office smash hit.

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The Avengers: Age of Ultron is fun entertainment and definitely aimed at Iron Man, Thor and Captain America cinema fans especially all the witty references and innuendo’s involving lifting Thor’s hammer which are neatly laced into a script which may seem convoluted but then again when it comes to Artificial Intelligence its more an infinite mess which at some point needs to be reined in.

Audiences should look out for brief cameos by Anthony Mackie, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Delpy, Don Cheadle and Thomas Kretschmann. If The Avengers: Age of Ultron appears to be a pastiche of all the previous Marvel films, then director Joss Whedon has certainly achieved the impossible, not to mention making a narrative out of the dangers of artificial intelligence plausible and entertaining.

It’s best for audiences to suspend their disbelief and enjoy The Avengers: The Age of Ultron for what it is: a comic book orgy with a giant budget and loud, awe-inspiring special effects which will be sure to nurture any young adult’s imagination for awhile.

 

 

 

The Libertine Circle

Kill Your Darlings

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Director: John Krokidas
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Jack Huston, Michael C. Hall, Ben Foster, Elizabeth Olsen, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyra Sedgwick

The Beat generations’ pivotal year at Columbia University in 1944 is the engrossing starting point for this literary murder story, Kill Your Darlings, featuring a superb performance by Dane DeHaan as the disturbed anarchist Lucien Carr who has been under the influence of David Kamerer played by Michael C. Hall of Dexter fame. Enter the freshman and aspiring poet Allen Ginsberg sensitively played by Daniel Radcliffe who has fled a disturbed domestic environment to attend Columbia University and study English Literature.

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Soon Ginsberg falls under the spell bounding attention of Carr and the two strike up an intensely homoerotic friendship and Carr introduces Ginsberg to William S. Buroughs wonderfully underplayed by an unrecognizable Ben Foster and Jack Kerouac, played by Jack Huston nephew of Hollywood stars Angelica and Danny Huston and grandson of legendary director John Huston.
Ginsberg, Burroughs and Kerouac fueled by countless drugs, experimental sexuality and non-conformist attitudes attempt to liberate themselves from the pantheon of Victorian and pre-Modernist literature and invent a new type of distinctly American literary movement heavily influenced by the banned work of Henry Miller, The Tropic of Cancer along with D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover both of which was secured under lock and key in the stately Columbia Library.

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As the Second World War raged on across the Atlantic and many of their American countrymen were liberating a ruined Europe from the last throws of Fascism, The Beat Generation was germinating in the hallowed halls of Columbia University and the dive bars of jazzy Harlem. Naturally its every young man first response to rebel against society upon entering University and these four certainly do so in more ways than one, under the envious gaze of David Kamerer whose latent sexuality and jealousy threatens to destroy their unique vision that of a Libertine Circle inspired by the poetry of W. B. Yeats. Kill Your Darlings is heavy viewing and for those not familiar with the writers or works of the Beat Generation which blossomed in the 1950’s and was at the forefront to American counter-culture leading up to the youth revolt characterizing the 1960’s, should really avoid this film.

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Kill Your Darlings refers to the breaking of all standard literary conventions like metre, narrative and plot development, something the Modernists like Yeats, Virginia Woolf and T. S. Eliot started doing. Central to this literary world, where creativity is fueled by drugs in Williams S. Burroughs’s case (see The Naked Lunch), or sexuality in Ginsberg’s case or recklessness in the life of Jack Kerouac whose seminal work On The Road become the literary bible for the Beat Generation is the unusual story of Carr and his ambivalent and highly influential relationship with Ginsberg. This controversial and ultimately doomed relationship would eventually be the inspiration of Ginsberg’s famous poem Howl published in 1957  as he discovers his latent homosexuality along with his distinctive voice as one of America’s most influential poets.

De Haan and Radcliffe are brave, ferocious and sexy  in Kill Your Darlings and while the murder plot tends to be slightly laboured it is their relationship with each other and also with their parents which becomes the focal point of a fascinating study of rebellion, artistic integrity in the face of conventional criticism and more significantly sacrifice. Highly recommended viewing but definitely not aimed at a broad appeal.

Gigantic Nuclear Proportions

Godzilla

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Director: Gareth Edwards

Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn

At the heart of any disaster film, is the struggle of a nuclear family to survive the impending devastation. The brilliant film The Impossible directed by J. A. Bayona about the 2005 Boxing Day Tsunami which wrecked Thailand and beyond proves that.

The Original 1956 Godzilla film

The Original 1956 Godzilla film

In the 2014 remake of the Japanese director Ishiro Honda’s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishir%C5%8D_Honda original 1956 classic Godzilla, King of Monsters, director Gareth Edwards retains the Japanese mythology of Godzilla setting the 21st century Godzilla in a range of Asian Pacific rim cities from San Francisco to Honolulu to Tokyo. Assembling an all star and eclectic cast similar to Guillero del Toro’s Pacific Rim, director Edwards adds a global flavour to this ultimate retro Asian inspired disaster movie.

With an international mix of supporting stars like Bryan Cranston (Argo), Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Great Expectations), little seen Oscar winner Juliette Binoche (The English Patient), Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) and David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck), Godzilla boasts an impressive cast to support the rising stars Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Anna Karenina, Savages) who star as Elle and Ford Brody who have a young son Sam, played by Carson Bolde.

As the looming threat of nuclear transformed monsters emerging from the depths of the Pacific Ocean looms, it is this nuclear family that Godzilla focuses its narrative on, not that there is much deep characterization necessary or acting to make Godzilla credible. Serving as a historic metaphor for the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ending World War II and permanently etched in the Japanese psyche, Godzilla become a symbol of all that was wrong with nuclear energy and its transformative effects on the natural world, creating gigantic monsters as a horrific by product of nuclear testing in the South Pacific.

Director Gareth Edwards as a former visual effects artist for a range of scientific TV series (Perfect Disasters, Space Race), naturally in this version of Godzilla, the monsters and special effects take precedence over the acting, leaving the talented cast literally dwarfed by the sheer scale of Godzilla and its two malignant monsters the Moto. Visually this is where Godzilla excels especially in 3D maybe not to the imaginative scale of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, but definitely in the set design and the sheer scope of this disaster film, as the action moves swiftly from the Philippines to Japan to the Californian Coastline and beyond. Even sin city, Vegas is not spared by the wrath of these  destructive creatures.

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Godzilla will surely impress audiences with all the mayhem, dazzling visual effects and sheer destruction on screen, however the second half of the film is literally overshadowed by utter devastation to such an extent that it does not make the action seem plausible. Whole cities from Honolulu to San Francisco and parts of Tokyo are destroyed inconsequentially as these monsters play havoc with nature and humanity.

Unfortunately the action erases any attempts at credible acting but then again this is a fantasy disaster movie of nuclear proportions. Cranston and Binoche are underutilized and Taylor-Johnson and Olsen are left struggling to survive this horrific assault on themselves and their city, whilst protecting their only son. The action sequences are incredible especially the Hawaii and Honoulu devastation which is like a combination of Jurassic Park and The Impossible on acid.

For viewers that enjoy big budget disaster movies like Pacific Rim, then Godzilla is not to be missed. What is noteworthy is the allusion in Godzilla to the many natural disasters that Japan has suffered recently from the Fukushima nuclear leak in 2011 following the devastating earthquake which destroyed Sendai.

Director Gareth Edwards does his best to maintain a balance between the characters survival narrative, and a visually impressive disaster film which pays homage to its unique Japanese heritage. Its Godzilla which ultimately triumphs leaving the cast a little underutilized and at times superfluous to the incredible spectacle of the King of Monsters battling its alien nuclear usurpers against an obliterated urban landscape.

 

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