The Avengers (2012)

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Alexis Denisof

Directed by Joss Whedon

Expectations: High. All of my childhood superhero fantasies are riding on this film.


As I noted above, I had huge expectations for The Avengers. Not because of a trailer; I didn’t watch any of them. Not because of the director, Joss Whedon; I’ve never seen a single thing he’s worked on. No, it’s all based on childhood comic reading, the combined strengths of the preceding films (even if some of them were less than stellar), and good ole gut instinct. The crazy amount of good buzz led me to believe that I wouldn’t be let down, but I’ve been burned so many times by buying into popular opinions and hype that I did my best to wall myself off from these types of influences. I know I’m late to the party with this review, but if you care about comic books in film then you simply must get out and see this sumbitch. Through the entire film I felt like a kid unleashed in a comic book store with a hundred-dollar bill; this was literally everything I could have ever wanted in an Avengers movie. The Avengers is the superhero film turned to eleven and freed of the cursed “origin story” shackles, and so for fans, this is exactly what you’re looking for.

The Avengers has a story, but it’s nothing more than a simple framework to allow the heroes to come together and kick ass. Because this is essentially the sixth film in a long-running series, the characters are all set up and ready to go; we only need to know the simple whys and hows of their current situations. I feel sorry for anyone that didn’t watch the previous films or read any Marvel comics in their youth, because The Avengers just drops you in mid-story and hopes you’re up to speed. This “assemble the team” section goes on a bit too long, but it perfectly sets up the characters as they will relate to one another in this film, as well as setting the stage for the action to come. But realistically, the story is just this: Loki has stolen the Cosmic Cube (here called the Tesseract, but I refuse to call it that!) and seeks to open a portal with it to unleash his space army. There’s not much else in the way of plot, besides the action and some good, if obvious, character development.

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Quick Takes: Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, Red Riding Hood, Safe Men

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001)

Starring Phil Caracas, Murielle Varhelyi, Maria Moulton, Tim Devries, Ian Driscoll, Josh Grace, Tracy Lance, Glen Jones, Mike Funk
Directed by Lee Demarbre

This one’s not even close to being a B-Movie, it’s more like a D-Movie, but it does have its moments. Jesus on a moped, God speaking to his only begotten son through a bowl of ice cream and cherries, the arrival of Santo in a small aeroplane, etc. Santo gained some weight though, which might explain why he’s not driving that sporty convertible around any longer. There’s a lot of “kung fu” fight scenes and over every one, there’s an inane techno track that ruins any goodwill the scene itself might have had prior. Not that the fights are good. While watching I couldn’t imagine that these filmmakers would ever do anything else, so I was very surprised to learn that I had actually seen another of this dude’s movies, the 2009 horror movie Smash Cut. I liked that one pretty well, so I guess if your first feature looks like it was made by a no-talent hack, you can still grow into a passable filmmaker. Who knew?

Red Riding Hood (2011)
(No Stars)

Starring Amanda Seyfried, Virginia Madsen, Billy Burke, Julie Christie, Shiloh Fernandez, Gary Oldman, Max Irons, Michael Shanks, Christine Willes, Michael Hogan, Lukas Haas
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke

This movie is fucking awful in every imaginable way. No redeeming value whatsoever. Literally the equivalent of gouging out your own eyes, Red Riding Hood should be a shoe-in for every category of the 2011 Razzies.

Safe Men (1998)

Starring Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn, Michael Lerner, Paul Giamatti, Michael Schmidt, Christina Kirk, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Pais, Harvey Fierstein
Directed by John Hamburg

Safe Men is a fair enough movie, but it could have been so much more. It’s basically a bunch of crime film clichés strung together in a wholly unbelievable way, which I’m OK with, but instead of providing lots of laughs and making itself stand out from the crowd, it flounders in mediocrity. At times it is amusing, with great supporting performances from Michael Lerner and Paul Giamatti, but mostly it is ho-hum. The music, while good, is often used poorly, sounding like they used what they could get instead of what worked with the scene. The Bar Mitzvah scene and the followup party are the film at its funniest, but because it’s so middle-of-the-road up to those points, many viewers may not make it that far.

Mini-Review: The Kids Are All Right (2010)

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson, Yaya DaCosta, Eddie Hassell, Zosia Mamet, Kunal Sharma

Directed by Lisa Cholodenko

Expectations: None. This is one of those movies I’m curious about only because of hype.


The kids may be all right, but the parents need some help. When the curious kids of two lesbian mothers (Annette Bening & Julianne Moore) contact their sperm donor father, it widens the simmering rift between Bening and Moore and causes everyone involved to reevaluate. Some other stuff happens along the way too, but that’s basically it. Thankfully, The Kids Are All Right features some great, witty dialogue that livens up the entire process. The frank depictions and conversations surrounding sexuality were especially enjoyable, but your mileage may vary depending on your sensitivity to that kind of stuff.

The film is adequately filmed, but could have benefited from more two or three-person shots instead of featuring one person per shot (for no good reason) in a four-person conversation and then editing between them constantly. It wasn’t enough to completely throw me over the edge, but it did annoy. The performances from the entire cast are good, with special notices given to Mia Wasikowska, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo. I enjoyed The Kids Are All Right but I find the heaps of praise to be somewhat unwarranted. While it’s a good, competent movie, it’s nothing overly special that is deserving of all the Best Picture awards and nominations. I think a lot of people will find the film lacking the punch required to live up to that kind of hype, and that’s really a shame, because I think the film plays well without any expectations.

Overall, The Kids Are All Right is an enjoyable film that left me satisfied, even if the ending was a bit weak. The tone stays relatively light throughout, allowing the comedy and the drama to coexist well, making for a unique film that is sure to please many.

Shutter Island (2010)

Shutter Island (2010)

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Max von Sydow, Jackie Earle Haley, Ted Levine, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas, Patricia Clarkson

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Expectations: High.


Scorsese’s first film back after winning Best Picture and Director for The Departed is Shutter Island, an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s novel of the same name. Much as I’d like not to say it, Scorsese’s best films are behind him but Shutter Island is still leagues better than your traditional mainstream fare. His last truly great film was Kundun, a long thirteen years ago, and while Shutter Island doesn’t even come close to its level, it shows that he still holds the power to make a good film.

The story follows Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshall from Boston played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and his partner (Mark Ruffalo) as they make their way to Ashecliff Hospital. Their case is to find Rachel Solando, a patient that somehow escaped from her cell and has gone missing. I will leave it at that as a good portion of the fun comes from unraveling the mystery.

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