Friday, April 27, 2012

The Avengers

What is the Avengers Initiative?  If you are interested in this film you already know the answer and have likely already seen the previous Marvel films featuring the super soldier Captain America (Chris Evans); the demigod Thor (Chris Hemsworth); master assassins Hawkeye (Jeremey Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson); the volatile, self-absorbed, genius, billionaire-playboy-philanthropist Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and a Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  At the controls for the ultimate Marvel comic book film is Joss Whedon, who is very adept at working with an ensemble cast.  Whedon obviously cares for each of the characters as they all get individual moments to continue to develop their stories. "The Avengers" is the culmination of the previous films, but also serves as a stepping off point for the future plans of the Marvel Universe that could include another film for Iron Man, Thor and Captain America in 2013 and 2014. 

With most comic book films, the non-title characters are just as important.  From Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and agents Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), scientist Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and JARVIS (Paul Bettany) are all equally important in the battle against Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and the Chitauri, an alien race seeking to conquer the galaxy. 

Everything established in the previous films pays dividends.  At the center of the plot is the cosmic cube known as the Tesseract that has been seen in "Iron Man 2", "Thor", and "Captain America: The First Avenger".  Not having to introduce the main characters allows the action to flow but also allows for better character development.  The plot is simple with an alien invasion that results in Manhatten being brought to a crumbling end if the Avengers are not able to work as a team to defeat Loki and the Chitauri.  When one of the central villians includes Loki, the god of mischief, it is certain that there will be some intellectual mind games and deception being played out.  Loki provides a clear threat that places each of the Avengers in one action-packed situation after another, gradually escalating in scale as the film progresses to a seemingly non-stop action-packed finale that is striking similar to Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

The performances from each of the actors was enjoyable to watch.  Each has grown into the character and you really see the character and not the actor if you have watched the other Marvel films.  The performance from Robert Downey Jr. was interesting as his character had some of the best writing.  Iron Man was used frequently for the comic relief with a heavy amount of one liners making fun of just about every one of the Avengers.  Among the more memorable were Iron Man asking Thor if he is ready for Shakespeare in the park; telling Loki to make a move Reindeer Games; suggesting that Hawk Eye clinch up like Legalus; and commenting that Captain America is the only one wearing spandex tights.  Also enjoyable was how the Hulk provides additional humor with his interactions during the fight scenes with Thor and Captain America.  The Hulk makes it a point that he will not take a knee for anyone, including Loki. 

The screening was in 3D and was better than most 3D films I have seen recently.  There was a lot of CGI, and a few scenes you could tell there was a green screen.  However, with each of these negatives with the special effects there are just as many impressive scenes.  When the action does ramp up, it's all presented very clearly.The shot that stood out to me the most was a short rolling camera shot from inside a car looking out with the action coming right through the windshield.  The villain army, on the other hand, is poorly animated.

You will geek out more than once. The greatest of these moments comes at the end of the film. After a short title sequence with the main cast, a preview of things to come is shown with Thanos .  It might be a bit early, but the story could be heading towards a Superhuman Registration Act and a Civil War.  Also will there ever be a tie in with the Spider-Man or X-Men franchises?  I still want to see Hank Pym (Ant-Man), but perhaps that would be "too much" CGI.  Whether you have watched the other Marvel films and understand the comic history of the Avengers, or not, you should be able to enjoy the film.  For this reason and all the entertainment value, I give the film 4 Quacks. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


The run away favorite at just about every film festival over the last couple months is finally coming to the US.  "Headhunters" is the first film from writer Jo Nesbø and follows in the Scandinavian film insurgence that has resulted in the Hollywood remakes of "Brothers" and "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo".  "Headhunters" is a thriller directed by Morten Tyldum that delivers on its fast paced approach and unexpected twists.  Even for a thriller the film has just enough lighthearted humor.

The story follows Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) who is a corporate executive headhunters that is a jerk at work, cheats on his beautiful wife Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund) and is an art thief to subsidize his lifestyle of the house he cannot afford.  Oh yeah, he is also 5'6" tall and has a bit of an inferiority complex.  To give his wife the grand material objects that he thinks he needs to keep her happy with him he works on the side as an art thief.  However, this secret life becomes more than he can handle when he steals from Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who is a former mercenary with an agenda.  As a result of the art target, Roger Brown becomes the target of Clas Greve own man hunt. 

Aksel Hennie was brilliant in his performance delivering a character that you cannot help but dislike at first, as someone that is a thief, adulterer, and all around jerk in the office.  However, as the story evolves, so does his character and you cannot help but want to cheer him along through each of the obstacles that he must push through and do things that he wouldn't dream of in a million years, just to stay survive.  The most likely reason you will have interest in this film is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who is known for his role as Jaime Lannister on the HBO series "Game of Thrones".  All of the other performances in the film are equally impressive including the Eivand Sander as Ove Kjikerud, the accomplice to the art thefts with a lust for Russian prostitutes. 

As with most foreign films, the majority of American's will likely be apprehensive to sitting through a film with subtitles, but this is one that you should take the plunge with.  Your options otherwise are to wait for a couple years until Hollywood remakes the film or you can read the book.  If you do take the plunge, you will be treated to a 5 Quack film that you will be telling all your friends about.  Anticipating an American remake you will no doubt have your own ideas of who should be cast in each role, so please reply with your suggestions. 

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