Blockbuster or Bust: The Avengers

Joss Whedon's The Avengers (2012)

Marvel Comics’ The Avengers opened this past weekend to the tune of 200 million dollars in revenue. But were moviegoers shelling out for a box office hit or a Hollywood bust?

The Avengers combines characters from four previous Marvel Comics films and begins where the last movie, Thor, left off. For those who have never seen Thor (and I don’t recommend that you do), Thor’s brother Loki rules their home world of Askgard in Thor’s absence (he’s banished to Earth). When Thor is redeemed and returns to Askgard, Loki is made to give up the throne.

The premise of The Avengers is thus, that Loki wants revenge for losing the throne and so he teams up with a colony of bloodthirsty aliens, the Chitauri, with the purpose of enslaving humanity. His plan is to bring the Chitauri army to Earth, but the portal he uses to travel between worlds won’t transport an entire army. What he needs is the object known as the Tesseract, currently in the possession of the U.S. government agency, S.H.I.E.L.D. In the opening scenes, Loki successfully steals the Tesseract from the S.H.I.E.L.D facility, prompting leader Nick Fury to recruit the Marvel superheroes, Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America. Uninvited, Thor arrives to dissuade Loki and joins up with the other superheroes to save Earth.

Action packed and peppered with biting one-liners and physical comedy, The Avengers brings together the best of the previous five Marvel superhero films. Not all the previous movies in this series were successful, but director Joss Whedon manages to take what worked best for each of the individual films and have them coalesce as a whole.

Avengers heroes Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) headlined their own comic-to-movie adaptations in 2011

The action sequences are set up so that there are several fight scenes happening at once and the camera cuts from one to the other and back again. In this way the different plots and storylines are able to happen simultaneously without any unnecessary breaks in the action. There is very little wasted time in this film, something the other movies suffered from; spending more time on character than on plot. Whedon, however, gives enough character information so that first time Marvel superhero movie-goers will understand the action, but not so much that veterans are bored or plot time is wasted.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man gets the best one liners, as is the nature of his character, but it’s the ease in which he plays his character, demonstrating the growth Stark has gone through since first becoming Iron Man that is most impressive and he stands out as one of the more well-rounded characters. Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk also gets his share of laughs, playing off of Downey’s witticisms in his own smart-aleck way, while also indicating a deeply troubled inner life that draws focus to his character more than any other.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor is exactly as he was in the first movie, with his signature accent, reliance on stern facial expressions and Yoda-like lines of wisdom to convey character. Chris Evans is Captain America/Steve Rogers who is still adjusting to 21st century life, which is perhaps why he only ever seems to be half present. Secondary characters, like Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johanson) are indications of movies to come. The story continually hints of a deep dark past for both of them, which we never fully learn about but helps to qualify them, somewhat, for inclusion in The Avenger team picture.

Overall, if you’re looking to treat yourself to a night at the movies, this is the picture to shell out the money for, at least for this week.




Summer movie preview

It seems summer movie season starts earlier every year. But that would depend on when you think summer actually starts. Is it really Summer Solstice (June 20), or is it when school ends? In either case, there are plenty of films coming out between April and September that are sure to keep you occupied if the outdoors isn’t your thing.

Xavier Dolan’s highly anticipated follow-up to Les amours imaginaires is Laurence Anyways, the story of a man who decides to undergo a sex change but maintain his loving relationship with his female companion. The film is written and directed by Dolan and is due out in May.

Quebec television series Omertà is getting the big screen treatment July 11. Luc Dionne, who wrote the successful show that ran in the late ‘90s, will write and direct the film centered around organized crime and Italian mafia in Montreal. Michel Côté, Rachelle Lefevre, Patrick Huard will star, with René Angélil in the role of head mafioso Dominic Fagazi.

The Fantasia Film Festival has become one of the most anticipated film events of the summer in North America. Quentin Tarantino, whose 2009 film Inglourious Basterds made its North American debut at Fantasia, called the festival “the most important and prestigious film festival on this continent.” Fantasia will be celebrating its 16th year in Montreal (with many screenings at or around Concordia’s downtown campus) from July 19 to Aug. 7.

Sarah Polley’s first directorial effort since 2006’s Away From Her, which earned her an Oscar nomination in the adapted screenplay category, will be Take This Waltz, which was shot in Toronto and stars Michelle Williams and Canuck Seth Rogen. The film has played at the Toronto International Film Festival and other film festivals across the country, but it is set to be released in a “theatre near you,” so to speak, in June.

Cosmopolis stars Robert Pattinson, and before you roll your eyes, just know that the film is written and directed by Canadian David Cronenberg (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, A Dangerous Method). A teaser trailer for the film is making its rounds online and it’s totally crazy: 24 hours in the life of a young Manhattan billionaire and all the trouble he can get into during that time. It’s based on the Don DeLillo book of the same name. Cronenberg promises a Rob “as you have not seen him before.” So no sparkly skin, right?

Indie (with star power)
Woody Allen moves his story to Italy this summer with To Rome With Love. Since 1982, Allen has written and directed at least one film every year. With a career that started in the mid ’60s, his 2012 effort reunites him with Penelope Cruz (whose work on Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona earned the actress her first Oscar), and also stars Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Canadians Ellen Page and Alison Pill, and Allen himself. Rome will be in limited release as of April 20, and will likely be released in Montreal by June.

A young girl and boy fall in love and run away together in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, causing their town to search for them. This will be Anderson’s first live-action feature since 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited and his first effort since the stop-motion animated Fantastic Mr. Fox. Moonrise stars Anderson veterans Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, as well as Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton and Frances McDormand, and is due out in May.

In Safety Not Guaranteed, three journalists (New Girl’s Jake M. Johnson, Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza, and Karan Soni) find the subject of their next feature in a classified ad, the buyer of which is looking for someone to time travel with. The film is scheduled to hit theatres in June.

For the kid in you
There will be yet another entry in the Madagascar and Ice Age franchises (June 8 and July 13, respectively), but the animated film to catch this summer will be Disney Pixar’s Brave, which by the looks of the teaser trailers released in the last few months, will be a return to form for the studio that suffered with the seriously terrible Cars 2 last summer. Brave is centered around Princess Merida, whose archery skills and bravery will be put to the test when she has to save her kingdom.

Tim Burton collaborated with Johnny Depp again for a big screen adaptation of Dark Shadows, the television cult classic from the ‘60s. Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a vampire who was imprisoned for 200 years and who, upon his release in 1972, seeks out his lava lamp-owning, Chevy-driving ancestors. Dark Shadows will be out May 11.

Date night
Rare is the romantic comedy that can please both male and female moviegoers, but on April 27, The Five-Year Engagement will do just that. Jason Segel and Emily Blunt star in the Nicholas Stoller film about a couple that keeps putting off their wedding date. Stoller and Segel wrote the screenplay; the duo collaborated on Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek.

Musical Rock of Ages features ‘80s rock anthems by Poison and Twisted Sister and a cast that is too long to list in its entirety (though it includes Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Mary J. Blige). The Adam Shankman (Hairspray) film is scheduled to be released June 15.

Fellas, you will be dragged to What to Expect When You’re Expecting, out May 18. It’ll be awful, but then she’ll owe you one, at which point you use your free pass to see The Avengers (May 4), Men in Black III (May 25), The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3), Christopher Nolan’s last hurrah directing a Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises (July 20), Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (June 8 or The Bourne Legacy Aug. 3, which will feature Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) in the title role.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt
…or the guy whose face you’ll see a lot of on the big screen this year. The actor’s come a long way from his day on 3rd Rock From the Sun, with career-making turns in Brick and The Lookout, and more recently, 500 Days of Summer, Inception and 50/50. He will be in five films this year, including The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush (Aug. 24), Looper (Sept. 28) and Tarantino’s Django Unchained and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, both due out in December.

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