AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR REVIEW

10 years, 18 films, was Infinity War worth all the hype?

I loved how the Russos made this surprisingly accessible for fans who may not have obsessively watched the entire Marvel backlog beforehand or ever (Sacrilege, I know).

Crucial plot points were covered BUT you would be missing out on a lot of character depth, back stories and little references if you haven’t dipped into the other Marvel movies.

It felt like all the other films had been gearing up for this moment.

As much as I griped about some of the earlier Marvel efforts (Captain America: The First Avenger, Avengers Assemble, the Hulk reboots, Iron Man 2), I never faulted the characters; what they stood for, their journeys and their progression over the years.

I have to say that I was actually excited to finally see all these incredible characters unite against a common foe (and what a foe!).

Josh Brolin, take a bow. I couldn’t think of anybody better to take on the Purple Mountain. His vocal gravitas lifting the amazing visual effects. The detail on his expressions were impeccable. For me, one of the most memorable Marvel villains to date.

For a moment, I almost felt empathy for the tormented maniac. An engaging presence that chewed up every scene. You could almost understand his motives. The flashbacks providing a much needed depth with his relationship to Gamora (Zoe Saldana).

Even his minions delivered; Tom Vaughan-Lawlor was brilliant as Ebony Maw and a worthy adversary (most notably for Strange) and it took me half of the film with all that make up to realise that it was The Leftovers’ Carrie Coon playing the bloodthirsty Proxima Midnight (What a name!)

Surprisingly the opening sequence didn’t grab me. As much as it set the tone with Thanos claiming lives from the get go. It didn’t pack the emotional punch I hoped. Maybe because the lives involved were hardly a shocker.

However once Stark, Strange and Spidey united; my doubts were instantly extinguished.

I loved how IW had the perfect balance of humour, drama and action.

The fast paced set pieces, the stunning visuals, the quick witted one liners, the fun exchanges. 2 1/2 hours breezed over in a heart beat.

Mixing up all the characters made for so many brilliant encounters. The biggest highlight involving the unexpected teaming up of Thor, Rocket and Groot.

The Guardians gang almost stole the show from everybody. Drax and Mantis were fantastic: delivering some of the most quotable dialogues.

I think everybody had their moment to shine (The Cap’s Third Man entrance, Strange’s sorcery, any scene involving Thor). An impressive feat in itself considering how many characters were thrown into the mix.

The battle of Wakanda sequences were incredible! It almost (almost) rivalled the epic Helm’s Deep battle of LOTR (Nerd!). The animation, the intensity, riding every high and low.

Now don’t get me wrong, the film wasn’t perfect (Scandalous!). Ruffalo had already won me over as Banner/Hulk BUT he got on my nerves. More so because Hulk failed to turn up when the chips were down?!

I loved how the trailers lied. Manipulating the order of scenes and showing moments that weren’t necessarily in the movie. Some for the better, some for the worst.

After watching Banner embrace Hulk and appearing to resolve his inner turmoil in Thor: Ragnarok, I was a little annoyed that he was still very much unstable and out of control. Watching Ruffalo pull constipated expressions, groan and go a little green after a bad vindaloo was a little infuriating. Tut tut tut.

I’m sure you have heard whispers of characters being bumped off. I wouldn’t be commending a bold finale if risks weren’t taken but the removal of one particular character was abrupt and handled a little poorly for my liking *cough* Soul Stone *cough*

I had to laugh that Gwyneth Paltrow made a seemingly unnecessary cameo and yet both Ant Man and Hawkeye were out of the mix with just a passing comment to explain their absence. Really?

Even the special clip (that all Marvel fans endure endless credits for) was disappointing. Setting up the introduction of another Marvel character that we all knew was coming.

However, the gripping finale delivered a surprisingly dark turn and a very bold move from the Marvel team.

I can honestly say I didn’t see it coming. It’s hardly a spoiler to know that this is only Part One but I’m already pondering theories on how they can work Part Two and any other projects between the release dates.

BUT one thing has been established. It may have spanned 10 years but the Marvel movie-verse still has plenty in the tank (Especially right now) and I for one cannot wait for the next instalment.

3.5/5 (with room for a 4)*

*If some of the little niggles are addressed and rewarded in Part 2!

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AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON REVIEW

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Did the second instalment do what the first couldn’t?

Was I left fuming yet again? Or did I have to swallow my words?

They’re back. Bigger, badder but better? There’s only one way to find out.

When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron (James Spader), things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans

I will admit straight off the bat. I really didn’t like the first Avengers. I know? SACRILEGE! It just didn’t do it for me. Overlong, mind numbing and overhyped. If not for Tom Hiddleston’s superb turn as Loki and a thrilling 30 minute closing crescendo, I would have given up on the franchise.

I was furious at how rushed the endless superhero entries were. Just to get to the Avengers release date. Okay, the Thor films were fantastic. Hawkeye and The Black Widow didn’t even get an origin story. Iron Man 1 and 3 were good. Don’t get me started on 2.

The numerous Hulk origin attempts with Bana and Norton misfired (I actually liked the Ang Lee blockbuster. What?). Captain America was rushed. I was happy to see more of the superhero fighting in the past. BUT the Winter Soldier sequel did restore my faith a little.

Inevitably after the crazy money that the first Avengers film took, we had another. And after much deliberation and note taking, I can firmly say . . .

Well done, Mr. Whedon. You have won me over.

The opening was racy, fast paced and straight to business. The team finally gelled together and in the zone. The special effects were fast and furious. The overuse of CGI did make things a little too cartoony in parts. But how else are they going to create a nine foot Hulk?!

There were numerous SHIELD references that went over my head in the opening. I knew it had something to do with Marvel Agents of SHIELD but I’m not that big a fan. It might help to recap on Thor or the first Avengers as a certain sceptre is used quite heavily again.

Whedon’s witty one liners zinging left, right and centre like the endless cannon fodder. The banter between the team was top notch. The old fashioned Cap (Chris Evans) telling Stark off for using foul language being an ongoing joke was a particular highlight.

The team dynamic really worked for me and made for great viewing. I mean even the scene in which the gang were trying to lift Thor’s hammer as a drunken party trick shouldn’t have worked but was so funny.

Ultron was a perfect maniacal menace. Spader (Ol’ Red from The Blacklist) applying his gravelly gravitas with aplomb. The animation and detail was excellent.

I liked the brewing romance between Banner/Hulk and The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). The lullaby that they use to calm the Hulk was a nice touch even if it reminded me of Shrek and Fiona. But I honestly thought there was always something between The Widow and The Cap? Oh, that cheeky minx. Anyway . . .

Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson made a more convincing couple as the Maximoff twins than they ever did in Godzilla. My only quibble with Taylor-Johnson was that his character Quicksilver was very much like a character in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Evan Peters played him. He ran really fast. What was he called? Oh yeah. Quicksilver. Hmmm . . . Interesting that. Copyright issues were there?

Olsen was always my Kryptonite even if she has been in some terrible movies. But she did the role of the Scarlet Witch justice as did Kickass.

I wasn’t really bored. It just got on with it and zipped along. Dipping only in a few parts to allow some much needed character development on some neglected heroes. *Cough* Hawkeye *Cough* Black Widow.

Renner had taken to the role well. But he was so one-dimensional. I mean, come on Whedon. Surely you’ve seen Arrow? But without spoiling anything, Whedon finally ventured into his background and gave him more depth. He was able to stand out among the ever-expanding roster of superheroes.

The trippy dream sequences that the Witch uses to play on her opponents’ minds was interesting as we got a little peak into The Black Widow’s past; most notably her training.

It was funny, intense, action packed. Great acting (Check), top banter (Check), cheeky Stan Lee cameo (BIG CHECK!). There were a few surprises to be had. BUT I couldn’t help but feel that there were too many characters from the Marvel-verse being introduced. Paul Bettany’s The Vision was an addition that felt like a mish-mesh of everybody else and didn’t really make as much of an impression as I expected.

And considering the huge ensemble, there were a few faces not to make an appearance. Merely mentioned in a passing comment. I’m looking at you, ladies. Ms Portman and Paltrow.

Inevitably it is all left wide open for more. SPOILERS! Behave. BUT this time round, I cannot wait for the next installment. I’m actually a little excited.

Well done.

3.5/5 With grounds to change to a 4

NOTE: Obviously stay behind and endure the relentless credits for a cheeky ten second teaser.

MORTDECAI REVIEW

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Mortified! Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Johnny Depp does his damndest to make this dreadfully unfunny farce watchable but frankly my dears, it’s just not good enough or funny enough.

If you were a little reluctant about seeing this after viewing the trailers, I’m sorry to say it is just as bad as you think.

I’ve always rated Depp and thought even if the film is a little drab, he can certainly lift it off the ground. Dark Shadows, I’m looking at you.

BUT it doesn’t help that his character is so annoying. On paper, I’m sure he was supposed to come off as Inspector Clousseau as an art dealer BUT boy, oh, boy, the end result . . .

I felt just as rotten as Gwyneth Paltrow did kissing Mortdecai’s moustache.

The plot was nothing more than a silly excuse to go across the world for some silly escapades. The con got a little baffling but it all came to a predictable and unfunny conclusion.

Depp pulling faces and waffling in his posh toff voice just wasn’t enough. Initially I couldn’t stand the bloke but by the end he had just about won me over.

I felt Depp had to overact just to get some sort of titter. For every good one liner (My file was fat and well-handled like a Welsh barmaid), there were dozens that dropped faster than a lead balloon.

Paul Bettany did his best as Mortdecai’s muscle and man servant Jock but he can’t pull off the thug role. He certainly looked the part BUT doing a cockney accent that would make even the big daddy himself Ray Winstone cringe says it all.

Sorry, Jarvis but you came off as a mug.

There was some camaraderie between him and Depp and there were a few moments in which I felt a smile crack behind my cynical demeanour.

I felt that Depp had to rely on former impressions to get a laugh. A scene in which Jock is man-handling a drunk Mortdecai felt like nothing more than Captain Jack Sparrow waffling away. It reeked of desperation.

The action sequences were incredibly lacklustre. The relentless CGI in a simple car chase sequence was very off-putting considering all the other stunt work was done by proper stunt men. Hardly memorable.

I think the only fight sequence that got my attention was when Mortdecai set Jock’s hands alight and he beat up a group of angry henchmen with fists of fire! Ridiculously OTT but impressive.

This might have fared better as a cartoon series on the telly BUT as a high rolling Hollywood crime caper? No, darling.

NOT even Ewan McGregor could get things going.

The brewing rivalry between his character Chief Inspector Martland and Mortdecai had potential BUT it was all too tame and playful to amount to anything good . . . or interesting for that matter.

The odd spot of banter but no real friction.

Martland as the lovesick puppy desperate to hump Paltrow’s leg had the odd giggle BUT again was hardly that entertaining.

The recurring joke about Mortdecai’s moustache was so-so at best.

I think the only time I laughed at this irritating gag was the bedroom scene with his beloved, Johanna (Paltrow).

Paltrow and Depp had some good chemistry and made this scene a little more bearable with some snappy dialogue. Her gag reflex every time she touches his tash was okay the first time.

BUT his sympathetic gag reflex and the constant repetition of said gag. No, no, no!

Bar one unexpected punch line, “You look like you have a vagina on your face!”

I felt that writer Eric Aronson was desperately setting up red herrings just to get Paltrow back into the film. Breaking up the unfunny film with more unfunny subplots that led nowhere.

A scene with the Duke (Michael Byrne) was terrible. If it was meant to be a cheeky pop at the Duke of Edinbrugh, it failed.

Going on about how damned attractive Paltrow was. I usually admire the alluring actress but her character Johanna was so bland and to be honest Paltrow was looking eerily thin.

The 45 minute marker in which Depp reaches America and has his first experience in a hotel actually made me laugh a couple of times.

And things seemed to perk up and gel a bit better but it really couldn’t save itself from the damage of a poor first half.

The recurring gag of Jock sleeping around was lazy but did get the odd chortle.

BUT the hit and miss gag ratio wasn’t helped by the flat supporting cast; Jeff Goldblum had the easiest role going in a highly unmemorable and unnecessary appearance. Olivia Munn may have looked stunning (Zuts Alor!) BUT her character (apart from being an attractive nymphomaniac) was pretty bland.

The legendary Paul Whitehouse made more of an impression in his 2 minute cameo as the maniacal mechanic Spinoza.

There’s the odd titter to be had but with the cast and the potential it promised, it fell dreadfully short as did my patience.

Peter Sellers had a natural flair to the role. He made Clousseau seem real. The trips, the goofs. Depp unfortunately seemed to take lessons from Steve Martin. Ridiculously out of depth, OTT and unfunny.

David Koepp may have penned some of the iconic movies of the last two decades; Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible and Spiderman BUT let’s not forget he also gave us Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and now this . . .

Sorry, Mr Depp. This is a rather horrid stain on an impeccable filmography. Better luck next time, old bean.

2/5