Thursday, April 30, 2015

Quick Critique: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

I will attempt to review a more recent film in 500 words or less. Think I can do it? That’s good, ‘cause I sure don't! Let’s go:

It’s hard to approach a movie like Avengers: Age of Ultron without a fair degree of bias. Most sequels are built to stand on their own, and that is the case here. The problem is that you’re naturally going to compare it to the first movie, perhaps a little unfairly. Even worse as this is the sequel to the highest grossing non-James Cameron movie of all time, so it’s getting a lot more hype right from the off. Let me just say that it’s not as good as the first movie, but it’s still a damn good flick.

Returning to the director’s chair is Joss Whedon, and a lot more of his personal touch seems to be all over this movie. Heavy-handed misleads, existential debates, technology vs. magic leaning on the latter, sibling bonds, really contrived plot convenience (McGuffin Pool, McGuffin Pool, let’s see Thor swim in the McGuffin pool!), so a lot of your liking of this will depend on how much patience you have for his usual work.

Thankfully, all the stuff he put into the Avengers that worked is still here too. An awesome villain, played by the menacing and charismatic James Spader, great character beats and interactions and absolutely hilarious dialogue is still present. While the action isn’t as clean and grandiose as it previously was, Whedon cannot handled cluttered and panicked that well, it’s still got some great moments and the opening action scene is a masterpiece in characterisation and creative fights.

Where the movie falters is in the fact that it’s taking on way too much. Along with the introduction of three new characters, with disparate origins, we’re setting up future movies and paying off plot threads from previous ones as well. The cast list gave fear that the movie would be a cluttered and unstructured mess, and while that wasn’t so much the case, there could have been a lot cut out to make room for actual character development. While the hallucination sequences are great, they could have been trimmed down a lot to develop Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, who are in desperate need of definition and are easily the low point of the film.

The breakout, then, is The Vision. Paul Bettany is wonderful in the role (most of the cast are, but you know that already), and his motivation is clear, defined, and he has a great philosophical motivation against our antagonist as well as a personal one. He is proof that the movie is a huge risktaker for a summer blockbuster and, while it doesn’t always work, when it does succeed, it succeeds marvel(hah)lously.

Avengers: Age of Ultron serves to bring in what you love about the MCU, while also bringing something new and thought provoking. While the film is disparate in places, it’s fun, frightening in places and is admirable that it has more brains than a summer blockbuster is allowed to have. Definitely one worth watching.

Rating: 8/10 

This fight, despite dragging out a bit, is about as awesome as you think it is.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Quick Critique: Christmas at Draculas (2015)

Ever came up with a crazy idea for a film with your mates? This guy made a movie about that.

Directed by newcomer Simon McKeon, Christmas at Draculas (or Christmas at Dracula’s depending on who you ask) is a madcap and totally insane little movie. It makes it distinct, but it also makes it difficult to say whether or not it would appeal to you. Did you read the title and were intrigued? Then go ahead and check it out.

It’s not just the Christmas theme on our favourite vamp that makes it stick out, either. It has a Frankenstein conflicted by his sexual identity, a Wicked Witch who takes too much to that name and has a bit of a drug problem, Dr. Jekyll drinking himself to Mister Hyde, professional assassins John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald who constantly bicker about who killed the ‘better one’; to list out how many crazy ideas that just fly on the wall in this film.

And, for the most part, it works. The movie has the humour and, surprisingly, the pathos to buy into this balmy dark approach. If anything, though, it can be a bit much. There’s just so much going on in the script, that the film has little room to breath. There are ideas and concepts that could have been further developed to make the film feel more complete, and the structure could be cleaner, but there’s enough in the film to make you laugh and, surprisingly enough, make you cry.

The film is a micro-budget production, and while it left a few audio issues that sadly may not have been able to be cleaned, the production hides this pretty impressively. The cinematography is baroque and gothic, allowing you to get immersed into this crazy world, whilst never losing that sense of fun.

The cast have an interesting range and take their performances seriously, which plays off the movie well. Conor Dwane does a great send up to Bela Legosi. He has a theatrical presence and truly carries most of the film on his shoulders. Dave Coon is also wonderful at the Grim Reaper, being suitably threatening while also composed and fun. Mike O’Dowd is absolutely hilarious as Igor, with a lot of subtle ticks that makes him so much fun to watch. He also carries one of the standout moments in the movie powerfully, but I dare not ruin it.

Christmas at Draculas is a true labour of love. It took forever to make (NOT THAT I KNOW THE GUYS PERSONALLY OR ANYTHING! Come on-they live so far away from me), and every pour of enthusiasm and can-do attitude appears on the screen. It may not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for something kooky, gothic, strange, and different, give this film a watch. Grab some buddies and have a creepy and crazy Halloween/Christmas/Wednesday/Whatever.


Wait, I’m in it?!


No, I don’t care that it’s only for five seconds!