Saturday, 28 April 2012
With 'The Avengers' assembling this week our 'DVD Rack' special looks at the origin films of this Marvel series.
IRON MAN: Let's take a look back to where it all started. With his charisma and charm Robert Downey Jnr breathed new life into the 'Avengers' superhero genre with Gwyneth Paltrow by his faithful side. Hilarious and thrilling, the graphics and the action where sublime thanks to Jon Faverau's direction (he'll be missed). Speaking of those missed by the franchise Terrence Howard raised his and the films stock (although Don Cheadle got his 'next time baby'). While fan favourite and all time nice guy Jeff Bridges (dude where's your hair?) made a surprisingly sinister, coldly convincing villain. Like AC/DC on the score this heavy metal rocked!
IRON MAN 2: How about some more metal from Tony Stark? Jon Faverau may not be on board for 'Iron Man 3' and Terrence Howard may have been replaced but this sequel proved that the 'Iron Man' franchise was still working, even with a little tinkering. Robert Downey Jnr brought his usual effortless charm and humor as he helped lift this superhero off the ground one more time. Ironman got an even better villain this time with Mickey Rourke playing the menacing Whiplash. As for Tony Starks sidekick, Don Cheadle filled in quite nicely as Lieutenant Rhodes and once he supped up that War Machine suit 'Iron Man 2' brought an artillery of action. An army of A listers filled out the cast from the cheesily charismatic villain of Sam Rockwell to Scarlett Johansson and that brilliant costume department. With another hilarious Stan Lee cameo and another 'Avengers' preview, Iron Man showed he was the king of the Marvel franchise.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK: You WILL like Edward Norton when he's angry! Ripping the Eric Bana, Bruce Banner shirt off before handing it down to Mark Ruffalo, Norton does an incredible job as the Hulk. In a mean and moody performance he casts a green light on the character for others to be envious about. Only Ruffalo has managed to be meaner and greater. With support from the brilliant and beautiful Liv Tyler and the sinister and sublime Tim Roth this movie is a beast. Growling proud the finale fight is incredible and gives a nod to the now closed but legendary iconic 'Sam Record's' store in Toronto, Canada. Timeless. After Iron Man helped The Avengers take off, The Hulk helped the rebooted franchise roar on.
THOR: It doesn't get much bolder and brilliant then this. Chris Hemsworth really put the hammer down as 'Thor' with a meaty performance. Joining legend Anthony Hopkins and the classically trained Tom Hiddleston the battle for who would be king and their fathers most favoured is hammed up to the max and what a bold blockbuster this is with plenty of bravado. With awesome action, genuine gags and a bit of Natalie Portman what else could you ask for? It's '300' on steroids with a Flash like Gordon between realms and worlds. It be arguably the funnest of all the Avengers adventures. BAWDY!
CAPTAIN AMERICA-THE FIRST AVENGER: The first Marvel superhero made for the final original Avangers movie before they all assembled for the ensemble picture released this week. Chris Evans gave a leading performance with charm and courage. In this perfectly placed, somewhat period piece our Captain shielded the notion that Captain America is an outdated or corny character, Evans helped swing the part to the modern day with class, With legends Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving and Stanley Tucci and the irresistible Hayley Atwell behind him. This picture armed itself with a battalion of talent. Dark and moody in parts but uplifting and inspirational in others, this is the perfect soldier for honouring the brave and best. Salute! TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Sunday, 22 April 2012
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston & Samuel L. Jackson. Director: Joss Whedon. Screenplay: Joss Whedon
Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye and The Incredible Hulk are finally here comic book fans. 'The Avengers' initiative has assembled (especially in other countries where this film is called 'Avenger Assemble' due to copy-write laws from that 'Avengers' film starring Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman). It's hard to believe its been four years since 'Iron Man' bolted up our blockbuster screens back in 2008 but since then we've had a lot of great Avenger movies to Marvel at until this. An 'Iron Man' sequel, 'The Incredible Hulk', 'Thor' and 'Captain America-The First Avenger' where all bold and brilliant back-story movies all leading to this. Now after doing the reverse of fellow celluloid comic series 'X-Men' and having their origin stories first 'The Avengers' are all coming together for the ultimate battle and blockbuster.
By the hammer of Thor this is a great movie and by the shield of Captain America this is one of the best superhero movies of all time. By the metal of Iron Man its certainly the most entertaining and by the ripped shirt of Hulk its definitely the most thrilling. 'The Hunger Games' can take a back seat now and 'The Dark Knight Rises' can wait its turn because right now its 'The Avengers' that is rising and breaking and setting box office records. Its time is now. All those Samuel L. Jackson cameos were worth it (he really IS in everything). Nick Fury has assembled a kick ass team and the gangs all here with some familiar favorite faces too. Geeks and fans who treat comic books like sacred text (stand up) can rejoice, look out for that Stan Lee cameo and wait after the credits as per.
New York City under attack serves as the biggest stage for this movie to be set and looking part like a disaster movie and part like the last 'Transformers' piece the sense of peril is pitched perfectly. The evil, manipulative schemes of Loki (from 'Thor') are back and this time with an army. Once again Tom Hiddleston plays Loki incredibly hamming it up to a Shakespeare level when needed but being seriously sinister for the most part. Chris Hemsworth steps up the bold bravado once again for a Titan strong representation of 'Thor' but the hammer doesn't just drop there.
Of course there's Iron Man played with all the classic charisma and charm of Robert Downey Jnr, but add a little more concern, desperation and that good, deep acting that made Downey Jnr who he is and you really have some character development here. We can't forget the Captain too as Chris Evans once again leads strong as the famous 'First Avenger' with all the pride and honor of a battle-tested soldier. We're just glad they broke the ice. With more screen time Samuel L. Jackson shows just how great he is at bringing everything together as Nick Fury with a little bit of great help from Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill and Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson. While Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) give killer performances as the Avengers super assassins. With this, and a new aim on the 'Mission Impossible' and 'Bourne' series' Renner has really hit the bulls-eye.
The biggest and greenest new addition is Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk. It seems the mean green machine has been played by more people then Doctor Who, from Eric Bana playing Dr. Banner to Edward Norton's recent rebooted turn as Bruce. Still with Norton's blessing Ruffalo really steps in and breaks out of the torn clothes perfectly. His anger is managed incredibly, from his tense and taught acting to being the first actor to actually perform the Hulk scenes...of course with a lot of green screen and leotard. Now wouldn't that be funny to see standing next to a bunch of guys that already look like they're at some strange fancy dress party?
A freak show this special force is not though. From formidable forest battles to city scraping, sky high action the enthusiasm and energy of this ensemble piece is incredible. Sure its not as dark as 'Batman' or as tailored to kids as much as 'Spiderman' but this middle-ground, movie medium makes for the happiest. It's tense and thrilling but also hilariously funny and even moving in parts. 'Buffy' director Joss Whedon has really slayed this one from drawing the tension between the Avengers, all whilst showing the initiative to bring it all together like he was wearing an eye patch. This just all looks so good. Its on trail to exceed 'The Dark Knight' and 'The Hunger Games' at the box office and its already exceeded all expectation. The 'Justice League' better bring it as now we can't wait for 'Iron Man 3' or if they can assemble again 'The Avengers 2'. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Wednesday, 11 April 2012
Worth A Salute.
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker, Tadanobu Asano, Rihanna & Liam Neeson. Director: Peter Berg. Screenplay: Jon Hoeber &Erich Hoeber
Type in the co-ordinates '09' and '04' and what you'll get is the date of the release of the guilty pleasure movie of the year in a great 2012-so far-of pleasant surprises from 'Contraband' to '21 Jump Street'. If you thought 'Battleship' would sink without a trace, guess again. You're in for a surprise like the films genre change from the old, classic Hasbro game. This ones off the boards. The best thing to happen to this pen and pencil game since the revolution of electronics.
It's a new, video game world from the board game world and its led by the type of studios that make big, bold, loud and sometimes too proud blockbuster like 'Transformers' and its clear hear some of the slow motion, sunset Michael Bay shine has rubbed off here. Sure this movies popcorn, cornball, cheesy and even more cliches, but this makes for an ideal leave your brain at the door, entertaining yarn. Weaving great action with sublime special effects and a great, gratifying element of not taking itself too seriously. You'd think this film would be hard to swallow, but aside from a bit of an aftertaste its actually quite refreshing.
Mixing some new flavours helps too. Pop princess Rihanna shows she's been taking acting notes too with a good performance. While Taylor Kitsch fires back after being hit with some damage to his stock on the blockbuster flop of 'John Carter' (which actually wasn't bad at all and should have been the first real blockbuster of 2012...coincidentally this might be) by leading well, showing the 'Gambit' charisma we bet on in 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' and also giving us guys the best, most hilarious way to get a girls attention (let's just say 'Chicken Burrito') making for the best introduction ever.
Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker and Tadanobu Asano also round out a real nice and likable cast. If you need anymore certification, how about some from the best. Sure Liam Neeson seems to be in everything these days (sometimes making every film in a roll of trailers) but its rare that the new Samuel L. Jackson does rubbish, and in a smaller but by no means throw away performance the 'Taken' star doesn't give away his credibility.
Its all good, minus a few subtractions, but divide yourself from that an add some approved appreciation for IMAX over 3D refusal and some real respect for the old navy vets and tradition and even more of a clever homage to the original game that inspired this flick and what you have is a multiplying picture. Your body language will do the maths from unfolding your arms to raising your eyebrows in pleasant surprise. Sure like any 'Battleship' this is hit and miss, but with comic relief and iron tight, war machine action this movie is something to marvel at. Don't let this ship pass you by. This old game with some new rules just got a hook, line and sunk your cynicism. Gotcha...BOOM! TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Monday, 9 April 2012
Leading the run of superhero movies.
Starring: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke & Stanley Tucci. Director: Joe Johnston. Screenplay: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Stan Lee and his comic book team have given us plenty to marvel at over this last year. From 2010's iron-tight sequel 'Iron Man 2' , to this years thunderous 'Thor' and 'First Class' addition to the 'X-Men' series. There's more to come too as the amazingly, anticipated 'The Avengers' ensemble piece sets to do battle with Batman and his 'The Dark Knight Rises' in 2012. To start things off however 'The First Avenger' must go to war for country and comic-book. So Chris Evans picks up the shield and responsibility to carry the star on his chest and the role of the first comic book hero in 'Captain America'.
Chris Evans is back in a big way. No not the four eyed, ginger entertainer-that would just be weird and wrong-but a ladies favourite actor, who's only red head came when he portrayed Johnny Storm the 'Human Torch' in the formidable 'Fantastic Four' series. In this years Summer blockbuster season, Evans goes to battle with D.C. and fellow Hollywood heart-throb Ryan Reynolds who has also had experience in playing two superhero's in separate movies (he brought his charisma to 'Wolverine's' Deadpool and a spin-off is rumoured) and is currently lighting things up on screen as the 'Green Lantern'.
It's Captain America who shines the brightest however, (besides Evans has one more comic-book, winning credit with 'The Losers' and even another if you count his evil turn in 'Scott Pilgrim') shielding the glare from 'The Green Lantern's' latest run. Evans is heaven sent, landing into the role perfectly. Standing out with charisma and charm when needed, but falling back and not overpowering the character-first nature of hero movies like this, a-la Christian Bale in Batman. He's tough, but fair in nature and his extensive action/light film resume makes him the right candidate for the Captain. With hope and glory he leads this film right with pride in the legacy of his films traditional and comic book legend. Plus he can pull off looking like a skinny teen perfectly-with some CGI help of course-not bad for a 30 year old gym rat.
You know what to expect from Marvel films these days-there's so many of them. There's always a hilarious Stan Lee cameo's, something to wait for after the credits (it's really worth it this time) and the comic-book franchise always has a real way of telling a story of world history as well as it's own legacy extremely well. Even though the expectations are a given, this is still great. There's a battalion of star power behind Evans character in support. From the brilliant, battle-tested Tommy Lee Jones (armed to the bone with wit and the British intelligence of America's love interest Hayley Atwell) to super villain Hugo Weaving (even though in full evil form he looks more like Samuel L. Jackson) and super-scientist Stanley Tucci. Plus Dominic Cooper channels his inner Downey Jnr charm to play Tony Stark's dad Howard perfectly for a clever twist on the Avenger franchises overlapping themes. Don't forget the other soldiers who have Evans back either, from Sebastian Stan to Neal McDonough and Derek Luke.
Despite being armed with little more than a shield and dodgy, dated costume (it actually works), 'Captain America' is picture perfect from the classic, right look of 1940's America (even if is thanks to filming in England's Manchester and Liverpool) to the cool action choreography. This picture is a perfect period piece. Overall this film is more then just patriotic like the 'Star Spangled Banner' and more then just another vehicle for a Samuel L. Jackson cameo. 'Captain America' is worthy of Nick Fury's initative. Someone call Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye. 'The Avengers' are ready. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
A thunderous, Thor-de-force.
12A, 130 Minutes. Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Jamie Alerxander, Rene Russo & Idris Elba. Director: Kenneth Branagh. Screenplay: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz & Don Payne
By now you'll know what to expect from the Marvel franchise and it's budding Avenger series. Comic humor and action? Check! References to other movies? Check! Hilarious Stan Lee cameo's? Your damn right...check! Still anyone going into this film expecting the same old stuff, with their arms folded in prepared disappointment will be pleasantly surprised. Not that there's anything wrong with the other Marvel Films (they are great) but with all the sub-Avenger films and other superhero reboots coming out it's hard not to be geeked out (in the wrong way) with all this comic-book carnage. That is until you take in the excitement of 'Thor'.
OK so you may be familiar with the mythical or comic book story of 'Thor' (and let's face it both are treated like ancient text), but here's the skinny on the story of the God that's so ripped he looks like the dudes from '300' on steroids. So Thor's about to be named king by his father Odin (Hopkins) much to his brother Loki's dismay and jealousy, but then some frost giants (who look like some dodgy 'Star Trek' villains) attempt to steal their confiscated bio-frost (which sounds like some sort of detergent). So Thor armed wit his new vanity and arrogance seeks revenge much to his fathers disapproval.
This leads to his banishment to earth, where Thor is found by a research team led by Natalie Portman. This leads to some hilarious and peculiar happenings as Thor finds it hard to get to grips with coffee house etiquette and transportation means. Still if you think he's got problems back home his father's stress has led him to fall into a deep 'Odinsleep' (nice to have a type of sleep named after you hey?) which leads to the scheming Loki literally and figuratively assuming the throne. This leads to more problems for Thor as both his world and his new one are under serious threat, but can he get his Excalibur on and hammer down these problems?
This is some ridiculously good yarn wrapped up by director Branagh (who better for this, really) in all it's epic, loud Brian Blessed bravado. As entertaining as it is surprising this film is primed to storm the pre-summer blockbuster season no matter how 'Fast and Furious' it is. This film has realms of talent. After an impressive cameo in 'Star Trek', Chris Hemsworth bulks and beefs up beyond belief for a meaty role. While 'Black Swan' Oscar winner Natalie Portman spreads her wings and steps into Marvel's Gwyneth Paltrow type roll perfectly as the strong female lead. Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings also make the perfect team for her but Loki is not a good ally for his brother Thor and Tom Hiddleston plays this perfectly. Thor also has some friendly, funny and fantastic support from friends led by the beautiful and talented Jamie Alexander. Even though there in smaller roles new and established favourite talents Idris Elba and Rene Russo but in strong plays to help make this film that much bigger. Still it's legendary talent Anthony Hopkins who was born for his role as Odin, hamming it up and playing it perfectly to a tee.
Graphically speaking this movie is stunning and content wise it's suitable for adults and young kings. With some introductions to other Avenger characters in cameo's and some other movie references to Marvel at this film keeps both this franchise and series going. Exciting and funny this is pure entertainment and the mix between fantasy and real world works showing that this film doesn't treat itself so seriously. From the pomp and extravagance of the fantasy world to the easy going, small-town circumstance of the real world. It's this right mix and the fun, action-packed thrill-ride of this film that will extend this avenging franchises reign, leading fans to proclaim like 'Thor' after a drink for 'ANOOOOTHEEEERR'! TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Saturday, 7 April 2012
Cheers to him.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
There are those leading men in Hollywood. The Clooney's and Pitt's. The best actors around who seem to do no wrong, commanding respect and scripts by the filmography load. Then there are the character actors. You know the kind, you see they're faces, always playing worn out cops or bitter lovers. Those who are constantly cast in cinema because they fit the bill perfectly of a specific motion picture player that a director wants to send out. Somewhere however, in between like the hour between day and night lies the magic. Those real actors that are willing to take on any challenge or role, purely because its in the nature of the greatest thespians to do this. The guys that like a challenge, a gift to their legacy but a curse to their legend.
Today, whether it be sports, music or this movie game those versatile ones that do everything seem to be underrated. Its that whole 'a jack of all trades is an expert at nothing' cliche or that notion of 'spreading yourself too thin' that really isn't true. Some of the greatest actors this industry have ever produced in Hollywood are the outsiders with the inside knowledge to stay in circles whilst remaining their own individual with their original talent. Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jnr anyone? Somewhere between character and leading acting lies the silver line of the silver screen stars and that's the Gold, Academy Oscar or not.
A long way from Hollywood down in Hawaii you may find the greatest example of this sitting in the boat and swaying through another lazy Sunday, with nothing round him but natural beauty, his friends and family, the cool, clean air and the faint sound of a telephone in a house nearby that just won't stop ringing. They're all calling for Woody Harrelson.
Woody has been a fond favourite for years, ever since playing the lovable fool pulling pints in everyone's favourite pub in Boston drawing more 'Cheers' than Norm with Ted Danson and Kelsey Grammer, all whilst becoming a household name from families in America to the rest of the sitcom loving world. Even when a 'Frasier' spin-off and all the shows that resulted in his new 'CSI' gig gave Grammer and Danson big respective futures, no one has quite taken off as favourably as Harrelson. From the legend of 'The People vs. Larry Flynt' to the iconic turn in the controversial classic 'Natural Born Killers' Woody already did it all in the youth of his career, but the nominations and the numbers of film a year keep coming today in middle age.
Now still in his prime from the T.V. to the theatre he's garnered some Emmy and Oscar consideration in some perfect portrayals of introspection of real life individuals of influence over the last decades. From stealing the show from Julianne Moore's heralded Sara Palin and Ed Harris' talented take on John McCain as behind the scenes strategist Steve Schimdt in the serious classic cable T.V. special 'Game Change' to bringing the raw and real as corrupt cop 'Rampart' in a siren loud, urban underground hit, statement film of the year Harrelson has no fear and limits to his range when dealing with the toughest parts. The awards should be his.
One of the nicest guys in Hollywood (he goes on holiday with Owen Wilson what more do you want from a guy?) and the same man who almost stole the show in last years funniest comedy 'Friends With Benefits' (a film that really showed us just how talented an actor singer Justin Timberlake is) as a lovable gay journalist (with a performance so hilarious even the deleted scene stealer's shouldn't have been left on the cutting room floor) showed just how great he really is. Playing two unsettling, unlikeable characters and ultimately making the audience root for them is no easy task, but Woody owned and walked it even when he didn't need to.
Now after a great last year in 2011 and a new year that has had two resolute hits under his belt before April you would think that would be enough right? Well we forgot to mention that Woody has joined another ageless 50 year old with no limits to his talent in rock God Lenny Kravitz in acting like a young starving actor. With another breakthrough performance in the latest book turned movie, everyone is talking about nothing but 'The Hunger Games' and Woody's performance as the games legend Haymich is garnering a cult following to go next to his critical acclaim. With all these perfect performances this year we may all be talking about the actor of the year and the most underrated actor of our generation. Just wait until he catches fire.
Early in his career Woody caught a 'Moneytrain' with Wesley Snipes and showed us that white men actually could jump in one of basketball's highest scoring movies. He bowled us over in 'Kingpin' and even kissed Demi Moore after an 'Indecent Proposal'. He's wowed the Academy as of late with the mesmerising 'The Messenger' and in the past given us fits of laughter in a cross-dressing character changing cameo in Adam Sandler movie 'Anger Management' and more recently returned to the big leagues of blockbuster screens from the silly to the serious.
Woody went to Frasier's town for the thoughtful 'Battle In Seattle' teaming up with talented rapper turned actor Andre 3000. He illustrated a complex part in the real life, experimental animated 'Sin City' style 'A Scanner Darkly', before moving us beyond word with a thoughtful and tender performance as a blind man in Will Smith's 'Seven Pounds'. The star really has opened our eyes to the depths of his talents when reigning in all the ranges of human emotion. From the laughter and emotional tears, to the chuckles and dramatically critical praised cheers there is no one quite like Woody. Whether it be playing a clinically cold bounty hunter in 'No Country For Old Men' or a teasingly talented, frowning funnyman, Zombie killer in 'Zombieland', this Texas born star has worn his stetson with pride, tipping between the genres but never falling over himself, walking the line until cash played like Johnny. Respect has been paid in full to this man that is well and truly back.
Whether he's appearing in 'Will & Grace', or calling it crazy in apocalypse movie '2012'. Whether he's thinking about the environment, or talking about the Bible. Playing Basketball in his movies (the hilarious 'Semi-Pro' is another example), or soccer with chef Gordon Ramsey for charity (he kicked the winning penalty by the way). Whether donning an equally trademark Scoody Doo Shaggy long hair or shaved, crew cut (thanks Stephen Colbert), Woody is Woody. Woodrown Tracy Harrelson one of the worlds greatest and most loved people and actors. After all this time, through his body of work, wealth of talent and the fact that he is the same nice guy he's always been, people are finally beginning to get this man and see him for who he really is. Its been long overdue time for everyone to raise their glasses to this man, so after all that has been said and done over his astonishingly phenomenal 30 year career and the last 12 months (let alone 30 days), how about a toast and another round if we can?