Video Games and Movies


One of Our Favorite Heroes is Back Once More

Lately there has been so many movies out involving saving the world and super heroes. I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t had the chance to go to the theater lately but there is one film I know I am surely not going to miss, especially since this movie will only be in theaters for one week only. I am talking about the upcoming Dragon Ball Z film titled, Revival Of F/Resurrection ‘F’, aka, Revival of the most controversial nemesis, Frieza.

The film takes place a few years after the events from the previous film, Battle of Gods, occurs. Two of Frieza’s soldiers, Sorbet and Tagoma, manage to find all the dragonballs and wish Frieza back to life, after his last death was in the hands of future Trunks, whom trained and travelled to the past to defeat Frieza in his re-built form, Mecha-Frieza. After Trunks defeated him, Trunks travelled to his normal time in the future. Not only is Trunks now missing from Frieza’s return during this time in the movie, but Goku and Vegeta are gone training intensely in a far away planet, too far to be contacted. That leaves the remaining Z fighters to fend off Frieza and his 1000+ army of soldiers.

Though if you watch the trailer, you know eventually Goku makes it in time, of course. I mean, what movie would this be without the main superstar. (Not that he doesn’t deserve it, sometimes I wish Vegeta or even Piccolo would be the hero in the end). Once Goku and Frieza confront each other, Goku in his nature wants no one to hold back and both to fight with their full potential this time around. Thus Frieza immediately transforms into his final form, or so everyone thinks. From then on the story vastly escalates even more. Could this be the final time Frieza makes an appearance for good? There are spoilers online, but I am NOT going to post any here and do not wish to know what they are. I’ll let the trailer speak for itself. Dragon Ball Z: Revival Of ‘F’/Resurrection ‘F’ will be in theaters August 4-12, 2015 in select theaters nationwide.

 

 

 

– Fernando Martin
TWITTER: @WeLoveMetalFern

Top 10 Best Comic Book Movies

Honorable Mention: Thor – The “Thor” movies are widely considered to be the weakest link in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s not to say that the franchise is bad by any stretch of the imagination. They just aren’t quite at the same level as the MCU’s stronger entrants. The first “Thor” film came very close to cracking the top 10 due to the amazing performance Tom Hiddleston turned in as Loki. His turn as the god of mischief ranks at or near the top of the list of greatest villains in the genre, if not modern movies all together. Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, and Stellan Skarsgård all turned in solid performances. The set pieces in Asgard and Jotunheim were breathtaking. But overall, the movie was just not that memorable outside of Hiddleston’s iconic performance.

thor

Image Credit: imdb.com

10. X2: X-Men United – This movie at the time was the absolute standard bearer for the genre. The plot was solid. The acting was solid. And the overall movie was pretty high quality. The Nightcrawler assassination scene at the beginning is still one of the most visually amazing scenes in a comic book movie. And the “school vs army” scene was pretty amazing in its own right. And this was the “X-Men” movie that really established Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine as a total bad ass. Much like the rest of the X-Men trilogy, this movie suffered from poor casting decisions and weak dialogue. But, it still holds up as being one of the better comic book movies of all time.

Image Credit: imdb.com

9. Blade – “Blade” is often overlooked in its importance in the modern comic book movie industry. The genre was essentially dead when the Daywalker caught Hollywood by surprise. Wesley Snipes still ranks as one of the best casting decisions in the genre. The action scenes were elaborate and intricate. The supporting cast was phenomenal. And the plot was extremely memorable. Kris Kristofferson absolutely stole the show as Whistler. The overall visuals and themes from the movie were extremely faithful to the source material. It honored the comic book and still managed to stand on its own. It was an extremely intelligent idea to make a film about a lesser known hero. We would not have some of the great modern movies without Blade.

blade

Image Credit: imdb.com

8. Hellboy – This movie proved that a complete unknown character could carry a comic book movie to commercial success. Ron Pearlman absolutely killed it as the titular character. He brought a calm sarcasm to Hellboy that really spoke to the source material. Doug Jones, Selma Blair, and John Hurt were particularly strong in their supporting roles. The story was well crafted and the characters were all given a decent amount of development. The villains were fairly unmemorable and the visual effects seem dated. But overall, “Hellboy” really opened the door for more obscure characters to take center stage, and it really brought some much needed attention to the smaller comic book companies.

hellboy

Image Credit: imdb.com

7. Batman Begins – As I’ve stated in the past, I’m not a fan of the Nolan trilogy as a whole. The exception is “Batman Begins”. It was faithful to the source material while still deviating enough to stand on its own merits. The movie had a level of stylization that paid homage to the Tim Burton films that preceded it without feeling like a copy. Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy turned in strong performances as Ra’s al Ghul and Scarecrow respectively. Christian Bale was able to effectively portray Bruce Wayne’s transformation into Batman and the struggle between the dual sides of his personality that followed. He was also able to do this without the awful Batman rasp that he used in the two sequels. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman were stellar in their supporting performances. This was also the only film in the Nolan trilogy that felt like a Batman movie. Christopher Nolan’s disdain for the source material really showed in “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”

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Image Credit: imdb.com

6. Spiderman 2 – Sam Raimi proved that comic book movies are always better when they are made by fans of the source material. His reverence for Spiderman continually showed in his trilogy, particularly the first two entrants. The first “Spiderman” movie struggled to find its identity in a genre that was still developing. But Raimi really found his stride in his follow-up effort. Despite all of the shortcomings in the trilogy, “Spiderman 2” stands up as one of the great films in the genre. The movie finds its strength with its villain. Just like the source material, comic book movies are always going to be made better with a memorable villain. Alfred Molina played Otto Octavius with a tragic sense of humanity that really added depth to Doc Ock. His story was the real shining star of the film. The action scenes were well choreographed and fairly memorable overall. The Spidey vs Doctor Octopus fight on the train still stands up as one of the better fight scenes in the genre.

Spider-Man-2

Image Credit: imdb.com

5. The Avengers – The sheer scope of this movie makes up for a lot of its shortcomings. The plot of the movie mirrored the actual movie itself. Taking several vastly different movies with different personalities and combining them all into one coherent film was a daunting task. Joss Whedon handled it masterfully. But there were times when he put his personal stamp on the movie and it just didn’t work. Joss is amazing at creating witty banter and humor to break monotony and tension. But there wasn’t really much time for monotony in The Avengers. It seemed at times like the banter was shoehorned in and it broke up the flow of the movie. And it seemed at times like it was the RDJ show, and everyone else was only along for the ride. Overall, the acting was superb and the movie was full of “Holy Shit” moments. The final battle was well choreographed, but it felt muddled and rushed at times. But overall, it was a heck of movie, and it was truly groundbreaking. It’s safe to say that The Avengers changed the way that movies will be made for a very long time.

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Image Credit: imdb.com

4. Guardians of the Galaxy – This movie was another genre groundbreaker. It showed that an offbeat property that wasn’t even overly popular among fanboys could be successful. The casting was brilliant, from top to bottom. There was not a weak point in the cast. Chris Pratt had an absolutely star making performance as Peter Quill. The supporting cast was great enough that it wouldn’t be fair to single out any of them above the others. But Pratt blew it out of the water. His turn as Star Lord ranks right up there with Robert Downy Jr’s Tony Stark and Christopher Reeves’s Clark Kent. Like many comic book films, the villain was somewhat weak. Lee Pace did a great job portraying Ronan The Accuser, but there just didn’t seem like there was a lot for him to do. But the plot, the visuals, and the soundtrack of the movie combined to create a unique cinematic experience. This movie was so much better than it had any right to be. And if it wasn’t for the phenomenal quality of my top 3, this movie would be number 1 by a mile.

guard

Image Credit: imdb.com

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Another movie that was a different kind of comic book movie. It really captured the essence of Captain America. He’s a man who is from a different world who struggles to do the right thing in a time dominated by shades of gray. Again, the supporting cast was amazing. Robert Redford, Sam Jackson, Sebastian Stan, and Anthony Mackie all excelled in their roles. This movie really illustrated the drastic social changes that occurred in the second half of the 20th century. The shift was gradual to the world as a whole, but it was night and day different to Steve Rogers. The fight sequences are unparalleled in their technical excellence. You would be hard pressed to find any movie, regardless of genre, that had as much care poured into its fights. And the story was deep, thoughtful, but still unabashedly fun.

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Image Credit: imdb.com

2. Ironman – Calling this movie awesome would be a gross undersell. Robert Downy Jr turned in a performance that ranks up there with some of the most iconic character portrayals of all time. He is right up there with Sean Connery’s James Bond, Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, and Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones. He played the character with all of the bravado, arrogance, and cynicism that were needed to be a great Tony Stark. But he also portrayed enough humility and humanity to make the character heroic. Jeff Bridges played a memorable villain. In fact, other than Loki, Obadiah Stane was probably the top bad guy in a Marvel film. The plot was formulaic, but extremely effective and memorable. Even if this movie didn’t give way to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, it would still be the second best comic book movie of all time.

IM Payoff 1sht

Image Credit: imdb.com

1. Superman (1978) – I must preface by saying that I hate the character. Superman is one of the most bland comic book characters of all time. But that being said, he is THE icon of the genre. And Richard Donner was able to craft a film that still stands up as being the standard bearer for the genre. Every element of this movie worked. It is not just a great comic book movie, but an all time great movie in general. Christopher Reeves brought a presence to the character that made him believable as The Man Of Steel. He was larger than life as Superman, but bumbling and human as Clark Kent. Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor was calculated, charismatic, and utterly detestable. The subtlety he brought to the character is unparalleled. And if it wasn’t for Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, he would stand alone at the top of the mountain as the greatest villain in the genre. The plot was strong enough that it still holds up nearly a half century later. The effects were groundbreaking at the time, and still hold up in a Star Wars kind of way. This movie was and is iconic. And it may never be topped in the genre.

Superman

Image Credit: imdb.com

Thanks for playing along…

 

– Ron George

TWITTER: @ronsense64
ronsense64.blogspot.com

New “Dudeumentaries” to Focus on the Lives of Dudes

Logo

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

CONTACT:

Mike O’Brien or Sam Zane
E-MAIL: stuffdudeslike@mail.com

TWITTER: @StuffDudesLike1

WEB: stuffdudeslike.com

 

New “Dudeumentaries” to Focus on the Lives of Dudes

Documentary film series to begin production this summer in and around the New York area

June 10, 2015 – New York – The online men’s interest magazine StuffDudesLike.com announced today that they will begin filming their first two documentaries this summer.

The new film series, titled “Dudeumentaries” will focus on extraordinary dudes and the lives they lead. Each film in the series will spotlight a dude that the audience of SDL will already be familiar with. When completed, each film will be released first for consideration in film festivals and then be released for theatrical and eventual home media distribution.

The first film will focus on children’s book author Keith White Jr. and the “Color-With-Me” Adventure books he writes for children with ADHD and other neurological problems.

The second will follow pro-wrestling superstar Salvatore Morocco as he roadtrips to independent wrestling events around the country.

“We feel that there are certain dudes in the world that deserve recognition but just aren’t getting it.” Said SDL founder Mike O’Brien. “This will be a great way to both showcase them and show the world that Stuff Dudes Like is more than just an online magazine!”

Both films are scheduled for release in late 2015.

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Entourage Review

The long awaited Entourage movie has finally come, but was it worth the wait? I had the opportunity to see the anticipated movie of the summer based on the original HBO television series by the same name.

entourage

Image Credit: HBO

The movie kicked off 6 days after the series ended in 2011. A lot has happened in those 6 days. The recently retired super agent Ari Gold is already getting back to work, this time as the studio head at universal. Also in those 6 days the movie star Vincent Chase has already been divorced and is back to his partying womanizing ways. In the opening scene Ari offers his first movie as studio head to Vince, but Vince has a different idea. Vince adds the stipulation that he wants to direct the next movie that he’s in and Ari gives in. The rest of the movie is fast forwarded 8 months and some things have changed. One being the Turtle character, who made a huge profit on a tequila company he bought with Mark Cuban.

The gag the whole movie is how much did Turtle exactly make? When the show ended his stock was worth 4 million and is obviously worth a lot more in the 8 months that pass. E is no longer with Sloan once again, but the two are expecting a baby any day now which makes things awkward for the two in their personal sex lives. Vince’s movie is on its way to being made except tag the needs more money on the project although it’s already way over budget, forcing Ari to use a co-financier in Texas. In order for them to get the money needed to complete the movie the son of the co-financier has to give his approval of the movie. When they get back to LA the son sees an unfinished cut of the movie and has some notes about it. Including cutting out Johnny Drama, the older half brother of Vince, he also suggests getting rid of Vince. This seems to be a problem for Vince and his inaugural film as a director.

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Image Credit: HBO

All in all I think the film was fantastic. I enjoyed the 17 celebrate cameos. I also loved the transition from TV to the big screen. I think the movie is a perfect complement to the original series. I also feel that the movie leaves off with a perfect ending that can lead to sequels to come and as we all hope they do. In the end I give the film an 8.5 out of 10.

 

– Joe “Coupe” Ricupero

TWITTER: @coupeNYR

SUPERGIRL TV PILOT REVIEW

There are two kinds of Superhero shows on TV. There are the serious, gritty real world(ish) shows like Arrow and Daredevil and then there are the more comic book(ish) shows the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Flash. The new Supergirl pilot from CBS falls firmly into the comic book(ish) world of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Flash and that is absolutely where it should be!

Be warned that this review DOES contain spoilers (and lots of them!) so read on at your own risk…

Supergirl’s TV adventure begins with both the origin of Supergirl and her cousin Superman. Thanks to a voice-over and an extremely cute baby with a curl in the front of his hair, we learn that Kara was sent to Earth from Krypton at the same time as her cousin Kal-El. As the older of the cousins (she was 13 and he was just a baby) she was given the task of watching over and protecting him. Unfortunately her ship veered off-course and landed in the Phantom Zone, where she remained for 12 years.

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Image Credit: CBS

When her ship dislodged, it pulled with it a giant Kryptonian prison that is full of “villain-of-the-week” bad guys for Kara to stop without the show having to live in the shadow of “him”, a term used in this pilot a little too often to refer to Superman. In this show he has been Superman for quite some time and everyone on Earth knows the name so why do they have to keep referring to him as “him”? It is really the only gripe I had after watching the episode.

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Image Credit: CBS

To be honest after seeing the trailer a few months ago I was little surprised that CBS would have a website called “Stuff Dudes Like” cover Supergirl. The original trailer made the show look like it was going to be very heavy on the romantic comedy and less abut the punching people in the face and explosions that we usually cover on this site. Happily that trailer was a bit misleading because Supergirl really packs a punch!

One of my favorite moments of the pilot happened near the beginning. As Superman takes Kara to her new adoptive home, we meet her adoptive parents. While they don’t have any speaking lines in this episode (I just really hope they will be making regular appearances) Dean Cain and Helen Slater play Kara’s adoptive parents the Danvers. Yes that’s right, her parents and Superman (from “Lois and Clark”) and Supergirl (from the 1980’s “Supergirl” movie)!!

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Image Credit: supergirl.tv

The first episode doesn’t take long for Supergirl to save a plane full of people (in a really cool special effect filled scene), find a smart sidekick (think Felicity Smoak or Cisco Ramon), put on the trademark outfit, learn to fly and start fighting her villain-of the-week prison escapees. The pilot’s prisoner is named Vartox and is played by a bald, bearded Owain Yeoman (who some of you may remember as Agent Rigsby on The Mentalist). This fight leads to the face punches and giant explosions that I worried wouldn’t be a part of the new Supergirl show. Luckily the fight scenes and special effects are very similar to the ones seen on The Flash and Arrow and they don’t disappoint.

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Image Credit: CBS

Overall Supergirl hits in all the right places and very rarely misses (stop calling Superman “him” or just stop mentioning him at all. This show doesn’t need to keep reminding us of Superman to be a success). If you like Arrow, The Flash or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. then you will probably also really like Supergirl. If those shows are not your thing then you may not…

 

– Keith White Jr.

TWITTER: @KeefWhiteJr
keithwhitejr.com

Guitar Hero and Rock Band are back!

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Image Credit: gameskinny.com

 

Yes, you heard right! Activision and Harmonix are reviving the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series, respectively, after a 5 year hiatus for each of them. They will be known as Guitar Hero Live and Rock Band 4 and I, for one, could not be more excited! I’m not sure about you, but I spend hours upon hours upon hours playing these games (probably the closest I’ll ever get to being in a real band). Both games are due out by the end of 2015. While there aren’t a ton of detail out yet, here’s what we do know:

Guitar Hero Live

  • Will be available for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Wii U
  • Instead of the original 5-button guitar (blue, red, yellow, green, orange), there will be a 6-button, which will be two rows of 3 buttons each
  • As of now, this game will be exclusive to the guitar (no mic, drums, etc.)
  • There will be single player story mode and a and multi-player competition mode
  • During story mode, Instead of showing your band playing from a 3rd person perspective, this game will show your 1st person perspective of the crowd at a concert.
  • There will NOT be backwards compatibility with songs from previous titles in the Guitar Hero series
  • 32 songs have been announced so far, including songs from Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fall Out Boy, and even Ed Sheeran
  • There will be a mobile companion app also, but no details are available yet

Rock Band 4

  • Will only be available for PS4 and Xbox One
  • New Peripheral controllers are being designed, but if you have existing controllers, Harmonix is working to make these usable with the new game
  • The career mode will consist of playing sets at concerts (similar to previous games). What’s different this time is that some songs in a set will be pre-determined and others will be voted on by the members of the band.
  • Drummers will now count a band into a song (as tends to happen at real concerts)
  • When going through songs in a set, if you finish a song with a multiplier active or with overdrive, they will carry over to the next song in a set!
  • There will be backwards compatibility with most songs from previous Rock Band titles (some won’t be available due to licensing issues). Backwards compatibility is only for the same console family (i.e. PS3 to PS4), but not cross-console (i.e. Xbox 360 to PS4).
  • Only a handful of songs are announced so far, including songs by Avenged Sevenfold, Fleetwood Mac, and The Killers.
  • People can request songs to be added to Rock Band 4 here www.harmonixmusic.com/games/rock-band/request/

So there’s what we know so far. I’m sure as all of the big game shows come out during the summer (E3, etc.) we’ll have a ton more details. Who’s ready to get the band back together??

 

– Erik Steckis

TWITTER: @ESteckis

FLAWLESS VICTORY? A REVIEW OF MORTAL KOMBAT X

Mortal Kombat has been around for a long time, 23 years to be exact. During this time there have been 18 differently named games, 2 live action movies, a live action tv series, an animated series and movie, a web series and multiple comic book series. Needless to say not all of these have turned out well. Mortal Kombat X however is by far the the best game in the long standing series.

Graphically the game looks amazing. It is the best looking fighting game on Ps4 and Xbox one. The character models and backgrounds are more detailed, the animations are slick at 60 fps. Background interactions , xray moves and fatalities provide plenty of OMFG moments. Seperating an opponents limbs from the rest of their body has never looked better.

raiden

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Interactive

As far as stories go Mortal Kombat has always had the best most coherent storylines. MKX is no different ,the story mode is well paced and just the right length and serves as an introduction to the new characters and their move sets. I dont want to spoil it for you dudes but I enjoyed it. There are plenty of other modes to play once you complete the story as well. Modes like living towers and Krypt provide high amounts of replay value.

This is however a fighting game and its at its best when played against human oponents. There are plenty if characters ,each with 3 different versions That play differently.

Theres nothing like beheading your best friend while you talk smack to him on the couch, or repeatedly stabbing a stranger online with Jason Voorhees machete. The online mode is not perfect but works well. I experienced lag a few times but it was fine for the most part and much better than MK9.

jason-voorhees

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Interactive

Gameplay mechanics have also improved greatly.The controls are crisp and responsive. Movement is both faster and smoother than previous games. Combos and special moves are fluid and very satisfying ,especially match ending brutalities and fatalities which are as ultra violent as ever. I still smile ear to ear every time I pull one off.

While this game is far from perfect, its alot of and definitely worth playing. Dude, you wont be disapointed!

 

 

– Jose Luna

TWITTER: @sohkseven
TWITCH: sohk7plays

“Wasted” movie trailer

Our friends want to make the most badass Zombie Action Comedy of all time and they need YOUR help!!

Sign Up (for FREE) at http://www.cinecoup.com/wasted then follow, rate and Vote so they can win CineCoup and make this a feature film!

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Review and thoughts)

Joss Whedon was handed a double edged sword when he was tasked with helming the sequel to the wildly successful “Avengers” movie. On one hand, Whedon had a vast wealth of characters and stories to draw from. He also had the established Marvel Cinematic Universe, one of the strongest brands in the entertainment industry. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was practically guaranteed to be a financial success.

On the other hand, with the strength of the MCU brand, there is increased pressure on each new film to live up to the high standards set in previous films. And a follow up to “The Avengers” is a completely different animal from a sequel for a solo character. The 2012 movie was a game changer for the movie industry. It was the result of four years of careful planning, successful solo movies, and a painstakingly intricate cohesive cinematic universe.

As a result, “The Avengers” hit theaters with unprecedented hype. Never before had a film of that magnitude and scope even been attempted. Crafting the MCU was a task that many thought was an impossible task, especially given that the most popular Marvel characters (Spiderman and Wolverine) were not owned by Marvel Studios. But by time “The Avengers” was released, it hit theaters on the backs of five strong solo movies.

avengers

Image Credit: marvel.com

“The Avengers” wasn’t just a movie. It was an event. A cultural landmark. A literal once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To put it simply, “The Avengers” was a history-making film. Following something like that wasn’t an easy task. It was impossible to drum up the same amount of hype for “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” That’s not meant as an insult, but a once-in-a-lifetime movie by its very definition only comes around once in a lifetime.

That being said, Joss Whedon was able to deliver a worthy, if not superior sequel. Where the first movie failed was also its greatest strength, it was more of a spectacle than a movie. Out of necessity, “The Avengers” had to follow a tight, predictable formula in order to tell its story. AoU was able to break the formulaic mold and stand on its own strength. This pattern of bucking established trends is what has allowed the MCU to gain strength and momentum, especially with its most recent efforts “Captain America: The Winter Solider” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Instead of having to establish The Avengers as a superhero team, AoU was able to hit the ground running. The movie has strong action sequences interspersed throughout the movie, from beginning to end. The first of these action sequences basically begins when the opening credits stop rolling. Whedon goes back to the rotating, character spanning style that he used in the Battle of New York. This allows each character to get a chance to show off their skills in the bigger fights.

The team battle scenes are strong, and each of them carry a sense of purpose and desperation. The final battle in particular has a frantic pace that effectively conveys the potential doom the team is trying to avert. During The Battle of New York, it never felt like The Avengers were in any danger of losing the fight. But the battle against Ultron, every member of the team seems vulnerable and beatable. Even the likes of Hulk and Thor seem to be right on the brink of falling to Ultron at various times.

Speaking of Ultron, the artificial intelligence entity is a worthy villain for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. He(?) is created from Tony Stark’s fear of failure and carries subtle similarities to Stark’s personality. James Spader is absolutely brilliant as the titular villain. Ultron is a near-perfect combination of creepy, powerful, and even sympathetic. His manipulation of both his allies and enemies leads to a desperate fight for the fate of the world.

ultron

Image Credit: sideshowtoy.com

Ultron debuts in the film fairly early, and in an incredibly memorable fashion. His monologue in his first scene really sets the tone for the character. He is driven by his primary protocol, to create peace and order. Predictably, this protocol is not executed in the way Stark imagined it would. But the simplicity of Ultron’s motivations allows the film to focus on the execution rather than the plan. As a result, Ultron’s scenes really focus on his character development rather than using him as a plot device.

Where the Marvel Cinematic Universe has really failed has been in the creation of memorable villains. Obadiah Stane was charismatic, albeit a bit cliché. The Winter Soldier was a badass, but he is more of a tool than a villain. And Loki was amazing on just about every level. Beyond those three, Marvel has not really had a very strong lead villain in any of their films.

Ultron brings another great bad guy to the MCU. The very nature of his character will allow him to be a potential threat for the duration of the MCU. Ultron is essentially a compilation of data. Data is difficult to completely destroy and always has the potential to be recreated. The AI creature is also a manipulative, single minded, and insanely powerful. It definitely helped that the character was well written and James Spader was able to make the most of the strong material he was given.

Speaking of new characters, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (AKA Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver) breathe unexpected new life into an ensemble of established characters. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen were decent in their portrayal of the twins. The accents were a little weird and inconsistent, especially in Olsen’s case. She however was effectively able to portray Wanda’s somewhat tortured nature. Taylor-Johnson was somewhat able to capture Pietro’s personality as well. Neither character was given too much of a chance to shine on their own however. They served more as plot devices than anything. Perhaps with more material, the two could have turned in a better effort.

And then there’s The Vision, the glaring weak spot in an otherwise near-flawless movie. The creation of the character was a strong story, right up until the point where the android was actually created. The fight over whether or not Stark and Banner should finish creating another AI entity was strong and gave each character involved a chance to give voice to their opinion. But after emerging, The Vision never seemed to bring anything of value to the story. Instead, he was something of a deus ex machine. There is definitely potential for the character to get better, but his inclusion in the film just seemed to fall flat.

One of the big complaints in “The Avengers” was the total lack of screen time for Hawkeye. I can assure you that this is not the case in AoU. Clint Barton may not be essential to the story, but he is vital to the functioning of the team. Jeremy Renner delivers a typically strong performance, and he was given some of the best material in the script to work with. In many ways, he’s the heart and soul of the team. His character is fleshed out in an unexpected but extremely satisfying way.

The audience gets a look at Hawkeye’s motivations for fighting the good fight. And that same motivation also provides a logical explanation for why he hasn’t been more involved in the MCU. The script really establishes Barton as an everyman hero. He has every reason in the world to walk away from the fight, but he does not hesitate to put his life on the line to save a single person. In much the way that Mark Ruffalo was the unexpected star of “The Avengers,” Jeremy Renner steals the show in the sequel.

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Image Credit: screenrant.com

The rest of the main characters deliver in essentially the exact way that you expect them to. Tony Stark makes jokes, makes mistakes driven by fear and arrogance, and finds a way to do the right thing at the risk of his own life. Captain America is the foil to Stark. He is serious, driven by his own value system, and unwilling to compromise his beliefs. Thor is the charming powerhouse. Black Widow is as conflicted as always. As is Bruce Banner.

Speaking of Banner and Widow, their romance story seems both forced and natural. The film doesn’t really seem to allow the time to effectively tell the story of the bond between the two characters. But it does make sense due to the task given to the Widow pertaining to Hulk, and also due to the dual nature of both characters. It does seem to take away from the overall story at times. But it gives Scarlett Johannsson and Mark Ruffalo a chance to get some screen time. And their chemistry is undeniable.

The plot was largely strong from beginning to end. The action sequences were strong, but that was expected. The character beats in the slow moments between the fights were what really makes the movie strong. The motivations of every character are well established, and they all lead to a very satisfying conclusion for each of them. Their interactions were strong, and made sense to the story. The villain was a strong, credible threat to both the heroes and the world as a whole.

Another complaint from the first movie was the oversaturation with humor. Snarky dialogue and witty humor have always been a hallmark of Joss Whedon’s projects. He strongly stamped “The Avengers” with his personal style. And at times, it seemed to distract from the plot. In “Age of Ultron” the humor seems to flow more naturally at more appropriate times. The running joke about Captain America’s aversion to profanity in particular is able to effectively break the tension in a lot of scenes.

Overall, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was a superior film to 2012’s “The Avengers.” It is able to serve as a strong conclusion to Marvel’s Phase 2 projects. And it was also able to lay down the foundation for Phase 3. The seeds were sown for the upcoming inter-hero conflict in “Captain America: Civil War,” and the build continues for “Avengers: Infinity War.”

The difficulty in making a Marvel movie anymore is to allow it to serve as another thread in the overall MCU fabric, but also to make a film that is strong enough to stand on its own. The strongest example of that was “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but “Avengers: Age of Ultron” did an admirable job. Being the middle film in a planned trilogy is almost always going to make a movie feel like a bridge between the beginning and the end. AoU was able to be this bridge, but also stand on its own two feet.

I’m not big on reviewing things based off of star ratings or a numbered scale. While they can help critics decided a movie’s worthiness of an award, or to help rank movies; I don’t feel that those things are the most relevant for the casual viewer. The casual movie-goer only cares about one real factor, is the movie worth paying money to see? So that is how I review movies. And seeing “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is worth every penny of your hard earned money.
Thanks for playing along…

 

– Ron George

TWITTER: @ronsense64
ronsense64.blogspot.com

 

The Current State of Comic Book TV

With the growing popularity of comic book culture, one of the greatest benefits is the huge amount of comic book related television shows. I guess you could say that that they’ve been around for a long time, dating back to the George Reeves “Superman” show. But it’s only been very recently that they have really hit their stride and become a huge part of popular culture.

As far as modern comic book TV goes, I suppose you have to start with “The Walking Dead.” The show was not really so much recognized for the source material as it was for the popularization of zombie culture. But for any true fans of the genre, it was the first of the modern hit comic book TV shows.

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Image Credit: telltalegames.com

Admittedly, the quality of the show has been a roller coaster ride. The production value and storytelling have gone downhill after season one. But that’s understandable to a degree. AMC had no way of knowing that the show was going to be the phenomenon it became. And they wrestled a lot of control away from Frank Darabont before and during the first half of the second season. Glen Mazzara never treated the characters with the respect that they deserved, and he seemed to be more concerned about leaving his own personal stamp on the show than he was about producing quality television. As a result, the quality of the show dipped dramatically, and several important characters were wasted.

The show has somewhat regained its stride under the watch of Scott Gimple, but again, Gimple seems to be more concerned about imprinting his personal style than he is about telling a cohesive story. We are getting more developed characters, but it seems that any amount of character development for smaller roles immediately leads to the death of said character. The story tends to drag for episodes at a time and then explode into a single, action filled episode. This often leaves the audience feeling cold, and knowing that they are in store for several boring weeks of “The Walking Dead” before the story comes to a head again.

That being said, “The Walking Dead” does have some of the more popular characters in television today. Rick Grimes, Daryl Dixon, and Michonne have become pop culture icons. The show has also thrived in the portrayal of some truly memorable villains like Shane, The Governor, and Gareth. And of course, there’s everyone’s favorite anti-hero, Merle Dixon.

But again, “The Walking Dead” is considered to be more of a zombie show than a comic book show. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” and “Arrow” were the first two of the modern shows to really embrace the traditional comic book culture. Both shows have entertainment value in their own rights, but the quality and themes vary greatly.

I guess I should start with AoS, because it had less overall impact. It definitely pandered more toward fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe than to the traditional comic book fan. The show failed greatly early on with the 90’s “Monster of the Week” format. This format worked for shows like “The X-Files” and “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” because it made sense to the story. And both shows were still able to use that format to create a slow burn to a big payoff. That’s not to say that AoS did not have a big payoff, but it seemed to come out of nowhere, rather than being a result of a season’s worth of build-up.

The acting is solid, if unspectacular. The always charming Clark Gregg really carried the show during season one. The supporting cast was fairly weak, even bordering on unlikable in a lot of cases. This seems to have been somewhat rectified in season 2, but the show is still too uneven and inconsistent to enjoy regularly.

“Arrow” on the other hand has delivered on a fairly consistent basis. The acting started off rough, and some of the actors have never improved. But that’s not unexpected from a CW show. The dark, gritty feel of the show often feels too much like a rip-off of Chris Nolan’s Batman universe. But again, that’s not entirely unexpected.

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Image Credit: hulu.com

Stephen Amell has transformed from a shaky actor into a bona fide leading man over the course of the three seasons. He has benefited greatly from some very strong supporting performances over the years. First and foremost, Paul Blackthorne has been phenomenal from day one as Quinten Lance. David Ramsey as John Diggle has been the perfect counterpart to Oliver Queen. And John Barrowman as Malcom Merlyn and Manu Bennett as Slade Wilson have played some of the better TV villains in recent memory.

You can’t talk about “Arrow” without talking about its spin-off show, “The Flash.” I was as surprised as anyone with the strong performance that Grant Gustin turned in as Barry Allen. Unlike “Arrow” and “Agents of SHIELD,” “The Flash” seems to truly embrace the source material. It helps that The Flash has one of the richest rogues galleries to draw from. But it’s also nice to see a comic book show that isn’t embarrassed by its comic book roots.

“The Flash” is able to balance campy, lighthearted humor with action and gravity. It obviously has the melodrama that’s essential to CW programming, but it also is packed with some fairly badass action. Again, the acting can be fairly rough at times. But it’s also only in its first season. “Arrow” didn’t really hit its stride until the second season. AoS still hasn’t hit a consistent stride. Out of all of the established shows, “The Flash” may have the most overall potential.

And that brings us to the piece of serialized perfection that is “Daredevil.” The quality of the show is definitely helped by the freedom provided by being broadcast on Netflix. They are able to go places that no other show has been able to touch. The bigger budget allowed for a very high production value. And no other comic book show has shown as much respect for the source material.

The acting has been extremely solid overall. Charlie Cox had an absolutely star-making turn as Matt Murdock. He would definitely not be out of place on the same screen as Robert Downey Jr. The supporting cast was strong, and even spectacular in some cases. Vincent D’Onofrio pretty much stole the show as Wilson Fisk. His performance was every bit as strong as Cox’s. He was able to bring a menacing presence to the screen along with a surprisingly human vulnerability. He portrayed a larger than life character with all of the grace and nuance required and then some. If not for Tom Hiddleston’s iconic turn as Loki, D’Onofrio’s Kingpin would reign supreme among Marvel Cinematic Universe villains.

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Image Credit: netflix.com

That brings me to the dark horse of the genre, “Constantine.” This show is nipping right at the heels of “Daredevil” as being the best of the lot. Unfortunately, it just lacked commercial appeal and may end after just one season. This would be a “Firefly” level tragedy. The character development was amazing. The acting was solid across the board. And the storytelling was top notch.

But for every “Daredevil” there have been duds like “Gotham” and “Agent Carter.” Both shows have some entertainment value. Robin Lord Taylor has been a bright spot in “Gotham.” His portrayal of Oswald Cobblepot has been nothing short of show-stealing. He has been so good, that I can’t help but think that he deserves better than the material he has been given. And Hayley Atwell was again strong in her turn as Peggy Carter. Unfortunately, the producers and writers seemed to forget who Peggy Carter was.

Overall, given the steady rise in quality of comic book TV shows, the future looks bright. With future Marvel properties “AKA Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” “Iron Fist,” and “The Defenders” already slated to be released over the next few years, another spin-off show from the “Arrow” universe, and the returns of many of the existing shows; we can be assured of plenty of comic book related entertainment on the small screen for at least the next several years.

The success of “Daredevil” has proven that street-level heroes can thrive on television with more of a serialized format. So we could potentially see heroes like The Punisher, Cloak and Dagger, and Moon Knight hit the small screen in the future. This will only serve to bolster the already strong roster in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If these shows are successful, and the acting is strong enough, they could potentially build future movie franchises from these shows.

And even though DC has chosen to separate their TV properties from their cinematic universe, it gives fans something to gravitate towards in between Hollywood blockbusters. And it gives lesser known heroes like The Atom, Black Canary, and Arsenal a chance to shine.

So, long story short, it’s a great time to be a comic book nerd.

 

Thanks for playing along…

 

– Ron George

TWITTER: @ronsense64
ronsense64.blogspot.com