Joss Whedon

Better In The Dark #131

 

 

Episode 131: TOM AND DERRICK VS. THE SAFE HOUSE, GRECIAN ARMORED ROSAMUND PIKE, THE PAST HIS PRIME MEDICAL GENIUS, THE INDIAN HOTEL, AND JOSS WHEDON

In this massive Review Episode, The Boys Outta Brooklyn discuss the movie everyone’s been waiting five years for…The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel!

Just kidding…we do cover that film, as well as others and the House Series Finale, but the bulk of over two hours of talk concerns the two films of Joss Whedon, Cabin In The Woods and The Avengers! And if that isn’t enough, there’s lots of writing talk and bitching about comics. It’s Shwarma-rific, so get to clicking!

BETTER IN THE DARK
Two Guys Outta Brooklyn Talk Movies
DJ COMICS CAVALCADE
Silver Age Comics Through Modern Eyes
Join us now at www.earth-2.net!
Nocturne, The City That Lives By Night….needs a darker shade of protector
THE SHADOW LEGION http://welcometonocturne.blogspot.com/

The Avengers

2012

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures

 

Directed by Joss Whedon

Produced by Kevin Feige

Screenplay by Zak Penn, Joss Whedon

Based on the Marvel comic book “The Avengers” created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

 

This review is spoiler free as I’m pretty sure there will be some of you reading this who haven’t seen THE AVENGERS yet.  In about another month or so when more of you have seen it I’ll be rewriting the review so as to talk more in-depth about the movie.  Now if you want to read an excellent, more comprehensive review, by all means, go read Mark Bousquet’s review.  But be advised that Mark’s review has spoilers aplenty so if you’re the type who foams at the mouth at the very thought of spoilers, then don’t. 

 

My love affair with THE AVENGERS goes back to 1968.  That’s when I bought Avengers Annual #2 which featured Captain America going back in time with teammates Hawkeye, Goliath, The Wasp and The Black Panther and through a cosmic mixup find themselves doing battle with Giant-Man, The Wasp, Iron Man, Thor and The Hulk.  I was hooked and from that year to this one, The Avengers have always been my favorite superhero team.  Way back then my friends and I fantasized about seeing The Avengers in a live-action movie but until a few years ago I never really believed it could be done.  It has.  After five previous Marvel superhero movies it’s all led up to this.  And it’s been done with such fresh intelligence, unique wit, humor, creative consistency and downright fun that as far as I’m concerned THE AVENGERS is the best and greatest superhero movie ever made.  With this movie, the bar for superhero movies has been raised so incredibly high that I don’t think it’ll be topped anytime soon.  Matter of fact, I’m sure of it.

The meat of the plot is actually quite simple.  After being thrown off the destroyed Rainbow Bridge by his brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth) during his attempt to conquer Asgard, The God of Mischief Loki (Tom Hiddleston) found himself in a hostile dimension.  He has made a deal with the leader of the warrior alien race known as the Chitauri.  If Loki retrieves the ancient artifact known as the Tesseract he’ll be given command of a Chitauri army to conquer The Earth.  Loki manages to remotely use the Tesseract to open a portal by which he returns to Earth.  Loki steals the Tessarct from the S.H.I.E.L.D. research facility where it is being studied by Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard)  Loki escapes, destroying the facility in the process while turning Dr. Selvig, Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and half a dozen S.H.I.E.L.D. agents into his mind-controlled lackeys.

S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) decides to reactivate “The Avengers Initiative” to combat this threat.  He sends Natasha Romanoff aka The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to India to recruit Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) heads to New York to bring in Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.).  When Loki is discovered to be in Germany, it seems like the perfect assignment for Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) to capture him but that plan goes wrong when Thor shows up, intending to capture his brother himself, recover the Tessaract and take them both back to Asgard. And he’s got an outrageously big hammer to back up his intentions.

Surprisingly, Loki allows himself to be taken captive and imprisoned on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s flying aircraft carrier, the Helicarrier.  Fury attempts to talk this wildly diverse group into becoming a team while Banner and Stark try to find the Tesseract and the true depths of Loki’s scheming soon become obvious to all.  Divided and disheartened, The Avengers must learn how to work together as a team to save the world from Loki and the overwhelming onslaught of the Chitauri hordes pouring out of a interdimensional  portal above Stark Tower.

That’s the bare bones of the plot but there’s so much meat on the bones that it flat-out astonishes me how much Joss Whedon and his co-writer Zak Penn gets in there without the movie feeling rushed or over-bloated.  There are some great character moments aboard the Helicarrier and the scene of The Avengers bickering among themselves had me chuckling even though it’s a deadly serious scene.  But as a long-time Avengers fan, I’ve seen this scene played out in I don’t know how many issues of the comic book and it feels absolutely right in here.

We get astounding superhero battles such as Iron Man vs. Thor and Hulk vs. Thor while the actual alien attack on New York is jaw-dropping in its scale and level of sheer spectacle.  It’s also where we get to see The Avengers finally working together as a team and it’s one of the best moments in superhero movie history.

The acting is dead on-point with Mark Ruffalo being the stand-out.  I expected everyone else to be good as they’ve played these characters before and they know the tone they’re supposed to take.  But Mark Ruffalo comes in cold and nails Bruce Banner with an ease that is truly impressive.  He’s just as good as Eric Bana and Edward Norton and I could even see the progression in both The Hulk and Bruce Banner through Ruffalo’s performance.  They both have come a long way and Ruffalo as Banner reflects this.  Nothing he does invalidates or violates the Bana or Norton performances and actually builds on them.  And both Banner and The Hulk get some of the best lines/scenes in the movie.  Including the one between The Hulk and Loki that had the audience I saw the movie with laughing, cheering, clapping and high-fiving for at least five minutes.

Jeremy Renner makes for a far better Clint Barton than I thought he would be.  This incarnation of Hawkeye as well as The Black Widow are darker versions of the traditional characters but I didn’t mind.  These characters I’ve always admired and loved since they don’t have superpowers.  Even Captain America has the Super-Solider Formula going for him but Hawkeye and The Black Widow are superbly trained humans who through virtue of guts, heart and their outstanding skills prove why they’re worthy to be Avengers.

So should you see THE AVENGERS?  If you don’t, I don’t wanna know you.  If every other movie I see this year turns out to be crap I honestly don’t care because I’ve seen THE AVENGERS and it’s the Avengers movie I’ve been waiting since 1968 to see and it was worth the wait.

143 minutes

PG-13

 

Serenity

2005

Universal

Written and Directed by Joss Whedon

Produced by Barry Mendel

Joss Whedon’s pulled off something only a few creators before him did.  He created a science fiction show that so captivated the imagination of viewers world wide that ‘cult’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Like “Star Trek” before it, “Firefly” had a short life during its initial run, got cut down in its prime but was resurrected as a major motion picture.  The good thing is that “Firefly” fans didn’t have to wait quite as long as the “Star Trek” fans did and during the wait, “Firefly” was rebroadcast on The Sci-Fi Channel which only helped the reputation of the series as a whole and allowed a bunch of folks who came in late to see just what all the fuss was about.

I was one of those who came in late.  When “Firefly” was originally shown on Fox I was working nights at Home Depot and never could remember to set my VCR to tape the show.  Naturally I was a major fan of Joss Whedon’s other TV shows; “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”.  Both shows delighted me with their wonderful dialog, plot twists and sharp characterizations and I was highly intrigued by the descriptions of “Firefly” which everybody told me was basically ‘The Wild Bunch In Outer Space’ I didn’t catch the series until it started it’s run on The Sci-Fi Channel and immediately became hooked.  And now we’ve got the movie SERENITY which achieves a couple of remarkable feats for a movie based on a television show: first off, unlike the “Star Trek” movies, it doesn’t feel or look or play like an episode of the series on steroids.  This is a major story with major consequences for all the characters.  Second; it manages to fill in anyone who hasn’t seen it on the backstory of the characters and the universe they inhabit without confusing the hell out of those who have never seen “Firefly” or boring to tears those who have.  Third; it stands on its own as a thrilling, edge of your seat science fiction action adventure.  The last 45 minutes alone are enough to give you a heart attack from sheer adrenaline overdose.

serenity

Its 500 years in the future and mankind has effectively used Earth up but that’s okay since there are thousands of other worlds out there that have been terraformed so that humanity can spread out.  This makes for an interesting contrast since the inner worlds are at the pinnacle of technology and luxury while the outer worlds scrap by as best they can with little of either.  You could be flying a starship through a nebula in the morning then riding along a dusty trail on a stallion with a wagon train in the evening and nobody bats an eye or thinks it odd.  Out on the fringes mercenaries play their trade, taking jobs of questionable legality and flying under the radar of The Alliance. These are people who would cheerfully hijack The Enterprise and sell it to a Klingon chop shop for parts.

Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) was once a decorated soldier who fought against The Alliance.  After the war he bought a Firefly-class freighter, named it Serenity and looked for a crew.  His first recruit was Zoë (Gina Torres) who fought with him in the war and continued to serve with him after it was over with a fierce loyalty one rarely sees.  Her husband, the sometimes goofy Wash (Alan Tudyk) signs aboard as pilot.  He’s more easy-going than the rest of the crew unless his wife is in danger.   Kaylee (Jewel Staite) is the ship’s mechanic who is infuriatingly upbeat and perky, even when she’s about to be ripped apart and eaten alive.  Jayne (Adam Baldwin) is a hulking, mean-tempered brute that serves as Mal’s enforcer.  Inara (Morena Baccarin) is a licensed Companion (yeah, it means just about what you think) who has a running love/hate battle with Mal.  During their adventures during the television series Serenity picked up three more crew members: Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) a man of faith with some dark days in his past and Dr. Simon Tam, who along with his sister River is really at the core of the story that drives the movie’s plot.

firefly_cast2

Simon has rescued his sister from an Alliance hospital that is more like a chamber of horrors.  It was here that River was programmed to be a living weapon of extraordinary skill and grace and The Alliance fears that River’s powerful psychic abilities may have uncovered some of The Alliance’s greatest secrets and indeed she has: one that involves the death of an entire planetary population and the truth behind the star spanning cannibalistic hoard known as The Reavers.  To prevent this secret from being revealed, The Alliance has sent The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofar) after them and once he learns that River is aboard Serenity, The Operative begins going after any and everybody who has ever given aid to the crew to force them to turn River over to them.  It becomes a race to stay ahead of The Operative as Mal and his crew tries to find out what it is River knows and reveal the secret before they’re all killed by The Operative and the forces of The Alliance or even worse, captured by The Reavers.

SERENITY is quite simply, a terrific movie.  There’s a surprising amount of characterization for such an action packed movie but that’s because Joss Whedon knows how to use dialog to maximum efficiency to move the story along and reveal character and that’s what it does here.  The interaction between the characters is one of the best things about the movie and the scenes where the crew of Serenity argues and bicker about their situation and how they’re going to survive it have real meat and crackle in it.  It’s some damn fine writing.  And Whedon was smart to choose to resolve the River Tam plot from the television series since if we never get another Serenity movie we at least have that explained.  In fact, there are a number of subplots that are resolved and by the end of the movie, nobody is the same as when it started and the whole dynamics of the crew has been changed in a bittersweet yet exciting way.

firefly-wash

The action scenes are really exciting with the final shootout with the dreaded Reavers being one of the most nail-biting scenes I’ve seen in any movie and Joss Whedon manages to wring every drop of suspense out of the scene.  I was actually thinking for about five minutes that he was going to give us an ending like that of “The Wild Bunch” or the final episode of “Blake’s 7”.  In fact, SERENITY at times reminded me of “Blake’s 7” in tone in that each of the characters have their own agenda for being on the ship: some are strictly there for the money.  Others for altruism.  Others because they’re on the run.  Nobody’s a complete good guy but they’re not all bad either.  It makes for a different vibe than “Star Trek” where everybody polished up their medals every chance they got while reciting The Prime Directive.

The acting is a lot better than movies of this genre usually sees with Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau and Chiwetel Ejiofar being the standouts here.  A great bad guy can make a movie and as The Operative, Chiwetel Ejiofar is outstanding.  The Operative is a terrifying opponent not just because he’s so physically adept but he’s such a pleasant, friendly guy even while he’s mass murdering everybody in sight.  Part of what makes him so dangerous is that he never raises his voice or gets mad and sounds like he’s making perfectly good sense while he’s figuring out the best way to stick you with his sword.  And Adam Baldwin looks like he’s having a ball as Jayne Cobb who wants only to earn a dishonest dollar and stay away from Reavers.  And he’s got most of the funniest lines in the movies and my vote for the best one of all and no; it’s not the one you’re thinking of, either.  And Summer Glau takes the last hour of the movie and makes it hers without question.

So should you see SERENITY?  Chances are that you’ve probably seen it already and if you have then I have no need to recommend that you do so.  But if you haven’t seen it yet and are still debating about it, then take it from me: Netflix it.  It’s a superior piece of space fantasy that has intelligence, wit, charm and takes itself seriously but not too seriously if you know what I mean.  Despite the dark twists the plot takes, SERENITY has its eye firmly on one objective: to immerse you in a terrific adventure movie and it does so in a grand and good-old fashioned Saturday afternoon adventure movie style.  Enjoy with my blessings.

PG-13

120 minutes