Monday, April 30, 2018

Blog Pause

I'm taking a break from writing this blog to focus on other work.

Movie Review: Avengers: Infinity War

This review will be my last for a while and it is a great film to go out on. The third Avengers film is the culmination of a giant interconnected universe. Going to a late Friday night screening was a great experience as the packed audience was caught up in the excitement and shocking finale of this crossover event. I thought I would be tired but instead, I was enthralled from the opening scene to the post-credits teaser. This film made for one of the most exciting films I've seen in a theater in a long time and I left the film shocked by the ending and I still haven't had time to process all the characters and everything that happened. The film is pretty long but it sped by and I can't wait to see it again so that I can analyze the little details that I didn't catch on my first viewing.

The film follows close behind the third Thor film with Thanos (Josh Brolin) taking on the ship of fleeing Asgardians. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is caught and forced to bear the pain of the Power Stone as Loki (Tom Hiddleston) conceals the Space Stone, or the Tesseract. Loki reveals it and Thanos chokes him for his trouble. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) fights Thanos but Heimdall (Idris Elba) transports him away to Earth before he can be killed. It does cost Heimdall his life as the other characters from the last Thor are not even shown. The film is busy so minor characters like Thanos's henchmen The Black Order don't get much of an introduction. 

The various villains set out to find the remaining four Infinity Stones heading first to New York City where Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has the Time Stone. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) Has to leave his fiance Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) to talk with Strange, Wong (Benedict Wong), and Hulk. They reveal the danger of Thanos and fight one of the villains. Spider-Man (Tom Holland) assists Iron Man in fighting the Black Order and they all take off into space after the Time Stone. Bruce Banner is unable to transform into the Hulk. The Guardians of the Galaxy discover Thor in the wreckage and Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is jealous while Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is impressed. She warns of Thanos and they split off on various missions.

Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Quill and Gamora head to Knowhere to find the Reality Stone. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) go with Thor to a dying star to build his ax. Vision (Paul Bettany) is in hiding with Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) when they are attacked by the Black Order for his Mind Stone. Captain America (Chris Evans) arrives and with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to fight the Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon) until they leave. Thor encounters Eitri (Peter Dinklage) and they make the Stormbreaker and it is made from Groot's arm. The Avengers meet up with Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Shuri (Letitia Wright). The final battle is epic.

I'm not going to get too deep into the finale. Maybe one day in the future I'll have a chance to analyze it and assess what happened but for now, I'll just say it was an amazing even though I felt it ended a bit abruptly. The final moments are amazing and I was so stunned at the end, I didn't know what was going to happen. I am reading the graphic novel collection of the comics and can see how they got to this point. I don't think I'll ever get tired of revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

The heroes of the Marvel universe reunite for a second fight, this time against a murderous artificial intelligence created by one of their own members. The epic superhero blockbuster begins with a wild battle at a Hydra base where the scepter was hidden and used for advanced experiments. The weaponry allows the Hydra soldiers to fly and shoot lasers but they are no match for the Avengers. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) makes it inside but he is given a vision by Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) who has been enhanced along with her brother Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is able to calm down the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) so he turns back into Bruce Banner. Captain America (Chris Evans) takes out Baron Von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) plans to return the scepter to Asgard, but not before a party.

Tony Stark has created a group of robots to help them fight and they are controlled by Jarvis (Paul Bettany) so he noticed a similarity in the scepter. Stark and Banner experiment with the scepter but can't figure it out before the party starts. Ultron (James Spader) wakes up and destroys Jarvis. As the Avengers party and try to lift Thor's hammers, Ultron takes control of Stark's robots. The Avengers fight the robots until Ultron flees with the scepter back to the Hydra base where he begins to build an army. The Avengers search for a clue as to Ultron's next move and learn of Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and his hidden stash of Vibranium near Wakanda. Wanda and Pietro Maximoff confront Klaue who is unintimidated until Ultron shows up and cuts off his arm. The Avengers show up to fight Ultron but Scarlet Witch hypnotizes several of them including the Hulk.

Iron Man uses his Hulkbuster army to fight the enraged and out of control Hulk through the streets and buildings of an African city until he finally renders him unconscious. Defeated, the Avengers head to the home of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Thor recalls his vision and soars off to find Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) where he has a vision of the Infinity Stones. As Tony and Steve Rogers debate what to do next, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up to help them come up with a plan. The Avengers figure out that Ultron hopes to build a body with Vibranium and something is stopping him from getting to the missile launch codes. Wanda and Pietro learn that Ultron plans worldwide destruction. Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow head to South Korea to stop Ultron from uploading his body. Cap fights Ultron atop a truck through the streets. Their fight is moved to a train that Ultron sets on a destructive path until Scarlet Witch manages to stop it and Quicksilver pulls people out of the way.

Hawkeye receives the cradle containing the Vibranium body but Black Widow is captured by Ultron. Stark convinces Banner to put Jarvis into the Vibranium body to create Vision. Captain American has teamed up with Wanda and Pyotr. They try to prevent Tony from doing it but then they see the result is not as dangerous. The Avengers learn of Ultron's plan and head to Sokovia to fight him and his army of robots. Ultron has put a drill into the ground and plans to lift it up into the air only to drop it back down as a meteor and destroy the Earth. The Avengers work together to protect the drill though they don't save everyone as witnessed in future installments. 

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a step down from the first Avengers film but still has plenty of great superhero action and benefits from a cool villain. Seeing the Avengers back together is pretty cool but this film feels like it is biding its time for something bigger. There is a lot of set up still going into this film and it kills off Quicksilver before he gets through one film, mostly I think because of rights with another superhero franchise. The film is improved by what comes after as the finale proves to be a pivotal moment in the relationship of the superheroes. I enjoyed Age of Ultron but I suspect this is when many people became bored with the franchise and wanted something else to dominate theaters. 

Movie Review: The Avengers

The heroes of the Marvel universe unit to fend off the destruction of the world. With five solo films to introduce each superhero explore their origins, the characters finally come together hinting at a larger story. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his agents of S.H.I.E.LD. like Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Maria Hill (Colbie Smulders) become aware of a disturbance with a strange artifact known as the tesseract. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) was experimenting on it under the watchful eye of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) aka the Black Widow is pulled from an assignment to seek out Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) who struggles to contain his alter ego, the Hulk. 

Coulson recruits Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his Iron Man suit to join the Avengers. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) aka Captain America is still recovering from waking up from his frozen slumber. The villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston) gathers a group of soldiers using mind control with his scepter over Hawkeye and Selvig. He builds a portal with the tesseract to bring an extraterrestrial army known as the Chitauri to earth. The Avengers gather on a floating ship and search for the tesseract cube. Loki turns up at a wealthy dinner where he extracts the eye of a man in front of a crowd while Hawkeye breaks into a secure facility. Captain America arrives and confronts Loki but he's having some trouble until Iron Man shows up.

With Loki captured, Black Widow flies back to the floating fortress but Thor (Chris Hemsworth) intercepts them. The God of Thunder tries to reason with his brother but Iron Man crashes into him. They fight in the trees until Captain America breaks them up. They regroup on the Helicarrier keeping Loki in a secure glass prison. As Dr. Banner researches the tesseract, the other Avengers learned of SHIELD's true plan and disagreements grow into arguments. Hypnotized, Hawkeye storms the floating base with soldiers to free Loki. Iron Man and Captain America are forced to work together to stay afloat as Banner loses control turning into the Hulk and chasing Black Widow. Thor tries to stop him from destroying too much as Coulson tries to stop Loki from escaping at the cost of his life. Hulk falls to the ground on a jet while Thor is tricked by Loki who locks him in the glass vault and drops him to the ground. Black Widow manages to knock Hawkeye in the head and stop the mind control. 

Tony Stark realizes that Loki plans to use his Stark tower to create the portal and confronts him on the top floor. Loki throws him off the roof but his new suit saves him. The portal opens and the Chitauri fly through attacking New York City. In one of the most spectacular superhero battles in any movie, the Avengers fight the Chitauri and prevent a nuclear missile from destroying New York. Iron Man makes the sacrifice that Captain America didn't think he was capable of making. Bruce Banner shows up to reveal his secret of always being angry and the Hulk smashes the alien army. Loki is imprisoned and returned to Asgard by Thor. Nick Fury allows the heroes to head on their way to phase two.

Avengers is an extraordinary superhero film, something never before seen on film. Joss Whedon does an extraordinary job of juggling all the characters and still having a solid amount of development while also showing some amazing action sequences. The film is a bit cheesy now that I watch it again but I still can't help myself from enjoying it a lot and wanting to see more just like it. There is a reason this film was a box office smash and spawned so may more Marvel films. 

Sports: NBA Playoffs (Second Round)

Same as hockey, I just don't have space in my schedule to research and write about sports as I would like, so I'll just make some quick predictions and then spell out the rest of the playoffs. I'll probably be wrong but that's the fun of unpredictable sports, at least I hope it's not easy to predict what will happen. Having basketball playoffs on television is a lot of fun but unfortunately, I can't stay up late to watch them all. 

East
Philadelphia 76ers vs Boston Celtics
The process and injuries lead me to this one.

Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers
I'm not going against Lebron James.

West
Houston Rockets vs Utah Jazz
There has already been one blowout in this series and James Harden is the MVP.

Golden State Warriors vs New Orleans Pelicans
Best team in basketball does it again.

I think the Rockets should upset the Warriors, it'll be a great series. I am also thinking that Lebron makes it back to the finals and falls to James Harden and Houston. 

Sports NHL (Stanley Cup Playoffs - Second Round)

I don't have a ton of time to dedicate to writing about sports so I'm just going to make my picks and then predict how the rest of the playoffs will play out. I would like to spend more time watching the sports than writing about them. I was not a very good sportswriter anyways.

Eastern Conference
Boston Bruins vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Going with the upset here.

Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Two-time reigning champs are a safe bet.

Western Conference
Nashville Predators vs Winnipeg Jets
Last year's runner-up and my favorite team.

San Jose Sharks vs Las Vegas Golden Knights
The new team is one of the best teams.

So with these picks laid out, I think somehow Nashville takes out Vegas, though it won't be easy. I think Boston falls to Pittsburgh for a rematch but then Nashville wins. Probably won't happen but that's what I'd like. I won't be able to keep up with it as I'll write about in a later post but I will be paying close attention. 


Movie Review: Super Troopers 2

The gang of highway patrolmen returns but this time they are north of the border. The same humor is present and just as goofy nearly two decades later. The film begins with an outrageous traffic stop of an RV. The gang have quite their highway patrol jobs and moved on to become a famous band Sizzlin' Bacon. The officers are famous actors and plenty of them die as this all turns out to be a dream of the former rookie Rabbit (Erik Stolhanske). He actually works as a contractor with Mac (Steve Lemme) for Farva (Kevin Heffernan) who can't stop making inappropriate jokes. Mac plans a fishing trip with their former captain O'Hagan (Brian Cox) and picks up Thorny (Jay Chandrasekhar) and Foster (Paul Soter) who has a relationship with Ursula. They travel across the border to the abandoned shack where O'Hagan had arranged for them to meet. 

It turns out, O'Hagan had made a deal with the mayor to take over as the new patrol in this small piece of land that was considered part of Canada until further information revealed it was a part of America. The patrolmen will take over for a group of Canadian Mounties including Podien (Hayes MacArthur), Bellefuille (Tyler Labine), and Archambault (Will Sasso). They are not thrilled about their new position but the mayor Guy LeFranc (Rob Lowe), a former hockey player, welcomes the change. Rabbit is dumbstruck by the PR liaison Genevieve Aubois (Emmanuelle Chriqui) but the crowd of Canadian citizens is pissed throwing hockey pucks and beer cans at the troopers. 

Without much support, the troopers start their work and begin their training under the Mounties. Just like the original, they find a large drug conspiracy but they aren't sure what the pills are for. Each member takes a pill and acts differently from the various side effects. Farva gets tranquilizers, Thorny has female hormones, Rabbit takes steroids, Mac has LSD, and Foster gets speed. All of these drugs are legal in Canada but illegal in America, hinting at a greater scheme. Farva makes a bet with Rabbit that he can have sex with Genevieve before the rookie and the bet includes chopping off his pinky toe. The Mounties take out their anger by putting a bear in the station so the team fights back by kidnapping them and putting on their uniforms.

They go around pulling people over and acting ridiculous including one really funny part saying "Happiness in the Household". The Mounties return and a standoff gets heated until the mayor decides to take away the patrolmen's badges. Rabbit is seduced by Genevieve while the others are investigating another stash. Foster finally gets to use a triangulator to find Rabbit and they uncover the plot of the mayor. A shootout ensues and the men finally take out the mayor. They are treated as heroes but it is revealed that this was all a plot by the mayor so they lose their jobs.

Super Troopers 2 is a decent return for the comedy group and their crowd-funding hints at a solid fanbase. Unfortunately, it took me a while to finally write this review so I've seen their sudden dropoff in the second weekend after a great opening weekend. Of course, there was a reason their fans saw something else but the comedy could gain some cult status later on. Chandrasekhar directs again and knows how to work the humor of his great cast. The additions of the Canadian characters have some decent humor, but it is really the main cast revisiting some of their own gags that had the greatest appeal.