Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

Having just watched the original three 'Mad Max' films this week, I was kind-of unsure what to expect going to see 'Mad Max: Fury Road.' I loved the original trilogy, even though 'Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome' was kinda wonky to me. All I did know, is that for the last six months or so, I have been really hyped to see it. Reviews from fans and critics alike, started pouring in over the last week and he overwhelming positivity towards this film was well beyond anything I could have expected. Still, I kept myself in-check, because we all know, critics (like me) are often wrong about a ton of things, so I should always form my own opinions instead of following the leader. I walked in to the theater, found my seat (mid-way down and in the middle of the row) leaned back for the trailers and proceeded not to use the back of my seat for two hours thereafter. 'Mad Max: Fury Road' is now the template of how all pure action films need to be model after. It is truly a non-stop ride from beginning to end, barely giving you time to breath in the middle.

'Mad Max: Fury Road' is set some years after the events of 'Mad Mad: Beyond the Thunderdome' as Australia continues to deteriorate in it's post-apocalyptic wasteland. We join Max (Tom Hardy) as he is captured by the War Boys and is forced to become a "blood bag" for the ill, War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult). The War Boys are an army led by a dictator-like king, King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who controls everyone's water and food. While all this is happening, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), one of Immortan Joe's best drivers, begins an excursion to go get gas in her armored War Rig. It soon becomes evident that Furiosa isn't going to collect gas as she is spotted diverging from the the path to the town. An all out chase begins as Immortan Joe, War Boy Nux and by-proxy, Max, alongside the rest of the War Boys begin to chase down Furiosa, as she has smuggled out Joe's prized "possessions," his Five Wives.

Wow, wow, wow, wow, WOW! I thought the chase scenes in 'Furious 7' were amazing (they still are). I also thought the overall action in 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' was great as well (and it still is). Meanwhile, 'Mad Max: Fury Road' completely obliterates what you think you know about modern action and forges a new path. A path lined with bodies of War Boys and smoldering metal wreckage on either side of you, as you pray you're not attacked by Max, Imperator Furiosa, Immortan Joe, The Bullet Farmer or The People Eater. Just by the names alone, aside from Max, you know you're in a new level of creativity, or depravity, when your characters are what you envision naming your gamer-tag on X-Box or PS4. Not only are they creative sounding, they are amazingly designed. With George Miller back at the helm -- he's the man behind the first three films -- you know that in this new modern era, you have to up the ante to grab peoples attention, and boy did he. The menacing, crude, revolting nature of some of these characters are disgustingly satisfying, while perfectly balancing it out with an ample amount of ass kicking eye-candy as well. The design doesn't stop with the character, the amount of time put into the film -- which could almost be considered a two hour long chase scene -- must have been enormous. Sure, there are parts of this film where there's some CGI, but after seeing 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' so recently, the joy of knowing that every car, bike, truck, and even mountain that was destroy, was real, makes everything so much more fulfilling. Combine all this with the great score and music from Junkie XL and the (once again for this series) amazing cinematography, this time from John Seale, everything looks and sounds on point.

This cascades into the action portion of the film, which is the whole portion of the film. I can only imagine drinking some form of energy drink before a viewing of this, because you would probably need 9-1-1 on stand-by if you did. There are momentary lulls in the film that give us a surprising amount of narrative. We learn about that state of the world and why Furiosa is doing what she's doing, among other things. This, of course, is never without the threat of something big lurking in the background ready to crash, shoot or explode all over the screen. The fight scenes are done fantastically and this is where Tom Hardy shines. Whether it's the opening scene of him fighting off War Boys or tangling with a suspended man playing a double headed guitar on a mobile rock concert (did I really just write that?), Hardy brings the essence of Max's survival instinct to the screen. This film doesn't have a ton of dialogue, much like 'Mad Max: The Road Warrior,' and it relies on the action and momentary breathers to convey a lot of the stuff going on. When there is talking though, Charlize Theron shines. The Five Wives can be muddled and frankly, annoying, at times but Furiosa takes everything one step at a time, is prepared for everything and knows what needs to be done. This is what makes the pairing, from a character standpoint, so good. Two people, waiting to survive, with the necessary tools to do so. One with hope, one without, showing that even within all the madness, there a moments of sincerity. This doesn't work without the chemistry of Hardy and Theron, and they play it beautifully.

Side note: 36 years later, the bad guy from 'Mad Max,' Toecutter, is now the bad guy from this film, Immortan Joe. Props to George Miller for getting Hugh Keays-Byrne back, because he was splendid once again.

'Mad Max: Fury Road' is hands down my favorite film of the year so far. This two hour long explosion of action, style and carnage is enough to get anyone into this film if they give it a chance. You don't need to see the first three films to watch and enjoy this, as so far, each film has its own story that it set up within each film. The story, while simple, is merely a back-drop to the action as you'll be mesmerized by every spectacle at a given moment on screen. Car chases defined the first three films and 'Mad Max: Fury Road' is no different. The creativity behind each stunt and set-piece comes across like a train jumping through a traffic jam. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron shine while Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne and the Five Wives support tremendously. 'Mad Max: Fury Road' may have set a new bar for the action genre, and doing it with limited CGI, just makes everything all the better.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mad Max Trilogy [A Fat Jesus Trilogy Review]

The Mad Max series has been one I've heard about all my life. My mom and dad saw the second two in theaters, it was Mel Gibson's launching point and that 'Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior' is one of the best action and sci-fi films of the 1980s. With 'Mad Max: Fury Road' hitting theaters tomorrow, and it receiving a ton of positive acclaim already, I figured I'd go through the series and do a little catch up before seeing the new film myself. It's a series, that if you know anything about video games, really remind me of the 'Borderlands' games. Post-apocalyptic and dystopian as all hell, the 'Mad Max' trilogy has an outstanding lore and narrative, character style that is entirely unique and vehicle chases that still hold up to this day. 'Mad Max' is a sci-fi and action series that at times, feels more like pure action and adrenaline.


'Mad Max' is set entirely in a future dystopian Australia. Everything is beginning to break down due to a massive energy crisis. The Outback has been reduced to small communities, while bigger cities still function. All while motorcycle gangs roam and terrorize the people. The Main Force Patrol was created to patrol and uphold some semblance of law and order. A gang member, Nightrider (Vincent Gil), killed a MFP rookie and is on the run. He is eventually chased down by the MFP's top pursuit man, Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), crashes and is killed in a fiery explosion. The Acolytes, Nightrider's former gang, lead by Toecutter and Bubba Zanetti (Hugh Keays-Byrne and Geoff Perry), terrorize a town and end up raping a girl, to which the court somehow throws the case out. This angers Goose (Steve Bisley) and he hunts down the gang, only to be severely injured, resulting in Max having to take some time off. Max, his wife Jessie (Joanne Samuel) and their infant son, Sprog, travel to the coast to vacation. Things take a horrid turn once The Acolytes begin to stalk them.

'Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior' is set two years after the events of the first film. Law and order have completely vanished from  society and with the MFP disbanded, Max (Gibson) is left to roam the desert in his V-8 Pursuit Special, scavenging for food, water and supplies. His companion is an Australian cattle dog and his sawed off shotgun, one of few working firearms left. Max runs into a man named Wez's (Vernon Wells), a crazed motorcycle rider. After taking out two of his members and injuring him, Max finds a rare bit of fuel. He then stumbles across an autogyro and its owner, Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence), who ambushes him. The two eventually pair up when he tells Max of an oil refinery, when the two arrive, it is under siege by a motorcycle gang. It's leader, who goes by The Humongous (Kjell Nilsson), threatens the colony in exchange for safe passage. Now Max, Gyro Cpatain, a young boy Max befriends, Feral Kid (Emil Minty), and the rest of this community, must come up with a plan to escape the gang with their gas and their lives.

'Mad Max 3: Beyond the Thunderdome' is set 15 years after the events of the second film. Max (Gibson) has been wandering the deserts of Australia and has amassed a herd of camels. One day, he is attacked by a pilot, Jedediah (Bruce Spence) and his son as they steal his camel drawn wagon. Max follows them to an outlaw town by the name of Bartertown. Max forces his way into town and is brought before their leader, Auntie Entity (Tina Turner). She enlists him to defeat the owner of a pig refinery, "Master Blaster" (Master being a small man that rides on the back of Blaster) who provides energy for the town and has been a thorn in her side. Eventually, Max faces Blaster in what is called, The Thunderdome. It is structure that allows the entry of two men, but the exit of only one, "two men enter, one man leaves," in a fight to the death with no rules at all. After the fight with Blaster, in which Max refuses to kill him, Max is exiled to the desert. He is found by a desert dweller named Savannah Nix (Helen Buday), who takes him back to her village of kids, who are the survivors of a Boeing 747 crash. They are under the impression that Max is some sort of God, because he looks like a pilot. Max tells them the world they think is out there no longer exists, but Savannah refuses to believe him. Despite his warning Savannah sets off with a group to find "Tomorrow-morrow Land" forcing Max to save them from perhaps more than the unforgiving desert.


'Mad Max' is a film that is one of the most unique looking and visually pleasing films of its time. Released in 1979, it set up a lore for the rest of the 'Mad Max' trilogy gloriously. All of this done through the mind of George Miller, the acting of Mel Gibson and car chase scenes that are truly adrenaline pumping. The film's story and characters are a huge plus, as nothing like this film (quality-wise), as ever been achieved. The story is highly original and captivating and the characters, Max, Toecutter, Joeanne, etc, all have a tremendous role and presence throughout the entire film. This is aided greatly by the acting chops of Mel Gibson, who plays the family man, the officer and finally the vengeful executioner beautifully. Never off, Mel Gibson is the heart of this film and doesn't feel forced or out of place. George Miller's eye for style is not lost in any of this, as the characters are crafted beautifully and are entirely unique. The hero is the bad-ass draped in leather carrying a sawed of shotgun, the bad guys are motorcycle riding Legion of Doom impersonators, while Max's family is quite literally the embodiment of  "home" and "safe" to him. The action is outstanding throughout as are the vehicle chase scenes. The opening scene with the MFP chasing Nightrider and one of the closing chases between Max and Toecutter are phenomenal. These scenes make up the bulk of the film and are never boring. They keep you glued to the screen and the action is pulse pounding. Shout-out to the cinematographer and composer, David Eggby and Brian May. The sweeping shots of the Australian coast and grasslands are beautiful look at during chases and transitional scenes. While the music really did a great job of accenting everything going on at a given time.
'Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior' is awesome! Paired with a viewing of the first film, you get everything in an action-filled thrill ride from start to finish. We know Max from the first film, and we get a synopsis to start, so there's not much introduction needed to the character. We're brought back to an even more ravaged Australia, where all laws a basically gone, and groups of people roam free doing whatever they please. The story is simple, save the town and the gas from the bad guys, but done in a way that makes you want to keep watching. The minimal dialogue is done quite well in this film, people only talk when they absolutely have to, letting the action spell out the story. Mel Gibson has really settled into the role of Max. In this film he does a great job of of being the silent man, who doesn't have the trust of everyone, but does the dirty work that no one else is doing. The style and look that George Miller brought to the first film is still here in full force. Dean Semler is at the helm for cinematography in this film and does an outstanding job. The widescreen, sweeping shots of the barren Australian deserts are awesome and  really adds to the immersion into this post-apocalyptic wasteland. Combine this with the music of Brian May again and we have yet anther fantastic looking and awesome sounding film. But let's not stop here, as the action in this film is ever better than in the first. We get the vehicle chases, but ramped up to extreme levels, especially the final chase scene between the town and the motorcycle gang. It runs over the final 20 minutes of the film and showcases to amount of creativity that went into making these types of chase scenes worth it throughout the first two films. Cars exploded, people were massacred and most of all, it looks phenomenal (there was even a twist at the end of it). I love the lore, character development, for Max, and the style and action that the second 'Mad Max' brings to the table. It's definitely worthy of being one of the best sequels of all time.
'Mad Max 3: Beyond the Thunderdome' is what I like to call "a tale of two halves," even though there's three distinct parts, the first two make of the majority of the film. We'll go into more detail in a moment, but the first half felt like the rest of the Mad Max series, whereas the second half traversed the fantasy world aspect more, think 'The Lost Boys.' Yet again, the action is this movie is fantastic, although now it's much more of the hand to hand combat variety. "The Thunderdome" itself is an awesome entity and the first part of the story revolving around it, leading to the eventual fight is awesome. When we finally get to the fight between Blaster and Max, it's one of the most inventive and unique fights of all time, and certainly for the time it was released, 1985. I love everything about the first half of the film, because it is Mad Max to the core. Awesome visuals, a cool story, great action. Once we get to the middle part, for a long portion of the film everything slows down.  We get the introduction of the desert dwellers, Max is forced to be a sort of father figure, which is a nice callback, but hardly who Max has been shown to be over the last film and a half. This middle portion feels so out of place, but it's hardly bad in the lightest, it just wasn't for this film. The final act comes full circle and we end with an epic chase scene, while not as good as the second film, shows that vehicle chases were still a top priority and it was done well. Mel Gibson continued to kill it as Max, while the introduction of Tina Turner and Auntie, Helen Buday as Savannah Nix really helped the character development in this film, and made the dialogue flow much better. The story overall was fine, as with the rest of the films, but it's the style, score, cinematography and action that will keep you into this film.


While I just touched on the bare bones of everything, the Mad Max Trilogy is a gritty look at a post apocalyptic, dystopian world, that has descended completely into madness. From the first film the the third, we watch as the Australian landscape go from luscious and green to a barren desert wasteland. We go from seeing people that are friendly and nice, to a world where everyone is crazed, out for themselves and completely devoid of morals. We even see this in our hero, or anti-hero if you will, Max. In the first film, he's a bright-eyed father, with a loving wife. By the end of the second film he is been hardened to the land. By the final film, he is cursed forever to live alone in the deserts of this barren world. The action, cinematography, score and overall lore created by this trilogy is amazing. With everything firing on all cylinders. The acting and character work, runs through Max. Who is played superbly throughout by Mel Gibson. All of the supporting roles by bad guy bikers and evil town leaders, really just there to further Max. I'm really into this series now and I look forward to what 'Mad Max: Fury Road' is going to add to this lore, because all I'm hearing, is that it's awesome.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Star Wars [The Original Trilogy Review]

Since I'm basically done with my spring semester of college now, I only have two classes tomorrow and one test on Thursday, I'll have more time to delve back into doing more reviews. Today, May 4th, fell at good time because I'd been thinking about doing another trilogy review. Since I had watched the entire series earlier in the year and only touched on the prequels, now is probably the best time. I was a wee little tyke in the 1990s, but I can still vividly remember watching 'A New Hope' at my Aunt's house when I was really young, maybe 6-7, and being enthralled. I had a three VHS set of the trilogy in this golden Darth Vader helmet box that I would watch all the time as well. Let's be honest, who else didn't pretend that they can use The Force to move objects for funzies? The Original Star Wars Trilogy, 'A New Hope,' 'The Empire Strikes Back' and 'Return of the Jedi' are some of the best sci-fi films of all times, but not only that, but one of the best trilogies ever produced.


'Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope' takes place 19 years after 'Episode III' and follows the story of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) as the biggest part of the civil war that is happening in the galaxy is about to take place. The Rebel Alliance, led by Princess Leia, who has stolen the plans for Galactic Empire's Death Star. The Empire is led by the evil lord Darth Vader (James Earl Jones), and captures Princess Leia. Leia hides the plans inside of an R2-D2 unit (Kenny Baker), who along side a C-3PO unit (Anthony Daniels) escape to Tatooine. The two droids are found by Jawa traders and are eventually bought by Owen Lars, uncle of Luke Skywalker. One night, Luke accidentally finds Leia's message to Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) that was stored into the R2 unit. After tracking down and enlisting Obi-Wan, they hire Han Solo, and his first mate Wookie, Chewbacca (Peter Mayew), to smuggle them to Alderaan. They get there only to find out that the Death Star has destroyed the entire planet. They get captured themselves by the Death Star and begin the mission to escape, rescue Princess Leia and find a way to destroy the Death Star for good.

'Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back' takes place three years after the destruction of the Death Star in 'Episode IV.' The Rebel Alliance has been forced from Yavin IV by The Empire. Princess Leia leads a group that includes Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, to the ice planet Hoth, to a new base. Luke goes out in search of a possible meteor impact, which turns out to be a droid Vader  was tracking him with, and gets attacked by a Wampa. Han eventually goes out to find him after he doesn't return. In the sheer cold, Luke sees the spirit of Obi-Wan who instructs him to go to the Dagobah system and find Jedi Master Yoda. After a massive battle with Imperial AT-ATs, Han and Leia flee, from the mercenary Boba Fett (Jermey Bulloch) and hide in an asteroid field, while Luke heads towards the Dagobah system and crash lands in a swamp on Dagobah, where he meets Yoda (Frank Oz). Luke begins to undergo Jedi training and sees a vision of Leia and Han in pain and leaves, against Yoda's wishes, to save them. Leia and Han head to Cloud City to meet up with Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) who betrays them and hands them over to Boba Fett and Vader. Fett will take Han to Jabba the Hutt where he'll get a big bounty, an agreement Lando doesn't agree with. He also doesn't agree with luring Luke in so he can be captured. Han is then encased in Carbonite. While all this is going on Luke arrives at Cloud City, leading to the first face to face meeting and lightsaber duel, between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.

'Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi' takes place one year after the events of 'Episode IV' and follows the story of our three heroes, Luke Skywaker, Princess Leia and Han Solo once again. Luke and Leia have devised a plan to save Han from Jabba the Hutt. Luke, Leia, Calrissian, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO, are in on the plan. Leia, disgusted as a bounty hunter, takes Chewbacca as her prisoner to infiltrate, with Calrissian disguised as a guard. They both get captured, but not until after Leia frees Han. When Luke arrives he is also found out and is forced to fight the Rancor and survives. Jabba sentences Luke and Han to death by way of the Sarlacc. Not going without a fight, Luke and Han begin to fight their way out. In the chaos, Boba Fett is knocked down into the pit, Jabba is strangled to death by Leia, and Luke destroys Jabba's ship as they all escape. Meanwhile, The Alliance has learned that The Empire is constructing another, even bigger, Death Star. Darth Vader is still being instructed by Emperor Palpatine (Ian Mcdiarmid). The plan to destroy the new Death Star consists of two parts. Leia and Han lead a team that will take down the shield generators for the Death Star, these are located on the forest moon Endor. Luke takes Vader's bait and infiltrates the Death Star and confronts him face to face, perhaps for the final time, as one of the biggest battles to save the universe is about to ensue. 


I really do love each one of these films and each one has a distinct style behind them. I could talk about the lightsaber duels and score in each film, and I will, but these films are much more than awesome fights, using the force and awesome music. 'Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope' for me is the weakest of the trilogy, but that by no means makes it a "bad film" in the slightest (I still give it a 9/10). Mark Hamill and Harrsion Ford are on point from the start and bring a great presnese, even in the early going of this series. Mark Hamill plays the young Skywalker expertly, as he's still in awe of everything happening around him, yet has the air of being capable of handling things. Harrison Ford, on the other hand, as Han Solo is the spark plug of the film. He brings a huge amount of presence to the film. Not only that his comedic and action timing is stupendous, you're drawn to every scene he appears in. Carrie Fisher (Leia) is, for a bit of the film a follower, but starts to come into her own by the time the end credits roll. The story and universe are highly original and it's a pleasure to learn all the ins and out of the Star Wars universe. The two factions, The Rebel Alliance and The Galactic Empire, are awesome opposing forces that are more than just feuding groups and have their own thoughts, ways and customs for everything. Being led by arguably one of the greatest villains ever in Darth Vader, makes both sides extremely entertaining to watch over the course of a film. The lightsaber usage in this film is light, but introduces it well. The space battles are where the meat of the action is and the final push in the trenches of the Death Star is iconic. The score, by John Williams, is also iconic and you know all know at least one Star Wars song if you were to hear it. Everything about this film sets up everything in the following two films in such a perfect way, not to mention, everything holds up really well.
The second film of the original trilogy, 'Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back' is probably the best of the three when it comes to character development and overall storytelling. The action is bigger when it happens, the AT-AT battle to start and the Luke vs Vader lightsaber duel to close is awesome. But everything in between feels more like we're really learning about everyone (and the Universe itself), and the is where Carrie Fisher as Leia really comes into her own as well and Mark Hamill as Luke. Harrison Ford as Han really doesn't change much as he's still the snarky, funny, wildcard with charisma out of the butt. Leia, while still thrust into the action, is shown as the diplomatic force that she is, as she's really shown to be a Princess more than a fighter. Luke on the other hand is brought to a whole 'nother level. From the moment the best character -- writing-wise -- Yoda, is introduced, Luke becomes a better person and character. Yoda is a fun but honest teacher and brings the inner Skywalker that Luke would need going forward. Darth Vader is also still written well and somehow becomes even more awesomely evil and builds upon the great villainous lore he was created upon. The lightsaber scenes in this film are awesome as we get to see Luke honing his skills with Yoda in the swamp and the epic first face to face confrontation between Luke and Vader in the Cloud City. The music, again by Williams, is iconic and perfectly accents a quieter or action filled scene. While the first film is more well rounded with character introduction and action, I feel that more story and learning about the characters and this universe really sets up the fantastic finale greatly.
The final film of the original trilogy of Star Wars, 'The Return of the Jedi,' is (film-wise) a perfect blend of the first two films. Full of character development, great action and one of the best endings to a trilogy you can ever expect. Something I haven't touched on yet is the CGI for these films. This is very early in the use of everything CGI, but Star Wars does a good job of not over doing it. While it sometimes looked off, there wasn't an over abundance of it, and when used it was good. The story ends awesomely with almost everything wrapped up nicely, but that doesn't keep it from being an overall great film. The rescue mission, the invasion of Endor to stop the shield generators and the infiltration and destruction of the new Death Star were awesome story lines. The acting was as good as ever in this film and all three leads, and Darth Vader, had really settled into their rols at this point. Carrie Fisher as Leia was strong, yet level headed. Mark Hamill as Luke was smarter and well rounded and possessed the qualities needed to lead (and be a Jedi). Harrison Ford still plays Han Solo perfectly and is probably, alongside Chewie, the most entertaining people in the film. All while Darth Vader has the evil layers (built upon him throughout the entire series) stripped off as he fights off the corruption of Emperor Palpatine. The fight scenes were awesome, especially The Rancor, the Ewok scenes were fun and the final lightsaber duel between Luke and Vader/Palpatine was just plain awesome. Score, John Williams, nailed it, again. I just loved everything they did with 'Return of the Jedi' and it's probably my favorite film of the original trilogy. The character, acting writing, action and lore are as good, if not better. The amount of detail put into not only this, but each of the films really is an outstanding feat.


The Star Wars Original Trilogy is one that if you get into it, is one that you're going to continue coming back to for your whole life. I was a kid at my aunt's house and now almost 20 years later, I'm still watching and enjoying the hell out of the universe that's been created. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Darth Vader have all been pop culture staples for as long as I've been alive, and with all the new Star Wars films coming out in the future (later this year we get 'Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens') the trend isn't likely to just fade away. Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrsion Ford were awesome and I love seeing them pop up in other films, purely cause I get to see them on my screen again. The lore and story these first films told, stand tall and will lead into this modern age of Star Wars films. I really do hope that they do these films justice, because as a kid I'd be pretty sad if the Star Wars films that I first watched, weren't as good as Episodes IV-VI. These films, while not the best at times, do what a lot of films fail to do be creative, have fun and immerse the viewer into an awesome world.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

Superhero films seemingly come out every month, but over the past seven years none have built an empire as big as that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' is now the eleventh film in this series. It's starting to seem like with age, the films get better, or, at the very least, keep the same level of quality that Marvel has enjoyed over this ride. Even the weaker films in the series, such as 'Iron Man 2' and 'Thor: The Dark World' are well worth at least one go around. Then you have films like 'Iron Man' and 'Captain America: The Winter Solider' which are a under shadowed because they'll be compared to the two Avengers films we now have. Finally, we get to those Avengers films I just mentioned. 'The Avengers' was a blast and I saw it a few times in theaters opening weekend in 2012. With the universe expanding ever since, 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' was looking to be another capable sequel. It's a good follow-up to last years Captain America sequel and the smash hit that 'Guardians of the Galaxy' turned into. It's also a good way to (basically) close out Phase Two of Marvel's superhero film plan. 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' isn't going to be received as well as the first film, but it does show that Marvel is starting to at least get a little more serious with it's films, and that's a good thing. 

'Avengers: Age of Ultron' takes place after the events of 'The Avengers,' 'Iron Man 3,' 'Thor: The Dark World' and 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier.' The Avengers -- Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Bruce Banner, Natasha Romanoff, and Clint Barton (Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Rinner) -- raid a Hydra outpost under the control of Wolfgang von Strucker, where they have Loki's scepter and also twins, Pierto and Wanda Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) aka Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch. Pierto has superhuman speed, while Wanda can manipulate minds and control energy blasts. The team captures Strucker, while Stark gets the scepter. Stark and Banner discover that the stone in Loki's scepter has artificial intelligence and the two use it to make Stark's "Ultron" defense program. Out of nowhere, Ultron (James Spader) becomes sentient, believes it must destroy the world, to cleanse it, and kills J.A.R.V.I.S. Ultron proceeds to attack The Avengers during a party at Avengers Tower, while they celebrating the successful mission. The team begins to then search for Ultron, while Ultron is building an army of robot drones. This leads to one of many confrontations between The Avengers and earth's latest threat, Ultron. The group must band together, despite the hopeless looking scenario and personal inner turmoil, in order to save earth from destruction once again.

This film was two hours and twenty minutes and to me, it flew by. Nonetheless, this is a daunting film for those not "into" the superhero genre or question the quality of the films being put out as of late. I really did enjoy the film and want to give it another watch, because I know I probably missed things. I'm going to try to avoid comparing it to the first film as much as possible, because it really is quite a different feel to it after all the events of Phase Two that have happened. I liked the story overall and it really felt more real, though in the same vein as all of Marvel's previous films. The structure is largely the same, but the content is vastly improving. The humor is there, bur a lot more limited and when used works well. The emotion, especially a few moments during the final act, are unexpected and done well too. Ultron felt like a much bigger threat than the Mandrin, the Winter Soldier or Malekith and that adds a lot to the film. While a lot of the time it seems like Ultron is figuring the whole "villain" thing out, there's no doubt his powers are formidable and his overall plan is maniacal. We also have the first bit of adversity that The Avengers, as a whole, experience. Getting to see them work though some adversity, in what would otherwise be a "normal day going to fight Ultron," is another reason why the overall story and writing has improved. 

We get more good performances out of the main cast. Spader was tremendous as the voice of Ultron and it really lent to the overall feel that he was a legitimate bad guy. I liked Hemsworth's Thor in a film like this, because a feature film of Thor is hard to pull off without the aid of Hiddleston as Loki. In The Avengers, Thor doesn't have to have the burden of being the main guy and can become better suited for his "time to shine" moments. Renner as Hawkeye was another good role to me. He was really a sixth man to the team in the first film, whereas now he's an unsung hero, with a frankly, surprising element to his life that added depth to his one-note character. Evans is fitting into his role as Captain America better and better each film, Johansson as Black Widow is still pretty good, Ruffalo's Hulk film (he'd better get one) can't come fast enough and Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is still a blast. The two newcomers, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen as the Maximoff Twins are really good as well. Johnson, while not having the eye-popping Quicksliver scene Evan Peters had in 'X-Men: Days of Future Past,' had a much better role in the film as a whole. On the flip side, Olsen as Scarlet Witch was awesome and I really loved the way they took her powers and translated them to the screen. The Vision is also introduced, I liked him, but I don't want to talk much about him, cause I went in not even knowing he was going to be in the film. Cameos of Don Cheadle as War Machine, Anthony Mackie as Falcon, Cobie Smudlers as Maria Hill and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury were awesome and they all even had major moments in the film. There's a litany of other cameos, characters and references to previous films, but I really don't want to spoil all the surprises in this.

The action is a huge part of any superhero film and 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' has some of the best bits of it to date. Now don't get me wrong, the hand to hand combat of the 'Captain America' films and the technology wars in the 'Iron Man' films are awesome, but The Avengers films always take it all to the next level. This is because in battles we get to see The Avengers combining their powers in unique ways to tear through the hordes of bad guys and robots..or each other. Whether it's Thor smashing his hammer against Captain America's shield or the wicked awesome fight between Stark's "Hulkbuster" suit and a rampaging Hulk, the fights just seem bigger. The CGI to go along with the majority of these fights is spot on. If there's green-screen being used, and let's be honest, there is, at this point I'm barely noticing it. Iron Man flies effortlessly across the screen, Hulk's skin looks about as rough as the side of a mountain and Scarlet Witch's energy blasts are amazing. I also like the fact that the fights in cities mean something, it's not just the destruction of a city, a bunch of people's deaths are implied and we move on. Iron Man and Hulk's fight levels part of a city and we're shown hurt people and people effected by what was going on. In the final act, the team needs to evacuate a whole city, in the process we are shown people in fear, escaping and genuinely concerned for their well being. I like that everyone is affected by what's happening, not just the people fighting to stop more bad from happening. (Looking at you 'Man of Steel.') 

'Avengers: Age of Ultron' is the "start" of the summer film season and once again Marvel has put out a really good and fun film. While it might not have all the charm and impact 'The Avengers' had, 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' improves in a quite a few ways. The characters have grown, the action is bigger, the story is nice, the villain is good and like all Marvel films, it keeps setting up for more action down the line. We even get our annual Stan Lee cameo. We he ever have a bad Marvel cameo? If you're a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you're gonna go see this film. If you're new to the genre, I'd suggest seeing at least 'The Avengers,' 'Iron Man 3' and 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' before this one. Because at this point, with the MCU, you'll need to start seeing most of whole picture, not just bits and pieces of it. Nevertheless, 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' is quite worth the watch and is probably the best big budget film of the year so far.