Archive | May, 2015

Avengers 2 is a Coney Island Hot Dog

31 May

We once knew a chap who equated movies with food. Why, he asked, did people denigrate Sylvester Stallone’s movies? After all, when dining out, one does not always want haute cuisine – sometimes a coney island hot dog hits the spot. Using the movies-as-food theory, a film like ‘Amadeus’ would likely be a rich dessert, while Kurosawa’s ‘The Seven Samurai’ would be a full course kaiseki Japanese meal.

Which brings us to ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ (we don’t get out much – we only got around to seeing it two days ago). This Marvel offering is, in our humble opinion, of the coney island variety, kind of sloppy, with extra chili, extra onions, and a couple of hot peppers thrown in for good measure.

The movie is probably as good as one can expect the sequel to the first Avengers film to be; after the first film, it was almost inevitable that the filmmakers would decide that the sequel had to top it. The plot of ‘Ultron’ is incoherent and it seems at times like it’s all too much.

coney island

This is not to say that there aren’t things to like about the current offering – we enjoyed the scene where Tony Stark summons a super-duper mechanical suit down from space to fight an out-of-control Hulk. At the same time, we kept thinking about the similarity between this scene and the excesses of the Michael Bay Transformer movies.

The film deals with some heady themes – the Avengers’ debate about what their role in the world should be mirrors the debate within the US about how the world’s one remaining superpower should wield that power. Writer/Director Joss Whedon also slips in some stuff about working as a team and doing things together that seemed a mite unsubtle to us. And dammit,  he brought back the airborne aircraft carrier thing from the first movie, an energy-guzzling dinosaur if there ever was one.

Our biggest pet peeve is with the Vision, the living cyborg entity familiar to readers of Marvel comics. (This next part is comics-geeky, don’t say we didn’t warn you) Asked what they’d choose if they could have a superhuman power, most people would probably say the ability to fly.  We think the flying thing is overrated – it wouldn’t be all that great in cold weather in rainstorms it’d be downright miserable. The Vision can fly by adjusting his body density, which also gives him the power to walk through walls.The latter seems really useful – when matter itself is no impediment, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities. But there are no really good scenes in the movie where we see the Vision utilize this ability (He reaches into the bodies of Ultron’s cyborg accomplices and messes ’em up, but there’s so much going on during the fight scenes, it’s easy to miss.) When you have a character that can walk through walls, by gum, he’d better walk through walls.

Now, that's more like it.

Now, that’s more like it.

The bottom line is that Avengers 2 is an OK superhero picture, but not an exceptional one. The picture is fun to look at but if it were it a coney dog, it wouldn’t give you heartburn – it wouldn’t make enough of an impact to do that. Not that this really matters though – Marvel Studios have already laughed all the way to the bank.

The Vaudeville Circuit in 18th Century Scotland

15 May

We hate to admit it, but we’ve become hooked on a show on the idiot box. The show is ‘Outlander’ on the Starz network, and it’s based on the work of the writer Diana Gabaldon.  We’ve not read her work, but the premise is that Claire, a woman from England circa World War II falls though a time warp near a Stonehenge-like rock formation and ends up in eighteenth century Scotland.  Now, you might think that Claire’s new space-time location is going to be pastoral and slow-moving, but it just ain’t so. After she arrives, stuff gets really complicated. She meets a sociopathic Redcoat who’s the ancestor of her 1940s husband. She meets a young Scot named Jamie that she ends up marrying (much to the disgust of Jamie’s sort-of girlfriend, but not to her 20th century husband, who conveniently has not been born yet.) The Scots don’t trust her ’cause she’s English. The English don’t trust her ’cause she’s in the company of Scots. She gets accused of being a witch! (One of the show’s exteriors is the same castle where scenes from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” were shot. We kept hoping that John Cleese would show up and proclaim, “She turned me into a newt!”, but no such luck.)

No such luck

No such luck

It’d take a long time to sum up everything that’s happened in the show, so we won’t try.  In fact, we’re only going to focus on something that occurred in the last episode, as the logic of the thing struck as as a bit odd. To set up the scene, Jamie’s been captured by the Redcoats (Jamie is always getting captured by the Redcoats.) Claire, is determined to find her man and free him (she’s kinda spunky that way).   She is in the company of Murtagh, an old family friend of Jamie’s clan. They learn that Jamie has escaped from the Redcoats (Jamie is always escaping from the Redcoats.)  They need to find Jamie, but how do they signal their location? They hit the vaudeville circuit!  Let’s put on a show!

Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney

Let’s put on a show!

Seriously. Murtagh performs a Scottish sword dance, but his act fails to pack ’em in.  They finally hit on having Claire dress as a man and sing a traditional bawdy song, but with a twist – it’s set to the music of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” They kill with the new act! They make the rounds. Jamie is sure to hear of their act! He does! He goes to find her and … gets captured by the Redcoats.

The episode has a cliff-hanger ending, as Claire shames a group of strapping men into joining her in storming the prison where her hubby is incarcerated.  We don’t know what’s going to happen next, but we suspect that the bawdy song thing won’t help much.