Archive for May, 2012

The Skin I Live In

Posted in Drama, Thriller with tags on May 30, 2012 by Mark Hobin

Repulsive portrait of a doctor that is, to put it mildly, without a moral compass. Dr. Robert Ledgard is a renowned plastic surgeon that has just developed a new more durable synthetic skin. He’s testing this breakthrough on an attractive young woman named Vera in his vast mansion.

The movie is puzzling from a dramatic standpoint. Just who exactly is this woman that the doctor keeps locked up in a room? Additionally we’re introduced to a criminal in a tiger suit, a housekeeper who also happens to be Robert’s mother, his daughter Norma and a man who works in a dress shop. Director Pedro Almodóvar reveals things slowly. This admittedly helps keep interest in the story.  As information is uncovered however, the plot becomes increasingly irrational. Once you realize who this mystery woman is and her back-story, it makes the doctor’s obsession with her difficult to fully comprehend. He commits acts that are maliciously evil in nature then shows signs of desire and adoration. He is most assuredly insane, yes, but the narrative doesn’t try to reconcile his maniacal behavior. It only presents his conduct and it’s simply too much of a stretch to accept.

Almodóvar’s fixation on human flesh unsettles and is unsettling. If one asserts that Brian De Palma referenced the sexual ideas in Hitchcock’s Psycho when he made Dressed to Kill, then Almodóvar completely perverts De Palma’s obsessions past the breaking point. Almodóvar has always been concerned with identity, sexuality and gender. But here he has abused his preoccupations into horror. I’ll admit that Almodóvar’s storytelling talents are never in doubt. The film has a gorgeous facade. The set design,  cinematography and music, promote a lush setting that belies something much more sinister. It’s a stylish mix to be sure.  The tale grabs your attention, but then so does a ghastly accident.  Peel back the artistic flourishes and we’re left with a sophisticated version of The Human Centipede with art house pretensions.

Dramatically The Skin I Live In fails to answer key questions. It remains at heart a superficial trip within the mind of a sicko. Given that premise, the motivations and the reactions of the characters should make sense. This isn’t the case. Robert’s desires are hard to believe.  His lack of scruples are further disquieting. How did he develop this personality? There’s precious little insight into his abhorrent behavior. The script really doesn’t have anything to truly explain about this psychopath, other than to offer there are some really messed up people in the world.

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Gone with the Wind

Posted in Drama, History, Romance with tags on May 28, 2012 by Mark Hobin

It’s probably been two decades since I’ve watched Gone with the Wind. Not because I don’t think it’s a wonderful movie, because I do. It’s just that it’s such a time commitment. Its extreme length is a barrier to wanting to re-watch it again. So when Warner Bros. sent me a complementary copy of this historical saga – on Blu-ray no less – I knew the divine movie gods were calling on me to re-visit this tale set during the American Civil War. It also gave me the opportunity to share the experience with some friends who had never seen the film.

I enjoy pointing out that when adjusting for box office inflation, Gone with the Wind is the highest grossing film of all time, even to this day. Nothing comes close. 1977’s Star Wars is the nearest challenger.  It’s a record that will probably never change. So much time has passed since it was released, I think people now assume its success was a foregone conclusion at the time. But Gone with the Wind is rather unconventional. It’s almost 4 hours long, asks us to embrace a female protagonist that behaves in a totally selfish manner and it dares to tell a story of the American Civil War from a white Southern point of view. What surprises is regardless of these questionable distinctions, the drama is a triumph. An engrossing melodramatic romance that manages to entertain on a level in a way few ever even attempt, let alone accomplish. It broke all the rules and still exists as one of the cinema’s most beloved works.

Gone with the Wind is an absolute landmark in filmmaking. Despite its grandiosity, it remains at heart the tale of a man and woman. Scarlett O’Hara is not a typical protagonist. She is selfish, spoiled and insensitive. I dare say she’s a character you’d hate in the hands of a lesser actress. But she’s resourceful and driven as well so we don’t dislike her, not entirely anyway. She‘s too determined and spirited. She’s a bit pathetic too. Her love for her  sister-in-law’s husband, Ashley Wilkes, is both inappropriate and tragic at the same time. Vivien Leigh’s work as Scarlet would not be so engaging if she hadn’t been matched every step of the way by Clark Gable as Rhett Butler. An infamous blockade runner for the Confederacy, his reputation is less than honorable. Intelligent and confident, but also morally questionable.  He is a complicated fellow. Throughout the drama, he is fascinated by Scarlett and her scrappy ways, but he’s frustrated by her ongoing obsession with Ashley Wilkes. His feelings for Scarlet are perfectly believable, in the face of her fickle behavior. Nothing against Robert Donat’s solid work in Goodbye, Mr. Chips, but the fact that Clark Gable did not win for his performance, is one of the great injustices of the Academy Awards. The fact that the movie received ten Oscars is a consolation of sorts, I suppose.

The magnificence of Gone with the Wind goes far beyond our two principals. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh could have rendered the rest of the cast as unimportant. However, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, Hattie McDaniel, Thomas Mitchell and Butterfly McQueen contribute significantly in key roles throughout the plot. Every one of them giving an iconic performance that keeps the narrative engrossing. Adapting Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer-winning 1936 novel into a gripping and coherent film was not an easy task. Costumes, music, set design, screenplay and cinematography – everything is first rate and presented in a scope never seen before or since. The undertaking was so massive that in many cases, multiple people worked on these elements that weren’t even credited. Orchestrating all of these diverse talents and egos into the cohesive machine that produced this work of art was producer David O. Selznick. It was a colossal production. Given the stakes involved, this could have easily been an expensive disaster. His importance to the success of the picture cannot be overstated. Selznick would produce many classics during his tenure in Hollywood (Rebecca, Spellbound, Duel in the Sun, The Third Man). However Gone with the Wind would endure as his most notable accomplishment.

What else can I offer that hasn’t been already said a million times before? Any film that can run 3 hours and 42 minutes without ever failing to hold the viewer’s interest, is an achievement in itself. Then there’s the cast, everyone deserving of an Academy Award for their emotionally involving work. Add to that the costumes, music, set design that make up the grand historical sweep and you‘ve got a story that astonishes.  To watch this spectacle is to witness the textbook case of how to render an epic. It dazzles in its breadth, and yet at its core, it remains the simple tale of a woman resolved not to lose her Tara, the cotton plantation she calls home. Enter the charming rogue, Rhett, she beguiles and is beguiled by. Watching these two, it’s impossible not to get caught up in their situation. Yes Gone with the Wind is an account on the grandest scale imaginable, but it’s also a story about compelling people. At heart, that is what truly engages in a film that became a cultural phenomenon. It’s the kind of artistic display that makes you truly “give a damn.”

Men in Black 3

Posted in Action, Comedy, Science Fiction with tags on May 25, 2012 by Mark Hobin

When we last visited Agents K and J the year was 2002 and Men in Black II had just laid a rotten egg. Despite its decent monetary success, it was little more than a tired recycled version of the original. Public opinion still generally views that bloated sequel with disdain. Men in Black 3 shouldn’t even exist. There are far more awful threequels than great ones. But flash forward a decade later to this surprisingly enchanting flick filled with humor and ingenious effects. It delights with all the gee-whiz-bang appeal that our modern age affords.

Our sci-fi comedy begins when a vicious alien criminal, Boris The Animal, escapes from the Lunar Max prison facility on the Moon and arrives on the planet Earth. He was originally imprisoned there by Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) in 1969. Boris intends to zip back to that year using a special device and kill Agent K before his own arrest had ever occurred. Agent J (Will Smith) must time travel in order to save his friend. The fate of the world actually depends on it.

Make-up effects legend Rick Baker has returned and he’s really outdone himself. The astounding assembly of creatures give the proceedings a much needed buoyancy.  I read somewhere that he produced 127 different entities for this. It shows. Observe the early scene in a Chinese restaurant where a variety of fish-like critters make an appearance. The assortment in this one setting has the wow factor of the creature cantina in Star Wars. There’s always been a joy of discovery when a character that appears human, reveals himself to be an alien in this series. Meet the cook with an apron that hides appendages that are less than human. The movie continues to wisely exploit these opportunities when they go back in time. The creatures are imaginative as well as humorous and intricately designed. There’s a palpable sense of wonder in the ideas.

The cast is uniformly excellent with a notable standout. The time traveling story allows for one of the best things about Men in Black 3 – Josh Brolin as the younger version of Tommy Lee Jones. What Brolin accomplishes is much more than a mere impersonation. He embodies Jones’ mannerisms, vocal inflections, his complete aura in such a way, I never questioned Brolin as the younger version of Agent K.  Apparently Will Smith’s game has been raised through his interaction with Brolin. Will Smith, who seemingly hasn’t aged a day, seems reborn. His confidence and slick personality renewed. Tommy Lee Jones, in a greatly reduced role, is as crusty as ever. Jemaine Clement chews the scenery as bombastic villain Boris. He’s a pretty disgusting creature with a palm that contains a hideous arachnid that fires deadly harpoons. It reminded me of the “Screaming Hand” logo for Santa Cruz Skateboards, but I digress. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the major assist they receive from an innocent alien named Griffin. His psychic abilities to see all futures unfolding at once is displayed with a gentle sweetness by actor Michael Stuhlbarg.

Men in Black 3 is better than it has any right to be. There is no sequel fatigue that usually mars third installments of these franchises (Superman III, Batman Forever, The Matrix: Revolutions). The time traveling plot is a clever conceit. Journeying back to the summer of 1969 grants the narrative to reference when the Mets were destined to win the World Series and the lunar rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. These events provide a historical context that gives the adventure sophistication. It also justifies Josh Brolin’s appearance. He’s perfection as Agent K‘s younger self. The rest of the actors seem to be working at full capacity as well. They produce laughs and tears in a saga that can be funny and unexpectedly touching by the end. Men in Black 3 entertains with the inventiveness of the original movie.

Bernie

Posted in Comedy, Crime, Drama with tags on May 22, 2012 by Mark Hobin

A mortician – excuse me, funeral director – strikes up an unusual friendship with a rich widow in a tiny rural town. Bernie Tiede is an upstanding member of the community, well liked by all. Marjorie Nugent, on the other hand is a mean, spiteful old woman. After her husband dies, she takes over her husband’s business with stern control. She’s the kind of woman that turns down loan applications at the bank simply because she enjoys telling people NO. Bernie makes several attempts to befriend Marjorie. She eventually relents. They become close – attending church services, having lunch together and taking little road trips. Pretty soon, they’re traveling to Broadway shows, embarking on cruises and flying to far off places like Egypt and Russia, always in first class of course. The townspeople begin to talk.

Bernie is an odd picture. This marks the second time that director Richard Linklater and Jack Black have worked together. 2003’s The School of Rock was a highly successful collaboration that remains Linklater’s biggest hit. Bernie is based on a 1998 Texas Monthly magazine article by journalist Skip Hollandsworth who also co-wrote the screenplay. In that publication, he chronicled the real relationship between Bernie Tiede and Marjorie Nugent in Carthage, Texas. While the rhythms of Bernie are a bit quirky for mainstream tastes, it’s still a rewarding experience.

Bernie’s motives remain refreshingly ambiguous. Whether he befriends this unlikable but wealthy woman out of the goodness of his heart or if he’s more of an opportunist with monetary objectives, it’s not quite clear. The community clearly loves Bernie and hates Marjorie. They defend his reputation to the utmost degree. At times Linklater features the actual townspeople talking directly to the camera regarding the principal couple. It’s during these perfectly blended segments that the proceedings feel like a documentary. The authentic recollections of the residents of Carthage are some of the most memorable moments in the entire production. The colorful array of the people involved, invokes a comedic element. Yet the tone is never mocking.

The account is an equal mix of dark comedy and serious drama. On the surface, the script is somewhat uneventful, but taken as a whole it’s rather engaging. Having few lines, Shirley MacLaine must rely mostly on facial expressions and body language to portray Marjorie Nugent. This is Bernie’s movie, told from his perspective. Jack Black plays the title character with an effeminately sunny disposition. At first it’s a little one-note, but look deeper and you’ll find what he does here is brilliantly subtle. He makes the townsfolk’s reactions to what ultimately happens, easier to comprehend. The aftermath is rendered darkly humorous. The plot takes an admittedly grave turn, but the script remains  indifferent. Linklater doesn’t persuade, only presents. As a result the narrative is lacking in a purposeful point of view, but that’s its allure. Indeed it’s difficult to tell just how the filmmaker regards his subjects. It’s a tribute to his direction that the mood is decidedly more “I’d like to introduce you to these people that really exist” instead of “look at how ridiculous these people are.” It’s up to the viewer to make a judgment. That’s where this modest little film succeeds.

The Matrix

Posted in Action, Adventure, Science Fiction with tags on May 21, 2012 by Mark Hobin

Recently, Warner Bros. Entertainment invited me to take part in an online community of movie lovers called Blu-ray Elite. They’ve offered to send me a collection of new release and classic Blu-ray movie titles to keep. That’s right, as in FREE! In return, I’ll be writing about my thoughts about the Blu-ray movies they send. Pretty much what I do anyway. Here is the 1st in a series of titles to come.

Thomas Anderson is a computer programmer, who moonlights as a hacker named Neo. One day he’s visited by a mysterious woman who introduces herself as Trinity. She reveals to Neo that a man called Morpheus would like to enlist his services in his “fight against the machines.” What that entails is something best left to be discovered, but rest assured, all will be explained in detail. Neo’s journey of self discovery is a visually astonishing takeoff of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The literary reference is actually uttered by Morpheus himself while developing his new pupil, who must swallow a red pill before proceeding. The first half of this influential science fiction is heavy with dialogue of a didactic nature. Indeed The Matrix has enough philosophical thought and religious implications for 10 pictures. Much of this is espoused in the teaching segments as Morpheus explains to Neo what the Matrix is all about. It is during these scenes we learn just what is at stake. This training process wisely builds anticipation for what is to come and sets the stage for the ultimate showdown in the second portion.

The script appropriates a dizzying array of influences from various sources to assemble a wholly frightening view of the future. There’s an incredible amount of special effects in this film. Honestly, on occasion, the narrative can feel a bit cluttered. “Now take a look at THIS expensive spectacle!” the Wachowski brothers seem to be saying at times. Yet it cannot be overstated that The Matrix is one of the most stylish science fiction movies ever created. The iconic approximation of cameras orbited around bullets being fired in slow-motion is now legendary among combat displays. Even the costume design is a memorable portrayal of cyberpunk fashion. Sunglasses and shiny black leather merge with the soundtrack’s frequent use of techno to form a singular apocalyptic spectacle.

The Matrix didn’t invent a new vocabulary. Hong Kong action cinema is clearly the inspiration for the martial arts fighting for example. There’s allusions to comic books and Japanese animation as well. That’s not its legacy. The point is that The Matrix so perfectly adapted many divergent notions into an exhilarating unified science fiction and then brought these ideas to the masses. By and large, this is a dazzling work. Now and then the human destiny presented here can be pretty icky. There are visions of human life in which biology and technology intermingle in a way so unsettling it would give David Cronenberg pause. And Keanu Reeves surfer dude accent can be unintentionally funny. But I suppose that’s part of the film’s charm. One thrilling set piece after another impresses with such artistic zeal and excitement, it more than makes up for the narrative’s occasional lapses in clarity. The Matrix is the inspiring realization of the Wachowski brothers’ imagination made real – their self acknowledged understanding of a live action anime fulfilled.

The Dictator

Posted in Comedy with tags on May 18, 2012 by Mark Hobin

A North African dictator travels to the U.S. to ensure that democracy will never come to the Republic of Wadiya, his home country. Admiral General Aladeen is a character that promises something along the lines of Borat or Bruno. What made those films so effective was the subversiveness of it all. They were offensive to be sure, but they also had an intellectual point amongst the outrageousness. The Dictator is a departure. Gone are the real life “Candid Camera” style hijinks mixed throughout the scripted moments. This is a fully rehearsed comedy and a rather toothless one at that. Make no mistake, there are some hilarious bits. Aladeen creating an alias by looking at whatever signs happen to be around him is an amusing joke. But oddly none of the best humor has anything to do with the politics of a dictatorship. Sacha Baron Cohen’s pointed social commentary is largely missing. The script could have easily been re-written where he’s the CEO a large corporation and still kept the funniest gags intact. Making him a dictator feels arbitrary.

The Dictator is a strictly hit and miss affair. There’s nothing wrong with simply being a broad comedy. Mel Brooks made many that are considered classics today. It’s just that so many of the jokes just aren’t funny. John C. Reilly appears as a security guard for example in a thankless role that is utterly devoid of laughs. Also not helping matters is the fact that nobody behaves in a rational manner. The nuclear expert that Aladeen has ordered to be executed, happily agrees to be his political ally.  A new age hippie feminist is inexplicably driven to help a man that openly mocks her. Dictator Aladeen’s halfhearted desire to stop democracy in his own country fluctuates back and forth on apparent whims. For the first time, Sacha Baron Cohen’s script feels pointless, even relying on bodily functions for humor.  It’s not an Adam Sandler movie, but it’s pretty darn close.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Posted in Comedy, Drama with tags on May 15, 2012 by Mark Hobin

“Everything will be alright in the end. So if it’s not alright, it is not yet the end.” -Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel)

A group of Brits are persuaded to travel to more affordable India and retire in a hotel that turns out to be far less luxurious than they had imagined. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is an undeniably pleasant affair. Sunny optimism aside, this inspirational slice-of-life is pabulum for the septuagenarian set. It panders to the most common desires of its target demographic without shame. If teen boys are the audience for the Transformers movies, then this is manna from heaven for the over-50 crowd.

Critiquing this tale is like finding fault in a clown‘s circus act. It means well. It only seeks to inspire warm fuzzies and to an extent, it succeeds. The cast is uniformly excellent. I freely admit I love seeing Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, and Tom Wilkinson in anything. They are masters of their craft and can take even the most simplistic material and make it seem like Shakespeare. Their acting abilities certainly aren’t tested here. Lesser known, but equally talented Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, and Penelope Wilton also contribute significantly to the proceedings. It is because of these 7 that this almost, ALMOST, won me over. There is a scene early on where the 7 of them are sitting at an airport about to embark on what promises to be a major journey to India. It was at that moment I thought, “Oh this is going to be fun.”

Unfortunately the promise of their unique journeys of self discovery never met my expectations. The script simply isn’t as good as the cast. Each time some minor conflict arises and we’re given actual drama, the conflict is oversimplified and quickly resolved. I wont spoil the details of the trajectories of the various characters. But have no fear! All potential conflicts are consistently addressed one after the other in routine fashion sometimes within the very same scene. The plot predictably limps along to an insipid conclusion. Then there’s the hotel owner. Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame portrays the hotel’s amiable young host, whose primary goal is to provide a gracious retirement community for our group in India. Patel brings a substantial enthusiasm to a role with dialogue that has all the depth of a fortune cookie. His thick accent is so exaggerated, he’s practically a cartoon. It borders on offensive. As the story progressed, he grew so incredibly cloying, I dreaded his every appearance. Apu from the Simpsons is a comparatively nuanced character and I say that without humorous  intent.

If one is willing to put up with stereotypes and clichéd events, then there is some enjoyment to be had in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. That cast goes a long way in making this much better than it should have been. However if you demand a bit more from your comfort food entertainment, you just might find yourself struggling to stay awake.

Dark Shadows

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Horror with tags on May 11, 2012 by Mark Hobin

Let‘s be clear. I am a massive Tim Burton fan. I have enjoyed the auteur’s macabre imagination ever since his 1982 short Vincent. His sensibilities have always lent an enjoyable atmosphere to his quirky creations. Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands were delightful examples of where style met substance. There’s no doubt that Tim Burton has plenty of talent as he is one of my favorite directors. That’s what makes his latest picture such a major disappointment. Every single one of the filmmaker’s hallmarks are here: Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter? Check! Heavy makeup? Check! Bizarre fantasy world? Check! Dark Humor? Check! Everything in place would seem to guarantee a splendid night at the cinema. Yet this is one thoroughly tedious affair.  Dark Shadows is grossly lacking in coherent or, even more surprising, entertaining storytelling.

Tim Burton has been responsible for misfires before (Planet of the Apes), but at least they were still interesting on some creative level. For the first time he has directed a virtually unwatchable film. The expository intro unfolds like an entire TV season condensed into 15 minutes. In rapid fire succession we’re introduced to the Collins family, their colossal 200-room mansion called Collinswood and a headache inducing backstory that has more twists and turns than the subsequent movie that follows. Yes all this precedes the opening credits. Once the actual drama begins it grows tiresome. Oh there’s a few jokes – most of them having to do with an 18th century vampire who views the modern conveniences of the 1970s as satanic magic. That might have been amusing had we not already seen all of those bits in the trailer. What remains, is a lot of boring conversation serving what basically amounts to an unfunny SNL skit. There is no depth to these individuals, just hollow shells designed to recite campy dialogue and nothing more. By the time the climatic battle arrives as a stale rewrite of the fight scene from Death Becomes Her, I had already checked out.

Dark Shadows is a slapdash mess of unfocused incoherence. Any director that could mishandle a production with a cast that also includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller and Chloë Moretz, takes real expertise.  This actually marks Tim Burton’s eighth collaboration with Johnny Depp. The lazy work here is the product of artists who simply aren’t trying anymore. The drama is nonexistent, the characters uninvolving. They appear to be merely going through the motions. This isn’t a movie, it’s a flimsy sketch stretched out to unendurable length.  It’s pretty insulting. Given this rambling collage of a film, perhaps these two should part ways and start anew. I’ll admit the whole project has great set design and some lush and atmospheric music. Rick Heinrichs and Danny Elfman earn their salaries. But without fascinating people we care about, what’s the point? It’s an empty parade of fantastic costumes and retro hairstyles in search of a plot.

The Avengers

Posted in Action, Adventure, Science Fiction with tags on May 4, 2012 by Mark Hobin

You want jokes? We got jokes. When The Avengers was released throughout the rest of the world last week (April 25th-27th), I experienced what it must feel like to be benched on the sidelines during a championship game, while my team took part in the excitement. As the reviews started pouring in, the list of superlatives used to describe Marvel’s latest offering were no less than some of the most glowing reviews I’ve ever read in my life. Given the unrestrained gushing in the Twitterverse, the movie seemingly placed somewhere between Citizen Kane and The Godfather as the greatest movie ever made. It in fact currently outranks Citizen Kane on The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) in their subjective poll as voted by users. Now the U.S. can see what the rest of the world has been raving about.  While it doesn’t have the grand mythology of 1978’s Superman or aspire to the high art of 2008’s The Dark Knight, The Avengers is still a thoroughly entertaining affair.

The Avengers doesn’t really try to reach out to the uninitiated. It speaks to those already familiar with Iron Man, Captain America and Thor by way of the movies in which they starred. In a sense, if those were the appetizers, this is the main course. Thor’s evil brother Loki is planning to attack earth. He’s been given a scepter by a race of aliens called the Chitauri. He seeks to obtain the Tesseract, this blue cube of untold power, so the Chitauri can take over the universe and in return they will be an army for Loki against his takeover of planet Earth. For much of the picture, the story is set on a massive floating military base in the sky. It is here that Nick Fury, played by Samuel L Jackson, looking like an elder statesmen amongst this group, assembles his dream team of action heroes to neutralize the imminent threat that is Loki.  Although all of the superheroes have their moments, virtually all of the best moments belong to The Hulk.  Two sight gags with the Hulk, one involving Thor, the other Loki, got the biggest laughs at the showing I attended.

Credit Joss Whedon for the success of the narrative. In some parts of the world, The Avengers was retitled Avengers Assemble! to avoid confusion with the 1960s British TV show. While I personally associate The Avengers with the Marvel Comics property, this version has director and cowriter Joss Whedon’s stamp all over it. The quick witted pop culture genius known for TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, never passes on any opportunity to be funny.  Visual jokes and witty one liners abound. This cannot be minimized as there are some really funny gags.  For all intents and purposes, these bits work and enliven the standard action set pieces expected in these sorts of movies.  The writing is so sharp that it may not be surprising that the climatic battle in New York City, pales in comparison. It’s during the various overinflated CGI moments that the action feels like a Michael Bay film. I enjoyed the witty repartee amongst our Avengers jockeying for status so much more. Even the engaging dialogue of non-superheroes like Pepper Potts, Iron Man’s personal assistant, and starstruck agent Phil Coulson, is well written. What gives the story strength is the way in which these divergent characters are all unified into a coherent whole to form an articulate film. Whedon juggles a large cast and does an impressive job at giving decent attention to each character. The script is witty, fun and exceptionally humorous. And that’s more than what you’d expect out of a summer blockbuster. Be sure to stick around for the second post credits scene. True to the nature of the film, there’s one last joke and it’s like the sarcastic icing on an already lighthearted cake.