REVIEW: AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

CAST

Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes)
Chris Evans (The Losers)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy)
James Spader (Stargate)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes On A Plane)
Paul Bettany (Legion)
Don Cheadle (Traffic)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass)
Elizabeth Olsen (Silent House)
Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker)
Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter)
Idris Elba (acific Rim)
Linda Cardellini (Scooby-Doo)
Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Thomas Kretschmann (Dracula)
Andy Serkis (The Hobbit)
Julie Delpy (Before Sunset)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Josh Brolin (Jonah Hex)
Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk)
Henry Goodman (Yes, Prime Minister)
Claudia Kim (The Dark Tower)

MV5BMTk4MjI3NzY4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwODY4NjA3._V1_In the Eastern European country of Sokovia, the Avengers – Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Bruce Banner, Natasha Romanoff, and Clint Barton – raid a Hydra facility commanded by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, who has been experimenting on humans using the scepter previously wielded by Loki. They encounter two of Strucker’s experiments – twins Pietro, who has superhuman speed, and Wanda Maximoff, who can manipulate minds and project energy – and apprehend Strucker, while Stark retrieves Loki’s scepter.MV5BMTk4NTc1NTc0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDQ4NjA3._V1_Stark and Banner discover an artificial intelligence within the scepter’s gem, and secretly use it to complete Stark’s “Ultron” global defense program. The unexpectedly sentient Ultron, believing he must eradicate humanity to save Earth, eliminates Stark’s A.I. J.A.R.V.I.S. and attacks the Avengers at their headquarters. Escaping with the scepter, Ultron uses the resources in Strucker’s Sokovia base to upgrade his rudimentary body and build an army of robot drones. Having killed Strucker, he recruits the Maximoffs, who hold Stark responsible for their parents’ deaths by his weapons, and go to the base of arms dealer Ulysses Klaue to obtain Wakandan vibranium. The Avengers attack Ultron and the Maximoffs, but Wanda subdues them with haunting visions, causing the Hulk (Banner) to rampage until Stark stops him with his anti-Hulk armor.1
MV5BMTU1NzA3OTI1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMjg4NjA3._V1_A worldwide backlash over the resulting destruction, and the fears Wanda’s hallucinations incited, send the team into hiding at a safehouse. Thor departs to consult with Dr. Erik Selvig on the meaning of the apocalyptic future he saw in his hallucination, while Romanoff and Banner plan to flee together after realizing a mutual attraction. However, Nick Fury arrives and encourages the team to form a plan to stop Ultron. In Seoul, Ultron forces the team’s friend Dr. Helen Cho to use her synthetic-tissue technology, together with vibranium and the scepter’s gem, to perfect a new body for him. As Ultron uploads himself into the body, Wanda is able to read his mind; discovering his plan for human extinction, the Maximoffs turn against Ultron. Rogers, Romanoff, and Barton find Ultron and retrieve the synthetic body, but Ultron captures Romanoff.
MV5BNjczNjAzNjgwOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODQzMTUzMg@@._V1_The Avengers fight amongst themselves when Stark secretly uploads J.A.R.V.I.S. – who is still operational after hiding from Ultron inside the Internet – into the synthetic body. Thor returns to help activate the body, explaining that the gem on its brow – one of the six Infinity Stones, the most powerful objects in existence – was part of his vision. This “Vision” and the Maximoffs accompany the Avengers to Sokovia, where Ultron has used the remaining vibranium to build a machine to lift a large part of the capital city skyward, intending to crash it into the ground to cause global extinction. Banner rescues Romanoff, who awakens the Hulk for the battle. The Avengers fight Ultron’s army while Fury arrives in a Helicarrier with Maria Hill, James Rhodes and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to evacuate civilians. Pietro dies when he shields Barton from gunfire, and a vengeful Wanda abandons her post to destroy Ultron’s primary body, which allows one of his drones to activate the machine. The city plummets, but Stark and Thor overload the machine and shatter the landmass. In the aftermath, the Hulk, unwilling to endanger Romanoff by being with her, departs in a Quinjet, while the Vision confronts Ultron’s last remaining body.MV5BZDRkOGQwNWItZjQ1ZC00MjU0LWJiZTUtZWIwMjZkMTdhNWM5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTI3MDk3MzQ@._V1_Later, with the Avengers having established a new base run by Fury, Hill, Cho, and Selvig, Thor returns to Asgard to learn more about the forces he suspects have manipulated recent events. As Stark leaves and Barton retires, Rogers and Romanoff prepare to train new Avengers: Rhodes, the Vision, Sam Wilson, and Wanda. In a mid-credits scene, Thanos, dissatisfied by the failures of his pawns, dons a gauntlet2 and vows to retrieve the Infinity Stones himself.MV5BZmQ0YmE1MTMtYWQ2ZS00ZDNhLWIzOTctNjk4YTQ1YmQzZDZhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTI3MDk3MzQ@._V1_The Avengers: Age of Ultron is solid entertainment and best experienced on the big screen. Long-running trappings of shared movie universe storytelling remain, and the novelty of seeing iconic comic book characters together onscreen is just as impressive as it was in The Avengers.

REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

 

CAST

Chris Evans (The Losers)
Samuel L. Jackson (Jurassic Park)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Robert Redford (The Sting)
Sebastian Stan (Spread)
Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Frank Grillo (The Purge 2)
Maximiliano Hernandex (Warriors)
Emily Vancamp (Revenge)
Hayley Atwell (The Duchess)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble0
Alan Dale (Lost)
Chin Han (Arrow)
Garry Shandling (Over The Hedge)
Steven Culp (Jason Goes To Hell)
Gary Sinise (Deception)
Thomas Kretschmann (Dracula)
Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass)
Callan Mulvey (Batman V Superman)
Jenny Agutter (Child’s Play 2)
Adetokumboh M’Cormack (Lost)
Evan Parke (King Kong)
Henry Goodman (The New Pope)

MV5BMTYxNTI5OTkyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTUwMDM0MTE@._V1_Two years after the Battle of New York, Steve Rogers works in Washington D.C. for the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. under Director Nick Fury, while adjusting to contemporary society. Rogers and Agent Natasha Romanoff are sent with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s counter-terrorism S.T.R.I.K.E. team, led by Agent Rumlow, to free hostages aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from Georges Batroc and his mercenaries. Mid-mission, Rogers discovers Romanoff has another agenda: to extract data from the ship’s computers for Fury. Rogers returns to the Triskelion, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s headquarters, to confront Fury and is briefed about Project Insight: three Helicarriers linked to spy satellites, designed to preemptively eliminate threats. Unable to decrypt the data recovered by Romanoff, Fury becomes suspicious about Insight and asks senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce to delay the project.MV5BMjIzODY0NzA4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODQwMDM0MTE@._V1_On his way to rendezvous with Maria Hill, Fury is ambushed by assailants led by a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier. Fury escapes to Rogers’ apartment, and warns Rogers that S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised. After handing Rogers a flash drive containing data from the ship, Fury is gunned down by the Winter Soldier. Fury dies in surgery, and Hill recovers the body. The next day, Pierce summons Rogers to the Triskelion. When Rogers withholds Fury’s information, Pierce brands him a fugitive. Hunted by S.T.R.I.K.E., Rogers meets with Romanoff. Using data in the flash drive they discover a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. bunker in New Jersey, where they activate a supercomputer containing the preserved consciousness of Arnim Zola. Zola reveals that ever since S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded after World War II, Hydra has secretly operated within its ranks, sowing global chaos with the objective of making humanity willing to surrender its freedom in exchange for security. The pair narrowly escape death when a S.H.I.E.L.D. missile destroys the bunker, and realize that Pierce is Hydra’s leader within S.H.I.E.L.D.MV5BNDQzMjcwMzA0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjIwMDM0MTE@._V1._CR1,116,932,390_Rogers and Romanoff enlist the help of former USAF pararescueman Sam Wilson, whom Rogers befriended, and acquire his powered “Falcon” wingpack. Deducing that S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell is a Hydra mole, they force him to divulge that Zola developed a data-mining algorithm that can identify individuals who might become future threats to Hydra’s plans. The Insight Helicarriers will sweep the globe, using satellite-guided guns to eliminate these individuals. Rogers, Romanoff, and Wilson are ambushed by the Winter Soldier, who kills Sitwell. During the fight, Rogers recognizes the Winter Soldier as Bucky Barnes, his friend who was captured and experimented upon during WWII. Hill manages to extract the trio to a safehouse where Fury, who had faked his death, is waiting with plans to sabotage the Helicarriers by replacing their controller chips.MV5BMTk0NDI5ODQwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjIwMDM0MTE@._V1._CR1,116,933,389_After the World Security Council members arrive for the Helicarriers’ launch, Rogers broadcasts Hydra’s plot to everyone at the Triskelion. Romanoff, disguised as one of the Council members, disarms Pierce. Fury arrives and forces Pierce to unlock S.H.I.E.L.D’s database so that Romanoff can leak classified information, exposing Hydra to the public. Following a struggle, Fury kills Pierce. Meanwhile, Rogers and Wilson storm two Helicarriers and replace the controller chips, but the Winter Soldier destroys Wilson’s suit and fights Rogers on the third. Rogers fends him off and replaces the final chip, allowing Hill to take control and have the vessels destroy each other. Rogers refuses to fight the Winter Soldier in an attempt to reach his friend, but as the ship collides with the Triskelion, Rogers is thrown out into the Potomac River. The Winter Soldier rescues the unconscious Rogers before disappearing into the woods. With S.H.I.E.L.D. in disarray, Romanoff appears before a Senate subcommittee and Fury, under the cover of his apparent death, heads to Eastern Europe in pursuit of Hydra’s remaining cells. Rogers and Wilson decide to find the Winter Soldier, while Rumlow, who was a double agent for Hydra, is hospitalized following the Triskelion’s destruction.MV5BMjExMDA3Nzc1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTMwMDM0MTE@._V1_In a mid-credits scene, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, at a Hydra lab, proclaims that the “age of miracles” has begun as scientists examine an energy-filled scepter and two prisoners: one with superhuman speed, the other with telekinetic powers. In a post-credits scene, the Winter Soldier visits a Bucky memorial at the Smithsonian Institution.MV5BMTQxNDc0MjM4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDc0MDI5MDE@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Seeing Cap and Black Widow banter about his dating life,  plays on the established chemistry between Evans and Johansson, working both the humor and the inherent pathos that defines their roles. That Mackie and Redford both effortlessly slide into this established dynamic is testament to what skilled performers they are. There is also some nice continuity to having the same writers return from The First Avenger to craft its sequel. There are plenty of parallels and callbacks here. when  watched back to back, you not only get to appreciate the original more, but enjoy how they connect.

 

REVIEW: GODZILLA (2014)

CAST

Aaron Taylor-Johnston (Kick-Ass 1 & 2)
Elizabeth Olsen (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins)
Bryan Cranston (Argo)
Carson Bolde (Mansfield Path)
Sally Hawkins (Layer Cake)
Juliette Binoche (The English Patient)
David Strathairn (Lincoln)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Garry Chalk (Beast Wars)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Kevan Ohtsji (Dreamcatcher)
Terry Chen (Jessica Jones)
Ty Olsson (War For The Planet of The Apes)
Peter Shinkoda (Daredevil)
Jill Teed (X-Men 2)
Eric Breker (Stargate SG.1)
Aaron Pearl (Man of Steel)

In 1954, Godzilla, an ancient alpha predator, is lured to an island in an attempt to kill it with a nuclear bomb. In 1999, Project Monarch scientists Ishiro Serizawa and Vivienne Graham investigate a colossal skeleton unearthed in a collapsed mine in the Philippines. They find two giant spores; one dormant and one hatched with a trail that leads to the sea. In Japan, the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant experiences unusual seismic activity; Supervisor Joe Brody sends his wife Sandra with a team of other technicians into the reactor. A tremor breaches the reactor, leaving Sandra and her team unable to escape while the plant collapses.Fifteen years later in 2014, Joe’s son Ford, a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer, returns from a tour of duty to his family in San Francisco but has to immediately depart for Japan after Joe is detained for trespassing in the Janjira quarantine zone. Joe is determined to find out the cause of the Janjira meltdown, and he persuades Ford to accompany him to their old home in the quarantine zone to retrieve vital data while discovering that the zone is not toxic. They successfully retrieve the data but are discovered by soldiers and taken to a secret facility in the power plant’s ruins. After several power failures, a giant winged creature emerges and escapes, destroying the facility. Joe is severely wounded and dies as he and Ford are taken by helicopter to the U.S.S. Saratoga. The incident is reported around the world as an earthquake.
Serizawa, Graham, and Ford join a U.S. Navy task force led by Admiral William Stenz to search for the creature, called a “MUTO” (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). Serizawa and Graham reveal to Ford that a 1954 deep sea expedition triggered the appearance of Godzilla and nuclear tests in the 1950s were really attempts to kill him. Project Monarch was established to secretly study Godzilla and other similar creatures such as the MUTO, which traveled from the Philippine mine to Janjira and caused the meltdown, and how they are connected with each other. Ford reveals that Joe had monitored echolocation signals that indicated the MUTO was communicating with something.
The MUTO attacks a Russian submarine and drops it on land in Hawaii to eat the sub’s nuclear material. Godzilla arrives, causing a tsunami in Honolulu and briefly engages the MUTO in battle, until it flees. Meanwhile, a second, larger, wingless MUTO emerges from the other spore in Nevada and devastates Las Vegas. The scientists deduce the second MUTO is female, the female was the one the male was communicating with, and that the two MUTOs will meet to breed in San Francisco. Over the scientists’ objections, Stenz approves a plan to use nuclear warheads to lure and destroy the monsters. Ford returns to the U.S. and ends up joining the team delivering the warheads by train, but the female MUTO intercepts the train and devours most of the warheads. The single remaining warhead is airlifted with Ford to San Francisco and is activated after a confrontation between the military and Godzilla at the Golden Gate Bridge. The male MUTO steals the warhead and takes it to the female, who forms a nest around it in the Chinatown area.
While Godzilla and the MUTOs battle, a strike team, including Ford, enters the city via HALO jump to find and disarm the warhead. Unable to access the timer, the rest of the team sets the warhead on a boat for disposal at sea. The MUTOs are eventually able to get the upper hand, but Ford blows up the MUTO nest, ultimately distracting the MUTOs enough to allow Godzilla to emerge victorious in the end, killing the male MUTO by slamming him with his tail into the side of an office building and the female by firing his atomic breath down her throat, beheading her. Godzilla then collapses on the city shore. With the rest of the team wiped out, Ford uses the last of his energy to get the boat with the warhead out to sea. He is rescued before the warhead explodes and reunites with his family at the Oakland Coliseum emergency shelter the following morning. Godzilla awakens, rising from the destroyed San Francisco, and returns to sea while the media hails Godzilla as “King of the Monsters – savior of our city?”.It’s a good solid and well made big screen action disaster monster movie that deserves multiple viewings.