REVIEW: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE

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)
Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak)
Clark Gregg (Agents of Shield)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes On A Plane)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Contagion)
Paul Bettany (Legion)
Alexis Denisof (Angel)
Powers Boothe (Sin City)
Ashley Johnson (What Women Want)
Enver Gjokaj (Agent Carter)
Stan Lee (Thor)
Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk)
Jenny Agutter (Child’s Play 2)
Maximiliano Hernández (Ringer)
Harry Dean Stanton (Alien)

MV5BMTA0NjY0NzE4OTReQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU3MDczODg2Nzc@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_Avengers Assemble  brings together many of the heroes from the Marvel universe who have already been featured in their own various films. The pictures have been constructed in an engaging web that, in some ways, is tied together in “The Avengers”The Avengers opens with Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s adopted and power-mad brother, breaking into a secret lab and taking the tesseract, a glowing blue cube that has the power to open gateways to other universes. He brainwashes Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Professor Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) so that he can have both a worker and a warrior, and goes about a plan that will open a doorway so that an alien army can begin to take over Earth.
So, Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) calls in all of the various heroes, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), who – carefully – goes to pick up Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) Additionally, Thor (Chris Helmsworth) pops in when he hears that his brother is up to no good.
The film is enjoyable as a popcorn action flick, with solid performances and an impressively skilled level of organization of several main characters. However, the real surprise is the humor – while Downey, Jr’s character gets all the great one-liners, there are little moments that are some of the funniest of the year, including a nod to a particular early ’80’s video game (and what makes the humor of the film work are moments like this, which could have just been the reference, but go the full way and use the visual of the game as the punchline for the joke).The performances are all excellent good, although particular note has to be paid to Mark Ruffalo as Banner/The Hulk. Now the third different actor (after Eric Bana and Ed Norton) to play the role in recent years, Ruffalo really – even with limited screen time – proves himself to finally be a great choice for the role, getting the character’s inner turmoil and sadness. Downey, Jr’s wisecracking Iron Man persona continues to entertain and supporting performances are fine, as well, including a very different performance from Cobie Smulders (Robin from “How I Met Your Mother”) as Agent Maria Hill.MV5BMjMwMzM2MTg1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjM4ODY3Nw@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_

 

REVIEW: AGENT CARTER – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST
Hayley Atwell (Cinderella)
James D’Arcy (Hitchcock)
Chad Michael Murray (House of Wax)
Enver Gjokaj (Dollhouse)
Shea Whigham (American Hustle)
Chad Michael Murray and Hayley Atwell in Agent Carter (2015)
RECURRING AND NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Dominic Cooper (Dracula Untold)
Lyndsy Fonseca (Kick-Ass)
James Frain (Gotham)
James Landry Hebert (Looper)
Meagen Fay (Species 4)
Ray Wise (Robocop)
Ralph Garman (Ted)
Bridget Regan (Beauty and the Beast 2012)
Jack Conley (Angel)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Leonard Roberts (Heroes)
Rick Peters (Veronica Mars)
Ralph Brown (Alien 3)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
James Frain (Star Trek: Discovery)
Lesley Boone (Medium)
James Urbaniak (Terminator: TSCC)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Eddie Shin (Westworld)
John Glover (Smallville)
Devin Ratray (Home Alone)
Ralph Garman (Ted)
Considering it was a 1940s period piece starring an already-established, likable character and was created by the guys who wrote Captain America: The Winter Soldier, you’d think people would have been more excited going into Marvel’s Agent Carter. Not that I didn’t see plenty of excitement as well, mind you, but I also saw a lot of cynicism – stuff about how it was a “prequel” and thus “wouldn’t matter” and also about how because Peggy and the other characters didn’t have superpowers, “Who cares?”But Agent Carter didn’t need to succeed by setting up something to pay off in another film it just needed to be an entertaining, involving show. And boy, was it.
Yes, it only got better as it went along, but Agent Carter — which came from executive producers/showrunners Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters — was a lot of fun from the start. Hayley Atwell had already established how great she is as the character and easily slid into the lead role, and pairing her with Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy) was an inspired move. Atwell and D’Arcy had terrific, non-romantic, chemistry together, playing Peggy and Jarvis as an instantly lovable, quirky duo and making the scenes where Jarvis accompanied Peggy on missions really pop – even before Peggy got to beat up bad guys.
With only eight episodes, Agent Carter moved quickly, in a satisfying manner. Bridget Regan was introduced as Peggy’s neighbor, Dottie, and just a week later – with fans already speculating on what her character could really be – she’s killing a guy, leading into a really awesome reveal that Agent Carter was introducing the Black Widow program into the mix.

Agent Carter wasn’t tied into the modern Marvel movies in a direct way, but there were a ton of cool connections throughout, beyond Peggy’s important history with Captain America. Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), while only appearing in three episodes, was crucial to the story, and we got an intriguing look into his psyche in the season finale.
Dum Dum Dugan and the Howling Commandos showed up, we got to see more than one Black Widow at work and then there was Dr. Ivchenko, AKA Fr. Fennhoff – who is also known as the Marvel villain Dr. Faustus and who turned out to be tied into the Winter Soldier by the end, via a cool Marvel-movie type final scene.
In general, all the characters were really clicked. It was surprising to see Lyndsy Fonseca play a non-action role here, but she made Angie incredibly likable and charismatic and the scenes between her and Peggy were very sweet, showing Peggy making a far more normal connection than her life usually allows. Early on, I was concerned by the portrayal of the men at the SSR. Except for Enver Gjokaj’s sympathetic Daniel Sousa, they all felt pretty one note. Yes, it was important and fitting, given the era the show was set in, to show just how dismissive the guys in the office, in general, were of Peggy, unable to see just how skilled she was and the contributions she could bring. But the first couple of episodes had Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), Dooley (Shea Wigwam) and Krzeminski (Kyle Bornheimer) all feeling pretty similar and one-note, in a way that could have quickly become grating. Fortunately, the most annoying of this bunch, Krzeminski, was soon dead and Dooley and Thompson became much more nuanced as the season continued.
Dooley doing his own investigating and seeing that things didn’t ad up as  Howard Stark being the culprit was a great touch, letting us see why this guy was in charge in the first place. And the mission in Russia in “The Iron Ceiling”(a standout episode) gave us a ton of insight into Thompson and who he really was versus the image he projected. The season culminated in a very satisfying manner, with Dooley’s noble sacrifice, the reason behind Fennhoff’s anger at Howard revealed and a big cathartic release for Peggy, who got to beat Dottie in combat and finally really and truly put Steve Rogers to rest. This latter part was especially handled well and reinforced something that had been occurring to me all season – that it was especially silly to dismiss Agent Carter as “a prequel” when, if anything, it worked as a pretty direct sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, simply following what happened next for Peggy (and, to a lesser extent, Howard) after that film’s events, instead of Steve.

REVIEW: EAGLE EYE

CAST

Shia LaBeouf (Transformers)
Michelle Monaghan (Mission Impossible 2)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Michael Chiklis (Gotham)
Anthony Mackie (Ant-Man)
Ethan Embry (Vacancy)
Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa)
Anthony Azizi (Priest)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted)
William Sadler (Iron Man 3)
Eric Christian Olsen (Tru Calling)
Marc Singer (V)
Brittany Ishibashi (Runaways)
Enver Gjokaj (Dollhouse)
Stacey Scowley (Young Warlocks)
Julianne Moore (Carrie)

 

the-perfection1Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) is a Stanford University dropout who learns his identical twin brother Ethan, a first lieutenant in the US Air Force, has been killed. Following the funeral, Jerry is surprised to find $750,000 in his bank account. Later he finds his Chicago apartment filled with weapons, ammonium nitrate, classified DOD documents, and forged passports. He receives a phone call from a woman (Julianne Moore) who warns that the FBI is about to arrest him and he needs to run.The-Perfection-Trailer-700x291Disbelieving, Jerry is caught by the FBI and interrogated by Supervising Agent Tom Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton). While Morgan confers with Air Force OSI Special Agent Zoe Pérez (Rosario Dawson), the woman on the phone arranges for Jerry’s escape and directs him to Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan), a single mother. The woman on the phone is coercing Rachel by threatening her son Sam (Cameron Boyce), who is en route to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. with his school band. The woman on the phone helps the two avoid the Chicago police and FBI, using an ability to control networked devices, including traffic lights, mobile phones, automated cranes, and even power lines.whatif_102_unit_00954rcMeanwhile, the woman on the phone redirects a crystal of powerful DOD explosive—hexamethylene—to a gemcutter, who cuts it and fixes it into a necklace. Another man (Anthony Azizi) steals Sam’s trumpet in Chicago and fits the crystal’s sonic trigger into the tubing, before forwarding it to Sam in Washington, D.C.Agent Perez is summoned by Secretary of Defense George Callister (Michael Chiklis) to be read into Ethan’s job at the Pentagon. Ethan monitored the DOD’s top secret intelligence-gathering supercomputer, the Autonomous Reconnaissance Intelligence Integration Analyst (ARIIA). Callister leaves Perez with Major William Bowman (Anthony Mackie) and ARIIA to investigate Ethan Shaw’s death. Simultaneously, Rachel and Jerry learn that the woman on the phone is actually ARIIA, and that she has “activated” them according to the Constitution’s authorization to recruit civilians for the national defense.

Perez and Bowman find evidence which Ethan Shaw had hidden in ARIIA’s chamber the night he died, and leave to brief Callister. Afterwards, ARIIA smuggles Jerry and Rachel into her observation theater under the Pentagon. Both groups learn that after ARIIA’s recommendation was ignored and a botched operation in Balochistan resulted in the deaths of American citizens, ARIIA concluded that “to prevent more bloodshed, the executive branch must be removed.” Acting on behalf of “We the People”, and citing the Declaration of Independence (“whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it”), ARIIA is acting in compliance with Section 216 of the Patriot Act which “allows us to circumvent probable cause in the face of a national security threat, in this case, the chain of command itself.” MV5BMTUzMjI5Mzc0OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDc5MzUzMw@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Belatedly, Jerry learns he has been brought to circumvent biometric locks placed by his twin that prevent ARIIA from bringing into effect Operation Guillotine, a military simulation of maintaining government after the loss of all presidential successors. Because Secretary Callister agreed with ARIIA’s abort recommendation regarding Balochistan, he is to be the designated survivor after the hexamethylene detonates at the State of the Union address (SOTU). One of ARIIA’s agents (Nick Searcy) extracts Rachel from the Pentagon and gives her a dress and the explosive necklace to wear to the SOTU. Sam’s school band has also been redirected to the United States Capitol to play for the president, bringing the trigger in Sam’s trumpet and the explosive together. Jerry is recaptured by Agent Morgan, who has become convinced of Jerry’s innocence. Elsewhere, Morgan sacrifices himself to stop an armed MQ-9 Reaper sent by ARIIA, but first gives Jerry his weapon and ID with which to gain entrance to the Capitol. Arriving in the House Chamber, Jerry fires the handgun in the air to disrupt the concert before being shot and wounded by the Secret Service, while ARIIA is destroyed by Perez.MV5BMjE0Mzc1MzA0M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjU5MzUzMw@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_later, Callister reports that ARIIA has been decommissioned and recommends against building another; the Shaw twins and Agents Perez and Morgan receive awards for their actions. Jerry attends Sam’s birthday party, earning Rachel’s gratitude and a kiss. MV5BMTg0MDc2NDI5N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTU5MzUzMw@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Eagle Eye is very “Enemy of the State”, a real techno-thriller updated for the popcorn generation but I do not say that in a derogatory way. Sit back and enjoy it as I did, it’s an action packed, CGI roller coaster of a ride with a provocative, if far-fetched plot. Good performances all round.