The Case for The “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” Part 1

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Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

I am more than willing to admit that my love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise comes from a fierce dedication to the cartoons I watched throughout the course of my childhood. I’m willing to admit that I overlook glaringly obvious flaws in the film franchise because of the integral part that the heroes in a half-shell played in my development of appreciation of popular culture. Here’s the thing; for those not initiated with the turtle franchise (including my wife), the idea of four giant mutated turtles learning ninjutsu from a mutated rat-human hybrid to fight crime in New York City is a little hard to swallow. Critically speaking, the films were not well received. Thankfully, the general public received the Turtles much better than the critics would have hoped. We’re now 23 years past the release of the first Turtle movie; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn’t enter into the movie realm blindly. A devout following from both the comic books as well as the children’s cartoon showed that there certainly was a market for the turtles. The first movie pits the turtles against the rise of the foot clans attack on New York City. Shredder is recruiting youths in an effort to create a crime empire in the big apple. As the film progresses the fight becomes more personal, to the point that by the end of the film it’s an all out grudge match between Shredder and the Turtles. April O’Neil and Casey Jones are two human allies to the turtles. O’Neil is a news reporter for a local channel while Casey Jones is a vigilante crime fighter with a major affinity for sports.

The flaws in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aren’t few. We’re treated to some terrible dialogue including some of the corniest one liners committed to film, a clunky back story, the idea that a Ninja master would stoop to stealing electronics for money, the overall silliness of the movie makes it feel like a live action cartoon. Oh, wait; maybe it’s supposed to be that way. We’re dealing with a concept that is quite literally a live action cartoon. Sure the hockey lines cause you to groan at times, and they’re not always delivered the best. The turtles are juvenile and angsty, but they are teenagers. It’s something you have to chalk up to taste, but if you can get past the eye-roll factor that comes with the concept then you can have an absolute blast.

The set pieces, visuals, cinematography and costumes all seemed to have oozed out of the neon colored cartoon and into the live action film. Not since Dick Tracey have I seen a movie come so close to accurately portraying it’s animated nature into a real world setting. This inaugural Turtles film laid the groundwork for future sequels. It takes itself serious enough to be an a decent action/adventure film, yet remains silly enough to be a kids movie; though many would argue it is far darker than most, mostly due to it’s dedication to the source material from the comic books. The stunts and action sequences in the film are spectacular. This is well before stylized editing saturated the action elements of films, so we find ourselves content to watch a brawl unfold in real time. The thing with the turtles is, they’re in a fairly bulky costume, yet are incredibly agile. The imagination doesn’t need to stretch too far to allow for the believability of martial artist turtles. My friend and fellow blogger Ryan Partlow pointed out an interesting fact about this movie: At the time, it was the highest grossing independent movie ever made.

It’s an odd ball feature that allows for a nostalgic peak into the past. The Turtles themselves have been incredibly prevalent in pop culture, even having a current running cartoon. We are (unfortunately) going to be getting a Michael Bay Turtles movie in the near future as well. If you are uninitiated to the franchise, or haven’t seen this one in years it’s worth watching. certain aspects have not aged well, but as a whole it is still entertaining and, honestly, the most creative gimmick of it’s time. The Turtles have transcended multiple generations, and at this rate will continue to do so.

Alternatives to 2012s Top Grossing Movies

Without a doubt, 2012 had plenty of entertaining movies with mass appeal with which to slop the hoard of cinephiles and assuage their glutton for moving pictures. The box office stats certainly show a trend in the types of movies that people enjoy watching, and it was absolutely no surprise. Action/adventure seems to always get people out to the theaters, particularly those originating from comic books and consisting of monumentally large budgets. I thought it might be fun to take a look at the top 5 grossing films from this year and pair them with lesser seen alternative films that compliment them quite nicely. I will admit that at the time of writing this list I have not seen the 3rd and 5th top grossing movies from this year, so my recommendations will be educated guesses..

5. Ice Age: Continental Drift 

As I mentioned before, this is one of the films I didn’t see this year. Having seen two and a half of the previous Ice Age films, I think I have a pretty good idea of what this one was all about. These movies are pretty much the animated kiddie staples for the box office; giving parents a few hours of respite from their little monsters while offering as little artistic value as possible. It’s for this reason I recommend my favorite animated movie of the year ParaNorman.

ParaNorman could easily be viewed as an animated sequel to The Sixth Sense. It follows a young boy named Norman who is the only one in his town capable of seeing and communicating with the dead.  When a curse summons a group of zombies from their graves, it’s up to Norman to stop the carnage. It’s essentially a “my first zombie movie”, in that it presents horror movie themes and scenarios in a childlike and visually fun environment. Paring excellent voice acting with interesting and engaging animation allows it to be engrossing both visually and through its narrative.

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4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit was my favorite movie of 2012, and I wasn’t the only one that felt this way. It was the best fantasy movie I’ve seen in years. Everyone pretty much knew what to expect going into this due to the wild success of The Lord of the Rings and we certainly weren’t disappointed.

There is another fantasy movie that features a young and unlikely hero embarking on a quest of immeasurable importance (come to think of it there are probably thousands of fantasy films with the exact same basic premise.) The Dark Crystal is a film that is often referred to, but rarely seen. Jim Henson created a fascinating world filled with a ridiculous amount of puppets. Behind the scenes are probably twice as many people controlling these same puppets. Henson created some of the best creatures on film which is part of what makes The Dark Crystal so intriguing. It’s darker than anything The Muppets have starred in and not as lighthearted and “fun” as Labrynth offering a side of the Henson legacy that is rarely seen.

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3.  Skyfall

Skyfall is one of the movies that I really regret missing. I have every intention to see it when it’s released on DVD and Blu-Ray, however for this post I’ll have to refer to my knowledge of past Bond movies and recommend based on what I know. When figuring out what movie to recommend with Skyfall I eventually thought about some things that make the bond character so enjoyable to watch. Bond is a skilled assassin, he’s able to adapt to different situations and environments and he’s able to keep his head when he’s in terrible danger. The titular character in the movie Hanna shares many of these qualities with one major difference. She’s a 15 year old girl.

Hannah is trained by her ex CIA father to be a skilled assassin from the age of two. Throughout the course of the film we see her put various skills to use as she’s on the run, hunted by the CIA. The movie takes cinematic liberty, treating us to exciting and visually unique action and chase sequences. The story can be a bit confusing at times, but the dead-on character acting from everyone involved makes it well worth the watch.

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2. The Dark Knight Rises

 

This was another movie that I really loved. As a matter of fact, there are few Batman movies I don’t like (namely Batman and Robin) so I’m going to cheat a little bit and offer up another of the Dark Knight’s many cinematic tributes.

Batman the Animated Series is fantastic. They provided excellent quality cartoons that, although kid-friendly, certainly didn’t shy too far from the source material. The series produced a number of feature length movies, among them was Mask of the Phantasm. The film used the signature dark style of the series which used black paper as a starting background for the frames in lieu of white to maintain that same dark feel. In this film, Batman is blamed for the deaths of numerous crime bosses, the murders are actually being committed by another masked and caped vigilante. This puts Batman in a position that forces him to save and protect his enemies while keeping his own demons at bay.

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1. The Avengers

I’m pretty sure everyone reading this has seen The Avengers; Marvels all star masterpiece was the highest grossing movie of the year. Joss Whedon delivered a super hero tour de force that left the entire world impressed with what he accomplished. For this reason I want to recommend another movie written and directed by Joss Whedon: Serenity.

The differences between Serenity and The Avengers is staggering. One is based on a successful comic book empire, preceded by dozens of movies over the past few decades culminating in the mega-blockbuster that was The Avengers. and then there is Serenity; a film that almost wasn’t made, continuing a TV show that was cancelled with only 14 episode completed. Still, Firefly (the television show that preceded the movie) and Serenity gained a large cult following. The show had a fairly simple plot, it followed a band of guns-for-hire that took whatever jobs they could, legal or otherwise. It was a fun mixture of the Science/Fiction and Western genres. The movie was a chance to both tie up loose ends and wish the loyal fans of the franchise a well deserved goodbye. There is no need to see Firefly before Serenity (I hadn’t even heard of Firefly) though it may make it more enjoyable. The catchy-sometimes-corny  dialogue and ever-so-slightly melodramatic tones create a dramatic mixture of sci-fi, comedy and adventure that feels like Indiana Jones in space.

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Chronicle

The, sadly formulaic, origins of the majority of super heroes in film lies completely in the concept of responsibility accompanying new found powers. Generally speaking (but certainly not in every case) a super hero origin story follows an otherwise normal individual as he progresses into an extraordinary individual through supernatural means. Shortly after a character receives these powers comes the all too familiar sense of responsibility. Peter Parker is perhaps the best example of a young man who took his newly developed powers and used them to fight crime and protect his city as the masked hero “Spider-Man”. While the Spider-Man franchise certainly gave us a small glimpse of what it’s like to be an angsty young man that suddenly possesses an enormous amount of power, it focuses on his heroic efforts against forces just as supernatural and extraordinary as himself. I mention Peter Parker because he is, in the real world, the exception. In most cases, if a young high school student was given super powers it would turn out much different than Spider-Man. Chronicle takes the “Super Hero origins story” and applies it in a more realistic light.

Shot through the cameras carried by characters in the film, we’re told the story of three High School students who gain telekinetic powers with the majority of the film portrayed through one boys camera lens. Andrew (Dane DeHaan) lives with his constantly inebriated and abusive father. Through the course of the film we’re shown that his mother is becoming increasingly ill. Andrew goes with his cousin, Matt, to a party where the two of them, along with the high school star football player, Steve, discover an unidentified source of power that gives them the ability to move matter with their minds. It’s a weak origin, but so is getting bit by a radioactive spider. There is a sense of wonder in the discovery of these powers; as they grow comfortable with them they pull a series of pranks. It’s a light hearted way to show the sense of discovery and comradery shared by the three protagonists. As they grow stronger, each is influenced by different factors in their lives. None are as affected as Andrew, whose home life becomes progressively worse while he simultaneously becomes stronger and more powerful. Chronicle takes into consideration an aspect that is so often brushed over in super hero movies; teen angst. Matt and Steve attempt to rein in Andrew’s abuse of powers. They implement a loose set of laws that the three of them must abide by, but it soon becomes evident that Andrew has surpassed them both in power exponentially.

Chronicle delivers an honest, unflinching view on dysfunctional home life, a very sobering and disturbingly believable plot point that makes this movie unique . Instead of heroes fighting super villains and threats to the proverbial “city” these boys are facing their own inner demons. It’s a dizzying experience, as the majority of the film is shown through Andrew’s new “HD camera”. While I’m normally not a fan of the shaky camera style of cinematography, this was an instance that I thought added to the angsty feel of the movie.  Andrew’s sense of responsibility gets outweighed by his emotions. The question is, why would someone who is constantly bullied by both his father and his schoolmates choose to protect them? It’s a constant battle between what is right and what feels right. Steve and Matt become one of the most positive aspects of Andrew’s life, a life largely devoid of friends.

Not everyone endowed with power feels the overwhelming pull of responsibility. Andrew’s descent is far from that of a super-villain, he’s not completely evil; he is misunderstood and makes some truly tragic mistakes. Chronicle is a surprisingly weighty drama that brings up many touchy subjects, wrapping them neatly in an action film package. It’s not the light hearted Spider-Man franchise alluded to earlier, it is something darker, yet something far more relateable.

The Rocketeer

Few movies activated my imagination as a child the way The Rocketeer did. My mother would tape two 2-liter bottles together and attach yarn for shoulder straps so that I could pretend that I had a rocket pack of my own. The movie that so influenced my play time was made, naturally, by Walt Disney. The title refers to the protagonist after he finds an experimental jet-pack created by Howard Hughes and develops a “super hero” persona. Cliff Secord is a stunt pilot in 1938 LA, it is he, along with his mechanic friend, who discover the rocket-pack stowed away in the cockpit of a plane. What starts as an innocent experiment to get the pack working, quickly turns into a game of cat and mouse. While Cliff aims to fine tune his ability with the Jet-Pack, the Nazi party wants nothing more than to get it’s hands on it so they can reverse engineer it and use it in the war effort.

It’s a high-flying underrated adventure that manages to captivate the audience with convincing visuals and likeable characters. The period-piece feel ads to the atmosphere in a very “Indiana Jones” sort of way. A good chunk of what makes the movie work so well is the attention to details and set design. The premise alone lays the ground work for an exciting ride, and with solid performances from it’s entire cast the set pieces can easily meld into the story, just the way they should. The jet-pack itself offers many opportunities for creative uses of special effects to take center stage. As this movie was made in the early 90s CGI was nowhere near as advanced as it is today. Industrial Light and Magic did a fantastic job in not attempting to show us amazing feats that would have been impossible for them to convincingly show the audience. Also, it should be noted that although not the most colorful, The Rocketeer himself has one of the coolest super hero costumes ever.

The past few decades have been filled with various renditions of super hero movies and, with the exception of the Superman franchise, They have relied on the dark nature of comic books in an attempt to convey a sense of seriousness to the film. The Rocketeer, on the other hand, forgoes the dark and gritty and replaces it with an adventurous and almost innocent sort of fun in the face of great peril. The lighter tone was one of the biggest caveats that critics of this movie point out; in my opinion it is one of its many strengths. Few comic book movies strive for a PG rating, but The Rocketeer was able to give us a fun and visually engaging feature that was enjoyable for younger children as well as adults.

Dredd 3D: 2012s Unsung Hero

In my last post, Ryan Partlow mentioned a movie that was almost completely overlooked this past year. It deserved much better than what it got at the box office. I’ve decided to give my two-cents Dredd 3D.

   Movies tend to muddle themselves up quite frequently. How often do you get a fairly interesting action movie with a strong cast, only to have the focus of the film go off in a hundred different directions, ala Spider Man 3, in which we’re introduced to far too many villains and side plots? There is a fine line between what a director wants to accomplish with their film and what is actually possible. The closer a director is to that line of what is possible without going over, the better off the movie tends to be. A movie may not have a very ambitious plot, but if those behind the camera know what they want and how to attain it to it’s maximum potential, it’s going to be a better experience for everyone. In Dredd 3D the filmmakers involved were working with a below average budget. They knew their limitations both in regards to story and financial ability and they nailed it.

Dredd follows the titular hero as he takes the rookie, Anderson, out for observation. While on the call they unwittingly cross the “MaMa Gang” and find themselves locked in a massive vertical cement city. The MaMa gang consist of some of the most ruthless gangsters in Mega-City One; the fictional post apocalyptic city/state in which the story takes place. Ma-Ma (played by Lena Headey) is a the head of the gang, she is responsible for the distribution of the drug SLO-MO, a narcotic that makes the user feel as if time is passing at 1% of its normal speed. She is a ruthless psychopath. Karl Urban plays Dredd perfectly; cold, calculating and unforgiving. Anderson (played by Olivia Thirlby) is a young woman with psychic abilities who is in the process of becoming a Judge. Judges are the cities law enforcers who make judgments and pass sentences on the spot. The world of Dredd is extremely violent and brutal, which is part of what makes this movie so fun.

There is no plot twists in this movie. There are no odd tangents that the characters go off to follow to the detriment of the viewers, this is quite simply one entire gang verses two Judges. With the massive concrete tower sprawling into the sky, it gives the entire film the feeling of an old school video game as our heroes work their way up to the top floor. This feeling that is enhanced by the increasing body count. It’s an extremely simple process, and the characters themselves have very little character arch; but that was precisely what was intended. We’re treated to something like an 80s action film, without the melodrama. The original Dredd character was based off of Clint Eastwood’s character in the  Dirt Harry movies, a parallel that becomes more and more clear as the movie progresses. From all points, this movie should have just been another mindless action movie lost in the white noise of it’s genre. the actors involved executed their roles so well, and the makers of the film were so devoted to the source material that the project meant too much to let it fall into the standard cliches.

The quality is superb, it’s unflinching in it’s brutal violence, unrelenting in it’s adrenaline filled action scenes, and unforgiving towards evil. Next to Cabin in the Woods, Dredd 3D was the most fun I had in theaters last year.

Favorite Films of 2012

As we begin a new year we are quickly approaching the Academy Awards, a time when Hollywood gives itself a big pat on the back for a job well done. It is for this reason that I’ve asked a few friends of mine to pick their favorite movie of the year. So, with no more delay I present to youmy friends andguest bloggers for the day.

Whit Stroup

The Hobbit

 

My favorite film of the year is The Hobbit. First off I have to hand it to the team whose now spent two decades bringing some of the greatest works in literature to fans of Tolkien and moviegoers alike. Even if you don’t like Peter Jackson or Tolkien you have to admire that kind of dedication and work ethic. I have always been a big fan of large scale movies. While The Dark Knight Rises was also large in scale, The Hobbit wins out for the reason’s that follow.

There are many reasons why I loved the movie but here are a few reasons to consider. I love the characters and set designs for The Hobbit. The great thing about fantasy films such as The Hobbit is that they have to design everything in the movie from the ground up. They put a tremendous effort into making Middle Earth believable. The set’s were great and the costumes were full of detail. The beautiful landscapes were icing on top. Also there were a lot of memorable Characters in The Hobbit. The dwarves were a solid supporting cast. They were comical and they were mischievous but ultimately they were brave warriors on a mission. I have to say though, Martin Freeman’s portrayal of Bilbo or Andy Serkis as Gollum is as good as it gets in the business. Finally I love that they stayed true to the feel of the Hobbit. They could have made the film with the same winning style as LOTR but instead did something a little controversial. It was a little more light hearted and fun than what some critics may have been expecting. Ultimately The Hobbit was loyal to the book and it stands on it’s own feet apart from LOTR. I’m definitely looking forward to the next two.

Whit Stroup was y college roommate and good friend. We worked together on multiple film projects while in School and shared an affinity for film.

Ryan Partlow

Marvel’s The Avengers
 

I always have problem picking the best of anything. I think that is because “my” bests always change with my mood and frame of mind, but this year picking the best movie was very simple : “Marvel’s The Avengers“. Disney/Marvel did the impossible creating an amazing movie based of Marvel’s “B” grade heroes. It looks like the folks over at Disney found the key to making super hero movies: hire people that love them. Hiring Joss Whedon was an inspired move, sure he was given the cast and the basic starting point of the movie, and I am sure he was told how the movie kind of had to end up so they could plan the next phase of movies, but everything in between was all Joss Whedon magic. It wasn’t as “talky” as other Whedon vehicles, but the dialog was always spot on, and the action was perfectly framed and amazing to watch. It just doesn’t get better then that for a comic book geek like myself.

Side note: if you are a comic book geek like me and did not watch Dredd 3D, I will not talk to you until you own the Blu-Ray because that movie demands a sequel.

A recently developed past time of mine is watching incredible movies with Ryan Partlow. After moving to Washington state he has become a good friend. And seriously… buy Dredd.

Paul Boyne

Moonrise Kingdom

My favorite movie of the year (always with an asterisk: I still need to see Anna Karenina, Looper, Zero Dark Thirty and others) is Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson’s beautifully precise filmmaking dovetails with great performances (Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schartzman are especially great with very little screen time) and a sweet, melancholy story. In a year crowded with ambitious films, this may be an unassuming choice, but no other movie worked as consistently for me. Set to Benjamin Britten’s music–a brilliant soundtrack, thematically–the movie presents its island community as an orchestra, each instrument in dire need of tuning. I haven’t liked every movie Anderson has made, but this feels like his masterpiece to me.
 
During college, Paul  nurtured my appreciation for film and film history by watching a verity of films with me; including some of the most boring movies I’ve ever seen. our friendship and shared interest in film has caused us both to enter the world of blogging. Read more of Paul’s work at Infinite Crescendo.

Nicholas Ahern

The Grey
 

I sat on my couch for three hours last night, pondering the philosophical concepts of The Grey. I didn’t remember the blood, the jump scenes, the scenery, the music or the acting; though all of that is outstanding. But, The Grey is not about the wolves, or even about Liam Neeson. It is first and foremost a story about God, and where He is when suffering bares it’s fangs. The film is not necessarily interested in answering the provocative questions it presents, nor should it, but it presents them in the midst of transcendent emotion and complex spirituality.
The ending is akin to The Sopranos, and it will divide audiences. I personally felt it ended on a pitch-perfect note, both ambiguous and gripping. It allows it’s themes to fully remain intact without succumbing to cliche, and frankly, it is refreshing to see a film end a film on it’s own terms, rather than on the expectations of it’s audience.
The twist that is revealed will not rock your world, but the climactic build up to it had tears in my eyes. It forces us to look beyond the present state of chaos and focus on what gives life meaning. And does that meaning involving more than just an instinct for survival?

Nicholas Ahern and I grew up as friends in the same Home School group in southern California. His interest in writing has been prevalent the entire time I have known him. Read more of Nick’s work at Split Frame Of Reference and follow him on Twitter @NickAhern

Praus Nichols

Looper

Time travel movies always tend to run into the same exact snag: how does the behavior of the eventual time traveler(s), protagonist or not, affect the eventual timeline and outcome(s?) of the story we have just been immersed in. It’s not an original thought to conclude this dilemma ultimately boils down to the argument of an inevitable destiny/fate as opposed to free will that causes an unpredictable result.

Let’s be honest. We’ve all taken part in far-too-lengthy discussions about how time travel would/should work. Maybe you’re in the Kate and Leopold school of thought: time is a pretzel, and your actions in the past or future only result in the fulfillment of what was already predestined. There’s the Back to the Future approach: actions in the past cause alternate timelines to offshoot into various futures; an idea that MIB III hinted at with their adorably innocent alien Griffin character. Or then you could delve into the mystically confusing convolutions of films like Donnie Darko and so forth.

What I’m ultimately getting at is that time travel films have made me tired. At some point, it just gets exhausting to argue about the potential merits and flaws of time travel. Which is why I enjoyed Looper quite a bit, and it succeeded in keeping me surprisingly engaged. The scene which eventually sealed the deal in my approval for this film takes place in the cafe where Bruce Willis speaks with his past self (an awkwardly square-jawed JGL). That Willis’ character ends up sighing and saying “it’s complicated” in response to JGL’s repeated inquiries and counter-arguments felt like he stole the words right out of my mouth.

Oh. Other high and low lights: Amusing torture/note-passing from past to future selves. Emily Blunt’s frightening biceps. The second time I’ve felt like punching a child in a movie. And a fairly predictable ending spurred by the “No…love will cause ME to sacrifice more!” motivation. So yeah.
It’s confusing. We should accept that, sometimes.

Praus Nichols and I became good friends while attending The Master’s College together. He has been interested in movies and sports for as long as I’ve known him and offers plenty of insight on any topic he chooses to talk about. Follow him on Twitter @PrausNichols

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Back in 2008 there was a little problem in Hollywood; namely the Writers Guild of America was on strike, thus halting the majority of film and television productions. During this lull Joss Whedon decided to write, direct and fund a project that became Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, a three part web series/movie that allowed him to work in the medium he loved without breaking the terms of the strike. The entire movie/show was released online and became wildly popular. Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day, the movie won multiple awards, including a People’s Choice Award for favorite online sensation. Whedon did something that had never been done before, released a professional grade mini-series on a shoe string budget and released it exclusively online.

The film follows Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris), an aspiring super villain, as he attempts to prove his worth to the “Evil League of Evil”. His arch Nemesis, Captain Hammer (Fillion), is a self inflated egotistical imbecile. We learn through Dr. Horrible’s video blog that he loves a girl that he frequently sees at the laundromat. When this girl, Penny (Felicia Day), begins dating Captain Hammer, Dr. Horrible becomes even more determined to join the Evil League of Evil in a misguided attempt to impress her.

The low budget is evident throughout the movie, but ads far more to it’s value than it subtracts. As is the case in much of Whedon’s work the characters and the jokes are very tongue in cheek, almost to a fault. Any amount of cheesiness (intended or otherwise) is completely forgivable due to how well each of the three main characters portray their parts. The music is poppy and fun and the story is quirky in that it takes the sympathetic side of the villain.

Whedon’s signature style of storytelling glares through the entirety of the project. Witty dialogue and events that the audience “needs not wants” show us that even in something as humorous as Dr. Horrible there are elements of storytelling that should not be ignored. This project is just about as opposite as you can get to his more recent film The Avengers, however he maintains his professional love for movies. It’s a lovingly crafted piece of film history that was shown the same level of  any large scale blockbuster. If you have Netflix I believe it is currently available for streaming and well worth your time to watch.

The Avengers: A Spoiler Free Review

The sheer scale of The Avengers goes beyond anything any film studio has ever tried. We’re not talking about just an “all star cast” which happens all too often and almost always with underwhelming results. This is a multi-franchise collage of heroism and grandeur that was years in the making. With the last decade we’ve seen a honing of the super hero movie. For the first time, perhaps in film history, we see a series of movies that stand on their own, all with very different heroes, act within the scope of the same universe. We’ve all waited after the credits of the last few Marvel films to catch the next glimpse of what S.H.I.E.L.D was up to, we’ve seen as these movies have gradually evolved from cheap thrills to well thought out stories, superbly acted and taken seriously by all involved. We have finally reached a milestone, the culmination of which is The Avengers.
Iron man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye have all (with the exception of the last two) been stand alone characters in, for the most part, very successful film franchises. There was never a question of “will this movie be made” it was “will it be any good?” I am very pleased to say, it was not only good, but one of the single best super hero movies I have ever seen. Joss Whedon was handed the realms to the biggest of the Marvel films yet, and he delivers. Whedon is well known in the comic book community, he’s been incredibly successful with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and has devout followings for his short lived shows Dollhouse and Firefly; among other things. While his mark was certainly brightest on TV, Joss Whedon proved, when given the tools, he could deliver a summer blockbuster.
And what tools he’s given! Joss is given a toy box full of superheroes to come up with a cohesive story following not only the six heroes (not including Nick Fury), but also the villain, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). This is what amazed me the most: the Pacing of the film. Each character has their own struggles, their own personality and their own story. Whedon weaves these stories into the fibers of this film with the expertise of a master craftsman. He was given everything he needed to make this movie succeed. But it takes more than money and great actors to make something of this scale work, it takes the mind of a storyteller, and the logistics of a great director. We see Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) Attempting to manage the beast within. While he is not originally recruited to the Avengers Initiative for his “condition” It certainly comes in handy, delivering the strongest screen performance this character has ever enjoyed. Robert Downey Jr. channels all the charm and ego that made the original Iron Man movie such a success. Captain America (Chris Evans) must deal with adjusting to a world that aged 70 years in what seemed to be a single day to him. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Earth with the sole purpose of stopping his brother from enslaving humanity. And then we have is Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) of whom little is known (at least in the universe that the films have depicted so far, certainly those that follow the comic books know much more about them than the average movie goer) aside from their expert skills at both hand to hand combat as well as marksmanship. This movie shouldn’t work! There are too many strong leads for it to have come together as seamlessly as it did. The story is so well constructed that we see something remarkable happen; we see a synergy capable of wrapping the iconic figures into a cohesive and awesome movie experience. This isn’t a movie where A list actors are all competing for top billing, this is a movie where the greatest heroes in cinema history battle for for the fate of Earth. All the while, the audience watches breathless to see which force will prevail.
Though The Avengers certainly is the culmination of years of planning, it is by no means the end. More than anything this film acts as a commission to the heroes that we’ve come to expect great things from. The Avengers are now aware of each other, (despite all stemming from separate movies) they know they aren’t alone in protecting Earth. They also are now well aware that the dangers they have faced up until this movie, pale in comparison to what could possibly be waiting for them, and should the need ever arise to reunite, they will all be ready.