Posts Tagged ‘Avengers’

Over the past couple of months, people in the horror-themed Facebook groups I belong to have been raving about this particular book. I looked it up and it sounded up my alley, so when I had an Audible credit, I downloaded the audio book. But before I started it, I found out the book was written by the same guy who wrote the novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, as well as wrote/directed its movie adaptation. Really? Isn’t that a sweet, YA rom-com? How do you jump from that to horror? (looks up what that book is really about.) Oh. That’s pretty dark. Yeah, I can see how the dude transitioned to horror.

Imaginary Friend follows Kate Reese and her son Christopher as they leave Kate’s abusive boyfriend and move to a small town in Pennsylvania. However, soon after they move there, Christopher disappears in the woods near his school. He reappears a week later, unable to remember what happened to him, except being led out of the woods and back to civilization by someone called “The Nice Man.” While Kate is happy to have her son back, and things start to improve after he returns, Christopher has changed. He’s smarter now, unable to sleep, and suffers from headaches a lot. And he’s in contact with the Nice Man, an invisible being who instructs him to build a treehouse in the woods he disappeared in, and to do it before Christmas. If he doesn’t, something bad will happen. To the town, to his mother, and to him.

This one was hard to put down. I normally only listen to audio books while at work, but the story was so intriguing and out there that I listened to it while checking email and cooking dinner. Imaginary Friend feels a lot like Stephen King novels like It or Needful Things, these huge stories based around weird concepts that are both scary and hard to put down. I mean, you got a kid who goes missing in the woods, and then when he comes back, has to build a treehouse to save the world from the Apocalypse. And that’s just what I feel I can tell you without spoiling too much.

I also have to give Chbosky credit: I had a hard time predicting what was going to happen as we got further into the story. Every little piece of the puzzle had the potential to surprise me, and quite a few did. During the “darkest hour” of the book, when things are at their most pessimistic, you felt the misery and the tension as the situation deteriorated. And that climax! Woo-boy, that was epic. Like, the final battle of an Avengers movie epic.

Not only that, but the characters are very well-developed. Also like some of King’s books, especially earlier ones, just about every character is well-developed. I felt like I’d known some of these characters my whole life, from Kate and Christopher Reese to the two or three old ladies suddenly regaining their faculties after years of dementia.

I do have one major gripe about the book: as the story goes further on, the novel takes on an…evangelistic air. It’s not like the Left Behind books, where it’s trying to get people to become born-again, but the story leans more in that direction than in the direction of The Stand or Supernatural. I don’t think the goal is to convert me: rather, I think Chbosky is using his Catholic upbringing to give the story a particular authenticity and philosophy other non-evangelistic Ultimate-Good-versus-Ultimate-Evil stories don’t have. There are some interesting ideas on the nature of guilt, our relationship to God, and how to find different kinds of salvation presented in the story.

Still, there were times when I was like, “Dude, scale it back a bit. I’m starting to get how people feel when I start ranking villains in horror, and they’re not horror fans.” That’s happened before, and it’s gotten awkward.

On the whole though, Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky is an engrossing horror novel that’s weird in the best of ways and full of terror and twists. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give it a 4.4. Pick it up and see for yourself. You’ll never look at treehouses and deer the same way again, but you’ll have a hell of a ride thanks to it.

Before I start this review, I’m going to lay some ground rules. I don’t tolerate sexism, angry nostalgia, or anything of that sort. So if you read this review and want to comment something about the actresses in this films, or you want to tell me that the new film is ruining your childhood (what sort of childhood did you have if Ghostbusters was the most important thing in it and a new film is enough to ruin everything?), then save your breath. I don’t care, and I don’t want to hear it. And if you think it’s such a bad film, then don’t go see it! Honestly, leave it alone and let it flop on its own, like the JEM film did. Either that, or watch this video, which I feel will leave¬†you feeling vindicated.

All good? Great! Let’s begin.

So my sister and I went to see this film today, and we have to say, we thoroughly enjoyed it. We were actually worried about how it would do, but it was funny, it had great action sequences, and it even had its scary moments (mostly my sister got scared though, because my sister has a lower scare threshold than I do).

So what’s the plot? The movie follows Erin Gilbert (played by Kristen Wiig), a physics professor up for tenure who finds out a book on ghosts she co-wrote with her old friend Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), who manages to get her to come with her and Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) to a haunting. The result reignites Erin’s interest in ghosts, and, after some other stuff, forms the titular team above a Chinese restaurant. They are soon joined by the dreamy but dumb Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) and MTA worker/amateur historian* Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), and find themselves following the trail of an inventor whose devices are causing paranormal activity throughout Manhattan, with a very dark end goal in mind.

And it’s just good fun! The story is very well-written, managing to sneak in references to the original film and to the haters on the net without feeling forced or weird or cheap, but actually add to the humor. The actors are all awesome, it goes without saying. I especially love Kate McKinnon’s character, Jill Holtzmann, who is like “I’m-insane-but-adorably-harmless-and-life-is-just-so-much-fun.” I bet life in her head is just a blast. Hemsworth as a hunky buffoon was never dull. And the supporting cast is wonderful, especially¬†Karan Soni (the taxi driver from Deadpool), who I was delighted to see in the film. And five of the cast members of the original film show up for some hilarious cameos, including Bill Murray as a supernatural skeptic and Dan Aykroyd as a taxi driver. And the special effects…well, yeah, the ghosts look CGI, but it’s a good CGI. It works for these ghosts, makes them look strange and somewhat otherworldly. And they’re much more believable than the effects from the movies in the 1980’s.

I only have a few¬†critiques of this film. One is that the villain, played by Neil Casey, is pretty bare-bones. His motivation and background were explained in a monologue, and it’s not much. But for this movie, it works well. Another is that the last fight scene feels like the filmmakers were going for an Avengers movie getting mixed with Godzilla and adding in a moment from Big Hero 6. I would’ve preferred more humor than was already in there, but it was still very fun. And finally…well, there’s a very funny scene in the credits that looks like something out of a Michael Jackson music video. I feel that scene would’ve been better placed right before the big battle, but I guess the studio thought it detracted from the mood they were going for with the climax. Don’t get it, but whatever. I think it would’ve worked in the main movie, it would’ve gone well as part of what Ghostbusters is about.

I'm excited for some ghosts! Photo courtesy of Adi Ungar

I’m excited for some ghosts! Photo courtesy of Adi Ungar

All in all, though, I enjoyed this film. It was funny, well-written, full of great actors, and I would say it’s on par with the original film. Not better, not worse. Just about equal, a 4.4 out of 5. Definitely go see it and have yourself a few laughs. Also, stick around for an after-credits scene. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it. It has a nice reference to the original film.

*Now, before you lay into Jones’s character, let me mention that yes, she doesn’t have a doctorate, but she might as well. Remember that historians as we know them didn’t appear until the nineteenth century in Germany. Prior to that, historians were basically anyone with enough education to read, write, and interview people in order to best record historical events. Her character’s not inferior to the others, she’s a throwback to tradition. And it becomes important to the story, believe me.

[Writer’s Note: The following post does contain some slight spoilers about the new Avengers movie, but it’s all very minor stuff, nothing that would ruin your viewing of the film if you plan to go and see it. Just wanted to let you know.]

So last night I went with a friend of mine to catch Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was fantastic, great action scenes, some really dark moments of character development, and plenty of that humor we’ve come to enjoy from the MCU films. If I were to give this film a rating, I’d probably put it between a 4 and a 5.

However, there were some things that bothered me, and I want to talk about them here. One of those things, as said by Maria Hill during that party (which we’ve known about for months, so it’s not a spoiler): “Where are all the women?” Yes indeed, where all the women? If you think about it, while there are plenty of women in these movies who hold their own against the men, the women are still underrepresented in the MCU. Black Widow has shown up in four films so far and set to appear in the next Captain America film, but a solo film isn’t even in the works (though a treatment apparently has been written) and she’s only got 24 action figures compared to over a hundred various Iron Man toys.

It’s even more sad when you consider how she’s such a great, well-rounded character who can be a great role model for girls, and Scarlett Joahnnson’s costars make fun of her and call the character “a slut” and “a whore”. Yeah, they did that. Women are so much more than their sexuality and gender, and yet these guys reduce a character to being sexually promiscuous just because she’s comfortable around a bunch of testosterone-high males. Seriously, half or more of the audiences of these films happen to be female, as I understand. At least half the people in the theater with me last night were women, and I don’t think they were there just for Captain America and Thor’s good looks. You’d think the people making these films would remember that more often before saying something so hurtful and wrong.

Seriously, where’s her time? Where’s her solo film?

 

Now, there is a Ms. Marvel film in the works, Agent Carter was a real hit when it came out as a TV miniseries earlier this year and AKA Jessica Jones is being made into a series on Netflix, but the Ms. Marvel film isn’t due out until late 2018, a full year after DC plans to release a Wonder Woman film. Really Marvel? You’ve been doing this for way longer than the other studios, and you’re going to let DC get a superheroine flick out before you? I’m ashamed. You could’ve at least put more priority on getting more female characters out¬†there.

Another thing that gets my goat (and again, this won’t ruin your experience of the movie, so don’t bite my head off), is that while Nick Fury, James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine and Sam Wilson/Falcon make appearances, the latter two’s involvement in this film is minimal at best. War Machine shows up near the very end but ends up contributing very little. And Falcon is maybe in the film for a little over forty seconds, making me wonder why he was in the film at all if they weren’t going to really use him.

Really? Look, by 2050 minorities are going to be the majority in this country, and shows like Scandal or How To Get Away With Murder and movies like the Fast & Furious franchise are popular partially because of their extremely diverse casting. People like seeing characters like them that they can look up to in these stories, and these franchises and shows give that to so many people who have been shut out of the entertainment industry for years. Yet the most diverse casting so far in these films is the group from Guardians of the Galaxy. And I think with so many different non-white heroes in the Marvel universe, the filmmakers are making a big mistake by not trying to have more diverse casts in their movies.

Then again, there is room for hope. A Black Panther film is in the works with Chadwick Boseman as the character, there are rumors that the new Spider-Man might be black or Latino*, and hints from Age of Ultron that the next couple of movies will feature more diverse casts, which I can only say is a good thing. And with Marvel planning on putting out more of these films at least through 2028 as long as people are still willing to see them (my God, this franchise will never end!), so there’s still opportunity to make sure the women of the MCU get their chance in the spotlight as well.

They’ve got plenty of time, so I hope thy use that to put out a few films with more diverse casts.

 

We just have to hope that Kevin Feige and the folks producing these films take the hints their audiences are sending them.

What’s your take on this? Is it a big problem, or are critics taking this issue way too seriously?

Which character would you like to see given a solo film?

*I’m sorry, I’m going to take the end of this post to rant a little and blow some steam. I kind of liked the Marc Webb Spider-Man films with Andrew Garfield. He was funny, they were clearly setting up a cinematic universe of their own, and I liked the characters very much. But Rise of Electro makes less than $750 million at the box office and what does Sony¬†do? Cancel all immediate plans for a sequel and sell out to Marvel so that Spidey can join the Avengers! I mean really! Why even bother making the films in the first place? I just hope Spidey 3.0 is funny and engaging, otherwise one of my childhood heroes is going to be ruined for me.

It’s been a while since I reviewed anything. What was the last thing I reviewed? Oh my God, it was American Horror Story: Coven! That was back in January. It’s been a while. Well, no time like the present. Let’s get started.

Well, Captain America is one of my favorite Avengers (the other is Iron Man), and I was really hoping that this movie would be a lot better than Thor 2 (that one sucked). I got my wish: Captain America 2 was awesome! The story starts out with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) finishing up a morning run and making a new friend before heading off on a rescue mission. Or so he thinks: events on the mission take a turn for the dark, and from there things just get worse. Before we know it, Rogers is running for his life with Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen) and they discover a plot that will not only threaten to destroy SHIELD, but possibly destroy the free world as we know it.

Although I’m of the camp that wants less franchises spanning several movies and more original films that bring new ideas and concepts to the screen, I have to say this is Marvel Cinematic Universe at its best. There’s not only action and explosions, but an actual plot where we see character growth and themes that reflect our modern world. The actors were stunning, the story kept you guessing, and the ending made you wish for more (unfortunately, Age of Ultron isn’t due out till next year, and I don’t think Guardians of the Galaxy will have that many connections to the other films in the series). Oh, and near the end of the film, there’s one moment that’ll remind you of another one from Man of Steel. Even Marvel can do that better than DC. Yes, Marvel beat you at your own scene, one you used in advertisements but one Marvel didn’t include in a single ad. Must be sad to know your biggest success in the movie industry ended because the director wanted a perfect ending and decided against a spin-off, doesn’t it?

And if you do go see the film, stay through the credits. There will be two special bonus scenes that’ll contain hints of what is to come in possible future films. Don’t miss it.

Overall, I’m giving Captain America 2 a 5 out of 5. Yes, it’s that good a movie. And if it makes you want more, it deserves that score. I just hope they end the movies in 2028, which is how far they’re apparently planning this franchise. After a while, things tend to get repetitive and boring. God knows it’s just sad to see a franchise that should’ve ended long ago still putting out movies that nobody wants to see (*cough cough* Transformers 4, Jurassic Park 4, Indiana Jones 5, Harry Potter spin-offs *cough cough*).

Now if you need me, I’ll be writing. For some reason, NBC is having trouble broadcasting SNL, so that’s out for tonight. Too bad, too. It was starting to get fun before the broadcast started getting f***ed up.