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Avengers: Age of Ultron Live Review: Irish Accents & Pepsi Quicksilver

age-of-ultron

Three months ago, in early September, I sat down to watch Avengers: Age of Ultron for the third time and tap out the usual nonsense commentary. That worked, but, unfortunately, life got in the way and the notes have lingered on my phone for all that time.

BUT NOW THEY WILL LINGER NO LONGER! Freshly reheated and relatively free of mould (the best before date was around this time), here’s my live commentary for this uniquely divisive superhero sequel, beamed back in time from three months ago:

00:01:58 – The first word of this movie: ‘Shit’. The second? ‘Language.’ See, there’s a lot to like about this movie.

00:05:28 – Quicksilver would be so much more impressive if X-Men: Days of Future Past didn’t exist. As it is, this incarnation’s kind of the Pepsi Quicksilver – similar flavour, but less agreeable taste.

00:08:21 – Natasha says the sun’s getting low to the Hulk, when it’s clearly daytime. These continuity errors, man. 1 sin

00:13:36 – “The gates of hell are filled with the screams of his victims.” Y’know, every now and then, Thor’s quite a decent character, and not just a six-pack and bad haircut in search of something interesting.

00:17:32 – In the time between this one and the first movie, Hawkeye must have had some serious surgery. He has a real personality now!

00:23:35 – “Where are the ladies, gentlemen?” Heh. Meta.

00:25:57 – On my third viewing, I still don’t know whether the Hulk/Black Widow romance is clever, or terrible fanfiction. Or, probably, both.

00:28:08 – No matter your opinion of this movie, you should thank Joss Whedon every day for the ‘lifting Mjolnir’ scene. Every day. Without fail.

00:32:57 – The scene where the Ultrons wake up is straight out of a zombie movie, complete with a properly creepy nursery rhyme. Shame it lasts 3 seconds, but it’s the thought that counts.

00:36:10 – “That up there, that’s the endgame.” AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR PART 1, COMING 2018!

00:39:26 – Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s reason to hate Tony Stark is actually completely logical and ties in nicely with Tony’s character arc. I have no jokes here. Move along. These are not the droids you’re looking for.

00:41:49 – “Wakanda?” BLACK PANTHER, COMING 2018!

00:44:00 – Andy Serkis is an acting god, even without the mo-cap gear. Also, killer South African accent. Andy Serkis is the best.

00:49:01 – These vision scenes are… unusual. I like that every major character gets motivations, some kind of depth and a proper arc, but on the other hand, they make the movie even messier and unfocused than it already is.

00:51:23 – Idris Elba is only in this movie for a minute. You were baiting me, weren’t you Whedon?

00:55:55 – One one hand, the Hulkbuster vs Hulk fight is awesome, and well directed. On the other hand, good lord, think of the civilian casualties.

1:02:15 – I love how Thor just buggers off halfway through the movie for a while and no-one in the movies really cares. I, also, do not care.

1:06:46 – Oh boy. Discussing that Bruce/Natasha scene is like jumping into a rabbit hole with no bottom. I’ll offer my brief, diplomatic opinion: teensy bit misjudged. I’ve just made someone angry, probably.

1:09:42 – Tony and Steve are having an ethical argument. Incidentally, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, COMING 2016, if you hadn’t heard.

1:14:48 – Oh, goody, there’s an Infinity Stone in the sceptre. Yay. Love Infinity Stones.

1:17:03 – A scene, with Thor AND Infinity Stones?! It’s basically Christmas! (Note from the future: didn’t actually know I’d be posting this just before Christmas) Or like a shitty day in mid-January where it’s sleeting.

1:20:12 – This action scene in Seoul is unnecessary for the story, but just imagine the tax breaks the production had for filming! Imagine the boosted South Korean box office!

1:25:33 – What is it with comic book movie sequels and runaway trains?

1:29:49 – Oh. Black Widow, one of the two major female characters in this movie, is now a damsel in distress. Yippee.

1:34:13 – Thor’s talking about Infinity Stones! I love Infinity Stones! Tell me more about them, Thor!

1:36:23 – The Vision lifting up Thor’s hammer is exactly the sort of scene you want from an Avengers movie. Awesome intro, and I still remember the audience laughing like hell at both screenings I was at. See? It’s not all cynicism up here.

1:39:43 – I’d be more resentful about the replacement of JARVIS, but it’s an Irish woman. How can you argue with that accent?

1:44:42 – A lot of exciting things are happening, but I’m still focusing on the Irish accent. I think this is what Her was about.

1:46:30 – “None of this makes any sense.” I deeply, spiritually relate to Hawkeye.

1:51:31 – Nick Fury’s Helicarrier is awesome and all, but won’t someone think of Agents of SHIELD‘s continuity? They had to make an entire subplot to explain this stuff.

1:56:26 – I LOVE THIS TRACKING SHOT SO MUCH SQUEE THANK YOU JOSS WHEDON where did my critical faculties go

2:00:22 – Clever how Hawkeye’s all set to go out in a blaze of glory with a huge sacrifice, but it’s actually Pepsi Quicksilver who dies. RIP Pepsi Quicksilver. You shall live long in our hearts.

2:04:32 – The Hulk could have come back, but Marvel didn’t want him in Civil War, so he’s off on a jet for his aquatic holiday. Hope he enjoys the break. (Note from the future: he’ll somehow make it to Thor in time for Ragnarok. Classic Hulk)

2:06:20 – The Vision and Ultron’s final scene is a quietly fantastic send-off that really ties up this movie’s themes nicely. Ultron didn’t hit the mark all the time, but he went out awell.

2:11:11 – The new Avengers suck! Bring back the old Avengers! (Only 90s kids will remember the old Avengers)

So, Avengers: Age of Ultron – a confused, messy jumble of themes and ideas with a fascinating, rock-solid core that innately wants to explore concepts that are way beyond the remit of most superhero movies. A bit of a curate’s egg, then, but I’m glad Joss Whedon tried.

Next on the live review list? That’d be Ant-Man, a low-key blast of a superhero caper. See you… whenever I post that.

 

 

 

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Doctor Who: The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar Spoiler-Free Review

Hey! Did you know this blog is called Cinema Crunch? Good, because I have a post that’s not about movies! Okay, this is a one off. I recently had the luck of being able to view The Magician’s Apprentice The Witch’s Familiar, the two-part opener to Doctor Who series 9 early… and I kinda needed to talk about them. Like, right now.

These two episodes are unlike anything Doctor Who has ever done, pushing boundaries in terms of mythology-fuelled insanity, and really, deeply introspective character material. The first episode, in particular, is just absolutely nuts – if, say, Death in Heaven was a rollercoaster, and an episode like Listen is a ghost train, then The Magician’s Apprentice is the entire theme park at once. Okay, it’s not always the most cohesive of episodes, with a couple of tonal hiccups that threaten to derail the episode… but The Magician’s Apprentice soon assuages those worries with more insane, mythology-fuelled fireworks. There hasn’t been an episode that’s as mythology-focused as this one in recent years, but Moffat somehow makes it work. It’s a small wonder that this episode is entertaining, and an even larger wonder that it mostly makes sense. Restrained, this ain’t. But is it exciting? You bet. By the time The Magician’s Apprentice gears up for the jaw-dropping final five minutes, it’s already a hugely exciting, genuinely different opener – but it seals the deal by delivering a stunning cliffhanger that will quite literally burn the internet to the ground within five minutes. Think you know how this episode will end? I’d be surprised if you did… I certainly didn’t.

Then, there’s episode two. The Magician’s Apprentice set things up in excellent style, so I was more than a little nervous for this one. Doctor Who has fumbled conclusions of two-parters on multiple occasions before – Death in Heaven followed on from one of the best episodes in years and delivered a muddled and only intermittently effective conclusion. Despite my excitement, there was certainly a nagging idea that Moffat was going to drop the ball on this one…

50 minutes later, my face was covered in proverbial egg. The Witch’s Familiar is just as good as The Magician’s Apprentice, I thought after finishing it. But after breaking down the episode for a little (and believe me, there’s a lot to break down) and thinking about what worked and what didn’t, I realised that I thought it’s actually better. Don’t expect as many fireworks and whizz-bang craziness in this one; The Witch’s Familiar works because it’s a damn good bit of drama. This is an episode where Moffat really shines – some of the character interplay here is just superb, delving deeper than ever before into characters and unearthing some hugely unexpected things that were just as stunning as the carousel of revelations and fan-pleasing from episode one. It’s a meaty, thought-provoking set of scenes that stand as some of the finest character work Doctor Who‘s done in yonks, and it’s something that’s only there because of the two-part format. But don’t worry: if you’re here for whizz-bang insanity, episode two doesn’t under-deliver on that front either. There’s some great action, a handful of huge and intriguing new ideas and a conclusion that… well, I’m not gonna hint at how this one ends.

Most of all, though, these episodes are an advertisement for the merits of the two-parter. They’re deeper, more fleshed out, and have more room for the crazy excitement that fuels much of episode one and some of episode two. This is a story that really has time to breathe and build up, and that’s refreshing for a show that often felt constrained by the 45 minute format in recent years. The two-parter works as a single, expansive 100-minute (yup, these episodes are closer to 50 than 45) movie, and as two extremely different halves. To use a terrible metaphor, The Magician’s Apprentice is a big bag of sweets, and The Witch’s Familiar is a steak dinner. Both taste great, but in very different ways. Which is better? Well, I really love steak, but I think we’re going off on a tangent here.

Bottom line: this is a remarkably assured and impressive start to series nine that plays with the very foundation of the show. It would work as a finale, which does make me wonder – what’s the actual finale gonna be like? Based on a scene in The Witch’s Familiar that seems to look to the future… equally crazy.

Bonus teasers

‘I AM A DRAGON SLAYING-!’

Chairs are important.

If you go down to the sewers today, you’re in for a big surprise. And it ain’t the smell.

Colony Sarff is a democracy.

Eye see you.

‘Consider the Doctor.’

Someone really wants a ride.

Gravity. The ground.

‘It’s our way of texting.’

‘Can I have a stick?’