Sunday 20 May 2012

Movie Review: The Avengers

Crash, bang, boom. Ah, but crash, bang, boom in IMAX 3D. It is enough to bring a smile of wonderment and excitement to the inner comic clutching child in all of us. Nothing profound here, just the empty calories of an artery clogging poutine washed down with an aspartame laced Diet Coke. Bear with me, I will come back to explain my chosen movie snack in a sec.

The plot is about how Thor's evil brother Loki strikes a bargain with an alien race, the Chitauri, to recover the Tesseract in exchange for an army with which he will subjugate Earth and... Oh for crying out loud, does anybody really give a rat's ass? Hell, blow something up and show me some of those million dollar eye-candy special effects. However, considering that Rotten Tomatoes is giving the movie a rating of 93%, you know that the critics, yes the professional movie critics, are just loving it. High praise indeed. But, but, but I will add here that while this is good, this is the cinematic equivalent of empty calories. It is a guilty pleasure while you're stuffing yourself but don't think you're going to be spending hours in satiated bliss. No, an hour later, you will be hungry again. Unlike Shakespeare, this will not be part of the curriculum for high school English.

Probably I'm showing my age but while I appreciate comic books and I appreciate the transformation into movies of various superheroes, I have to admit the fantasies, the supernatural aspect of the plots become so far removed from my day to day life, I find it more and more difficult to identify with the hero and connect them back to my reality. Yes James Bond is far-fetched. Yes, a Jason Bourne or a Mission Impossible are almost off the scale of credibility (almost?) but somehow, there's still that little boy in me fantasizing about being the super-spy on important missions while kicking the butts of five bad guys at once. In this movie, I see that our superheroes are in fact so super, no Earth-based menace is menacing enough and the story has to serve us up an extraterrestrial can of whoop-ass.

Empire Extra Becomes IMAX
The Canadian theatre chain Empire had started a couple of years ago to offer special "Extra" theatres with bigger screens, better sound and reserved seating to compete, I'm guessing, with IMAX. Now we can debate just how much bigger and how much better but reserved seating certainly struck my fancy. Who wants to show up early to get ahead of the crowd to claim your preferred position in the theatre? Now I can reserve on-line, even print my ticket out ahead of time and show up at the door at the very last second. It's great.

However, I noted a while back my favourite Empire Theatre complex had converted its "Extra" into an IMAX theatre (if you can't beat'em...) and this was my first time to visit this addition. It turns out that the "Extra" theatre hasn't really been revamped as I thought: the same seats and the same size screen. Was the sound system upgraded? I couldn't tell. Was the projection system an IMAX projection system? The starting credits told me so but would I have known otherwise? Certainly this IMAX is more of a mini-IMAX if I compare it to the downtown IMAX with a 6 story screen. Comparatively, this is pretty much what the previous Empire Extra was offering so if the IMAX system is adding something, it is more of an incremental improvement as opposed to a radical one.

Does 3D really add to your cinematic experience? Roger Ebert doesn't think so and refers to it as a "gimmick". I have seen several movies in 3D in the past couple of years and have to admit that for me the jury is still out. I can say, though, that if I lump 3D in the category of special effects, I will return to the immutable truth about what constitutes a "good" in air quotes movie. A movie has to have a story which captures my attention and involves me. If it doesn't do that, everything else is useless. If the meal sucks, a lighted candle on the restaurant table is not going to make up for it. If the movie's plot is terrible, no explosion will be big enough to hold my interest.

Most modern theatre complexes have upped the ante. Not only do they take our money to get in, they aim at taking more of our money for food. I go to a first-run film, in IMAX and in 3D, two things which normally result in a higher than normal ticket price and I add a poutine and a drink. That all cost me $29. Hmmm, I can think of three points.

First of all, it is surprising to find out how much the movie theatre has to pay the movie studio or the distributor. Apparently for the first weeks from the film's release, this can be 100% of the take. Only from there does the theatre get to keep part of the take.

Secondly, selling food is apparently the primary source of profit since most of the ticket revenue goes to the film distributor. (Wikipedia) Really? So I'm cutting into the profit margin when I "pre-eat" before going to the movies? (When I first heard that teenagers would "pre-drink" before going to a club to avoid paying high club prices for drinks, I cracked up. What a funny expression.)

And for the third point, just what the heck is poutine anyway? Originating in Quebec (la belle province), this fast food dish consists of French fries topped with cheese curds and is covered with brown gravy. Mmmm, a delicious coronary just waiting to happen. Does this concoction fall into the category of acquired taste? Whatever the case, I will add that this is best washed down with beer. Then again, doesn't anything taste better when washed down with beer? Although, this movie theatre isn't licensed but I know another one downtown which does have a bar along with the usual concession stands.

The Closing Credits
When will people learn? Do NOT get up and leave when the closing credits start. You can be sure, especially with this genre of comic book hero movie that the film makers are going to stick in some sort of teaser about the next installment of the never ending saga of good versus evil. And yes, 30 seconds into the credits, sure enough, we get this 40 second scene of where bad guy underling reports back to head bad guy that Earth is not going to go down without a fight and they all got their asses handed to them by some group of powerful Earth heroes (if you haven't guessed, I'm paraphrasing). Head bad guy then says something about a new plan of devious nefariousness and turns to the camera with an evil smile so we all know that come 2013 or 2014 we will all be back in the theatre to see our group of favourites kick E.T. butt.

But the majority of people then got up and left. No, no, no people! When I say stay to the end of the credits, I mean the end of the credits, the very end of the credits. Not many people were left so if you had been at the screening, you would have heard me down front laughing out loud in an almost empty movie theatre.

Spoiler Alert: Shawarma
Without going into all the details, Iron Man does this death-defying heroic stunt to divert a nuclear bomb from Manhattan to the mothership of the nefarious villains. The other Avengers stand around his prostrate body wondering if Iron Man, Tony Stark, has managed to survive. After the expected moment of suspense, the eyes of Robert Downey, Jr. open and the stream of wise-cracks from our resident smart alec once again starts up. Since the bad guys are now defeated, Stark says that he knows of a "shawarma place" two blocks away and why don't they get a bite to eat.

After all the credits roll by, and I mean all of them, there is this 30 or 40 second clip of the entire group of Avengers sitting around a table in this tiny fast food joint eating shawarmas; all of them. And during the entire clip, not one of them utters a word. It is absolutely hilarious. I kept wondering if somebody was going to say something but the film makers made the moment even funnier by not having any of them say a word. If you had been in the theatre, you would have heard me guffawing. This may seem odd, but I will tell you it was worth sitting through the running time of 143 minutes just to see that clip. Ha, ha, ha!!! (FYI: I just discovered people have posted clips of this scene. Query in YouTube: "The Avengers shawarma")

Final Word
If you are an adult taking your kids, you will be amused. If you're a comic book nut or even a previous comic book nut (now grown up), this is worth a look. If you're a kid, well, heck, why are we even talking? Go!

I'm sure everyone will have a favourite superhero, Thor, The Hulk, Captain America, etc. but Robert Downey, Jr., not as Iron Man but as Tony Stark, is my fav for providing comic relief with a few good one liners. I'm sure The Avengers will be back but I, for one, will be looking forward to Tony Stark. (The following dialogue is shown in the trailer.)

Captain America: Big man in a suit of armor. Take that away, what are you?

Tony Stark (aka Iron Man): Ah, genius billionaire, playboy philanthropist.

Thor: *laughs*


Rotten Tomatoes: Marvel's The Avengers (2012): 93%
With a script that never forgets its heroes' humanity and no shortage of superpowered set pieces, The Avengers lives up to its hype -- and raises the bar for Marvel at the movies.

Wikipedia: The Avengers (2012 film)
Marvel's The Avengers (classified under the name Marvel Avengers Assemble in the UK and Ireland) is a 2012 American superhero film produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures1, based on the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name. It is the sixth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is scripted and directed by Joss Whedon and features an ensemble cast that includes Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård and Samuel L. Jackson. In The Avengers, Nick Fury, director of the peacekeeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D., recruits Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and Thor to form a team that must stop Thor's adoptive brother Loki from enslaving the human race.

The Daily Beast - May 9/2010
Why I Hate 3-D (And You Should Too) by Roger Ebert
3-D is a waste of a perfectly good dimension. Hollywood’s current crazy stampede toward it is suicidal. It adds nothing essential to the moviegoing experience. For some, it is an annoying distraction. For others, it creates nausea and headaches. It is driven largely to sell expensive projection equipment and add a $5 to $7.50 surcharge on already expensive movie tickets. Its image is noticeably darker than standard 2-D. It is unsuitable for grown-up films of any seriousness. It limits the freedom of directors to make films as they choose. For moviegoers in the PG-13 and R ranges, it only rarely provides an experience worth paying a premium for.

Roger Ebert.Com - May 2/2012
The Avengers by Roger Ebert
Much of this battle takes place in midtown Manhattan, where the neatest sequences involve Loki's ginormous slithering, undulating snake-lizard-dragon machine.

[Ginormous? I have never heard that word in my life. Or I don't remember it. Is it a made up word?]

Wiktionary: ginormous
Adjective (humorous) Very large.

Wikipedia: Shawarma
Shawarma is a Levantine Arab meat preparation, where lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or mixed meats are placed on a spit (commonly a vertical spit in restaurants), and may be grilled for as long as a day. Shavings are cut off the block of meat for serving, and the remainder of the block of meat is kept heated on the rotating spit. Although it can be served in shavings on a plate (generally with accompaniments), "shawarma" also refers to a pita bread sandwich or wrap made with shawarma meat.

Wikipedia: Poutine
Poutine is a French-Canadian dish of French fries and fresh cheese curds, covered with brown gravy or sauce. Sometimes additional ingredients are added.

Poutine is a fast food dish that originated in Quebec and can now be found across Canada, and is slowly also gaining popularity in the United States in cities such as Portland, Oregon. It is sold by national and international fast food chains, in small "greasy spoon" type diners (commonly known as "cantines" or "casse-croûtes" in Quebec) and pubs, as well as by roadside chip wagons (commonly known as "cabanes à patates", literally meaning "potato shacks"). International chains like McDonald's, A&W, KFC and Burger King also sell mass-produced poutine in Canada. Poutine may also contain other ingredients such as beef, pulled pork or lamb.

Wikipedia: Movie theater: Revenue
Movie studios/film distributors in the U.S. traditionally drive hard bargains entitling them to as much as 100% of the gross ticket revenue during the first weeks (and then the balance changes in 10% increments at an undetermined time).

Wikipedia: Movie theater: Foyer area, food and drinks
The facilities for buying snacks and drinks often represent the theater's primary source of profit since most of the ticket revenue goes to the film distributor (and onward to the movie studio).

Some personal notes
How many movie reviews talk about snacks in general and poutine specifically? I guess this explains why I won't be taking Roger Ebert's place anytime soon. Ha, ha, ha.

Anybody else notice Stan Lee's cameo?

my blog: Movie Review: Thor

my blog: Movie Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

WARNING: Spoiler Alert: Shawarma!!!


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